Bible Studies for Life Sunday school Lesson for February 2

Bible Studies for Life Sunday school Lesson for February 2

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By Dr. Jim Barnette
Professor, Samford University
Senior Pastor, Brookwood Baptist Church

What is God’s Answer to Suffering?
Job 40:1–8; 42:1–6

We often don’t know enough to understand God’s work. (40:1–5)

God has answered Job’s charges about suffering with questions that Job cannot answer. The mere human has neither the knowledge nor the experience to comment on the wonders of nature which God the Creator has graciously granted him. Now God asks His challenger what he has to say. Job’s inability to comprehend the totality of God’s divine plan is obvious. However, though God has every right to lay the man low, God is not contemptuous of Job, nor does He seek to browbeat Job into submission. The tone is corrective but not mocking.  

Job’s “answer” in verses 4 and 5 consists of an admission, a gesture and a confession. His admission is a word of humility and wonder.  Job deems himself “unworthy” or “small.” The Hebrew adjective magnifies the great gap between the Creator and the creature. In a gesture of his humility, Job places his hand over his mouth. Interestingly, this is the same gesture of deference and respect that Job’s own presence evoked among members of his community when he appeared among them (see Job 29:9). 

Finally, Job offers a submissive confession: “I have no answer.”  God’s discourse of divine majesty and mystery has left Job speechless. The divine revelation from God Almighty has turned the challenger into a humble worshipper. How much more can the God of Calvary bring any sufferer or challenger to his or her knees in wonder and praise?  

We often don’t know enough to understand God’s justice. (40:6–8)

God is not quite finished with Job, as the man needs to reach a more complete change of perspective.  God’s second speech begins just like the first, with divine confrontation and command for answers to questions that verify the limits of Job’s understanding. In verse 8, God asks Job if he is prepared to hold to his own innocence at the price of rejecting the justice of God. In his own speeches, Job has been using words that have legal connotations (e.g. “claim of right,” “declare guilty,” “declare innocent”). 

Job has been using these words in their most elementary connotation: one party must be right and the other must be wrong; one must be guilty and the other must be innocent. But these Hebrew words have other connotations as well. They also belong to the language of governance. In His second speech, God elevates these terms to highlight God’s governance over all creation. 

It is inadequate of us to reduce the ways of the Sovereign God to the human courtroom. One cannot degrade God’s rule over the world to legal categories. 

We are to acknowledge God and humble ourselves before Him. (42:1–6)

The man who had been a contender against God is now a worshipper, humbly confessing his sinfulness and entering into an encounter with divine forgiveness. 

The unveiling of God’s glory leads to an unprecedented experience of reconciliation with the Lord God Almighty. Job renounces the force of his human words and human reason. Now he has gained a faith that can at least begin to look upon his suffering from an eternal perspective. 

More than hearing about God, Job has seen God, and it has changed the way he sees himself and the world around him. Now it is a world that Job is not the center of, yet he still holds a significant place in it. Furnished with a more complete faith, Job can celebrate life in all of its freedoms and limits, trials and triumphs, until he “sees” his Creator in eternal fullness. 

Job has finally received what he most needed, which is a deeper relationship with God. God does not always give us a reason for the trials and tribulations we face, but He gives us the greatest of gifts: Himself.