The book of Job is a brilliantly composed epic poem that wrestles with one of the core questions of the human experience:  “Why do good people suffer?

 

 

Here’s the scenario.  Job is a great guy.  He’s rich, he’s powerful, he’s got a great family, and he is a truly good man. He’s a pillar of society.  He’s on top of the world.  And, he loves God.  One day the accuser proposes to God that Job is only a God-lover because God has showered him with all the creature comforts of life.  Take them away, he suggests, and Job would turn on God in a heartbeat.

So, God accepts the challenge and, in one day, Job loses everything.  He goes from riches to rags overnight.  On top of that, he becomes tortuously ill and writhes in agony day and night.

How does something like this happen?  Where is justice?  Where is the love of God?  How could God allow a good man like Job to suffer in this way?

In order to wrestle with this question, Job is surrounded by his three “friends” Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad.  For several chapters, Job volleys back and forth with these three men.

Here is a summary of the conversation:

Friends:  “Job, everyone knows that good people prosper and bad people suffer.  You are suffering, so you must be a bad person.”

Job:  “I am not a bad person.  Show me my wrong.”

Friends:  “You have to be a bad person; otherwise you would not be suffering.”

Job:  “Some friends you are.  I wish I had never been born.”

Friends:  “Why don’t you just admit you are a sinner, repent, and get on with it?”

Job:  “Why don’t you just be quiet, admit that there is no justice in the world? And let me crawl in a hole and die.  Oh, by the way, I am not a sinner and I wish God cared enough to let me defend myself.”

 

In the end the four men were left in a stalemate, with nothing left to say.

 

Once the banter had died down the young Elihu steps up and says:

“You all have it wrong.  You are forgetting one important thing.  None of this is about you.  Your focus is on yourself and you are trying to fit the truth of God’s justice into your puny little box of what you think His justice should be.  Take your eyes off of yourself for a minute and contemplate the vastness of God.”

Here is the crux of the message of Job.  Notice on the chart that God’s unchanging glory arcs over the whole scene while the four “wise” men are living under a dark cloud of distorted understanding.  Throughout the Old Testament, and well on to today, many people have slipped into a distorted view of God’s justice and the message of the Law.  Remember that in Deuteronomy Moses set before the people life and death, blessing and curses.  If you choose the path of God you choose blessings and life.  If you choose the path of disobedience you choose curses and death.  So, Moses urged them, choose life.

While this is obviously true and from the heart of God, it was sorely misunderstood and distorted.  The vast majority of people heard these words and reasoned that this was an absolute, one-to-one relationship: If I do good, I prosper; if I do bad, I suffer.

While that may seem to make sense, it is not, in fact, what Deuteronomy said.  Deuteronomy was not a promise that obedient people would never suffer pain and that disobedient people would never have a prosperous existence.  Deuteronomy is a generalized principle that says that, in the big picture, it is better to love God, because He is the lover and author of your soul.  Sometimes pain and suffering are actually part of God’s master plan.  Jesus echoed the basic message of Job (and Ecclesiastes, for that matter) in Matthew 5:45 where He said, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

The story of Job shows us that sometimes good people do suffer.  Why?  Well…read the commentaries…

 

An Index to My Posts on Job

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  • Week 21 Day 3 – God and Satan May 26, 2010
    Job 1:6-2:10 Coming across these two chapters in our daily reading offers us a good opportunity to stop and look at a question that a lot of people have, but don’t like to talk much about.  “Who is Satan?”  From these chapters (and drawing from the full counsel of scripture) we can make some observations about Satan. 1. The word Satan is not a name, it means “the accuser”. In this title we see the only power that the ...
  • Week 21 Day 4 – Why, God, Why? May 27, 2010
    Job 10:1-22 How honest are you with God?  How often do you speak to God exactly how you are feeling?  In this chapter Job really let’s loose on God.  He tells it like he feels it.  Here are some thoughts about this chapter: 1. Sometimes even good people can feel miserable. Notice the first words of the chapter.  Job says, “I loathe my very life, therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the ...
  • Week 21 Day 5 – What to Say When Someone Hurts May 28, 2010
    Job 12:1-6, Job 16:1-5 Here’s the scene.  A person plops down in the middle of the room, obviously dejected, and the words that pour out of their mouth sound like a bad country/western tune.  “My wife left me, my dog left me, my pickup truck broke down, I got fired from my job, and my heart is giving out.”  What do you do?  Do you think to yourself, “Oh boy, I don’t have time for this kind ...
  • Week 22 Day 1 – Where is Justice? May 31, 2010
    Job 21:14-16 Today we are going to climb into Job’s perspective on reality.  Although it is ultimately incorrect, it is nonetheless a perspective that is shared by many people in the world.  Perhaps you have felt this way at times.  Essentially Job is saying that, when you look around at the world there seems to be more injustice than justice.  From the time we were students in grade school, we observed that children cheated and got away ...
  • Week 22 Day 2 – Where is Wisdom? June 1, 2010
    Job 28:1-28 In the 16th century, Europe experienced a Renaissance, a “rebirth of light.”  As culture moved into this new era it looked back on the Middle Ages that was dominated by the Roman Church and called it “The Dark Ages.”  This new era, now referred to as the Modern era, was sparked by new scientific discoveries.  Copernicus discovered that the Earth revolved around the sun, shattering the church’s geocentric and church-centric cosmology.  Guttenberg invented the ...
  • Week 22 Day 3 – From the Mouth of Babes June 2, 2010
    Job 32-37 Elihu is a wonderful breath of fresh air in a conversation that was quickly getting stale.  This young man had been sitting there the whole time listening as these four older, “wiser,” men talked themselves into stalemate of two opposing viewpoints.  The three “friends” said that Job was suffering because he was a sinner.  Job said that he was not a sinner and that God’s sense of justice was skewed.  Job just wished that ...
  • Week 22 Day 4 – In the Presence of the Almighty June 3, 2010
    Job 38:1-41:34 Today is a day of worship.  It would be silly of me to try to write a devotional with my human words when we are reading several chapters directly from the words of God.  Instead of writing a devotional for today, I invite you climb into the experience that Job had when he received these words from God.  Here are a couple exercises/questions to guide you through the experience.  As you read these chapters keep ...
  • Week 22 Day 5 – From Hearing to Knowing June 4, 2010
    Job 42:1-6 Verse 5 is a wonderful summary of the entire message of the Old Testament that we have studied so far.  Job said, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”  Herein lies the contrast: there is knowledge about God and then there is knowing God.  Before Job’s encounter with God he had been operating under a great knowledge about God.  I’m sure he was raised in a good Sunday ...
  • So, Why Do Good People Suffer? Getting Ready to Preach through Job June 15, 2016
    We launch into a six-week sermon series on the book of Job starting the weekend of July 2/3. The basic question posed by this epic poem asks, “Why do good people suffer?” This is a timely question. Here is a link to my Bible Bookshelf on Job to get context. We’re following the Narrative Lectionary plan on this. Here’s the schedule: July 2/3 – Job 1:1-22 July 9/10 – Job 3:1-10; 4:1-9; 7:11-21 July 16/17 – Job 14:7-15; 19:23-27 July 23/24 – ...
  • Why Do You Love God? July 29, 2016
    Next weekend we begin a five-week sermon series through the book of Job from the collection of Wisdom literature in the Hebrew Scripture. Most people react to this news with either an eye roll or a slouch in the shoulders. “Job! Really? It’s so depressing.” True. Job can be a depressing book. After all, it’s about a guy who does everything right, follows all God’s laws, is incredibly “blessed”, and then loses everything. It is not ...
  • The Worst Things to Say to A Suffering Person August 4, 2016
    I would like to take an informal survey of my online community to help get prepared for the second sermon in the Job series coming up on August 13/14. Here’s the question I pose to you: What are some of the worst things that people have said to you when you shared your experience of pain or suffering? Don’t give names. Simply share the quote, and perhaps the context of the situation and how the statement made ...
  • The Characters of Wisdom August 5, 2016
    The Bible Project has inspired me through their videos and podcasts about the Wisdom Books. They talk about the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job as if they were people, or characters in a play. I am going to use that metaphor in my sermon this weekend. I took the liberty to draw my version of these characters this afternoon. These are the PowerPoint slides for the sermon. Thanks, Bible Project! Love, love, love the latest podcast ...
  • Why Do You Love God? | A Sermon to Introduce the Book of Job August 7, 2016
    Narrative Lectionary Text: Job 1:1-22 When I was in middle school my little group of buddies and I would love to get together and have sleep-overs at each other’s house. One night we were at my house. We lived in a first ring suburb of Detroit, and our house was one of those salt box houses built in 1908. It was small and old and had a really cool attic. The only way to get to the ...
  • A Behind the Scenes Look at Job Week 2: How to Speak in Times of Suffering August 13, 2016
    https://youtu.be/hkh_MEvR8J8 This video takes you behind the scenes. I show you different tools that I use to study for a text and prepare for a sermon. The two main tools are Logos Bible Software and Evernote. I hope you find it interesting and helpful.
  • How to Speak in Times of Suffering | A Sermon from Job August 14, 2016How to Speak in Times of Suffering | A Sermon from Job
    This is the second sermon in a five-part series on the book of Job. Join the online discussion at the Grace Learning Center. This sermon looks at the big portion of Job (chapter 3-31) as his “friends” attack him and accuse him of being in sin. From this negative example we explore practical ways to bring comfort to those who are suffering. Follow Along with the PowerPoint Read the Manuscript What do you say when you encounter someone ...
  • Job, Suffering, and Spiritual Formation August 16, 2016Job, Suffering, and Spiritual Formation
    Today I find myself standing between the second and third weeks of a five-part sermon series on the book of Job. Last week we focused on the conversations that Job had with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They wrongfully accused him of sin, because that was their only explanation for his suffering. I tried to focus the sermon on the practical issue of how to talk to people in times of suffering. The contributions from the ...
  • How Does Pain Help Spiritual Growth? | A Sermon from Job 19:25 August 21, 2016
    This is the third sermon in a five-part series on the book of Job. We look at Job 19:25 and see how Job was still in a dark place. The sermon demonstrates how there are different types of pain and how they each intersect the phases of the spiritual journey through Purgation, Illumination, and Union with God. Follow Along with the PowerPoint Read the Sermon Do any of you remember the 1985 Movie called Brazil, by Terry Gilliam? It’s ...
  • Paradox and the Tension of Love August 25, 2016
    Richard Rohr’s meditations on paradox have been especially helpful for me this week. My Facebook friends know that I’ve been sharing them all week (see below). They have spoken to me for many reasons. One reason is related to the current sermon series on Job. The wisdom of Job teaches that reality exists in the paradox of Proverb’s Wisdom being both true and not-true. The mystery of God is that God is the all powerful creator ...
  • Honest to God | A Sermon on Job 42:7 September 4, 2016
    This is the final sermon in a five part series on the story of Job from the Hebrew Scripture. There are two take-aways from this series. First, we can be honest with God, no matter how we feel. God invites us into authentic relationship. Second, God calls us into the space of paradox that brings warring dichotomies together. Watch the animation to see what I mean. PowerPoint Here’s the Animated short I played at the end of the ...
  • Overcome (by) Grief May 8, 2018Overcome (by) Grief
    It has been twelve years, but it seems like yesterday. Lona’s scream pierced my soul. We knew all day that something was not right. No one had heard from her Dad that day. He was on location in Sacramento, CA running another construction project. His twin brother called him every day to check in. This day there was no answer. Uncle Rowlyn called all the sisters to see if they had heard from him. They ...
  • How to Process Grief | A Sermon from the Overcome Series May 31, 2018
    This sermon explores the topic of Grief. What is it? What does the Bible say about it? How can we deal with it? The story of Job gives us some clues about how to sit with someone in grief and how not to sit with someone in grief. Sermon Manuscript Lona’s scream pierced my soul. We knew all day that something was not right. No one had heard from her Dad that day. He was on location in ...
  • A Cartoonist’s Guide to Job May 31, 2020A Cartoonist's Guide to Job
    A Cartoonist's Guide to Job

Enjoy This Overview from the Bible Project

Resources for the Narrative Lectionary in Job

I preached through Job in August 2016 following the Narrative Lectionary. Here are the posts and sermons I created during the series. Feel free to use any of it to help you in your preaching, teaching, and personal study.

The first column displays the actual sermons with the PowerPoint and image pack downloads.The Second column displays my notes and "behind-the-scenes" posts. 

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