JOB - THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING
Outline of Job
Job was probably a non-Israelite but had a knowledge of God, though it was incomplete. He knew enough to have a faith relationship with God and how to live a good and moral life. Job views God as personal at times and also transcendent at times. God is beyond nature, yet master of the world he created. God created man with freedom of choice, and in so doing makes man morally responsible.
The book of Job may well be the oldest of the writings of the Old Testament. The time may go back as early as 1700-2000 B. C. A striking oddity of the book is that it makes no mention of the law of Moses, or of covenants, thus leading scholars to presume that Job lived during the time of the patriarchs, near Abraham's time. Its subject is the problem of pain, especially as it concerns the life of the believer. It may be well, as we read this book, to tie in the thoughts of Psalms 37 and 73 and the twelfth chapter of Hebrews.
The book is very significant in that it raises frequent and age-old questions, such as "Why do the righteous suffer?" The book of Job provides an answer, though often misunderstood. As we try to do right in this day and time, Job provides some clues, and yet, even in our best efforts to do right, sometimes problems and suffering still follow. Why do the godly suffer, and why is God silent? Job and his friends wrestle with these problems but arrive at no satisfactory conclusion. The true answer is found when God speaks, for in such matters man's reasoning must ever bow before the greatness of divine revelation.
The reason that Job and his friends struggle in their discussions is that they are not privy to all the facts. They were ignorant of the behind-the-scenes events unfolded in the beginning of the book. Job had no means of knowing why he suffered, nor what the outcome would be. This adds to the value of the book, for we, too, are often ignorant of many of the reasons behind our sufferings. Like Job, we have to rest in the faithfulness of God, knowing that God is too wise to make mistakes, too loving to be unkind, and too powerful to be thwarted in His purposes.
The exchange of words began with Job's exceedingly bitter cry concerning his many misfortunes because of no apparent reason. No one spoke for a week. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the friends, came to sympathize with Job, but, like other well-meaning people today, they stayed on to sermonize. The dialogue continues with Job rebutting each of the advance theories. Each successive response seemed to evoke hotter responses, but all ending in a deadlock.
Eliphaz had a theory to offer as his explanation of Job's sufferings. He suggested that Job had sinned. Bildad had an inference, for he supposed that Job to be a sinner. Zophar had an assumption, actually saying that sin was the cause of Job's calamities. Then another voice is heard, that of a younger man, who came nearer to the truth than any of the others, urging Job to humble himself, have patience, and submit to God's will. He believed there was something remedial about Job's sufferings, and he rebuked Job for unjustly accusing God.
All were wrong. Satan made the mistake of thinking that Job served God merely for material gain. Job's wife made the mistake of thinking that the loss of wealth meant the loss of everything. Job's friends made the mistake of thinking that Job was suffering for some hideous secret sin. Elihu made the mistake of thinking that he alone had the answer to Job's problem. Job made the mistake of accusing God of injustice. But finally, God does not make any mistake.
God finally answers Job. God sets some great and complex questions forth and Job is unable to answer. The clear implication was that if Job could not understand God's government in the natural realm, how much less could he understand the principles of God's government in the moral and spiritual realms. Job was thus brought to a confession of personal smallness. His life had been a titanic struggle; a struggle which ended in the complete triumph of God and the overthrow of Satan. Job did as God directed, and was blessed with double of all that he had lost.