Week of November 19

Serving God Even When He is Silent

Read: Job 41-42; 2 Corinthians 1-2
“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’”
Job 42:1-2, ESV


Many climb the mountain of suffering and even rise above their circumstances, but they fail to understand how they arrived or how they will survive the descent. Job provides us with a powerful example of how to endure suffering and emerge victorious. The heart of Job’s testimony is grounded in his faith, and his example causes us to ask a question of our own life pilgrimages.
What do we do when God does not answer the question, “Why am I suffering?” Job’s example encourages us to use our God-given minds and hearts to respond to the Lord in faith. God has demonstrated the vastness of His person and the scope of His reach into areas well beyond anything that Job can comprehend. The contrite, suffering man clearly grasped the implications of God’s divine words. So, he worships God. Are you interested in Job’s secret? Let’s examine our focal passage today to learn more about living victoriously in the mystery of suffering.

The Meaning of the Text

Facing the truth about our lives when we suffer
Job reaches a powerful awareness in chapter 42, where he comes to terms with his finitude, in contrast to God’s infinite person. We should notice that he repents of having challenged God’s justice in his speeches; however, he did not confess that he had done something to deserve his sufferings. His circumstances have provided him with a deeper and richer awareness of God’s nature and activity in the world. We also may gain new insight into God and His ways when we walk through suffering. Notice Job’s newfound awareness of God’s person and purposes.
Determine who is in control
We are finite. The overarching truth is: God is all-powerful (v. 2a) and His purposes are never thwarted (v. 2b). He alone exercises might, especially over the moral sphere, where “he puts down evil and brings to pass his holy will” (EBC). We may find such a confession difficult in an age that limits God’s knowledge, power, and, in some cases, goodness. Our first confession that truly makes sense in this world of evil and suffering is: “He is God, and I am not!”
God is good. Job opens his mouth to tell God that he received God’s message loud and clear. The short version is that God’s purpose is all that counts. Job states that there is nothing else that he needs to know except, perhaps, that this Lord of the universe was his friend (42:7-8; cf. John 15:13, 15; “that someone lay down his life for his friends” and “I have called you friends”). If you are like me, then you often need the closeness of God when you suffer. So, does God ever draw near to Job? To us?
The God who stoops and stays
Job answers these questions (cf. vv. 5-6). He claims that he had heard about God, but now his oft-requested prayer to come into His presence had been answered! Interestingly, once Job finds himself there, he senses the need to withdraw his rash statements about God. He was the one who had pulled back from God. Job rejects what he had said about God (v. 6).
Secondly, he “repents,” not of sin that caused his suffering but of the wrong assertion about God’s justice (cf. 38:2, 40:3). Job rids himself of the comic-book-character God and, as a result, finds his comfort in an encounter with the real Lord (v. 5b). He ultimately finds consolation and comfort even though he still suffered. Wow! We need this God.
Following Job’s example leads us to God
Job shows us the way to follow God when we suffer. First, we should notice that Job quotes God’s words as he reflects upon his personal road of sorrow and suffering (cf. 38:23; 40:7). The Word of God is always true and provides us with comfort.
Secondly, we should notice that he had remained blameless throughout, even though his friends had accused him of overt and even covert sin (cf. Job 22:2-11; 8:11-18). So, for what did Job repent (42:6b)? There are a variety of views, but it may be best to assume that he repented of his belief in a God who was too small (NAC).
Thirdly, God’s revelation of Himself to the suffering saint led him to confess that God “can do all things” (42:2; cf. Matthew 19:26; NAC). He also had learned that no purpose of God can be thwarted (42:2).
Finally, God had made Himself known to Job (“seen”) and he fell before Him in worship (cf. Exodus 3:1-6; Isaiah 6:1-8).

The Message for Our Lives

I recall failing to make a Junior High School football team when I was in eighth grade. I cannot understand why. I was 5’ 2” tall and weighed 90 pounds. Who wouldn’t want such an athletic specimen on their team? All right, you know the answer, so I will tell you the rest of the story.
I asked the coach what I needed to do to earn a place on the team. He provided me with a workout plan to follow, and he included me in all the off-season workouts with those who were already on the squad. I only recall one thing that he said to me in the entire year that followed, but I do know that he was watching me. I also learned greatly from the team members who were doing the things needed to excel in the sport. The same holds true of learning to play an instrument and becoming a part of an orchestra. The conductor may not say much, but she does know who is contributing rightly to the symphony of sounds!
Here is a spiritual question: Why do we serve God? We will miss the conclusion of Job if we do not recall the introduction. The underlying question of the book is “not why the righteous suffer but whether Job served God for nothing” (1:9-11; NAC). Our devotional today causes us to ask why we follow God. If you have read the devotional to this point, I know what you have answered. God calls us to live by our response to the question.

For Thought and Action

1. Jot down the trials that you face presently. Have you felt isolated from God? Have you begun to doubt Him in some way? Turn your face fully toward Him in trust. He will comfort and guide you.
2. For Families: Have your children ever seen what happens to flowers or plants opening up to the sun, or growing toward the sun? I (Karen) have houseplants in my sun room, and I must turn them every so often, because they grow toward the light.

So that all sides have the same opportunity to receive the light and conduct their work of photosynthesis, I rotate them. This helps them develop evenly, too. The plants harness the energy in sunlight and use it to fuse water (absorbed from the soil) and carbon dioxide (absorbed from the air) to form simple sugars, releasing oxygen as a by-product. If the plants do not receive sunlight, they die.

Job was like the plants, and we are too. He decided to turn his face fully toward God in trust, knowing that God would help him to live a flourishing life. Only when we do the same, and work under God’s plans for us, can we be healthy, spiritually alive, and growing. Your children might like to observe a plant in your home and to hear how God wants us to be like plants!

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock