A few readers have asked for my thoughts on this “troublesome” passage:
All (Job’s) brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. (Job 42:11, NIV)
Other translations say the Lord brought adversity or evil upon Job. This is clearly a reference to the great loss that Job suffered – he lost his health, wealth and children. And as everybody knows, God was behind Job’s suffering. It was the Lord who killed his kids.
Except he didn’t. God wasn’t remotely responsible for the suffering Job experienced.
As we have seen in our series on Job, God did not give the devil permission to have a crack at Job. And the notion that God robs us – that he gives and takes away – says more about Job’s distorted view of God than the true character of a good God who gives without revocation.
Who are you listening to?
There are some fascinating characters in the story of Job. There are three comfortless friends who burden Job with useless advice. There’s young Elihu, who is the lone voice of wisdom. And in the final chapter we get a cameo from Job’s brothers, sisters, and former friends.
If I could ask Job’s siblings one question, it would be this: Where were you turkeys? When your brother was going through hell, where were you? When he was burying his children – your nieces and nephews – where were you?
Job’s siblings are the invisible men and women of the story. There’s no mention of them until the very end. When Job becomes twice as prosperous as before, then they show up. They rock up at his mansion to sit at his table and eat his food.
The one thing you need to know about Job’s brothers is that they were deceitful. Job said they were as deceitful or unreliable as a desert stream (Job 6:15). They were fair-weather friends who ate Job’s food but disappeared at the first sign of trouble.
So why are we listening to them?
To think God kills children or sends evil because Job’s brothers said so is the height of foolishness. Why would you trust what an untrustworthy person says about God?
There is something comical about these jokers and their muddled theology. Picture the scene: Job’s brothers are sitting in a mansion surrounded by the blessings of God. They are literally feasting on the Lord’s provision, yet in between mouthfuls they bemoan the evil of God who takes and kills.
Do you see? It’s ludicrous. They are comedic characters at the end of a long drama.
Or if that’s too lighthearted for you, Job’s brothers are the personification of bad religion. They’re not around when Job’s hurting, they knock on his door as soon as he’s rich, and they paint evil pictures of a good God.
Either way, you shouldn’t heed them.
“Gee Paul, I don’t know. It’s in the Bible.”
So are slavery and polygamy. Taking scripture out of context is fatal and Jesus provides the best context when it comes to understanding the character of God. Can you imagine Jesus robbing Job, making him sick, and killing his kids? If it’s not in the Son it’s not in the Father.
God is all the time good
Listen to bad men talk about the Lord, and you will get bad picture. Contrary to what Job’s siblings said, and some still say, God did not bring evil or trouble upon Job. A God who does evil makes as much sense as a torch that shines dark.
If you are going through tough times, don’t listen to Job’s brothers. Listen to Isaiah who said this:
But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator … “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. (Isa 43:1-2)
Or listen to Paul:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Cor 1:3-4)
Or listen to David:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me… Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psa 23:4,6)
If you are going through hard times, take care who you listen to. Don’t feed upon the evil report of evil or ignorant men, but feed upon Jesus:
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live (John 11:25)
The true story of Job is not how God does evil, but how a good God takes the messes of our broken lives and makes them beautiful.
It’s a story of grace and redemption, and by the grace of God it can be your story too.
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