Summary: When non-Christians were asked what is their biggest barrier to faith, the number one answer among Americans was the following, “I have a hard time believing a good God would allow so much evil or suffering in the world.”
Today, we conclude a four-week look at one of the most interesting people in history – the man named Job.
Job is a really good man. God even calls him, “…a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil …”(Job 1:8). He’s so good in fact, that God tells Ezekiel years later: “even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 14:14). So God places Job on par with Noah and Daniel here. But the plot really thickens because despite his goodness, Job suffers. This is where Satan enters into our story, the master of destruction, and he seeks to destroy God. God gives Satan nearly unlimited permission to do destroy everything that is meaningful to Job’s life – only God says, “Don’t touch Job’s life.” Job loses his family, his wealth, and his health in a matter of days. Most hurtful, he loses to his ten children to a wind-storm (Job 1:18-19). Things are so bad that his family deserts him and he sits outside of town on an ash heap, scrapping the sores of his body (Job 2:8). Friends attempt to console him but to no avail. God finally speaks to Job in words we find perplexing but Job finds comforting (Job 38-41). Now, we come to the end of the story where Job’s life turns around.
“After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.’ 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. 10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. 12 And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. 13 He had also seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch. 15 And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. 16 And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. 17 And Job died, an old man, and full of days” (Job 42:7–17).
This feels like a “They lived happily ever after” kind of passage, doesn’t it? The brothers and sisters that deserted him earlier have now returned. Job lives a long life and has more children (the first 10 being in Heaven and now he’s given an additional 10 children). He is blessed to see four generations of his family including the beauty of his daughters. Job has shown everyone that he serves God out of a pure heart. But no matter how happy the ending is, Job still carries the losses of his life with him.
This is a book about people who live right and their lives go wrong. And when such a thing happens, how then should we think about God? Essentially, we wonder, “How does God treat His friends?”
1. Innocent People Can Suffer
Yes, there are truly no innocent people because everyone of us have sinned (Romans 6:32). But when a priest abuses a young person, we all know the young boy did nothing to deserve this kind of treatment. Sometimes evil is purely random and irrational. The active shooter down in Sutherland Springs just a year ago is an excellent example. Amidst the tears, our minds inevitably float to wondering why God didn’t intervene to save us like Superman or Batman would. Why doesn’t God give rewards to the righteous in proportion to their goodness? “Good people should be healthy and wealthy because righteousness pays even in this life,” is the thought. But we soon learn that suffering isn’t doled out in perfect proportion to someone goodness or another person’s evil character. Job helps us when evil is so great that is cannot be explained – what some call irrational evil.