The problem with evil

The School of Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  47:03
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Good morning, Gateway!
Psalm 34:1-6
I remember a car ride home with my mom from church when I was about 12 and I was a real know-it-all.
Our church just got a new youth pastor, and my mom was asking me about the service.
“How’d it go? What’d you think of the new guy?”
“He seems nice, but I didn’t really like his message.”
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”
“Well, everything he said…I mean…I just know it all already.”
“You do? You know everything?”
“I mean I don’t know everything but yeah…I sorta do.”
Maybe you were like me as a kid, and just because you’re in school, and maybe you were a church kid, you think you’ve got the world figured out. I had book smarts. Go to school, get good grades, it’s not that complicated. Jesus loves me, He’s God, super simple what’s so complicated about that, I read my Bible and pray, I and my life works out just fine.
But then…you run into what we can call “The School of Life.” You start to learn that things are not so simple, and how little we really know.
For me it was in 2017 when I got a phone call that my best friend from college died of an enlarged heart the day before his daughter was born. All of the sudden, everything I thought I knew - the simple formula of do good things and good things happen to you - began to unravel.
Maybe you had a similar experience of catastrophic loss, or maybe yours was getting into your job or career and feeling like, “Is this it? I’m just a cog in the machine. Is there any point to this? Do I have a purpose anymore?”
Or maybe you’re like me and you still feel like a kid in an adult’s body and you go, “Man, adulting is hard! Living the good life was easy as a kid. Dinner just showed up on the table. Now I have to meal plan, shop for my own groceries…I just wrote my own will for crying out loud can I please go back to playing football in the street with my friends?”
Where do we find wisdom to guide us through life in a complex, complicated, broken world? As Christians we follow Jesus, and Jesus viewed his whole life through the lens of Scripture. And that’s why we’ve been calling 2022 the Year of Biblical Exploration, walking through the story of the Bible at a 30,000 foot level to see how the Bible is...

The Bible is a library of texts - both divine and human - with a unified story that leads to knowing Jesus and growing in Jesus.

And starting this Sunday and thru the next 4 weeks, we’re starting a series called “The School of Life” where we’ll be looking at the wisdom books of the Bible - Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and seeing how these books help guide us towards wisdom in a complex world. How do I go through suffering - especially when life is horribly unfair? How do I live the good life? How do I find meaning and purpose in my daily life? The Bible is not an answer book, but it does help guide us along the path of life with Jesus.
So this morning we’re starting with Job…all of it. All 42 chapters. If you’ve read your Bible much, or were close the Bible at all, when you think of Job, what do you think of? Suffering. And what question specifically…why do bad things happen to good people? We all wonder. I don’t think that’s what the book is about. Job is about suffering…but now the why of suffering. I think there are two things (at least) that Job is about and I want to talk about those things morning.
Before we do that, let’s pray.
My friends and yours at the Bible Project put an amazing set of videos together about the wisdom books of the Bible, and we’re going to watch one now on the book of Job. We’re doing ours in a slightly different order than they will, but I trust you can follow along.
Watch Video (6:14)
End of sermon. Let’s go home. Super grateful for the Bible Project, they have another Job video that’s very helpful, and Tim Mackie recently gave a message in Portland on Job that I found insightful and helpful for this sermon.
These wisdom books are a part of your Old Testament. The Bible Project went through them in the order of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and then Job, we’re going to look at them in the order they appear in your Bible which is Job first then Proverbs and finally Ecclesiastes. And then on May 15 Fletcher is going to preach on how these each contribute to the problem of evil: why do bad things happen to good people in a world created by a good God? Fletcher is going to single handedly solve the problem of evil, I can’t wait.
Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes each give us a unique perspective on wisdom and fear of the LORD. I think Job’s angle is something like this:

How do you live wisely and trust God (fear of the LORD) when life isn’t fair?

What does wisdom look like when your loved ones die for no apparent reason? How might Job help a devout Christian Afghan refugee, running for their lives from their home when they are completely innocent?
I remember driving in the Fred Meyer parking lot after a particularly difficult season of life, and saying to God, “God, what’s the point? if this is what I get for following you, what’s the point?”
St Teresa of Avila is said to have prayed to God, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!”
CS Lewis felt this pain. In his book, A Grief Observed, which is his journal after the death of his wife whom he lost to cancer, he says,
“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.” - CS Lewis, A Grief Observed
Have you been there?
We want to know WHY, but Job actually doesn’t give us that answer. As the video explained, the WHY is too complex for our human minds to comprehend, BUT, Job helps us to see HOW to suffer.


What do I mean by that? Let’s briefly look again at the whole arc of the book of Job. It’s essentially a three-part book.
Intro - Job 1-2.
We’re introduced to Job. He’s a man from the land of Uz - which is far east of Israel - it basically means Timbuktu. Job from Timbuktu.
Job is an awesome guy. We read he’s blameless and upright, fears God and turns away from evil. He obeys God, and is healthy, wealthy, and wise. We walk away from the first verses going, “Whoa, Job is impressive!”
Then we’re introduced to this divine court room scene. These divine beings come before God and one of whom is called ‘The Satan’ which is a title that means ‘The Opposer’ or ‘The Adversary.’
And God says, “What do you think of Job? He’s pretty awesome.” And the Satan says, “He’s only awesome because you bless him. He’s trying to rig the system…he doesn’t really love you! If you pulled your blessings from him, he would curse you to your face!”
And God says, “I don’t need to have this conversation with you, be gone Satan!” No…he says
Job 1:12 ESV
12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
God gives permission for Job’s life to unravel. His children die in a series of horrendous events. He is broken, but doesn’t blame God.
Another heavenly court scene happens, and we read this crazy interaction between God and the Satan
Job 2:3–6 ESV
3 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
So Job is again tortured, this time with horrible sores on his skin. His wife tells him to curse God and die, he still doesn’t get angry with God.
Job’s friends here about all this and come to supposedly help him and they sit with him on the ground for 7 days and 7 nights.
Maybe you think, “Sure would be nice if I got this kind of insight into my own life! Job’s so lucky that he got this window into the heavenly court scene.”
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
The problem is…Job is never told that this scene between God and Satan ever happened. Job is never told why he suffers, even all the way to part 3 when God answers Job and then restores him. God even said in chapter 2, Satan incited him to harm Job without reason.
Job does not answer our questions of why we suffer, but it does give us insight into how we can suffer with wisdom.
And that’s what we see in Part 2 of Job, which is the dialogue between Job and his friends.
Job’s friends first sit silently, but then they speak up. They spend a lot of time talking about God. And they’re really smart. They’d write better seminary papers than me. They have everything mapped out. They’re like 12 year old Chris, life is pretty simple. God is just, he runs the world with justice, therefore since Job is suffering, he must deserve it.
Job 4:7 ESV
7 “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?
It makes perfect sense, say the friends. Live in wisdom and fear of the LORD and life will work out. Your life isn’t working out…what did you do wrong?
But Job says, “I hear you, but I am innocent! Your logic doesn’t work for my life. I do not deserve what I am getting.”
Rather than talking merely about God, Job does something his friends never do, Job talks to God. Job doesn’t hold back talking to God. Job is not happy with the treatment he’s received. Job says things like
Job 9:23 ESV
23 When disaster brings sudden death, he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.
Job 10:8 ESV
8 Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether.
Job 10:18 ESV
18 “Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me
Job is a human Psalm of lament. He says some patently false things about God, but he trusts God enough to talk to him, with a full range of emotions.
The friends may have known a lot about God, but they didn’t really know God. Job knew God enough to speak to God. And even though he doesn’t get to know why he suffered, he shows us wisdom and fear of the LORD in how he suffers.
I remember after Morgan and I lost our first baby, I went to talk with Gene. And I told him, “I don’t know why, but I just want to yell at you.” And Gene said, “Chris you’re hurting, you want to lash out.”
And it struck me recently that the person I really wanted to lash out at was God. But I didn’t trust that was okay.
And the point of Job is not “Get angry and God because he loves that more than anything else.” But I think God is actually much more interested in us trusting him and talking to him - even if we say crazy stuff - than he is about us knowing stuff about him but never speaking to him.
What is something you need to say to God today?
Consider writing it in a journal. Maybe some past grief or loss has stirred in your soul for a while, and you need a trained counselor or therapist to help. Counseling has been tremendously helpful for me. Maybe you need to make an appointment with Jesus, put it on your calendar this week, sit down with a cup of coffee, and tell Jesus why life sucks right now. I know he’d love to hear from you.
Job is not about the why of suffering, but guides us in the how of suffering AND the who of suffering.
Job is not just about moral wisdom for us to live better lives. All of the Bible is about Jesus. And he saw it that way, too.
Jesus saw that the book of Job pointed to him.
Luke 24:44–47 ESV
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Jesus appears to his disciples after he is raised, gives them a Bible study, and says the whole thing is about me! Even Job! How?
Job fits into a pattern we see throughout the Old Testament that points us forward to the person of Jesus. Tim Mackie says it’s like a melody, playing over and over in different ways, explored from new angles and in ways you wouldn’t expect - like a beautiful jazz composition, throughout the Old Testament.
The first stories in Genesis give us the melody.
In the beginning, God creates everything. The sky, the land, time itself…and humans. They’re made in the image of God and they represent God’s rule and presence. But everything goes wrong when the humans stop trusting God but listen to the snake who opposes them and says, “You know that thing God wanted you to trust him to do? You should just do that yourself.”
Humans sin, and fall to deception. God laments over his broken creation but promises to one day send someone who won’t fall for the snake’s lies, but will crush the snake but in the process experience suffering themselves.
The humans are exiled from the garden. Outside of the garden we witness the first murder…Cain murders his brother. Things get worse and worse and worse.
This leads to the flood…where God allows the chaotic waters to crash back over the land and crush nearly everything.
But have we considered the blameless and upright servant of God…Noah!
God says Noah, things are going to go really bad. I need you to build this box thing and save everything.
So God delivers his Noah, his servant, through the waters of death.
Noah gets off the boat, and what does he do? He offers a sacrifice and God is merciful and promises to never send a flood again.
So we think is Noah the one God promised to send? Nope…Noah plants the first vineyard and gets drunk on his own Merlot and things go terribly.
This melody plays over and over in the OT with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, the nation of Israel…
By the time we get to Job and we hear, “Job was blameless and upright” we go, Oh! I think I can see how this story might go!
And then the Satan shows up and we say, “Yep, I’ve seen this character before!”
And we wonder, is Job the one God promised would save us? Will he hold his integrity against the snake? Well, he does for a couple chapters. Then he has this long section, part 2 of Job, where he cries out to God. And he talks to God in truth and pours out his heart to God. And Job’s request becomes only that he would see God…if I could just see him face to face! And God shows up, big time.
But Job is so humbled by this, he says
Job 42:5–6 ESV
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
I accused you of wrong, but now I see. I was wrong.
And God responds, as Emily read…what happens?
Job 42:7–8 ESV
7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
You wicked friends love to talk about me but Job talks to me. He knows me, even though he speaks heresy about me. And Job offers a prayer to God, even while he’s still suffering, on behalf of people who have cursed him. Forgiveness is unleashed.
Job doesn’t help us feel better about the world, or give us tidy intellectual answers about why bad things happen. The Bible pulls no punches, it sucks out here! We’re all dying. This isn’t good. Everything is not okay.
But the Bible points us forward to say…you know what we need…is a righteous servant of God who won’t fall to the snake, will enter into the worst of human suffering for our sake, and save all of us who are stuck out here to die east of Eden?
And along comes Jesus.
He is God’s righteous and blameless one. Jesus is unfairly led by the Spirit into the wilderness by Satan. Job is led into the wilderness of suffering and we go, “That’s not fair!” Jesus going into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan is the same thing. It’s not fair. But Jesus doesn’t shy away.
Jesus suffers unjustly and begins a pathway of carrying the suffering and failure and train-wreck of human history. Jesus shows that crushing the snake doesn’t look like military victory, but in surrendering power, and going through death to emerge victorious on the other side.

Job doesn’t tell us why we suffer, but it points us to who can save us.

Jesus is a better Job, he’s a better Noah, he’s a better Abraham. We shy away from suffering, Jesus entered into it. We were deceived by the snake and sinned and disobeyed, Jesus held his integrity and crushed the snake. And now if we confess that he is the one sent from God to save us, we can have life with God.
The melody plays over and over in the Old Testament, from Noah, to Abraham, David, to Job, and it builds to the crescendo in Jesus: our Suffering Savior. But it keeps going into our lives today. And so maybe today you just need a reminder that if you are in Christ, the pain in your life - although inexplicable, awful, and horrendous - fits you right into the story of God. To be a Christian is to allow this melody to play out in my life through the Holy Spirit.
Job guides us towards wisdom and trusting God not in why we suffer, but in how to suffer by talking to God, rather than merely about him. What do you need to say to God today?
And Job also points forward to Jesus, the one who can save us.
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