Although the Book of Job seems to be about a righteous man who endures incredible suffering, it does focus more on God’s Wisdom and Sovereignty. The grand themes of God’s wisdom and justice are indeed more significant than the suffering and faith of Job. The Book raises rather intense questions that we humans spend time on at different points in our lives: “Why do the righteous suffer? Why would God allow such suffering? Why should a man believe in God? Why believe in God when we cannot visibly see Him?” The answers to those questions point out the limitations of our human wisdom as opposed to the immense, unlimited wisdom of God.
I first want to address the fact that Chapter 1 tells us that God considered Job “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” So, why did He allow all this suffering to come upon him? Let us not forget verses 6-12 in Chapter 1: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.” God knew Job’s heart more than even Job did, just as He knows us more than we know ourselves. We know that satan roams to and fro on this earth seeking God’s strongest so that he can attempt to destroy them, but we learn here that that evil beast must ask God’s permission first. I believe that if God did not believe Job strong enough to get through these afflictions, He would not have allowed them.
Job’s friends thought they had all the answers for Job, and God let them ramble on for a time with ‘their’ opinions; much longer than I like. Although our friends, and ourselves in vice versa, sometimes just want to ‘help’ us get through our suffering with what they believe to be ‘good answers,’ they might do better to just be there and be sensitive to God’s Holy Spirit before speaking. I see Job’s friends’ answers as comfortable for them, but not comforting for Job. God let them know that their answers were inadequate and just plain wrong. They spoke from their experience and from traditions that were limited to the doctrine of retribution – the belief that suffering is always punishment for sin. After God confronted Job, He told Job’s friends that He was angry with them because their answers were sinful and for them to offer up burnt offerings in atonement, AND He told them to let Job pray for them asking that God not deal with them as they deserved. Job 42:7, 8 “And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.” I believe that God understood Job’s questions and frustration about the horrendous losses He allowed him to suffer, and what a compliment to Job that God had confidence that he would not curse Him for it.
There is definitely a greater answer to Job’s suffering founded on God’s great wisdom. As I noted above, we have a rare behind-the-scenes look at God’s control and limitations that He put on Satan. Job was singled out by God to be a tested man of faith. satan accused God of bribing Job to believe in Him: Job 1:9, 10 ” Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.” Job came through this testing without sin, even in the face of the crushing disaster and the undeserved suffering. Even his wife told him to “Curse God and die.” He responded: Job 1:22; 2:10 “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly…But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” The key to having this mindset is staying so very close in our relationship to God, searching and standing on His promises in His Word. If we are not close to Him, our flesh listens to satan’s lies and we become angry with God.
In the first 13 chapters of Job, the question “Why?” is asked over and over, but with no reply. In our minds, the question demands an explanation and a justification, but even if Job could have understood God’s answers, he would have only known “parts of God’s ways: Job 26:14 “Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?” Our human minds lack the capacity to truly understand God’s ways, therefore, when we are faced with suffering, it is actually inappropriate to ask “Why?”
A better question would be “Who?”; “Who is in charge?” When God replied to Job He asked him, “Who?” at least 20 times in Chapters 38-41. When the “Who?” is God, then the persisting “Why?” is softened. The Believer can be like “a child that is weaned from his mother,” a child who has learned to wait for and to trust in his mother to give him what he needs at the right time: Psalm 131:2 “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.”
So, Job rightly and unwaveringly named God as the One who is ultimately responsible for all his suffering. He did not ever once blame satan, who was the one who directly struck him with those suffering blows-Job 2:10. God Himself told satan in Job 2:3: “Thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.” God is not only in charge of the “good” things that happen to us while “helplessly” observing as “bad” things happen, but He is sovereignly in control of ALL things, good and bad. He permits His children to endure testing. At times, we want only to accept the good from God’s hand, but then we risk rejecting Him completely when things do not work out as we desire. That limited attitude of God’s wisdom is very foolish indeed, and we miss out on the blessings that come with our growth through testing.
Though Job was grief-stricken and bewildered at his trials, he recognized that God was in them and he determinedly chose to cling to God: Job 13:15 “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” In his destitute and exhausted state Job uttered what I believe is a profound statement of faith: Job 19:25-27 “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.” While Job was in what we consider to be a hopeless state of affairs, he did not lose sight of his, and our, greatest hope that no matter what happens in this world, we can look forward to the world of Heaven to come. So, if our sufferings do lead to death here, we can be comforted that we will immediately be in the presence of our loving Saviour and Lord.
In Conclusion: Only our Lord knows all the whys and wherefores of our human suffering. Until “then shall I know even as also I am known,” knowing Him is more than enough for now:
1 Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
2 Timothy 1:12 “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
James 5:11 “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”