Job 22: Suffered for Us
November 25, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Eliphaz comes back to Job with a more blatant attempt to accuse of Job of wrongdoing. So far Job has consistently rebutted the charges that the reason why he is suffering is that he has done wrong. So Eliphaz ramps up the pressure by specifying what—he imagines—are the particularities of Job’s sin.
“Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless? You demanded security from your relatives for no reason; you stripped people of their clothing, leaving them naked. You gave no water to the weary and you withheld food from the hungry, though you were a powerful man, owning land— an honored man, living on it. And you sent widows away empty-handed and broke the strength of the fatherless. That is why snares are all around you, why sudden peril terrifies you, why it is so dark you cannot see, and why a flood of water covers you.” (22:5-11).
Job’s “wickedness is great” and his “sins are endless” because when Job was rich, he not only ignored the plight of the poor and disadvantaged, he made their situation worse. This, at any rate, is what Eliphaz says. “You sent widows away empty-handed and broke the strength of the fatherless.” He piled up pain upon those who came to him for help by refusing to give them sustenance in their time of need, and therefore it is just that Job now himself suffers. So at least Eliphaz argues. “This” he argues, “is why snares are all around you, why sudden peril terrifies you, why it is so dark you cannot see, and why a flood of water covers you.” This, Job’s sin, is why Job suffers as he did.
Given all that Job has already said to deny this accusation, it is extraordinary that Job’s “comforters” keep on coming back to him with further accusations—and instead of backtracking, merely increase the pressure. Why is that? Because they are caught in a theological bind. Their principles were as follows.
#1 God is good.
#2 God is all powerful.
#3 Job is suffering.
#4 Therefore, Job must have sinned.
There seemed to be no way out of this logic. And so they kept on pushing Job to see the error of his ways, admit that he had done wrong, and confess to God—for God would then restore Job.
This is, of course, why Job is such an important book in the Bible. It tells us that the righteous can suffer. The book of Job does not itself answer the problem of undeserved suffering, but it does refuse to take easy (and cruel) ways out of the problem. And by so doing, it points us to a better and fuller and finally satisfying solution. There is one who—fully and completely righteous—suffered for us, and in our place, and for our sins. At the cross we see that God himself took on himself the sin of the world that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. And one day live in a world where there would be no more crying or pain or suffering anymore.
Perhaps you are suffering. Perhaps this book of Job is providing you with a strange degree of real encouragement. None of us wishes to go through even a modicum of what Job experienced. But if you face difficulties today, be encouraged: there is one who also suffered. Not just Job, but the great Job, Jesus himself—who did not just suffer, but suffered for you. He can give you strength in your time of need, for he experienced human temptation just as we do, and yet without sin. He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear, but will provide us with a way out so that we can stand up under it.
If you are not presently suffering, at least learn from the mistakes of Eliphaz and his friends. Don’t assume that just because someone is going through difficulties, that in some way or other it must have been their fault. Sometimes people suffer simply because we live in a broken, fallen world. And it is the response at such times that witnesses to the integrity of the character of the person suffering, as it did with Job here. Don’t add condemnation to pain, but seek to alleviate suffering by proclaiming the gospel, not by legalistic lecturing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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