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Jewish Heritage Scripture Studies
10. WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?
In Yiddish we have many ways to express sorrow. We have words like tzuris, oy vey, oy vey is mir, oy gevalt, oy gottenyu, and even just a plain oy. Have you ever stopped to think of why we have so many sayings to express our grief? Maybe it’s because we have had so many problems.
Some problems have been dumped on us by people who have treated us like chopped liver. Some problems we have brought upon ourselves. And some problems seem to have no explanation at all.
Have you ever wondered why an all powerful and loving God allows problems, hurricanes, sickness, wars, and the death of innocent children? A survey taken some time ago showed that this is the number one religious question among college and university students. As we look at the big picture we will find out why. To find the real cause of suffering we must look in the book of Job, found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Many scholars believe that Moses wrote the book of Job.
1. What do the scriptures tell us about this man Job?
There was a man in the land of Uz named Job. That man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him; his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred she-asses, and a very large household. That man was wealthier than anyone in the East... When a round of feast days was over, Job would send word to them to sanctify themselves, and, rising early in the morning, he would make burnt offerings, one for each of them; for Job thought, “Perhaps my children have sinned and blasphemed God in their thoughts.” This is what Job always used to do. Job 1:1-3,5
Job was blameless. He feared Adonai and shunned evil. Not only did he offer burnt sacrifices for forgiveness of his own sins, but he prayed and interceded for his children’s sins also.
2. The real cause of suffering is exposed in the book of Job. Who is the cause of suffering? Where does he do his evil work?
One day the divine beings presented themselves before the Lord, and the adversary (satan) came along with them. The Lord said to the adversary, “Where have you been?” The adversary (satan) answered the Lord, “I have been roaming all over the earth.” Job 1:6,7.
Moses made it clear in the book of Job in the Hebrew Scriptures that there is a real living adversary, enemy, named satan, who roams all over the earth.
3. When God began to express his pleasure in Job’s being blameless, upright and shunning evil, what evil accusation did the adversary, Satan, bring against God and Job?
The Adversary answered the Lord, “Does Job not have good reason to fear God? Why, it is You who have fenced him round, him and his household and all that he has. You have blessed his efforts so that his possessions spread out in the land. But lay Your hand upon all that he has and he will surely blaspheme You to Your face.” Job 1:9-11
Satan’s accusation against God was that the only reason Job loved God was because God was good to him. Satan was implying that Job was selfish and was not capable of manifesting real unconditional love. Satan was implying that if God took the blessings away from Job, Job would turn away from God.
4. What did God allow Satan to do in order to prove him wrong to the whole universe?
So the Lord said to the adversary (Satan), “See, he is in your power; only spare his life.” Job 2:6
Satan challenged God to take away His hand from protecting Job and remove his blessings. Notice that it was not God who brought suffering to Job, but He did allow Satan to harass Job in order to prove Satan’s lies as false.
5. Soon after this, the adversary, Satan, caused all of Job’s possessions to be stolen and burned, caused all ten of his children to be killed by a windstorm that collapsed their house, and caused Job to be inflicted with a severe inflammation from head to foot. How did Job react to these terrible calamities?
Then Job arose, tore his robe, cut off his hair, and threw himself on the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” For all that, Job did not sin nor did he cast reproach on God. Job 1:20-22
I doubt any of us have experienced suffering to the extent that Job did. To be robbed and have all your possessions destroyed is bad enough, but to also find out that all of your children have died at the same time would be more than most people could bear. On top of all that Job came down with a very severe and painful case of boils from head to foot. His wife was no support. She encouraged him to curse God and die. In spite of all these circumstances of horrendous loss, grief, and excruciating pain and suffering Job chose to love and trust God. Job did not know about the argument that was taking place between God and Satan, yet he chose, by faith, to love and trust God. That same argument is still going on today, and you and I are the ones being battled over instead of Job. We get to decide who will win the battle by either choosing to trust God through the trial or to blame God for the suffering.
6. It doesn’t seem like it could get any worse for Job, but it did. The Bible spends the next 35 chapters of this book recording how Job and some of his friends tried to figure out why these terrible things had happened to him. Job’s so-called friends were no comfort. They blamed him for his suffering. Job didn’t know why he was suffering and people weren’t making it any easier; they were making it worse. I’m sure you can relate to how Job felt.
7. What did God say to Job, reminding us that we don’t need to understand every detail and reason why and reminding us why we should trust God when we cannot see the bigger picture of the battle between God and Satan?
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Speak if you have understanding. Job 38:4
God didn’t go into all the details of the battle that was taking place between Himself and Satan. Instead He reminded Job that He created everything. God sees the past and the future. He has a view and a perspective that we cannot see or understand. Even though it is beyond our full comprehension to understand all the reasons why God allows suffering in this great battle between God and Satan, we can trust that God is still in control and knows best and will work all things out together for good in the end.
8. How did Job respond to God’s greatness?
I know that You can do everything, that nothing you propose is impossible for You...Indeed, I spoke without understanding, of things beyond me, which I did not know...Therefore, I recant and relent, being but dust and ashes. Job 42: 2, 3, 6.
It was Job’s faith, humility, repentance, and submission to God that made him blameless in the first place. These are some of the characteristics we have seen in other people of God that we have been reading about in this series of lessons. These are the characteristics that God is developing in us as we continue to read His word, pray to Him and ask Him to come and live out His life through us.
9. God and Job proved Satan wrong. They demonstrated to the universe that it is possible to love and serve God even when things are at their worst. What did God do for Job after Job’s victory over the question of why suffering?
The LORD restored Job’s fortunes when he prayed on behalf of his friends, and the LORD gave Job twice what he had before... So Job died old and contented. Job 42:12, 17
It is interesting that God restored twice as much to Job only after he prayed on behalf of his so-called friends. Not only did God give Job the characteristics of faith, humility, repentance and submission to God, God also gave him forgiveness toward his friends and enemies. Job did more than just mentally forgive them; he began praying and interceding for them. Remember, the real battle is between God and Satan. We are the battleground and the people Satan uses to hurt us are being used as pawns in his hands. God is obviously pleased with us when we pray for those who have hurt us. Praying for them is truly the way to get back at Satan for using them to hurt us. If we pray for them God can move upon their hearts. With God moving on their hearts they may some day apologize. Are there some “friends” or enemies that God is bringing to your mind right now that you should be praying for? If so, pause before you read any further and pray for them right now.
It would be good for us to also pray that God fills us with his patient and merciful spirit so that we never play the part of Job’s “friends” and enter into the role of condemning, criticizing, and judging others.
From the beginning Satan has been accusing God of being mean, unfair, and the cause of all suffering. God, in love and mercy to us, has not yet destroyed Satan. If God would have destroyed Satan from the start God could never clear His name before the universe. There would forever be the doubt that, “maybe Satan was right.” God is giving him enough opportunity to expose himself so that we can see for ourselves that Satan is the adversary who causes all suffering and that God is love, the source of all happiness. When this truth is clear to all, then Satan can be judged and destroyed, and suffering will cease.
10. Where else have we seen this adversary causing problems for God’s children?
Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild beasts that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say: You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?”... And the serpent said to the woman, “You are not going to die,...And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done!” The woman replied, “The serpent duped me, and I ate.” Genesis. 3:1, 4, 13
Satan took the form of a serpent and talked Eve into disobeying God. God warned Eve that disobedience would cause death. Satan lied and said, don’t worry; you will not die.” (This was the very first lie that took place on earth, and it is a very dangerous one, as we will see in our next lesson.)
11. What curse did God pronounce upon the serpent, the adversary, Satan?
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They shall strike at your head, and you shall strike at their heel. Genesis. 3:15
This promise of ‘enmity’ describes the great controversy between God and Satan that we experience every day. Satan tried to strike at the Messiah by having Him put to death, but God raised the Messiah back to life and took Him back to heaven. The Messiah will one day strike and crush Satan’s head, destroying him. Currently Satan is striking at our heels, as Eve’s children, causing problems in our lives. God can give us the faith and courage to see us through it triumphantly, like He did for Job.
The experience of Job and the behind the scene battle between God and Satan helps us to understand one of the reasons why bad things happen to good people. Yes, sometimes we bring bad results upon ourselves by our wrong choices, but sometimes bad things happen to us just because we are in the middle of a war and we are the prize being warred over. Thankfully, we are assured that if we trust in the Lord our God we will be on the winning side.
12. What imagery did God use to show that He will remove our guilt and give us His righteousness while Satan is accusing us and striking at our heels?
He (God) further showed me Joshua, the cohen gadol (high priest), standing before the angel of the LORD, and the accuser standing at his right to accuse him. But [the angel of] the LORD said to the accuser, “The LORD rebuke you, O accuser; may the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! For this is a brand plucked from the fire.” Now Joshua was clothed in filthy garments when he stood before the angel...“Take the filthy garments off him!” And he said to him, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and you shall be clothed in [priestly] robes.” Zechariah 3:1-4
After Satan entices us to disobey God, he then accuses us of our unworthiness of God’s love. But God still loves us. As we accept the death of our Messiah for our sins, God removes our guilt and the power sin has had over us, and covers us in His righteousness and goodness. It is Satan who has been accusing you of your unworthiness. Don’t you want to shut him up right now by accepting the Messiah’s forgiveness, cleansing, and transforming power?
13. According to the Hebrew prophet Isaiah how many of us are clothed with these filthy garments needing God’s cleansing and virtues?
We have all become like an unclean thing, and all our virtues like a filthy rag. Isaiah 64:5
All of us have fallen for Satan’s temptations and lies at some point in our lives. We have all, at some point or another, doubted God’s love and plan for us. Each of us needs God’s grace and the forgiveness granted us through repentance. We read in lesson 2 how Jacob repented of his mistakes. If you have not yet accepted God’s forgiveness provided by the death of the Messiah, now is the time to do it. Don’t put it off any longer. There is an intense battle going on between God and Satan and you are the one over whom they are battling. There is a literal tug of war going on and you are the rope. The cartoon images of a good angel on one shoulder and an evil angel on the other is a reality. A thought will come into our head to do something wrong or excuses why we don’t need to do something we should. At the same time thoughts will come into our mind encouraging us to do the right thing. This battle of thoughts within us is part of the very real battle that is taking place between God and Satan. Both powers are whispering in our ears to pull us to their side. Which side will we believe? Which side will we yield to? Tip the victory to God’s side by surrendering to Him. God cannot win the battle for you without your consent.
14. How did the Jewish prophet Ezekiel summarize for us the history and future of Satan?
You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your adornment...I created you as a cherub with outstretched shielding wings; and you resided on God’s holy mountain...You were blameless in your ways, from the day you were created until wrongdoing was found in you. By your far-flung commerce you were filled with lawlessness and you sinned. So I have struck you down from the mountain of God, and I have destroyed you, O shielding cherub...By the greatness of your guilt, through the dishonesty of your trading, you desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire issue from you, and it has devoured you; I have reduced you to ashes on the ground, in the sight of all who behold you. All who knew you among the peoples are appalled at your doom. You have become a horror and have ceased to be forever. Ezekiel 28:13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19
Satan was originally an angel of God, named Lucifer. But because he chose to rebel against God he was cast out of heaven and will soon be destroyed, turned to ashes, and will cease to be forever! Hallelujah!
You may be wondering: “If God is all-powerful, why hasn’t He destroyed Satan already?” This illustration will help show why God did not just destroy Satan in the beginning. Imagine that you are at work when one of the other employees comes over to you and tells you that someone has been stealing from the company, and that the owners want to see you right away. Your boss informs you that you are the main suspect in the theft, and you will be placed on probation until a more thorough investigation is conducted. You find out that your good friend Lucy is the one who accused you. What would be the intelligent thing to do? Buy a handgun and blow Lucy away?
Is that what you would do? No, not if you ever want your name cleared. If you killed Lucy not only would you be put in prison for murder, but the authorities would be sure you were the thief and that you were trying to get rid of the witness.
You need to do more than get rid of the liar; you need to clear your name. So instead of killing Lucy you hire a detective to set some hidden cameras around the business. In 3 days your detective calls you and tells you someone has shown up on the camera stealing again. You watch the film and see that it’s Lucy! You and the detective run to the owners, the police, and the newspapers, clearing your name and placing the blame where it belongs.
Not only has Satan, Lucifer, been causing the problems but he has been lying to everyone trying to put the blame on God. If God would have destroyed Satan at the beginning all the angels would have believed Satan’s lies. They would have thought that since God could not prove Satan’s lies as false, He just destroyed him. They would no longer serve God out of love, but rather out of fear. God has been giving Satan enough time to fully expose himself to everyone. God is using this earth’s history as a video for the universe, exposing Satan as the real cause of suffering. When everyone, including you and me, are convinced and make our final decisions of whom we choose to follow, then God can end the battle once and for all.
15. How does God feel when we are troubled by Satan?
In all their troubles He was troubled...In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them... Isaiah 63:9
God is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Every tear we shed God sheds as well. Everything that hurts us hurts Him. He is as attached to us as an expectant mother is attached to her child. It is because of His great love and pity for us that He sent the Messiah to die for us to redeem us to Himself. The Messiah, who the Bible says would be referred to as Immanuel – God with us, is indeed with us. He is always with us even through our hardest, most difficult moments. Whatever trials you are going through right now, know that God is going through them with you and will see you through. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He gives us the freedom to leave or forsake Him, just as he gave that freedom to Lucifer, but He will never leave us or forsake us. Even if we choose to leave Him, He will still have love and pity in His heart toward us. We would be mishuga (crazy) to resist and reject such love.
In love God gave the human race the beautiful Garden of Eden to live in. In love God warned Adam and Eve to stay away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In love God has warned us to stay away from evil by giving us His 10 commandments. In love God has given us the Messiah to die for the forgiveness of our mistakes and sins. In love God gives us His Spirit who empowers us to follow His law and will. In love God gives us strength to make it through Satan’s harassment. Please join me in hastening Satan’s judgment and bringing an end to suffering. Let’s stop believing Satan’s lies and determine, by God’s power, to follow God in every aspect of our lives. Join me in telling others about God’s love.
After Job passed the test, God gave him twice as much as he had before. Just as Job’s end was better than his beginning, God has planned a much better future for you and me, a future with no more pain, no more suffering, no more dying, no more crying. God has a special place picked out for you and me. As you are continuing the Jewish Heritage Scripture Studies God's good plan for your future is being worked out. We have just begun to look ahead. In our next lesson God will reveal more about the wonderful future He has prepared for us.
Are there still any true “mothers in Israel” today? Our next study will look at the very first woman called by that honored title. Does God have a special title, position, and purpose for your life? Find out in your next Jewish Heritage lesson.
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