A number of years ago I was in California and had a chance to visit the venerable Crystal Cathedral. It really is a remarkable piece of architecture. Completed in 1980 at the cost of $18 million, it has over 10,000 individual panes that are glued in place. The entire building sits on underground rollers that will absorb tremors to the point that it is supposed to withstand an 8.0 earthquake. There is a restaurant, a gift shop, a visitors center, etc. It is a very impressive campus.
But what is really paradoxical is that right in the middle of the grounds is a statue of a twisted, tormented Job. As I stood looking at it I said to the visitor guide (yes, they have guided tours), “A statue of Job? Don’t you think Solomon in all of his glory would be more appropriate for this place?” She looked me in the eye and said, “You’re a real smart Alec aren’t you?”
But what about Job? It has been a story of continual debate. Why did God allow Job to suffer to the extent that he did? Was it God’s fault, Satan’s fault or Job’s fault? Last Sunday I preached on the subject and was not really surprised that I hit such a cord with the congregation. We have all had our Job moment and we all struggle with why.
The Book of Job begins with perplexing wager between God and Satan where God allows Satan to trash Job’s life being convinced that Job will stand no matter what Satan throws at him. In one day he loses all his considerable herds of animals, all his servants and all 10 of his children. How would you handle such a day? Most would throw themselves off the nearest tall building. Job shaves his head, rips his robe, bows down and worships God. Then he coins the oft-quoted famous line, “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away.” Although it is true, that that is what Job said, that does not mean it is actually true. Huh? All one has to do is read the story and you can clearly see that the Lord gave… and Satan took away. Job did not know that. He had no access to scripture as Job is actually the first book of the bible that was written. The statement may be gross over simplification of course, because God did allow Satan to do it, so therefore God may have some culpability. But it actually is not really the point of the story. The message you don’t want to miss is Job’s amazing response in the midst of tragedy. The very next thing the bible says is, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” This answers two more questions. One, that it was not Job’s fault and two, it was not God’s fault. Job clearly recognised it would be wrong to blame God for what had happened. The bottom line is; bad things happen to good people. The scripture says, Job was blameless, upright, feared God and shunned evil. There was no one on earth that was as good a person as Job and yet he still suffered.
Round two was still to follow and for the next nine months Satan smote Job with painful boils from his head to toes. Still Job refused to curse God and the scripture says, “Job did not sin with his lips.” By the end of the book we are expecting some resolution, which we get, but what we don’t get is answers. Job is basically asking God what is going on with his life. Instead of answering his question, in Job 38 God responds with a few questions of His own. “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge. Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me,if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone… and on and on He goes with the most incredible description of God’s omnipotentence anywhere in scripture.
It sends shivers up my spine every time I read it. Have a read for yourself. The conclusion of the matter is that we scarcely have a clue when it comes to understanding God’s ways. And rather than crying, “Why Lord, Why me?” We, like Job, are to accept that we will never fully understand God’s ways this side of heaven. Because of Job’s incredible attitude and response to his trial, God restored two fold everything that the Devil stole from him.
This is not an easy message. How do you deal with bankruptcy or divorce or worse yet the death of a spouse or child? These are real life struggles that are painful to the core when they come. Job’s faith in God sustained him, all the while believing that God was actually responsible. Oh, that we would have such faith considering our advanced New Testement knowledge, that it is not God’s fault at all! He’s on our side! …the bigger question then remains; are we on His?