June 26 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“[God] is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more.” ~Job 9:32-34

With friends like Job’s, he certainly doesn’t need enemies! As the man struggles to understand why God permitted his tragedy, his friends lay the blame squarely at his feet and those of his family. Eliphaz hints that Job’s suffering is probably the result of sin, “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8). Bildad, meanwhile takes aim at Job’s recently buried children, “When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin” (Job 8:4).

Both men tout repentance as the sure solution to Job’s present suffering. “Surely God does not reject a blameless man,” Bildad contends (Job 8:20). In other words, if Job would just confess his sin, God would forgive him and bring restoration to his life. However, there is a serious flaw in Bildad’s reasoning and Job’s response will lay it bare. The poetry of the passage conveys a sense of deep grief: “Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can a mortal be righteous before God” (Job 9:2). Job admits that neither he nor his family have been perfect, but he argues that it is impossible for any mortal person to be righteous before God! No one can ever be good enough if that is what is required to avoid suffering.

We must wait until we have read further in Job to find answers to an age-old question: Why do the righteous suffer? At this point in the narrative, at least we can eliminate one of the false answers. Sin is not always to blame. The storyteller went out of his way to describe Job’s undisputed integrity (see the language of Job 1:1-6). Clearly, he did not “earn” the suffering he endured. And neither did Jesus or His followers, one of whom faces persecution and death in today’s New Testament reading. Job was singled out because he was more righteous than anyone else (Job 1:8), which is quite the opposite of his friends’ expectations! Bildad and Eliphaz were talking out of turn! (And, as we’ll see, they were rebuked.)

It is proper to examine our lives when we are suffering, and it’s often wise to encourage friends to do the same. But it is wrong to assume that in every case we are getting our just desserts from God. Sometimes He does not reveal everything He is up to. At least not immediately. Let us not be like Eliphaz or Bildad jumping to presumptuous conclusions. And for the sake of those we love, let us not cause further pain by echoing Bildad’s bad advice.

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.