So what was Job saying? He was saying to his wife that in God’s allowing troubles to come upon His children, man can be tested, or disciplined, or gain spiritual growth. We are told later in Job, “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (5:17).
Sin and Afflictions
A further test of loyalty came when three of Job’s friends tried to convince Job that his afflictions were the result of sin (chapter 22). They tried desperately to get Job to confess and repent of his sins. But Job refuted their claim (chapter 31). Job knew he has not sinned and does credit God with undue punishment.
One of the messages of the book of Job is that sin is not always the reason people suffer. The idea that afflictions are the result of sin was generated by the covenant relationship between Israel and God. Moses gave instructions to Israel that when they entered into the land of Canaan, they were to go to the sacred city of Shechem and enter into a covenant relationship with Jehovah (see Deut. 27-28).
As part of the ritual, the tribes of Israel were to literally yell out the designated blessings and curses that would come upon them for either their obedience or disobedience. A look at the various curses (Deut. 28:15-68) demonstrates that Israel would experience many calamities as result of their disobedience. Israel entered into this covenant relationship after the entered the land of promise (Joshua 8: 30-35). As a result whenever the covenant was broken by the people in general, the nation suffered various afflictions (e.g., famine, etc). Because of this, the idea developed among them that whenever one sins he is afflicted or punished by God.
But the afflictions Israel was to experience as a result of a broken covenant were at a national level, not at the individual level. The concept of national punishments was expressed by George Mason, a delegate to the constitutional convention that produced the Constitution of the United States of America. During the convention, the topic of slavery was bitterly debated. On August 22, 1787, in an impassioned speech, Mason gave this chilling warning that reflects the concept of national punishments: “As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities” (Notes on Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1966,p. 504).
However, individual suffering is not necessarily an indication that the individual is being punished by God for their sins. The book of Job expressly refutes that idea.
Job’s strength lay in his testimony of God and the plan. His loyalty to God are depicted in these words: “Though [God] slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him” (13:15-16). His loyalty was solid and could not be moved. He declared: “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me (19:23-27).
To his three accusers, Job declared his innocense, his steadfastness, and his allegiance to God: “As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul; All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live” (27:1-6)
Job’s Loyalty Rewarded
After having his loyalty thoroughly tried and tested, Job was blessed of the Lord. The Lord restored to Job all the blessings he had before his affliction: “the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. . . . So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.
He had also seven sons and three daughters” (42:10-13).
Like Job our loyalty tested. The Lord has said: “And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God. For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith” (D&C 98:11-12) The word of God is given to man through prophets, scriptures, and personal revelation. Our loyalty is proven when, regardless of our circumstances and feelings, we strive to live by “every word” He gives us. In our present world, one of the greatest tests of loyalty will be how faithful we are to the teachings and counsel of the prophets. Harold B. Lee once observed: “As I have labored among the brethren here and have studied the history of past dispensations, I have become aware that the Lord has given tests all down through time as to this matter of loyalty to the leadership of the Church. I go back into the scriptures and follow along in such stories as David’s loyalty when the king was trying to take his life. He wouldn’t defile the anointed of the Lord even when he could have taken his life. I have listened to the classic stories in this dispensation about how Brigham Young was tested, how Heber C. Kimball was tested, John Taylor and Willard Richards in Carthage Jail, Zion’s Camp that received a great test, and from that number were chosen the first General Authorities in this dispensation. There were others who didn’t pass the test of loyalty, and they fell from their places” (Conference Report, April 1950, p.101).
Tithing is one of these tests. Speaking of this, President Stephen L. Richards, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency, stated: “I feel certain that it is not only the test, the acid test, of true loyalty and devotion, but that it is likewise the greatest of the developers of true spiritual allegiance. It has been said that you can tell what a man thinks of a cause by the way he puts his money into it. Talk is cheap. It has never caused any particular wear and tear upon the jaw and they say that the tongue is the only organ of the body that never gives out, so that all our protestations by word of mouth are easily given, but when a man puts his hand down in his pocket and takes out the hard-earned money that comes from his labor, and devotes that to the establishment of a cause, you know without further evidence that he is sincere” (quoted in Marion G. Romney, Look to God and Live. Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1971, p. 154.)
The blessings of loyalty will be beyond our understanding. Early in the Nauvoo period of Church History, Joseph Smith warned the Quorum of the Twelve of impending tests of loyalty that all members of the Church will. But he also told them that if they proved faithful, they would receive great blessings. These are his words: “After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints”(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Press, 1938, p. 150; emphasis added).
May we, who are living in a world that is rapidly becoming as the days of Noah (Matt. 24:27), be found loyal to God and His prophets by being obedient to “every word” we are given. Further, may our loyalty be found not only in our actions but also our heart and desires.