*Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in a 9-part series on the book of Job by Dr. Tom J. Nettles. As more installments are released, each part of the series will be linked to each post.
To read part 1, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/have-you-considered-job-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 2, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/the-heavenly-origin-of-earthly-events-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 3, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/the-name-of-the-lord-is-to-be-blessed-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 4, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/it-is-your-fault-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 5, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/it-is-very-difficult-to-discuss-a-matter-with-god-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 6, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/if-god-will-just-listen-to-me-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 7, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/if-god-be-against-us-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 8, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/if-god-be-for-us-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 9, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/write-my-words-tom-j-nettles/
We remember that this situation came from a challenge God gave to Satan who then made a counter challenge. “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?” Satan’s rebuttal that this loyalty would not endure hardship led to the divine permission for these tragic events in the earthly life of Job. Job exhibits no doubt, however, that at the root of this great alteration of his earthly circumstance is God. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (1:21). In spite of these losses, Job confesses “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Throughout the book, we see Job provoked to deep reflection on these events, but these reflections do not depart from this basic instinct of worship. They do, however, deepen his quest for a more profound knowledge of the ways of God and an urgency to come before him.
Even with personal affliction, Job recognizes that God is in control. “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (1:22). When God’s evaluation of Job is the same after these things have happened, Satan challenges God to go right to Job’s own physical comfort and well-being. God puts a perspective on this that is quite different from the perspective of the three friends. “He still holds fast to his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” That means that the peculiarities of this testing were not a divine judgment for a particular sinful act of Job. The change from earthly blessing to earthly disaster had not been provoked by any change in the moral integrity and redemptive outlook of Job.
Thus to show that Job could not be driven to curse God, but would only be driven to look more intently for the glorious manifestation of God’s presence and purpose, God loosed Satan to inflict him physically, short of taking his life. Now Job, inflicted with the mental and emotional devastation of having lost all possessions, all servants, and all children, also face pervasive and ceaseless pain. There is not a spot on his body that is not filled with burning pain and is loathsome in appearance—“loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (2:7).
His wife no longer can tolerate the strange piety of Job, who refuses to recognize that he no longer has any favor with God. “Do you still hold fast to your integrity?” Are you still refusing to admit that something about you is loathsome to God, and he is showing to the world that you have aggravated his anger against you? Are you the only one who sees correctly? Do you still think that this is not divine punishment for your own personal transgressions? In her opinion, Job is so God-abandoned that he might as well curse God and receive the final blow of his displeasure—death itself. What action can gain for you a worse manifestation of divine vengeance in your life? At least show your spirit of outrage against this merciless power—curse God and die.
Job responds to the taunt of his wife. Had his own wife capitulated to the common foolishness, that if bad things happen it is a direct manifestation of divine anger for a particular offense? If that is so, then it must mean that the former prosperity was because Job (and she) were so good. That is nonsense! “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.” He reminded her that both the blessing and the discipline of God come from his own sovereign goodness and pleasure. “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
In future posts, we will travel further into Job and see that the ways of God with men are explored with deep seriousness. Job goes through some transitions. He sees broader areas of perplexity and depths of divine mystery that do not yield easy answers. Correspondingly, he enters into a more profound anticipation of seeing the glory of God and celebrating his wisdom face to face.
Some questions we might examine include the following. Are we merely subject to God’s power? Is omnipotence a bare attribute untampered by wise purpose and manifestations of goodness? Does goodness necessarily include an expectation that God will be just? In what ways can we view the justice of God? If he is just, can we observe within each event an immediate manifestation of judgment and/or reward? Does his goodness include mercy as well as justice?
Are God’s ways so far beyond ours that we search in vain for any meaning? We bear in mind that these questions that emerge in these conversations are being discussed on the other side of the cross and resurrection. Many of the struggles of the saints prior to that event are settled with great clarity by Christ’s substitutionary death, his resurrection, his ascension to the Father, and the certain hope of his return. We are not left, therefore, without any revealed answer to the perplexities that arise in the energetic dialogue between Job and his friends.
The issue that remains is this: Do we see and feel God as our greatest good even if knowledge of him means the loss of all earthly things; do we revel in God because of the status and things that we associate with a life of devotion? Is the knowledge of God Himself of such gripping excellence, that loss of all things besides is no loss at all? Can we count the things that were gained to us as mere rubbish in order to find the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). Are we regarded as “sheep to be slaughtered? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8: 36, 37).
Dr. Tom Nettles is widely regarded as one of the foremost Baptist historians in America. He joined the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary after teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was professor of Church History and chairman of that department. Previously, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He received a B.A. from Mississippi College and an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southwestern. In addition to writing numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles has authored or edited nine books including By His Grace and For His Glory, Baptists and the Bible, and Why I Am a Baptist.
Courses taught: Historical Theology of the Baptists, Historical Theology Overview, Jonathan Edwards & Andrew Fuller.