About 6 months ago, I looked deeper into a verse in Job that had growth to mean a lot to me, Job 14: 7-9, as well as the book of Job in its entirety and how it fits into the bigger picture of scripture. And I learned a lot about what Job teaches us about hope and times of suffering.
I wanted to share it with you all but since there is way too much to share in one post… so in my next 2 posts I am going to share with you what I learned about why Job spoke the words so close to my heart, and why they matter to us today.
Ready? Let’s go!
Job lived in a land called Uz, and many believe he lived about the same time as Abraham. Job chapter 1 describes him as being a righteous man who feared God,.Even God said “he is the finest man in all the earth”, and a man of integrity. God blessed Job with wealth, prosperity, and sons and daughters.
However, following a conversation between God and Satan, Job’s life changes.
Satan, along with other angels, present themselves before the Lord. Satan had been roaming the earth, most likely looking for people to deceive, and the outcome of this conversation is that God permits Satan to test Job.
Strange as it might seem to you at first, this conversation comforts me. Here’s why. Sometimes, when we see what goes on around us, it can seem like Satan has more power than he actually does. But we see here that God and Satan are not equal, and that ultimately, Satan’s attempts to bring suffering upon us do not surprise God. God is in control.
The test was to see if Job would curse God when he lost the blessing and protection God had given . Satan was ultimately suggesting Job was only blameless and righteous because he didn’t yet have a reason to turn against God.
Will Job’s faith waver, when what God has blessed him with is gone? Would ours?
Will you still worship God when tragedy comes?
Tragedy after tragedy comes upon Job’s household. He loses his prosperity, livelihood, and most of his family. And is left tearing his robe (which is an outward expression of grieving) shaving his head, and falling to the ground… in worship.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb” Job says”, “and naked I will depart. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
On another day, Satan again presents himself before God along with other angels. Satan had been roaming the earth, and God praises Job for maintaining his integrity. We see Satan again allowed to test Job, because surely Job would curse God’s face if not only his possessions and family were struck… but his own flesh and bones.
Job chapter 2: 7-8 paints a disturbing picture of Job’s physical reaction to being afflicted with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. He sits among ashes, and scrapes himself with a broken piece of pottery.
His wife, who is grieving herself, questions Job, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
To complicate things more, there was a belief that if you had troubles, God was punishing you for your sin. And three friends offer Job a “perfect solution”, to his perceived “punishment”. Repent before God.
Is suffering always a punishment for sin?
But suffering isn’t always a punishment for sin. Is it true that there are consequences in this life for our sins? Yes! But we will suffer hardship because of things out of our control, for purposes only known by God.
In everything that led up to Job’s suffering, he is said to have not sinned, and he uses psalm like expression to try to understand why he is going through this heartache. When we come to Job 14:7-9, Job seems to speak the words out of hopelessness. He contrasts his life with a tree that is cut down. “For a tree there is hope, ” Job says, But not seemingly for him. He was uncertain there was any hope beyond his life, and this life.
But man dies and is laid away; Indeed he breathes his last And where is he? As water disappears from the sea, And a river becomes parched and dries up, So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, They will not awake Nor be roused from their sleep.” Job 14: 10-12
We see the uncertainty of what happens after death, and Job’s desperation for hope. His circumstances probably seemed unfair. Why should a cut down tree have a better hope of resurrection than a suffering man?
Job deeply struggles for hope, and to understand “why”..
Why was I not born stillborn? Job despairs in 3:16. And why was life given to someone burdened with grief. He couldn’t relax, had no rest, and longed for death, probably because it seemed better than his current misery.
Maybe like Job, your life feels cut down, and you see everyone else who has hope, but maybe you don’t believe that hope is for you. Maybe you have been following all the rules, “you have done everything right” but you don’t see God’s faithfulness in your life. I have been there, when circumstances out of my control left me feeling cut down, and thinking “God doesn’t look very powerful or faithful right now.” And I wondered if the hope that promises not to disappoint would put me to shame.
In looking back I realized God just didn’t look how I wanted Him to look in the moment, and neither did my life. I longed for a hope that I could see and understand. And I let my circumstance define my understanding of God.
And like Job, part of me wanted to ask God a lot of questions, and just try to justify myself. It can be easy to want to do that when you want answers.
But God didn’t answer all of Job’s questions directly… And perhaps that is because Job was asking the wrong questions, as we often do. Maybe he should have started the first question he asked with the word “Who.”
“Who are you God that the suffering of the innocent is worth it?”. Because Job was suffering, and in terms of why he was suffering, he was innocent. God eventually speaks to Job to proclaim who He is. Here is a snippet of the proclamation in Job 38-41:
- He is the God who laid the earth’s foundations, and shows the dawn its place
- Who sends lightning bolts where they should go, and brings forth the constellations in their season, and feeds the raven.
- The one who gives the horse its strength, and knit you together in your mothers womb.
Job was confronted with God’s almighty power, and absolute authority. God was sovereign. And Job declared the hope that God can do all things for His glory, even when it doesn’t seem so in the moment. Job answers God in Job 40: 4 “I am unworthy- how can I reply to you?” And later says “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
Who are you God that the suffering of the innocent is worth it?
Like Job, we will face circumstances without answers and explanations. We will struggle with the hard questions and won’t always be okay.
But as Job did, we can be honest with God. Job’s story reminds us that when we are hopeless, and in despair, we need to not let our circumstances define who we know God to be. We are unworthy because of our sin, but God loves us. And He loves us so much that when we ask the question “why”, He will remind us who He is.
Job teaches us that there is a need for a Savior.
While reading Job, I’ve been reminded of people I meet today. People who feel hopeless and alone. Disappointed. Or on the flipside, unsatisfied, and unhappy even though they have everything they have ever dreamed. Job says perfectly what many people could never put into words.
“If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.””
Job couldn’t confidently stand before God in his own righteousness. And He couldn’t justify himself with all the things he had done right. Job needed someone to stand before God in his defense, and he knew it. Someone to save him from judgment, so he didn’t have to stand before God in fear.
Job intimately ties us to the New Testament, because all of his questions and problems are answered perfectly in Jesus Christ. Our faithful Defender. Our living hope.