By Michael Smith
Reading from Job, 1:1-22
1 There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another’s houses in turn; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt-offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” This is what Job always did.
6 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” 9Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
13 One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, 15and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18While he was still speaking, another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.”
20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped. 21He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.
The scriptures describe Job as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Even God said there was no one like him on earth. The LORD has so much confidence in Job that he appears to be willing to engage in a wager with Satan about Job’s character and faithfulness. In this narrative, God allows Satan to test Job.
A few years ago, Pope Francis came under fire because he advocated changing the official liturgical wording of the Lord’s Prayer from “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.” The idea being that God does not tempt us, Satan does. However, the Greek word used in the New Testament for temptation is peirasmon (Matt. 6:13) which can be translated into English as “temptation,” “test,” or “trial.” In fact, two translations are set side by side in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: “lead us not into temptation” and “save us from the time of trial” (364).
It is sometimes difficult to determine whether we are tested by God, tempted by Satan, or put under fire by other human beings or by the circumstances of life. The one thing certain is that we will face numerous trials in our time under the sun. Because I do not have confidence that I would pass Job’s test, I draw comfort from the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Finding ourselves in the midst of global, national, local, and personal testings and temptations, we pray in the words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from the evil one.” Hang on, this will not last forever.
The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith served as Bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He and his wife, the Rev. Lisa White Smith, are the parents of three and grandparents of nine.
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