Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Job
Lesson 6. The Curse Causeless?
It is a powerful, persuasive and in some ways beautiful sermon, that Eliphaz preaches to Job. "My friend Job, I want to bring you all the resources of comfort and wisdom known to the world of the morally upright and religious. I want gently to encourage you to be consistent with your beliefs, to be realistic about our mortal condition, to be humble and not get ideas above yourself, and gladly to submit to the loving discipline of a good God."
Asks Eliphaz, "Is it possible for human beings to be in right relationship with God, to stand before God clean and pure in His presence?" (Job 4:17). The answer of human religion: There is no way that imperfect mortal human beings can stand clean and right in the presence of God.
We have our foundation from the dust (4:19). We may be crushed as easily as you squash a moth. We wake one morning full of hope and strength, but by evening we are dead, going back to the dust from which we came (4:20). "So be realistic, Job," says Eliphaz, "We are mortal, God is immortal, and never the twain shall meet" (4:21).
Eliphaz raises the question of whether there might be a supernatural, heavenly being who will mediate between unclean, dust-like mortals and the immortal God. He says this cannot be (5:1). Heaven is quite simply inaccessible to mortals. "So," says Eliphaz, "there is no point getting all hot and bothered about it all, and specifically about what has happened to you. That would be foolish, to be a hothead, impulsive" (5:2).
Eliphaz makes his appeal. "I have seen what happens when fools, people who get hot and bothered about injustice appear to be settled and secure." As a wise man, Eliphaz observed that the fool's home was cursed (5:3).
Eliphaz observes that bad things happen to people who get ideas above their station so far as God is concerned. "Be warned, Job, and don't be like that." Disaster comes to the fool. Troubles don't just appear from nowhere (the ground) but are the result of human sinfulness (5:6).
Eliphaz begins to give Job his clear advice. "If I were you," he says, "I would turn my face toward God and seek His face (5:8). I would trust in Him. And I would not try to be too clever."
He is the God who lifts up humble and lowly people (5:11). But He is also the God we cannot understand (5:9). He does many things, and we cannot search them out and understand them. So let's not try to be too clever and arrogantly think we can be wiser than God.
They think they can outthink God and be wiser than God. But God will always frustrate their schemes. "He catches the wise in their own craftiness" (5:13). This statement is true (1 Cor. 3:19). God does trip up men and women who try to be too clever for their own good.
Eliphaz thinks that Job is in danger of doing that, and so he warns him: "Don't do that, or the end for such people is that just when they think all is clear they find they cannot understand what is happening at all, and they are walking in darkness" (Job 5:14).
What's wrong with Eliphaz's counsel? What is wrong with exhorting Job to be consistent, realistic, humble, and submissive to God? What's wrong with exhorting Job to be consistent with your beliefs, to be realistic about our mortal condition, to be humble and not get ideas above yourself, and gladly to submit to the loving discipline of a good God?" The truth is nonbelievers and believers alike suffer.
The fact is all the sins of the world of lost sinners have been borne by the Savior. He has paid the penalty and has borne the wrath for every one of their sins, conscious and unconscious, past, present, and future. It follows that no suffering of believers and nonbelievers can possibly be a punishment for their sin. In the light of the cross, it is all undeserved. And yet the world suffers.
Christ did no sin; yet He suffered the vilest abuse and pain, even our "second death." He is called "the Prince of sufferers." But what He suffered is what we would have suffered, had He not suffered it in our stead:
"He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way: and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:4-6). This could well be translated into modem speech: "The Lord hath laid on Him the fate of us all."
God has not been reposing in sublime indifference, feeling nothing of our woe. The idea which declares that evil is unreal, that God cannot feel it, is contradicted in the Bible. God does feel evil. He is infinitely disturbed by it, precisely because He Himself is not evil. He is so much concerned about it that He plunged into the sea of human sin to take upon Himself its full penalty, and thus to cleanse the tide of humanity that will accept His salvation.
Then is there any meaning to the sufferings we still endure? Yes, much. The 1888 idea of receiving the atonement of Christ gives an answer to the meaning of our sufferings, which no human philosophy such as Eliphaz's can provide. Paul calls upon those who love truth to "rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake" (Col. 1:24).
E. J. Waggoner writes: "... The sufferings are Christ's, ... He feels them, and that being His, He is able in us to bear them, and we need not tremble for the result. To be saved we must be identified with Him, and to be identified with Him we must be partakers of His sufferings. This is how the martyrs have been able to endure with fortitude the terrible ordeals in which they have yielded up their lives. Their sufferings were the sufferings of Christ, a part of that which was 'left behind' after He rose from the dead, and He bore them in their bodies. 'Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.' The afflictions may be called ours, but it is He that bears them." 
When the eye of faith looks upon the sufferings of Christ, immediately we realize a kinship with Him; we become one with Him; we "know Him ... and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death" (Phil. 3:10). Our sufferings are in "fellowship" with His sufferings in that we share with Him the privilege of demonstrating the victory of faith over evil. None is in vain. The true disciple must share the life of his Master. Jesus said, "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20).
Persecution and suffering is very difficult for us to bear if we think that it is God who inflicts them. But if we know that the agent is Satan, we can endure it joyfully because we realize a "fellowship" with Christ. It is no longer pointless, meaningless suffering. If we were transported to some place of reward (heaven) without our having experienced suffering in this life, we would feel miserably out of place in the presence of Jesus, who has had to endure so much persecution and suffering on our account. Humans who want to have fellowship with God on any level must also have fellowship with Him in suffering. Only then will they be able to appreciate His gift of salvation.
--Paul E. Penno
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