The Job Question

Job 1:8 – The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”

Job 42:1-6

1Then Job answered the LORD and said,
2 “I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
“Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
4 ‘Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
6 Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”

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I recently received a question about the book of Job. As we see in the verse from chapter 1, Job is an upright man—God even acknowledges that. Yet, God not only allows, but insights Satan to put Job to a terrible test. Job loses so much, and it seems incredibly unfair.

From chapter 4 through chapter 37, Job questions God. He knows that he has not done anything that he would ever imagine could cause God to punish him so severely. His friends, who are supposed to comfort him, only serve to discourage him by accusing him of bringing his troubles upon himself.

At the end of the book, God shows up, and speaks to Job. God asks Job a large series of uninterrupted questions to show that Job has no right to accuse God of anything, nor does he have any right to demand answers from God. Then, as we see in chapter 42, Job declares that he was wrong to think he could question God. He confesses and renounces his wrongful accusing of God. He repents, and the book closes with God restoring Job.

So, what is this all about? In large part, the book of Job deals with the question of why bad things happen to seemingly good people. The book of Ecclesiastes, on the other hand, asks an opposite question: why do good things keep happening to the evil instead of the good? The question of “why” in the book of Job has been asked for centuries, and I do not know that it will be fully understood in this life, but we must do our best to grasp it.

First, the answer to the why question has to be “for the ultimate glory of God.” Nothing happens, in the long run, that will not be shown to have been for the glory of God (Romans 8:28; 11:36). While these events were painful to Job, they served to display to us how great God is and how little we truly understand. Job, at one point, wants to take God to court over how he has been treated. By the end, however, Job recognizes that there are millions of things that he does not understand, and he dare not attempt to demand explanations from the Almighty, who knows them all. This shows God as glorious, and puts man in his rightful place, subordinate to God.

God’s glory is also demonstrated in his sovereignty over Satan. Satan challenges God, believing that he can take Job away from God through great suffering. God first shows his sovereignty over Satan by limiting exactly what Satan can do to Job. God also shows his supremacy over Satan by winning in the end. Job not only remains a follower of God, but his trust in the LORD is greatly strengthened.

Job also shows us the inadequacy of human knowledge. Job’s three friends are very logical. In fact, many people mistakenly site the verses spoken by Job’s friends as biblical truth, even though God harshly rebukes those men for their words. Men are always declaring the why and wherefore of tragic circumstances. Whenever things happen such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, or floods, men are very quick to try to say why it happened and what sin God was punishing. However, God, in the book of Job, lets us know that we do not ever truly know why events happen. We are not God. We do not have his knowledge. We have no right to say that we know why any single person or group of people have suffered difficult times. God alone knows, and Job teaches us to bow to his superior wisdom.

So, why did God do what he did in Job? It may surprise you to know that God never tells. He lets Job know that he does not answer to his creation; he is Lord over his creation. We are not in a place where we have a right to question him. Sure, we may ask him to reveal to us why something happened, but we have no right to demand it. Nor do we have the right to think that what God chose to do was wrong. He knows, we do not. He is God, we are not. He is sovereign, we are not. And, though we may not know why things happen, we know we can trust him, because he is the God who reigns over all.