During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection from Tuesday through Friday.
A Tough Journey but a Worthwhile Trip
We’re coming close to completing a marathon in our family devotions – reading through the book of Job. “Long, windy speeches,” I remember my uncle saying to describe this book.
And that’s the way it feels after you go through round 1, round 2, and then still a 3rd round of arguments between Job and his 3 ‘friends.’
That’s followed by 6 chapters of response by Job, then 6 chapters of rebuke by Elihu, followed by 4 chapters of questions from God, and then a final chapter of resolution. It’s easy to lose your way in the book of Job!
Its elevated poetry, ancient imagery, fiery emotion, and deep theology can be overwhelming. We read it after mealtimes, one chapter per sitting, with each family member having a Bible and taking turns reading verses until the chapter was done.
Usually we highlight one verse in our reading to ask, “What in the world does that mean?” If someone in your family has a Study Bible, you can take a minute or two to discuss one of the verses you just read.
By the way, I recommend the podcast, “Christopher Ash on Job,” a conversation of Nancy Guthrie with Bible scholar and teacher Christopher Ash. It will help you in your Job marathon at the family table.
Job is a very important book because it helps us see that God is upright and good even when He allows righteous Christians to suffer. It’s really all about God, and helps us know and trust Him more.
Job is a picture of Jesus, the Ultimate Sinless Sufferer, whose horrible suffering God used to destroy Satan’s kingdom and to set up His eternal kingdom. As a servant of Jesus, God also used Job’s suffering to prove Satan wrong and to show God’s greatness and goodness.
This is where Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are completely unhelpful, and worse, dangerously wrong, in their ‘ministry’ to grieving Job. Job calls them ‘worthless physicians,’ and ‘miserable comforters’ (Job 13:4, 16:2) because they have a wrong view of God.
They begin well enough. They come and visit him, weep with him, and sit with him for 7 days without saying a word. They’re just there. We can learn from that! Often when people get hit with trouble, we’re afraid. What are we going to say? What if we mess up? We stay away. We’re not there.
But as soon as the 3 friends open their mouths to ‘comfort’ him, things go badly. The problem is not that they speak, but what they say. Their theology of suffering is wrong. It’s superficial and graceless. They assume only bad people suffer; therefore Job must be bad. If he was good, all good things would happen to him.
Their theology of God is like Maria’s in ‘The Sound of Music:’ Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could, but somewhere in my youth and childhood, I must have done something good.
They tell Job he must be harboring some secret sin in his life to deserve such suffering. He must have done something wrong. He can’t be in a right relationship with God. His faith in God must not be good to be in such trouble as this. He must be a hypocrite.
They accuse him with the worst sins imaginable without a shred of evidence to support their accusation.
But if there’s no room in God for righteous people to suffer, even suffer horribly, where does Jesus fit in? Jesus is the Ultimate Good and Holy Man, yet God brought suffering upon His Sinless Son like no one could ever experience here on earth.
Later God says to Job’s 3 friends, “My anger burns against you because you have not spoken of Me what is right.” (Job 42:7)
As you read through the ‘long, windy’ speeches of Job’s 3 friends, there are a lot of spots where you say, “You’re bang on there, Bildad!” But even their right statements are used in the service of wrong theology and therefore are worthless and graceless.
Dear Christian friend, if God has brought deep suffering into your life, don’t assume God is punishing you for some hidden evil. Don’t conclude you must be a hypocrite. True and faithful believers suffer. Righteous people suffer. They suffer as servants of Jesus to bring Satan down and exalt Christ.
God has answered your suffering in the suffering of Jesus who died to remove the punishment from your pain and then rose again to bring you to spend eternity with Him in Paradise. God brought unimaginable grief on His Sinless Son to bring unimaginable good to you!
So don’t adopt Bildad’s Bad Theology when you suffer. Trust in Jesus Christ and know that God loves you and is good to you even in your pain. Like Job, He uses your suffering to promote Jesus’ suffering. He uses your suffering to prove Satan wrong.
Look ahead to the end of the story of suffering – it leads to full glory with Jesus in Paradise.