Faith Without the Hedge

Intro: What is the most infamous line in the Bible? There might be several that come to mind. But one that earns a place near the top is from a lady that we know very little about. She is known only as “Job’s wife”, and her infamous words are her only recorded statements. Her words depict the essence of rebellion toward God.

  • Job 2:9 – Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
  • Job’s wife is viewed by most in the severest light. Her response to the suffering she and her husband were experiencing represent the words of Satan himself. This is exactly what Satan wanted to hear. She has been demonized for saying it. There is no doubt that her words were sinful. But why did she say it? I am not convinced that she said this because she was just an evil person who did not care about God.
  • In fact, I am not sure that many of us would not say the same thing under similar circumstances.

I. A look behind the curtain: The first two chapters of Job are an opportunity to look behind the curtain. Before we read of Job’s immense suffering and the spiritual struggle that ensues, we learn WHY it happened. We learn what Job and his wife never know. Job 1:8-11 – Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” 9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

A. God recommends Job to Satan as a blameless and upright man. He fears and God and shuns evil. The Lord wants Satan to see true faith. In the conversation between God and Satan, Satan does not contradict the Lord’s estimation of Job’s morality. He questions Job’s motivation for serving God so faithfully. Satan’s accusation was that Job only served God because He had placed a “hedge around him”.

• the hedge here is not a decorative border around a yard. The term comes from a Hebrew phrase that means to shut in or fence, to restrain. It may relate to the practice of placing sheep in an enclosure of thorn bushes (sometimes stones) in order to protect them from predators at night. (John 10) Thus Satan says God has so protected Job from the physical losses of life that his loyalty is tainted with selfishness.

1. So God removed the hedge (or reduce its scope) and allowed Satan to do what he does best – to destroy. God allowed Satan to take everything except Job’s body and his life. Can you imagine a day like the one described in Job 1:13-20 – Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house; 14 and a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans* raided them and took them away — indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came from across* the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.

2. Job’s faith proved to be deeper than the physical things of his life. The loss drove him to worship God, not curse Him. (1:22) But Satan was not finished making accusations. Job 2:4-6Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.” God allows for the hedge to be removed even further. God would not protect Job against any evil except death itself. So Satan afflicts Job with boils: terrible pain and unimaginable agony.

II. Consider now Job’s wife. She was there on that fateful day. She lost her wealth, her children, and was there as her husband’s body was ravaged with pain. She suffered as Job’s faith was tested. She is not just an observer, as Job’s friends. She is involved. No doubt, she knows that her husband is truly a righteous person, so she is also perplexed by these events.

A. Job’s worse half: I am absolutely convinced that all of you married men here have a better half. You would never characterize her any other way. But Job had a worse half. It is difficult, and maybe unfair, to characterize someone through a single statement. Job’ wife is only referenced 3 times in the book, and 2:9 are her only recorded words. We do not even know her name. But I am convinced that she is meant to represent Job’s counterpart. She is what Satan accused Job of being. She is serving God, but she is secure behind the hedge. When the hedge was gone, her faith failed.

1. Some suggest that her advice was her solution to her husband’s suffering. Death was the only way out, so curse God and end it all. If you curse Him, he will surely go ahead and kill you. Certainly her words are designed to mimic Satan’s accusation against Job and his faith – “he will surely curse You to Your face.” (2:5)

2. This contrast is even more evident when we consider Job’s response to his wife’s advice. Job 2:10But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. He did not respond as she did.

III. What about your hedge? How would you react if it was gone? Are you more like Job or his wife? It customary for us to denounce Job’s wife with an air of contempt that suggests we would react differently under the same circumstances. But would we? How could we know? Let me suggest two evident barometers:

A. What do you talk to God about? I think we can rightly conclude that our prayers reflect what we consider essential. And most of our prayers focus on the hedge. We thank God for our homes, families. jobs, health, freedom, etc. and we ask God to provide these things. I do this as well. But is this what matters? Are these things essential to our faith and service to God? If so, then we are easy targets for Satan.

1. We are not suggesting that we should not pray about the physical things we need, or that these things are to be disdained or abandoned. Our family, home, job and health are certainly gifts from God, and we should thank Him for what He provides. We should pray for His protection from loss. But there is a greater issue. Consider Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Out of the 6 requests, one pertains to a physical need; The spiritual ambitions predominate the prayer of the Christian.

• 3:14-19 – Do we pray this prayer?

B. What do you talk to others about? An evaluation of what we talk to each other about may help us gauge our attachment to the hedge. It is not materialistic to talk about material things (such as our jobs, family, sports, etc) but people talk about what they value most in life. What is telling in our lives is not how much we talk about the physical things, but how LITTLE we talk about spiritual things. It is not just a matter of changing topics of conversation. Many Christians have built their lives around material possessions and pleasures. Their faith in God is rooted in the presence of these things as well. They find speaking about the Bible or Jesus is awkward or uncomfortable. What if that was all we had?

1. When God brought Israel into the land of Canaan, He promised them prosperity and protection if they would serve Him. But also warned them against becoming so tied to the physical things of life that they would forget him and His word. He commanded them to speak the words of God in their daily lives. Deut 6:6-9“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

C. How do you respond to loss? Our response to physical loss may suggest that we the security of our faith is dependent upon the hedge. Consider this: Our brother loses his job. We tell him: “Listen, you still have your home and family and health.” then his house is foreclosed on: We tell him, “Hey, you still have your family and health.” then his wife leaves him: We say, “It’s okay, you still have your health.” We are trying to encourage him by suggesting that his faith and loyalty to God is still worth it because he still has things to show for it! But what if we see him later on a hospital bed, all that’s left to say is: “Curse God and die!”

IV. Listen to Job’s response. Job 2:10But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”

  • note: This verse will always remind me of Estelle Henderson. Conversation about her suffering. Why was this happening? How to consider it? I mentioned that Job said, “Shall I accept good from God and not adversity?”. She just smiled and told me later that Job’s words were enough for her. She was one who always recognized the good that God had given her. So she would accept the bad as well. She would not allow the suffering to diminish her faith in God.

A. Job’s answer reflected a true confidence in God’s management. He recognized His sovereignty over both good and bad. God’s work in his behalf was deeper and grander than making my physical life pleasant or comfortable. My loyalty to Him must run deeper as well.

1. What is God’s point in this? First, we must recognize that God will allow it to go this far, won’t he? He did for Job. The hedge was gone. Every external motivation for serving God was removed. Allowing the hedge to be removed does not mean that God has abandoned us. It does not justify our curse.

2. Job’s refusal to curse God in the midst of such loss was evidence that God was right about Job. The Lord looked inward and viewed a heart that was committed beyond the physical things of life. The Lord saw what Satan did not. So God allowed the circumstances to come where true faith could be viewed, and Satan’s accusations could be dismissed. In all of it, God was glorified. The willingness of God to remove the hedge so as to expose Job’s faith and God’s glory is reflected in words of Job himself:

• Job 42:1-6Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ 5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. 6 Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”

3. Seeing God more clearly when the hedge is removed. Job was not the same person he was before. If you read the whole story you know that In the end he was more prosperous than before. But the difference he references here is spiritual. Before I heard about God, but now I see Him. This might suggest that we cannot see God as clearly as we need to see Him, until the hedge is removed. When our own interests and importance are cleared away.

a. We pray for that God will restore God’s protection to our families and country. And we should pray for this. But it he decides to allow Satan to destroy it all, what will we do? Can God be glorified in our loss? If we have accepted the good, should we not accept the bad, and continue to serve Him?

4. Many have followed the way of Job’s wife. Their faith failed when the hedge was removed.

a. The rich ruler of Matthew 19 was ready to follow Jesus, until He required him to move from behind the hedge.

b. Demas served for a while, but then turned back because he loved this present world.

c. But then there are others like the apostle Paul, and Job. Phil. 3:7-8But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. They did not disdain the hedge God had provided, but their faith was not dependent upon it.

Conclusion: Do you think Job’s wife ever contemplated how her life would turn out? Could she have anticipated the enormous loss and pain? Would she have ever envisioned that she would say those words to her husband?

  • Our faith has not yet been tested as much as it will be tested. The hedge still remains for us. We need to consider the status of our commitment today. If God removes the hedge of protection and prosperity we have enjoyed, what will we have left? We need to pray for the strength of Job.