Job 1: Naked came I from my mother's womb
JOB ARTWORK USED BY PERMISSIONCOURTESY OF KINGSTONE COMICS (https://kingstone.co/)
“He said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21 JPS).
Job was rich, I tell you, rich and some Bible translators think it’s important to tell us that in addition to his wife, seven sons and three daughters, he had all manner of camels and donkeys.
The narrator of Job carefully sets up the character, setting, and what’s about to happen before the end of the very second scene.
Character: Rich man named Job, “blessed,” he’d probably tell you, “more than I deserve!”
Scene 1, Setting A
Uz, just Uz, not much more detail, but vast lands where cattle, donkeys, and camels roamed and ten children could have wealth, homes and throw parties.
Scene 2, Setting B
The heavenlies where God is meeting with spiritual beings, one named “the Adversary,” who has been roaming the earth.
Tension: Like “It’s a Wonderful Life” in reverse, God is pictured as proud of his servant Job but willing to put everything Job is “blessed” with at stake to prove the Adversary wrong, and the scene shifts to Scene 3 with the implication that the Adversary is going back to roam the earth or somehow watch what happens. The Adversary has no power except what is given by God, but God gives this over to the Adversary with one caveat. Don’t harm Job himself. Anything else is fair game.
Scene 3, Setting A
The Adversary brings “hell on earth” to Job, and in rapid succession Job loses livestock, servants, then all his children. He, his wife, and a few messengers are all he has left at the end of chapter 1 and this third scene. But something amazing happens to end the scene.
The amazing thing that happens after all this tragedy is that Job takes it all in without tearing his clothes as we find in ancient stories, no ashes tossed on his head, no rough, itchy sackcloth worn . . . not yet, that’s coming in chapter 2 by some new characters introduced. So, instead we see Job reacting cooly, as if taking it all in stride. He quotes lines that have become famous, made their way into our singing, our funerals, our twenty-first century language. Three distinct things that ring down through the years.
“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there” (1:21a JPS)
“the LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away” (1:21b JPS)
“blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21c JPS)
The narrator adds, “For all that, Job did not sin nor did he cast reproach on God (1:22 JPS)
These statements in themselves are amazing, poetic, meaningful, full of God and humanity, but they belie what is about to happen as the story unfolds.
We will come back to these statements again and again during these devotional reflections.
Read the three statements of Job three times, slowly. What are each saying? What are you saying about yourself, about God?
LORD, You created me naked, you know me inside and out. I have nothing I can hide from you. I shall return to you naked. You have given to me, and you have full rights to take things away. You have, you do, and you will. Bless you, LORD, the One who is proud of your servant Job, but I have a question. Do you allow the Adversary power to play these kinds of games with our lives, specially when people are faithful to you? That picture of God is difficult to swallow, so I’m going to have to think about that one more.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.