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Job 4:67; 6:23, 24; 8:48; 11:6b, 1315; 13:4, 15, 18, 2324comment (0)

June 8, 2006

By Doug Wilson

Related Scripture: Job 4:67; 6:23, 24; 8:48; 11:6b, 1315; 13:4, 15, 18, 2324

Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Carefully Evaluate Explanations
Job 4:6–7; 6:2–3, 24; 8:4–8; 11:6b, 13–15; 13:4, 15, 18, 23–24

When bad things happen to God’s people, someone is always quick to explain why. Prominent preachers explained that God brought hurricane devastation on New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., because of their sins of prostitution and gambling. So what did the shrimpers of Bayou La Batre do to bring about God’s wrath? Did they deserve a beating for wrongdoing? Even well-intentioned, religious people give explanations that fail to express what God’s permissive will is.

Such is the case with Job’s friends. During the first week of his physical agony, they did what good friends do; they sat quietly with Job. They were there for him. After that first week, however, they began to lecture Job on the reasons for his suffering.

Flawed Appeal to Justice (4:6–7; 6:2–3, 24)

In Chapter 3, Job lamented the day of his birth. After all, had he not been born, he would not have to endure the torturous pain he was experiencing. His friends took this outburst as a time for intervention, a time for them to explain why Job was out of God’s will.

Eliphaz was the first to attempt to explain Job’s situation. He tried to explain to Job that the “punishment” Job was suffering was a result of God’s justice. While he was right in attributing justice to God, Eliphaz had no inside information from God by which to make the assumption that God was simply balancing the scales of justice in response to something that Job had committed.

The problem with assigning God’s justice to any adversity we face is that we may be completely wrong. God did not allow this series of events to happen in order for His sense of justice to be appeased. God was strengthening Job’s faith.

Flawed Appeal to Tradition (8:4–8)
Bildad was the next friend to offer his opinion. He took the traditional view that individuals suffer as a direct consequence for their sins. Actually all Job’s friends believed that he was guilty of something, though each gave a slightly different foundation for their explanations. According to Bildad, Job’s children died because of the sins they committed against God. What is more, Job was facing this agony because he was guilty of unrepentant sin.

The same type of misunderstanding occurred in the New Testament, when religious leaders asked Jesus about a man who was born blind (John 9:2). They asked Him if the sin for which he was suffering was that of his parents or his own. Jesus answered that it was neither but for the glory of God.

Flawed Appeal to Logic (11:6b, 13–15; 13:4)
Zophar took a more upbeat approach. Logically speaking, things could be even worse for Job based on all his sins. Since his suffering was less severe than God could have made it, it stood to reason that God had already forgiven some of Job’s sin. “Just get right with God, and all these problems will go away.” This was Zophar’s solution. Chapter 13 records Job’s response to his friends. He completely rejected their appeals because he knew that he had done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment.

Flawed Appeal to God (13:15, 18, 23–24)
Finally Job made an appeal. He asked God for two things: to withdraw His hand of terror and to explain what sins for which Job received punishment. God chose not to answer at that time, though He did not remain silent forever. Several Scriptures come to mind when dealing with the issue of suffering — Romans 8:18 and Romans 8:28–29.

Why then does God allow bad things to happen to His people? Sometimes it is the direct consequence of sin. Other times it is for chastisement, as we read in Hebrews 12. The Scriptures offer many reasons why we suffer, but we must not assume that we will always know why God allows the adversity. God is sovereign and like Job, we must learn to trust God.

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