IN DUST AND ASHES
Speak to me Lord, so that when I speak to others, my words will be an echo of your voice.
Read JOB 2
2 On another day the angels[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish[b] woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
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‘Change and decay in all around I see. / O thou who changest not, abide with me.’1
Job chapter 2 continues with a near repetition of the court scene in chapter 1. The conversation between God and Satan intensifies as again God asks Satan if he has seen his servant Job. Job has become the evidence that faith is not linked to prosperity – his integrity has held even though his life has fallen apart (v 3). Here we are told an important but challenging detail of the whole book, one that will frame the discussions that follow: Job’s misfortune has come without reason. God is not punishing Job: rather, Job is the evidence that human beings can love God whatever the circumstances.
Satan, however, is not content that the evidence for this is good enough and so he continues the test and removes Job’s health. At this moment, Job reaches his lowest ebb: verse 7 tells us his body was covered in sores. Amidst this suffering, God’s evidence holds true. In the middle of oppression, Job still does not sin. Despite calls from his wife, Job refuses to curse God but instead he claims that trouble needs to be accepted in the same way as blessings.
At this point Job’s three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar arrive to console their friend. Over the next few days, we will see that the friends do not do a great job of comforting Job. At the end of chapter 2, however, in verses 12 and 13, we are given an example of good pastoral care. They identify the magnitude of Job’s suffering; they weep with him; and then they simply sit in silence with him for seven days. Can you imagine that? They simply abide with him.
Often at times of great tragedy your presence with those who are suffering is more important than your words. Who at the moment is need of your love and support?
Loving Lord, forgive me when I turn aside from others’ problems. Renew my compassion so that I will draw alongside those who are hurting and struggling.
1 Henry Francis Lyte, 1793–1847, ‘Abide with me: fast falls the eventide’