Gordon E. Johnson

DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job


The Painful Process Begins – A Divine Look at Suffering

Job 2:11- 3:26

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute

After Job's wife's scorching response: "Curse God and die!", Job's submits to God with the rhetorical fact of faith "Shall we indeed accept good from God , and shall not accept adversity?"   Then follows heaven's comment, "In all this Job did not sin with his lips." (2:9, 10).

The inspired writer turns now to the reality of the painful process of his suffering.  The cause of Job's suffering lies in the heart of God and the heavenly conflict between God and Satan and God rules in the "armies of heaven."  Poor Job and his friends must now face his desperate circumstances.  Job must accept the unspeakable with absolutely no previous knowledge of God's limitations placed on Satan- suffering under divine permission in exchange for future double blessing.

As if his sufferings were not enough, he would lose his health and become a tragic spectacle to his friends and to his world which he had ruled in prestige (2:3). Now seated on a dung heap scraping his putrid sores, he re-lives his wife's final counsel: "Curse God and die."   

This review of the obvious should serve as constant reminder to us throughout the following 40 chapters that God measures and tempers the "heat of the furnace," His grace, however, will triumph in the face of the full force of satanic attack and Job's human frailty.

Job, a Type of Christ in an Old Testament Framework

I would like to depart briefly from Job's suffering under the hand of God to sound the depths of  the meaning of suffering and discover a solemn link between the two Testaments - the type/anti-type that opens up new horizons that unite the two Testaments. The Old Testament supports and illustrates the most profound theological truths of the Incarnation of Christ and God's redemptive plan of salvation through grace by faith alone.  Often times the two comparisons in the type/anti-type motif seem to be unrelated or even antithetical.

There is, however, a common point of departure. Paul compares the First Adam with the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47-50; Romans 5:12-14)). At first flush, how can Adam that brought ruin to the human race be a type of Christ who brought us pardon and deliverance?  But the common point of reference is the headship of two distinct races, the earthly and the heavenly as highlighted in 1 Corinthians 15:49, "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly Man." 

On a much smaller scale, Job was a forerunner of what God's own Son was to suffer for our pardon and victory in Christ. With respect to Job's sufferings permitted by God, Job is an Old Testament type of Christ. In spite of his frailty, his steadfast faith vindicated God's election of him to suffer; His grace would sustain him to the end.

The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah anticipated and prophesied that divinely ordered suffering and death. "He is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrow and acquainted with grief . . .  Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed  . . . "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand" (Isaiah 53:3-5, 10).

How does Old Testament prophecy apply to Christ and to our suffering under the mighty hand of God to perfect our faith? The Book of Hebrews opens this door to the "why" of suffering, both Christ's as our High Priest and ours as His own. The inspired writer presents Christ as our High Priest. "'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered, and having been perfected [in his humanity only], He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:6-10).

We must tread lightly in the face of these verses. Christ never shed His absolute deity, not for a moment, but in ways we can never understand, God and His Son agreed to His assuming our humanity; He did not assume our "cancerous" humanity but the true humanity God had created. His incarnation was necessary to atone for our sins. He was our "propitiation" as established by the Father Himself (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1, 2). He had to suffer and once again, in ways we cannot fathom, He learned obedience in his sinless humanity through accepting His Father's divinely ordered suffering.

Now we will see the infinite bounty that comes to us in accepting God's ordered suffering. "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." Now comes God's gracious invitation. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Job and we benefit from "His having learned obedience" when we suffer for our good under the hand of a gracious God. When we suffer for our sins, we reap the consequences.  But if He sees true repentance, His mercy may mitigate some of those consequences

Jeremiah's Insight into Suffering – Lamentations 3:1-33

Jeremiah as an Old Testament prophet became the spokesman of Israel in their Babylonian captivity and sufferings.  He gives an additional witness to the sovereign purpose of suffering.  "I am a man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He has led me and made me walk darkness and not in light. . . He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made my chain heavy . . . He also has broken my teeth with gravel, and covered me with ashes. You have moved my soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity. . . . For the Lord will not cast off forever. Through He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men" (Lamentations 3:1, 2, 7, 16, 31-33).

To read Jeremiah's account one hears the echo of the very language of Job in his suffering. But Jeremiah does add "Through the LORD"s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your  faithfulness" (3:22.23).

Suffering was destined to be at the very heart of God's redemptive plan.

This truth sanctifies for us when He calls us to follow Him in true discipleship. The centerpiece of the plan is to learn to love Him exclusively at the very cost of our own life, learning that we died with Him at the CrossIm at the Cross. God Himself envisioned this redemption plan. His Son's dying words, "It is finished" sealed our pardon (John 19:30).  His death and resurrection were the fullest expression of God's infinite love for a lost world (John 3:16). Nothing could be added to or subtracted from His perfect plan.

Paul moved by that matchless love exclaimed, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us" (Romans 8:31-34).

The Arrival of His Well-Intentioned Friends – Job 2:11-13

We return now to the process of Job's sufferings, still without his knowing God's ultimate purpose of holiness and humility.  As evidence of the reputation and prestige that Job had enjoyed, his distant friends had heard of his misfortune. There was no Facebook in those days! But news travels fast when there is tragedy" (2:11).

We can only imagine the spectacle they saw upon arriving, so much so that they did not recognize Job: "They lifted up their voices and wept; and each one torn his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven" (v.12). And for seven days they were most literally speechless.

No doubt the three friends were taken aback. They came with a certain recognition of God's ordering of life - each one sprinkled dust on his head before God. They were overwhelmed with the unexpected visual extent of Job's plight. But their human emotions became an increasingly sterner concern.

They held to the biblical truth that there must be just retribution-- the greater the sin, the greater the punishment. They were to espouse this in their dialogues with Job, but it was not truly relevant in Job's case. Job was not conscious at that moment of any overt sin nor did God condemn him (Job 2:3). Their misguided counsel, then, could only deepen Job's anguish.

The friends failed to see that God was testing and purifying Job, not punishing him for some grievous overt sin. When Job opened his mouth and appeared to speak rashly, they were mistakenly confirmed in their error. But once again, God would use their error to refine Job's gold; it would be a deeper dealing of God that would eventually lead to the humbling and double blessing of a chastened Job.

Other great men of God in great trial have sought recourse in death. Elijah sat down under a broom tree. "And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough!  Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers" (1Kings 19:4). Jonah also upon losing the shade of the plant fainted. "Then he wished death for himself, and said, 'It is better for me to die than to live.' Then God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?' And he said, ‘It is right for me to be angry, even to death!"' (Jonah 4:8, 9).Those are rash words that God discounts in the last analysis; such is His mercy. He knows well that we are dust and does not hold us to account for every rash thought or word spoken.

Job's Dirge in a Torrent of Words    Job.3:1-26[1]

Job could contain himself no longer. "Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth"

(v.1). The word "curse" could be too strong a word, better he brought contempt to or despised his birth. After seven days of his pitiable existence and their total silence, he could do no less that quickly make light [literal meaning] by despising his own day of birth.[2]  We do see that Job does indeed almost appear to cross that line, but he does not curse God or blame Him. God knows the frailty of His own and doesn't take us at our word. He sees the heart and His mercy abounds toward us.

In some 12 flights of poetic imagination, Job despises with irony the day of his birth. In these heart rending petitions he unburdens his soul: "May the day perish  . . . May God above not seek it . . . May it not be included among the days of the year . . . May the stars of  its morning be dark  . . . Because it did not shut up the doors of my mother's womb nor hide sorrow from my eyes" (vv.3-10).

The dirge continues with 6 searching question: Why . . . why  . . . why . . .?  Job covers the range of the birth of kings and counsellors who now in death reign in rest. He appeals to the lot of the stillborn who never sees the light. In death even the guilty prisoners fear no oppressor, the small and great are there and the servant is free from his master" (vv.11-19).

Several phrases standout: "Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, who long for death, but it does not come" (vv. 20, 21).  Job will confess later to a bitterness that God will deal with later. "Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in?" (v.23). Those were the very words of Satan in his accusation of God's protection (1:10). There is a measure of defiance in his last words: "I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes" (v.26).  Job is anything but quiet; he will speak more often and more heatedly than his friends. Only God Himself will silence Job when He has done that deeper work of grace. Job will learn the hard way as we most often do.

[1] I do not attempt a word-for- word treatment of the text. The 42 chapters make that impossible. I rather seek to sum up the substance of what is said to discover God’s deeper dealing in reducing Job’s self-righteousness and preparing him for God’s final two-tiered dealing which results in Job’s humbling [death/resurrection] and double blessing. I would hope that the reader would first read the inspired text to grasp its flow. I will seek to emphasize rather Job’s response to their rather routine counsel, often true but misguided  in Job’s life. God allows human counsel to fail.

[2] The next 40 chapters illustrate superb Hebrew poetry, markedly different from ours with meter and rhythm. Rather the concept is expressed by parallelism, either comparably or contrastively to heighten the emphasis on the concept.