Job “was a man of complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). On two occasions, speaking from His royal chambers in Heaven, God said of Job, “No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3).
Logic seems to suggest that an Almighty and Sovereign God would protect and bless such a person, that a faithful man like Job would live a peaceful and pleasant existence, shielded from the arrows of the enemy. Job’s story is perplexing because it demonstrates that God sometimes allows righteous people to suffer.
When the ancient account begins, Job, a Hebrew living in the northern Sinai region, was a happy, healthy, wealthy man. “He had seven sons and three daughters. His estate included seven thousand sheep and goats, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large number of servants. Job was the greatest man among all the people of the east” (Job 1:2–3).
With God’s express permission, Satan attacked (Job 1:12; 2:6), leaving Job penniless, powerless, and alone. With his herds and flocks of livestock and his beloved brood of children all dead (Job 1:13-19), Job was inflicted “with terrible boils from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” (Job 2:7).
What follows in the Book of Job is mostly a series of conversations between Job and his so-called friends. “Now when Job’s three friends … heard about all this adversity that had happened to him, each of them came from his home … to sympathize with him and comfort him”(Job 2:11). But the trio of comforters weren’t comforting. Instead, they accused Job of being a hypocrite, of secretly doing evil deserving of God’s harsh punishment.
In turn, Job claimed to be innocent, undeserving of God’s wrath. He begged God for justice and boldly and self-righteously claimed that God wasn’t fair in His administration of justice. “I call for help, but there is no justice” (Job 19:7). “As God lives, who has deprived me of justice, and the Almighty who has made me bitter, as long as my breath is still in me and the breath from God remains in my nostrils, my lips will not speak unjustly, and my tongue will not utter deceit. I will never affirm that you are right. I will maintain my integrity until I die. I will cling to my righteousness and never let it go. My conscience will not accuse me as long as I live!” (Job 27:2–6).
God finally “answered Job from the whirlwind” (Job 38:1) with a series of humbling questions. God asked, “where were you when I established the earth?” (Job 38:4). “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning or assigned the dawn its place?” (Job 38:12). “Have you traveled to the sources of the sea or walked in the depths of the oceans?” (Job 38:16). “Can you command the clouds so that a flood of water covers you? Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go?” (Job 38:34–35). “Does the eagle soar at your command and make its nest on high?” (Job 39:27). And finally, “will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who argues with God give an answer” (Job 40:2).
Job must have felt the gut-punch of God’s truth! “Then Job replied to the Lord: I know that you can do anything and no plan of yours can be thwarted … Therefore, I reject my words and am sorry for them; I am dust and ashes” (Job 42:1-2, 6). “The Lord restored his fortunes and doubled his previous possessions… So the Lord blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first” (Job 42:10–12).
I learn three important truths from my study of the life of Job. First, in a fallen world, even one ruled by a Sovereign and Almighty God, bad things happen to good people.
Secondly, Job’s integrity didn’t obligate Almighty God, and Job, the creature, had no right to make demands of the Creator.
Lastly, God didn’t give the self-righteous Job what he deserved. God didn’t dispense justice, but grace.