Book of Job, Part 3
Studies in Suffering: The Book of Job
Before we conclude the survey of the Book of Job, I want to give you a resource on this subject that is worth its weight in gold – D.A.Carson: How Long, O Lord: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, Baker Books, 1990. While Part One may require some careful contemplation, the rest of the work, particularly his section surveying Job, is extremely helpful and provides much more than devotional fodder. While it is certainly not the last work on this subject, this book is a must for every serious student of the Bible (that sounded like an endorsement to appear on a book cover, didn’t it!).
Job has asked for his day in court, and God is about to give it to him. But I wonder if, deep inside his soul, Job was really looking forward to this experience? Job knew and believed that God was sovereign and that he was good. And along the way, Job maintained his faith in God and his willingness to trust him in the midst of his pain.
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless person would dare come before him! (Job 13:15-16 NIV)
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (Job 23:10 NIV)
Would a man with such mature faith actually accuse God of wrongdoing? Perhaps, but there had to be fear and trembling at the prospect of hearing God’s response. To be sure, the text reveals his deep pain and his passionate quest for relief, which, by the way, is an appropriate pursuit of any healthy person who is suffering. Only mentally unstable people enjoy suffering! But as God ushered Job (so to speak) into the courts of heaven, he seated him in the witness stand. Instead of Job being the questioner of God, God began to question Job. As the trial progresses, the reader can easily imagine Job wondering, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Chapters 38-41 record God asking Job questions that can only be answered in a way that exonerates God from any wrongdoing. God reminds Job that he (Job) is way out over his pay scale by questioning God, who created the stars, the animals, the weather patterns – creation itself. Job asked for answers to the hard questions of life; God gives him reasons to worship. If God is going to teach Job, or those who read his story, anything, it is that Job will know God, not all the answers. Notice how God reminds Job that he is not obligated to conform to Job’s theology.
Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm: “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? (Job 40:6-9 NIV)
God overwhelms Job with his attributes and his action. He opens his eyes to the awesomeness of who he is. A great gift to Job was the realization that when we really know God, the answers to the questions we once believed so crucial to our survival are not very important at all. When we are overcome with things of the world, there is no comfort in God. But when we are overcome with God, there is comfort in the world, even a world with questions. Actually, that is an answer! But God does not stop with the drama of the heavenly court. The final chapter of Job tells of God’s intense mercy when he restores Job’s health, his family and his material wealth.
I cannot conclude a discussion about suffering and evil without reminding us that God is not aloof of our suffering. In fact, he took the initiative to enter into our fallen world in the person of his Son. In his birth, life and death, every type of pain and suffering became the experience of Jesus. We must also remember that God is in the process of redeeming the world from evil and restoring it (and us) to the new Eden, which we know as the New Heaven and New Earth. This world is not our home, we are only passing through. Along the way, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the joy of the LORD be our strength.