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Behind the Scenes of Human Suffering

Job  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:56
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I love the story of one of my boys one day deciding to make his hair look nice. One afternoon, one of my boys comes walking out into the living room with the front half of the top of his head completely soaking wet. He was around three or four years old. I wasn’t there at the time, my wife was. Now, if I saw my three or four year old come out with half his head soaked, I would wonder what it the world he had done to get so wet. But not my wife, her first question is, “Did you stick your head in the toilet?” That’s kind of out of left field, I mean there are a lot of ways he could have gotten his head wet. But my son drops his head and sheepishly says “yes.” What? you stuck your head in the toilet? Why? He responds, “I wanted my hair to look nice.” You know, I really wish that I could have a behind the scenes look into that decision making process. What went on inside his head? I need to get my hair wet to make it look nice- hmm, I could use the sink, the hose, or the shower— nope I’m using the toilet!
There are many things in life that we would love to get a behind the scenes look it. That way we could understand what in the world is going on. Possible no more so, than when we face suffering. In the story of Job, we are actually privileged to go behind the scenes and see the why of Job’s suffering.
Remember back in vv. 1-5 we learned that even the godliest of people suffer. Job is a godly man. He is blameless and upright. He fears God and turns from evil. Yet God is about to allow suffering to take place in his life.
And through this part of the story God teaches us the importance of trusting in His absolute wisdom and plan.
There are two reasons given for why we need to trust God’s wisdom even during severe suffering.
We will look at the first reason today:

I. God is absolutely in control over the suffering He allows in my life

Job 1:6–8 KJV 1900
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

A. Satan, even in his rebellion, must report to God

On a certain day God called the “sons of God” (celestial beings or angles) to present themselves before Him. The picture is that of a King holding court, and the angelic beings presented themselves as courtiers to give an account of their activities to God.
The purpose of this court cannot be to inform God, (God is omniscient), but instead it was a forum for God’s messengers to report to their master. Ultimately, God uses these court appearances to further His purposes in the universe.
Along with the other “sons of God” comes Satan. In the Hebrew it is lit. “The Satan.” The definite article is used indicating that we should understand Satan as a title rather than a proper name. So the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Satan or the Accuser. The Hebrew root for the title of Satan means “to oppose at law.” And so the Satan or the Accuser is present to oppose God Himself and to oppose the godly or believers given an chance possible.
But the point is that this accuser, this roaring lion, this old serpent in all his craftiness, rebellion, and subtlety has to appear before Yahweh and give an account of himself. Satan can do nothing in this earth outside of the absolute control of the Almighty.

B. God, not Satan, introduced the topic of Job

Job 1:8 KJV 1900
And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
The LORD (Yahweh Himself) said unto Satan. God is the one out of the blue that brings up the topic of Job. And note what God says about Job- “Have you considered by my servant Job.”
The New American Commentary: Job (1) The Satan (1:6–10)

The idiom in Hebrew is literally, “Have you set your heart on?” The heart is not only one of the seats of emotion in Hebrew psychology; but it is also one of the locations of thinking, reasoning, or planning.

Robert Alden
“There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and turns from evil.” This is the exact same description of Job from earlier on in the chapter. Here we have confirmation by God himself that Job is upright and blameless, that Job does indeed fear God, and turns from evil. How do you think this kind of statement by God would cause Satan to respond? Everything God said is true, but Satan, the Accuser, the Opposer of God, is not going to let God’s claims go unchallenged. It would be like be saying in a room full of Packer fans, that the Vikings are the superior team. Now while absolutely true, it would certainly illicit a response of opposition. So it was with God’s conversation with Satan. God was setting the stage for the occasion of Job’s suffering.
I’m sure if Job had been privileged to this behind the scenes view of this heavenly court room- well first Job would have been in wonder and awe- but then upon hearing God bringing up his name he would have snapped out of his amazement in shock and bewilderment. He would have been the guy gesticulating wildly in the background, no God, don’t, shhh, don’t bring that up, ixna on that opicta.
I love to try and surprise my wife. On several occasions I have tried to get a special gift for her, and that usually means it is an expensive gift. So I reach out to the family and say if anyone wants to pitch in that would be great- but it is a surprise, so shhh. Inevitably, somehow the topic will come up- so are you excited about your new gift? What new gift, my wife will ask? Meanwhile, I’m in the background going stop, abort, do not pass go, do not collect $200. And then you see it in the eyes of the person who let the cat out of the bag. There eyes widen as they realize their mistake, which is usually followed by a terrible attempt to cover up their blunder. And I am left shaking my head and determined to try again next year.
God did not make that kind of mistake. He didn’t inadvertently bring up the topic of Job. He didn’t have a mind lapse and let something slip that He didn’t mean to. He purposefully and intentionally brought Job to the forefront of His conversation with Satan. And no matter how much Job would have liked to wave his hands and silence God, God knew what He was doing and He was absolutely in control of the suffering that He was about to allow in the life of Job.

C. God gave Satan permission to take all Job had

Job 1:12 KJV 1900
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
We will get into Satan’s response to Job a little later, but after the conversation is finished, God gives Satan permission to cause suffering in Job’s life. Note, God is not the one doing the suffering, but God does allow the suffering to happen. Satan cannot do anything in Job’s life without the express permission of God. Also note that earlier in v. 10 Satan indicates that he wants to take away three things Job’s health, his house, and all that he has. In v. 12 God only gives Satan permission to take away his house, and all that he has. Satan was not permitted to touch Job himself. That would come later in the second test.
The New American Commentary: Job (2) Challenge (1:11–12)

God granted the accuser only limited power over his servant. This agrees with other places in the Bible where the devil is restricted or confined by the greater authority of God himself.

Now it is easy to say, sitting here in a nice comfy building free at the moment from intense suffering, that God is absolutely in control of any suffering He allows in my life. It is not so easy to say, let alone believe and submit to this truth when you are in the midst of going through suffering.
My wife and kids every Tuesday drive to Watertown for music lessons at Maranatha. What if on one of these trips a drunk driver lost control of his vehicle, crashed into the vehicle of my wife and kids and it was a total loss. What if every single one of them perished in that car wreck. Is it so easy then and there to submit by faith that God is in control and in His sovereign control of the universe He allowed this suffering into my life. I would have to say I would probably struggle with that. I would be crushed and devastated and hurt. I would probably be angry at the drunk driver for his foolishness. It would be very difficult to trust in a sovereign God to work together this situation for good. But, that is what I must do. Is God good in Himself? If God takes away all of the good things in my life, is He still good and worthy of my trust and faith? Can I still believe that He is in control and working for my good and His glory?
Pastor Jon, how can God allow that kind of suffering in someone’s life and still be a good and a just God?
God was not the one that caused the cruel suffering in the life of Job. God allowed Satan to take everything from Job, but Satan is the cause of the suffering not God. God is never the cause of cruelty. God is often times the one we blame for our suffering, when in reality we have Satan or ourselves to blame. God is never morally guilty of cruelty.
“Since sinful human beings are at enmity with God, they naturally blame Him for everything bad that happens. The ones they should really be upset with are Satan and themselves.”
Preston Mayes
2. While God is not the cause of cruelty, He does allow suffering to happen. Yet, even through the worst possible suffering (for which Job is certainly a prime example), God in His infinite wisdom works things out for good. We will most likely never understand the why. So we must trust in the mysteries of God. God is wise enough, God is powerful enough, God is good enough to work things together for His perfect plan. Our job is to trust Him.
Romans 9:14 KJV 1900
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
Romans 9:20 KJV 1900
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Romans 9:21 KJV 1900
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
Romans 9:23 KJV 1900
And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
3. Christ has suffered infinitely more than we ever will. Jesus has already suffered, so when God allows suffering to take place in our life, know that Jesus has already endured suffering, only to a degree that we cannot even begin to imagine.
Hebrews 2:17–18 KJV 1900
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
Hebrews 4:14–15 KJV 1900
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Are we afraid of God because of the suffering he might allow in our lives?
Its like being about to shoot a Smith and Wesson 500 magnum hand gun with a seven hundred grain bullet.
Do we sometimes approach God and wince and close our eyes or brace ourselves because of the pain that may be on its way? Is that really trusting God? Or is our fear a failure to acknowledge the absolute perfect wisdom and plan of God?
Are we guilty of accusing God of wrongdoing in our lives? It might not be directly, but indirectly we accuse God.
We obsess and complain about the sin of somebody against us only because we would never be so bold as to directly accuse God. But such complaints against other persons can be a veiled way of complaining about God’s management of the affairs of my life with actually using His name.
In my illustration, I may never accuse God of losing my family, but I may obsess and complain about the sin of the drunk driver. This is a indirect way to actually accuse God of evil.
When our kids get sick, we may not directly accuse God of wrongdoing, but we often times complain and obsess about the sin of somebody else. Well, if so and so would not have come to school sick, then my kids would still be healthy. Wait a minute, is God in absolute control of the suffering he allows into my life or not? So am I really upset and complaining about the “sin” of someone else, or am I actually accusing God of wrongdoing?
We will never stop using this unbiblical coping strategy unless we first recognize that we are doing it. We instead must submit to and trust completely our God who is absolutely in control of any suffering that He allows in my life.
You want to know what this looks like?
Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family — a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. Yet, God in His mercy and kindness allowed the business to flourish once more.
On Nov. 21, 1873, the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Although Mr. Spafford had planned to go with his family, he found it necessary to stay in Chicago to help solve an unexpected business problem. He told his wife he would join her and their children in Europe a few days later. His plan was to take another ship.
About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed that God would spare them if that could be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them. Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children.
A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage. It was Anna, still alive. He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which, nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office.
Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”
Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down.
According to Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter born after the tragedy, Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul” while on this journey.
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul
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