Stripped but Blessed

A. J. Pollock

“Perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” Such was Job’s character, given by God—no mean one, especially as it was earned in what we believe were pre-Abrahamic days, with no general light of revelation.

He was blessed, too, as godliness was in those days, with abundance of this world’s goods. “And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.”

All was outwardly prosperous; but God chose the best man on the earth (see Job 1:8) to be blessed by discovering Himself to Job, and discovering, necessarily, Job to himself. The steps to this end are intensely interesting.

God asks Satan, “Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth?” Satan, in reply, says in effect, “Strip him, and he will curse Thee to Thy face.” Satan sought his fall, God sought his blessing; Satan wished him to curse God. God desired that he should abhor himself.

Satan gets leave from God to strip Job. With malignant energy he sets to work, and in one day he brings the greatest man in all the east into abject poverty and visits him with sore bereavement.

Blow after blow falls upon Job of such a crushing nature and in such rapidity that one marvels at the comment of the Holy Ghost on his conduct in it all: “In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” What self-restraint! What a triumph for God so far! What a defeat for Satan, who predicted the deep and bitter curse if God touched his possessions! The tongue is an unruly member. Says James, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” And Job, up to this point, behaved perfectly.

Scripture gives us in detail how Satan sought to effect his purpose.

A messenger comes with the serious news that the Sabeans had robbed him of his oxen and asses, and but one servant had escaped to tell the tale. Heavy as the blow was, it only meant that part of his property was gone; but lo! another messenger arrives to say that fire from heaven had burnt up his sheep, and yet another tells him that the Chaldeans, in three bands, had captured his camels

Poor Job! By no fault of his own, by no carelessness of his, in one moment, fortune, wealth, position are swept away. He is absolutely penniless. Still, wife and children are left him.

But lo! a more crushing blow, heavier than all the rest. A great wind from the wilderness had smitten the four corners of the house in which his sons and daughters were feasting, and had killed them all.

Agonising as it is for a man to be suddenly stripped and become absolutely poor, it is nothing to the anguish of parting for ever from some loved one. At a later date David in anguish wailed, as he heard of the death of Bathsheba’s child, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” And years after the same father lamented with profound pathos over his rebellious but dead son, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

But Job! What shall we say of him? Not one sore bereavement, but ten—all merged into one mighty, overwhelming blow! Not one child, but all! Firstborn and youngest, son and daughter, all gone at one fell swoop!

Still he has health, inestimable boon! But lo! the malignant fiendishness of Satan would touch even that, so eager was he for Job’s fall. He hisses into God’s ear, “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth Thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face.” So God, who worked for Job’s good, uses Satan’s malignity, and gives him power to touch Job’s body. Job is smitten with sore boils. In despair, he sits down among the ashes and scrapes his body with a potsherd.

Satan listens for a loud, deep curse from Job’s lips. As a last resource he stirs up his wife to give the evil advice, “Curse God, and die.” But no. Job is master of his tongue, and Satan is baffled. Wonderful triumph for God! Stripped of property, bereaved of family, bereft of health, what more could Satan do? But God sees deeper, and will make Job abhor himself rather than curse God, as Satan tries to bring about. Then Job’s three friends come to comfort him; but they saw his grief was so great that none broke silence for seven days and nights. Oh! the intolerable gloom that fell on Job’s spirit—and well it might.

At last Job opened his mouth, and cursed his day.[1] Then, through twenty-nine chapters of the book, his three friends argue from his trials that he is not righteous, but Job vehemently asserts his righteousness yet more and more. He says in conclusion, if it be otherwise, “Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.”

The mouths of the three men are closed—all has been idle talk. Then Elihu’s wrath is kindled against Job because he justified himself rather than God, and against his three friends, because, whilst they had condemned Job, they had found no answer wherewith to convince him. He boldly charges Job with his unrighteousness, until the Lord takes up the theme, and speaks to Job out of the whirlwind.

In five short verses Job makes answer to God—a contrast to his previous speeches. The crux of the whole lies in this, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Personal dealing with God makes him a little man in his own eyes, even to the abhorrence of himself.

It was just this personal dealing with God that made Saul of Tarsus, with all his religiousness and zeal, speak of himself as chief of sinners; that made Isaiah confess that he was undone; that counsels the most upright and moral to acknowledge that even his “righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”

This is the only road to true greatness, for when Job had arrived at this point God gave him a double portion, so that his latter end was more blessed than his beginning. Thus it ever is. Whether we are stripped of human righteousness as sinners, or stripped of self-complacency as saints, the end is always for blessing, and the truly great before God are the truly small in their own eyes.

It is all beautifully summed up by James when he says, “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is pitiful, and of tender mercy.”

Those who are enduring the stripping process, let them be encouraged by this prospect of pure blessing—“THE END OF THE LORD.” “He is pitiful, and of tender mercy.” If exercised, Satan will not gain the advantage: God will gain the glory, and we shall gain the blessing.

A.J.Pollock

Simple Testimony 1900

 

[1]     Mark, he did not curse God—Satan’s aim.