“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
This is one of the most often quoted verses in the book of Job and with excellent reason. This verse expresses a truth which it is good to remember at any and all times, but especially when in a season of God adding to us or taking away from us.
Some context: Job utters these words after receiving the news that every possession and every child he has is gone. The Bible records that Job had ten children prior to this moment; seven boys and three girls. That is a respectable family in those days. He also had immense wealth; 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants. The Bible calls him the greatest of all the men of the east (v.2-3). To contextualize him, I think I will compare him to a Bill Gates or an Elon Musk. Job was a man of immense wealth and extensive influence.
How many people could speak the words of Job and mean them after receiving the same news? Everything you have is gone. You are destitute. And all of your children are dead. Your family name ends with you. Not as big a deal today as it was then, but that was a huge deal back then. I’m dealing with God removing what seems a small thing from me. There was a ministry that I was involved with that, due to logistics, no longer needs me in that capacity. In truth, the ministry that has absorbed the one with which I was involved has many, many hands to do the work and needs me not at all. That service has been removed from me. I know some would think that I should celebrate my newly received free time, but serving God is important to me and to have it removed from me is difficult. This is not to say that there is no service to be rendered to my God, just that one has been removed from me and I sometimes have to take a deep breath and steady myself. In the end, the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.
But there is another, often ignored, part of what Job says. He begins that sentence with the LORD gave. We are wont to focus on the reality that God takes away to the exclusion of the reality that He also gave what He took away. What’s more (spoiler alert for those who have not read the book of Job), God returns to Job double what he lost in possessions and ten more children (I love the implication of God giving Job only ten kids … the implication being that the first ten are not lost, just ready to meet Job in Heaven). God gives. In fact, God challenges Israel to try to outgive Him (Malachi 3:10-12). When I am in a place of plenty, I need to be reminded that it is the LORD Who gives. It is too easy to forget. I enjoy immense favor with my employer. So much favor that I cannot begin to fathom it. That favor is from the hand of the LORD. Yes, I work and I try to make sure that my work is beneficial to the company, but even my ability to work comes from the hand of God. It is the LORD Who gives and I need to be mindful of that.
Application. (1) When things are taken from me — position, opportunity, influence, friendships, whatever — I need to remember that it is the LORD Who allows that to be taken. He may not have taken it Himself, but He is able to restore whatever He has allowed to be taken. (2) When I receive things —favor, opportunity, blessing, help, what-not — I need to remember that it is the LORD Who gives it. He gives it for reasons known only to Him and He may or may not reveal those reasons to me. But I need to remember that God is the One from Whom all blessings flow. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights. Give and take are both by the permission and from the hand of the LORD.