The cover page of the June 10th 1991 edition of Time magazine, except for it’s name and two lines of white print, was, at first glance, simply a large rectangle of ominous black. Closer scrutiny, however, revealed one large word superimoposed in even darker black. The word was EVIL.
The article it announced was intriguing, and presented well a description of the myriad shapes, and sizes, and intensities of evil that have dogged the heels of man since the very dawn of history, and still continues to do so.
The question of the ages – WHY? – was reiterated in it’s many forms, in the writings of the philosophers and theologians, past and present. Should Evil-morally and catastrophically-be considered a normal or abnormal experience? Is Good or Evil a human responsibility, or God’s? If “God is all-powerful,” and “God is all-good,” why do “terrible things happen”?
The author projected well the rationale that, since man does not understand the problem, he cannot see the answer. How strikingly the cover page depicted this fact. Behind the large word, “Evil,” was nothing but blackness.
“OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL, THOU SHALT NOT EAT OF IT: FOR IN THE DAY THOU EATEST THEREOF THOU SHALT SURELY DIE.” GENESIS 2:17
Why doesn’t God do something about all the suffering that is in the world today? This question is asked in time of war and when cities are destroyed, and the young, the old, the infants, the righteous, the wicked, the believers, and the unbelievers perish because of man’s inhumanity to man. It is asked by those who experience or oberserve suffering on beds of sickness. Why does God allow an inocent baby to sicken and die? Why does he permit the unrighteous to prosper, while his own faithful people often expereince hardships?
Then there are those who are killed or mained by upheavals of nature such as tornadoes, cyclones, typhoons, and earthquakes and most recently the hurricane in florida – cannot God do something about this? When we read of hundreds being killed in automobile accidents over a single weekend, the question arises concerning this terrible loss of life, “Has God no pity?” There are countless situations in which man, who was created in the image of God, experiences suffering and of course finally death.
And as we know, this situation is not limited to our generation, nor is it confined to one part of the earth, it is universal. As far back as history reaches, man has suffered and died in war, in pestilence, in famine, in calamities. And all in every generation have finally died, having been beaten down by the great enemy death. Abel, a son of Adam whose sacrifice was pleasing to the LORD, was the first to suffer and die, being murdered by his brother Cain. TOday, mearly two hundred thousand human die every twenty-four hours. Our hospitals and mental institutions are filled with the suffering and dying. No wonder mant are wondering where God is, and what he is doing about the distressses of his human creatures.
Job Seek the Answer
The question of Why God permits evil is not a new one; it has been asked by thinking men and women throughout the ages. Thousands of years ago a faithful servant of God, named Job became personally concerned with discovering the meaning of his own suffering. The record of this is found in a book of the Bible which bears Job’s name. The first verse of this book informs us that Job was an upright man who feared God and shunned sin.
To begin with, Job was a propserous man, abundantly blessed by the LORD along material lines. The record is that “his substance…was seven thousand ship, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.” (Job 1:3) Job was alsoblessed with a large family, and he desired that they too should be blessed by the LORD. Job prayed for his family, and offered sacrifices and offered sacrifices, because, as he said, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and curses God in their hearts.” (vs. 4,5) Job felt, apparently, that in the event that his sons had sinned, his prayers on their behalf would be heard and favorably answered.
But experiences were ahead for Job for which he was not wholly prepared. Satan, the great adversary of God and men, charged that this servant of the LORD was loyal to God only because his loyalty had been bought by the abundance of good things with which the LORD had blessed him. In answer to this charge God permitted Satan to inflict calamities upon job to test his fidelity. God had no doubt about the outcome of this trial, and in his wisdom, knew that any temporary suffering he permitted to come into Job’s life would, in the end, prove to be a great blessing to him.
And Job did experience great trouble. The record states: “There was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: and there came a messenger unto Job, and said, “The Oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside: and the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants wit the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: and, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness and smoke the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” Job 1:13-19
Job Still Loyal
Job’s reaction to these evil tidings was: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” We read that “in all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (vss. 21,22) Then God permitted further troubles to come upon Job. His health was taken away. He was smitten with “boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashses.” Then Job’s wife turned against him and said, “Curse God, and die.” To this Job replied, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” – Job 2:9, 10.
Job did not turn away from God when trouble came upon him, as so many throughout the ages have done. His chief concern was to know why God permitted him to be afflicted with such bitter experiences, and throughout his book we find evidences of his search for this understanding. After Job was stricken down with disease, three of his friends visited him for the purpose of giving comfort. Later in the book we are informed that these three did not speak the truth concerning God, implying that the viewpoints they expressed to Job were not correct. – Job 42:7 [And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.]
There is a chapter after the chapter of philosophizing on the part of Job and his three friends. But what it all amounts to is that, according to Job’s friends, he was suffering because he had committed some gross sins which he was hiding from them, and for which he had not repented and sought God’s forgiveness. Job, of course, knew that he was not perfect, but he also knew that he had not willfully transgressed God’s laws, so he was not willing to accept this explanation.
WHY DO EVIL MEN PROSPER?
Besides, Job knew that, while as a servant of God he was now suffering, frequently evil men prospered, and apparently escaped the evils that come upon so many. So in answer to his friends he said: Job 21:7-13 [Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? 8 Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. 9 Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. 10 Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf. 11 They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. 12 They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. 13 They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.]
While Job knew that the explanation offered by his friends was not the true one, yet he did not understand why God was allowing him to suffer so severely. In a beautiful, poetic manner he describes his search for an understanding of God in the light of his own experiences, saying, “Behond, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him; but he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:8-10.
While Job knew that the explanation offered by his friends was not the true one, yet he did not understand why God was allowing him to suffer so severely. In a beautiful, poetic manner he describes his search for an understanding of God in the light of his own experiences, saying, Job 23:8-10 [Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: 23:9 On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.]
Job realized that there was a divine purpose for his being tried so severely, but he had not yet discovered that purpose. He also knew that if he maintained his integrity before God he would pass the test successfully, and would “come forth as gold.” Job’s wife wanted him to curse God, but he knew this would be foolish. In all ages there have been those professed believers who, when affliction came upon them, have wondered where God was, and what he was doing to protect their interests. Many such have even turned against God.
Beginning with Chapter 38 of the remarkable Book of Job we find the LORD’s answer to Job’s searching. This answer is largely in question form. The many questions were designed to remind Job that he really knew very little about God, and because of his limited knowledge in every field where the LORD manifests himself, he should not be surprised at failing to comprehend fully why he was being permitted to suffer.
And this is not an important viewpoint for us to keep in mind? When we ask why God doesn’t do something about human suffering, are we not assuming that if God has the intelligence we possess he certainly would do something? And then perhaps, if we do not see our wishes carried out, we may tend to doubt that therei s a God. Should we find ourselves guilty of such unreasoning, it would be well to consider the questions which God asked Job.
There are four chapters of these questions. They all concern the wonders of God’s creation. God asks Job if he was present when he laid the foundations of the earth; if he understood the laws by which the tides of the sea were controlled. He asked him about the instincts and habits of the various birds and animals, and even of the great monsters of the sea. Then Job is asked if he can explain the wisdom and power that are represented in these marvels of creation.
As the questioning proceeds, Job interrupts, and says [Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. 40:5 Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.] Job 40:4,5 In Job’s expression, “Behold, I am vile,” the meaning of the Hebrew word translated vile is, according to Prof. Strong, literally, ‘swift, small, sharp’. Apparently Job was acknowledging to the LORD that he had spoken too quickly; that his viewpoint was too limited, and that it was voiced too sharply.
Important Lessons For All
Job was already beginning to understand his own proper position before the LORD that it was not for him to judge God according to his own limted understanding, and then so freely to speak hs opinions when he really knew little about the matter. This is also a good lesson for all of us. The basic fact is that hte world is filled with evil. It is not for us to lose faith in God because of this, or even to criticize him. Our proper attitude should be one of humility, and of earnestly seeking the answer to our questions from the only proper source, which is the Word of God.
God’s questions continued, and eventually Job spoke again, and said, Job 42:2-5 [I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. 42:3 Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. 42:4 Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. 42:5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.]
Job finally learned the meaning of his severe trial. He learned that its loving purpose was to give him a clearer understanding of God, that he might server him more faithfully and with greater appreciation. He speaks of his clearer understanding as ‘seeing’ the LORD, instead of merely having heard about him. Since he had gained such wealth of understanding, Job’s brief period of suffering must have seemed to him to have been a most valuable experience.
Besides restoring Job’s health, we read that Job 42:12-15 [So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. 13 He had also seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Keren-happuch. 15 And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.]
God’s design in the general permission of evil throughout the ages was, and is, the same as in the case of Job. He created Adam a perfect human, in his own image. Being the image of God implied an ability to reason. One of the questions which God asked Job was, Job 38:36 [Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?] It was the Creator who had endowed Adam with the ability, through the process of reasoning, to attain knowledge and wisdom. This was in contrast to what we call instinct, which had been given to the lower animals.