'Raiders!' The sound of the man's desperate voice made Job turn and look. 'The Sabeans, they came and stole all your oxen and donkeys, and they've killed all your servants except me. (PAUSE) I'm the only one left alive!'
As he was speaking another man came running towards them. 'Oh my master! The fire of God! The fire of God! As I watched, it fell from the sky and burned up all your sheep and the shepherds. I'm the only one left alive ... '
'The Chaldeans, the Chaldeans!' The urgency in the voice made the three of them turn to see the man rushing towards them. 'Oh my master. The Chaldeans have stolen all your camels and killed everyone. I'm the only one left!' (PAUSE)
It seemed that in a moment everything Job owned had gone with only Job and his family left. Silently, he thanked God that at least they were safe. (PAUSE) But even as he prayed he saw the small figure running towards him.
As he came closer, Job recognised him as a servant who worked for his eldest son. His face was pale, almost expressionless, but as he came and stood before Job, Job noticed the trembling in his hands that hung limply by his side.
' My master,' he started. Then lowered his eyes to the ground. (SWALLOW) 'They're all dead my lord. There was nothing I could do. I left the house to fetch water, when a sudden violent and terrible wind rushed at the house. It struck the house on all sides at once. (PAUSE) They didn't stand a chance...’ (P)
At the news of the death of his children Job fell to the floor, a roar of grief tearing at his throat. (PAUSE) While Satan, the enemy of God, smiled and listened to the man's words. Surely now Job would curse God, and Satan would prove that no one really loved God, unless they had something to gain from it of course.
You see, Satan had stood before God only a short time before and God had pointed out Job as a man who insisted on doing what God wanted. God had blessed Job with great riches, with children, animals and servants, and so Satan challenged God. 'Take away Job's riches and he'll curse you.'
And now Satan listened, waiting to prove he was right with Job’s own words. (P)
The roar of grief died on Job's lips, and as he knelt in the dust he opened his mouth to speak. Satan listened carefully. (PAUSE) 'When I came into this world, I came naked and with nothing, and when I leave it I won't take anything with me. God, my Lord, has given me everything I have, and He has taken it away. But I will not stop telling how good my Lord is.'
'NO!' Satan screamed as he heard Job's words, this wasn't how it was supposed to be. And he ran away, working out how next time he'd make sure Job cursed God. (PAUSE)
Some time later Satan found himself, along with the Angels, once again standing in front of God. Last time he'd got it all wrong and looked such a fool. He'd been sure Job would curse God when he lost everything. But this time, if God mentioned Job, Satan thought he had a foolproof plan.
'Satan,' God was speaking to him. 'Do you see Job? He still fears me even though you persuaded me to let you harm him without cause.'
'Ha!' Satan replied. 'What do you expect, a man’ll do anything to save himself. He blesses you because you bless him. (PAUSE) And I can prove it, let me take away his health, and then he'll curse you!'
God looked at Satan. Satan couldn't look back. (PAUSE) 'OK,' said God. 'Do with him as you please, but DO NOT kill him!'
Satan hated being in God's presence. But he'd got what he wanted. Now he was going to make sure that Job cursed God. (PAUSE)
Satan planned his attack well, first he covered Job from head to foot with terrible and painful boils. All poor Job could do was sit on a heap of ashes, and scrape at the painful boils with a broken piece of pottery. Even his wife encouraged him to, 'curse God and let him kill you! Put an end to all this trouble.' But Job would not do it and continued to trust God.
That night, and every night, as darkness approached, Job longed to get relief from his troubles by sleeping, but Satan sent terrifying nightmares to rob him of his sleep and wear him down. But Job continued to obey God and didn't do anything wrong. (PAUSE) Then one day his - 'friends' - arrived to ... 'console him' in his suffering. (PAUSE)
For 7 days after they arrived the three friends said nothing to Job because they saw how terrible his suffering was. They sat with him on the ground, in silence. But inside they were working out what they were going to say. Or perhaps Satan was whispering to them what he wanted them to say to turn Job away from God! After the 7 days had passed, his 'friends' could hold back no longer.
'Why don't you admit it Job - you're evil! Can't you see it? God only punishes those who do wrong, so it's obvious, you must have been very evil indeed! Say sorry and everything’ll be OK again.'
'But I'm innocent!' insisted Job. 'Who have I cheated? Where’re the widows or orphans that I've abused? Which of my servants can accuse me of mistreating them? When my enemy was hurt, I wasn't happy! I haven't hurt anyone! I share my home and food with anyone who needs it. Tell me what I've done? I AM innocent!
'You can't be innocent!' His friends replied. 'Don't you see it? No one's innocent before God, everyone's guilty. And that includes you! Anyway, it’s the way things are, God punishes the wicked and he blesses the good. But God isn't blessing you, just look at all the bad that've happened to you, you must be very evil!'
The argument went on and on between Job and his friends, but no matter what Job said they wouldn't believe he was innocent. And as he argued, Job found himself pleading with God to show him why he was suffering when he was innocent, and why God was silent when all these terrible things were happening?
'God! It's not fair!'
As Job questioned, suddenly thunder roared and a whirlwind appeared!
'Who are you to question me Job?' As God spoke from inside the violent whirlwind, Job's friends cowered in fear and Job's heart turned to jelly inside him. 'Who are you, Job, to question my wisdom and what I do? If you think you're so wise, then I will question you and you shall answer me!'
'Where were you when I first put the world together? Tell me if you know so much. When I’d finished my work and the angels and the stars sang for joy, where were you?'
'Who decided the boundaries of the sea and land? Do you know where the gates of death are? Have you seen them? But of course you have, you're so wise you already understand it all!'
'How about the lightening? Can you command the lightening and it will go where you say? Do you know the wild animals, where they sleep and have their young? Do you make the stars move in their seasons? And do you know the laws of the universe and how I rule the earth?'
'Tell me Job, are you still so wise that you think you can question what I do and why I do it. Do you still want to question me? Tell me, do you have any answers?' (PAUSE)
Job realised that all he’d said was foolishness. What right did he have to question God when things didn't go the way he wanted? How can something that’s been made tell the One who made it, how it should be used?
Job apologised to God for his foolishness. And to show how sorry he was he sat in dust and ashes and in silence.
But God hadn't finished. He spoke to Job's so called friends. God was angry with them for saying things about Him that weren’t true. God might let a good man, like Job, face terrible trouble. And, He might let a bad man have wealth and riches. What's important is that God is in control, and whatever happens, in the end He will always be fair and good.
Job's friends apologised to God for what they'd said, and Job prayed for them. And after he'd prayed, God gave Job twice as much as he'd had before, and he lived 140 good years and saw four generations of his children and grandchildren.