Job’s Piety and Prosperity (1:1-5)
The Book of Job begins by affirming that Job was an actual historical character: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.” The location of Uz is uncertain. Some believe it was located southeast of Palestine near modern-day Jordan. Uz is mentioned in Jeremiah 25:20 and Lamentations 4:21.
The Bible paints a stunning portrait of Job in one small verse. Job 1:1 records four things about Job. He was “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil.” These four things tell us a great deal about Job’s faith and show him to be a devout man who was fully committed to God.
First, Job was “blameless.” This does not mean that Job was sinless. Sinlessness has to do with our vertical relationship. The word “blameless” refers to Job’s horizontal relationships. He was a man who lived his life before others in such a way that no charge of moral failure or duplicity could be brought against him. He was a man of unquestionable integrity.
Second, Job was “upright.” The word “upright” means “straight.” Job did not stray from God’s path. He did not take crooked or perverse paths. He did not wander off on side roads leading away from God. His walk was consistent with his talk. He was a man of high moral character. What he was on the inside was reflected on the outside.
Third, Job feared God. Job took God seriously. He had deep reverence and respect for God. He was completely devoted to God and would not entertain any thought of violating His will. Oswald Chambers said, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”
Fourth, Job turned away from evil. Job avoided every and any thing that was unworthy in God’s sight. He was not attracted to anything that was wicked or evil. Job did not give in to the lure of the world. He knew how to say “no.” He avoided both the presence and practice of evil (see 1 Thessalonians 5:22).
The Bible tells us that Job had a large family. He had “seven sons and three daughters.” This was a sign of Divine favor and blessing (see Psalm 127:3-5 and Psalm 128:3-4). Job’s name and reputation would be perpetuated beyond his lifetime through his sons. According to Job 1:4, Job’s children were very close. They enjoyed one another’s company on a regular basis: “each one on his day.”
Job lived in a day when wealth was measured by property. Job possessed land, animals, and servants, the symbols of wealth and success in his day. He possessed 7,000 sheep (which provided him with clothing). He possessed 3,000 camels (which provided him with transportation). He possessed 500 yoke of oxen (which provided him with food and the ability to plow). He possessed 500 female donkeys (which provided him with even more animals). He had “very many servants” (tending to the work of his vast estate). The Bible also tells us that Job “was the greatest of all the men in the east.” He was held in high regard by God and his fellow man. He was well-known throughout the land. He cast a long shadow. He had the highest standing in the community.
Job was a man who was concerned about the spiritual welfare of his family. He was successful both in the marketplace and the home. He knew how to balance his career and his family, as well as his spiritual walk. Job 1:4 tells us that Job’s children met regularly for times of feasting. Job 1:5 tells us that after such times Job would offer burnt offerings for each of his children. Job wanted for his children to have a right relationship with God. He was the spiritual leader of his home. Howard Hendricks said, “If your faith doesn’t work at home, don’t export it.” Job’s faith worked at home.
Satan’s First Challenge (1:6-22)
The Bible pulls back the curtains and allows us to witness a remarkable exchange between God and Satan. As the “sons of God” (the angelic host) were presenting themselves before the Lord, Satan appeared with them. Although an outcast from heaven, Satan was still permitted to appear in heaven.
God asked Satan, “From where do you come?” God knew the answer to the question. He asked the question to raise an issue. Satan answered by saying, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” Peter tells us, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The name Satan means “adversary” and the name Devil means “slanderer.” Satan’s delights in opposing and slandering us before God. He is the author of a destructive agenda. Jesus said that Satan’s three-fold agenda is to “steal, and kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).
God asked Satan if, in his roaming about on the earth, he had noticed “My servant Job.” This verse reveals what God thought of Job. It is worth parenthetically stating that what God thinks of us is more important than what men think of us. God and Job had a close personal relationship. God endorsed the character and conduct of Job by saying that “there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
Satan responded to God by saying that the only reason Job was faithful was because God had bought him with blessings and spoiled him. Satan said that Job’s allegiance to God was held together by blessings. “Remove those blessings,” Satan asserted, “and you will see what Job is really like. You will see that he will stop worshiping and serving You and indeed curse You to Your face. Job’s allegiance to You will quickly unravel once you remove the blessings from his life.”
It is interesting to note that the words of Satan are recorded in only three places in the Scripture. First, Satan’s words are recorded in Genesis 3. Satan told the woman that God was holding out on her, in essence, “God is not good to you.” Second, Satan’s words are recorded in Job 1. Satan told God He was too good to man. Third, Satan’s words are recorded in Matthew 4. Satan told Jesus to bow and worship him and he (Satan) would be better to Him than God.
God accepted Satan’s challenge. He permitted Satan to ferret out Job’s motives for serving Him. Satan’s power however, was limited by God’s sovereignty as seen in the phrase, “only do not put forth your hand on him.”
Satan wasted no time in working to prove God wrong about Job. He was intent on securing Job as a trophy of his evil agenda. Satan therefore launched a four-fold attack against Job in an attempt to prove that he served God only for selfish reasons. Satan worked his evil in a fast sequence in an effort to stun and overwhelm Job. His intent was to try to engulf and drown Job in tormenting waves of affliction (compare Psalm 42:7).
First, Satan stirred up the Sabeans to attack and steal Job’s oxen and donkeys and slay his servants. Satan is never at a loss for instruments to do his work. Job received word of his loss from a sole servant who had survived and escaped the attack (1:13-15). Satan cleverly began with Job’s cattle as he worked his evil toward a climax.
Second, while the first servant was reporting to Job concerning his loss at the hands of the Sabeans, another servant entered to report yet another tragic loss to Job. The second servant reported the loss of all of Job’s sheep and the servants who tended them. The cause of the loss was fire from heaven (lightning). Satan used the weather to inflict more tragedy on Job (1:16).
Third, before the second servant completed his report, a third servant entered to report that the Chaldeans had stolen Job’s camels and slain the servants who tended them (1:17).
Fourth, the final report of disaster came while the third servant was still speaking. A fourth servant entered to report to Job the most tragic news of all, namely the death of his ten children (1:18-19). The “great wind” which struck and destroyed the house that fell on his children was perhaps a tornado. This was the climax of Satan’s evil efforts to prove God wrong concerning the faithfulness of Job.
In a brief period of time Job experienced the loss of everything he had worked for and everyone he loved. He went from a state of being a happy father to being childless in one stroke. He found himself without his children to comfort him and help him deal with the other tragic losses he experienced. Job’s grief must have been unbelievable. Martin Luther, in his hymn entitled “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” wrote,
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe —
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Job responded to his personal disaster in five ways.
First, according to verse 20, “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head.” In Job’s day, these were expressions of grief and sorrow. Job allowed himself to grieve over his loss. Job did not try to put on a stoic or super-pious front. He wept. He grieved.
Second, Job “fell to the ground and worshiped” (1:20). Job did not curse God as Satan had asserted. Job did not stand on his feet and defiantly curse God for his troubles as Satan expected. Job “fell to the ground and worshiped.” Thomas Robinson wrote, “Afflictions draw a godly man nearer to God instead of driving him from Him.”
Third, Job did not lose sight of the bigger picture. He acknowledged that he had entered the world empty-handed and would leave it the same way (1:21a).
Fourth, Job opened his mouth and spoke. He did not, however, speak what Satan expected. Job acknowledged the sovereignty of God. He said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” (1:21b). Job acknowledged God’s ownership of all things. He understood that everything he had was on loan from God.
Fifth, Job refused to become bitter. He said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21b). And the Scripture adds, “Through all this [see 1:13-19] Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (1:22).