People’s Many Misunderstandings About Job
The hardship suffered by Job was not the work of messengers sent by God, nor was it caused by God’s own hand. Instead, it was personally caused by Satan, the enemy of God. Consequently, the level of hardship suffered by Job was profound. Yet at this moment Job demonstrated, without reserve, his everyday knowledge of God in his heart, the principles of his everyday actions, and his attitude toward God—this is the truth. If Job had not been tempted, if God had not brought trials upon Job, when Job said, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah,” you would say that Job is a hypocrite; God had given him so many assets, so of course he blessed the name of Jehovah. If, before being subjected to trials, Job had said, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” you would say that Job was exaggerating, and that he would not forsake the name of God since he was often blessed by the hand of God. You would say that if God had brought disaster upon him, then he would surely have forsaken the name of God. Yet when Job found himself in circumstances that no one would wish for or wish to see, circumstances that nobody would wish to befall them, which they would fear befalling them, circumstances that even God could not bear to watch, Job was still able to hold on to his integrity: “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah,” and “shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” Faced with Job’s conduct at this time, those who love to talk high-sounding words, and who love to speak letters and doctrines, all are left speechless. Those who extol God’s name in speech only, yet have never accepted the trials of God, are condemned by the integrity to which Job held firm, and those who have never believed that man is able to hold firm to the way of God are judged by Job’s testimony. Faced with Job’s conduct during these trials and the words that he spoke, some people will feel confused, some will feel envious, some will feel doubtful, and some will even appear disinterested, turning their noses up at the testimony of Job because they not only see the torment that befell Job during the trials, and read of the words spoken by Job, but also see the human “weakness” betrayed by Job when the trials came upon him. This “weakness” they believe to be the supposed imperfection in the perfection of Job, the blemish in a man who in God’s eyes was perfect. This is to say that it is believed that those who are perfect are flawless, without stain or sully, that they have no weaknesses, have no knowledge of pain, that they never feel unhappy or dejected, and are without hate or any externally extreme behavior; as a result, the great majority of people do not believe that Job was truly perfect. People do not approve of much of his behavior during his trials. For example, when Job lost his property and children, he did not, as people would imagine, break into tears. His “lack of decorum” makes people think he was cold, for he was without tears or affection for his family. This is the initial bad impression that people have of Job. They find his behavior after that even more perplexing: “Rent his mantle” has been interpreted by people as his disrespect for God, and “shaved his head” is wrongly believed to mean Job’s blasphemy and opposition to God. Apart from Job’s words that “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah,” people discern none of the righteousness in Job that was praised by God, and thus the assessment of Job made by the great majority of them is nothing more than incomprehension, misunderstanding, doubt, condemnation, and approval in theory only. None of them are able to truly understand and appreciate Jehovah God’s words that Job was a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God and shunned evil.
Based on their impression of Job above, people have further doubts as to his righteousness, for Job’s actions and his conduct recorded in the scriptures were not as earth-shatteringly moving as people would have imagined. Not only did he not carry out any great feats, but he also took a potsherd to scrape himself while sitting among the ashes. This act also astonishes people and causes them to doubt—and even deny—Job’s righteousness, for while scraping himself Job did not pray or make promises to God; nor, moreover, was he seen to weep tears of pain. At this time, people only see the weakness of Job and nothing else, and thus even when they hear Job say “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” they are completely unmoved, or else undecided, and are still unable to discern the righteousness of Job from his words. The basic impression that Job gives people during the torment of his trials is that he was neither cringing nor arrogant. People do not see the story behind his behavior that played out in the depths of his heart, nor do they see fear of God within his heart or his adherence to the principle of the way of shunning evil. His equanimity makes people think his perfection and uprightness were but empty words, that his fear of God was merely hearsay; the “weakness” that he revealed externally, meanwhile, leaves a profound impression on them, giving them a “new perspective” on, and even a “new understanding” toward the man whom God defines as perfect and upright. Such a “new perspective” and “new understanding” are proven when Job opened his mouth and cursed the day he was born.
Though the level of torment he suffered is unimaginable and incomprehensible to any man, he spoke no words of heresy, but only lessened the pain of his body by his own means. As recorded in the Scriptures, he said: “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived” (Job 3:3). Perhaps, no one has ever considered these words important, and perhaps there are people who have paid attention to them. In your view, do they mean that Job opposed God? Are they a complaint against God? I know that many of you have certain ideas about these words spoken by Job and believe that if Job was perfect and upright, he should not have shown any weakness or grief, and ought instead to have faced any attack from Satan positively, and even smiled in the face of Satan’s temptations. He should not have had the slightest reaction to any of the torment brought upon his flesh by Satan, nor should he have betrayed any of the emotions within his heart. He should even have asked that God make these trials even harsher. This is what should be demonstrated and possessed by someone who is unwavering and who truly fears God and shuns evil. Amid this extreme torment, Job did but curse the day of his birth. He did not complain about God, much less did he have any intention of opposing God. This is much easier said than done, for since ancient times until today, no one has ever experienced such temptations or suffered that which befell Job. So, why has no one ever been subjected to the same kind of temptation as Job? It is because, as God sees it, no one is able to bear such a responsibility or commission, no one could do as Job did, and, moreover, no one could still, apart from cursing the day of their birth, not forsake the name of God and continue to bless the name of Jehovah God, as Job did when such torment befell him. Could anyone do this? When we say this about Job, are we commending his behavior? He was a righteous man, and able to bear such testimony to God, and capable of making Satan flee with its head in its hands, so that it never again came before God to accuse him—so what is wrong with commending him? Could it be that you have higher standards than God? Could it be that you would act even better than Job when trials come upon you? Job was praised by God—what objections could you have?
Job Curses the Day of His Birth Because He Does Not Want God to Be Pained by Him
I often say that God looks within people’s hearts, while people look at people’s exteriors. Because God looks within people’s hearts, He understands their substance, whereas people define other people’s substance based on their exterior. When Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth, this act astonished all the spiritual figures, including the three friends of Job. Man came from God, and should be thankful for the life and flesh, as well as the day of his birth, bestowed upon him by God, and he should not curse them. This is something that ordinary people can understand and conceive. For anyone who follows God, this understanding is sacred and inviolable, and it is a truth that can never change. Job, on the other hand, broke the rules: He cursed the day of his birth. This is an act that ordinary people consider to constitute crossing over into forbidden territory. Not only is Job not entitled to people’s understanding and sympathy, he is also not entitled to God’s forgiveness. At the same time, even more people become doubtful toward Job’s righteousness, for it seemed that God’s favor toward him made Job self-indulgent; it made him so bold and reckless that not only did he not thank God for blessing him and caring for him during his lifetime, but he damned the day of his birth to destruction. What is this, if not opposition to God? Such superficialities provide people with the proof to condemn this act of Job, but who can know what Job was truly thinking at that time? Who can know the reason why Job acted in that way? Only God and Job himself know the inside story and reasons here.
When Satan stretched forth its hand to afflict the bones of Job, Job fell into its clutches, without the means to escape or the strength to resist. His body and soul suffered enormous pain, and this pain made him deeply aware of the insignificance, frailty, and powerlessness of man living in the flesh. At the same time, he also gained a profound appreciation and understanding of why God is of a mind to care for and look after mankind. In Satan’s clutches, Job realized that man, who is of flesh and blood, is actually so powerless and weak. When he fell to his knees and prayed to God, he felt as if God was covering His face and hiding, for God had completely placed him in the hands of Satan. At the same time, God also wept for him, and, moreover, was aggrieved for him; God was pained by his pain, and hurt by his hurt…. Job felt God’s pain, as well as how unbearable it was for God…. Job did not want to bring any more grief upon God, nor did he want God to weep for him, much less did he want to see God pained by him. At this moment, Job wanted only to divest himself of his flesh, to no longer endure the pain brought upon him by this flesh, for this would stop God being tormented by his pain—yet he could not, and he had to tolerate not only the pain of the flesh, but also the torment of not wishing to make God anxious. These two pains—one from the flesh, and one from the spirit—brought heart-rending, gut-wrenching pain upon Job, and made him feel how the limitations of man who is of flesh and blood can make one feel frustrated and helpless. Under these circumstances, his yearning for God grew fiercer, and his loathing of Satan became more intense. At this time, Job would have preferred to have never been born into the world of man, would rather that he did not exist, than see God cry tears or feel pain for his sake. He began to deeply loathe his flesh, to be sick and tired of himself, of the day of his birth, and even of all that which was connected to him. He did not wish there to be any more mention of his day of birth or anything to do with it, and so he opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth: “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine on it” (Job 3:3–4). Job’s words bear his loathing for himself, “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived,” as well as the blame he felt toward himself and his sense of indebtedness for having caused pain to God, “Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine on it.” These two passages are the ultimate expression of how Job felt then, and fully demonstrate his perfection and uprightness to all. At the same time, just as Job had wished, his faith and obedience to God, as well as his fear of God, were truly elevated. Of course, this elevation is precisely the effect that God had expected.
Excerpted from “God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Read more on our Sermons About Job page, or in the recommended articles below:
• Satan Tempts Job for the First Time
• What Should We Do When We Face Trials? Learn From the Story of Job