D. A. Carson – Job: Mystery and Faith (2) Job’s Miserable Comforters

I am indebted to Adrian for pointing me to this treaty on Job. Any dedicated believer, who has suffered deeply, or has seen a loved one suffer is fascinated with the mechanics of Job’s dialogue with God in the midst of his own deep suffering and the wisdom, peace, and understanding that can be derived from it. You can read this article in it’s entirety, in pdf form here (18 pages) –

http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/2000_Job_mystery_and_faith.pdf

d a carsonD. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of numerous commentar- ies and monographs, and is one of this country’s foremost New Testament scholars. Among his books are Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (John Knox Press, 1981; reprint, Baker, 1994) and How Long, O Lord?: Per- spectives on Suffering and Evil (Baker, 1990).

The topic is divided into
  1. READ Job chapters 1 – 3 Job’s Sufferings and Initial Reaction here
  2. covers Job chapters 4 – 31  Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters (article below)
  3. covers Job chapter 32 – 37 Job and Elihu (coming)
  4. covers Job chapter 38 – 42:6 Job and God (coming)
  5. covers Job chapter 42:7-16 Job’s Happy Ending (coming)

Here are some excerpts from the 2nd section:

II. Job chapters 4 – 31  

Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters 

Job’s lament is all the encouragement his three friends need to break their silence. The way the drama is set out, each of them—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar— have a go at Job, trying to correct his theology and lead him to repentance. After each speaks, Job himself replies. Then the entire cycle is repeated, and starts to be repeated yet again. The third cycle sputters out with a short contribution from Bildad (25:1-6); Zophar never does contribute to the third round. By this time, Job is really indignant, and makes a lengthy speech (chaps. 26-31) that silences his interlocutors without convincing them.

Job and his friends represent deeply entrenched and opposed positions on the questions surrounding Job’s sufferings. To simplify a bit, we may summarize their positions.

(1) Job’s friends offer glib answers and a condemning spirit. The heart of their theological position is summed up by Eliphaz’s question: “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (4:7-8).

(2) Job responds with self-justification and hard questions. He is guilty of nothing that can justify such suffering. The readers know this to be true: Job is suffering because God is demonstrating his servant’s spiritual integrity to Satan, not because Job is being punished.

But Job will not be put off so easily. For a start, he resents his friends’ lack of com- passion, their winking condescension. “A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow” (6:14-15). Job can see through his friends’ unexpressed fears: if the universe is not as ordered as they would like to think it is, then they themselves cannot count on security: “Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid” (6:21).

His plea is emotional, and pitiable: “But nowbesokindastolookatme.WouldI lie to your face [i.e., by hiding sins]? Relent, do not be unjust; reconsider, for my integrity is at stake” (6:28-29).

Job reviews his sufferings again. All he wants is to die before he is tempted to deny the words of the Holy One (6:10). Eventually, he turns to God and begs for pity: “Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again” (7:7). But he is not willing to concede that what he is suffering is only fair: “I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will com- plain in the bitterness of my soul” (7:11). He begs God to back off, to let him die; his days have no meaning. Why pick on me? he asks, in effect. Why pick on any man in this way (7:17-19)?

Job does not claim sinless perfection. He simply argues that any conceivable sin he may have committed does not justify being made a target of the Almighty. “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (7:20).

……..

Job’s problem is not that God is simply too distant, but that Job could not win— even though he is quite certain he is suffering innocently. (And again, his readers know he is right on the latter score!)

photo via GospelCoalition.org

…..The summary of chapters 4 – 31:

(1) Job’s friends have a tight theology with no loose ends. Suffering is understood exclusively in terms of punishment or chastening. There is no category for innocent suffering: in their understanding, such a suggestion besmirches the integrity of the Almighty.

(2) Although they are quick to defend God and say many wonderful things about him, their arguments are cast in tones so condescending to Job that one begins to lose patience with them. There is very little hint of compassion, empathy, honest grief. The defense of God can be unbearably hard.

(3) Job’s arguments must not be confused with the atheism of Bertrand Russell, the challenge of David Hume, the theological doubletalk of Don Cupitt, or the poetic defiance: “I am the master of my fate! I am the captain of my soul!” Job’s speeches are the anguish of a man who knows God, who wants to know him bet- ter, who never once doubts the existence of God, who remains convinced, at bottom, of the justice of God—but who cannot make sense of these entrenched beliefs in the light of his own experience.

That is why, in the midst of his confusion and self-justification, Job utters some remarkably assured statements of faith. He is so sure of his case that he wishes he could find someone to arbitrate between himself and God (9:33-35). Of course, this is God’s universe, so he can’t; but the Christian cannot read these words without thinking of the mediatorial role of Jesus. Nor does Job become apostate: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!” (13:15-16). He is so sure of ultimate vindication that he can say, “But [God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (23:10). However difficult the verses in 19:25-27 be translated,3 the least they affirm is that Job is absolutely confident in his final vindication—by God himself.

(4) The final lengthy speech of Job (26:1- 31:40) reiterates many of the themes already developed, but it reaches a new intensity of bitterness. Now Job is not satisfied with hints: he openly charges God with injustice, and he almost savagely defends his integrity: “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty who has made me taste bitter- ness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live” (27:2-6). Chapters 29-31 are a moving recital of all the godly things that made up Job’s life in the days before he was afflicted. They bear the most careful reading: would to God I could claim half so much. Job has been honest, generous, disciplined; he rescued the poor, helped the blind, comforted those who mourned; he made a covenant with his eyes “not to look lustfully at a girl” (31:1); he was host to countless strangers; he made sure he never rejoiced over the misfortune of another; he never trusted in his own wealth. He frankly feared God (31:23). And he is utterly determined to maintain that his own integrity totally precludes the possibility that his sufferings constitute punishment for sin. As far as he is concerned, confession of sin that he has not committed, just to satisfy his friends and perhaps win some sort of reprieve, would itself be sinful. His integrity is too important to him for that.

(5) Job is therefore not looking for a merely intellectual answer, a merely theological argument. He wants personal vindication by God himself. He wants God to appear and give an account of what He is doing. The drama does not concern an agnostic professor of philosophy; it con- cerns a man who knows God, who loves and fears God, and whose utter assurance of his own integrity drives him to long for a personal encounter with God that will not merely provide “answers” but will also vindicate the sufferer.

(6) It is important to glance ahead a little. The “three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). They were at an impasse: they could make sense of his suffering only by insisting on his guilt, and he kept insisting on his innocence. But God, after disclosing himself to Job, says to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7). Indeed, Job must offer sacrifice and pray for them.

This is remarkable. The three miserable comforters thought they were defending God, and he charges them with saying the wrong things about him. Job defends his own integrity so virulently that he steps over the line now and then and actually charges God with injustice, yet God insists that his servant Job has spoken what is right. Of course, this does not mean that Job’s speeches have been entirely without fault. As we shall see, God charges Job with darkening His counsel “with words without knowledge” (38:2). In the last section of this chapter I shall explore more fully in which ways Job is right and his three friends are wrong. But under any reading of God’s vindication of Job’s discourses, room is made for innocent suffering; a simple theory of retributive justice—punishment proportionate to sin—is inadequate to explain some of the hard cases.

John Piper – Job: (2) When the Righteous Suffer

click photo for source

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you can listen to the sermon audio here at DesiringGod.org.

These are notes from the session, not the manuscript that the message was preached from. They are adapted from the sermons „Job: Rebuked in Suffering,” „Job: The Revelation of God in Suffering,” and „Job: Reversal in Suffering.”)

What we’ve seen now is that Job has triumphed in the conflict that Satan brought against him. His possessions and health were taken from him, but he did not curse God—he worshiped him.

Then he endured months of terrible suffering. In chapters 4 to 31 Job conversed with his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, about the meaning of suffering. The upshot of it all was that the theory of his friends was unsatisfactory. It is not the case that the wicked always suffer and the righteous always prosper.

A Change in Job’s Talk About Dying

Something happens to Job through this long conversation with his three friends. He begins in chapter 3 with utter dismay and he cries out against the wisdom of God in giving him birth. The duration of his disease had almost defeated the initial stand of faith that he took at the first (1:22; 2:10). But little by little you can watch his faith regaining its strength as he fights against the superficial theology of his friends. His faith finally breaks out into victory in chapter 19.

In every speech up till then Job had expressed the conviction that he would certainly die and go to Sheol in misery. He longs for it. But there is a gradual change in the way he talks about dying. At first in 7:9–10 (his response to Eliphaz) he is sure that death is the end of everything, „As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up.” In 10:20–22 (his response to Bildad) he is still sunk in despair about death, „Let me alone, that I may find a little comfort before I go whence I shall not return to the land of gloom and deep darkness, the land of gloom and chaos, where light is as darkness.”

Then in 14:7–14 (his response to Zophar) Job again faces the certainty of his death in suffering and cries out to be released to die (v. 13). But this time he asks a question in verse 14: „If a man die, shall he live again?” Also in his second response to Eliphaz (17:13–16) the reference to Sheol is one of question rather than despair.

In 19:25–27 Job reaches an answer. „For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh (or: apart from) I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

Job is finally sure that beyond the grave he will meet God as a Redeemer and not an angry Judge. He will be redeemed from all his misery—even if it will only be after death. There will be life and light not just death and darkness.

This confidence does not answer all Job’s questions or solve all his theological problems. He still is utterly perplexed as to why he should have to suffer as he does. His suffering goes right on. God seems utterly arbitrary in the way he parcels out suffering and comfort in this life.

Job Silences His Friends

But Job’s confidence of new life after death does enable him to hold fast to three of his cherished convictions, namely, the sovereign power of God, the goodness and justice of God, and the faithfulness of his own heart. With those convictions he holds out against the simplistic doctrine of justice in the mouths of his three friends. He finally puts them to silence.

The Argument Won, the Question Unanswered

He has won the argument. But he has not answered his question. He has shown that suffering cannot be explained by the simple principle of retributive justice, where each person gets what he deserves: suffering for the evil and prosperity for the good. But he has found no other answer.

We are left at the end of chapter 31 with the apparent capriciousness of God. All seems to be arbitrary. God rules the affairs of men. And no doubt he does so wisely (28:12–28). That Job never doubts. But why the righteous suffer—so far he has no answer.

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John Piper – (1)Job rebuked in suffering

you can listen to the audio sermon here at DesiringGod.org

click photo for source

 

From chapter 4 to 31 Job conversed with his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, about the meaning of suffering. The upshot of it all was that the theory of his friends was unsatisfactory.

The Unsatisfactory Theory of Job’s Friends

They had argued that suffering is basically punishment for sin and prosperity is reward for righteousness (4:7–8). Eliphaz had admitted (in 5:17) that some suffering was chastisement and could be good for us, but it becomes clear that for him this is the exception, not the rule, and that protracted suffering like Job’s could not be explained this way. So he winds up saying to Job, „Is not your wickedness great!” (22:5). Job’s extraordinary suffering can only be explained as the punishment of God for grievous sin.

Job had defended himself all along by saying, contrary to his three friends’ opinion, that there is good evidence from all over the world that the wicked often prosper and the righteous often suffer (21:29–30). And in his case in particular he was not an enemy of God and had not committed any grievous sin that would set him up for such suffering above others.

So Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were not able to sustain their theory in the face of Job’s realism and integrity. Their speeches became repetitive, hostile, and shorter as the conversation comes to a close. Finally, only Job was left speaking.

The Argument Won, the Question Unanswered

He has won the argument. But he has not answered his question. He has shown that suffering cannot be explained by the simple principle of retributive justice, where each person gets what he deserves: suffering for the evil and prosperity for the good. But he has found no other answer.

We are left at the end of chapter 31 with the apparent capriciousness of God. All seems to be arbitrary. God rules the affairs of men. And no doubt he does so wisely (28:12–28). That Job never doubts. But why the righteous suffer—so far he has no answer.

It would be possible to live the rest of our lives at this level of understanding. Many Christians try. We could simply say, „Yes, I believe God rules over the world and controls what happens. I also believe that he is just and wise. And I believe that, though things look capricious and arbitrary in this life, all wrongs will be righted in the age to come. He has shown me his love in Jesus Christ and I know he is the only hope for meaning in life now and for salvation in the world to come. So I will be still and trust God, though I cannot understand his strange ways.”

That is not a bad way to live. But the writer of the book of Job is not satisfied to live that way. And he wants his readers to know that God has not concealed all of his ways. There is more to see of God’s purpose in suffering than we may think.

Elihu Breaks In

So a young man appears on the scene in chapter 32 named Elihu. His speech goes all the way through chapter 37. And here we learn something that neither Job nor his friends had discovered, namely, that the suffering of the righteous is not a token of God’s enmity but of his love. It is not a punishment of their sins but a refinement of their righteousness. It is not a preparation for destruction, but a protection from destruction.

The three friends have been wrong—suffering is not the proof of wickedness. And Job had been wrong—his suffering was not the proof of God’s arbitrariness. Nor had God become his enemy. Elihu has come to put the argument on a new footing.

Five Reasons We Should Accept Elihu’s Counsel

Let’s begin our survey of Elihu’s theology by asking why we should accept it. Many interpreters understand Elihu as no better than Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar. For example, I gathered from one commentator’s 40 pages on Elihu’s speeches the following labels: Elihu is cruel, cold, detached, crass, trite, perfectionist, vain, etc. (Francis Anderson, TOTC).

I admit that there are some things in Elihu’s speeches very hard to understand. And it is true that when you read his speeches, you hear some of the same things the three friends said (they were not totally wrong!). And it is true he is tough with Job, perhaps too tough sometimes.

But there are at least five reasons why I take the words of Elihu to represent the truth as our inspired writer saw it. In other words, I think Elihu gives the first step in solving Job’s problem, and that God then speaks in chapters 38–41 and gives the final conclusive word. Here are the five reasons I think this.

1. His Speech Is Presented as Something New

The words of Elihu are introduced to us in chapter 32 not as a continuation or repetition of what the three friends had said, but as something new. Verses 1–3:

So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became angry. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God; he was angry also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong.

In other words Elihu disagrees with both sides of the argument. So he says in verse 14 to the three friends, „He (i.e., Job) has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches.” So Elihu has no intention of trying to settle the matter the way the three friends did. The writer wants us to listen to something new that takes us beyond the old argument.

2. Six Chapters Devoted to His Words

The second reason that I think Elihu is more than a continuation of bad theology, is that the writer devotes six chapters to his words (32–37).

The inadequacy of the theology of the three friends was demonstrated by the fact that their speeches got shorter near the end, and then died out completely. Bildad finishes with six verses (chapter 25), and Zophar can’t even manage a closing comment.

It would be very strange, then, if Elihu were given six chapters at this point to say all the inadequate things all over again and make no advance on the inadequate theology of these other three friends. Surely this large space given to his words signals that something crucial is being said here.

3. Job’s Response to Elihu

Job does not try to argue with Elihu.

He had been successful in silencing Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, but he does not say one word against Elihu even though Elihu challenged him in 33:32, „If you have anything to say, answer me.” The easiest explanation for this silence is that Job agreed with him. In fact, in 42:6 Job does repent for some of the things he said, which shows that Elihu’s rebukes are not all wide of the mark.

4. God’s Response to Elihu

In 42:7 God looks back over the period of suffering and rebukes Job’s three friends,

After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: „My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

But God does not rebuke Elihu. Why not? Probably because Elihu’s words are not in the same class with the words of those three. Elihu’s words are true and prepare the way for the final, decisive words of God. (He claims to be guided by the Spirit of God—32:8.)

5. He Offers Something New and Helpful

Finally, Elihu really does offer a new understanding of the suffering of the righteous that Job and his three friends had not perceived. And his insight does indeed make sense out of the apparently arbitrary suffering that Job and other righteous people go through. Let’s try to learn this morning what this young man has to say.

Elihu’s Rebuke of Job

Elihu thinks that Job has been wrong in some of what he has said—indeed, he sees pride and arrogance in Job’s attitude (see 33:17; 35:12; 36:9). In 33:8–12 he puts his finger on Job’s error:

Surely, you have spoken in my hearing, and I have heard the sound of your words. You say, „I am clean, without transgression; I am pure, and there is no iniquity in me. Behold [God] finds occasions against me, he counts me as his enemy; he puts my feet in the stocks, and watches all my paths.” Behold in this you are not right.

Job is wrong to claim innocence at the expense of God’s grace. We know that Elihu is right about this because in 42:6 Job does in fact repent: „I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” His suffering had driven him to say things about himself that were overly optimistic and things about God that were disrespectful. Even though Job was a righteous man, he was not a sinlessly perfect man. There was a sediment of pride that began to cloud the purity of his life when it was stirred up by suffering.

Elihu’s Explanation of Suffering

At least part of Elihu’s understanding of why the righteous suffer has to do with this residue of pride in the life of the righteous. We see the first explanation of his view in 33:14–19. He describes two ways God speaks to man: by his word and by suffering. These were the days before Scripture, so the word of God takes the form of visions and dreams. He says,

For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men, and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn man aside from his deed, and cut off pride from man; he keeps back his soul from the Pit, his life from perishing by the sword.

Man is also chastened with pain upon his bed, and with continual strife in his bones.

Not to Punish but to Save

So Elihu puts the pain of sickness and visions of the night side by side as two ways that God speaks to man for his good. Verse 17 describes God’s purpose: „That he may turn man aside from his deed, and cut off pride from man, and keep back his soul from the Pit.”

In other words God’s purpose for the righteous in these dreams and in this sickness is not to punish but to save—to save from contemplated evil deeds and from pride and ultimately from death. Elihu does not picture God as an angry judge but as a Redeemer, a Savior, a Rescuer, a Doctor. The pain he causes is like the surgeon’s knife, not like the executioner’s whip.

The „Righteous Sinner”

Elihu explains his view of suffering in one other place, namely, 36:6–15. The helpful thing in these verses is that Elihu makes clear that there is such a thing as a righteous person who still has sin that needs to be revealed and rooted out. To call a person righteous does not mean that the person is sinlessly perfect. There is a „righteous sinner.”

This is helpful because God himself called Job a righteous man in 1:1, and Job won his argument on the basis of his reputation as a righteous man. And yet at the end of the book Job repents and despises himself. So Job is righteous (by the testimony of God!) even though he has sin remaining in him. He is not among the wicked.

Elihu looks at these two groups of people, the wicked and the righteous, and he distinguishes the different roles that suffering has in each. We’ll start reading at verse 6:

He does not keep the wicked alive, but gives the afflicted their right. He does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous, but with kings upon the throne he sets them for ever, and they are exalted.

Now if he had stopped there, he would have sounded exactly like Eliphaz: the wicked suffer and the righteous prosper. There is a sense in which this is true in the long run. But the question plaguing Job is why the righteous suffer in the short run. So Elihu goes on in verse 8:

And if they [that is, the righteous] are bound in fetters and caught in the cords of affliction [so Elihu admits right away that the righteous are not always with kings on the throne; they do suffer], then he declares to them their work and their transgressions, that they are behaving arrogantly. He opens their ears to instruction, and commands that they return from iniquity.

In other words the righteous are far from sinlessly perfect. There is much of the old nature left in them, and from time to time this old nature of pride breaks out in actual sinful behavior—as it did with Job when he accused God of being his enemy. This is what Job repents of at the end of the book.

Suffering Refines the Righteous

Elihu’s teaching, then, is that affliction makes a righteous person sensitive to his remaining sinfulness and helps him hate it and renounce it. Suffering opens the ear of the righteous (v. 10). The psalmist said the same thing in Psalm 119:71, „It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.” There are dimensions of godliness that the righteous can only learn through affliction.

So the new slant that Elihu gives is that the suffering of the righteous is not the fire of destruction but the fire that refines the gold of their goodness. For the righteous it is not punitive but curative.

The Purpose of Suffering for the Godless and the Righteous

Verses 13–15 describe the same contrast between the purpose of suffering for the godless and the purpose of suffering for the righteous.

The godless in heart cherish anger; they do not cry for help when he binds them. They die in youth, and their life ends in shame. He delivers the afflicted by their affliction, and opens their ear by adversity.

Verses 13–14 describe one group of people for whom suffering results in nothing but destruction—they are the „godless in heart.” But then (in v. 15) he describes another group whose ears are opened in their affliction and who experience deliverance by their affliction. These are not the godless or the wicked. They are the righteous. They are the people like Job, who are upright, and fear God, and turn away from evil, and have a blameless reputation. They suffer, too. But the divine purpose is not the same.

How Has Elihu Added to Our Understanding?

How then, we may ask, has Elihu advanced our understanding beyond the impasse between Job and his three friends?

His Two Complaints

We go back to the beginning of Elihu’s speech in 32:2–3. He had two complaints.

  1. He was angry because Job justified himself rather than God;
  2. and he was angry at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong.

Elihu has now succeeded in showing why his anger was justified in both cases.

1. He Shows Why Job’s Three Friends Are Wrong

He showed Job’s three friends to be wrong. They said that the only way to explain Job’s suffering was to say that God was punishing him for sin. Elihu shows that this is not the way to explain Job’s suffering.

The righteous do suffer. And their suffering is not a punishment for sin but a refinement of their righteousness. Suffering awakens their ear to new dimensions of God’s reality and new depths of their own imperfection and need. Suffering deepens their faith and godliness. So the three friends of Job are wrong.

2. He Shows Why Job Is Wrong

But Job is wrong too. He had no better explanation of his suffering than his three friends did. His conception of God’s justice was basically the same as theirs. Only Job insisted he was righteous, and so he could not make his suffering fit with the justice of God. He became so exasperated at times that he thought of God as his enemy.

How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. Why dost thou hide thy face, and count me as thy enemy? (13:23–24)

Elihu said that Job was wrong to justify himself at God’s expense like this (33:8–12). God was NOT Job’s enemy and Job is not as pure as he claims to be. God is in fact Job’s loving Father. He has allowed this sickness to drag on for months because he loves Job, not because he hates him.

The suffering has brought out the hidden sin of pride in Job. Now Job’s ear has been opened to his remaining imperfection. Now he can repent and be cleansed and depend on God as he never had before. His suffering was not only an occasion for God to get glory over Satan (which we saw in chapters 1 and 2); it was also an occasion for God to deepen Job’s insight and trust and godliness.

The Central Lesson

So the central lesson for us from the book of Job today is that the children of God—those who trust in God and are led by his Spirit and have their sins covered by the blood of Jesus—may indeed suffer. And when they do, it is not a punishment for sin. Christ has borne the punishment for our sin, and there is no double jeopardy!

The suffering of the children of God is not the firm application of a principle of retributive justice. It is the free application of the principle of sovereign grace. Our Father in heaven has chosen us freely from before the foundation of the world, he regenerated us freely by the work of the Holy Spirit, he justified us freely through the gift of saving faith, and he is now sanctifying us freely by his grace through suffering according to his infinite wisdom.

Suffering is not dispensed willy-nilly among the people of God. It is apportioned to us as individually designed, expert therapy by the loving hand of our great Physician. And its aim is that our faith might be refined, our holiness might be enlarged, our soul might be saved, and our God might be glorified.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6–7)

Our Father disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10–11)

We were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8–9)

Therefore, count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4)

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