Old Testament Lesson #32
When afflictions overwhelm us, let us follow the example of Job and not see all suffering as punishment but rather as a call to look to God, to seek his voice, and to trust Him.
"Hast Thou Considered My Servant Job?" John S. Tanner, Ensign, December 1990
That the Lord finally speaks to Job holds forth hope to the hopeless, who feel called to believe in spite of their afflictions rather than because of their blessings. It also points all of those who are struggling with similar crises of faith to the only fully adequate source of comfort: revelation from God himself, whose ways are mysterious but who is full of justice and love. Let us consider three of these points more fully—specifically, what the Book of Job can teach us about the doctrine of retribution, about our relationships with God and our suffering fellowmen, and about the need for revelation to solve Job–like crises of faith.
"'Hast Thou Considered My Servant Job?'" John S. Tanner, Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament, 2005, 266–282
Job is a unique book: uniquely disturbing and uniquely empowered to deepen our faith. Both its answers and its questions about the problem of suffering help clarify gospel truths and are themselves illuminated by the Restoration's light.
The book of Job makes clear that suffering is not necessarily a sign of punishment. Job warns us against trying to reason backward from peoples' external circumstances to the condition of their souls. Righteousness does not insulate us from suffering or assure us of material rewards.
As a personal revelation from the Lord to the long–suffering, steadfast Job, the voice from the whirlwind had authority and meaning that no merely human voice could match. Apart from what the Lord said, simply the fact that he spoke at all, and spoke directly to Job, relieved the man of Uz's deepest need—his hunger for reassurance that God has not forsaken him.
"The Book of Job as a Biblical 'Guide of the Perplexed'," Raphael Jospe, Revelation, Reason, and Faith: Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen
Maimonides points out that Job is described in the beginning of the book as being moral and righteous in his behavior but is not described as "wise," "understanding," or "intelligent" (Hebrew akham, mevin, or maskil). Had Job been wise, his situation would not have caused him to have serious doubts regarding divine justice. This is the reason Satan is permitted to "touch" Job's body, family, and possessions but not his "soul" (nefesh) (Job 2:6). For Maimonides, the "soul" means the intellect. Job's error was intellectual, not moral, and therefore Job had to be able, on his own at the end of the book, to arrive at a proper theoretical understanding of divine justice.
"Lying for God: the Uses of the Apocrypha," Stephen E. Robinson, Apocryphal Writings and the Latter–day Saints, 1986, 133–154
The principle that all fortune or misfortune is a direct and immediate reward or punishment from God is called the Deuteronomic Ideal. Jesus rejected this idea in Luke 13:1–5 and John 9:1–4, just as the author of Job rejected it in his day.
When Job's three comforters maligned his integrity, they did so for reasons rooted in their theology. Since Job was the most unfortunate of men, the theology of the comforters required that no matter what evidence existed to the contrary, Job must be a great and terrible sinner. Nevertheless, at the end of the book God condemned them in these words: "My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath" (Job 42:7).
"Withstanding the Evil One," P. Scott Ferguson, Religious Educator 12, no. 2 (2011): 155–167.
Job was "a just and perfect man," yet Satan obtained "leave from the Lord to tempt and try Job" (Job 1 chapter heading; emphasis added). The Lord, knowing Job's integrity, allowed the opposition. Even though Satan sought Job's demise, it was with the Lord's watchful eye. The Lord knew that Job, like Abraham, would pass the nissah [test] challenge. We, like Abraham and Job, will fare better as we learn to discern between our God–given nissah challenges and Satan's attempts to see us fail.