Question: "How could Job say, 'Though He slay me, I will trust in Him'?"
Answer: In Job 13:15, Job declares, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” This faith-filled statement has challenged countless believers through the centuries to strive for a similar trust in the Lord in the face of trials.
Job made this statement when he was in a terrible time of pain and suffering. He had lost all of his children, his wealth, and his health. His friends were of no help. His wife offered no support and was in fact telling him to give up (Job 2:9). Job felt as though his life was over. The only thing left was to die. But, as Job says, even if God did “slay” him, Job would still trust in Him.
Of note here is the fact that Job realizes that, ultimately, the suffering he endures is allowed by God. It is God who has the right and the power to “slay” Job. Even in the midst of his pain, Job knows that “the LORD brings death and makes alive; / he brings down to the grave and raises up” (1 Samuel 2:6). The Lord alone holds the “keys of death” (Revelation 1:18).
The faith of Job is seen in the fact that even if God’s plan results in Job’s death, Job will continue to trust in God. Nothing can shake the faith of someone so grounded in the goodness and glory of God. Job may not understand what is happening to him and why, but he knows that God is good, loving, and trustworthy.
In the following verse, Job adds, “Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, / for no godless person would dare come before him!” (Job 13:16). The idea seems to be that, if Job dies, he will be with God (the this refers to Job’s death). At the same time, Job maintains his innocence: he is not a “godless person” and will therefore be admitted to God’s presence.
Job realizes his pain was not permanent. With God, there is a way of escape. The suffering of this life is temporary and will end for those who trust in the Lord. After this life, there is eternal life with God in heaven for the believer. In fact, Jesus came to offer eternal life to all who would believe (John 3:16). By God’s grace, faith is all that is required to be made right with God (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Job appears to also challenge God at the risk of his own life. In other words, Job is willing to go before God with his case even if he dies in the process. Job’s statement that he is innocent in Job 13:16 becomes more insistent throughout the rest of the book. The final chapter of Job shows the results of Job’s pleading. Job oversteps what was right in saying he was without sin. As a result, Job ends his conversation with God differently, stating, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, / things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). He concludes, “I despise myself / and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).
The apostle Paul echoes Job’s statement of faith in Philippians 1:20, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” When we suffer and do not understand why, we can trust that God has a greater plan in place that we cannot see. Instead of seeking to defend ourselves before God, Job’s experience shows us we can instead trust the Lord. He has a perfect plan in place, and “by life or by death,” may Christ be exalted.