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Job: A Testimony of Abuse, or of the Unchained Love of God?

Recently, a YouTube user posted a dissenting point of view to our commentary on Job, Chapters 19b & 20a. We value an open forum where everyone may cordially express what they think/feel in regards to the topics discussed, and we are committed to answering any questions or statements made when time and opportunity permit.

We do not know the personal understanding this commenter has with this particular book of the Bible, but considering the nature of the questions and at what point in our Job series they chose to post, our response is more exhaustive than it would be to, say, someone posting on Chapter 1, or another person expressing more familiarity with Job.

Below, you will find our answer to their comments, divided into the following sections:


First and foremost, context is always important, whether it be around a statement, passage, or book. It is our view that no book of the Bible is an island among itself and should be viewed within the context of the entire Scripture, which is why we often mention other verses outside of a book. While one book was written first, whether it was Genesis or Job is moot. For the modern believer, who has the complete Scripture (Genesis-Revelation), every book must be viewed, taking account of the Old Testament through the revelation of the New (Scriptural Context). If you have not read Job from beginning to end (Book Context), then you have robbed yourself of an enormous content of information that has helped even us in our own personal walks, and it is partially understandable why someone would feel some sort of anger or unease.

So far at this writing, we have only posted up 26 chapters of a 42-chapter story. In Chapter 38, we will read about God's response, which will go on until Job's confession in Chapter 42, and then continue again near the end of the chapter. Let's break it into some key points of understanding:

  • Job — A man who was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil (Job 1.1). His views, attitude, and character are representative of that of a faithful man of God.
  • Job's friends — All of these men represent a variety of worldviews. Another reason this book could have been written was to show the truth in contrast to misconception. God is a God of contrasts. This is evident even in the New Testament when Jesus was on the Cross; we see two thieves - each with opposing views. This was done to show us the difference between truth and falsity.
  • The conversation between God and Satan (Job 1.7-12) — this has often been referred to as a bet between powers. A bet requires at least two things: 1.) an if/then statement or a similar form of it, and 2.) some sort of sacrifice one would pay followed by a reward the other would receive to which both parties agree. None of this occurs. Pride is also not the purpose of this writing since God, as Creator, has no need to prove anything and is opposed to selfish-pride. What can be gleaned from reading all of Job is that it actually embodies virtues such as patience and humility and also the importance of faith — faith that is tested....AND that God is faithful (see Chapter 42), a notion that is consistent throughout the Bible: “but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20.6). What is important to realize is that it was God who even brought up Job, which shows that He had chosen Him for a task (we shall call it the “testing of a faithful man”), just as He did for so many others such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, etc. God is a mover of men.
  • Job's suffering — A point that was made in the podcast that should be echoed is that sometimes a believer's trials, what he/she goes through, are not about the person suffering at all. God is speaking to the unbelieving world through His servant's faithful actions during the trial. When all those around, who are going through a similar experience, see the endurance of faith, the door to their hearts and minds are “loosened” to opening to God.
  • God spoke...Job restored — In Chapter 38, we will see God Himself on the scene speaking to Job, appearing after Job's series of questions in asserting his own integrity and Elihu's angry rebuke of Job and claim that he (Elihu) spoke for God. One has to read the entirety of the book and not just the beginning and the end. God works in both breadth and depth. You have to travel the breadth of a trial in order to have some understanding of the depth and what it entails. God does bring restoration when Job confesses and prays for his friends, but it is after He (God) shows Job the very weight of his own questions (hence, the name of the series). In a sense, God's authority had been put to question, and so God put Job's to question. A similar incident can be viewed elsewhere in Scripture with Jesus being questioned by the Pharisees, which again, shows consistency in God's nature (See Matthew 21.23-27).


Some of the trouble that we find in understanding the Book of Job stems from our failure to grasp the concept of God's authority. We ask questions like “isn't this abuse?” or “how is this not neglectful?”. First of all, if you are a nonbeliever asking these questions, understand that you are unintentionally affirming the existence of God in the process by appealing to the moral law taught within the Bible. But, let's say you're a believer for a moment and still asking. To the first question, we could say that since God neither performed nor told Satan to cause the trial of Job, then abuse is an incorrect description. But, how do we answer the question of neglection? Neglect would not involve restoration. A major difference between man and God is that while man can try to supplement or compensate, only God can restore. Let's examine it further.

There are two types of authority: positional and functional. Functional authority is authority that has been authorized or given to serve a purpose. A manager at the local coffee shop has functional authority over his/her employees. Positional authority is authority that arises out of a state of being. Parents possess positional authority over their children — this is the closest we have of an understanding of God's authority over us as He describes Himself in Scripture as a Father; even then our understanding sometimes fails. God as the infinite being in existence and cause of Creation possesses sovereign authority over all. Job completely acknowledges this in Chapter 19, and we noted this in Episode 104 of our podcast by stating that “his persecutor is his redeemer as well.” This essentially means that Job recognizes God and all of His authority and that nothing happens apart from Him.

Would you follow a God that lacked control in the universe where things happened outside of his power? Of course not. Job goes on to express that it is only God who also possesses the power and authority to redeem him. The whole book is consistent with this notion from Chapter 1 when even the ultimate evil must ask God for permission to act. Satan, like all of us, questioned faith. To him, self-pride is everything; that is why he fell (See his fall in Isaiah 14.12-15 and how he tried to tempt Jesus in Matthew 4.1-11). Scripture, though, teaches that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2.8) -- faith, not pride, being the important component. Due to sin, the Bible teaches us that we must endure tribulation (Acts 14.22), but we can take hope because in Job we are given a glimpse of God's wonderful Grace. He allowed the testing of His servant to show us many things - but above all to show us that nothing holds sway over His will or restorative love...not even darkness itself. As James Stewart of Scotland once said:

“It is a glorious phrase of the New Testament, that ‘he led captivity captive.’ The very triumphs of His foes, it means, he used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to subserve his end, not theirs. They nailed him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet. They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne. They flung him outside the gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up all the gates of the universe, to let the King of Glory come in. They thought to root out his doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy. They thought they had defeated God with His back to the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God Himself who had tracked them down. He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.”


A final point that may be made is that we often misunderstand the concept of relationship. There are two types of relationships: 1.) the relationship we have with other human beings and 2.) our personal relationship with God. While the closest we have to bridge these two is that of a parent, they are not equivocal, so that the worst shortcomings of the first (such as an abusive parent) are not found in the second, but the greatest of the first (a parents' willingness to die for their children) is certainly found in the second (Christ dying on the cross for the salvation of mankind, John 3.16). Is an abusive parent willing to die for their child? No...even more a loving parent willing to allow the worst abuses to be done to their child for the sake of those willing to harm him? God allowed it on the Cross, so we would know His love for us. With a difference of relationship comes a difference in love altogether:

“When I love you and you refuse to love me, I hurt because I have lost something. When God loves you and you refuse to love God, God hurts because you have lost something.”
— Ravi Zacharias

With all this understood, it no longer becomes a question of abuse or neglect. It is we who have neglected is we who have left Him waiting on the other side of the door. We bolt it when pain is felt and trials are like a storm around us, but how else is He to wake us up when we have wearied ourselves with our own vain pursuits? As C.S. Lewis put it: “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

We must loosen our tight-fisted grip, allowing Him to enter, and it is at that point books like Job become testimonies to the unchained love of God for each of us.

Reader Comments (2)

Excellent response! I enjoyed reading it. I hope the person who posted the criticism reads this.

Mon, June 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterPete Nelms

All indications are that they have or will soon. Not long after we linked to it on YouTube, they notified us that the link was broken (fixed now!), so they apparently came back to check once they saw a response.

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