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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, April 11 2024

Learning from the suffering of Job

Job's experiences explain why righteous people may go through discouraging and traumatic times and be tempted to resent God for not obviously and quickly intervening on their behalf.

Job, whose name means "persecuted" or "object of scorn," was a very wealthy and exceptionally righteous man. He carefully avoided transgressing God's laws, but he was not as righteous as he thought. Like all of us, Job was not perfect and had weaknesses. We are told in Romans 3:10 that " There is none righteous, no, not one.”

The account begins with God praising Job's behavior to Satan (Job 1:8). Satan then responds, "...Stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face." (Job 1:11). So God decided to test Job to see how he would bear up under adversity. He granted Satan permission to strip him of his possessions and family and to afflict him with excruciating boils (Job 1:12-19; 2:6-7). Job at first accepted his plight, saying, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21).

Job's three friends heard of his adversity, and came “... to mourn with him, and to comfort him" (Job 2:11). After initially lamenting with him, they began to discuss his calamities and suffering, and became certain God was punishing Job for some secret sin. Following this faulty reasoning and the accusations of Job's three friends, Elihu finally speaks up, pointing out that Job's perspective was flawed (Job 4:7). Elihu realized Job had convinced himself his afflictions served no purpose, and that he was finding fault with God, instead of seeing his trials as an opportunity for patience and letting God mold him. So Elihu asked Job: "Do you think this is right that you say, 'My righteousness is more than God's'?" (Job 35:2).

Job's principal objection was that God was unresponsive to him, and not properly acknowledging his righteousness. As his trials progressed, Job gradually came to resent God, who eventually asked Job: “Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?" (Job 40:8). He compared Job to Himself asking: "Have you an arm like God? or can you thunder with a voice like His? … array yourself with glory and beauty…look on everyone who is proud, and humble him ... .tread down the wicked in their place….Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you" (Job 40:9-14).

In the end Job saw that the basis of his problem was his excessive confidence in his own righteousness, and his view of God's fairness changed. He saw His critical attitude toward God was wrong: "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6). By the end of the account, Job made a conscious decision to live by faith in God's goodness, and to never question it again, regardless of any provocation or temptation to do so.

Job's experience is recorded so we can learn the folly of holding too high an opinion of ourselves."Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud" (Proverbs 16:18-19). His trials explain much about why character is more important in God's eyes than the discomfort and pain we experience in this life.

The account of Job helps people who are attempting to go God's way, but are beset by discouraging and traumatic experiences, to learn to trust Him patiently while awaiting the resolution of their problems. No matter how severe a trial is, we should never assume God isn't listening or doesn't care. He sees the lessons we need to learn that are beyond our present understanding. We need to always remember some excellent advice from King David: "Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!" (Psalm 27:14). Job's experiences encourage us to maintain patient respect and trust in God even in the midst of our trials (James 5:10-11).