Suffering: Job's First Question,
The first question of Job, "Why has God given me life only to send me such suffering now?" is the language of the natural man in rebellion against his Maker. Contending with the Almighty man wants to instruct Him (see Job 40:2). He curses the past, reviles the present and all his future hope is gone, just as Jeremiah (Jer. 20:14-18) not only bemoans his torments but also his very existence. What a state to be in!
Yet both Job and Jeremiah were faithful and devoted men of God. How did they come to forget themselves? What led them even for a moment to despair of the power and goodness of God?
First of all, these men passed through very unusual exercises of soul. All blessings seemed to them to be changed into curses, and instead of hearing words of comfort and sympathy, they were covered with reproach. Their best friends had ceased to show loving sympathy; but, worse than all, they themselves could no longer understand why they should so suffer, and saw neither purpose nor profit in it. Just as Asaph in Ps. 73 they came to the conclusion: "Truly I have purified my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocency," and with the Preacher, looking only on visible things, they said "All is vanity." The original cause of such despair lies deeper. If the creature had not in the beginning turned away from his Creator he would not now curse his existence. The fact that men like Job and Jeremiah were capable of cursing the day of their birth, only proves how far man has drifted away from God. As long as all goes well the rebelliousness and sullenness of the human heart do not show themselves, but trials bring them to light. Temptations are therefore good and necessary, not in order that God may find out what is in man's heart (to Him the hidden things of the heart are manifest, and whatever comes out of it does not increase His knowledge), but that man may learn to know himself. By nature, as we have said, man is in rebellion against God, and even when born again still the old nature constantly shows itself in times of temptation. Let no one think, however, that he is more capable than Job of bearing temptations, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
Although Job in bitterness of soul said many perverse things, the result of it all was to God's glory and to the blessing of His servant. Many of the questions which he in anguish asked, became clear to him in the course of his pleading in defence of himself. Others were answered for him by Elihu, and again God answered some in the whirlwind and that mostly by counter questions.
Every question can be asked in two ways, either in humility and with the sincere desire to learn, or else in presumptuous rebellion against the solution, be it what it may. In the first case the questioner honestly takes the place of a learner, which is the right thing for him to do; in the second case he takes for granted that there is no satisfactory answer or else that it is definitely withheld. Man either comes before God in sincerity and with the prayer which later Elihu taught Job "What I see not teach Thou me" (Job 34:32) or he asks in rebellion "Why is everything so different from what it ought to be?"
He who does not wish to sit at the feet of the Master and say "I will demand of Thee and answer Thou me" takes the place of judge against his God. The vessel says to the potter "What makest thou?" Foolish as the question is, we yet find it frequently among the children of Adam, the generation of backsliders. The so-called Higher Criticism that has done so much harm in Christianity puts all its questions in the latter way. In our day, when the spirit of independence forces an entrance everywhere, and all men want to be free to think and do as they please, this fundamental error is almost universal. Even believers must take heed lest they be affected by the spirit of the times. Moreover there is nothing new under the sun. In reality the men of Job's time had to solve the same problems as we have to-day; only with this great difference, that God's counsel has since then been more clearly revealed. There may be some excuse for Job arguing with God, but for the Christian professor who possesses the whole word of God, it is a terrible thing to doubt the wise and loving providence of God.
Job's first great question implies a doubt about the purpose of human existence, and therefore also about the wisdom of the Creator. This is an insult against God Himself, answered by Him at the end of the book and by a series of counter questions. Then Job submits, and his tormenting questions find a satisfactory answer in the power and goodness of God. But for the man without God, and without a Saviour, there is really no adequate answer to Job's question "Why have I been born?" What is the purport of the terrible words pronounced by the Lord Jesus over the traitor Judas: "It were good for that man if he had not been born," for all the millions who have since then gone to their own place? Will mockers like Tom Paine, Voltaire, and others in the place of torment, indeed curse their day through all eternity? Yea, truly, he who does not submit to God's verdict and accept Christ as the Redeemer, will never receive light about the purpose of man's existence nor about creation generally. Only in the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21) promised by God and pledged through the cross, will the problems of present day suffering be solved. Only when the groaning creation is delivered from the bondage of corruption (Rom. 8:21) will all questions be satisfactorily answered. This was shown to Job figuratively in his own experience.
It is only in the New Testament, however, that God has revealed His plan for man. Only since the Holy Ghost has come down has the Third Person of the Godhead shown to the nations through the apostles' writings that "the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed to us." It is only in our time, to him who hears and believes, that it has been proclaimed that we according to God's will are heirs of His glory through Jesus Christ. This Spirit, also called the Spirit of promise, is the pledge of our heirship (see Eph. 1:13, 14).
Therefore the viewpoint of the Christian cannot ever be so dark as that of Job. Job saw only as from afar off and groped in the dark, but we are brought nigh to God through Christ and walk in the light. Should we not, therefore, so much the more guard ourselves from harbouring doubting thoughts and from presumptuously arguing with the Almighty? We may, indeed, in all humility, ask what the purpose of our life is, but let us beware of the rebel's spirit and of the language of the presumptuous.
It is also good for the Christian to remind himself daily what the ultimate aim of his life is and when he does this in the spirit of communion with the Lord, he comes to the point where he can "glory in tribulation."
When the ungodly man however, because of the vanity of earthly things curses his very being, or when the mere professor in times of trial, loses his apparent faith and argues with God, then he adds rebellion to his sin. The spirit of independence develops into open rebellion, and the state of mind previously hidden shows itself in action. May the Lord grant to every child of God to keep the purpose of his life and the end of his course always before his eyes, so that he may be kept from the presumption of Job in arguing with the Almighty! And if there be one of my readers who has not yet accepted God's answer to Job's question, oh, let him shake off his indifference, and flee from the ranks of the rebellious before it is too late! Do not seek the answer with the pride of the rebellious, or the perversity of the doubter, but with a humble and submissive heart. Then only in learning of Jesus will you find rest unto your soul.
Job 40:2 "Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it."
Jeremiah 20:14-15 Cursed be the day in which I was born! Let the day not be blessed in which my mother bore me! Let the man be cursed Who brought news to my father, saying, "A male child has been born to you!" Making him very glad.
1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
Job 34:32 Teach me what I do not see; If I have done iniquity, I will do no more'?
Romans 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
Job 34:32Teach me what I do not see; If I have done iniquity, I will do no more'?
Acts 3:21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.
Ephesians 1:13-14 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.