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Righteous Suffering: God’s Gracious Gift of Suffering

As we closed out Job this past Sunday, we saw how God graciously gives us the gift of suffering. That may seem ridiculous, but what we’ve seen is how God has used suffering to draw Job close to Himself. God’s gracious gift is to draw us unto Himself even if suffering is the pathway that takes us there. Instead of giving a recap on the sermon, I wanted to take this space to address questions that came in at the end of the sermon and give brief responses to them. If you missed the sermon, you can check it out:

How is Satan allowed to have a conversation with God when he is a fallen angel? This is interesting item because it seems counterintuitive to us that God would allow this. Further, it seems nothing short of shocking that God would essentially take the wager that Satan is proposing with respect to Job. That being said, when we look at the first couple of chapters, as Satan comes with those that have been called to present themselves before God, it’s clear that they are coming at the behest of God, that God is clearly ruling and in control, and they are under His sovereign rule. Further, Satan can do no more than God allows, and remains on a leash. There is an aspect of mystery to this that we are left with some incomplete answers in fully comprehending why God would allow and permit this.

How can we see the Trinity at work in the entirety of Job? What does that mean for us? The Trinity is not explicitly referenced in Job, and so I want tread carefully with respect to this question. The fact that the Trinity isn’t clearly referenced doesn’t mean that the Trinity wasn’t present. Jesus is not specifically mentioned, yet in many points there are clear allusions, foreshadowing and typology that is present. The Trinity has existed for all of time, and in the book of Job it is no different. What this means for us, and what we saw as we moved through the series, is that while Jesus is not explicitly named, God is giving us breadcrumbs and framework by which to understand Jesus. For example, in chapter 42 the notion of one mediating on behalf of those that had sinned against him, Job is clearly foreshadowing the work of Jesus. Earlier in the book, when Job desires an advocate, we see a similar notion of how Christ will advocate for us. In Luke 24, Jesus makes clear on a couple of occasions that all the Bible is about Him. He is the interpretive center of the whole of the Scriptures. This means, that even as we work through Old Testament books, though Jesus may not be explicitly referenced, God is helping to give a framework and a category by which we can understand Him.

Why do you think Job records the names of his daughters and not his sons? It’s odd that the daughters are named but the sons are not. What would have been typical is to name the sons and not the daughters or to name all the children, but what we see here is certainly atypical for that time. I can’t give a good answer as to why we see nothing about the sons. But I think it is worth noting that contextually we are seeing the restoration and blessing of Job, to include his daughters, their beauty and subsequent inheritance that they will also receive. It was not common at that time for daughters to receive an inheritance, and I believe this reference to the daughters may be speaking to the abundant blessing in Job’s life, so much so that even his daughters will receive an inheritance.

Where is Elihu in all of this? It is interesting that Elihu is not referred to in this final sequence. It’s unlikely that he has departed, though that’s not out of the question (and truly, any response is going to be speculative at some level). But I think the silence with respect to Elihu in the conclusion says more about Elihu’s standing and speech than anything else. God clearly rebukes the 3 friends because they have spoken wrongly about Him. It would seem that Elihu would be included in that if he had also spoken wrongly about God. Further, Job needed to repent of ways that he had thought wrongly about God. If repentance was needed or necessary for Elihu, I think we would see God addressing him at some level. Given that we don’t, I believe that the lack of any mention of Elihu speaks to the fact that he had not spoken wrongly of God and did not need to repent of his speech.

Do you think the blessings God gives Job in chapter 42 reflects the certainty of eternal blessings for us and not just earthly blessings? I do think there’s a connection to the certainty of eternal blessings that is in view. Ephesians 1 certainly comes to mind and the inheritance that is given to the saints. That being said, I think that this blessing is a manifestation of the kindness and generosity of God. While God does not always give material or physical blessings, it’s equally untrue that He never does that either. We can look at Job’s blessing and look forward to the certainty of eternal reward that is available for all those in Christ, while also seeing God’s generous hand in seeing the physical blessings that He bestows on us today.

Don’t we have to be careful with reproof, that the other person is receptive? Isn’t that part of wisdom? The Bible warns that we should consider our own state before bringing rebuke to others (Matt 7). Proverbs has a number of warnings to those who would rebuke a fool and whether or not it will be received. But the Bible doesn’t condition a rebuke or reproof based on a person’s receptivity toward it. Typically, when someone needs a rebuke, they need it because they have been practicing sin. It’s not uncommon for people to initially respond poorly to reproof. There certainly is wisdom in how we go about it (Is there humility in us? Are we truly seeking restoration and their good, or something else? Are there questions we should ask to get clarity? Etc.); but it would seem to be backward to be held hostage as to whether or not someone responds well to rebuke. Similar to sharing the gospel; with rebuke, our responsibility is to love and care for the person, part of which is manifested in our willingness to go to them. But their response is not our responsibility. In sharing the gospel we are to faithfully proclaim the good news of Jesus, but what they do with that news is outside of our control. Similarly, with rebuke, we are essentially holding up the mirror for them to see the sin in their life, but what they do with that is outside of our control.

Does God allow those who have strayed from Him to be delivered even if they are caught up in the belief of other beings? At some level this is true for every single believer. At some point in our lives, we placed our confidence in someone or something apart from Christ. It’s in God’s redemptive work that we are delivered from that unto salvation in Jesus. While the friends were trusting in their system, it was God’s kindness to reveal the futility of the system and lead them back to their need for Him. So yes, God absolutely delivers those who have strayed from Him. Today, He does that in a variety of forms. Some of the ways that God accomplishes this is through the corrective work of His Word, the input of fellow believers, and the prompting of the Spirit.

It seems odd that so many had to die to teach Job to trust. I’m going to be a little bit presumptive and assume, this is asking why did so many have to die to teach Job to trust.  While this lesson played out in Job’s life, it is recorded in the Scriptures for all of our benefit. Further, I would suggest that the purpose of the book is much larger than Job, or any believer for that reason, learning to trust. The purpose of the book is teaching us about the reality of suffering in the life of a follower. It’s teaching us about the power of God and our limitations. It’s giving us a framework for lament and how to righteously come before the Lord. It’s helping us to see the significance of our words and our counsel to others. It’s revealing to us that there is mystery to God that we can’t fully understand. But why did so many have to die? I can’t answer that; but I believe the mysterious nature of God reminds us that we can’t understand the fullness of all that God is doing.

Did the book of Job really happen, or is it an illustration? In short, I would say yes, it really happened. While there are some who believe books like Job and Jonah are not historical accounts, but instead an illustrative story, I do not hold to that. There are a few reasons that I would hold to the historical account. First, Job is presented as historical in its writing. Nowhere in the book does the author give any indication that it is anything other than a historical account. Second, James 5:11 refers to Job in a manner and way that assumes that Job is a historical figure and not simply an illustration. I think we do well to take our cues from other authors in the Scriptures and how they understood the respective books. They were in far closer proximity to the actual figures than we ever were.

What should we make of the children at the end? Are these new kids restoring the death of his first children? We’re his old ones raised from the dead? This is a really difficult question to address (and the most commonly asked question that we received). The tension is that we don’t want to minimize the pain and loss experienced in losing 10 children, and then act is if the second 10 were an adequate replacement and everything is fine. I don’t see any evidence to suggest that these 10 were the same 10 we saw in chapter 1 and simply resurrected. There’s no indication of any of that in the text, and the most natural reading is that Job had 10 more children. We must affirm the value and dignity in each person, and the reality that no person is replaceable. The loss of his children is a painful and searing grief. I wouldn’t honestly suggest anything less for those children. That being said, the fact that God gives him 10 more children speaks to restoration. Let’s make sure we make the distinction between restoration and replacement. Replacing the children carries a coldness that isn’t befitting of image bearers of God. Restoration, however, speaks to God’s generous response to Job at the end of this episode. It does not demean or diminish his other children; and if anything it honors them in God’s providence of giving him the same number of sons and daughters as he previously had.

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