Beckett: Commentary on Job 2

v. 1, Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Yahweh, and Satan also came among them to present himself before Yahweh. Having failed in his first attempt to cause Job to curse God in his suffering, Satan will not give up. Once again, he intrudes in God’s court.

v. 2, And Yahweh said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered Yahweh and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” Once again, God demands Satan to explain his obtrusive presence. With no home to call his own, Satan is still a restless vagabond wandering throughout the earth seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

v. 3, And Yahweh said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to destroy him without reason.” God repeats the same words in 1:8, showing even more His exasperation with Satan’s intrusion and disrespect toward Him. Once again, He’s messing with Satan. What the ESV renders “destroy” is literally “swallow up, devour, engulf” (בלע, vala); and what the ESV renders “without reason” is literally “for nothing, in vain” (חִנָּם, chinam).

God affirms Job did not deserve his suffering. This statement is vital for the upcoming dialogues between Job and his three friends who are convinced Job must’ve done something to deserve his suffering.

vv. 4-5, Then Satan answered Yahweh and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse You to Your face.” Just like before, Satan fires back with blatant impertinence. Once again, Satan wants to prove that any human being—even God’s most faithful—will give up anything for the sake of their own life. Satan’s repeated accusation, however, does not meet the character of Job.

Earlier, Job performed liturgical rites for the benefit of his children (1:5). He was a good father and likely would have given up his own life to save his children. Yet Satan lives up to his name and accuses Job of being selfish. He wages even further and wants to prove that if God allows him to hurt Job physically, he will curse God to His face.

v. 6, And Yahweh said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” Once again we see that although God will permit Satan to do evil, He nevertheless limits what he can do. As familiarity with this book knows, Satan loses. Job retains his integrity (though he does sin eventually), and God forgives him and restores to him all he had lost and then some.

Though Satan is powerful and we are powerless against him, we have Christ, who is vastly more powerful and has defeated the Devil. In such suffering, let us cling to Him until He actuates His promise to release us from the clutches of the Devil.

vv. 7-8, So, Satan went out from the presence of Yahweh and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Eagerly, Satan went out and caused a massive skin irritation that broke out into boils and blisters producing pus, covering Job’s entire body. Job attempted to relieve his immense pain by scraping the blisters off with a piece of pottery! He did this while sitting in his ashes of dead skin. That’s disgusting, not to mention unsanitary. I also assume it probably doesn’t make the condition any better by scraping them off, especially with a shard of pottery. This would only increase his suffering.

v. 9, Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” Job’s wife tempts him with Satan’s desire—to curse God. Some of the Church Fathers wrote that Satan did not deprive Job of his wife so he could use her to hurt Job even further. However, she also could’ve said this with great anxiety. She also lost her children and her way of life! And now she might lose her husband, her only source of security! (This isn’t a sexist statement. In the ancient world, a woman’s source of security was her husband and her children.)

Was she wicked and unbelieving? Or was she greatly distraught? Whatever one’s interpretation, Job needed encouragement and support from his wife. She was more of a deterrent than she was of help. Either way, we cannot judge her heart. Leave that to God. However, there is certainly fault in her words whether they were impulsive or deliberate.

v. 10, But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Satan’s plan failed again, as God foreknew. Job rebukes his wife. What she said was stupid, he says. His next words mirror what he said in his previous suffering in 1:21. Essentially, he says, “If we are willing to accept good from the Lord, why mustn’t we also accept the bad?” The Lord does as He wills. Job knew this, and with this faith, he corrected his wife. (Job is quite the theologian of the cross.) Once again, Satan’s evil plan was foiled. However, he does not give up so easily. He would make Job suffer even further.

v. 11, Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort. Job’s friends begin with good Christian hospitality and good intentions. (As we’ll soon find out, however, sometimes good intentions don’t produce the desired effect.) They desired to comfort him, which is a good thing.

Later on, we know they were elderly men (15:10). Yet their conversations with Job would soon turn sour, placing even more suffering upon him. Their arguments never contradicted one another, showing they were in full agreement.

v. 12, And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognise him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. Job was covered in so many blistering sores from head to toe that they could barely recognise him. Seeing his physical disfigurement, they mourn for him with their cultural customs and wept (cf. Matthew 5:4; Romans 12:15).

v. 13, And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. Job’s great suffering shocked them so much that they sat with him and didn’t say anything for a whole week. Whether this was right or wrong, I cannot say with certainty.

One of the things I learnt at the seminary and have already put into practice in my ministry on vicarage is the ministry of presence. A lot of times, simply being present with someone while they’re grieving and suffering is enough. A lot of times, when we Christians want to help our friends and family who are going through something tough, we want to find the perfect Bible passage to prescribe them that will make everything better. Sometimes, however, you don’t even need to say anything to comfort someone. Many times, you simply need to allow someone to grieve without trying to “fix” their grief.

My first experience with this ministry of presence was at the funeral of one of our members who had passed away. He was a retired pastor and his children had the faith and hope of the resurrection, knowing they will see their father again; but they were still grieving. As Christians, we have that hope and promise of the resurrection, but we still grieve, and that’s okay. Death is always tragic.

With my clerical on, I attended the funeral. I had no Bible in hand or Pastoral Care Companion. I went with the ministry of presence in mind and didn’t try to think of “the perfect Bible verse to make all their problems go away,” because that just doesn’t happen. If it does, it’s very rare. Instead, I was simply present; I was simply there. I talked with the children and friends of the fallen saint and listened to them tell me stories about him. After all, I’m just a vicar, and I didn’t know him very well.

After the funeral and at the end of the burial, one of his children came to me and told me how much it means to her that I was there and how much I comforted her. Even though I had the ministry of presence in mind, I was still shocked. I didn’t really say anything. I didn’t even say a single Bible verse. I was just there, present among them, and listened to them. Yet she, and others, were still comforted because somebody in ministry cared enough to grieve with them.

I can’t say whether or not Job’s friends did the ministry of presence, but the opportunity was certainly there. Unfortunately, as chapters 4-25 show, Job’s friends failed miserably to comfort their friend. As soon as they opened their mouths, all sorts of theology of glory spilt out.

Application

The lesson here is not too different than chapter 1’s application, though I will expand on the distinction between being a theologian of glory and being a theologian of the cross. A whole article could be written to explain this, but I will keep it short.

The theology of the cross is our aim. In it, we find God only in the suffering and shame of the cross. All of life—including suffering—is to be seen through the lens of the cross. Though Jesus was weak and beaten and died on the cross, in the word of the cross God exercises His power (1 Corinthians 1:10). In the event of the cross—Jesus’ death and resurrection—Jesus defeated the work of the Devil. All life and suffering finds its answer and total end in the cross, the power of God. Upon the cross, Christ was glorified. Therefore, Christ is with us in our suffering. Christ suffered the ultimate suffering for us; therefore, we find Him in our suffering. Through faith in Christ in this cross-event, Christ pardons us from all our sins and grants us salvation through the cross. All suffering ends here, ultimately upon the dawning of the Day of the Lord.

The theologian of glory, on the other hand, seeks to glorify himself rather than God. The theologian of glory “expects total success, finding all the answers, winning all the battles, and living happily ever after.” The theologian of glory “is all about my strength, my power, and my works” (Veith, “Glory Versus the Cross”).

The theologian of glory attempts to look beyond the cross and into the hidden mind of God to perceive His mysteries He has not revealed to us, such as the Holy Trinity (how He is simultaneously one Being yet three distinct Persons), how Jesus’ body and blood can be truly present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist (hence why Calvinists and others think Jesus isn’t sovereign enough to do what He says), and how water combined with God’s Word in Baptism can save a human being, even an infant. Those who try to explain the Trinity with an analogy, confess the Sacraments to be merely symbols, and believe infants cannot be saved through Baptism are all theologians of glory.

The theologian of glory, like Job’s friends, also expects God’s healing when they suffer. “If I’m suffering, I must’ve done something to anger God and I must do something about it,” they say. Also, like prosperity gospel heretics such as Joel Osteen, they expect nothing but wealth and prosperity from God; and if they don’t have such things, they must not have God’s favour.

Thus, the application here, to quote from Rev. Dr. Joel Okamoto, is: “God is God; you are not. Don’t be a theologian of glory.”

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