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What should we do when children die?

One of the most painful tasks of life is when parents have to bury their children, because the normal course of life is that parents are buried by their children. When parents have to bury their children, particularly if the children are very young, it means someone died “before their time”.

Four thousand years ago there was a man named Job who lost all ten of his children on the same day. How should a parent respond to a tragedy like that? How should we respond when we watch people suffer a tragedy like that? The death of children causes many people to question God. Where is God? Why does God allow this? Why does God allow good people to suffer? Fortunately, most of us will never suffer as great a tragedy as Job did; but even though our pain is less than Job’s pain, Job’s response to his pain is still a great lesson for us on what to do when we suffer pain.

ChartThis episode is the second episode in a series on the book of Job called Why Do People Suffer. In the first episode of this series, we looked at the first five verses of Job and learned how to live an exceptional life. Today we’re going to read the rest of chapter one, which tells us Job lost everything at the hands of Satan, and we’ll learn what we should do when we are suffering. In future episodes we’ll study a dialogue that took place between Job and his friends about why suffering exists, and then toward the end of the series we will see what Yahweh had to say to Job about suffering. With that as some context, let’s look at Job’s story.

Job’s story is found in the Bible in the 18th book of the Old Testament. We don’t know exactly when Job lived, there are not enough historical references in Job’s story to place him in a particular time period; however, his lifestyle indicates he lived sometime around 2,000 BC. This shows you when Job lived relative to the overall timeline of the Bible. This is a little deceiving because while Job lived in the middle of the Old Testament time period, most of the Old Testament focuses on events that occurred after Job’s life. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 37 of them record events that took place after Job died.

TimelineLet’s add some famous names to this timeline. Job lived after Adam and Noah, he was contemporaneous with Abraham, but he lived before Moses, David, Daniel, and Jesus. Now let’s start reading at Job 1 verse 6.

Job 1:6

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

Let’s start by defining some terms. First is the term “sons of God”. This phrase appears five times in the Old Testament. It occurs here and in Job chapter 2. It occurs twice in Genesis 6, and it occurs in Job 38. In this passage, Yahweh was talking to Job. In verse 4 Yahweh made reference to His act of creating the earth,

Job 38:4

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Then in verse 7 Yahweh mentioned the sons of God.

Job 38:7

When the morning stars sang together

And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

The word when indicates the sons of God shouted for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid. Humans did not exist when the earth was created, so the sons of God must refer to heavenly beings, also known as angels. So Job 1:6 tells us there was a day when the angels came to present themselves before the LORD.

President and God are generic terms. Ronald Reagan and Yahweh are personal names.Let’s define the word LORD. In the ESV and NASB translations, when you see the word LORD in all capital letters, the Hebrew word used there is Yahweh. Yahweh is a personal name which distinguishes the God of the Bible from every other god. Just as the word President is a generic term which can refer to any number of different people, while the name Ronald Reagan is a personal name which distinguishes one President from all others; so too the word god is a generic term which can refer to any number of deities, while the name Yahweh distinguishes the God of the Bible from every other god. So Job 1:6 is telling us the angels presented themselves before Yahweh, the God of the Bible.
Now let’s look at the word “Satan”. The Hebrew word used here is satan. Satan is used 34 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Sometimes it is translated “adversary”, as in Num. 22:22.

Num. 22:22

But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him.

Sometimes it is translated “accusers” as in Psa. 109 verse 29.

Pas 109:29

Let my accusers be clothed with dishonor,

Sometimes it is translated “oppose”.

Psa. 38:20b

They oppose me, because I follow what is good.

And then sometimes it was used as a personal name, as it was here in Job 1:6 where it refers to this living being who also appeared before Yahweh. What we should understand from this is Satan is Yahweh’s adversary. Now let’s see what happened when Satan presented himself before Yahweh.

Job 1:7

The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”

Satan gave a rather bland explanation of his activities; however, there are two passages which may indicate Satan was downplaying what he was really doing. First is

1Pet. 5:8

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Notice the word adversary. Notice the phrase “seeking someone to devour”. Satan continually seeks someone to devour. As we continue reading our story today from Job chapter 1, we will see Satan tried to devour Job. The second passage that tells us about Satan is

Rev. 12:9

And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Here we see dragon, serpent, devil, and satan all refer to the same creature, and notice the word deceives. Let’s keep reading.

Rev. 12:10

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

This tells us Satan is an accuser. He accuses the brethren day and night. As we continue reading today’s passage, we will read about Satan making accusations against Job. Let’s return to Job 1:7.
Satan gave a bland explanation of his activities, but based on the two passages we just looked at, it is probable Satan was doing more than he indicated.

Job 1:8

The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”

First of all, notice Yahweh mentioned Job by name, and Yahweh referred to Job as His servant. Yahweh’s description of Job is exactly the same as the description in Job 1:1 which we studied in the previous episode.

Job 1:1

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.

Blameless means Job did not do the wrong thing. Upright means Job proactively did the right thing. Fearing God means Job was afraid to disobey God. Just as we are afraid to disobey authority such as the police or our boss, so too Job was afraid to disobey God. And turning away from evil indicates Job was diligent in staying away from any temptation to do wrong. Because of Job’s excellent character, Yahweh had very high regard for Job, and when Satan presented himself before Yahweh, Yahweh said, Have you considered My servant Job? There is no one like him. Why did Yahweh say this? Yahweh essentially put a big target on Job. By bragging about Job, Yahweh gave Satan a reason to attack Job and prove God wrong. Yahweh said this because Satan is the adversary. Adversaries need to be defeated. Here on earth, governments deploy soldiers to fight their adversaries, and this puts soldiers at risk of being wounded or killed. Likewise in the spiritual realm, sometimes God deploys people in spiritual warfare, and this puts people at risk. Yes, God bragged about Job and put him at risk, but that is the nature of warfare. Let’s continue reading.

Job 1:9-11

Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”

Remember, Revelation 12 tells us Satan is an accuser. Satan accused Job of following God just for the money. Satan pointed out the hedge around Job and his possessions, the blessing Job received from Yahweh, and the increase in Job’s wealth. Satan claimed if Job lost all his possessions, then Job would curse God. Before I go on, let me pose a question: Is this true of us? Do we follow God just because of what we get from God? If we lost everything, would we continue to follow God or would we curse God? Just something to think about. Let’s continue.

Job 1:12

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he [Job] has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.

Why did Yahweh allow Satan to attack Job? Well, remember Satan is the adversary and accuser. God allowed Satan to attack Job so He could prove Satan wrong. Just as soldiers get hurt in earthly warfare, so too Job was about to get hurt in spiritual warfare. Notice one more thing about this: Satan had limitations. He was allowed to take Job’s possessions, but he was not allowed to harm Job himself. As we contemplate Satan’s continual desire to devour people, including people who are alive today, let’s keep in mind that Satan is under God’s control. Now let’s see what Satan did to Job.

Job 1:13-15

Now on the day when his [Job’s] sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

First, Job lost his oxen, donkeys, and some servants.

Job 1:16

While he [the first messenger] was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you [Job].”

Second, Job lost his sheep and more servants.

Job 1:17

While he [the second messenger] was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you [Job].”

Third, Job lost the camels and more servants.

Job 1:18-19

While he [the third messenger] was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your [Job’s] sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

And finally, Job lost all his children. Job chapter 1 verses 2 and 3 are a list of Job’s possessions. We looked at this list in the last episode. Job lost everything on this list. He lost his children and all his possessions on the same day.

Let me go on an aside here about Satan. Within Christianity, people who are suffering will often say they are being attacked by Satan. This passage in Job makes it clear Satan is capable of attacking people, but that doesn’t mean suffering is always an attack from Satan. Furthermore, while Satan is capable of attacking people, I don’t believe Satan is capable of attacking everyone. Think about it this way. Suppose you decide to pray for every person on earth by name. If you pray for 60 people every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and you live 100 years, you will only be able to pray for 52 million people in your lifetime. There are 7 billion people on earth. The point is you can’t pray for every person on earth by name, there is not enough time.

I believe Satan has a similar limitation. He cannot be everywhere at the same time and he cannot attack every person at the same time; therefore, he has to pick and choose what to do with his time and resources just like we do. When people claim Satan is attacking them, they are claiming that out of the seven billion people on earth, Satan has decided to attack them at that point in time and no one else. Are they really that much of a threat to Satan? This assumes Satan even knows they exist, which is not a given since Satan has limited knowledge.

Now you may be thinking Satan has demons at his command who can help attack people. Yes, he does, but that doesn’t mean he has enough demons to attack every person on earth. Satan also has to pick and choose where to send his demons.

The point is we don’t know where Satan is nor what he is doing and we should hesitate to claim Satan is attacking us. There are seven billion people on earth to attract his attention and Satan might be completely oblivious to the fact that we even exist. That’s the end of my aside, let’s return to Job.

Satan had claimed that Job would curse God if he lost everything. Let’s see what Job actually did.

Job 1:20-21

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

This phrase, “tore his robe”, is a common expression in the Old Testament. This was something they did when mourning their dead. For example,

Gen. 37:34

So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days.

Job tore his robe because he was mourning for his children. Shaving their head was also part of the mourning process.

It says Job worshiped. Let’s define worship. Worship is a translation of the Hebrew word shachah. Shachah is often translated bow down. For example,

Gen. 27:29

May peoples serve you,

And nations bow down to you;

Be master of your brothers,

And may your mother’s sons bow down to you.

When people bow down, they are communicating humility and submission. When Job lost everything, including his children, he humbly submitted to Yahweh’s authority. He had fallen to the ground, and he made this statement: The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Job accepted the fact that Yahweh had chosen to take away his possessions. Since Yahweh had given him everything, Yahweh also had the right to take it away again. Notice that Job blessed the name of Yahweh. He did not curse God as Satan had said he would; instead, he blessed. Now let’s look at verse 22.

Job 1:22

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

Despite losing all his children and all his possessions, Job did not blame God. Think about the word blame. Blame includes the idea of assigning fault. Job had made the statement that it was Yahweh who took away his possessions, but he was credited with not blaming God because didn’t find fault with the fact his possessions were taken away.

Now let me ask some questions. How do we treat God when bad things happen to us? Do we submit to God’s authority as Job did? Do we acknowledge that God gave us everything we have; therefore, He has the right to take it away again? Or do we blame God, and accuse Him of not loving us nor caring for us, as if we have a right to have possessions, good health, and a life of ease? Job lost all ten of his children on the same day. However, Job did not blame God nor did he find fault with God; instead, he reaffirmed his submission to God. When bad things happen in our lives, and they will, we should follow Job’s example.

James 4:7

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

 

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