BIBLE STUDIES ON SUFFERING

© Copyright Rosemary Bardsley

8. JOB'S TESTIMONY

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF JOB

1. Job's initial suffering - (Job 1 and 2)

If we look at the suffering that Job experienced we see that he experienced every type of suffering common to humanity: financial/economic suffering (1:14-17), loss of security (1:14-17), loss of long term workers and associates, many of whom would have been trusted and loved (1:14-17), grief/bereavement (1:18,19), physical suffering/pain (2:7), socially ostracized/excluded/cut off (2:8), relationship suffering (2:9-10), disappointment/unfulfilled expectations (2:9-10), misunderstanding/false accusations (2:11-13), both initailly and throughout the debates with his friends.

B. Job's testimony (29-31)

As we read through the debates, and as we read Job's testimony, we begin to understand which of these various sufferings were most difficult to bear. We also unearth deeper levels of suffering. To Job's testimony we will now turn. The three friends have stated their case, and have been unable to coerce Job into accepting their view of suffering and of God's government of the world. They have given up. Job has refused their solutions and advice, and here gives his final word to them.

[1] He speaks of the good old days.

In chapter 29 Job speaks of the days when he was held in respect by all and sundry (29:2,7-10, 21-25). In those days everyone knew he was a God-fearing man who constantly practised kindness and compassion (29:11-20).

[2] Then he says, 'but now'... (chapter 30).

In this chapter Job speaks of his present predicament:

  1. Instead of respect there is derision (30:1,9).
  2. Instead of holding the approval of all, he now seems to be totally rejected (30:10).
  3. He even experiences verbal and physical abuse from the poorest type of men (30:9-14).
  4. He experiences, because of this, fear, loss of dignity, and loss of all sense of security (30:15,16).
  5. It seems that God is not listening (30:20).
  6. It seems that it is God who is afflicting him (30:21-23).
  7. Because up to this point in his life his theology of suffering had been the traditional one, he is now in a position in which all of his expectations based on that theology have fallen crashing to the ground; this creates an inescapable inner torment, which is perhaps the greatest of all his suffering (30:24-27).
  8. He is utterly desolate (30:28-31).

[3] In his desperation he asks: 'Why ....?'(Chapter 31)

Read through this chapter and see how Job tries to reason it out.
  1. He firstly states the accepted view of the way God governs the world (31:2-3).
  2. He indicates that God knows him, and his life, and therefore this accepted view cannot be what's happening to him (31:4). For if ruin is the prescribed punishment for the wrong-doer, then why does God, who sees Job's life in all its details, allot ruin to him, for he is not a miscreant or a wrong-doer, and God knows it.
  3. Job relates the morality and compassion that characterized his life (31:5, 16-22).
  4. He gives the basic rationale of his existence (31:23). Here Satan's accusations, of which Job knew nothing, are clearly repudiated. Here Job makes it clear that his manner of life resulted from his knowledge of God, and the terror, or awe, that God's majesty and greatness induced. He lived the way he did because of who God was, not because of what God gave. Job stood in awe of God. Reverencing Him. Responding to his greatness, not twisting his arm for blessings. (Read Micah 6:8, and Matthew 5:48).
  5. Job also describes his faith: He did not divide his confidence between God and his riches (31:24-25), nor did he divide his worship between God and God's creation (31:26-27), because his desire was to be faithful to God. This is the reason for his singularity of faith and worship (31:28). Compare Jeremiah 9:23-24.
  6. Job does not see himself as sinless (31:33-34).