Friday, October 21, 2016

Lesson 4. God and Human Suffering

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Job 

Lesson 4. God and Human Suffering


The opinions expressed in the book of Job are not necessarily shared by the Management of the Universe. Job and his three friends use human reasoning to explain the actions of God. The arguments of the three friends can be summarized as Job must have done something wrong so God sent or allowed terrible calamities to cause him and his family suffering. Job himself failed to get it right when he relied on his good works to try to meet his friends' arguments.

The book gives a rare glimpse into the interactions between God and Satan where human beings are the subject of the conversation. From it, we know that God looks at suffering from an entirely different perspective. Does God allow suffering? If He merely allows Satan to cause it, why doesn't He prevent it? Does God see something positive in human suffering that we don't always see?

We gain insight from an unusual place. John relates an interesting vision in chapters 4, 5 and 6 of the book of Revelation. It has become known as the vision of the open door. In chapters 4 and 5 John relates that he sees God sitting on a large white throne and there is a scroll or book in the right hand of God, or the scroll is lying on the throne. The better translation is that the scroll was on the throne rather than in God's hand. A crisis has arisen because heavenly citizens are concerned that there is no one qualified to take and break the seals of this scroll. John joins in the concern and begins to weep. He is reassured and told that there is one qualified to open the scroll, "the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David." We must understand some historic detail to realize the significance of this event.

When a king was crowned in the nation of Israel, his first duty, as stated in Deuteronomy 17:18-20, was to write for himself a personal copy of the law. This law was evidently the book of Deuteronomy. Its contents had been written by Moses on a scroll which was placed in the sanctuary in the custody of the Levites who carried the ark (31:9, 24, 26). The King was to study it and use it to guide his governance. In fact, it was to be read to all of Israel every 7 years during the feast of booths or tabernacles. During most of Israel's history this law was ignored and forgotten with just a few exceptions. We remember that Hezekiah instructed the priests to clear away the rubbish in the temple, and they found this scroll. In 2 Kings 23, we see good king Josiah take and learn from the scroll. That revival was short lived and finally the kings abandoned any pretext of serving God.

Before Israel was captured by Babylon, God instructed Isaiah to "bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples" (Isa. 8:16; see also Dan. 12:9 and 8:26; 12:4). This was done because Israel had become unable to discern and comprehend the revealed will of God. Was heaven concerned that there might be no king entitled to take the scroll on behalf of earth? Is it possible that Satan claims to be this king?

From the first part of the book of Job, we know that Satan attended the "Sons of God" conference (Job 1:6). When God asked where he had come from, he said he had been roaming and walking around on the earth. Satan was implying that he had the right to do this and God did not challenge it. Satan could point to the choice made by Adam and Eve to follow him rather than God. By this choice, Adam abdicated the dominion he was given over the earth. By implication, Satan claimed the allegiance of all of earth's inhabitants but God pointed to Job saying that he was blameless, feared God, and turned away from evil. So God could point to at least one person who had decided against Satan's regime.

From this conversation, we can infer that even though Adam did sell out the human race, God had a way of escape to redeem and bring together the entire universe and establish his eternal kingdom. Jesus told the disciples before He ascended to heaven that "all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth," therefore they were to go to all nations of the earth with the gospel (Matt. 28:18).

At the cross, Jesus won back the right to govern the earth in his role as the second Adam (Romans 5). As the Lamb slain, He had the right to claim dominion, so He rightfully was entitled to take the scroll and open its seals. Thus, each human being was given the opportunity to choose between Satan and Christ. A choice between God's law of love and Satan's self-centered chaos, that has eternal consequences, must be tested for its validity. How does Christ accomplish that testing? Each seal that is opened results in terrible calamity happening on the earth. Why would a calamity be considered a "seal"?

This is where our friend Mr. Job provides illumination. He experiences overwhelming tribulation with the loss of his possessions, his health, his wealth, and most of his family. Yet his faith prevails. He may not understand why these terrible things happened, but in all this, Job did not sin or charge God wrongfully (Job 1:22). He also made one of the most profound statements of faith in the Bible: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth" (Job 19:25).

Instead of giving up on God as his wife advised him to do, the trials were a means to settle him into the truth about God so that he could not be moved. It is clear that God looks at human suffering entirely differently than humans do. God allows trials to refine the characters of His children so all the defects are removed and He can seal them for eternity. Sealing is a means of preserving the contents of whatever is sealed. Where Adam and Eve defied God's law, His sealed children have completely submitted their wills to His law, the only thing that unifies the entire universe. By maintaining their faith in spite of terrible trials, the redeemed allow Christ to declare to the watching universe that their choice is trustworthy.

We know that Jesus warned that at the end of time a great tribulation will occur that is so much worse than any other that it must be shortened or no one would live through it. In order to have a remnant that can stand through this time, each individual must have gone through trials even worse than Job suffered.

The disciples went through a "trial" experience during a storm while they were sailing on the sea of Galilee. When they found Jesus peacefully sleeping in the bottom of the boat, they asked, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" (Mark 4:38).

Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers" shines the "light" of the message on this event when he wrote: "Their thought was only of themselves, and they did not stop to consider that He was in the boat with them. In their faithless fright they did not think that if the boat went down with them, supposing that it were possible, it would take Him down too. If they had but allowed this thought to come into their minds, it would not only have checked their selfish reproach of the Master, but it would have calmed their fears; for surely He who made the sea, and to whom it belongs, who 'hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm,' could not perish in the stormy waves. The creature could not destroy the Creator. So the fact that Jesus was in the boat was the surest protection that they could have. It was safer in the storm with Him than in the calm without Him" (Christ and His Righteousness, p.128; Glad Tidings ed.).

What His children go through, He goes through. If we remember that, there will be no confusion and we can say with James that we count it all joy when we go through trials, and also with Job, that we know that our Redeemer lives and that He will stand as our Redeemer and king at the last day.

--Arlene Hill

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz