This was, in part, the testimony of Mrs. Jobe. She had relied on her husband for everything, for her economic existence, for her social status, for her moral standing in the community.
But now, in a matter of moments, it is all completely wiped away. She too has lost everything. Now that the cattle and the servants have been destroyed, her position as the wife of a prince has been devalued to being the wife of the man who has recently moved to the city dump. Jobe lost his family, his estate, his friends, his health, and his reputation.
He lost just about everything in a matter of hours. But Jobe isn't the only person who suffers in the story. Behind the scenes is Mrs. Jobe. You see, she also lost her children, her home, her reputation, and her security. We don't know much about her.
She only makes a brief appearance in the Bible. But it's enough to open our eyes to the silent and lonely pain experienced by secondhand sufferers. Here's Stephen with a lesson he called Mrs. Jobe Lessons from Secondhand Suffering. I recently came across some research in my study that more than likely you have been exposed to something dangerous and you probably didn't even know it. Up to one million people are affected with a variety of physical ailments because of it, including respiratory tract infections, asthma, and middle ear infections. Some children even experience permanent hearing loss because of it. In adults, it is responsible for cancer and heart diseases. In fact, 50,000 deaths occur every year because of it.
What makes it especially troubling is that the victim never personally did anything to bring it about. They just happened to be exposed to it. That's why 14 states have now passed laws to get rid of it in public places.
Nine states have made sure it never shows up in workplaces and restaurants. If you haven't guessed by now, this culprit is simply called secondhand smoke. In the 1980s, Philip Morris conducted research that proved secondhand smoke was highly toxic. Yet they suppressed the truth for some 20 years.
But now the truth is out. In fact, the Surgeon General actually reported that there is no such thing as a risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. And by 2005, research had confirmed that secondhand smoke is responsible for 200,000 cases annually of respiratory tract infection in 2‑year‑olds and under, just in that age group. Secondhand smoke causes 15,000 hospitalizations every year.
It's the reason for half a million asthma attacks every year and 1.6 million visits to the doctors' offices every year. These are people who suffer not because they ever touched a cigarette or a cigar or a pipe. They never once. They just lived with somebody who did. They just rode in the car with somebody who did.
They ate next to someone who did. Just a brief exposure to secondhand smoke has proven toxic and dangerous. The purpose of this sermon is not to get you to quit smoking.
If it does, great. But it's interesting to me that we can become deeply concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke. And we can pass laws to deal with it.
Or maybe it's the presence of germs. Or maybe it's the avoidance of stress in the workplace. Or maybe it's safe working conditions in the workplace and on and on.
Laws are passed and attention is given. Yet there is little evidence observed or effort demonstrated against something that is far more devastating, far more destructive and life-altering, something far more life-threatening and dangerous and debilitating than secondhand smoke. I'd like to call it secondhand suffering. Millions of people are affected adversely by it every single year. It is the cause of physical difficulties and ailments beyond number. It fills bed after bed in the hospital and doctors and counselors and psychologists' offices every single year by the millions. No laws have ever been passed to get rid of it. No science can ever eradicate it. No medicine can fully get rid of its effects. Secondhand suffering is suffering brought on in the lives of people who are exposed to those who are suffering.
And it can be as equally devastating and toxic. The Bible offers the only help and the only hope. When we last left our study in the book of Job, he was sitting on the heap of ashes left by the burning of garbage and refuse and there he sits in total and utter agony. He was scratching himself incessantly with a broken piece of pottery to try to get rid of the awful itching that he felt. He and his wife had no idea that these events would be a part of their lives when they married 35, 40 years earlier.
Now their lives were turned upside down. He is suffering a long list of ailments and we went through the book to point out them. He suffered from ulcerous sores. He experienced persistent itching. He couldn't eat.
He was overwhelmed at times with dread and fear. Chapter 3. He suffered from insomnia. Chapter 7. He developed worms in his open sores. He suffered in Chapter 7 from cracked and oozing skin.
He had difficulty breathing. Chapter 9. He developed dark circles under his eyes. Chapter 16.
He experienced weight loss. Chapter 19. He had constant fever and pain in his joints. Chapter 30. He was in constant continual pain.
Chapter 30 verse 16. He's literally living a physical nightmare. He has moved out of the house and to the town dump where the other beggars and lepers live, though we're not told he had leprosy, he would have been unclean with them in so much agony that he really didn't want to be around anybody else. Add to this the fact that his name would have become a point of derision. All anybody would have ever wanted to talk about was Job, this man that seemed to live for God but evidently had a secret sinful wife because God is now judging him with terrible wrath and anger. What gets lost though in all of this was what was happening in the life of the only other family member who was left alive besides Job. She had already suffered much.
She will suffer yet further indirectly as she watches her husband waste away. If Job is the epitome of suffering, this woman would be the epitome of second-hand suffering and both are potentially toxic to your faith and trust in the goodness of God. For our study today, we're going to call her simply Mrs. Job. Rabbinical tradition believes that she was Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. The evidence is strong that Job lived during the period of the patriarchs, perhaps even while Jacob lived, but barely evident that his wife was Jacob's daughter. Other tradition held that one of Dinah's daughters, evidently born to Job and Dinah later, moved to Egypt and she would become the wife of Joseph as he was elevated to prime minister.
We don't know any of this for certain and it's a rather stretch to our minds. It only grows mysterious because there is so little to glean about this woman in the record of Scripture, this woman who was Job's wife. What we do know for certain about Mrs. Job is that she appears briefly in chapter 2. If you're not already there, turn to chapter 2 and verse 9.
This takes place when Job has already moved out of the house and into the city dump where for some time he has been suffering all of these physical ailments. Notice verse 9. Then his wife said to him, do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die. One translator writes it this way, renounce God and die. In other words, turn your back on God. Get rid of your testimony of faith which evidently is the strand that is keeping you alive and let God put you to death. It's obvious that God has given up on you.
Give up on God. Some might picture her as a sort of a conniving temptress. Calvin believed she was spurred on by the devil to tempt her husband to sin. Augustine believed she was the devil's accomplice, allowed by the devil to live only so he could induce her to tempt her husband to curse God. After all of the research and language work I could do, I personally do not believe that she was directly attempting to get Job to sin. I believe she was trying to end Job's suffering. Job, give up. Look at you.
Go ahead and turn your back on God and die. The Greek translation of the Hebrew scripture is called the Septuagint translated into third and second centuries BC. While the Septuagint is not inspired scripture, it is authoritative and it's interesting that even Paul and others, even our Lord Jesus quoted from it during their ministries. In the Septuagint, Mrs. Job has a much longer speech which she delivers to Job. It gives us some insight on what might have driven her to suggest he end his life.
Notes put into the margins of the Septuagint later added perhaps, but here they are for us to read. She says to him, when a long time had passed, she asked, how long will you endure? Saying, behold, I will wait yet for a little time looking for the hope of my salvation. Behold, the memory of you has been blotted out from the earth. Our sons and daughters, the travail and pain of my womb, whom with toil I reared for nothing. Yet you yourself sit in the decay of worms, passing the nights under the open sky while I am a wanderer from place to place and from house to house, waiting until the sun goes down so that I may rest from my toils and from the pains that now grip me.
Later on, the text records that she goes through the humiliation of cutting off her hair and selling it in order to buy bread. Job, all is lost. We're finished.
There's no way back. God has evidently renounced us, and Job, I cannot stand to see you suffer. Renounce God and be released from your terrible misery. Now, we cannot defend what she recommends to her husband, but we can try to understand. As I have been immersed in this text for some time, I have made several observations about those who endure what we're calling secondhand suffering or suffering, but secondhand primarily. Let me give you four lessons that we can learn before we go further. Number one, we can learn that secondhand suffering can be as painful as suffering firsthand. Though different, it can be equally sharp and acute. The trouble is secondhand suffering may be impossible to express. While someone is suffering physical pain can simply say, I'm in pain, I'm hurting. The one who watches them suffer unable to help relieve their pain is also hurting only differently. It's difficult to express. Perhaps it is pain on an even deeper level.
The second observation is this, secondhand sufferers can reach points of despair more quickly than even those who are suffering firsthand. Mrs. Job is proof. She has already decided that God is not worthy of worship anymore. She has already decided that life wasn't worth living. She is now advising Job to decide the same thing. She has already reached the point of despair. And why not? She lost her 10 kids too.
Don't forget that. She has effectively lost her husband. She can do nothing to relieve his suffering. She can only watch her husband who once sat at the gates as a renowned man of the east. His honor is gone and they're honored together. And as far as she is concerned, their hope is gone too. In fact, in the Hebrew text, the verbs translated curse and die are imperatives.
You could put an exclamation point after each word. She is urgent in her counsel. She is passionate. She is no doubt giving this to him through wrenching sobs and tears. I picture her in my mind having fallen to the ashes beside him and she cries out, Job, just give in and give up. But he doesn't agree. In chapter 2, he will reach it in chapter 3 and he will curse the day he was born.
But she's already there. Secondhand suffering can prove to be more devastating to your faith and those directly affected by the trials of life. Let me make a third observation. Secondhand sufferers have their own personal sorrows to endure and personal lessons to learn. The sign on the wall of a junior high classroom contains these words, experience is the hardest teacher. It gives the test first and then the lesson.
You ever felt like that before? I mean, you're still struggling over what the lessons are and then another test shows up. I don't know if you're like my wife and I, but we talk about things happening in threes and you're nodding your head. You didn't quite get the lessons for the first thing. And then the second one arrives and then the third. For the secondhand sufferer, there are two sets of tests. There are two sets of lessons, not just one. First, what is happening to the person in your life who is suffering?
And then secondly, what is God teaching you as you suffer through it with them? This was in part the testimony of Mrs. Job. She had relied on her husband for everything, for her economic existence, for her social status, for her moral standing in the community.
But now in a matter of moments, it is all completely wiped away. She too has lost everything. Her income is gone. And now that the cattle and the servants have been destroyed, her position as the wife of a prince has been devalued to being the wife of the man who has recently moved to the city dump. Through no fault of her own, her life has turned upside down. She is now reduced to living on handouts, enduring the pity and the stares of former friends who used to envy her good fortune. Worst of all is her husband who is suffering, all his honor destroyed, all their dignity gone.
He is now shivering in pain and fever, unable to eat, covered with sores. And she now believes that sudden death would be better than lingering pain. She has her own lessons to learn. She has her own questions to ask. She has her own tears to shed.
And evidently, according to the Septuagint, a long period of time went between the initial outbreaking of all the suffering and when she speaks, and we don't know how long that time was, but after a long time, she finally breaks down in front of him and maybe it's because she tried to remain strong until that moment when she couldn't bear it any longer. This is her Gethsemane, her own particular valley. Spurgeon, and I read his sermon where he said of the scene, dear friend, when thy grief presses thee to the dust, worship there. If that spot has come to be thy Gethsemane, then present there thy strong crying and tears unto thy God. And remember David's words, ye people pour out your hearts. Do not stop there.
Finish the quotation. Ye people pour out your hearts before him. Turn the vessel upside down. It is a good thing to empty it, for this grief may ferment into something more sour. Turn the vessel upside down and let every drop run out. Let it run out before the Lord.
Great advice. Let me give you a fourth observation. Secondhand sufferers may reach wrong conclusions and need help in balancing their perspective. In other words, secondhand sufferers may need you who suffer directly to help them grow more than you need them to help you stand.
Have you ever noticed that? Have you ever gone to visit someone who is suffering either at the hospital or at their home and when you left you were convinced you didn't do them any good but they did you a world of good? You were wondering how they were going to get past it or through it and then you got there and they told you everything they were getting out of it.
And you left humbled, deepened because of it. Well, this is what is happening now as Mrs. Job takes her sorrow to her husband. She's lost her balance. She finds him, if you can imagine her searching for him at the garbage dump. She says to him, Job, it's time to bury your testimony of faith and renounce God and die. And Job the sufferer now becomes Job the teacher. I want to go back to his response to her and pull out of that response.
Three or four observations. Notice verse 10, he said to her, you speak as one of the foolish women speaks. What seems at first to be harsh is actually kind restraint. Would you notice that he does not call her a foolish woman? He says you speak like a foolish woman. In other words, he's saying, I know you're not like one of them, even though you're talking like one of them.
I know that's not really you. He doesn't lash out and call his wife a fool. Nabal is the word used here. It's used in the Old Testament for someone who is actually impious, spiritually non-discerning. That's what the word means.
And this would be the observation. Number one, suffering is never an excuse to lash out at others around you. It's never an excuse. No matter how deep your suffering might be, it may not be as deep as Job's. Follow his example. He is kindly restrained as he responds to her and he effectively is saying to her, I know that you are speaking words that are beneath you. You know God better than that.
I know you are disillusioned. You have much to grieve over. But this idea of cursing God is the talk of women who do not know God like I know you know God. What a kind and gracious way to remind his wife of what she already knew.
But grief had clouded her sight. Lesson number two, suffering is often the best podium from which deep truth can be taught. Go back to verse 10 again.
He continues teaching her. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? The Hebrew verb except, hebeil, describes an active, positive participation in what God's delivering. He delivers the package.
It's good. We reach for it and embrace it. He delivers the package and it's pain. We reach for it and we embrace it. Shall we not respond to adversity from God like we respond to good things? See Mrs. Job had resigned. Job had received. Another woman who suffered greatly wrote these words, resignation and acceptance are two different things. Resignation is surrender to fate. Acceptance is surrender to God. Resignation lies down quietly in an empty universe. Acceptance rises up to meet the God of the universe. Resignation says I can't while acceptance says through Christ I can. Resignation says it's all over for me. Acceptance asks now that I'm here Lord what's next? Resignation says what a waste. Acceptance asks Lord in what redemptive way can you use this mess?
Isn't that good? That would be written by somebody you know who's just yeah let me give you something quick. Now that was written by Elizabeth Elliott the wife of a man who was killed by members of that Amazonian tribe of Indians a woman who went back into that village along with Marge Saint and their children translated the scriptures and saw that tribe come to faith in Jesus Christ. And some 40 years later one of those children Steve Saint stood in this pulpit and declared the faithful work of God. And we marveled at God's sovereign plan that took years to come together.
One more lesson. Number three suffering is the proving ground of our satisfaction with God not the good times. Everybody is satisfied with God in the good times but the proving ground of our satisfaction with God is when adversity is delivered in whatever form it's delivered. Could we grow to say with Habakkuk that Old Testament prophet who put it this way when he wrote amazing words by the way though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls yet I will exalt in the Lord I will rejoice in the God of my salvation which I interpret to mean there's nothing I can thank God about other than the fact that I'm saved. So God thank you for my salvation.
Maybe you're there right now. By the way I am very encouraged that we have no record of a rebuttal from Mrs. Jobe. Do you notice that? There are no heated words in return to his kind rebuke and gentle lesson that God is right to both give joy and pain which indicates to me that she would have agreed. We know that she stayed with him. We know that their marriage would later produce more children and God would ultimately turn the tables again on them for good.
Perhaps I can only speculate but perhaps she came under great conviction here who knows but perhaps there was a revival in her own spirit and heart right here at the city dump on the ash heap next to her husband. Isn't that a powerful lesson? This is actually one of Stephen's most popular sermons because everyone can relate to it. With this lesson Stephen concludes his series from the early chapters of Jobe called When Lightning Strikes. Before we close it out we have three resources that will help you face trials in your own life.
We've taken this series and bound it together as a set of CDs. Stephen's also written a book called Jobe that dives deep into this man's life. And finally we have a booklet based on today's lesson called Mrs. Jobe. Give us a call and we'll give you information on all of these resources. Our number is 866-48-BIBLE. Call now then join us next time for more wisdom for the hearts.
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