“I thought, ‘I will die in my own house,
my days as numerous as the grains of sand.’” — Job 29:18 (ESV)
In the book of Job, Job described how drastically different life turned out for him from what he expected. He said: “I thought, ‘I shall die in my house, my days as numerous as the grains of sand.’ Some commentators translate the last word of the verse as “phoenix” instead of “sand”.
According to Jewish tradition, the phoenix bird never ate from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden and therefore never received the curse of death. With this understanding we can appreciate Job's expectations. He expected to die comfortably in his home after a life so long it seemed like forever, like a phoenix, only to be reborn again in the next world.
Job, like many of us, had certain ideas about how his life would go. He listed all the kindness he had enjoyed from God until that point and all the kindness he extended to other people. He was a receiver of good and a doer of good. All signs pointed to a beautiful and blissful life. Yet, things turned out horribly different. In one terrible moment, Job lost his children, his wealth, and his health. The proverbial rug had been pulled out from underneath his feet.
Many of us have had that uncomfortable, even tragic, experience in our own lives as well. When we were least expecting it, things happened to us that we had not seen coming. A job was lost, a marriage broken up, a bad health report received. It seemed like in one moment we had lost everything – including God's favor. However, God isn't trying to ruin us; He is working to improve us. From the ruins of life can come the greatest accomplishments of our lives.
Ultimately, as we learn through the book of Job, his ordeal was a test – a test which Job passed and was duly rewarded for. We read, “theLORDrestored his fortunesand gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10) and that “The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the former part” (Job 42:12). After Job had been through what seemed like a terrible ordeal, he experienced something better than he had ever experienced before.
Friends, the “nest” is a very comfortable place to be. But sometimes God has to stir up the nest so that we will learn how to fly. In Deuteronomy 32:11 we read that God is “like an eagle that stirs up its nest . . . ” God may stir up our lives every once in a while, but if we are wise, we will grow from the experience and trust that if we fall, God will either catch us or we'll learn to fly.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President