Today’s reading: Job 1-4.
Questions fall like showers of endless rain
Into oceans of the unexplained
Someday it all will be made known…
Kim Hill, “God Works in Mysterious Ways”
Job, the man, is an icon of patient suffering. Job, the book, is a puzzle to understand. Is it a story about God’s sovereignty, or about man’s faith? Then again, maybe it’s an explanation of why we suffer. As the story unfolds, it deals mainly with unanswered questions.
“Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed? …. Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day? … Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” Job 3:11-23
Job wasn’t really questioning why he was born. He wanted to know why he was born only to experience so much pain and sorrow. He is the ultimate example of all those who want to know why God allows suffering. Unfortunately for Job, he lacked the heavenly perspective that God gives to us, the readers of Job’s story. We know that his suffering began with Satan’s argument with God.
Satan accused but God acclaimed. From the beginning it’s clear that Job didn’t deserve his suffering. God approved him as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Satan despised Job and argued that the only reason he obeyed God was to receive God’s blessings. Job will abandon God, Satan claims, if God removes his blessing from Job. Satan’s attack on Job was actually an indirect assault on God. He was really saying, “God, you are nothing more than one who uses your riches to buy approval from others.”
Satan attacked but God limited. God allowed the testing of Satan’s claim. Satan was given permission to attack Job, removing the blessings in order to see how Job would respond. But God retained control, limiting Satan’s power to harm. First, God limited Satan’s reach to Job’s possessions. Next, God limited his reach to Job’s person while still preserving Job’s life. It’s interesting to note that Satan used both natural (wind and fire) and human (Sabean and Chaldean) agents to carry out his attack.
Satan and God argued, but Job wondered. Job did not curse God as Satan claimed he would. Bereft of property, children, health, and even his wife’s support, he still blessed the LORD. God won the argument, but Job was left to wonder why he must suffer. The rest of the book explores how Job dealt with his unanswered questions, but for now let’s remember how Job handled his losses and did not lose faith:
- He acknowledged that he had nothing of his own, but that everything came from God. “Naked I came… naked I will depart.”
- He trusted in God’s heart of love and wisdom to give whatever he needed. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
A long-continued life of prosperity may not so truly glorify God as a life that is checkered by adversity; and God, who intended to put honor upon his servant, did as kings do when they confer the honor of knighthood, they strike with the back or flat of the sword, so God smote the patriarch Job that he might raise him above his fellow men. The Lord intended to make him Job the patient, but to that end He must make him Job the sufferer. Charles Spurgeon
What we have seen so far, then, is that Job’s suffering has a twofold explanation: its purpose at the outset was to demonstrate God’s value and glory, and its ongoing purpose was to refine Job’s righteousness. His suffering is not punishment. It is not a sign of God’s anger. Job’s pain is not the pain of the executioner’s whip but the pain of the surgeon’s scalpel. John Piper