Chris Sheeter and I were students at BJU and friends in 1981. Chris was tall, handsome, musical, with a great personality. He also was a good preacher. Chris was studying to pastor. We attended the same church, Southside Baptist Church and worked as waiters at the same Seafood restaurant, Old Mill Stream Inn. I graduated one semester before he did and started pastoring in N.C. and I drove back to Greenville, S.C. just to fellowship with Chris. During his last semester, he was a life guard at a local hotel. At the end of a shift, he dove in the pool just to swim across and go home. As he was swimming across the bottom, his friends notice he stopped about half way. Chris drowned.
Chris studied seven years, spent nearly $100,000 to prepare to pastor and never got to pastor one day. I remember asking myself, not out loud, why did God lead him to go through the rigors of four years of undergraduate work and the even tougher studies of three years of seminary and then allow this tragedy to happen?
William Safire, in a New York Times editorial, wrote after the 2004 India tsunami in which over 200,000 people were killed from 14 countries, “Where was God? Why does a good and all powerful deity permit such evil and grief to fall on innocent people? What did these people do to deserve such suffering.”
David Hume, the eighteenth century philosopher, connected the problem of evil and the existence of God: “Is He willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”
Jewish rabbi, Harold Kushner in his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, answered, at least to his satisfaction, Hume’s dilemma. The death of his son drove Kushner “to question his traditional Jewish faith. Though a rabbi, Kushner came to believe that God could not have prevented his son’s death. He is frank: ‘I can worship a God who hates suffering but cannot eliminate it, more easily than I can worship a God who chooses to make children suffer and die’” (D. A. Carson. Reflections on Suffering & Evil: How Long O Lord? Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990, 29). Kushner’s solution to the problem of evil is not to reject the existence of God, but to deny God’s omnipotence.
Though the innocent Job suffers in the book that bears his name, the question this book asks and answers is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But “Why do suffering believers continue to serve the Lord?”
That is the question Satan posed to God in reference to godly Job in 1:9. “Does Job serve God for nothing?” was really an attack against God’s worth to be served. Satan was saying that God had to bribe Job to serve Him with his wealth. Satan was attacking the motives of Job in serving God and the worth of God to be served.
It is true Biblically that there are no innocent people. All suffering is the result of the Fall of Adam. Each of us is born a sinner and in time willfully sin against God which made clear in the New Testament in Romans 3:23 and the observation of any individual.
D. A. Carson is right when he observes that “on the whole, the biblical writers are surprised, not by punishment, but by the Lord’s patience and forbearance. God does not punish the Amorites until their sin has reached full measure (Gen. 15:16). Again and again we are told that the Lord is longsuffering, slow to anger, and very merciful. . . .From this perspective, it would have made more sense to write a book full of wonder under the title When Good Things Happen to Bad People (Carson, 48-49).
Yet, Job 1:1 makes it very clear that Job was not suffering retribution for some lifestyle of sin. The godliness of Job is repeated by God in 1:8 and 2:3.
Job forces us to examine our motives, “Do we serve God for nothing?” The book of Job answers Satan’s question in 1:9.
The author of Job answers Satan’s question in the three major sections of Job.
1. God’s Suffering Believer in the Hands of Satan (Chapters 1 and 2).
A. Job was godly. Job was “perfect” not sinless.
The word “perfect” was used to describe an animal sacrifice that was blemishless and ready for sacrifice (Lev 22:21). The blamelessness of Job is well established in the narrative section of Job. This point will be very important when Job’s friends begin to accuse Job of suffering because of sin in the second section.
B. Job was blessed by God. Job’s wealth is inventoried in 1:2-3.
J. Vernon McGee said donkeys were OT pickup trucks, oxen were OT tractors, and camels were OT delivery trucks. Job was in the trucking business.
C. Job was attacked by Satan in 1:6-19.
1. Job lost his wealth when Satan was permitted by God to attach Job on all fronts.
a. From the South by the Sabeans
b. From the west by a thunderstorm
c. From the north by Chaldeans
d. From the east by a storm
Job’s business going belly up proves the motive for Job’s service to the Lord was not material possession.
2. Job lost his children. Job attended a funeral with ten coffins. Job, also, lost the support of his wife (2:9-10). J. Vernon McGee said the reason Satan did not take her when he took the ten children was that she was more useful to Satan alive. The motive for Job’s service to the Lord was not family.
3. Job lost his health (2:1-8). There are 16 medical updates throughout the book. Job suffered from
a. Painful boils (2:7)
b. Severe itching (2:7-8). Job is on the ash heap.
c. Great grief (2:13)
d. Loss of appetite (3:24)
e. Insomnia (7:4)
f. Worm and dust infested flesh (7:5)
g. Continual oozing of boils (7:5)
h. Hallucinations (7:14)
i. Decaying skin (13:28)
j. Shriveled up (16:8)
k. Severe halitosis (19:17)
l. Teeth fell out (19:20)
m. relentless pain (30:17)
n. Skin turned black (30:30)
o. Raging fever (30:30)
p. Dramatic weight loss (33:21)
Job still served the Lord when his health was gone. So far Job is proving Satan wrong.
In Part 2, we will see Job in the hands of Christian critics and finally in the hands of God. The second section of Job (Job 3-42:6) is no longer Hebrew narrative where God expresses his view of Job’s innocence. The next section of Job is Hebrew Poetry which is the language of the soul. Hebrew poetry is the genre that expresses people’s emotions. Sometimes the positive emotions of praise is expressed in Hebrew poetry as in the Psalms (for example Psalm 103) and other times as in the second section of Job the negative emotions of Job’s ”miserable comforter” and Job are vented in the three cycles of debate.
What is interesting about the second section of Job is the fact that Satan is no longer mentioned. In chapters 1 and 2, Satan is persistent in attacking Job’s faith. But when Job’s Christian critics take over in the next section, they do such a good job of verbally pounding on Job, perhaps Satan felt he could leave Job in the hands of his ash heap critics and go destory some other believer’s faith.