In part 1, we looked at the story of Job and saw that his suffering as a righteous man was not caused by God, but rather by Satan, with God’s means of love on trial as the best way of running the universe.
But how did the story end?
After loosing his health, children, possessions and property, Job has to endure the wisdom of his theologian friends, who insist that bad things only happen to bad people, so therefore Job must have some sin in his life.
Despite the Lord boasting in his servant (“Have you considered my servant Job?” – Job 1:18), his friends claim that:
He puts no trust even in His servants;
And against His angels He charges error. (Job 4:18)
Even though Job is described as “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1), his friends assert:
“How then can a man be just with God?
Or how can he be clean who is born of woman?” (Job 25:4)
We are told in the narrative that Satan caused Job’s ruin, that the innocent do suffer “without cause” (Job 2:3), but his friends still protest:
“If you are pure and upright,
Surely now He would rouse Himself for you
And restore your righteous estate” (Job 8:6)
Unbeknown that Job’s sufferings were directly caused by Satan (Job 2:7), his friends insist:
“For [God] inflicts pain, and gives relief;
He wounds, and His hands also heal” (Job 5:18)
Job knew his God, both his character and his ways of working in the world, which is why the suffering caused him particular pain: is the Lord not not who I thought he was? He wrestled with God, know that the Lord is good but not understanding the suffering he was experiencing.
Running the created universe
Job didn’t remain in a place of suffering for the rest of his life however. Towards the end of the book, the Lord answers him out of a storm.
The Lord’s answer, which is actually just lots of questions directed at Job, can seem rather puzzling. For several chapters, the Lord quizzes Job about the running of the universe.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7)
He asks Job about the process of creation, the weather systems, controlling the oceans, the stars, about feeding all the animals, and about how all the different creatures in the world live and reproduce. Job doesn’t have much of an answer.
What the Lord is doing is opening Job’s eyes to see the huge complexity of the created world: Job, have you tried running the universe lately? In keeping everything going, there is so much to weight up, consider and keep in order. It is easy to look at the pain or difficulty in our own lives and think that we could do a better job of ruling the cosmos. Lovingly, the Lord is helping Job understand the sheer enormity of the task.
Trying to answer the ‘why’ question of suffering then becomes basically meaningless: the lines of cause and effect run far and deep.
Battling the powers
The Lord then turns to talk about the mysterious creatures Behemoth and Leviathan.
“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?
Or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in his nose
Or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he make many supplications to you,
Or will he speak to you soft words?
Will he make a covenant with you?
Will you take him for a servant forever?” (Job 41:1-4)
Some think he might be referring to a crocodile, or maybe some kind of dinosaur, but it is more likely that it is referring to spiritual powers. Satan appears as a snake in the garden of Eden, but is called a dragon in the book of Revelation.
The spiritual powers that the Lord has created are wild and difficult to tame. The Lord has a formidable foe (Satan), and bringing him into order, whilst not impossible, is not easy.
Having met with the Lord, Job has heard more questions than perhaps he has had answered.
“Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3)
The Lord isn’t too happy with the unhelpful words of Job’s theologian friends, but Job prays for them and then his fortunes are completely restored – twofold!
It was as Job kept trusting that God is still good in the face of inexplicable suffering, that a victory over the enemy was won. Job’s faithful love towards the Lord meant that Satan’s original charge (that people only love God for the blessings) was refuted.
What is interesting is the parallels with the life of Jesus.
Jesus was the perfect man who lived a righteous life but yet still suffered. With Job, Satan would have had some ground through sin if he did take Job’s life. But with not with Jesus. In taking Jesus’ life on the cross, Satan overstepped the mark, taking a life that he had no right nor authority to take. The Lord can now justifiably and rightfully destroy Satan, which will happen when Jesus returns. The wild monster of the deep has indeed been caught!
For a full study on the book of Job and these ideas, read ‘Suffering and the Love of God” by Roger Forster.