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Learning from the Suffering of Job

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Job was an exceptionally righteous man. He carefully avoided acts of transgression against God’s laws. He behaved blamelessly. But, like all of us, he had weaknesses Mark 14:38 Mark 14:38Watch you and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.
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. He was not perfect.

God decided to test Job’s character to see how his commitment to Him would bear up under adversity. The account of Job is in Scripture to help righteous people, when they go through discouraging and traumatic experiences, to learn to trust God patiently while awaiting the resolution of their problems.

God boasted of Job’s righteous behavior to Satan. (Job 1:8 Job 1:8And the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil?
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). Satan responded, “. . . Stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and [Job] will surely curse You to Your face!” (Job 1:9-11 Job 1:9-11 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have not you made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every side? you have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.
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). Later events proved Satan wrong. Job’s character was not that weak.

God granted Satan permission to strip Job of his possessions and his family and to afflict him with excruciating boils (Job 1:12-19 Job 1:12-19 12 And the LORD said to Satan, Behold, all that he has is in your power; only on himself put not forth your hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. 13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house: 14 And there came a messenger to Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: 15 And the Sabeans fell on them, and took them away; yes, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell you. 16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and has burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell you. 17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell on the camels, and have carried them away, yes, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell you. 18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house: 19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell you.
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). Job at first accepted his plight, saying, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21 Job 1:21And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
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).

Later “Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, [and] each one came . . . [to] mourn with him, and to comfort him” (Job 2:11 Job 2:11Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come on him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.
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). After a week of lamenting with him, they began to discuss his calamities and suffering. Job listed his complaints, showing the inequities of life. Later God agreed with him. Not everything in this life is fair and equitable.

Job’s three friends, however, were certain that God was punishing Job for some secret sin, something Job could hide from everyone but God. Job vehemently denied that such was the case, and he was right. God later verified this also.

However, during his ordeal of loss and suffering, Job gradually came to resent God. This often happens to people in the midst of inexplicable calamity.

Many chapters relate the faulty reasoning and accusations of Job’s three friends and Job’s denials. Finally, one of Job’s younger friends, Elihu, spoke up. He recognized that Job’s perspective was flawed and distorted. Job had convinced himself that his afflictions served no purpose. He decided that God was simply not treating him fairly.

Elihu realized that Job was so obsessed with his innocence (Job 33:8-9 Job 33:8-9 8 Surely you have spoken in my hearing, and I have heard the voice of your words, saying, 9 I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.
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) that he was finding fault with God rather than looking for lessons to learn from his trials. To Job’s complaints Elihu replied: “Do you think this is right? Do you say, ‘My righteousness is more than God’s’?” (Job 35:2 Job 35:2Think you this to be right, that you said, My righteousness is more than God’s?
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).

Instead of seeing his adversity as opportunity for patience and for letting God mold him, Job had grown in his resentment toward his Creator. He closed his mind to the possibility that he could learn something valuable from his suffering.

Job’s principal objection was that God was unresponsive to him, that He was not properly acknowledging his righteousness.

God challenged Job, suggesting that he try to tame a sea creature, a great beast that was “made without fear” (Job 41:33-34 Job 41:33-34 33 On earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. 34 He beholds all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.
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): “Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, or snare his tongue with a line which you lower? Can you put a reed through his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many supplications to you? Will he speak softly to you?” (Job 41:1-3 Job 41:1-3 1 Can you draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which you let down? 2 Can you put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn? 3 Will he make many supplications to you? will he speak soft words to you?
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; Job 41:4-10 Job 41:4-10 4 Will he make a covenant with you? will you take him for a servant for ever? 5 Will you play with him as with a bird? or will you bind him for your maidens? 6 Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants? 7 Can you fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears? 8 Lay your hand on him, remember the battle, do no more. 9 Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him? 10 None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?
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).

In the end Job saw that the basis of his problem was his lack of understanding and excessive confidence in his own righteousness. Then his view of God’s fairness changed. He saw that His critical attitude toward God was wrong: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know . . . I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3-6 Job 42:3-6 3 Who is he that hides counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. 4 Hear, I beseech you, and I will speak: I will demand of you, and declare you to me. 5 I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you. 6 Why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
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).

Job’s experience is recorded in great detail so we can learn the folly of holding too high an opinion of ourselves. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud” (Proverbs 16:18-19 Proverbs 16:18-19 18 Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. 19 Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
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).

Job’s experiences can explain why righteous people may go through discouraging and traumatic times and be tempted to resent God for not obviously and quickly intervening on their behalf. Like Job, we can fail to understand that God sees far more than we see.

No matter how severe a trial is, we should never assume God isn’t listening or doesn’t care. He sees lessons we need to learn that are beyond our present understanding. We need always to remember some excellent advice from King David: “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalms 27:14 Psalms 27:14Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
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). We should learn from Job’s experience to maintain patient respect and trust in God even in the midst of our sufferings (James 5:10-11 James 5:10-11 10 Take, my brothers, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
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).

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