The heavenly parliament is in session again (v1-7 is almost identical to 1:6-12) and the Gatecrasher is there once more. His strategy to get Job to curse God has backfired. Despite losing his livestock, his servants, his home, and even his children, Job’s integrity is unbroken (v3). So Satan tries again, and the Lord gives him permission to take Job’s health, although not his life. Poor Job is afflicted with ‘painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head’ (v7). His only relief from the pain is to scrape himself with pieces of broken pottery; even his wife is no comfort to him, echoing Satan’s words, ‘Forget your precious integrity! Curse God and die!’ Job rebukes her for her foolish words, and explains that we should accept whatever God gives, whether good or trouble. Despite Satan doing his worst, Job refuses to turn away from God. Job, of course, knew nothing of these ‘heavenly parliament’ meetings, but they remind us that Jesus, superior to the angels (Hebs. 1:4), has entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence (Hebs. 9:24). He speaks for us, and prays for us in the presence of his Father. He is doing this right now!
v11-13 introduce us to Job’s 3 friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Most of the remainder of the book is a dialogue between Job and these 3 men. They mean well, intending to ‘sympathise with him and comfort him’, and there is some truth in what they say, but they jump from ‘If you sin, then you will suffer’, to ‘If you suffer, then you have sinned’. They see that Job is suffering, and they assume it’s because he has sinned, but he hasn’t done anything to deserve what happens to him. Jesus’ disciples express a similar thought in John 9:1, asking, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus’ reply could almost have been spoken about Job: ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’
Suffering is never easy, but it should not be unexpected. Peter tells us, ‘do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you’ (1 Pet. 4:13).
Sometimes we suffer the consequences of our own folly or disobedience; sometimes, like Job, we suffer for reasons known only to God. Job isn’t an easy book to get to grips with, but these opening chapters show us that our God is sovereign over Satan, over sickness, and over suffering, and remind us that he sent the only completely innocent Man, his Son, to suffer for us, so that one day, all our suffering will end. Thank you, Father!