Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When God Acts #5: When Job Suffered


Job 3:1-5

Job. What a man he was (1:1-5). Can you imagine such a life? Seven sons and three daughters who actually enjoy being together! Over 10,000 animals on his ranch. A large number of servants. And to be called, "The greatest man among all the people of the East." What purity of heart: every morning he prayed for his children’s forgiveness just incase they had cursed God in their hearts. Could you imagine a better life? Could you imagine anything bad happening to a man like this?

Suffering knows no favorites. If you know anything about this story, you already know what I am saying. The fact that one is leading such a good life and has been so blessed by God is in no way a guarantee that one’s life will continue in such an idyllic state. In fact, the fact of one having such a good life may well be what invites trouble. Not only was God watching Job, but Satan was too. Satan accused Job to God. That is appropriate for Satan, for his name means, "the accuser." 1:9-11, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."

The accuser.

That is such an appropriate name for him. Had Job sinned in any big way to invite trouble? Had he harmed anyone? Had he cursed God in his heart? No. Then why not just leave him alone? Because that is not the way of Satan. When there are not discernible sins in a person’s life for Satan to make accusation to God against, Satan will manufacture them. And his accusation against Job was, "Do you think Job is serving you for nothing? He is serving you because you have blessed him so. Take away those blessing and you’ll hear this man curse you to your face."

We may have a hard time with what happens next. God gives Satan permission to wreck havoc in Job’s life. And Satan spare’s no time or fury in his mission. Job’s livestock - over 10,000 head - were stolen or killed. His servants were put to death my invading enemies. Job’s children were enjoying a dinner together when they were killed in a horrible accident Job’s response? 1:20 - tore his clothes, shaved his head, fell to the ground and he worshiped. V.21 - "May the name of the Lord be praised." What a testimony to purity of heart. .22 - "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."

The next time Satan appeared before God, God upheld the integrity of Job. 2:3. Blameless! But Satan wouldn’t leave matters alone. V.4 - "Skin for skin!"

In other words, let me inflict his body with pain, and you’ll see a different response!" Again God said, "Go ahead, he is in your hands. Just spare his life." V.6. At that, Satan struck Job with painful sores from his head to his feet. Job felt so much pain and misery that he scraped at the sores with broken pottery to relieve the pressure.

And perhaps the greatest test to his integrity came next, from his own wife. 2:9 - "Curse God and die." More painful than that may have been her calling into question his integrity: "Are you still holding on to your integrity?" In other words, "Do you still hold to your innocence? Your good standing before God? Come off of it!! Nobody with good standing before God has to suffer like this!!" But still Job kept his heart. "In all this, Job did not sin in what he said." 2:10.

What do you do when you suffer, and you don’t think you deserve it? What do you do for friends who suffer, but they don’t deserve it? How do you maintain your own integrity or support a friend? Job had 3 friends come to see him. When they saw the wreck of his life, they didn’t know what to do! So they sat in silence. For seven days. 2:13. And sometimes that is the best thing to do! Sit in silence. When Job’s friends began to speak, they didn’t encourage their friend. Instead, they only made his burden greater.

Job is actually the one who broke the silence, though. In Job 3 he breaks the silence with a rather dim statement about the condition of his own life: 3:1-4. He follows this with 5 questions. Five questions that begin with the word, "Why?" (3:11, 12, 16, 20, 23.)

In other words, Job asks, "God, why have you let me live? Why didn’t you allow me to die as a baby? Why did you give me a mother to receive me and nurse me? Why didn’t you give me a grave, and spare me the light of day? Why must I experience this misery called life? Job’s questioning doesn’t end here, but continues to the end of the book.

Now is when Job’s friends begin to speak up. But they do not speak words of encouragement. Instead, they speak words that tear at Job’s heart. 4:2-5 - You had advice for others. But how are things for you now? Don’t you love such kind words of sympathy when you need them? 4:7-8 - If you have trouble, it is because you deserve it. The friend Eliphaz is verbalizing a belief many people have - if you are suffering, it is because you somehow deserve it.

How many sincere Christian parents have received these kind of comments from other Christians when one of their children stumbled? Probably you better than the rest of us can appreciate the pain and confusion in Job’s heart.

One of the real hard problems for Job in all of this is HE KNOWS HE IS INNOCENT. I don’t mean he doesn’t have any sin, but that he has no discernible sin that justifies the intensity of the suffering he is enduring. I think 6:29 is a key verse in Job. Mark it in your Bibles. "My integrity is at stake." Inside, Job knows he has lived for God. He is not receiving this pain in his life because God is punishing him for sin. As a result, Job can not suffer in silence. And that leads to another one of the GREAT verses in Job that you ought to highlight and memorize: 7:11.

Only 3 times in the Heb. OT do the terms complain and bitter appear in the same verse. And all three are in Job. (7:11; 10:1; 23:2). Because Job does believe he is innocent is one more reason he is having such a hard time. So he asks some more "why" questions: 7:20, 21. Why pick me out to terrorize? If I have done something so wrong, why not just forgive me?


It is hard to cover Job in one lesson. Maybe I’ll do a series on him one day. For today though, let’s jump to the end of the book, chapter 41. God is speaking now. He says to Job and his friends: 41:1-10. "Can you control the forces of nature? The wild beasts? No, you can’t. But they are not problems for me, I made them."

Job responded to God’s speech in 42:3. "God, you are bigger than me. I just couldn’t see the whole picture. I’m sorry." Then 42:6. Repent. That is a good word. Here, it probably doesn’t mean, "Turn from sin," but instead, "I humble myself before you and I am comforted. I no longer lament."

What does he mean, "I no longer lament?" What does lament mean? It means to cry. To cry out. To say, "Therefore I will not keep silent ..." Job is saying, "The time of my crying is over. I am comforted now. Thank you God."

Let me make a comment about one of Job’s "why" questions: 3:23 - "Why has God hedged my life in?" Job was right - his life was hedged in. But Job was wrong about one thing. Job thought God hedged his life in so that he would suffer. "For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water." (V.24)

What Job didn’t realize is that God hedged him in to protect him! In 1:10, Satan accuses God of hedging Job in so that he would be blessed! I don’t want to oversimplify this, but I do need to make this point: When life seems to tumble in and things see so bad in our lives, think of the hedge.

The hedge - the protective wall God puts around his children so that it isn’t any worse than it is. No matter how bad it seems, how much worse could it be if God’s protective hand wasn’t over you?

Three things Job did in the face of unbelievable suffering:

1) He cried. He lamented. He cried out to God. "Why God? Why?"

2) He trusted God.

3) He received comfort.

Finally. We can do that, too. Just remember, God is always in control, and God is always bigger than our problems. "Thank you God."

Warren Baldwin

(Many of the ideas for this series come from the book Yet Will I Trust Him by John Mark Hicks)