I’m glad I didn’t live in Bible times. If I’d been around during Moses’ day, somewhere in Exodus you’d probably read, “And when Chad ben Carson didst give plenteously of his treasures for the making of the golden calf, the Lord God Jehovah didst smite him.” In Noah's day I’d have guffawed at that loony old fart’s landlocked boat. And in Jesus’ day I’d have out-prayed and out-boasted the Pharisee who thanked God that he wasn’t like other men.
Believe you me, it’s bad enough that lots of people know my sins in this life. If I’d lived in Bible times, my stupid words and deeds might have been inked into the best selling book of all time.
Like Job’s wife. Oh, I feel for her. Before tragedy struck her family, who knows, she may have doted on her husband, cherished her children, been just as sweet as sweet can be. But when God allowed Satan to systematically destroy everything she loved, she lost it. At her wits’ end. Who wouldn’t be? So as she spots her husband squatting on the ash heap, festooned with oozing boils, she’s had it. “Do you still hold fast your integrity?” she asks. “Curse God and die!”
Of all the words this woman ever spoke, these alone are chiseled forever into the stone of holy writ, and into the church’s memory. Mrs. Job becomes the patron saint of quick-tongued women.
What can we learn from her words? I suppose we could use her as an object lesson for the ills inflicted by the tongue. Or perhaps, in a fit of creativity, we could extrapolate from this dialogue the challenges faced by husbands and wives. But I think the lesson here is much more valuable than either of these: that the words of Job's wife are beautifully untrue.
What if Job had heeded his wife’s advice? What if he’d decided enough was enough, said integrity be damned, and damned be God, too? There’s no guarantee lightning would have fallen from heaven and sizzled this sinner to ashes. Job may very well have gone on suffering, only now with a dead family, a shattered integrity, and a blasphemous moment from his past. You see, God is not so easily pushed to pull the trigger as Job’s wife assumed he was. He is—as the old King James so eloquently puts it—longsuffering.
I am living proof of that. Aren’t we all? “Do you still hold fast your integrity?” she asked Job. If she’d asked me, I’d have said, “No, I let it slip through my fingers long ago, many times. I’ve acted indecently, dishonestly. I am a man without integrity.” To Job she said, “Curse God and die,” but I have cursed God, and didn’t die. I’ve held up my middle finger to the heavens and spewed forth words that would make demons blush. I’ve blamed him, hated him, castigated him—and all this I did, when only I was to blame for the sufferings I endured.
And I’m alive today. What I did was unforgiveable, but God forgave me anyway. What I said was unpardonable, but my longsuffering Lord pardoned me anyway. He forgave me because a man stood in my place who did hold fast his integrity. He held it fast even as he himself was fastened to a beam of torture. The Lord pardoned my damnable speech because that man was cursed, indeed, became a curse for me (Gal 3:13), that in him, I might be blessed by his Father.
I may very well have gone on suffering, with a broken family, a shattered integrity, and a blasphemous time from my past. But my God would have none of that, for his bleeding and dying and rising love is a medicine that heals every single wound on the soul of man.
Today, Ash Wednesday, as a smidgen of the ash heap upon which Job sat is crisscrossed onto our skin, let us remember and give thanks for Job’s wife. Her words are beautifully untrue, for the forgiving and saving words of Jesus are truth and life.