Faith Wrestles with Suffering

KEY VERSE: “Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea are mighty in power?” —Job 21:7

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Job 20:1-5; 21:1-9, 14-16

IN OUR last lesson we noted the sudden decline of Job into poverty and ill health, and observed the intended similarity of these events with the experience of mankind in general after man’s fall in the Garden of Eden. But God permitted a further testing to come upon Job through the three comforters who, when they learned of his adversity, tried to convince him that his sufferings came as a punishment for some gross sin he had committed. This premise evoked a long discussion during which Job was asked, “Whoever perished being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity and sow wickedness reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.” (Job 4:7-9) This implied that Job’s afflictions had come directly from God as a punishment for sin he was hiding and to which he was unwilling to admit.

The words of these “miserable comforters” live on today in the preaching of those religious philosophers who, in ignorance, teach that mankind is suffering the retributive judgment of God, and unless this is acknowledged with a plea for mercy, greater suffering is sure to be imposed after death.

How these pointed arguments must have stabbed at Job, for they were designed to make him think that the God whom he had served so faithfully in the days of his prosperity really had no confidence in him, and was now quite indifferent to his calamities.

While Job did not yet understand why God was permitting him to suffer so grievously, he knew that the charge made against him by his friends was wrong. To offset these arguments he called their attention to certain facts. He said, If what you, say be true, how is it that “the tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure?” (Job 12:6) And again, “Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea are mighty in power? Their seed is established in their sight … and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.”—Job 21:7-9

Job did not have the joy of seeing his offspring established in life because they had all died; yet as he observed, this joy is often experienced by the wicked. His houses were gone, while those of men more evil than himself remained, without any indication of the rod of God in their lives. While these observations put to silence the specific arguments of Job’s friends, they remained an enigma, not only to Job, but to many millions of professed Christians. Why is it that “they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered”?—Mal. 3:15

It was not until God finally spoke to him that Job found satisfaction on these matters. Throughout the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of the Book of Job are recounted a long list of questions which God asked, and then demanded that Job reply—knowing that he had no satisfactory answers, because the questions revealed truths concerning the Creator which were beyond the human mind to understand. When Job was made fully aware of how limited was his understanding, God spoke a series of additional questions designed to help him realize how great and how wonderful the God of all the earth really is.

Job finally got the point, and with great clarity he replied to the Lord, “I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not, things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. … I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee.”

As with Job, God will in time speak to the world revealing his glorious plan for the redemption and salvation of the human race from sin and death. Looking back they will then appreciate all the various aspects of the permission of evil and the valuable lessons it taught. When they see all the unrighteous made righteous, the crooked ways made straight, injustices made just, suffering transformed into blessing, sorrow turned to joy, error replaced with truth, darkness turned to light, then they will say with Job, “Now mine eye seeth thee!”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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