“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people in the east.” (Job 1:1-3)
It is worth noting that in Hebrew writing, the way a person is described is important and the order of which different characteristics are described is equally important, with the most critical traits listed first and then in decreasing importance because this gives a sense of the character’s self-identity. In Biblical writing, it gives a sense of how God views the person in His own eyes.
For Job, there are three character traits that are worth noting:
- He was “blameless and upright.” “Blameless” is a reference to his faithfulness to obedience to God’s word. “Upright” means that Job had no need to hang his head in shame, but could walk knowing that he was safe and secure in the hand of God.
- He “feared God.” This not only means that he had a healthy respect for God’s law, but He feared the consequences of disobedience to His word. The consequences of a broken relationship with God is the devastating loneliness apart from Him – that gnawing, aching thing that tugs at that soul and grieves the human spirit and can only be satisfied by a repentance and humble submission to Him.
- He “turned away from evil.” This implies the deliberate choice to walk in obedience to God’s word as a habit of life. By God’s definition, “evil” is anything that is contrary to God’s commands. In his case, Job made the choice to work in the light of God’s commands.
How do you define your value in the world? Is it in terms of wealth and possession? Size of your family? Level of personal influence? Or is it the strength of your character and faithfulness? If you continue reading the story of Job, you discover that very soon all of his children are killed in a storm, along with all of his possessions lost. He then lost his servants. He lost everything, including his influence as “the greatest of all the people in the east.” By the world’s standards, he was now worthless. But the one thing he did not lose in the midst of his suffering and tragedy – was his character.
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped. And he said ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:20-22)
When things go “wrong” in this life, do we immediately look for someone to blame? Do we blame our political leaders? Do you blame your neighbor? Do you blame “the devil”? Do you shake your fist to the heavens and blame God? While in the course of the story, it is true that Satan did the work that God allowed. It would be natural to blame the devil or even God for allowing the tragedy like it was some sick totalitarian celestial game.
But God will put our faith to the test in order to build our character. “Count it all joy, my brothers, WHEN you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) It’s not a question of IF you will meet trails and suffering in this life; it’s a matter of WHEN. The test is our response. And Job passed the test. Not only did Job mourn the loss of his children, he fell down in worship to the providence of Adonai. As a result, Job is remembered as a man “blameless and upright” who “did not sin or charge God with wrong.”
How do you want to be remembered when your season of trial and suffering has passed? How do you want to be remembered when you life reaches its close? Do you want to be remembered for having a fickle attitude that wavers every time the wind blows? Do you want to be remembered for having great power and influence that can easily be taken away with the wind of natural disaster? Do you want to be remembered for having a large family – even if those family members curse God and live wanton, selfishly hedonistic lives?
Or do you want to be remembered as someone who was faithful? Someone faithful to God, to your spouse, and to your children? A person who faithfully serves those that you do influence? For me, it’s simple. I want to be remembered as a “disciple who Jesus loved…reclining at the table at Jesus’ side.” (John 13:23) And when this life is through, the only words that will make this life worth living are the simple words “well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)