Section 1: Opening Prayer
God of mystery, help us to understand the big questions we have, and when there are no answers, to accept the mystery of life and death. Help us have faith when we are uncertain, and to trust in you. May the story of Job help us gain wisdom into keeping faith in hard times. Amen.
Section 2: The Story
Faith in Times of Trouble
One of the oldest faith questions is one you may have actually asked: Why do bad things happen? Why do they happen to good people? Ultimately, the question comes to ask if God is truly good, why are bad things allowed to happen?
First of all, you need to know that these are true and honest questions of faith. Questioning God is not wrong. It isn’t bad. It is natural. It is natural because we have no proof of God. We don’t have a way to show for sure that there is no God. That’s why it’s called faith: believing without seeing, trusting without knowing.
But even if we hang on to faith, we do not stop asking the question. we don’t understand it entirely.
Section 3: The Message
As much as any book in the Bible, the book of Job (the o sounds like the o in home, not the o in bob or like where you go to work, by the way) messes with and looks to explore the concepts of suffering. If we read it as a historical event, God actually comes off pretty bad, allowing a person (Job) to have all these horrible things happen, killing his children, just to prove how good Job is. Frankly if that is how God proves that we are good, I’d rather be bad. But Job is not a book we should read as a history… it isn’t written like the historical books we covered. It is more of a fable or story that is written to teach a lesson, an exploration of how God works and how humans relate to God.
The first we learn of Job is that he was a man of great faith, a righteous man who feared (respected) God. He was also a rich man. He had a big family. An abundance of material possessions. Like seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants.
The story of the book of Job starts with a scene in heaven, where all of the heavenly beings gathered with God. Satan was there… now this Satan isn’t like the devil in a red suit with a pitchfork…
(that is actually a symbol for a ham company… think spam only even a little more questionable)
Instead, the word means “accuser” and is indeed one of the heavenly beings. In some ways he is one who challenges God and the way God sees the world; but at the same time he is not inherently evil. Remember, God keeps him around. But he has a troubling side.
In the book of Job, Satan suggests that while God is proud of Job and how faithful he is, that Job is also blessed by God and that if life were harder he might not be so faithful. So God allows Job’s blessings to be taken away. His herds are destroyed. His children die in a windstorm. But he remains faithful.
Watch the following video of Job’s story… You can stop when it comes to the song…. about seven minutes in…
The three friends are an interesting part of this story…. Their responses are quite something. Notice that they were a comfort to Job… until they opened their mouth. Their answers were less than satisfying…. saying things like “you must have done something to deserve this…”. Which was not only untrue, it was unhelpful.
In the comments below, write why you think that Job’s friends needed to say something and why they said what they did.
God’s answer… sort of…
From Job 38:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
‘Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb?—
when I made the clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed bounds for it,
and set bars and doors,
and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?
‘Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
and caused the dawn to know its place,
so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
and the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal,
and it is dyed like a garment.
Light is withheld from the wicked,
and their uplifted arm is broken.
Well first, it isn’t really an answer. Instead, God asks Job a whole set of questions.
God isn’t defending what has happened. What God is doing is pointing out that our human understanding is very very small. We don’t have things near as figured out as we usually think we do.
What do you think of God’s answer? Why do you think God doesn’t explain it all?
Read the last chapter of Job, chapter 42:
Job Is Humbled and Satisfied
Then Job answered the Lord:
‘I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
“Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.”
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.’
Job’s Friends Are Humiliated
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. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt-offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.’ So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
Job’s Fortunes Are Restored Twofold
And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring.The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived for one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.
As you can see, the end of the story reverses the beginning. Job returns to being blessed by God. But more importantly, and more to the point of the story, there is a different picture of God portrayed.
All through the story there is an assumption that good things happen to people who do good and if bad things happen to you, it means you must have been bad. Job’s friends said it. Another assumption, one that Job’s wife was working on when she told Job to curse God, was that God does bad things to people almost at random. In the end, all of these are disproven. God’s response reminds us that we are very very small… and our understanding of things is very very small. We live in a world that has been made imperfect through sinfulness, and where terrible things happen. Occasionally when a disaster happens someone, usually a famous Christian, will speak words of judgement about it… saying it is punishment for some sort of wrong. An example is after the 2010 Haiti earthquake when one Christian TV personality blamed the earthquake on a supposed “pact with the devil” that happened over 100 years ago during a slave rebellion (which was not a verified fact anyway). These things are ways we try to make sense of the world around us. But it is important to realize that the world doesn’t always make sense… to remember that even when terrible things happen that are beyond our causing or power to prevent, things like storms or floods or fires, that they weren’t sent by God to send a message or to punish. They are simply things that have terrible impacts on us.
Section 4: Learn & Engage
Click here to take the quiz: testmoz.com/410042. Remember to use your real name.
Section 5: Closing Prayer
Almighty God, help us to understand how little we can really know, and that the world around us is more complicated than we can imagine. Forgive us when we give easy answers that don’t really know your purposes. Help us to be truly caring for others rather than blaming them when we don’t truly know what is happening. Amen.