He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
The book of Job is my favorite book of the Old Testament Bible. Job is my favourite biblical character – I honestly believe that life would be a lot harder if a person like Job never existed in history; I honestly do not know how we can endure our afflictions if Job had never been dealt such a harsh blow. In the Bible plenty suffered for the Lord; but two characters lived out the theology of suffering that we’re speaking of today: Job in the Old Testament, Jesus in the New Testament. But Jesus was sinless in his afflictions. Job, whom God praised as the most righteous in the land [Job 1:8] – struggled. That makes him mortal. That makes him close to my heart. As much as Jesus was mortal in flesh, he had a supernatural mind.
We will talk a lot about Job in this site, because I cannot last very long without going back to study that book. But before I get carried away, let’s focus on the verse. It’s a long verse, and we will split it into three.
Analysis: Like a foolish woman
You are talking like a foolish woman.
Job says this in response to his wife’s retort in the previous verse [Job 2:9]. I think the character of Job’s wife is a very, very fascinating character; she was mentioned by the Bible just this once, before she spoke up in verse 9, we had heard nothing of her, and after Job‘s retort at her in verse 10, we will no longer hear anything else of her. What an enigmatic character! It leaves us with little material to study and analyse her character and to understand in what mentality did she say what she did. We will discuss her in depth when we discuss verse 9, but in brief, in her moment of weakness, she questioned Job‘s continued faith in the Lord.
We may not be very familiar with his wife, but Job‘s immediate response to her sheds some light to her usual character. You are talking like a foolish woman – Does this mean that Job’s wife is usually a foolish woman? No, probably not. What Job meant was likely to be something like: Why are you saying this? You are talking like a foolish woman! Don’t fall to the level of those women!
Job was kind in his reprimand, probably because he was considerate, even in his time of suffering, to his wife who was on the same boat. It was very likely that his wife was usually as faithful as he was, and thus deserved Job‘s kindness in his chiding. But we do not know. I’m speculating here. Job could have easily said, “why do you always say that!” or just shut her up with some rude commands – like what I would do when I’m being defensive. But Job didn’t need to be defensive against his wife (he was rather defensive against his three friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar). Instead, Job reminded his wife of God‘s authority. Hopefully, that did wake his wife up from her moment of weakness. We have no clue – we weren’t told. For the rest of the book, nothing was said of Job’s wife, and when God finally spoke up and reprimanded the trio, he did not mention Job’s wife. Was she too unimportant? Was she forgiven already? Or was she not at fault? I wonder.
Analysis: Shall we receive good from God, and not trouble?
It should be noted that in the entire book of Job, neither Job, nor his three friends, or the younger Elihu mentioned about Satan at all. They didn’t even consider the possibility that Satan was responsible for Job‘s plight. To them, it was clearly God who was responsible in Job‘s suffering.
Today, we seem to find it hard to reconcile ourselves to this fact. We like to think God as kind and merciful, who would hate to see us suffer and would never do anything against us. Not that I am saying that God isnt kind and merciful, but our Lord is far more than that. Modern people have a tendency to give the devil too much credit – yet, the devil required God‘s permission to bring disaster upon Job [Job 2:6]. Had the devil really possessed power, he would have killed Job off despite God‘s warning in order to prove his point. In other words, God allowed for Job‘s plight. And Job understands and accepts that as a fact right from the very beginning. To him, the logic is simple, just as he accepts the good that God gives, he also accepts the bad that God gives. It is easier for us to picture God as good and kind and writhing in his throne in heaven when we suffer. But what hypocrites are we if we merely accept the good from God and not the bad? How different are we from other religions then? Is God truly the God of our hearts then, or just a convenient, supernatural force who gives us what we want and help us when we need?
I like to refer to the passage on faith in Hebrews 11 to seek comfort in times of difficulty. When I struggle with faith in times of hardship, I will read the entire chapter, and when I finally reach verse 39 – These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised – I get strangely comforted. Many of those listed in this passage suffered, but they accepted the bad that God had given them, and became a legacy to us today. God‘s plans are always perfect for us. We ought to have faith in God that He is just, even if we don’t see the fairness in it through out mortal eyes and human standards. What right do we have, as sinners, to complain when God removes his blessing for us and the suffering that we naturally deserved fell upon us? What makes it wrong for God to strike against us? Job understood this, even in those days. Even without a Job, even without a Jesus, even without a book of Hebrews, Job understood.
Analysis: In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
What a man! God wasn’t kidding when He claimed Job as righteous beyond anyone else [Job 1:8]. What kind of intimate relationship with God must he have had to be able to have such a profound understanding of God in those days? Job did not sin in his initial reaction to the immense suffering that God allowed to happen to him. Make no mistake here – it is not that Job did not sin at all – however, he was praised for his faithfulness to God despite the odds. Later on, as he continued to defend himself against the accusations of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, and as he began to curse the day of his birth and demanded for an explanation, he had sinned, though he repented later on [Job 42:5]. Job‘s struggles beyond chapter 2 of the book are profound and must be slowly discussed in further verses.
Yet what was the point of declaring Job was sinless in his speech at this point? It was true, no doubt, for at this point Job was still worshiping the Lord even in calamity. It is important to highlight that this line came immediately after Job‘s declaration that good and bad things both come from the Lord. It is not a sin to say that God allowed for the bad things that happen to us. It is true – God‘s total sovereignty is at the end of the bad things that happen to us, even if Satan was the one who orchestrated it. The significance of having such a strong affirmation – in all this, Job did not sin in what he said – immediately after such a strong declaration – a declaration that must be taken in shock by some members of our community – is to stop us from faulting Job at blaming God for it. Job wasn’t wrong to attribute his disasters to God.
Why could Job not sin even in the face of such massive personal tragedy? Suffering cannot be compared, certainly, as different people have different measuring beams of what is good and what is bad. But surely not many of us can boast that we have suffered worse than Job did. I thank God for such an immense man in Job. Because there was Job, and because Job once was able to praise God even in immense suffering, we know today that it is possible for us to worship the Lord even in hardship.
It is interesting, though, that it was explicitly written that Job did not sin with his lips. What does that imply? Did Job sin with his actions? No, it was unlikely, as Job 1:22 also states Job‘s sinlessness at that point. Some Jewish writers quotes from the Targum (informal expansions of Jewish scriptures) that he had thought the words in his heart and therefore had sinned in his heart. Now, I am no Jewish scholar, and I will not pretend to know what the Targum is – I don’t. I do not know how true this is, but it is surely possible that Job had bore ill thoughts in his heart at his point, even as he spoke in faith and in righteousness. I’m totally speculating here, but if that was so, what enabled him to guard his lips from speaking out against God at this point? Surely it was the grace of God manifested in his heart. He won over the temptation to complain despite the odds.
In times of trouble, what is our first reaction? While we may not be like Job and tear our robes and praise God out aloud, that’s really dramatic to be honest, are we able to worship the Lord? No matter how wounded your heart is, no matter how many doubts you have in your heart, are you able to say decisively in faith that God is Lord Almighty and He reigns supreme over us? Even as you cry, bleed, sweat in hardship, are you able to declare and believe that God is good, and that His plans for you are far greater than you can imagine, and that he plans to prosper you and not to harm you [Jeremiah 29:11]? Are you able to, at the very moment of crisis, even in shock and in grief and in fear, extol the Lord your God with confidence?
I hope that you do, because the rest of the chapters in the book of Job will only serve to tell us that Chapters 1 and 2 are but just the tip of the icing. The true suffering begins, when days and months pass, but you are yet to be given your reprieve. John Piper puts it well: “It is one thing to bear a sudden tragedy. It is quite another to suffer its pain for weeks and months and even years afterward.“
From the hymn My Times are in Your Hands by W. F. Lloyd:
My times are in Thy hand,
Whatever they may be;
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to Thee.