Today we continue on our walk through the Bible – a six year program in which once a month we look at one book of the Bible.
We began in January last year with the book of Genesis and have made our way through the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy), through the history books (Joshua to Esther) and today we start to look at the Wisdom Literature (Job to Song of Songs).
Written some time between the reign of Solomon and the exile, it is one of the richest, most insightful and profound books ever produced. There are many excellent books on the topic of suffering but I don’t believe in 3000 years of literature, any book has equalled that of Job on the topic.
Let’s have a look at an overview:
1. Job is a righteous, happy and rich man. ヨブは正しく、幸せで裕福な人
2. In a cosmic wager between God and Satan, Job is put to the test. 神とサタンの天での賭けで、ヨブが試される
3. Job loses his family, property and eventually his health. ヨブは家族、財産、最終的に健康を失う
4. Job’s faith in God remains. ヨブの神への信仰は変わらない [Chapters 1,2]
5. Three friends come and give three cycles of speeches 3人の友が繰り返し話す
Initially supportive, they turn to personal attack, accusing Job of sinfulness [Chapters 3-31]
6. One more friend speaks もう1人の友が話す
He is a bit more on target but by this time Job has just had enough [Chapters 32-37]
7. God speaks 神が話す [Chapters 38-42]
8. Job is restored ヨブが元に戻される [Chapter 42]
A couple of things unique to the book of Job before we get into the topic of suffering – which is what the book addresses.
1. In chapter 1, Satan comes before God in heaven. Does this strike anyone else as odd?
How can Satan, who is evil, stand before God, who is perfect, in heaven where God’s throne is? Doesn’t the Bible teach us that sin and evil cannot stand in the presence of God who is holy? Isn’t Satan in hell and God in heaven? 天におられる神の前にサタンがやってくる。
Perhaps some of our teaching on this matter has been a little ‘Sunday school-ish’. A bit simplistic.
God has dominion over everything. All spirits are under God’s authority and control. Satan doesn’t have free reign to appear before the throne of God whenever and however he feels like it. God initiates, Satan responds. God summonsed Satan for His own purposes, and Satan presented himself as one under the authority of God. This should be a source of relief and praise for the Christian. Satan doesn’t live in his own little bubble aside from God. Though he has some free reign now as prince of this world, He is still under God’s authority. And as God’s people, we can rest knowing that God is in control.
2. Job’s righteousness/blamelessness ヨブの義
This does not mean that Job was perfect or sinless. It simply means that he was, in principle, spiritually and morally upright. Rather like King David, although he was a sinner, he remained faithful to God. 彼は罪人であったけれども、神に忠実なままでした。
Most of the book of Job consists of cycles of discourses on the nature of suffering. As someone who has spent a lot of time over the last three months living and contemplating suffering, let me diverge a little and present a Biblical approach to suffering, before we come back and see how God responds to Job’s suffering and the discourses of Job and his friends.
There are two things for us to look at here:
A. The Purposes of Suffering – What good can come of suffering? 苦しみの目的－苦しみからどんな良いことが生じるのか？
B. The Causes of Suffering – Why do we suffer? 苦しみの原因－なぜ苦しむのか？
A. Let’s look at 7 clear purposes that the Bible gives us for our suffering. What’s the point of it all? What good can come of it?
All suffering, whether it be physical, mental, social (persecution), relational, financial, vocational or within ministry is an opportunity for God’s glory to be manifest.
i. Suffering produces obedience 苦しみは従順を生み出す
We are to stand apart as different from the world. We bless those who hurt us, and not curse. We resist temptation, we don’t entertain it. We forgive those who hurt us. We share our weaknesses, we don’t hide them. This is the result of obedience to God. Suffering produces obedience.
“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:8,9 my italics)
ii. Suffering produces perseverance 苦しみは忍耐を生み出す
Perseverance is key to Christian living. In the parable of the sower, Jesus teaches that it’s not enough to simply be a ‘seed in good soil’ – yes, we need good teaching and fellowship and leadership – but it’s those who “by persevering produce a crop”. And perseverance is born of suffering.
iii. Suffering produces character 苦しみは練られた品性を生み出す
We are called to live godly and Christlike lives. Taking on the character of Christ is not an option for the Christian. It’s a defining mark of who we are and who we must become. “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” And Romans 5 teaches us that such character is produced by suffering.
iv. Suffering produces maturity 苦しみは成熟を生み出す
James 1:2 and Romans 5:3 tell us that the expectation is not that we would endure our sufferings, as such, but that we would consider it pure joy and glory in them. How can we do this? It’s because of the qualities our suffering produces: perseverance, character and maturity. It’s not possible to become a mature Christian in this world without learning from suffering. Suffering leads to maturity in the faith.
v. Suffering produces fruitfulness in ministry 苦しみは人を助けるときに実を結ぶ
Our ministries – however public or private – can actually be enhanced by our suffering. Suffering produces maturity and fruitfulness because of the experience it’s grounded in. It’s not just theory. If someone in this church comes to me and says “I have just been diagnosed with cancer” I can minister to them – not out of an academic knowledge but out of experience. “Ah!” they say. “This person gets it! He knows what I’m going through!” And so my suffering leads to fruitfulness in the God’s kingdom.
vi. Suffering produces hope 苦しみは希望を生み出す
This is one of the biggest things about suffering. Because the Bible teaches us that hope does not disappoint us when we suffer. Why not? Because the love of God has been “shed abroad in our hearts” – the love of God fills us! The love of God gives substance to our hope. Suffering cannot take away God’s love for us.
vii. Suffering produces perfection 苦しみは完全さを生み出す
Paul suffered what he called a “thorn in the flesh”. Three times he asked God to take it away but God said to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God’s perfection is displayed in our weaknesses and sufferings.
These purposes can help us make sense of suffering and see to it that the promise in Romans 8:28 is fulfilled.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
But none of these purposes take us to the heart of why it is we suffer in the first place.
Why do we suffer? What is the root cause of suffering? More specifically, we want to ask, ‘Why am I suffering?’ ‘なぜ私は苦しんでいるのか？’
These are the big questions and they are questions that virtually every religion on earth attempts to answer. And these are the questions that the book of Job addresses and that the man Job puts to God.
B. The Causes of Suffering – Why do we suffer? 苦しみの原因－なぜ苦しむのか？
i. Sometimes it’s our fault. “A man reaps what he sows.” Gluttony/obesity; gossip/friendlessness; prayerlessness/distance from God. But if it’s our fault, the Bible, or the Holy Spirit will make it very clear to us before we suffer. 自分のせいであるときもある。
ii. Usually it’s not our fault (directly). We live in a broken, sinful world in which sickness, accidents and waywardness are common. This was the situation with Job. And when we, like Job, ask God ‘why’ we suffer, His answer might surprise you. たいていは自分のせいでない（直接的に）
3. God’s answer to Job. ヨブへの神の答え
Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Job 38:2,3
This is not the answer Job was expecting. In fact, God only seems to have questions for Job, not answers. And Job has no answer to these questions of course and this is the very point. There is nothing that human Job can say to Almighty God.
God doesn’t reveal His plan; He reveals Himself.
All Job needs to know is that God is God and that everything is under His control.
Gideon has a similar beef with God (Nicholas touched on this last week). He said to God,
Yeah? Well, if the Lord is with us, then why has all this happened to us? (Judges 6:13)
Deep down, this is something we want to ask God, too sometimes, isn’t it?
God’s answer to Gideon’s ‘why’ is similar to the one he gave Job. He never directly answers it. God tells Gideon to simply “go in the strength you have” and God would provide the victory. That’s all he needs to know. God is all he needs for what lies ahead. There is to be no handwringing over the past. There is to be only trust for the future.
This is what God tells Gideon when he is suffering.
This is what God tells Job when he is suffering.
This is what God tells us when we are suffering.
God is God. He is in control. He can be trusted.