Job 1:20-22

Sermon preached on July 12, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

The words to the hymn,
It is Well With My Soul were written by Horatio Spafford. They express the peace God gave him after a great tragedy in his life. Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago and had invested heavily in real estate. He was almost ruined financially when the 1871 Great Chicago Fire burned many of his properties. Two years later he planned a trip to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. But a change in plans happened when zoning problems as a result of the fire prevented him from sailing on time. But rather than delaying the trip for everyone in his family, he sent his family ahead, promising to follow. His family's ship was halfway across the North Atlantic when in the middle of the night it was cut in two in a collision with another ship, an iron clipper. Of the 313 people on board 226 perished. Among those lost were Spafford's four daughters. His wife was the only one of his family who survived. When the ship that rescued her reached Wales, she sent a telegram to her husband that read,

"Saved alone. What shall I do…"

Spafford immediately left Chicago to go to his wife. He left Chicago and set sail for Europe. On his way across the Atlantic, the captain of his ship called Horatio to his cabin and told him they were passing over the spot where his four daughters had perished. Tradition has it that he was inspired to write the hymn as he passed the spot of the tragedy. That could very well be, as one of the lines is,

"When sorrows like sea billows roll;"

A few days later he wrote a letter to his sister-in-law and said,

"On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs."

It's remarkable the peace that God gave Spafford and how He enabled him to write that great hymn.

Job's actions here are even more incredible. Francis I. Andersen says, (TOTC, Job)

"Job's exclamation is the noblest expression to be found anywhere of a man's joyful acceptance of the will of God as his only good."

I'm not sure that Andersen should have used the word 'joyful' there—but except for that his statement is accurate. Job's actions here should be celebrated for all time. Even more important, his example should be followed. We are to learn from Job and imitate him. He has much to teach us. We read, (Job 1:20–22)

"At this, Job got up and tore his robe
and shaved his head.
Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
'Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.'
In all this, Job did not sin
by charging God with wrongdoing."

There are three things I want to note in Job's reaction to the devastating news he received.

First, Job tore his robe, shaved his head and fell to the ground.

Job was filled with grief. His heart was broken. It could be that the tearing of the outer garment in mourning symbolized extreme grief such as one's life, (or heart) is being torn apart. John Calvin says that tearing one's clothes and shaving one's head show us that Job,

"was experiencing an anguish so great that it had torn him to the bottom of his heart."

Job loved his children dearly. His intercession for this children that we read about in verse 5 shows us that. Indeed, the only detail we are given about Job's personal character, his fearing God and shunning evil—is that he offered burnt offerings on behalf of his children. I think it's accurate to say that they were his treasured possession.

Expressing grief on hearing such horrible news is normal and appropriate. When Jacob was deceived by his sons and thought Joseph had been torn apart by some ferocious beast—he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and mourned for his son. (Genesis 37:34) This was a common way of mourning. When Jesus arrived at the grave of His friend Lazarus, He wept. (John 11:35) Outward signs of grief, and deep inner sorrow are appropriate in the face of tragedy.

But what's important for us to note is that here is that Job's outward actions express an inward submission to God's will. The Hebrew word that is used here is used in a variety of contexts and basically means to fall down. It's used in Genesis to describe how when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah were defeated in the Valley of Siddim, many of their men fell into the tar pits of that area. At other times this word means to fall down in worship before God, being submissive to his will. It's used that way in Genesis 17:17 of Abraham when God made His covenant with him and told him that Sarah would become the mother of nations, that kings of peoples would come from her. (See also Numbers 16:4, 45)

That it's used this way of Job becomes evident from the words that Job speaks. Falling to the ground like this denotes submissiveness, acceptance, worship. Job is not defiant. He is not angry with God. Rather he is totally submissive before God's providence. He's not like Balak, in Numbers 23:17, standing besides his offering, waiting for Balaam to come and curse the people of Israel. Balak is defiant. He doesn't want God's will to be done—he wants his will to be done. He's standing beside his offering. Job is also not like King Herod in Acts 12, sitting on his throne, ready to continue his persecution of Christians—stealing glory and honor that belongs only to God.

John Calvin writes,

"For the one who is clothed in sackcloth and has dust on his head proclaims he has nothing to boast of, must remain silent and be like one already buried and say, 'I am not worthy to walk upon the earth, but it is fitting that the earth cover me, and God is obliged to cast me so low that I am trodden underfoot.' "


"threw himself on the ground in order to do homage to God, as if to say, 'Lord, it is true that in the past I served and honored you while I prospered and enjoyed my great success, and I was pleased to serve you. But I did not have a good idea of the kind of person I am, but I see now the nature of my weakness and how we are all wretched creatures. So, Lord, I give myself willingly to you and ask only to be your subject no matter what happens."

The second thing to note about Job here is that

Job acknowledged God's right to give and take away.

God recognized that God is God. Job didn't have a sense of entitlement. He acknowledged that everything he had came to him from God's hand as a gift. He acknowledged that he did not deserve any of it. He said,

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and
the Lord has taken away;"

As sinners we deserve nothing good from God. Quite the contrary, we deserve nothing but punishment from God. Lamentations 3:22 says,

"Because of the Lord's great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail."

Psalm 103:10 says of God,

"he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities."

2 Samuel 7:18 David said,

"Who am I,
O Sovereign LORD,
and what is my family,
that you have brought me this far?"

One of the things that sin has done to us is give us a strong sense of entitlement. Jesus taught about this in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace. He told them to go and work in his vineyard and that he would pay them whatever was right. He did that again at the sixth, ninth and eleventh hour. Jesus said, (Matthew 20:8–15)

" When evening came, the owner
of the vineyard said to his foreman,
'Call the workers and pay them
their wages, beginning with the last ones
hired and going on to the first.'
The workers who were hired
about the eleventh hour came
and each received a denarius.
So when those came who were hired first,
they expected to receive more.
But each one of them
also received a denarius.
When they received it,
they began to grumble
against the landowner.'
These men who were hired last
worked only one hour,' they said,
'and you have made them equal to us
who have borne the burden
of the work and the heat of the day.'
But he answered one of them,
'Friend, I am not being unfair to you.
Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?
Take your pay and go.
I want to give the man who was hired
last the same as I gave you.
Don't I have the right to do
what I want with my own money?
Or are you envious
because I am generous?' "

I can relate to the ones who worked all day. To us it seems that the landowner treated them unfairly.

But in ourselves we have no claim on God. In Luke 17:10 Jesus said,

"So you also,
when you have done
everything you were told to do,
should say,
'We are unworthy servants;
we have only done our duty.' "

Everything is of grace. Paul said that he was what he was only because of God's grace. (1 Corinthians 15:10) It's all of grace. He said,

"But by the grace of God
I am what I am,"

Though Jesus we have been brought into God's family, we have been made co-heirs with Christ.

But having said that, we must not presume on God. The centurion whose servant was near death shows us that. After he sent Jewish leaders to Jesus and asked for him to heal his servant, he sent friends to say to Him, (Luke 7:6)

"Lord, don't trouble yourself,
for I do not deserve to have you
come under my roof."

In almost the same way, Job acknowledged that he was not worthy. Job acknowledged that God was righteous in taking everything he had away from him. He acknowledged that God was righteous in taking his children away from him. Tremper Longman III writes, (Job, Baker Academic, 2012)

"But when he speaks, he does not lament, complain, or weep."

He is submissive to God.

The lesson for us is that

we are to be submissive to the Lord's providences.

Let us not complain under His hand. God always does what is right. As Moses said in Deuteronomy 32:4,

"He is the Rock,
his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he."

We ought to be like Eli when he received bad news, that God was going to judge his family. (1 Samuel 3:18) After Eli heard the news he said,

"He is the LORD;
let him do what is good in his eyes."

We can do that because we know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows what He is doing. He is at God's right hand ruling all things. As Ephesians 1:22–23 says,

"And God placed all things under his feet
and appointed him to be head
over everything for the church,
which is his body, the fullness of him
who fills everything in every way."

How comforting Romans 8:28 ought to be to us,

"And we know that in all things
God works for the good
of those who love him,
who have been called
according to his purpose."

The third great thing we see in Job is that

he praised Gd.

Spafford's wife, in her telegram to her husband informing him of the death of their four daughters, asked

"What shall I do?"

Job shows her. We are to praise God.

I say this not at all minimizing the grief that people feel.

Praising God in grief—it seems paradoxical. How can one do that? In grief you certainly don't feel like it. Indeed, I'm sure it seems impossible. When you're in the throes of grief it seems like you can't praise God. Not only do you not feel like it—it seems like it's physically impossible. When you're in the throes of grief – your body reacts in certain ways. You feel absolutely sick to your stomach. You can't eat. You can't sleep. You feel like curling up into a fetal position and crying. It's like a nightmare only it's much worse because it's real. The sadness can be overwhelming. There is a real darkness there.

So why does the Holy Spirit give us this great example of Job praising God in the midst of his grief? Why is it so important that we praise God when our whole world comes crumbling down?

There are many reasons. In Job's case God's honor was at stake.

But there's another reason. Even in the deepest grief praising God is appropriate.

This is because of Jesus and His work.

Grief is a terrible thing. It's like darkness closing in, closing our eyes to all hope.

But if we lose all hope, we've fallen for the devil's deception. The reality, the truth, is much different. You see, Jesus and His work has changed everything. He died for us, for our sins. He is going to deliver us.

Jesus has come to deliver us from all grief.

He has come to bring us to glory, to make us glorious. In Revelation 21:3–5 we read about the new Jerusalem, coming down from God, as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. We read,

"And I heard a loud voice
from the throne saying,
'Now the dwelling of God is with men,
and he will live with them.
They will be his people,
and God himself will be
with them and be their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things
has passed away.'
He who was seated on the throne said,
'I am making everything new!'
Then he said, 'Write this down,
for these words are trustworthy and true.'"

Jesus has loved us and saved us. He has loved us and His hand is always under us. In the darkest darkness we should have hope because of Jesus.

What's the solution to grief. It's not denial. It's not avoidance. It's not distraction—it's focusing on Jesus. It's focusing on God and His love, His promises.

Indeed, when you're in your darkest hour, that ought to be time when you praise God from the bottom of your heart. When you see the darkness, the blackness, the evil—that's best time to look on Jesus—Hallelujah, light has come into the world (John 3:19) and give Him praise, honor and glory—for you know that He is going to deliver you from that darkness. Calvin says that in grief we should look beyond this world and contemplate seriously that, (Job, Sermon 7)

"even though our situation is wretched in the eyes of the world, our God loves us and is sufficient for us…"

May God give us such grace in times of grief. May we be able to praise Him like never before.