Job P1 – Poor Job? (An introduction)

IMG_4728When I think of the story of Job, one of the first thoughts that pops into my head is, “Poor Job”. Yet, while there are many things in Job’s life which we would consider to be unfair, Job was also remarkably blessed. Who is to blame for Job’s affliction – Satan? God? Job himself? Who is responsible for his blessing? Who is correct in their response to his situation of suffering? The book of Job carries many questions, many postulations and one grand revelation – God is omnipotent, and who is like Him? Thinking about the story of Job, I realise the wisdom to be learnt from it:

  1. Here, God provides an answer to the much-debated question of “Why is there suffering on earth?” We also get a glimpse of various human opinions on the topic.

  2. We can think about how we respond to suffering in our own lives.

  3. We can think about how we respond to others who are suffering.

 

I’m not going to recap the entire story of Job, but here is a very brief overview:

  • Job is a righteous man before God. God points this out to Satan and Satan suggests that Job is righteous only because God has protected him from suffering. Satan says to God, “But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” [Job 1:11] God gives Satan permission to test Job, saying only that Satan was not to touch the person of Job himself.
  • Satan launches his trials against Job – Job’s oxen and donkeys are raided, his sheep are consumed by fire, his camels are raided, his servants, son and daughters are all killed. All of this happens in a single moment with the news pouring in one messenger after the next. Job’s first response is this – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” [Job 1:21]
  • Satan again comes before God and God again shows him the example of Job who “holds fast of his integrity, although you (Satan) have incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” [Job 2:3] Satan refuses to accept his defeat and answers, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” [Job 2:4-5] God gives Satan permission to strike Job’s body now. He says, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.” [Job 2:6]
  • So, Satan strikes Job with painful boils all over his body – from head to toe. Still, Job does not curse God.

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At this point, we see a few different responses to Job’s situation:

  • Job’s Wife
    • “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” [Job 2:9]
    • Job’s response to her is this – “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not adversity?” [Job 2:9]
  • Job’s Three Friends – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar
    • Eliphaz and Bildad both have three discourses for Job, and Zophar has two. They come together to mourn with Job and to comfort him, but their words end up condemning and discouraging him instead. They start by declaring God’s justice, and the relation of His favour to the righteous and the wicked man. Job maintains that he has done no wrong, but has been committed to a righteous life before God. They then begin to urge Job to repent.
    • There is nothing untoward in any of these discourses. Indeed, they do declare the nature and the character of God. However, the three friends ascribe words to God, and interpret His thoughts towards Job. It turns out that they are wrong in their assumption of Job’s sin and wickedness. In the end, God rebukes them for having assumed His thoughts in the matter, and asks Job to pray for them.
  •  Elihu
    • The youngest of Job’s friends waits to speak until everyone else has offered their opinions and complaints. Then, Elihu points out the error in all their discourses. He does not assume to know everything, but he knows who God is, and he sets up the stage for God himself to declare who He is.
  • Job
    • Through all of this, Job is suffering physically with his boils, emotionally with the criticism his friends give him, and spiritually as he struggles to understand why God’s providence and voice seems to have been taken from him. Yet, he continues to cry out to God and plead with him. He is honest in his complaints and his questions, but reverent in knowing God is high above the earth. When God does answer and reveal his omnipotence to Job, Job acknowledges this, and he praises God.
  • God
    • God hardly has to explain the specifics of why the moment of suffering occurred in Job’s life. In fact, this is not a main point of God’s answer at all. Instead, God answers by revealing who He is, and by revealing the mighty works of His hands. His thoughts are higher than ours, His ways higher than our ways, and yet His heart, always tender towards us. Who is like God? Who can comprehend His ways?

 

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In the 42 chapters of Job, we are privy to the secrets of the spiritual battlefield. Satan only sets up the suffering. He then leaves man to ponder its complications, hoping that they will question and reject God, being offended by the calamity that befalls them. Finally, God himself clears the issue with the revelation of His omnipotence.

In the next few weeks, I want to dissect the story of Job, and address the three topics mentioned at the beginning.

  1. God vs. man’s viewpoints on “Why is there suffering on earth?

  2. How can we respond to suffering in our own lives?

  3. How can we respond to others who are suffering?

I’m going to leave it here for this week though, and give time to read and reflect more on the arguments given in the book of Job.


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