God’s monologue in Job 38-41 makes a few things clear to me:
- God chose not to respond to Job right away. He chose to allow Job and his friends to struggle a bit with this issue of pain, even though it meant Job receiving some incredibly bad advice. It is just a fact that God allows us to suffer. Although God does rescue, He rescues in His timing for His glory. A New Testament example of God rescuing in His timing and for His glory is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Jesus received word that his good friend Lazarus was ill, but actually waiting until Lazarus had passed away before coming to him. Notice what Jesus says: But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) When Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death,” of course he meant that Lazarus’ death was not going to be permanent this time. He also said that this was happening so that He (Son of God) would be glorified. When he actually raises Lazarus in John 11:40-44, he again clarifies this purpose of God’s glory, so that there would be no confusion why this is happening.
- God is all about His glory. God makes this very obvious in Job 38-41. Our problem, if we’re being honest, is that we are all about our glory. This is what puts us at odds with God. Even Job, a righteous man, was defending himself and asking God to vindicate him – to tell his friends that they were wrong and he was right. While Job didn’t “curse God” as his wife encouraged him to do, he clearly was more concerned about his own reputation among his friends than he was about God’s reputation among his friends. Job isn’t telling his friends, “Hey, God has a right to do this, because He is God and He knows what He is doing.” Instead, Job is saying, “God must have made me His enemy because He is allowing me to suffer like this when I didn’t do anything wrong.
- God is sovereign, and His purposes will prevail. God had two purposes in allowing Job to suffer, and allowing his suffering to be prolonged:
- To glorify Himself. Remember how the book started out, with Satan telling God that Job would curse Him if God allowed Job to suffer? (Job 1:11) God was glorified in Job’s response to his suffering.
- To purge Job of some residual pride. Elihu showed us this in his speech that we just read. Job was more concerned with his own vindication than with God’s vindication. (Job 32:2) He was more obsessed with his own glory than the glory of God. Just like me, and you, and everyone else, Job had a pride problem. And as a beloved child and friend, God is refining him.
- God loves Job deeply and He is acting out of His love for Job, not out of wrath. Job’s suffering is not punishment. It is not a sign of God’s anger. John Piper says “Job’s pain is not the pain of the executioner’s whip but the pain of the surgeon’s scalpel.” The removal of the disease of pride is the most loving thing God could do, no matter what the cost. Remember that Jesus said it is better to suffer the excruciating pain of a gouged out eye than to let any sin remain in your heart. (Matthew 18:7-9) If it does not seem obvious to us that sanctification (the process of becoming more like Christ) is worth any pain on this earth, it is probably because we don’t hate sin and value holiness the way God does and the way we should.
Job needed the encounter with God that he had in Job 38-41, and I need it too. That is why this book is in the Bible. I need to be reminded from time to time that God is sovereign, and that arguing with Him about what is best for us is pointless and futile. We need to remember that this book that we are reading is the Word of the One who laid the foundations of the earth, set the boundaries for the seas, and placed Orion and Pleiades in the sky.