Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Story of Job: Why Good People Suffer and God’s Restoration

Have you noticed My servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears (honors, worships) God and stays away from evil.  Job 1:8 (NLT)

The story of human suffering and trusting God is explored in the book of Job. Job is the book of the Bible that raises the confusing question of human suffering. If God is in control and loving, then why does God allow human suffering? Job’s life stands as an example of every person who must go through great hardship and struggles. Suffering can affect our spirituality, outlook, and theology. The book of Job reveals how humans are to handle hardship and suffering with an all-loving and good God.

Job was introduced as a powerful, wealthy, and righteous man. Even more, Job was a wise man because he feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1, 8; see also Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28; Ecclesiastes 12:13). Even God held Job up as model of goodness and integrity (Job 2:3; see also Ezekiel 14:14–20 and James 5:11). Job’s life could not have been more blameless. He had done nothing wrong or sinful.

Job’s blameless and wise character caused a heavenly debate over Job’s true motivation to fear God and shun evil. In the cosmic realm beyond human knowledge, God first raised the issue of Job’s integrity, wisdom, and righteousness with the Accuser (Evil) and made him aware of Job (Job 1:8). The Accuser attacked Job’s motives and said Job only serves God because God blessed Job and his family with a hedge of God’s protection. Remove those blessings, the Accuser challenged, and Job’s faith in God would melt away along with his riches and health (Job 1:9-11). The Accuser wanted to prove that Job worshiped God, not out of a whole hearted love for God, but because God had blessed him so much. So, God’s reputation was on the line. Would Job continue to trust and love God or curse Him, if He removed His hedge of protection and blessings around Job’s life and brought suffering? Was Job just a fair-weather believer, following God only when everything is going well or for what they can get from God? This is the crucial question of the book: Would Job turn against God? So, God allowed the Accuser to attack Job (Job 1:12). Job was unaware of the conference between God and the Accuser. God did not want Job harmed but the vicious attack came from Accuser under God’s control. The Holy Bible records at least one other instance where evil specifically asked permission to attack an individual:  Luke 22:31-32.

So, the Accuser brought all his devastating power to bear against Job to attack him. First, the Sabeans attacked and killed Job’s sons and daughters (Job 1:13-15). Next, lightning came from heaven and destroyed Job’s sheep and servants (Job 1:16). Then, raiding bands of Chaldeans carried off Job’s camels and killed Job’s other servants (Job 1:17). Finally, God’s mighty wind destroyed the remainder of Job’s sons and daughters (Job 1:18-20).

From this first test of the Accuser, Job did not hide his sadness and grief from his overwhelming lost. Like all grieving people, Job went through emotional cycles. He whined, exploded, persuaded, and collapsed in self-pity.

Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God. Job 1:20-22 (NLT).

Job did not lose his faith in God. He acknowledged God's sovereign authority over everything God had given him.

So, the Accuser lost this first round. Job passed the test and proved that he loved God for who He is not just for what He gives and blesses (Job 2:3). So, the Accuser told God said skin for skin by harming Job physically (Job 2:4-5).  The Accuser said strike Job’s body and he will surely curse God. Hence, the Accuser still believed that Job was faithful to God only because of God's blessings. The Accuser believed that Job was willing to accept the loss of family and property as long as his own skin was safe. So, God allowed Accuser to strike Job’s health with physical suffering (Job 2:6). Job was afflicted with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head (Job 2:7). Job was reduced to sitting in ashes and scraping himself with sharp pieces of broken pottery (Job 2:8). Job’s wife mocked him and echoed the Accuser’s advice, “Are you still holding to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). To this remark Job replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all of this, Job did not sin and did not curse God. Job struggled to do what seemed impossible:  to keep on believing in a loving and fair God even though all the evidence pointed against such a God.

After his personal disaster, Job had three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, that came to counsel, sympathize, and comfort him (Job 2:11). When they first saw Job, they cried and sat with Job on the ground, silent, for seven days and nights (Job 2:12-13). Job’s three friends sat with him in silent sympathy. For seven days, twenty-four hours a day, Job’s three friends sat near him and wept for him without saying a word and shared Job’s grief in silence. Their compassionate silence was the most profound help they gave to Job. The three friends did not speak until Job began and first expressed his grief with conversation.

When Job spoke, he cursed the day of his birth (Job 3:2-26). Then, Job’s friends delivered wise but narrow-minded and incomplete wisdom. The friends were proud of their own wisdom but insensitive to Job's needs. They let their pride and sense of being right interfere with their compassion. There were three cycles of speeches in all, with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar taking turns, allowing Job to respond to each. Eliphaz, who led off, had strong and noble ideas. Bildad was briefer and slightly less sympathetic. Zophar (who did not speak in the third round cycle) showed passion and fire. Then, Job speaks from Job 26 to Job 31. This broken structure parallels the broken structure of Job’s life. See also the first chapter of the book of Nahum and its crumbling acrostic.

The story of Job is like a long courtroom drama, full of long eloquent speeches. For most of the book, Job sits in the defendant’s chair listening to his friends’ lectures and rants. Job knows no airtight contradictions; what the friends say about suffering as punishment seems to make sense. Yet he also knows, deep in his soul, that his friends are wrong. He does not deserve the treatment he is getting. There has to be some other explanation.

Job’s friends believed in a God of love and fairness; their arguments started from that fact. Surely a just God would not allow an innocent man to suffer so much, Job’s friends reasoned. Most of the three friends’ comments boiled down to one simple theory: Job must have committed some great crime or sin for which God was punishing him. All three friends believed that good people prosper and bad people suffer. Therefore, each friend believed Job was suffering because of some hidden sin. “Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthens the hands of evildoers,” the three friends said to Job (Job 8:20). Repent, they informed Job, and God will forgive and restore you. Their words got this response from Job: “You . . . smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you!” (Job 13:4). Job also believed in a loving God, but he knew he was innocent. So, the three friends encouraged Job to repent of his sin. The real problem, according to Job’s friends, was his inability or unwillingness to repent and confess his sin. When Job argued that he had not sinned, his three friends responded with even harsher accusations against him. While there are elements of truth in the speeches of Job's three friends, their advice was based on wrong assumptions, incomplete facts, and insensitivity. In particular, Job’s three friends were NEVER aware of the heavenly debate between God and the Accuser on Job’s wisdom and integrity (Job 1:1-8, Job 2:3).

When God finally made his appearance, He dismissed Job’s three friends in one sentence to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is rights as My servant Job has” (Job 42:7). While God rebuked the friends for their incomplete wisdom and what they said (Job 42:7), God did not rebuke them for what they did — making the effort to come and comfort someone in need. Still more, the Holy Bible elsewhere gives examples of suffering that resulted from a person’s sin. The story of Job clearly shows that such a theory cannot be applied in every case. It is not for us to try to reason out or understand the specific causes of person’s suffering; only God reserves that knowledge for Himself.

Also, the story of Job recognizes Job’s friends were not clearly rejected. For example, Eliphaz’s words of Job 5:13, “He captures the wise in their craftiness,” is quoted confidently by Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:19. Moreover, Bildad made a prediction concerning Job’s future in Job 8:7, using rare words in Job that appear together again in Job 42:12 to fulfill Bildad’s prediction. In other words, the book of Job artfully borrows Bildad’s articulation to express Job’s final blessed state—unusual if Bildad had been spouting pure folly. Finally, Job seems to agree with his three friends in the end, taking advantage of on their own arguments such that without the rubric, “and again Job took up his discourse” in Job 27:1, the reader would have thought that it was Zophar speaking. Exactly what the three friends said that angered God is never explicitly stated in the story. All of them, including Job, agreed that God punishes sin and rewards righteousness.

After Job’s friends were silenced by Job’s final response, a fourth friend, previously ignored in the story, makes his presence known. Elihu is a controversial figure. Modern scholars debate Elihu’s identity, and whether he adds anything to the story at all. In church history, at least one scholar believed that Evil inspired Elihu. Although Elihu introduces some new ideas, he also follows the general line of reasoning of the three friends – “You are being punished for your sins, Job” (see verses Job 32:17-22) – that God corrects at the end. Elihu did not defend Job as innocent. But, his argument shifted the emphasis of suffering from punishment to warning. Perhaps, Elihu suggested, God allows a person to suffer in order “to turn back his soul from the pit” (Job 33:30). Primarily, Elihu defended God’s actions. “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice” (Job 34:12). Noticeably, Elihu is not in the group that God threatened in the end. Elihu stands in between the conclusion of Job’s words and the beginning of God’s words (Job 32-37). He marks the transition from weak human wisdom to Divine wisdom.

The main break in the story of Job occurs after Job stopped speaking at the end of chapter 31. Chapter 32 begins by summarizing Job 2:11-13. Since this section begins with a prelude, it can be read as a major distinction or breakpoint of the book. If so, the speech of Elihu is included in the same section of the book that features God’s wise counsel. In fact, God begins to speak with no break whatsoever after Elihu speaks. The thunderclouds and rainstorm that conclude Elihu’s speech may actually be the gathering whirlwind from which God spoke. This seems to make Elihu God’s prophet or spokesman, one preparing the way for God’s appearance.

Elihu confronted Job with sins that are not in the category of idolatry, adultery, or defrauding widows. His accusations had to do with internal integrity or heart matters. The very attitude, borne amid extended suffering, that brought Job to the point of expressing doubt concerning God’s character is the sin that Elihu contrasted with being “wise in heart.”

Importantly, the story of Job gives insight into why good people suffer. Job chapters 1 and 2 reveal that sometimes suffering is caused by the Accuser. Chapters 1 and 2 make the important distinction that God did not cause Job’s problems.  God allowed Job’s suffering, but the Accuser actually caused the pain. Also, the story of Job teaches that God is all powerful, loving, and fair. God cares for us during our deepest suffering. Nature itself reveals the very presence and power of God. Moreover, suffering is not always the result of sin. The Holy Bible supports the general principle that “a man reaps what he sows,” even in this life (Galatians 6:7; see also Psalms 1:3; Psalms 37:25). But, NO ONE has the right to apply that general principle to a particular person or situation. The Holy Bible includes other examples of people who suffered through no fault of their own, including Abel (Genesis 4) and Uriah (2 Samuel 11); see also John 9:1-5; Luke 13:1-5). Besides, God will reward and punish all people in the final judgment after death (see James 5:7-11; Revelation 22:12). No one knows all the facts about suffering because some suffering results from the cosmic war between good and evil in the heavenly realm. Furthermore, the story of Job teaches on the importance of faith in God. Mysteriously, God never gave Job an explanation for the problem of suffering nor did God inform Job of the cosmic contest of chapters 1 and 2. Instead, God concentrated on Job’s motives. The real issue at stake was Job’s faith – whether he would continue to trust God even when everything went wrong. Finally, God can use suffering for a higher good. In Job’s case, God used Job’s suffering and great pain to win an important victory over the Accuser. Job is often cited as an Old Testament picture of Jesus Christ, who lived a perfectly innocent life but endured great pain and death.  The terrible events of Jesus Christ’s death were also transformed into a great victory over the Accuser. The story of Job reveals that God is not deaf to our cries of suffering and pain.

Job experienced more tragedy than most people encounter in a lifetime. Yet through his loss and suffering, Job refused to turn his back on God. Job NEVER cursed God and never stopped trusting God. Job expressed astonishing hope and belief in God. He said with confidence, “For I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25 (NKJV). Job kept on believing and trusting in a loving, fair God even though all the evidence pointed against Him.

During the deepest moments of Job’s struggles, he wanted one thing:  the appearance of God face to face to explain his miserable fate. Job got his wish. God appeared and spoke to Job (Job 38:1-42:6). Finally at Job chapter 38, God spoke from the whirlwind, the Theophany (appearance of God). God confronted Job with his foolish talk.  “Who is this that darkens counsel with ignorant talk? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you” (Job 38:2). God asked Job, “Do you have an arm like God’s?” (Job 40:9). God spoke to Job from the stand point of creation and nature and not redemption and pointed out, one by one, all the creations that gave Him greatest pride. Out of the awesome majesty of the thunderstorm, God reminded Job that His ways, purposes, and His wisdom is greater than any human understanding (see also Isaiah 55:8-9).
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

In essence, God remained Job the power He has to maintain the creation and universe (Job 38 – 41). In fact, the idea that God upholds the order in the world is the gist of God’s speeches. Astonishingly, the question of suffering itself did not arise. After being confronted with God’s speeches, Job agreed that he should have kept silent (Job 40:3-5), and he repented (Job 42:1-6). Job acknowledged to God he was talking about things he knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for him (Job 42:3). No one, not Job and especially not his three friends, has the ability to run the universe. Job knew that God had a mezimmah, a “purpose.” To know that God is all-wise (Job 28), and that He has an undisclosed purpose behind human suffering, can be a source of comfort to the suffering.

God is the great Architect and Ruler of the universe.  He controls the wild, chaotic, and hostile forces of life, even evil forces that threaten to harm humans’ lives. God even controls the animals (Job 39), the stars (Job 38:31-32) and the forces of nature (Job 38:1-11; see also Joshua 10:11). God can unleash or restrain all forces at will (Job 38:22-35). Likewise, God controls the dark and strong parts of creation (Job 38:8-17), and this includes the sea, the wicked, and death.  The sea is a symbol of all that is feared by humankind, all that threatens life. It desires to overwhelm and swallow the world. But God has imposed a boundary upon the sea, and says, “Up to here you may come in, but no farther” (Job 38:11). In the same way, in the first chapter of Job, the Accuser grumbled that God had set a “hedge” or boundary of protection around Job, making Job protected from evil and evil forces. God temporarily removed His hedge of protection around Job to prove that Job was wise, blameless, and moral (Job 1:1, 8; Job 2:3). But, God said to the Accuser, thus far and no farther (Job 1:12-2:6; see also Luke 22:31-32; 1 Timothy 1:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:23-26). The book of Job’s portrayal of the Accuser (Evil) echoes the story in Genesis 3: the Accuser has supernatural power to oppress people, but the Accuser’s power is restrained by God’s sovereign rule. As John Newton said, the Accuser “can only go the end of his chain.”

This evil aspect of creation, its wildness, its cruelty, culminates in the figure of the leviathan found at Job 41. The book of Job discusses both the behemoth and the leviathan (Job 40:15-41:34). No one is quite sure what is meant by these two words and the English Bible leaves both words un-translated. The behemoth resembles a hippopotamus or elephant. The leviathan has some features of a crocodile or some kind of a dragon (Job 41:1). In other places, the Holy Bible refers to the leviathan as either a whale-like creature (Psalm 104:26) or a serpent or a monster of the sea (Isaiah 27:1). 

God used the leviathan as a symbol of something powerful and uncontrollable. In the book of Job, the leviathan represents what the Accuser personifies—all the wicked and evil forces that people despise and fear. God chains and controls the leviathan, as He also limits the sea, controls the Accuser, and sets a hedge about every person from the evil forces that threaten life. Never forget that God did not attack Job. God actually was the One who kept Job’s true Enemy (the Accuser) in check. Sometimes God allows for His own divine purposes very destructive powers only for a limited depth. Yet, God controls and restrains all these evil forces for His perfect and divine purpose. 

God promises that deathly forces and suffering will only be allowed to trespass on human life to a limited extent. Although the worst fears of a sufferer may be allowed by God, they also should be gently challenged in the light of God’s control over all evil. God deeply loves and cares for us (John 3:16). God has a great purpose for all pain and suffering of life if we will continue to faithfully love and trust Him like Job day by day (Job 13:15; Romans 8:28). Jesus commanded us to take one day at a time and not worry (Matthew 6:25-34). Let each day fend for itself. God is in control and He has plan for each purpose. More importantly, God only allows pain and affliction to infringe on our lives “thus far, and no farther.” Like Job, we must wholeheartedly turn to God and seek God’s help during our times of pain and suffering. Merely to confess certain theological truths and understandings about suffering and God is not enough. The cure for Job’s problems lay not in getting answers to the question of why it all happened to him; it was in seeking and meeting God in the midst of the “whirlwind” of life.

God is the cosmic Architect, who governs the universe with wisdom (Job 38:4-7). Only God is truly wise as wisdom is an attribute of God (Job 28). He puts His works and wisdom on display in nature. As the cosmic Architect, God can perfectly control the universe and be trusted to perfectly govern the affairs of humans. Essentially, only God knows why suffering happens to people. The only sort of wisdom a human can enjoy is realizing that God is all-wise, while fearing God and shunning evil (Job 28:28). For humans, fearing God and shunning evil is wisdom (Job 1:1, 8; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 16:17).

Moreover, every human who suffer needs to know God is in control. Sufferers may never know why God has allowed destructive forces into their lives. Like Job, they may remain unaware to the heavenly debate that determined their fate. However, in accordance with the Creator’s great knowledge and wisdom as displayed in nature, it is possible, even when suffering to the degree that Job did, to be able to say in the end, “I know that You can do all things and that no plan of Yours can be ruined” (Job 42:2 NCV). 

As stated earlier, Job endured terrible suffering. Yet, Job never cursed God as the Accuser promised God that Job would do. So, God won the challenge against the Accuser. Despite Job’s hardships, Job clung to his belief in a just God, even when everything in his experienced seemed to say otherwise. Job, who had raged and cried out, is given twice as much as he ever had before. “And so he died, old and full of years (Job 42:17). Much later in the book of Ezekiel, God included Job in the list of the finest human examples of righteousness. Job stands as the clearest Old Testament example of unfairness:  an upright person who suffered greatly. Jesus stands as the New Testament example:  a perfect Man who suffered even more. Both Job and Jesus had a happy ending!

Having made a change of heart in Job and produced an expression of repentance, God then turned to Job’s three friends but not Elihu.  God told the three friends that they had not spoken of God correctly as Job. Then, God says to the three friends to ask for Job to pray for them unless God would also strike down from their sins.  God affirmed to the three friends that He was the God of avenging justice because they had not “spoken what is right concerning Me, as My servant Job has” (Job 42:7). Job prayed, sacrificed, and interceded for his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. This prayer affirmed the basic theology of the three friends. They were right that God upholds the righteous and casts down the wicked. The book of Proverbs also presents a moral order that is a reflection of God’s character, wherein folly leads to death (see Proverbs 1:11-19; Proverbs 7:6-27; and Proverbs 9:13-18) and wisdom or righteousness leads to life (see Proverbs 4:1-13; Proverbs 9:1-12).

Finally, the book of Job teaches about God’s restoration.  God only allows destructive forces to trespass into people’s lives “thus far, and no farther.” This raises the obvious question, “What about death, or disease (such as cancer) that leads to death? James 5:7-11 is the only New Testament reference to the book of Job that helps answer these questions. These verses encourage believers to patiently endure all things, waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ. Upon Christ’s return, all faithful followers of God that persevered during times of suffering and affliction will be completely restored. In fact, Jesus Christ, who endured suffering like Job, received full restoration and victory from God.

Jesus Christ endured the worse suffering of all humankind to bring salvation to the world. Isaiah chapters 49 through 55 include vivid scenes of Jesus Christ’s suffering. He was bruised, beaten, whip, ridicule, and eventual experienced death unjustly so that we can receive salvation (Isaiah 53:3). “He was pierced for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus Christ was just like Job in that despite His suffering, He never lost faith, dependence and hope in God. Through His suffering, God brought to Jesus Christ full restoration, greatness, and a crown of victory (Isaiah 53:12; Philippians 2:1-11).

Even more, the story of Job teaches that when your life is full of difficulties, sufferings, and persecutions, be glad. A reward is coming to you (Job 42; see also Matthew 5:10-12; James 1:2).  God is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11). In end of Job, God restored Job with twice as much as he had before with more children, more property, and good health (Job 42:10-17). God blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. Job had twice as many head of cattle, sheep, camels, and so on as he had before the trials and suffering. In the first chapter, Job had seven sons and three daughters “born to him.” In the last chapter, Job “had seven sons and three daughters.” The point is that even Job’s lost family members were counted as restored in the end. Both the book s of James and Job claim, in effect, we are to endure various trials and pain in this life, patiently looking forward to the day of God’s complete and satisfying restoration at the coming of the Lord. God always restores His faithful people in the end even after any evil forces have their way.
When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring. So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. He named his first daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land no women were as lovely as the daughters of Job. And their father put them into his will along with their brothers. Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died an old man who had lived a long, full life. Job 42:10-17 (NLT)

As we face any hardship and suffering, we must be patient as God's prophets were patient (James 5:10-11; see also Matthew 5:12), continual seek and trust God, and pray without ceasing (James 1:5; James 5:15; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). God promises blessings and restoration if we keep a positive outlook ("count it all joy") (James 1:2; see also Job 42). Tough times can teach us perseverance and patience (see Romans 2:7; Romans 5:3-5; Romans 8:24-25; 2 Corinthians 6:3-7; 2 Peter 1:2-9). If we will keep humbly trusting God, He promises to restore you to glory beyond measure.

Our most powerful resource during times of difficulties is closeness with God through prayer (Ephesians 6:18; James 5:16-18). Some people see closeness to God and prayer as a last resort. However, this approach is backward. Seeking God through prayer should come first when facing any trials and struggles because God's power is enormously greater than ours. God can use suffering for our benefit (James 1:2-4). The Holy Bible acknowledges that the rejoicing in the face of trials may not come right away. But, God promises to answer our prayers and bring restoration if we do not give up seeking Him (Matthew 7:7-12; Luke 18:1-8). The book of James stressed that Job’s “steadfastness,” “perseverance,” or “patient endurance” led to his double restoration from God (Job 42). James elsewhere speaks of the trials that effect believers producing “steadfastness,” “perseverance,” or “patient endurance” in them that also leads to a crown of life (James 1:2-3, 12). Besides, God promises to right all the wrongs in this world when Jesus Christ returns (Revelations 22:12).

Thus, the ultimate solution to the problem of pain and suffering is restoration. Through Job’s restoration, God’s purposes are most clearly seen. Pain should not be speculated, theorized away, or ignored. Only the hope of God’s restoration, and the knowledge that God has a purpose behind and beyond the pain should encourage everyone that is suffering to endure the pain faithfully and patiently, in hope of Jesus Christ’s return. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, NIV). Complete restoration when Jesus Christ returns is a “must know” truth.

In the beginning of the book of Job, we readers are given a glimpse into the divine debate that determined the fate of humans. Was Job’s trial merely an experiment of heavenly powers? After all, God initiated the dialogue with the Accuser about Job’s integrity and wisdom (Job 2:3). God delighted in Job, had set a hedge of protection around him, and limited the magnitude of the Accuser’s evil touch. In the end, God revealed Himself to Job, and fully restored him. A part of God’s strategy seems to have been to achieve a change in Job’s heart. Through this struggle, Job was changed from the inside out with a new reverence for God’s awesome supremacy and splendor. Job learned that God is to be worshipped because of His splendor and glory, even when His splendor glory includes mysterious and difficult purposes.

In the end, Job was able to say to God that he had no complaint (Job 40:3-5; see also Proverbs 30). Job emerged from this dramatic testing with a new reverence and honor for God and His greatness, sovereignty, and abundance for a person’s life (Proverbs 42:1–6). Job gained even more wisdom through his suffering and encounter with God (see also James 1:2-4). He placed himself, properly, in the position of COMPLETE dependence, reverence, and obedience on God for all of life and that is true wisdom (Job 42:4; see also Proverbs 1:7; Ecclesiastes 12:13). Even more, Job learned that God and His purposes are supreme (Job 42:1-6; see also Isaiah 6:5) and through faith he can always accept all God’s purposes, even suffering. God does not allow us to suffer for no reason because He is fair in all His ways even when we do not know or understand His purposes. Even though the reason for human suffering may be hidden in the mystery of God’s divine purposes, Job learned he must continually TRUST God and live righteous. This final status is definitive for Job’s standing in the Bible. The prophet Ezekiel places Job in the company of Noah and Daniel as righteous (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). James considers Job with the prophets who spoke in God’s Name (James 5:10).

The book of Job reveals to humanity the shortfall of human reason to understand human suffering. There is a mystery of God’s freedom that remains mysterious to humanity. The book of Job teaches that all of suffering must be seen in light of the cosmic struggle of God against evil. Therefore, we humans must continually have an attitude of TRUST AND DEPENDENCE on a good God who ultimately rights all wrongs. Like Job, we must persevere and refuse to give up on God even when we do not understand the difficulties we face.

A new reader of the book of Job can easily get lost because the complete “story line” of Job is found in the first two chapters and the last few chapters, Job chapters 38 through 42. Everything in between are a series of long speeches. The book of Job is one of the oldest books of the Holy Bible. Many people date the acts of Job very early, before the time of Moses.

Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously. Isaiah 55:6-7 (NLT)

As with Job, we are to wait for God’s coming restoration while maintaining faith, hope and a positive outlook during times of suffering (Job 13:15). "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him" (Job 13:15, NASB). According to James, trials are a time for joy, because they produce perseverance, bringing maturity, and spiritual wholeness to the believer. In order for pain to have its way, true believers in Jesus Christ must be wise and trust that God is working for their final and complete salvation and restoration in and through their pain. (James 1:2-5; see also 1 Peter 1:5-6).

Everything that Job’s three friends said about God was correct in the abstract. As Job agreed, God rewards righteousness and punishes sin (Job chapters 26-27). However, Job’s own personal experience of God (Job chapters 29-31) did not conform to Job’s theology on rewards and punishment. Job 28 reveals the enormous gap between God’s wisdom and the experience of Job. As humans, we simply do not possess adequate wisdom to understand God’s purposes behind our pain and afflictions. Wisdom for us, and for Job, is limited to “fearing God and shunning evil” (Job 28:28), the very qualities that Job characterized (Job 1:1, 8; Job 2:3). We must all experience life as Job did — one day at a time as we patiently trust and hope in God!

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door! For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. . . . Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. James 5:7-11, 13 (NLT)

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