The Bible tells us that Job was righteous, yet he suffered tremendous catastrophes. He lost all his possessions, his family, his reputation, and his health. In all this loss, he did not curse God, nor charge Him with wrongdoing. However, as his friends came to discuss with him the meaning of his great loss, he grappled with life’s tough questions. Likewise, when we are doing fine it’s easy to float by in life, but when God allows deep suffering to hit us, that’s when we wake up to those questions. Through the story of Job, God wants to prepare us so that when the times of testing come, we’ll be able to stand victorious. In his book The Problem Of Pain, C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures ... but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Let’s make sure we listen when He speaks. Job asks many tough questions. Perhaps you’ve asked yourself some of them. If so, you’re in good company. If not, you should! You can’t afford to go through life without thinking about them. Some Questions About Life – Why didn’t I die at birth? Why am I alive while others are dead (Job 3:11)? Why does God give man life, when it’s so bitter (3:20,23)? Why is my life so hard and painful (7:1-6)? Why does God test me so much (7:17-19)?
About Sin – How does my sin hurt God? Why doesn’t He pardon and forgive me (7:20-21)? How can a mortal be righteous before God (9:2-3)? Who can bring what is pure from the impure (14:3-4)?
About Justice – Why do the wicked prosper, increase in power and live a long life (21:7-15)? Why do children often reap the punishment due their parents (21:19-21)? Why doesn’t God judge wrongdoers and establish justice on earth now (24:1,12)?
About God – Where can I find God? How can I speak to Him (23:3,8-9)? Where can I find wisdom and understanding (28:12, 20)? Who can mediate between me and God (9:32-35)?
In the dialogue that makes up most of this book, Job and his friends discover answers to Job’s questions. They are not complete; it’s only when God speaks that the final answers appear, and only in Christ do we find the full revelation of God’s answer to the “problem of pain.” But they are nevertheless true answers.
How God Speaks – God does speak to us! “Not just once, but twice or even three times” (33:14-30). God may use different means to speak to us. To some He speaks in dreams and visions; with others He uses the words of the Bible; to others He speaks through pain and suffering; He has also used angels and special circumstances. While He may use these means, we can be sure of one means: “In these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:2).
The End Of The Wicked – Regarding the fate of the wicked, though at present they are apparently exalted and feeling secure, their end is destruction (24:22-24). Paul confirms that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). The story of mankind is not yet finished. The day of reckoning is yet to come.
Where To Find Truth – Ultimately, truth, wisdom and understanding come from God. Therefore we should reverence Him and shun evil (28:23,28). If we want answers, we should look to Him. Solomon said: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10).
The Promised Redeemer – In two prophetic passages, Job cries out: “Even now, my Witness is in heaven; my Advocate is on high. My Intercessor is my friend … On behalf of a man He pleads with God” (16:19-21). “I know my Redeemer lives … I myself will see Him” (19:25-27). Even with limited knowledge, Job came to trust in that divine Redeemer who interceded before God Almighty on his behalf! How much more can we trust our Redeemer Jesus Christ today; He has revealed Himself to us in the New Testament!
The Good Side Of Suffering – Despite the pain, it is actually a blessing to be disciplined by God. He does wound, but He also heals (5:17-18). His ultimate goal is our well being. Today we are encouraged: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons” (Heb. 12:5-7).
God Remains Sovereign – God’s mysteries are far greater than our minds can comprehend. We can’t begin to fathom His thoughts, plans and purposes (11:7-9). What hope have we to grasp the reasons for everything God does or allows in our lives? Can anyone teach God? Of course not (21:22). God is the highest teacher, who can correct Him? (36:22). When we try to accuse God, we end up cutting off the very branch upon which we’re resting. We can’t be more righteous than God (4:17). He is the highest judge and court of appeal (21:22).
After Job summarizes his arguments, it is God who provides the answers to Job’s questions (Job 38-41). This is the key part of the whole book. God’s answers come in two discourses. A helpful way to understand these two answers is to realize that in chapters 38-39, God speaks of what He has done; in 40-41 God speaks of who He is.
The Starting Point – First God turns the tables on Job: three times He reminds Job that while he has been demanding answers from God, it is he who is accountable to God (38:1-3, 40:1-2, 6-7). Job had placed God on trial, but God is not answerable to us. Rather, it is we who must answer to Him. Someone once said, “I must accept that God is God, and I am not.” In the Psalms we read: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). We also need to reach this point of humble realization before we can begin to get real answers.
This Is God’s Universe – “Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm” (38:1). He speaks to Job in majesty and power and states that He is the author, creator and sustainer of the universe (38:4-6) – and Job is His creature. God reminds Job that He laid its “foundations” (the governing principles and laws both physical and spiritual); He marked off its “dimensions” (the three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension we live in, and the three dimensions of man: body, soul and spirit); and He laid its “cornerstone” (light is the cornerstone of Einstein’s physics, and He is the spiritual “light of the world”).
God Deserves Our Trust – The rest of chapter 38 describes the categories of creation listed in Genesis: The water cycle with the atmosphere, the scheme of day and night with alternating light and darkness, the ordering of Earth’s shape and features, the celestial mechanics which control the movement of stars, constellations and galaxies. It is as though God were asking Job: “Even though you understand very little of it, don’t you agree that the physical world I created is wonderfully and purposefully put together? So doesn’t it make sense to trust that the moral world I have created is also well ordered and fair even when there are issues you struggle with and do not understand?” God deserves to be trusted in those areas of life that we don’t understand because He has shown Himself trustworthy in those that we do already see: His is only a fair request!
God Is The Inventor Of Life – Chapter 39 shows us that God is the author and designer of life in all its manifestations and properties. To prove this, God lists some aspects He built into life with a creature example or two for most of them: He is the controller of both physical and spiritual death, the “gates of death” (38:17). He is also the inventor of birth (39:1-4), the process of goats and deer bringing forth their young. He designed freedom into life (39:5-8), typified by the wild donkey who is free to range at will. God also gave His creatures strength (39:9-12) such as that of the ox. He invented joy and laughter (39:13-18) illustrated by the soaring of birds in flight. God decided to include courage and life (39:19-25), exemplified by the battle horse who’s afraid of nothing as it charges into combat. He also gave foresight (39:26-30), like the vision of the hawk and eagle who can see things from far off. These are all marvelous aspects of life that we take for granted. Doesn’t it make sense to trust the God who thought of weaving all this into life?
God Shows Who He Is – One survivor of the Holocaust said: “Either God is powerful but not just, or He is just but not powerful enough; but He cannot be both. How could a just and powerful God allow such cruelty?” In the beginning of chapter 40, God essentially says: “I am both just and powerful.” God challenges Job to compare himself to God in the following aspects: power (“arm”) – the ability and might to act out one’s purposes; voice (“thunder”) – the ability to express one’s will, and then make it happen; glory (“splendor”) – radiance, magnificence, compelling order and symmetry; honor (“honor”) – the respect due to worthy character, goodness, valor of deeds, excellence; and excellency (“majesty”) – a kingly quality, royalty in manners, ancient lineage and claim to rule. The truth is that in each of these qualities, we must admit He is far superior to us! Once again, He deserves our trust and loyalty, not just during those times when we seem to understand Him, but especially when the going gets tough and the paradox of His justice and power seem contradictory to us. Furthermore, God has delegated to men the government of mankind (40:11-14). How are we doing? Have we consistently punished the wicked? Or have we messed up society and perverted justice, and now complain that God is unjust because He doesn’t rectify our mistakes? One day God will humble the proud and crush the wicked. The day of judgment will come. On that day no one will be able to complain of unfair punishment. But let us not maintain that our present injustice is an argument against God!
Two Great Object Lessons
Finally, God uses two “show and tell” object lessons, the behemoth and the leviathan, to tell us a bit about who He is. Both are mysterious creatures. Bible scholars are not sure which animals they refer to, if indeed they refer at all to real creatures that exist today. But both serve as illustrations of who God is and how He interacts with His creation.
God’s Hidden Hand – The behemoth (40:15-24) is described as a mighty land animal, perhaps a hippopotamus or an elephant or even a dinosaur. What strength and power he has! Yet the animals play nearby without fear. He lies hidden here and there, and nothing alarms him. This mighty yet gentle giant, whose presence is camouflaged, is a shadow of God Himself. As we come to know God better, we are amazed at His strength and power. He could easily blow us away with His glory, but He prefers to speak to us in gentle whispers. He wants to be our protector, our close friend. Will we come to Him and let Him be that?
God’s Mighty Power – The second creature is the leviathan (41:1-34), a mighty sea-dragon of some sort that breathes fire! In a similar way God, in His mighty power, is untamable and impossible to defeat. No weapon forged against Him can succeed. He leaves an unmistakable trail that points to His power and strength. If we can’t beat the leviathan, how can we stand against God, who created it? We can decide which of these two creatures best represent God to us. If we willingly come to Him, He will be as a behemoth to us, but if we rouse His anger, He will become a leviathan! Which shall we choose?
First Reply – In between God’s two discourses, Job replies “I am unworthy – how can I reply to You? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once but I have no answer – twice, but I will say no more” (40:3-5). Job is now willing to stop complaining, and truly listen to God. We too need to stop telling God what He should do, and listen to Him in the middle of our confusion and suffering.
Final Reply – After Job heard God and meditated on the implications of His words, he replied one last time (42:1-6). He saw that God is Sovereign: “I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.” He accepted his limitations: “I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” He hoped for answers, but instead received God’s presence. And the reality of God’s person made him fall on his face in worship.
Likewise, our role in life is not to question God, but to answer to Him, to worship Him. We should listen, look and experience life fully, not with the attitude of a judge, but of a student. Finally Job said: “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” This is our only option. We can never justify ourselves. So what will our response be? Shall we repent and accept His forgiveness, grace and love? Or shall we continue in arrogance demanding that God answer our questions?
Was Job Answered? – As we review Job’s list of questions and the answers God gave, we may perhaps conclude that God did not answer him. It’s true that some of his questions were not directly answered, but his underlying need was met. Jesus often responded the same way to people’s questions here on earth. He sometimes seemed to sidestep the question at hand. But I’d rather say that He knew what the real difficulty was and He answered to that fundamental issue which lay behind the superficial question. God often does the same to us!
The Greatest Answer Yet To Come – Job could only prophetically look forward to the One who would be his “Redeemer,” but today we know that God’s greatest answer to the problem of pain is in the person of Christ Himself. God did not just tell us how to cope with suffering, and promise to be with us in it. He became man, and took upon Himself the worst form of suffering mankind could devise. He experienced pain, rejection, betrayal, hatred, torture, confusion, excruciating death and God’s wrath to a degree that no man had ever experienced before. God’s ultimate answer to pain was not to erase it, but to abolish its power by taking it upon Himself!
When we follow Jesus, we too are invited to embrace suffering. The apostle Paul said: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death” (Phil. 3:10). Only in this life can we suffer for the Lord. Are we willing to share in Christ’s sufferings? Are we willing to follow Job’s example of wrestling with God in prayer, crying out to Him for answers? Are we bringing our pain and confusion to Him? God is our Father, and He wants us to cry out to Him: “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3).
By Andrew Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org