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Job, the story of a suffering man : Chapter One

PART I

CHAPTER ONE

Job, the story of a suffering man

Introduction

      As discussed in the preceding introductory chapter, the central issue in the story of Job can be stated in two parts, as: 1. The issue debated in heaven between God and Satan, and 2. The issue that played out on the human field. Here are their definitions:

     One: The issue between God and Satan was: Whether or not man’s righteousness is based purely on man’s true faith and love of God independent of His blessings and protection as a reward (external support). God held that such righteousness based on faith and love of God stands by itself, as in Job, even without God’s support.  Satan held that such righteousness in faith and love of God cannot stand independently; if it did it fails; therefore it is dependenton God’s support. 

     Two: The issue humanity adapted stood as an unanswered question: Why humanity faces pain and suffering in life on earth, and what is God’s place and role in it. In conception of the issue and its interpretation, this remained as a question on human life and the efficacy of faith in God.

     The common interpretation of the story of Job that we constantly hear is on the ‘second’ of the above two issues: why humanity faces pain and suffering in life on earth. Yet, in treatment of this issue, interpreters may try to answer the two issues, most of the time with the conclusion, like that of the ancient Sumerian story that, regardless of what happens in life, one must never cease holding on to his God (god) in faith and love.  However, this does not satisfy the ‘first’ issue that was raised in heaven.  We will attempt to keep the ‘first’ as the foundational issue to treat the ‘second’ in understanding the experience of Job.

The Subject of Human Suffering on Earth and Faith in God

           Human suffering is a vexing problem troubling its mind and soul from the beginning of its history on earth. This issue comes out in many forms of human activity. Some ask about it as a direct question; some wonder inwardly; some debate it systematically, and some like theorists, social reformers, and politicians ask and address this in the way of finding solutions to it; theologians, religious teachers and philosophers treat it in a different way. They link the issue with God and his responsibility and response to this human malady.  Common people practice faith in God as ‘religion’ and to take it to God seeking his intervention.  From this arises the same question in three forms:

a)      Why there is suffering on earth,

b)      Why do god-fearing people suffer, while the godless and evil ones prosper,

c)      Why God is indifferent to man’s faith in him, and to the deeds of evil people.

     In no way can we find satisfactory answer to the problem of suffering as a whole.  Many people of great thinking and insight have been trying to address, much less offer conclusive answer, to the problem since the dawn of human history.  The first known thinkers of the problem were the people of Sumer (Sumeria - of the upper region of the confluence of the rivers Euphrates and Tigris of Babylonia – today’s Iraq about, 5,000 yrs ago). 

     Three kinds of answers came through these times.  One, the Sumerian answer: The reason is unknown to man. Yet, it is the sufferer’s duty to keep faith in ‘personal’ god, how seemingly unjustified the suffering might be, and keep pleading until his god turns favorable.  Two, basing on the Bible, it was God’s curse on Adam for disrupting God’s Order of Truth and Purity (holiness) that was set as the original  foundation of life on earth. Other explanation based on the Bible is that suffering is God’s punishment (as on Israel) for disobeying His Law. Three, again based on the Bible, suffering is caused by the Devil’s manipulative works of deception on the mind and soul of man causing him to do evil (in subtle forms) to disrupt God’s righteous order. 

     The issue takes a different turn when the question is asked differently. Suffering is there when God’s righteous order is disrupted either by man or by the Devil.  But, why does suffering happen to a man who leads a very godly and righteous life who stays upright resisting all the snares of the Devil? Such is the question very appropriate on Job. 

     Job’s story is religious – involving man and his faith in God, therefore God himself.  Before we attempt that story, the general issue of suffering could be seen from the human angle.  In human understanding the cause of suffering is not entirely human. Because, in what happens in human life, God (Good) and the Devil (Evil) are implicitly involved. Some preachers hold this view.

Why is suffering in the world?

1.      Understanding Human Suffering 

    The treatiseis that in the greater sphere of life suffering of man is ‘mostly’ caused by man to his own kind.  Everyday life proves it; a great list of evil and wicked acts cited in the Bible attests to it. 

      Definition of pain and suffering

      Anything that has been disturbed from its natural base and existence causes discomfort.  If the discomfort greatly affects life, including safety to the person’s life, it causes pain and suffering.  If pain lasts longer, it is ‘suffering.’ Suffering could be of short term or long term.

 Pain can be caused to the body, mind and soul (spirit - inner being) separately or as a whole in these three factors of life.

     Sometimes, healing of any one of these three can be attempted. Broken body (by physician); broken mind (by psychiatrist or counselor); and bruised soul {spirit} (by a priest and through him by God) can be ‘healed.’ Healing by separate specialists cannot always be perfect, except, perhaps, in case of hurt to the physical body. The scars on mind and soul are permanent. For this reason, healing of a person’s mind and spirit cannot become same as the original. Even if a person claims to have been healed in spiritual meetings, healing may never become perfect.  It is so because completely erasing the offense that somebody had caused is never easy in spite of forgiveness offered. 

      Individuals look to God for the healing of the wholeperson when human healers cannot help. This is for a personal problem.  However, there is a lifelong experience that troubles humanity.  It is, ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’ the entire humanity faces every day of its life from the day of birth till the day of death.  It is this that we are concerned about here.    

      How does pain and suffering come on humanity?  Pain comes from four factors:

      1) Nature, 2) God, 3) the Devil, and 4) Humanity.

      Nature: Nature brings on cyclic changes. Some excessive occurrences in the atmosphere and within the earth’s mass cause cyclones, tornadoes, heavy damaging rains or no rains, earthquakes, volcanic explosions, etc. Humanity can be prudent to avoid them; or make arrangements to minimize damages to their lives.  Nature knows nothing about all this since it does not have ‘mind.’ So, Nature does not willfully hurt people.

     God: Either to correct or punish a person or a people in error God could cause hardship. Such acts of hardship that God personally introduced, He would remove when proper conditions are restored.

     God has sent hardship on Adam and Eve, Cain, people of Noah’s time, people Israel, Israel’s kings, kingdoms, authorities and priests and finally on Jesus His Son. Other hardships Abraham, Jacob, Hebrews in Egypt, attacks on Israel by neighboring nations are part of human life’s course.

     Troubles faced by Jesus, his temptation in the wilderness, the persecution Christ’s disciples and the early church faced, etc., were part of the opposition from the Devil to the work of the kingdom of God. 

     Two things can be observed: 1) God is behind all the hardships He introduced to restore things to their original form. 2) God does ‘not work for man,’ rather He expects the ‘human beings to ‘work’ toward the objective God has set. The length of time for this restoration to take place depends on how soon people would correct themselves and march toward the objective.

     The suffering and death of Christ is by God’s full involvement in it. Restoration of new life is possible only by God and by none else. He initiated every part of it and He completed it Himself through Jesus His Son. The correction and the punitive part of God’s act was born by God Himself.  This is a separate issue.

      Hardships God caused are for correction and restoration of the original.  They are not intended to destroy mankind. The intent is correction and restoration. As such, there is no evil intent in any act of God.

      These two,- Natureand God, have no evil intentto destroyfor any hardship that came upon humanity because of their works.  Nature has no mind. God’s mind is corrective and restorative.

      The Devil (Satan):  This is a religious belief.  From the Bible and from the religious view of humanity Devils is believed to interfere with Good and cause loss, pain and suffering to humanity.  However, this evil is not measurable; - no one can say with certainty what is Devil’s work, what is God’s willful withholding of good, and what is man’s own acts of misjudgment.  In any case, we know that the Devil’s works are intended to cause ‘eternal’ destruction of humanity’s soul.  Devil always works with the intent to destroy beyond redemption.  

      Humanity: Acts of humanity are on a different level. They are always shaped entirely by human intent (God does not manipulate man’s hand). The intent may be good or evil. In Noah’s time of humanity God said of this human intention thus: “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). Human evil is also without any intent to redeem a person whom it touches.

       After eliminating hardship that God personally caused for a purpose, the rest of the hardship in life comes from humans acts aimed at other humans. No human being seeks to offend God, or no hardship is ever aimed directly at God. There is human hand in every hardship of the day that a person, family or community, nation and the community of nations face.  It is the work of human beings. Since we cannot recognize and measure the Devil’s acts, we could say that in many human acts Devil’s hand is also there (a religious view). 

       Where the intent is to destroy (human) life and soul without redemption it could be said as evilthat causes pain and suffering(short term and long term). 

       Consider the following:

1.      In Human life: Some human-caused hardships of our day

    Conflict among the family members: bitter strife, fights, break of relationships; legal battles; rebellion and conflict with children; children into destructive habits and relationships; running-away; jealousies, insults, allowing issues to fester to settle scores; hurtful interference of some relatives, neighbors, etc.

    Grief in families occur due to chronic illness, accidental death, parents facing the only child’s death, the only earning member’s disability, or death; accidents, great losses, jail; racial prejudices, quarrels; robbery, etc.

    Job situations: Inconsiderate boss, or department; dishonest practices on both sides; facing hardship for honesty; jealousies, back-biting; harassment – sexual and other; less pay, much work; injustice; overbearing co-workers, vengefulness; etc. 

    Road rage: Creating dangerous road conditions to hurt others; indifference to others’ safety, etc.

    Economic and social conditions: Rules favoring the companies that write; deceptive contracts and deals;  penalties; making money at the cost of the hapless; charging excess fees; denying basic needs and facilities; promising something, giving another; occupying property of someone’s hard work; using bad laws, wrong scales and measures; cheating, robbing prejudice, nepotism; etc.

    Creating systems, political entities, movements, etc. to deprive legitimate rights and benefits; becoming officers and rulers by deceptive, illegal, fraudulent methods; causing harm to people’s health by neglecting safety measure; letting dangerous stuff into food sources and water, etc.

     Oppressive arms of government and its agencies; brutality in the name of law and order; wrongful imprisonment; justice denied; burdening with unbearable taxes and fees, etc.

    Neglect by willful silence about truth and justice; 

Church and religious institutions harboring divisiveness, prejudices based on doctrines and tradition, severe conflicts and public outbursts of differences; prejudices toward people of other faiths; church’s neglect of care of people of other faiths or non-members, preaching condemnation on those that disagree, etc.

     These are some hardships that all of us encounter every day.  However, these are not ‘done by others to us,’ rather; we ourselves personally contribute to at least some or most of them wittingly or unwittingly. If we either contribute or receive just a handful of these, each person has enough trouble.

       Important: All these hardships are entirely caused by human beings to other human beings.     Any form of participation in these acts intentionallycausing, or knowingit would cause -hurts, damages lives, ruins their faith in God and human beings and places of worship; or make them vengeful, violent causing further damage on the perpetrators and the societycan be understood as intentionallycaused to hurt.   Such acts of intent areevil and this evil is SIN.  This sin stays at the door of the perpetrator.

        God has no part in this muddle of evil!

     2.  Bible-listed Hardships (sins) that humans-caused:

          Here is the list of hardships that the Bible lists. These are named by God Himself through His prophets.  See if they correspond with the list of hardships of our day cited at the top as #1.   In the Bible these would be ‘SINS’laid at the door of the perpetrators. 

[Note: All references are from Isaiah unless specifically designated otherwise.]

a)      Of Israel: Making unjust laws; Oppressive decrees  (Isaiah 10:1); depriving the poor; withholding justice to the oppressed; making widows their prey, robing the fatherless (10:2); The wicked see God’s grace yet do not learn righteousness, keep on doing evil, and disregarding God (26:10); Blood spilled (26:21); ruthless, mockers, “with just a word making a man guilty,” ensnares the defender in the court, false testimony against the innocent to deprive justice (29:21). See the list of sins (Isa 59).

    Priests and prophets became drunkards; stumble in giving decisions; became filthy, and they try to preach… and teach lies (28:7-13,17b); People’s worship of God, and their religion is bogusonly on the lips, while the hearts are on other matters; worship of God is based on rules made by their leaders (29:13); Human arrogant notion is like man whom God questions: “Did God make me?” (29:16); complaining, wayward in spirit (29:24);      obstinate (30:1); Force the prophets and the seers to give favorable messages, not unfavorable ones (30:10, 11); relied on the sin of oppression and deceit (30:12); idols (31:7);    

b)      Of the Nations and People of the Earth: Evil, wickedness in the world, arrogance of the haughty, pride of the ruthless (13:11); Foreign nations like Damascus have forgotten God Almighty (7:10); earth is defiled by its people;disobeyed the laws, violated and broken the covenant (24:5);oppression, fury, wickedness, relentless aggression of nations like Babylon (14:6).  These are just a few from Isaiah.  Other prophets have longer lists.

     Also read Jeremiah 4:23-27. This is how the earth looked to God with sinful humans as though life dried out of it because of SIN. This is God’s earth that he fondly created for humanity (Isa. 45:18; cf., 24:4,5)

      God will come to call the people of the earth to account for the blood they spilled(26:21; cf., Gen. 9, 5, 6).

    Humanity commits destructive acts on other humans first, with intent to self-serve. Second, to punish those who come in the way. These sins are committed with intent to hurt or withtotal indifferenceto the pain and suffering itcauses to others Other humans are deprived of good in life, safety.  As conceit grows in every human being, hardship on others grow.  When a human being sets himself against another, conflicts strife, bloodshed and eternal hostility prevail. Most of humanity suffering is due to this conceitedness in man.  Man does not adequately realize that this system he created to promote his self-interest is the system in which he too is entangled in; and will suffer from.

    From the list God’s prophets cited as the causes that disrupted life on earth causing pain and suffering on all the human race, these virtues are prominently mentioned: It was violation of the Path of the Divine Virtuethat God has set before humanity.  These divine virtues that the prophets mention are truth, justice, righteousness. This has been God’s complaint.   Such neglect is called sin caused with evil intentcaused to hurt others therefore, is SINFirst it is against God because, the violation is against the Divine Virtue.Secondlyit issin againsthumanity.    

     In both instances human beings cause grievous harm on its own kind.  Another; by causing such hurt on others, a) they caused hurt to themselves by damaging the God’s community and the nation, and b) they brought God’s punishment on themselves because they intentionally hurt God’s people.  All this, again is in total disregard of God’s Command given to humanity through Noah and sons (Gen 9:5b, 6b).  

3.      Human acts, and its difference from the acts of Nature and of God:

     Human acts have a dominant element of conceit (self-interest); therefore, their works are designed to self-serve at the expense of the other fellow being. This is how it comes across: “As long as a person’s or group’s own purposes are served by their interests, decisions, reasoning, actions and dealings, they don’t care what happens to others – whether loss, inconvenience, deprivation of needs and suffering due to that, conflicts, sickness, and even death.” This attitude is there from a huge measure to a subtly unrecognizable size in almost every person’s behavior.  When every human being walks on this conceited path, every human doing this to every other, then the human beings are always caught in some form of hardship that causes pain and suffering to every person all the time. For this reason, pain and suffering stay as part of human experience forever.

      This type of conceited mind is totally absent in Nature and God.  Nature, - it doesn’t have mind, therefore no intent either for good or for evil.   God, - He is benevolent.  Even if God hurts, it’s for a purpose: to correct, to make things better, remove and repair the damage, and to redeem and restore to the original good. God’s acts are never to totally destroy the human soul just as the human attitude does to its own kind.

Observation:

      Suffering invariably comes from human kindbecause it suffers from conceit, and it practices it in various manners and measures.  Any person could examine his/her own actions to see how far the life he/she is leading is free of conceit; and how watchful one is that the actions don’t hurt the other human being. The Bible says that there is no such innocent person; and every human being knows it as well.  Trouble to people comes from the product of work of the human hand. It surrounds the human life and seeps through it.  People may also be part of this behavior either wantonly, or by association, by acquiescence or by active partnership, or by silence (indifference) to acts even knowing that such acts are injurious to other people. This is the life’s condition in which every human suffers.  This also is the story that the human history amply illustrates.

      If so, Why do people pray to God about suffering; and why at times they are angry on God or, deny His existence?   This is the next question.

      People pray for three reasons: a) To seek relief from suffering, b) To stop evil, c) To restore original good and order in life.

      The valid question is, Why does humanity cry to God about the mess it created for itself? It is understandable that people pray for some ‘divine intervention’ (for some surprisingly helpful act from heaven, a miracle, some perceptible material relief) in the events such as accidental death, serious sickness, terminal illness (cancer), childlessness, calamities from natural causes, etc.

      In cases of suffering due to consequences of their wrong decisions and commitments, irresponsible life-style, living with deceptive people, directly or indirectly partaking in deceptive operations, etc. and stealing, lying, brutality, intimidation, exploitation of the hapless and the old and the ignorant etc., is crying to God and seeking His help justified? If so, what kind of help do they seek?

      There are innocent some, the poor, the hapless, the utterly dependent, desperate due to deprivation of basic needs, and so on, - these cry out to God for help! Human help is beyond their reach; it’s even deprived. The well-to-do don’t seem to care. Nature also seems unkind. They cry out to God complying even God is indifferent.  Yet, their suffering stays unabated. What help do they seek from God?

4.      What is God’s answer?

     Human history does not show God ever answering human predicament, pain and suffering individually to each and every person through quick intervention and help. That never happened before, and will never happen. That God did some wonders in the Bible didn’t mean He was going to do them in us in our problems.  This is not to say that God will not, if He wants to.  But, that is not how God works. If so, how does God work?

a)   God set His glorious law for humanity to follow:

                  “It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious.”        

                God expected humanity to follow the Path of the Divine Virtue that he set before humanity, practicing scrupulously truth, justice and righteousness in every deed they do.  It is not          

                   only in actions but in all faculties of function as well:

            b)   God has a format for the righteous man: God describes this person as one who dwells on heights…. His bread and water will be supplied…without fail (Isa 33:16), because, he

                  walks righteously,speaks… right,  rejects gain from extortion, keeps hand from ….bribes….stops ears against plots,,,, shuts eyes…. against contemplating evil(33:15).

                  Look at these terms- hand, ears, eyes (we may recall this common adage in circulation today: don’t see evil, don’t hear bad, don’t do bad things!) 

            c)  God corrects through punishment

                “Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt” (24:6; also for cause 4,5)

                “Who handed over Jacob to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his    

                law…. So he (God) poured out…. his anger…. But they did not take it to heart”(42:24, 25).In this episode of Israel’s trouble (as in verse 22) the answer came like this:   

                This is a classic example of God inflicting suffering on His people. This was corrective action, - to teach a lesson. God gave them His Divine Virtue (truth, justice and righteousness) as  

                 the essence of the law for Israel to conduct its life. Israel disobeyed. God punished her. Still Israel did not learn from this experience.

d)  God measures life by the measuring line of justice and righteousness (Isa 28:17, 26).

e)  God calls humanity back to the Path of the Divine Virtue.

    “Turn to me and be saved all you ends of the earth” (42:22)God calls back humanity from its deviated path to the Path of Righteousness of God - in the fear of the Lord.

     So far, by pursuing their own interests in total disregard of the path of righteousness God set before them, people walked on their own unrighteous and ungodly path.  As such, God  

    not only remained indifferent to their unjustified petitions to him, but also punished them by letting the consequences of their own sinful acts pull down into pain and suffering.

    Now if people repented and returned, God will heal them and lift them out of their life of pain and suffering (45:23-25).And If in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear….then the  

    nations will be blessed by him  - the Lord (Jeremiah 4:2).

Returning to the Righteous Path

God calls:

       People must recognize the need to returning to the Righteous Path. “Open the gates that the

righteousnation may enter… that keeps faith” (Isa 26:2).

People must confess and return

We look for justice, but find none; our offenses are many… rebellion, treachery against the Lord, ….    Turning our backs on Him, … uttering lies,… justice is driven back, and righteousness too, truth and honesty stumble,… no truth, no justice,… everyone has his own righteousness(Isa. 59 cites the violations of these divine virtues in that Confession chapter.

      And God comes for all humanity in suffering:“This is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They have become a plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, “Send them back”(Isa 42:21, 22).

      f)God restores of righteous order

      The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this (9:7c).The Lord looked and was displeased… there was no righteousness.  So he put on his righteousness as his breast plate,….helmet of salvation, garment of vengeance… and in zeal he came (59:15b-17)

            The glorious state of God’s Kingdom of justice, joy and peace (Isa 11:1-13)

     With the king of the Spirit of wisdom, power, knowledge, fear of the Lord, righteousness, justice, faithfulness in the restored glorious state to its original order. There, the lamb, calf, infant, the child, live together in the company of the lion, wolf and cobra. There all, the people of the Lord and the Gentile live together in peace on God’s holy mountain. “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”

This is the ultimate righteous state God was promising - the state of truth, justice, righteousness, faithfulness (9:7; 11:4,5; 42:1,3b,4,6,21; 51:4,5,6c,8b,53:11b;59:15b-17), peace(9:6,7); and joy.  These virtues mentioned many times in Isaiah in chapters on the Messiah.The oppressor will come to an end, …destruction will cease; the aggressor will vanish. In love a throne will be established in faithfulness a man will sit o it…from the house of David- one in judging seeks justice…speeds the cause of righteousness(Isa 164b, 5).

LESSON

      Reasons for human suffering

      For human suffering, same major reasons appear in the two scenarios, #1. The human-caused, and #2. The Bible-listed. The reasons are: a) ‘Pain and suffering’ is caused by humans themselves; b) it’s due to specific violation of truth, justice and righteousness (that we called here as the divinevirtues (daiva neeti). In the Bible God himself declared this fact clearly and many, many times (as shown above).

Note:

All Bible references are from the New International Version @ copyright 1973, 1978, 1984. Zondervan.

For repeated reading of these essays, the readers may print them to hard copy.

 

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About Path of the Divine Virtue

Some understanding of the term *The Divine Virtue is necessary. The series of articles on Biblical themes, study of the biblical topics (Bible Study), topics on Christian witnessing, theology, understanding the Bible Read More..

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