By Harold Fite
If a man ever had it made, it was Job! God had blessed him with seven sons and three daughters, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred she-asses, and a very great household. “He was the greatest of all the children of the east.” Then boom! It happened. The bottom fell out of his little world: he lost his sons and daughters through death, he lost his possessions, his friends, and his health. One day he was sitting on top of the world, he had it all. The next day he was reduced to the nakedness of his being. How does a man handle a thing like that? Does he take his own life? Does he become bitter with the injustice of it all? Does he blame God?
The Suffering Of Job
Few men have suffered the mental anguish and physical pain as did Job. He was tormented by “sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown,” and sat among the ashes and scraped himself with a pot sherd (Job. 2:7, 8). His wife called on him to “renounce God, and die.” The nights were long, without ease and rest. His bones clave to his skin. Worms and dust clothed his flesh. His skin would close up, and then break out afresh in running sores. He was in constant pain. His “face was red with weeping,” and his “eyelids where the shadow of death.” He was isolated from his brethren, his acquaintances and kinsfolk.
He must have been a grotesque and pitiable creature. His three friends had to look twice to recognize him. Young children despised him; familiar friends hated him; and those whom he loved dearly turned against him. In his pain and misery he cursed the day he was born, and like many on beds of affliction wished he had died at birth, or had been the victim of a miscarriage.
The questions that frustrate the suffering 20th century man plagued Job: “Why can’t I die now?” and “What purpose or profit is there in my continuing to live in such a pitiable and despicable state?” Yet, to his credit in his bankruptcy and bereavement he did not renounce God.
Now this doesn’t mean he would accept his suffering graciously and without questioning over the entire period of pain. Sure, he would become depressed, frustrated, and would be bitter at times and upon occasions would question the justice of God. There would be times when he would become irritable, his words sharp and cutting. He would agonize over why these things befell him. “Why me Lord?” He would want answers. But this helps us to identify with him as a human being.
Why Did Job Suffer?
Job’s three friends thought he was suffering because of sin. Eliphaz’s thesis was that trouble only comes through personal sin, and the solution is to get it out in the open, seek God, and commend his cause to God. He accuses Job of presumptuous words and pretentious claims, and with brutal bluntness charges him with being abominable and corrupt, “A man that drinketh iniquity like water?” (Job 15:16). He tried to refresh Job’s memory by enumerating sins which he thought Job could have possibly committed (22:5-9), and advised him to “acquaint now thyself with him; and be at peace” (22:21).
Bildad reasoned that God does not pervert justice, and if Job were pure and upright “surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous” (8:6).
Zophar rebuked Job for what he considered boasting and mockery when Job declared his doctrine was pure and that he was clean in his own eyes (11: 1-6). He spoke of Job’s ignorance and God’s wisdom, and of the wonderful possibilities if Job would repent, but warned him that “. . . the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall have no way to flee” (v. 20). Zophar reminded Job that the triumphing of the wicked is short and that punishment is certain.
All three thought the worst of Job, charged him with sin, and would not consider his defense. They believed he was lying and was insensitive to his problem. Their minds were made up. That “men suffer because of personal sin” was set like concrete in their minds. To them, Job’s appeal to his righteousness came off as being arrogant, egotistical and self-righteous.
Job knew he wasn’t being punished for personal sins. But why? Job was not aware of the conversation God had with the Devil when times were good. The Devil had made the charge that Job served God, not from love, but for reward. That God had protected him, blessed the works of his hands, and increased his substance. “But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will renounce thee to thy face” (Job. 1: 11).
When Job confounded the Devil by not renouncing God for the loss of his possessions, the Devil proposed taking away his health. “But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will renounce thee to thy face” (Job 2:5).
In both instances God accepted the challenge. Job became a battleground. The purpose of the Devil’s work was to get Job to “renounce God and die,” and to prove the point that man serves God only for what he can get out of Him. The loss of possessions; the loss of family; the loss of health and the persistent charges of his friends were all designed to this end. The Devil was responsible for his suffering, and the suffering was the test of his faith. But Job didn’t know that! We can look back over the centuries and see the plan and its unfoldment, but Job had no explanation.
Job Seeking Answer From God
Job agreed with Eliphaz’s advise: “acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace.” But the problem with Job was finding him. “Oh that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!” (Job 23:3).
Job felt confident that if he could have audience with God he would be vindicated from the charges made against him. “Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?” Job asked. “Nay; but he would give heed unto me” (Job 23:6). Job knew when he had been tried, he would ‘come forth as gold.” It is one thing for our friends to misunderstand our misery and suffering and to be insensitive toward us, and quite another to get the impression that God is uncaring and inconsiderate of our plight -that God is not listening. It seemed to Job that God was hiding from him (Job 23:8, 9). We see him spiritually struggling, groping for a solution from God. His argument finally took the form that he was just and God was unjust! Then he charges God with cruelty and persecution (30:20, 21).
In his confusion and pain he began to express an erroneous view of God. Job felt God counted him as an enemy; had taken away his right; that his righteous life counted for nothing. “I am innocent,” he said, and the things happening to him seemed unjust and unfair. But God often acts beyond our own reasoning and understanding. “I am God and not man.” Job spoke out of ignorance. God humbled him by asking him questions concerning his knowledge and his power in relation to the oceans, the rising of the sun, the realms beyond life, the common things of life, the influence of the stars, atmospheric conditions, the providential care of animals and their distinctive nature, etc. Then Job recognized he had said too much, and of something he knew nothing about. “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer then? I lay my hands upon my mouth” (Job 40:4). But God did not let him off that easy. He poured salt in the wound by asking, “Wilt thou even annul my judgment? Will thou condemn me, that thou mayest be justified?” (v. 8). 1 am sure that hurt. Job admitted that he had said things of which he did not understand. “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear,” he said, “But now mine eye seeth thee.” He was now a much wiser man, and looking back over his words and actions, he said, “Wherefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job. 42:6).
Job questioned the justice of God, but he didn’t renounce God, and proved that the man of faith serves God out of love and not just for the rich and abundant blessings. He justified God’s confidence in him and was vindicated from the charges the three friends made against him. God blessed Job by giving him twice as much as he had before. Such faith and patience will be rewarded.
The Lesson For Us
The lesson is, regardless of the situation we may find ourselves in – trust in God!
In our suffering may we never blame God. There are various reasons for suffering (which is a lesson within itself) but all suffering originated with the Devil. We need to lay the blame where it belongs. God allows suffering but does not arbitrarily inflict it upon us. May our pain of suffering never cause us ‘ to irrationally charge God with being unfair and unjust.
We must look on our suffering as the testing of our faith, “. . . knowing that the proving of your (our) faith worketh patience” (James 1:3). Peter said, “ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6, 7).
When we have the faith and patience of Job, we can have the confidence that “when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 17, pp. 514, 516-517
September 1, 1983