Series: JOB: From Tragedy to Triumph
Title: "Making Sense of Nonsense"
"My ears had heard of you but
now my eyes have seen you."
The book of Job is built around Satan's challenge to God in regard to Job; an upright, blameless man, described as the greatest man among all the people of the East. Satan is confident he can break Job down, and God gives him permission to try. Despite the horrendous suffering Satan inflicts on him, Job remains loyal to God. Charles Price concludes this series by bringing to light three factors in Job's response to God that will help us in our own situations of grief and despair.
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God has just finished speaking to Job for four consecutive chapters, and Job's response is brief, only six verses, but he stands in awe of God and is deeply humbled. The first thing we learn from Job's reply is to look for the unexpected. Job says to God, "I know you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted" (42:2). The unexpected ingredient is that God did have a plan in all of this. Job did not know the tragedies inflicted upon him were the work of Satan, but even if he did, he sees that behind everything is the providence of God at work.
God's plan for Job held a divine purpose, as His plan for all of us does. It is difficult to embrace suffering, but in the counsel of an all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God, He is bringing about something good. Romans 8:28 says, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." The events themselves may be wrong, bad, evil, but God never says, "Oh no! That was not my plan. What it going to happen now?"
When suffering comes to an innocent person it need never be wasted if we recognize that God works for the good of those who love Him. There are things in our lives where we see the fingerprints of Satan all over them. They are not good, not wholesome, and perhaps some are selfinflicted because we have stepped out of the will of God and followed satanic temptations, but even there God comes to redeem us and build something good out of the bad.
Suffering can also be a test of spiritual reality. That was the real test for Job as it comes to all of us at some point. Is our faith genuine or simply because life has been good so far? Nothing speaks louder of our faith then how we respond to God in times of suffering. Peter writes, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6). Suffering enables us to discover whether our Christian lives are built on mere words and doctrine or an active, intimate relationship with God.
We speak about trusting God, but what about God trusting us? Job was exhibit number one God presented not only to Satan, but all the principalities and powers in the heavenly realms. God trusted him, and Job demonstrated that he is not serving God for his own benefit, but because he loves God, and God is God in his life. When gripped by the reality of God in our lives, His love and purpose for us, nothing is more important than our faith. It stays real and weathers the storms.
Secondly, look for the unexplained. Job replies to God, "You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know" (42:3). Job's problem was trying to work out what he could not understand, simply because they were too wonderful for him to know. We have to make room in our minds for the unknown and leave that room just as it is, 'the unknown', because we are not meant to work out or understand everything.
Job did not know where God was in any of his suffering, but he says, "He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold" (23:10). Gold is first found like black chunks of coal and it needs to go through a furnace of extreme heat, melting away the parts that are not gold, a process that purifies and refines it. Psalm 66:10 says, "For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver." It is the same process as gold. The refining process may be extremely difficult and uncomfortable, but in the end, God is bringing forth gold.
Having our faith refined by suffering is the real spiritual wealth that becomes the reserves in our lives, enabling us to help others. Corrie Ten Boom survived a Nazi concentration camp, and has written books that have encouraged people worldwide. She writes that God does not have problems; He only has plans. What are problems to us are plans to God, and we allow a box of mystery in our lives and live with the unexplained. John Wesley wrote, "The readiest way which God takes to draw a man to Himself is to inflict him in the area that he loves the most because nothing shows him more clearly the emptiness of what he considers lovely and desirable."
Thirdly, learn the undiscovered. The key to Job's final response is when he says, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (42:5-6). There is a big difference between Job's ears hearing and his eyes seeing. Job is saying that what he knew in theory about God has now become experience. We may have heard it all and know it all, but have very little experience of God. We can be theologically literate, but spiritually barren. It is relatively easy to place our faith in what God does, but we must place our faith in who God is, and come to that point of saying, "I believe God,"… period. This explains in four chapters of God speaking to Job, why He does not go into Job's suffering, but instead says, "Who made the world? Who made the skies? Who gives eagles their flight and feeds the lion?"
Then God abruptly stops. "Okay, Job, that's it. Do you need to know more or do you now realize I am capable of anything, including caring for you?" The answer is "yes," and Job is greatly humbled. "Therefore I despise myself." The danger when we have a good experience of God is that our faith rests in the goodness of that experience, rather than in God Himself. We cannot lock God into any kind of box or set pattern, because He operates in different ways all the time. There are occasions God will leave us with nothing but Himself, and that is when we grow significantly.
The unexpected, unexplained and undiscovered – Job dramatically experienced all three. The book ends happily with an epilogue that says God doubled everything Job had before. "The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first" (42:12). His relatives and friends who had deserted him came back with gifts and ate and drank with him. God gave Job three more daughters and seven more sons. They did not replace his first children, of course, but the separation is temporary and in the next life, Job will enjoy twenty children and many more descendants. He lived to be 140 years old, old enough to see his great, great grandchildren. Job was God's man in the land of Uz who leaves behind a legacy of unrelenting abiding faith that benefits us all.