Job: Why Do the Righteous Suffer?

Old Testament Survey, Lesson 9 of 18

The book of Job deals with a question which has troubled men in all ages: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Why does God allow us to suffer if He really loves us and we are faithful to Him? Job teaches us that human suffering may be caused by many things. Because we suffer does not necessarily mean God is angry with us. It does not necessarily mean we are being punished for our sins.

We do not know who wrote the book of Job. The Jews have always believed it was written by Moses. Some think Job was written by Solomon. We do know it was given to us by the inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Job probably lived during the Patriarchal Age. He served as the priest for his family which was done during that time (Job 1:5). Since the Law of Moses is not mentioned, this indicates Job lived before the Law was given at Mt. Sinai. The book of Job shows the way of life which was common during the Patriarchal Age.

Job was a real man who actually lived on this earth. Ezekiel mentioned him along with Noah and Daniel (Ezekiel.14:14, 20). James pointed to Job as an example of one enduring suffering with patience (James 5:11). Archaeologists have found in the records of ancient Babylonia the story of a man named Job who suffered greatly.

The Bible tells us three important things about Job. First, he was a good family man. Even though he lived in an age when it was common for a man to have many wives, he had only one (Job 2:9). Job had respect for God’s original marriage law which was given in the beginning (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 19:3-9). Job had a large family of seven sons and three daughters (Job 1:2). Second, Job was a very rich man. The Bible says he was “the greatest of all the children of the east” (Job 1:3). He owned thousands of sheep, camels, donkeys, and oxen. He also had many servants (Job 1:3). Third, Job was a very good man. The Bible says that he was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). He rose up early in the morning to offer sacrifices to God on behalf of his children (Job 1:5). God held up Job as a good example to Satan. He asked Satan: “Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and turneth away from evil” (Job 1:8)?

Satan suggested to God that the only reason Job served Him was because God blessed him. He said that Job would curse God if God took away His blessings. God gave Satan permission to test Job. He only placed one restriction on Satan. He was not allowed to harm Job himself (Job 1:9-12).

Satan tempted Job by taking away all his wealth. Then he sent a storm which killed all of Job’s children at one time. Job did not curse God as Satan had said he would. He worshiped God and said: “and he said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:21,22).

God again pointed out Job as a good example to Satan. Satan said: “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will renounce thee to thy face” (Job 2:4,5). God gave Satan permission to afflict Job’s body, but restricted him from taking Job’s life. This shows us that God is stronger than Satan. He limits Satan’s power (Read 1 Corinthians 10:13).

Satan afflicted Job with sores which covered his entire body. Job had lost his possessions, his children, and now his health was taken away. Job’s wife told him to “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Job replied, “shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job continued to trust in God and refused to blame God for his problems.

Job had three friends. These friends learned of Job’s suffering. They came to see him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. The Bible says they sat in silence for seven days before him. They argued that Job was a very great sinner. They told him God had sent this suffering on him because of his sins. They urged him to repent and confess his sins before God. Job knew this was not true. He knew he was innocent of wrong-doing. He did not know why he was suffering. He knew, however, that it was not because of his sins.

Much of the book of Job is made up of the speeches of Job’s three friends and Job’s replies to their speeches. Finally, Elihu, a young man, began to speak. The Bible says he was angry at Job because “he justified himself rather than God” (Job 32:2). Elihu was also angry at Job’s three friends because they had condemned Job, but had found no answer for his suffering. Elihu also believed that Job had sinned. He thought he was speaking for God. However, he really did not know any more than Job’s three friends.

After Elihu had finished, God spoke. God did not tell Job that He had allowed Satan to afflict him. He simply challenged Job with His great wisdom. God’s wisdom was much greater than that of Job and his friends. If they could not answer questions about how God does things in His creation, how could they understand human suffering?

When Job heard God speak, he realized he had no right to question God. He repented of having questioned God in any way. God then told the friends of Job that He was angry with them. He told them to ask Job to pray for them. The Lord then blessed Job again. He gave Him twice as many possessions as he had before. God also gave Job another family of seven sons and three daughters. Job lived one hundred and forty years after this.

There are many helpful lessons we can learn from the book of Job. First, we can learn that God is the Creator of all things. His wisdom is far above anything that we can ever understand. Because He is the Creator, God has no obligation to explain any of His actions to man.

Second, we can learn that if one truly has faith in God, he will remain faithful to God no matter what happens. He may not understand what is happening, or why. But he will trust God because God loves us and knows what is best for us (Romans 8:28).

Third, we can learn from the book of Job that innocent people suffer in this life along with the wicked. Natural disasters such as floods and famines affect everybody. Accidents can happen to anyone. Sickness comes to rich and poor, young and old, evil and good. Finally, death will come to everyone. These things are a part of the lives of all who live on this earth. They do not mean that a person is good or bad, but simply that he is a human.

Fourth, we can learn that Satan does not have unlimited power over us. God is stronger. He will not allow Satan to cause us to do anything that we do not want to do. God will not allow Satan to take away our power to choose between right and wrong.

Fifth, we can learn that Satan may use other people to discourage us. In Job’s case, Satan used his wife and his three friends. We must always put God first, even before our closest friends and relatives (Matthew 10:37).

Sixth, we need to have patience as Job did. We must learn to endure the hardships of life (James 5:11). We must remember that in the end, God’s people will win.

Seventh, we can learn from the book of Job that life on earth is very brief. It is filled with many troubles (Job 5:7; 7:6; 8:9; 14:1,2; James 4:13-15).

Job is a wonderful book. It has many lessons for us today. We need to read and study it and apply its lessons to our lives.

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