We all know the story of Job. Job was considered a righteous man, as far as men go. He was a God-fearing man, and He was also blessed with wealth, a good family and many friends.
Then, according to the story, God allows Satan to destroy Job’s wealth, family, and health. He lost everything, and he can’t understand why God would allow such a righteous man as himself to fall on such hard times.
Job became the poster child of bad things happening to good people!
Job put on sackcloth and sat in ashes demanding to know of God why he was suffering such injustice. He counted all the ways he had been righteous and just and challenged God to explain why he was suffering while men not as righteous or just as he were living in relative comfort and abundance.
Job’s friends tried to counsel him, but they didn’t believe that he was as just and good as he claimed to be. They, like Job, believed that God wouldn’t allow a righteous man to suffer as Job was suffering. Thus, they concluded that Job wasn’t as good as he claimed.
This is a common paradigm. Job’s dilemma is our dilemma as well. We think that good people should have good lives and bad people should pay the price of their badness.
Only, it doesn’t seem to work out that way. It obviously isn’t that simple. We have a keen sense of justice (especially when we feel the sting of injustice close to home). We can see that injustice exists in the world, and we it bothers us.
The Bible doesn’t shy away from the issue, as some suppose. It doesn’t soft peddle the problem. It tackles “the problem of pain” head on.
We tend to want to take our frustrations at the injustice in the world out on God. We demand to know, “How can a good God allow bad things happen to good people?!” As Job demanded to know, “What benefit is there in being good if I am going to suffer as if I were bad?!”
To this question, one of Job’s friends, the one who seems to have the most wisdom, Elihu, responded
Do you think this is just?
You say, “I am in the right, not God.”
Yet you ask him, “What profit is it to me,
and what do I gain by not sinning?”
I would like to reply to you
and to your friends with you.
Look up at the heavens and see;
gaze at the clouds so high above you.
If you sin, how does that affect him?
If your sins are many, what does that do to him?
If you are righteous, what do you give to him,
or what does he receive from your hand?
Your wickedness only affects humans like yourself,
and your righteousness only other people.
I have always thought that Elihu was right. Elihu takes God’s defense and says that God is just, regardless of what we see that appears to the contrary. He insists that God does punish the wicked and does bless the afflicted, though what we observe often seems to suggest otherwise. Elihu makes a valiant attempt to defend God, in spite of the appearance that the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer. In fact, the righteous often suffer from the injustices of the wicked.
Elihu and Job’s other friends defends God, but God chastises Elihu and them. I never understood that until something dawned on me.
It goes back to Elihu asking, “If you sin, how does it affect God? If you are righteous, what do you give to God? What does God get from you by your righteousness?”
The answer seems to be nothing. What does God need that I can give Him? How does my sin affect Him? He is perfect, lacking nothing. I can’t take anything away from him! Elihu says our wickedness and righteousness only affects other people, right?
But, then it dawned on me that God is love, and he made us to have loving fellowship with God. Though God lacks nothing in Himself, and even has fellowship within Himself, being three persons in one Being, God chose to create man and woman in His own image to have fellowship with Him.
God also chose to give men and women the freedom of their own choices. This was a necessary element to creating a being that could reciprocate His love. Human beings would have to have a choice in the matter.
As God exists outside of time and space, He certainly knew the choices humans would make. He knew they would choose personal autonomy and go their own ways.
God also knew that He would have to enter into time and space, Himself, to rescue men and women from themselves and the consequences of their choices. God knew he would have to emptied Himself of all the difference between Himself and us to take on human form.
In doing so, incredibly, He took the burden of our choices on Himself. He became the sacrifice that His perfect justice required so that He could also extend His perfect grace to us. He did this so we could have relationship with Him.
When we sin, we don’t just affect other people. We don’t just affect ourselves. We affect God also! David knew this when he lamented to God, “Against you only have I sinned!” (Psalm 51:4)
We are the reason God became flesh and sacrificed Himself on the cross. Our sin is the burden Jesus carried to the cross. He carried our sorrows; He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; He was chastened for our well-being – and by His stripes we are healed.
Like Job, Jesus was thought to be stricken, smitten by God. Like Job, Jesus was righteous and didn’t deserve the treatment He received.
Unlike Job, Jesus was perfectly righteous. Jesus was God emptied of all of His glory to take on human form, subjecting Himself to His own creation to save His creation from itself.
Though Elihu is right about God, he also was wrong. He was right that God has no need of anything. He was right that God is just, perfectly just. He was also right to say that we should not question God and should not accuse God of injustice or wrong. Who are we to question God about anything?!!
But Elihu was wrong about one thing. He didn’t know the incredible depth and breadth of God’s love for us. He didn’t know that God loves us so much that he would shed all of His power and majesty and authority to become one of us. He didn’t know that God would actually sacrifice Himself at our hands to save us from ourselves so that we could choose to enter into loving fellowship with a perfect God.
God knew the sacrifice that He would make long before the Book of Job, the oldest book in the Bible, was written. That sacrifice would have been on God’s mind as Job demanded answers and as Elihu counseled Job that God basically doesn’t care about what we think.
God announced His plan through Isaiah, written over 700 years before it came to be, so we would know that God was thinking of us even then. But how would Job or Elihu understand all that?
While we might wonder, as David did, what is man that God might take thought of us, the fact is that God does think of us! God has made us like Himself and crowned us with glory and majesty. He knows us so intimately that He can number the hairs on our heads. He is so concerned for us that whatever anyone does to the least of us God Himself feels it!
Knowing now what neither Job nor his companions could even fathom, we might still wonder why God “allows bad things to happen to good people”. But we have much greater consolation. Surely, Elihu was right that God is just, and we should not assume that our sense of right and wrong is greater than God’s.
At the same time, there are injustices in this world that are not made right in our lifetimes. In the history of the world, injustice has been done for which there is no justice in this world, and that is the condition that continues to this day, though we try as we might to fix it.
Yet, we can take consolation in this: God knows that injustice as intimately and as poignantly as we do because he suffered injustice Himself at the hands of wicked men. He suffered as He should not have suffered. If there was anyone in the history of the world who should not have suffered what He suffered, it was Jesus, God in human flesh.
We may not know the rest of the plan, as Job did not know what God had in store thousands of years after his time, but we can have trust a God who was willing to become like us and to suffer for us. We can trust His promises. We can hold on confidently to the hope that we have through the resurrection of Jesus that our perishable bodies will be clothed in the imperishable, and our mortality with immortality, and the sting of death will be no more!
 Job 35:1-8
 Job 36:3 (“I will ascribe justice to my Maker.”)
 Job 42:7
 Philippians 2:7
 Isaiah 53:4-6
 Isaiah 53
 Psalm 8:3-4 (“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?”)
 Psalm 8:5
 Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7
 Matthew 25:40, 45
 John 14:3-3 (“In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am.”)
 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”)