Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Suffering of Job (part 1)

There exist many atheists and agnostics who say, "There can't possibly be a god.  How could a loving god allow all the suffering that exists in the world?"

Well, the Bible certainly never says that there will be no earthly suffering.

You may say that the Bible is balderdash, that it could not possibly be true, that you have no time for it.  You can say all that, and I can't stop you.  All I'm saying is:  for those of us who worship the Judeo-Christian God, who get our information about Him from the Bible, the Bible says that there will be suffering, and not the opposite.  So the existence of suffering cannot be used as proof against our religion, or the existence of our God.

In fact, there is a whole book of the Bible that is entirely about suffering: the book of Job (pronounced Jobe, with a long o).

Here is a very interesting detail:  The book of Job is generally considered to be the oldest book in the Bible.  Scholars date it prior to the Torah which is the collection of the five books of the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) which Moses wrote after God spoke to him on Mt. Sinai.

The book of Genesis is Moses' account of what God told him about the origin of all things, and the beginning of the history of humanity.  It covers Creation, the span of time and lineage of humanity up until Noah, Noah's Flood, more lineage, the call of Abram, and then the stories of Abraham's descendants: Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob, particularly the story of Joseph.  All of this business was finished approximately 400 years before Moses came on the scene to write it down.

I tell you this because the book of Job is usually dated at the time of Abraham.  As I have heard one Bible teacher say, "Job and Abraham played together when they were little boys."  Not necessarily, but that is the time frame where most people place the book of Job.  My study Bibles, in the introductions they provide for the book of Job, date it at around 2000 B.C., although one says 2000-1800 B.C. and the other allows for the possibility of it being written as late as 500 B.C.  Traditional, conservative scholars quite consistently place the date of the book of Job 350-550 years earlier than the Torah, which was written around 1445 B.C.

I tell you this, because it is exceedingly remarkable to me that the earliest recorded part of the Word of God, which probably existed hundreds of years prior to any other revelation, deals with the matter of suffering.

Do you know what that says?  It says that the first thing God ever revealed about Himself or His character was directly related to suffering, and not only to the existence of suffering.  At the very beginning of Job, the writer tells us all about what a great guy Job was, how righteous, how diligent, how responsible, how wealthy...

And then... then God says to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?"

Satan did not ask God if he could torment Job.  Satan simply presented himself before God along with the angels one day, and God looked at him and said, "Have you considered my servant Job?"  Testing Job was all God's idea.

Not only does this seem very strange, and very contrary to our mental image of a good and loving God, but this is the first revelation of God that was ever put down on paper.

What was God doing?  Why did He reveal Himself this way??

We will get into that next time.  In the meantime, read Job, chapters 1-2, and while you do, think about how this was probably God's first big move to show Himself to mankind.   Why???

for part 2, click here

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