Job the Sufferer

As I finish discussing John Stott’s connection between the sufferings of Jesus on the cross to our suffering [Chapter 13 in The Cross of Christ], I am not surprised that number five of his final six examples of connection is the Bible character Job.  Job is an innocent man whose life has been turned upside down.  He has had many blessings from God.  He has a large family, is incredibly wealthy and he has enjoyed God’s protection in his life.

However, the devil has observed Job and the devil did not understand this man’s faith in God.  He felt that Job loved God because it was profitable; in other words, his faith in God was self-serving.  But The Lord knew differently ;  He declares, “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3).  God is really declaring that Job loves Him with or without his excellent life.

Some have always felt this story is an example of God betting with the devil that Job would be “true” in his faith, but Stott reveals that Job’s story is much more than a Divine wager.  Stott feels God explains the attitude of self-surrender in the story of Job and His suffering, an explanation of how Christ’s suffering relates to our suffering.

Certainly Job suffers, having to bear the grief of seven dead sons and three dead daughters.  All of his wealth vanishes in a single afternoon.  He is loathsome to his wife, his brothers and even the little children of his community as he loses his health and began to lie on an ash heap outside of his town.

At this point, the devil figures that all the good things Job enjoys are gone; now he is going to turn his back on God. Obviously some see Job as a prime example of persevering faith.  He is surrounded by doubters.  His own wife tells him to curse God and go ahead and die.  To be honest, Job is not perfect in his perseverance.  He does feel self-pity.  He feels God is being cruel to him and even ruthless in his suffering.  Job sees his situation as a “contest” between himself and God.  He thinks the matchup is so unfair that Job even calls for a mediator.  He feels God has acted against him in an unjust way and Stott writes “if only he [Job] could find God, in order to personally press charges against Him! Meanwhile he vehemently maintains his innocence and is confident that one day he will be vindicated” [318].

With Job’s older friends, the response is very different.  They feel Job is suffering because he is sinful.  “His afflictions are the divine penalty for his misdeeds” [318].  This is conventional orthodoxy about suffering but Job is having none of it.  Job calls his friends “worthless physicians” and “miserable comforters” who talk nothing but nonsense and falsehoods.  Job silences his friends by showing that there is no connection in this world between righteous living and prosperity or between wicked living and suffering.  In essence, the righteous often suffer more than the wicked and the wicked often prosper more than the righteous.

When Job’s younger friend Elihu counsels Job, he continues the old orthodoxy that Job has brought his situation upon himself, but he does take his explanation further.  He feels Job’s suffering is God telling Job to discipline himself.  God is speaking to Job, telling him “to turn from wrongdoing and keep away from pride.”  Elihu feels that God speaks through human affliction; a form of “wooing” and people who suffer should repent and deliver themselves from their own distress.

Finally, after his older “comforters” speak and then Elihu, Yahweh reveals Himself and speaks.  Stott calls God’s recommendation “self-surrender.”  He takes issue with Job’s attitude of blaming Him [“Would you discredit my justice?”].  When Job sees God, he switches from self-pity and assertion of injustice  to despising himself and worshipping God.  How does this happen?  Stott says that it is the result of “glimpsing the glory of the creator.”  God controls snow, storms and the stars.  God supervises the animal world.  He gives Job a revelation of His creative genius, and convinces Job that he needs to repent of his rebellion and trust God in all things, even his suffering. 

If it is reasonable for Job to trust the God whose wisdom and power have been revealed in creation, is it not even more reasonable for us to trust the God whose love and justice have been revealed to us on the cross?  Stott writes “no one is more trustworthy than the God of the cross.  The cross assures us that there is no possibility of a miscarriage of justice or of the defeat of love either now or on the last day” [Stott, 320].   Stott turns to Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things.”  What does Job need to do?  Trust in God.  What do we need to do?  Trust in God. 

The cross does not solve the problem we all have when we suffer; we don’t like it.  But it does offer a unique perspective on suffering.  God is in control even in times of suffering; we are not.  We need to look at the evidence of the cross.  God demonstrates His holy love by sacrificing His only Son. 

Let us accept that and no matter what we are going through…

let’s trust Him.

We don’t have to have all the answers, the explanations, the justifications.  God calls us to surrender to His will.

When Job sees the awesome power of God, he suddenly becomes silent in the midst of his suffering, he becomes humble , he repents and he trusts.

And God takes care of him.

God restores his health and his fortune, blessing the latter days of Job more than his beginning; “for he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters. In all the land there were found no women so fair as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. So Job died, an old man and full of days” [from Job 42].

The lesson of Job is to believe in God, that we must trust that what He is doing is right and good, repent of our questioning of God’s motives and be satisfied that the Holy Will of God is being done and He is in control      

 and no matter what…remember…

He loves us.

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