Wednesday, July 27, 2016
This week we are studying Job's wife.
She's been given a pretty bad rap over the years, but I wonder . . .
We've noted that even though she wasn't the target, she was still heavily impacted by all that happened to Job.
First of all, she watched as her children died. God had blessed the couple with ten children -- ten times she had felt the quickening of life inside her, and had endure the pain and joy of childbirth. Ten little lives that she had helped to nurture. She and Job had taught them all to love, honor, and respect Jehovah God.
From the first chapter of Job, we can see that this is a tightly-knit family. They seem to be very close, and enjoy fun and laughter with all the rest of the family -- each time one of them celebrated a birthday, they would all gather and have a feast and merriment. We can guess that Job's wife played a vital role in raising the children to love each other and their parents, and to revere their God.
What a heartbreak it is, for a parent to outlive their child. How can she and Job survive, as they blink back tears and look at ten fresh graves? Surely this was a debilitating loss . . .
Next, she and Job experienced huge financial losses, as well. In the third verse of chapter one, Job is described as a wealthy man; perhaps he was the richest in the world. Probably he could not have been such an esteemed man if she was not a fairly influential leader, herself. Perhaps she was accustomed to being a "mover and shaker" in the circles of their friends. She must have been surrounded by luxury and comforts; her home probably had the finest of furnishings, and her clothing was lovely and expensive. All of her children had everything they needed, too.
But in one really bad day, they lost all of that. All of their wealth. All of the animals. All of the herds. All of their property. They were not only bankrupt, but they were homeless now.
Then, she became the only caretaker for her sick husband. The scholars don't agree on what Job's illness was. But clearly, his pain was so excruciating that he asked God to take his life (Job 3). And, in addition to the pain, the illness distorted his appearance -- his closest friends could hardly recognize him, and then fell to the ground in pity for his suffering. This last temptation was so severe, it nearly broke Job's soul. He spent each day at the brink of death, and the only relief he felt was from the heat of the burn piles and the scraping of pottery shards across his ravaged skin.
Pause a moment, though. Did we miss something? In our description of what Job is enduring, where is his wife? She is his faithful and steady caregiver. She put aside her own grief to be ever-present and care for him. Can we imagine the exhaustion that she must have felt, caring for him as he suffered? The cries of agony, hour after hour, day after day -- what would we feel if the ones we love were treading that fine line of sanity and insanity, because of excruciating pain?
Add to this the fact that she was alone on this mission of mercy. She had no support network. No one to help her. No one to take over so she could have a break. They had no financial resources to provide another caregiver, and their children were gone. Their friends had faded away, and their God seemed curiously absent. Alone.
That is when we come to those seemingly bitter words, the only recorded words of Job's wife in this whole story. Words that erupted from her, at the lowest point in her life.
Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die. (Job 2:9)
These seem to us to be shocking words. Words spit out of a mouth that was tired of crying. Tired of murmuring comfort as Job moaned. Sick with exhaustion from caring for his needs, night and day. These are words that seem to reflect a heart of bitterness, and of anger toward God.
There aren't many sermons preached on the book of Job, but when they do, some preachers accuse Job's wife of being a co-conspirator with the devil. They say she was trying to force her husband to do what the devil predicted he would do -- give up on God.
Others question her faith, and discuss whether or not her faith in Jehovah was real.
But wait a minute!
Haven't we all had moments, words, or even thoughts that we would love to call back? That we wish we could swallow and then no one would have heard them? Have we wished there was a time machine so that we could go back and do things differently? Haven't we all been in the middle of a crushing trial and reacted in less than godly fashion? Just imagine if those words or thoughts or actions were recorded for everyone to analyze!
Perhaps we should not define Job's wife by this one conversation -- if she was a perpetually bitter, hard, unhappy woman, could she have raised those wonderful kids? Could she have been one half of that seemingly happy marriage?
We have other records in the Bible of raw emotion, of expressions of pain, grief, and suffering that leap from the pages of the Word. We try to understand David, Moses, and Jeremiah, and even Job. We look at them and think they are revealed as authentic, and as honest people. Are we heaping judgement on Job's wife incorrectly?
We'll conclude our study of Job's wife tomorrow.