Monday, June 25, 2007

Job's basic point

The contrast between the discussion in the heavenly realms in Job 1 and what is discussed by Job and his 'comforters' in the following chapters is the key to understanding the book and the best way into finding strength in the midst of suffering.
The discussion in heaven in the opening of the book is "If Job suffers will he sin?" i.e. will suffering lead to sin. See 1v10-11 "You have blessed the work of his hands...But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face."
But the whole discussion between Job and his friends is over whether sin has led to his suffering. Do you see the opposite? Not does suffering lead to sin, but does sin lead to suffering.
Job's 'comforters' are firmly entrenched in the doctrinal position that suffering is always caused by sin, therefore Job must have sinned because he is suffering. But Job again and again affirms his innocence and is baffled by his suffering.
Jesus says in Luke 13 when asked about some people that had suffered,
"Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
Suffering is not necessarily because of any sin in our lives but simply part of a cursed world and affects everyone. (notice Jesus describes everyone as sinful, rather than some good or bad)
What should concern us is what was discussed in heaven in Job 1 and what Jesus reaffirms here - when we suffer, will we sin and curse God? How we respond to suffering is what matters. Knowing that it was not necessarily our sin that caused it is a comfort. Job and Jesus point us to what our concern should be - how we respond - are we bitter about it or concerned to still honour God? And Jesus points us to the correct perspective - the eternal one. We may be suffering now, but there is the hope of a a place where there will be no suffering or pain - the bodily resurrection to be with Jesus in glory on the final day. The key question then is whether we are ready for that, to which Jesus says make sure we repent and so don't perish instead on the final day.

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