Job: Part 1 – The Problem (Job Chapters 1-3)
Modern man has a tremendous problem with the state of the world. He knows that there is something wrong. There is really no disputing that. There’s something wrong with humanity as a whole. There’s something wrong with nature. There’s something wrong with the answers that are generally given for the questions that are inevitably asked in life. Questions like “Why do bad things happen to good people?”, “Where is God when tragedies occur?”, “How can a ‘good’ God allow the ‘innocent’ to suffer?”, “Why can’t God keep bad things from happening to those that don’t deserve it?”. There are undoubtedly countless others that we could mention, and I am in no way going to attempt to give an answer to any of them. The longer I live the more I come to believe that there is no single answer to any of those questions, and I can also say with great confidence that I am not the one who has any semblance of an answer for any of those questions. It is rather my hope to direct us to how these questions become bearable – how we can live with these questions even when they are unanswered.
Job is a book about suffering. A “good” man who goes through unrelenting loss and pain at God’s allowance. We would call Job “innocent.” Indeed, God Himself calls Job “blameless” and “upright.” Job has served God for the better part of his life and has been blessed by God in everything he undertook and was even protected by God. Why the sudden abandonment? Why does God choose Job to bear the weight of judgment usually reserved for those being punished for unrighteousness?
We must start our discussion by looking at how humanity looks at these circumstances. Humanity tends to look at life through a certain set of lenses. Most scholars call this way of seeing as a “worldview” – simply a way of seeing the world around us. So how do we see Job’s problem? As an American, a Westerner, I tend to judge who is innocent, guilty, and then pronounce my own personal judgment as to who should be condemned. Justice, reason, and order must win the day. Other worldviews would attempt to judge the spiritual aspects of the situation by inferring as to the spiritual condition of Job and the other players involved in his struggle. Many others would argue against the historicity of the story, attempting to show the moral, philosophical, or spiritual elements of the story as it aims to teach us something transcendent rather than actual. Something that we could all take away and apply to our everyday lives without truly having to address the severity suggested in calling Job an historical figure. I am most familiar with my own iniquity, so we will argue briefly as to how an American would judge the story of Job.
In the account of Job, as seen through the eyes of many Westerners, the problem is a simple matter of finding who is guilty for what befalls Job. There are three suspects that we must choose from – there would be more since Job’s children are destroyed in the disaster, but the text does not allow us to keep them as suspects due to the discourse in Heaven between God and Satan. The suspects are Job, Satan, and God. As we examine the story, two are guilty and one is innocent or blameless. The conclusion must be that Job is innocent by his own actions and God’s commendation and that Satan is guilty of murder, theft, and assault with a deadly disease and God is guilty of negligence and conspiracy to commit murder. Most modern men and women have no problem with this conclusion. They didn’t even need Gil Grissom to dust for prints. It’s pretty open and shut from their point of view.
Christians naturally have a problem with this verdict. God can’t be guilty – He’s God! So people begin to question God’s goodness and power or they take the story from history and make it a parable, a fairy tale. Others just dig their heals in and stamp their feet and just say God’s not guilty because they say so. Many others want to point to the fact that God just wants to make Job stronger and He knew Job could take the test. And where most Christians may have the right heart in wanting to believe the God is not as evil as the evidence suggests, they don’t really know the how or why to their beliefs. And the initial problem lies in the lenses they look through to see the problem.
Most of us look at Job’s story and want to focus on how “good” he was. This is a horrible way to start. In fact, it’s the wrong way to start. The point of Job is not Job. If we start with him we miss the point. The point of book of Job is the same as the point of the Bible, God’s glory. We will delve deeper into this next time, but Job has nothing to bring to the table when it comes to righteousness if he is compared to God. Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm, 53:1-3, and Romans 3:10-18 all confirm that there is no one who is righteous before God. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.” Daniel 4:35 says, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and [God] does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’”
Humanity does not particularly enjoy the themes of these verses, and they are not the only ones that can be listed. We have the gall to believe that we have earned favor from God by our behavior and that He owes us health, wealth, and prosperity because of how “good” we are. The Bible constantly condemns this, so we cannot base our interpretation of Job on the idea that a man somehow earned enough brownie points to be exempt from suffering. Psalm 51 and Ephesians 2 are clear in stating that there is never a moment in our lives that we stand innocent before God. We must never fall into the trap of believing ourselves capable of judging God’s motives or actions. He is above us. Far, far, above us.
So are we then without hope? Since we cannot answer these difficult questions and we can’t judge God, are we left to simply wallow in suffering with nothing to comfort us in our pain? Absolutely not. In Job 42:5 Job says this, “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” The suffering had been used to reveal a deeper understanding of who God is. Job was a proud man, a pious man, but not equal to God. God had awakened Job to His power, might, and grace. This is why God allows suffering for His people. This is why God allowed Job to suffer.
I know that I probably haven’t answered any of the questions that might be lingering in your mind. Sometimes we don’t get the answers we want. Job didn’t. All he got was more of God. That’s what I hope you find. This is a mild introduction to a very deep and complex book. We will be discussing the rest of the book in the coming weeks. If there is something particular that you would like to be addressed, please leave a comment and I’ll address it through this series. Also, if you are struggling or in the midst of suffering, please contact me and I would be happy to pray with you and offer what I can to help in your time of need. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace,