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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Facing Trials: Job [12]

Job is thinking aloud. He has accused God of being unfair, and not punishing the wicked. But on second thought, he knows that this is not true, as he has seen them punished.

And, more importantly, he understands that he cannot see everything going on in another's life. So perhaps he, Job, should back up off his judgement of other people. A lesson we could all stand to learn and incorporate into our lives.

Job continues to speak about the priceless value of wisdom:

"Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it, nor can it be had for jewels of gold" (Job 28:17)

He concludes, "The fear of the Lord--that is wisdom" (Job 28:28)

Here again we see Job's trust in God. He still looks to the Lord as the source of the greatest blessings.

Job moves from thinking about wisdom to thoughts about the “good old days'' (Job 29), which he compares to his present sorry state (Job 30).

And then, as if going around in a circle, he returns to his old lament: God has not been fair (Job 31).

Yes, Job trusts God. But at the same time he accuses the Lord of being unfair!

How can Job sound so confused, conflicted and so divided?

The answer lies in Job’s approach to that age old question, "Why does a righteous man suffer?"

Unable to agree with the friends' obtuse ideas and false accusations, Job tries to use his own reasoning to try to find an answer. And, the best answer he can come up with is that, God is arbitrary.

When we look at the world in which we live, Job's conclusion seems most logical. There appears to be little or no fairness in this life.

Some people would use the apparent injustice of the world as an argument against the very goodness and power of God. They would argue that, either God is not good or He is not almighty. If God were good, he will want to prevent unjust suffering. And if God is almighty, he will be able to prevent it. So if he is both good and almighty...then why does God allow suffering? This is the logical dilemma Job is caught in, along with us. 

Convincing as this thinking may seem to be, it still is wrong. For one thing, it is presumptuous. How can we presume to judge God? In the scheme of things, our intelligence and experience are very limited, our vision shortsighted. But God knows everything-- the past, present, and future. Surely he knows better than we do what is just and unjust in the long run, in eternity.

Secondly, the accusation that God is unfair overlooks the very nature of Christian faith. Our faith is not based on what we can reason from our own experience. Or, it should not be. Rather, it rests in the promises of God.

As Hebrews 11:1 explains,

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

The book of Job thoroughly studies mankind's two basic answers to this problem of suffering by God's children.

The first, of course, were the answers of the "friends": suffering is always a punishment for sin.

The second, by Job: God is arbitrary.

Both solutions are wrong.

These views, and other similar ones, are based on human speculation. So, in the face of Job's anguished "Why?" human intelligence can only whistle in the dark. No matter how many approaches we take, we always arrive at a dead end when attempting to fathom God's ways. Human wisdom has little comfort and no hope to offer. Least of all can it penetrate to the love of God, which continues to shine behind the dark clouds of suffering.

If there is to be an answer to Job's dilemma, it lies well beyond human reason.

God himself must reveal it and that is just what He will do for Job.

But first Job must meet a young man named Elihu...


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