jobJob 42 Job is finally convinced that he was not wise in speaking against God and calling Him to explain His actions. He repents or changes his mind and withdraws his demands. Job gets no answer as to why he was afflicted; he gets no explanation for his suffering. He no longer needs or wants to know. He is satisfied in his encounter with Yahweh. This encounter showed him that even in the midst of suffering, the Lord was with him. Even though God had initially remained silent, Job was now satisfied that the Lord had not cast him away, nor had found him to be at fault in any way. Consequently Yahweh selected him to intercede for his 3 friends who had sinned by claiming to speak for God and by falsely accusing Job and maligning his good name while exalting themselves and their pseudo wisdom.

In the end, everything is restored to Job and more. The author describes Job’s ultimate blessings in a way that ranks him with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These blessings show us that the idea of God’s retributive justice is, in part, a valid one. Although we get no answers as to why the wicked are blessed or why the righteous suffer, Job’s final situation does teach us that in the end the righteous are rewarded. This knowledge should increase our faith and trust in God when we are in the midst of our own suffering. He will endure the suffering with us, will enable us to maintain our faith and spiritual integrity and will reward us for our perseverance. That reward may come in this life or the next. That should satisfy us.

Now such knowledge may be fine for us, but for those in the midst of suffering, especially those grieving a lost loved one we should be cautious in how we present the lesson of Job. We learn from observing his “comforters” that silence and presence may be the best thing we can do, at least initially. As individuals then progress through grief then we may be able to remind them that answers and reasons why may be revealed slowly if at all, but they should not remain angry or bitter. Then we can share the good news that the Lord knows what they are going through and is, in fact, suffering through it with them.

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Biblical Thoughts on Suffering: You are not the center of the universe!

Job 38:39-39:30

job39Yahweh now turns his attention to the animal world. Lest Job should think that here he may have something to say to match Him, God selects animals which can be not fully tamed and domesticated for they were not created for such a purpose. As in the previous section, the Lord reveals that He alone can control and direct all such wild creatures which lie outside the scope of man’s efforts. The example of the ostrich tells us that God has a sense of humor and has created some creatures which to us may appear weird, foolish or irrational, not worthy or capable of survival of the fittest. Yet they defy our petty human attempts to categorize or explain them. Finally the Lord presents the example of the war horse. Though such an awesome animal can be trained, it possesses traits that are wild and unconquerable, beyond man’s abilities to fully comprehend.

In our present day we may think that God’s argument does not stand up. Humans have been able to tame many animals and domesticate even wild ones. But they can do so only up to a point and only according to God’s laws and rules. Wild animals retain their feral nature and those who try to tame them realize that and respect it, yet, as those who own pets know, animals act in ways we cannot always predict or control. Only God has full control over them. In addition, many animals, especially insects seem to serve no useful purpose to man. This shows us one of the main points of Job: we live in a theocentric world. All that occurs is managed by the Lord God for His purpose and pleasure. The universe and all that happens in it cannot be properly judged or evaluated primarily from the vantage point of any human being. God is the center of the universe. All that happens does not have to fit in with our plans or preferences. This is hard to accept because of our self-centeredness. Only those who center their being in Christ will find this a great comfort because then everything, no matter how inexplicable, makes sense for we see it all through God’s eyes.

Biblical Thoughts on Suffering: God is very, very, very, very BIG!

Job 38:7 When the Morning Stars Sang Together by William BlakeJob 38:1-38

Yahweh speaks at last. He ignores the empty eloquence of Elihu completely and addresses Job. The Lord asks him a question that implies that Job is no position to offer an opinion or assessment on how He should manage and run the universe He has created. Job cannot because he does not see things from the Lord’s perspective nor does he have access to or knowledge of all the Lord knows. He hasn’t a clue has to how Yahweh runs things or why. The Lord proceeds to demonstrate to Job how small his knowledge is, to teach him that he really has no business to question God or call Him unjust or unfair. He does this through a series of powerful and graphic yet unanswerable questions that ought to make each one of us keep our mouths quiet and never again boast of our “wisdom”. 

The Lord begins with the origin of the world. Since Job was not there to see this, he lacks the understanding to accuse God of wrongdoing or mismanagement. Job, indeed all men, stand helpless before these aspects of creation that the Lord speaks of especially the chaos of the raging sea, the rushing torrents of rivers and the awesome power of wind, rain, thunder, and snow storms. All these have their origin in the mind of Yahweh. These all seem to us to occur with random unpredictability and without reason or logic; but the Lord uses all such things for His own purposes and controls them and sets their limits, things which man can attempt to do but with extremely limited and temporary success. As if this were not enough to convince Job, the Lord draws his attention to the constellations and the stars. Yahweh’s power is so great that even these are within His sovereign grasp. 

Most humans seem to ignore the fact that God is in control of natural disasters and weather. They such things to the impersonal “mother nature” and forget the Lord. Humans also spend a lot of time and energy trying to prevent or control natural disasters, severe storms  and even climate change and global warming. None of these efforts have succeeded. The best science and government can do is make accurate predictions, attempt to minimize risk and then repair the damage after the fact. As we have seen in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy these things have limited value. Perhaps the greatest bit of man’s hubris in the face of God’s awesome might is to think he can stop or reverse climate change. The only thing man can really do is to place himself in the hands of the Lord and ask for mercy, forgiveness and wisdom.

Biblical Thoughts on Suffering: Who can complain?

Job 34job11

 

Although we can agree with much of what Elihu says here about God, his presentation paints an incomplete picture of the Lord. He claims that Job is wrong to accuse the Lord of wrongdoing or injustice. He asserts that no one, not Job, or any on else for that matter can make such a statement to God for no man is God’s equal or peer. No man can maintain an attitude of innocence before God, nor can anyone rightly complain about His ways. All this is true but the way in which this is expressed makes it seem that the Lord administers justice, doles out rewards and punishments in a mechanical and methodological manner. Though this is true to a certain extent, Elihu’s words fail to account for the afflictions endured by the righteous or the blessings and prosperity enjoyed by the wicked.

Even though Elihu is a windbag he speaks quite eloquently of God’s sovereign nature. He presents a masterful exposition of God’s omniscience. God knows everything, so no one escapes His justice. The wicked will never really escape His punishments for God sees all their deeds. He knows their hearts and minds as well, the reasons why they did what they did. Therefore no one can say that God acted unfairly, or without considering all the circumstances. We humans do that. Perhaps we may feel that God is harsh and cruel. We may think it unfair for God to send someone we know and love or some celebrity we admire to Hell because he/she never repented. We tend to overlook or excuse our bad behavior or evil acts or those of others attributing them to the ills and prejudice of society which corrupted and deprived us of the right to a good education and the opportunity for proper growth. Or else we accuse based only on what we think we see without considering extenuating circumstances which may require mercy and forgiveness. God does not do that for he knows all the facts. Only those whose sins have been placed on Jesus will escape punishment. Justice for them has been satisfied at the cross. Nothing is more merciful or unfair than that, yet nothing is as liberating and loving.

Biblical Thoughts on Suffering: Longing for the good old days?

Job 29-30

Job29As Job resumes speaking, he longs for the good old days much as any of us would when we are in the midst of troubles and problems. We yearn for those days when we were young and everything was going right, when nothing was beyond our reach, when the world was at our feet. Job looks back with yearning to the time when he was respected, vigorous, blessed and at peace with God and man. He obeyed God, he did what was right and all was well. He was generous to the poor, dispensed justice to the oppressed and downtrodden, gave counsel to the young and confused, and was hospitable to all. And everyone thought well of him.

Job then contrasts that blessed time with his present experience. He feels that he now has become a reproach, a laughingstock. He knows that the Lord is the one who has caused all this to happen and he still cannot figure out why. He feels that God has abused and afflicted him without cause and what is worse, God will not speak to him regarding his allegation and questions.

We who have suffered pain and loss can understand what Job felt, because in the midst of our own trials we have felt the same way, even those of us who claim to be righteous and faithful. Job was righteous and faithful, perhaps more so than any human being who ever existed, though of course not sinless. Yet even as good as he was he fell into despair. This shows us that there is hope for us all: our sufferings doubts and complaints will help us grow in wisdom provided that we allow them to carry us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord. If we refuse to turn to the Lord and bring Him our troubles, then our suffering is pointless and vain.

Biblical Thoughts on Suffering: Wisdom comes from God.

Job 28

The nameless author of Job presents us with a transition from the dialogues of Job and his friends to the resolution of the book. His purpose is to bring us back to the real issue which has been obscured by all the theological rhetoric and emotional responses of these men. We may have thought that the core issue of this book focused on suffering and its causes, or why the good suffer while the bad do not, or even God’s justice. These are all topics which we have explored, but the real issue is wisdom. God possesses it without limit; He acts according to it and in a way consistent with his Divine nature and sovereignty. Yet man is unable to begin to grasp or understand it on his own.

Human beings seek wisdom by observing the created world and by thinking about the wonders of the entire universe. Human beings mine the world for answers and explanations as miners dig for precious metals and gemstones. The world considers the wise person to be one who is successful, famous, accomplished, charismatic and talented, one who can pontificate on a subject or variety of subjects without fear or trepidation.

The author lets us know that this is not true at all. Wisdom comes not by human effort at all. Wisdom comes from a relationship with the Lord. Though we can never hope to fully comprehend Him and His ways, we can begin to understand Him as we humbly acknowledge our weakness, as we admit that compared to Him we know nothing, as we declare our total dependency on Him. Then we will respond in worship and in obedience to follow all He has commanded us to do. The hardest thing to admit is that we cannot begin to even follow Him unless He draw us. That is true wisdom.