WISDOM FOR LIVING DEVOTIONAL
NOVEMBER 3, 2020
TOPIC: DOES THE INNOCENT EVER SUFFER?
BY T. O. BANSO
“Stop and think! Does the innocent person perish? When has the upright person been destroyed?” (Job 4:7 New Living Translation).
All that the friends of Job did when they came to comfort him over the tragedies that befell him was to convince him that his troubles were because of his sins. They spoke in defence of God and condemned Job.
When you read the books in the Bible and in particular the book of Job, always identify who is speaking and whether what he says agrees with other verses in the Bible. This is important because it is not every statement in the Bible that is correct or true, although God allowed every statement to be recorded. For example, Satan spoke in the Bible! He twisted scriptures when he tempted Jesus.
Eliphaz the Temanite, in his first response to the speech of Job, who had cursed the day of his birth and lamented his tragedies, asked Job some questions in Job 4:6-7: “Does your reverence for God give you no confidence? Shouldn’t you believe that God will care for those who are upright? Stop and think! Does the innocent person perish? When has the upright person been destroyed?” (New Living Translation).
My focus is on the two questions in verse 7: “Stop and think! Does the innocent person perish? When has the upright person been destroyed?” (New Living Translation). From Eliphaz’s questions and what he said thereafter, he believed that the innocent person never perished and the upright person had never been destroyed. But this was exactly what had happened to Job.
God told Satan, “He [Job]is the finest man in all the earth — a man of complete integrity. He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil” (Job 1:8 New Living Translation). The New King James Version says, “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” But after this testimony by God, Job lost all his property and children (Job 1:13-20).
Again, in Job 2:3, after Job had suffered the loss of his property and children, God told Satan that there was none like Job on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who feared God and shunned evil. Following this testimony, Satan, with God’s permission, struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (verse 7).
From God’s testimony, Job was an innocent person whom Satan “incited Me [God] against him, to destroy him without cause” (Job 2:3 New King James Version). This was obviously unknown to Eliphaz; yet, he condemned Job for a sin he didn’t commit. As far as Eliphaz was concerned, Job’s trial was because he had sinned. Hear him again: “Remember now, whoever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?” (Job 4:7 New King James Version).
Eliphaz’s position was a fallacy and there are still many people like him who hold such a position based on their limited knowledge. Several people who need comfort had been damaged by such judgmental comforters whose statements are not true.
Eliphaz continued: “Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of His anger they are consumed” (Job 4:8-9 New King James Version). This is a correct statement. Whatever anyone sows he will reap (Galatians 6:7). Those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). But that was not the case with Job. That’s where Eliphaz missed it.
It is not true that everyone experiencing a whirlwind-situation had sown the wind. Job didn’t sow the wind but he reaped the whirlwind because Satan incited God against him and God wanted to prove that he was indeed an innocent man, a blameless and upright man, one who feared God and shunned evil.
Please take note again what Eliphaz said in Job 4:7: “Remember now, whoever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?” (New King James Version). Verse 8 in the New Living Translation says, “My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same.” Maybe his experience was limited to this.
His experience did not show him that it is possible for the innocent to suffer unjustly. It is also possible for the innocent or the upright to perish or be cut off forever i.e. to be destroyed or cut down, not because of any sin they had committed, as it was in the case of Job.
From the foregoing, what Eliphaz said was partially true. It is not in all cases that suffering or negative events are consequences of people’s sins. In 2 Samuel 11, David orgnized the death of Uriah to cover up his sin of adultery. Uriah died not because of his sin. In fact, he died for the sin of David! He was innocent. His death contradicts Eliphaz’s sermon to Job!
Similarly, Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, organized the killing of Naboth because he refused to give or sell to Ahab his vineyard to use for a vegetable garden because it was next to his house. Naboth did not sin; he only obeyed the word of God not to sell family inheritance (Leviticus 25:23-28). Nevertheless, this innocent man was killed, though God punished Ahab’s house for this sin (1 Kings 21).
Jezebel also killed the prophets of God and Obadiah, who was in charge of Ahab’s house, hid a hundred of God’s prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water (1 Kings 18:13). She also wanted to kill Elijah and he fled, thinking that he was the only prophet remaining. But God told him that He had reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him (1 Kings 19:18). The prophets of God, killed by Jezebel, died not because of their sins.
Athaliah’s father was Ahab and his mother was most probably Jezebel. She seized the throne after the death of her son, Ahaziah, whom she bore to Jehoram (Joram); she callously killed all her grandsons except Ahaziah’s infant son, Joash, whom his aunt stole away from among the rest of the king’s children, who were about to be killed (2 Kings 11:2).
The grandsons Athaliah killed didn’t perish because of their sins; they died because of the wickedness of their grandmother who ascended the throne upon the death of her son who had reigned for only one year. However, in the seventh year of her reign, Joash was proclaimed the king, and Athaliah was killed.
There are other examples in the Bible of innocent people who suffered unjustly. It would be unfair and an unbalanced sermon to equate all sufferings or evil occurrences to people’s sins as Eliphaz did. Herod killed all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under in the process of trying to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:16). They did not commit any sin.
Pilate did not find Jesus guilty of any offence. He confirmed that himself (Luke 23:22; John 18:38; John 19:4). He knew it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Him over (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10). Yet, he delivered up Jesus to the Jews to be crucified. Jesus was crucified not because of any sin he had committed.
What sin did the first Christian martyr, Stephen, commit, when he was stoned to death other than that he preached Christ whom the Jews crucified? But he was falsely accused of blasphemy (Acts 7:59-60; 6:8-14). All the persecutions that the early apostles suffered, including their death in the hands of the enemies of the gospel, were not because they were sinners.1 Peter 4:15-16 says, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (New King James Version).
Does the innocent person ever perish? Can the upright ever suffer? The answer is yes. Therefore, don’t jump to conclusion that people’s sufferings or the negative events that happen to them are because of their sins. This is not always the case.
Hear the conversation between Jesus and His disciples: “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him’” (John 9:1-3 New King James Version). Did you see that? The disciples of Jesus were wrong just as the friends of Job were wrong.
If you read the entire book of Job, it wasn’t that Job was completely correct in all he said but he was far better than his friends. He spoke as a hurting man, which was made worse by the silence of God throughout until towards the end of the book when He spoke, including asking Job questions, which he couldn’t answer and he repented.
After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, He said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has” (Job 42:7-8 New King James Version).
We live in a fallen world. Satan is still at work plus the wickedness of human beings. People’s good deeds are not always rewarded or appreciated by fellow humans. You don’t know where people are coming from. You don’t have all the details of what you want to pass judgment on. “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13 New King James Version).
Be careful; don’t hurt the hurting more. What you’re thinking about people or want to say could be wrong. Don’t be a miserable comforter like Job’s friends (Job 16:2). Be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: I shall not be a miserable comforter. I receive the wisdom to comfort the hurting. Holy Spirit, help me not to be judgmental but listen attentively to people and show them love. Father, deliver from their oppressors those who are suffering unjustly. Destroy every plan by Satan and his human agents to make me suffer without cause.
(For more inspiring messages, visit: www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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