God's Word Reveals the
By Kenneth G. Parker
Why do we have trials and
suffering?" Is it because: we sin and God punishes us, or is it because
time and chance come to all people or is it because there is no rhyme
or reason to life; or because suffering is supposed to teach us
something that we need to learn? Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the
“bottom falls out of our lives.” This can leave us baffled as many
survivors of disasters undoubtedly are around the world today. The Book
of Job gives great insight into the question of human suffering.
One writer in commenting on the Book of Job, stated: “It is unmatched
in the writings of the old testament for it’s.... depth of feeling and
the sensitivity with which the meaning of human suffering is explored".
The book of Job shows us that God is always in control and there may be
reasons for our calamities and suffering beyond anything we can
Divisions of the Book of Job
Chapters 1 & 2 of the book of Job give us a "behind the
scenes" view of the reason for Job’s suffering. Here the thesis that
nothing can be done on earth without having first been decreed by God
is established! God praised Job to Satan (2:3) and, at the last,
to his friends (42:7). Job’s suffering was not punishment for sin. His
own children and many faithful servants of Job died in the calamities
that befell Job! God said Job was a blameless and upright man who
feared God and shunned evil! The key to Job’s suffering seemed to be in
Satan’s boast that he could destroy Job’s integrity and lead Job to
The book divides easily into five parts. Chapters 1 & 2
are a prologue which sets the scene for the subsequent events. Chapters
3 through 31 record a dialogue between Job and his three friends.
Chapters 32 through 37 record the speeches of Elihu. Chapters 38
through 42:6 record God’s speeches to Job and Chapter 42:7 to 17
comprise the epilogue.
Satan is the
major player in this book even though he is only mentioned in the first
two chapters. Satan accuses humans of only being willing to obey God
when they will get something out of it. The central drama is: the
calamities that occurred left Job stripped of children, property, and
personal belongings, left him with only a bitter, distraught, nagging
wife and a very loathsome disease. Consequently, in his anguish
of undeserved, unexpected suffering, will Job continue to love and obey
God? Satan seemed sure that God’s plan for human beings is not
workable! Contrary to popular misconception, God declared Job as
righteous and not self-righteous!
God knew how Satan would react when he caused Satan to focus on
Job's righteous obedience. Satan's initial attacks on Job's family and
servants were physical and obviously supernatural. Satan did not
succeed in destroying Job's faith and trust in God! In Chapter 2:3 God
praised Job for maintaining his integrity and told Satan he was wrong!
God said Job had obeyed God when there was nothing in it for him! This
provoked Satan to accuse Job again! Satan next attacked Job
spiritually. In chapter 2: 9-10 we see that Satan began his spiritual
attack on Job by influencing Job’s wife to rail Job to curse God which,
if successful would prove Satan right! We learn from Job’s wife’s
outburst that it is Job's integrity that is on trial.
Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, the Temanite, Bildad, the Shuhite
and Zophar, the Naamathite and a younger man named Elihu the Buzite
came to console him and they showed respect for his suffering by
maintaining silence for seven days and nights! This silence led Job to
a bitter outburst. Job regretted being born, wished he’d been born dead
and wondered why he should live under such appalling conditions. When
people are grieving and suffering, what they say should not be taken
Job chapters 3 through 37 record a discussion of Job's suffering.
His three friends and Elihu offer Job trite answers to Job's pain, but
they provided him no comfort. What they repeatedly said amounts to
"contract faith,” that is “do good and be blessed; do evil and be
punished” The truth is, some of the world’s wealthiest individuals and
dynasties have prospered tremendously even though they have not always
been honest and truthful!
Job wanted to know: "why good people suffer?" Job and his friends
thought God ought to enforce:” be good and prosper, or sin and suffer.”
Job was in both mental and physical agony beyond anything imaginable.
This is reflected in his opening words. Job's afflictions had begun to
wear him down. Job could not determine who his enemy was so he assumed
it was God!
Satan the powerful manipulator
Satan continued in his attempts to provoke Job to sin. He used
Job's friends to launch an attack on his integrity. A grieving person
may unload grief or pain by lashing out at life in general. Job's
friends did not understand this. Job’s friends came to console him and
while Eliphaz began courteously, he soon implied that Job was suffering
because he was guilty of something in spite of Job’s claim of
innocence. In Job 4:12 through 21 we learn that a Spirit fed Eliphaz
misinformation in an attack on Job's integrity! Job’s friends thought
that Job's extreme suffering had to be an outward sign of serious,
unconfessed, hidden sin and if Job would only stop being stubborn,
confess and repent, he would be forgiven by God, all would be well and
his fortunes would be restored. This is what today is called the
"health and wealth gospel" which is based on the premise that calamity
is the result of sin. However, the theory that “you must be doing
something wrong if you are experiencing problems” is a misconception.
Job did not know Satan was trying to provoke him to sin and prove
God wrong! Job knew God is in control and attributed his unjust
punishment to God! Job had enjoyed a close relationship with God and
now felt deserted and attacked for no reason. Bildad, in Job 8:47
claimed Job’s children’s deaths were the result of sin when their
conduct had been introduced to show how fastidious Job was in his
submission to God! Bildad assumed Job was insincere in his desire for
God. Job's friends had to learn not to judge another's relationship
with God because he did not have all the facts!
Job’s initial conclusion
Job thought he must have been tried and found guilty by God and
was being punished accordingly. He knew how great and how just God is
and felt God must have made a mistake! He wanted to know what he had
been found guilty of! He was afraid to say too much for fear he would
be punished further! But in Job Chapter 10:1 Job decided to throw
caution to the wind and say what he thought. Job never gave up on God.
He appealed to God for two things: One, that God withdraw his
punishment; and two, that God talk to him and to show him what he had
been found guilty of!
Eliphaz, in Job 15:15 accused God of not trusting his servants.
This was not true. God was showing great trust in Job unknown to them.
God knew Job would not break under pressure. Job indicated that the
most caring thing his friends had done for him was to sit in silence
for seven days. Job felt betrayed and no longer able to make sense of
life. He had faith in the love and justice of God, consequently he
couldn’t reject God or curse him for causing his suffering but to admit
that his suffering was deserved, Job would have to "find" some
Job had great faith and vision. Job’s demand for a confrontation with
God and an explanation for his sorrows were scandalous to his friends.
Job had begun to understand that many wicked people prosper in life
while all die irrespective of the life they have led. He desperately
wanted to discuss his situation with God. In Chapter 31:35 Job called
on God to account for his condition of suffering. His demand for an
answer came from a natural human reaction to despair when there is no
meaning that can be attached to suffering. The people who survive
disasters often are in a similar situation – baffled by and at a loss
to explain what happened! Job knew that only God could provide proper
perspective on his situation. His friends ceased to argue with him
because they thought he was self-righteous and mainly because they had
nothing more to say.
Satan’s unwitting advocate
The young man Elihu began his discourse which unknown to him, was
Satan's last attempt to undermine Job's integrity and lead him to curse
God. We know Job’s three friends were wrong because Elihu said they
were wrong! Elihu also attacked Job's integrity and accused him of
rebellion against God! Elihu had an inflated opinion of himself (Job
36:4). He accused Job of preferring sin to suffering!
God responded to Job's demand for a confrontation but ignored his
friends and said nothing about the reason for Job’s suffering. God gave
Job no apology. He turned the tables on Job by demanding an explanation
from Job about the wonders of the creation. God’s message seemed
to be, "if you don't even know how the physical creation works, don't
complain about the spiritual one.” Job realized that his knowledge of
God's work was flawed. God said, in effect, “My ways are so far above
your ways that you cannot discern or judge the purposes that I am
following. You just follow the way I have laid down for you and leave
the situations you face in my hands!”
Job’s integrity upheld
Job acknowledged God’s sovereignty and repented of claiming to know
more about God than he really did! Job learned that humans cannot
second-guess God or question His motives! God rebuked Job’s friends,
saying they did not speak what was right as Job had! This shows that
Job’s attitude was right and that God makes allowances for our
incomplete knowledge when our attitude is right!
God is love!
What can we learn from the book of Job? The common concept is that Job
was self-righteous and was punished to bring him to repentance. That is
not God’s view of Job either in the Book of Job or in the Book of
Ezekiel 14:14 where God said, “though these three men, Noah, Daniel,
and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their
righteousness, saith the Lord God.”
God cannot do anything but love because God is love (1 John 4:8)!
Therefore everything that happens in this world happens because God is
working in love towards the ultimate repentance of all mankind!
A byproduct of Job’s suffering was his having developed a deeper
relationship with his Creator and more a more complete understanding of
the awesomeness of God. God acknowledged Job’s righteousness by
requiring his friends to have Job pray for them! God then showed his
love for Job by giving Job more than he had before!
All calamities in our world including the deaths and suffering from
hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes are ordained by God for reasons
beyond our understanding and will result in eternal life for all
involved. God says not even a sparrow falls to the ground without his
permission, Matthew 10:29. Ours is not to know the whys and wherefores
but to worship God, to love others and to do all in our power to assist
our fellow man in need.