Job – A Reflection from the End of the Story
Job – A Reflection from the End of the Story
We all love a story with a happy ending and Job’s story, in this respect, does not disappoint us. Friends and family members come to comfort him and to help him get started again; the Lord makes him twice as prosperous as he had been before; ten more children are born to him; and the story ends with Job living for a further one hundred and forty years, seeing his children and grandchildren to the fourth generation, and eventually dying, ‘old and full of years’.
The background to this is the defeat of Job’s adversary. Satan had alleged, twice over, that if God afflicted Job severely, stripping him of all the good things he had given him, Job would curse God to his face. And when God did afflict Job we may well believe that Satan was busy behind the scenes trying to pressure Job into doing that very thing. But he failed. For though Job certainly went over the score and said things both to and about God that received a well-deserved rebuke, he never cursed God as Satan said he would.
We are to conclude from this that Job’s afflictions served their purpose. They fully established the genuineness of his piety and showed to all who would ever hear his story that a true believer can have everything taken away from him and still love God. And that being so there is something singularly appropriate about the Lord then delivering Job from his afflictions by blessing him again with the blessings he had known before.
God’s actions here shed light on a matter that perhaps we don’t often ponder. We have all asked the question ‘Why?’ – often in an agony of spirit – in relation to the reasons for suffering coming. Do we ever seriously ask the same question about the reasons for suffering going? Why does God so often hear our prayers and deliver us from the trials we are facing?
One reason has certainly to do with God’s compassion and mercy. When James (Ch.5.11) reflects on what the Lord finally brought about for Job – how he delivered him and prospered him – he explains it in this way: ‘The Lord is full of compassion and mercy’. It is the very same revelation of God’s heart that is being given in the deliverances we enjoy. He does the good things that he does for us – whether it be hearing our prayers, wiping away our tears, relieving us of pain, comforting us in our loneliness, or providing for us in our need – because he is full of compassion and mercy.
Another reason, however, has doubtless to do with a divine purpose being served. God of course has always got purposes to serve when he sends affliction into our lives and sometimes those purposes necessitate the continuance of suffering to the very end of our days. It is very likely, for example, that Paul had a thorn in his flesh to the very end of his days because there was always a need to keep spiritual pride in check.
But it is not always like that. God’s purposes in our trials may be fulfilled in a couple of months or in the course of a year or two. A particular lesson has been learned. A particular sin has been dealt with. A satanic challenge has been met and defeated. A particular Christian grace has been developed to such a degree that we are now able to do something for the Lord that we were not able to do before. The divine purpose has been fulfilled! And with the fulfilling of the purpose the affliction is taken away from us.
Granting all the above it still has to be acknowledged that the way the Job story ends is not the way the story ends for every child of God. The final years of a believer’s life may be by far the most difficult of all. Sorrows may be multiplied rather than diminished. That is why we have to handle the ending carefully. We are not to take it as a pattern experience; a kind of implied promise to all believers that it’s bound to end like this. Otherwise we may find ourselves deeply disappointed.
At the same time there is a very precious sense in which the ending of our own story will resemble the ending of Job’s. ‘You have heard’, says James, ‘of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about’ (Ch.5.11). James wants to encourage his readers to persevere to the end, notwithstanding the afflictions and persecutions to which they may be exposed. And here is how he does it – by reminding them of the blessings the Lord finally poured out on the man who continued to cling to him in the midst of all his darkness.
Jesus puts it like this: ‘he who stands firm to the end will be saved’. Persevering Christians will eventually experience salvation in all its glorious fullness. The Lord will perfect their holiness. He will also perfect their joy. And both will be secured to them forever. There is no story that ends more happily than the story of the saint who overcomes; who presses on through thick and thin to the end! It is foreshadowed in the ending of the Job story. And when by grace we finally cross the finishing line, the reality will be most wonderfully ours.