Evil in the Book of Job

Job and His Friends  by Ilya Repin (1869)

Job and His Friends by Ilya Repin (1869)

Job is an excellent, and terrifying, book, and through it we can learn much—if we have the fortitude to patiently endure its deeper lessons.

While there are many small lessons throughout the book, there are three main things I believe we should learn from Job:

1﷒     The righteous will suffer, and sometimes they will suffer because of their righteousness—just like our Savior.

2﷒     Even though Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil,” he still had faults that needed to be corrected.

3﷒     God cares enough about his children to perfect and prepare them for perfect fellowship in the ages to come.

Lesson 1: The Righteous Will Suffer

God brags about Job—wouldn’t it be awesome if the same could be said about us. And, as the first two chapters of Job make clear—he was in a right relationship with God. The author introduces him as one who was “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil.” The Lord amplifies this when He speaks of Job saying, “there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” And to seal the deal, even The Satan (The Accuser) does not have anything to accuse Job of, he only has an assumption of what Job might be like given the right circumstances.

There should be no debate at this point in the story, Job was in a right relationship with God. And because of Job’s right relationship with Him, God supernaturally protected and blessed him. The Accuser complains that The Lord had built a hedge of protection around Job where he could not break through and wreak havoc; however, The Accuser was certain that if The Lord removed this protection, and if Job’s material blessings could be taken from him, that Job would “curse You to Your face.” In other words, The Satan accused Job of being righteous not because of his character—who he was, but only because of the good stuff God had given him—what he got. The accusation is: Job gave obedience only because he got good stuff from God.

Now comes the first terrifying part of the book—especially for those readers that are in a right relationship with God and that are living a somewhat comfortable life—God removes His protection from Job. With this, The Accuser is now free to bring about destruction in Job’s life and to test/prove the quality of his character. One important thing to remember at this point is that while Job was righteous he was not sinless. Later in the book Job will confess that neither he nor any other human who had lived to that point was sinless before God. Just as believers in Christ are in a right relationship with God while none of us are sinless, so it was with Job. Also, as we learn in Colossians, Job (like the rest of us) was born into the “domain of darkness” where the “god of this age” has significant freedom to inflict its inhabitants. The Lord’s hedge of protection about him was not something that Job earned but a grace gift that God freely bestowed upon him. God in His righteousness could have withheld all of these material blessings and Job’s life could have been filled with pain all along, but because of the free gift of God it was not.

In his first severe test Job understands this. After his properties and possessions and children are all taken from him Job responds,

         “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
         And naked I shall return there.
         The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
         Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Once The Accuser had his first restrained access to Job (The Lord still protected Job’s person), he violently removed all of the things that he believed accounted for Job’s righteous behavior. But as we just saw from Job’s amazing response, the first test only proved God’s point and Job’s character—Job was righteous and that there were none like him.

The next time The Accuser stands before The Lord, God again brags about his servant Job and highlights the fact that Job’s love for God was not based upon the material blessings He had given him. Not one to be dissuaded by the facts, however, The Accuser makes his next accusation: Job really only loves you because you have given him health, if that is removed he will “curse you to your face.” And with this, the second phase of Job’s testing begins.

The Accuser now is granted more access to Job (although still not unrestrained) and uses the opportunity to inflict Job with “sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” After inflicting this state of constant pain, The Accuser caps his attack against Job by using what should have been Job’s last source of comfort—his wife—against him. The Accuser incites Job’s wife to try to help bring about his prediction. In her pain, she tells Job to “Curse God and die!” But even through this extreme testing, “Job did not sin with his lips.” Job has withstood the examination and his righteous character has been fully tested and proven.

Now, if the main point of the story was to show Job’s faithfulness in passing the test, I would have expected the story to have immediately jumped to Job 42:10: “The LORD restored the fortunes of Job…,” but given the extra forty chapters between where we are and that point in the book, it looks as if the main point of the story is still to come. So while we will have to dive in deeply to get to the main point, we have already learned some important lessons.

First, we learned that this is the type of universe where, even though a perfect Judge sits as sovereign, the righteous can still suffer. If the story of Job is looked at in isolation, this is true but not very comforting. However, if we look at this story (as we should all of the Old Testament) as a pointer to Jesus in some way, then we can learn an important theological truth: If the sovereign, righteous God never allowed the righteous to suffer on the earth, then Jesus—the Righteous One—would not have been allowed to suffer and die in our place. Jesus was the only sinless person, the One who justly should never have experienced the suffering brought about by sin; however, He suffered extensively (in our place). The atonement requires innocent suffering and Job shows that this is possible. This is a profound lesson we need to learn from Job (and it is one Job’s friends needed to learn also).

Second, the book of Job doesn’t directly answer the question: Why do the innocent suffer?—and, there is no single answer. If it did, the best potential answer offered would be because God was bragging about them. If this was the main point, the story could have happily ended by pasting the end of chapter 42 onto the end of chapter 2. Also, I don’t believe that The Accuser tricked God into allowing Job to be tormented. While a simple reading may seem like The Satan got the best laugh when God said, “although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause,” God’s omniscience—and the other forty chapters in the book—lead me to believe there is a deeper story. God allowed this initial test not only to prove Job’s character via a trial (which it did), but as we shall also see, this was just the first phase of the greater test that Job was about to face.

And this point leads us to the third lesson: Even though Job was in a right relationship with God, and he was proven through trial to be “a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil,” Job still had a character flaw that needed to be purged. In the next article we will see that while he was righteous, Job had a defective theology and that this in combination with a character flaw would lead him to act foolishly, but only under certain circumstances.


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Dave works in the software industry and has a background in both biology and computer science. He has interested in both of these areas, especially where they intersect. He holds a B.S. in Biological Sciences from UC Irvine, an M.S. in Computer Science from West Coast University, and an M.A. in Apologetics from Biola University.

 

 

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Dave Sidnam

Dave works in the software industry and has a background in both biology and computer science. He has interested in both of these areas, especially where they intersect. He holds a B.S. in Biological Sciences from UC Irvine, an M.S. in Computer Science from West Coast University, and an M.A. in Apologetics from Biola University.