Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.
Job 38:3 (NLT)
I have always been intrigued by the book of Job. As part of a daily reading plan together with some friends, we just finished the book of Job.
Every time I read the book of Job I find myself obsessively digging for answers and insight to understand what this book has to offer us. The characters, the setting, the language, the message; it is so unique and intriguing.
This book asks the critical questions of suffering, yet never answers the questions. What is the point in asking a question if the answer is not given?
This seems to be a common habit that God has throughout the Bible. Asking really difficult questions that cannot be answered by human reasoning. It seems like God asks more questions than teach knowledge. This book is no different. It asks the questions every soul struggles with at some point in life. Why suffering? Why me? What caused it? How do you fix it?
In the beginning of the book, we see a small glimpse of the origin of evil. Satan causes the destruction. At the end we see the solution. God restores. In the middle of the book, we see the philosophical reasoning of man trying to make sense of this big dilemma.
I read an opinion from a blogger that suggests the discourse between Job and his friends is a continuation of the influence Satan had upon the minds of the friends. His reasoning was that Satan not only destroyed Jobs life and stood back to watch. The book describes the way the powers of darkness influenced their thinking as part of the continued aim to destroy Job.
I’m not sure I agree with it yet, but I do mention it here simply because I can see some reason in his thinking. The friends were told by God to repent for misrepresenting Him. At the end of the book we see God’s opinion of man’s reasoning about this whole conundrum. God simply calls all of this reasoning sin and expects them to own up to their wrong thinking. Were the friends influenced by the destroyer we see in the beginning? Was this a part of his evil plan?
Let’s look at what type of thinking Job’s three friends had. You might recognise your friends (or undercover enemies) in them. In all three cases of Job’s friends, we see them put their own philosophy on the table and try to make sense of things. Then, when Job does not accept it and doesn’t get healed, they all eventually end up getting angry with him and blaming him for his own situation.
The Super Spiritual Prophet
His first friend, Eliphaz, is a sowing and reaping preacher. You are a sinner and need to deal with life according to the rules and principles. When you violate them, you end up suffering.
Eliphaz used the typical “God said” approach. This means you cannot argue because, you know how these people are, God said and nobody can argue with God. If you are going to argue with his supernatural experience, you are blatantly rejecting God. Therefore your disobedience to God’s voice (or simply just his “prophetic” word presented as God’s voice) is the reason you are suffering. Do you perhaps recognise this type of “prophecy”?
“This truth was given to me in secret, as though whispered in my ear.
It came to me in a disturbing vision at night, when people are in a deep sleep.
Fear gripped me, and my bones trembled.
A spirit swept past my face, and my hair stood on end.
The spirit stopped, but I couldn’t see its shape.
There was a form before my eyes.
In the silence I heard a voice say,
‘Can a mortal be innocent before God?
Can anyone be pure before the Creator?’
Job 4:12-17 (NLT)
Not accepting his advice means you are rejecting a prophetic word. Nobody should ever reject the prophetic word of the super spiritual, right? When people do not want to accept the mystical, then they will end up being judged by these very highly spiritual people. We all have these friends. They hear from God and you are not allowed to argue. The sowing and reaping principle is the guide:
For example, you must have lent money to your friend and demanded clothing as security. Yes, you stripped him to the bone. (Job 22:6 NLTSB)
Job’s response was pretty interesting.
Job 6:15 (NLT) My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook that overflows its banks in the spring.
The second friend, Bildad, was a very gentle soul. He started off by being very compassionate towards Job’s suffering. But, he was a traditionalist. It was all about the traditions of the elders. He argued that Job’s children are the cause of his suffering because they did something to break the traditions of the elders.
Your children must have sinned against him, so their punishment was well deserved (Job 8:4)
This friend will tell you how the Hebrew words and laws of the old testament is the only way to live. Breaking the patterns of the festivals and traditions is the reason the world is in such a mess. We are nothing in this world. God’s traditions are everything and we should simply follow along with Him. You’ve heard about them, right? Don’t curse your children with a christmas tree and don’t even consider giving sweets at halloween. You will die in your sins!
The only thing they can ever talk about is God’s Sovereignty and our depravity, with the focus on our depravity. Demon hunting in every bush.
Job 25:6 “In comparison, people are maggots, we mortals are mere worms.”
These counsellors are trying to keep you humble by telling you how bad you are. They are usually very compassionate and emotional. Simply struggling to overcome their own inadequacies by reflecting them onto others.
The Bearer of all Truth
Then we see another prevailing philosophy in the world today. The third so-called friend, Zophar was a real angry preacher. This kind is the self-appointed critic that always corrects everything and everyone with the nuances of the intellectual arguments and big words. The true meaning of the original words need to be clearly understood and pronounced accurately. If you are not his intellectual level, you are an “empty headed”. The wrong pronunciation of Gods Names are the reasons we don’t get our payers answered.
Interestingly enough, the other friends had three cycles of discourse, yet Zophar only two.
Do you also have friends like this? “Do what I say or I simply turn my back and leave”.
He explains that suffering will only happen to wicked people, therefore the conclusion is simple; Job is a wicked man. “If you can only be as righteous as me, you will be as blessed as I am. It is my insight into truth that keeps me blessed”.
These angry friends are never at a loss of insults to prove how right they are.
An empty-headed person won’t become wise any more than a wild donkey can bear a human child. (Job 11:12 NLT)
These friends have this subtle attitude, that in the midst of another person’s distress, insults will wake them up from their deception and bring revelation. You know these people too; shock treatment is the answer to the “empty headed fool”.
The Defender of the Faith
We all have these three types of preachers in our lives; the super spiritual prophet, compassionate traditionalist and the angry hot-tempered hellfire-and-brimstone preacher.
But, then a fourth character shows up named Elihu. A young man who was never reprimanded by God. When he spoke, God simply continued where he left off. There is no record of anyone disagreeing not arguing with him.
Elihu got angry at the whole bunch because they blamed God. Everyone made themselves out as righteous and ended up, very subtly, blaming God for everything. This is a good reflection of current day Christianity. We also say “Why did God do this?” or “Why did God allow this?” or “Why is God not speaking?”. We seem to put ourselves in the position of being right and end up giving God the blame for all the wrong in the world.
Although we do not see a clear answer to the reason for all the suffering in the world, we do see a clear description of the way suffering is ended. It also becomes clear how suffering can result in good.
God showed up. He does not answer Job’s questions or reasoning, God simply asks Job questions that will make job realise how big and sovereign He is.
Questions have so much power. A good question does not give you information, but reveals your own heart to yourself. God is not simply interested in teaching us, but making us realise what is really inside of us. This is why He asks questions.
The reason for suffering is not addressed in God’s discourse. God is not interested in explaining it but only in fixing it. Therefore God simply “Shows up”.
It reminds me of the Gospel. Jesus never wrote a book, started a school or ran for office to start a new political campaign. Jesus just showed up and salvation came to the earth.
Throughout God’s discourse, we see Job realised he had no answer to God’s questions. He only had a response.
I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance. Job 42:5-6 (NLT)
Our intellectual pursuit and philosophical banter will just end up building pride in our lives. Our own smarts and reasoning are nothing in comparison to the real presence of God.
Our problems are not solved by reasoning, but by His presence. In Job’s conclusion, he realised he was simply living in an intellectual pursuit of God, trying to be right and do the right things. At the end of this ordeal of suffering, he saw that he never really knew God, nor did he have answers to any of the questions in life. He had knowledge, but no relationship.
In his distress he cried out to God. It was only in having a personal encounter with God that anything in life made any sense to him.
You see, sufferings origin is not fully addressed nor the full reason it happens. What we see clearly, is that God restores it by revealing Himself. God’s desire is, and has always been, relationship.
No matter what you are going through right now, it is more important to seek God than seek an answer.