A blog isn’t the best place to discuss the Book of Job (which we started yesterday) because there’s so much in there. But let’s take the disturbing aspect: God pretty much baits the adversary into testing Job.
Job 1: The adversary shows up, says he’s been patrolling the earth, and God says, “Have you noticed Job? He’s awesome.” The adversary says (and it makes me laugh) “Does he fear God for nothing?” Because, he continues, God has blessed and protected Job, so of course Job would be pleased with God. To which God replies, well, I hereby unbless and unprotect him. Do whatever you want. This happens again in Job 2.
In other words, Job himself wasn’t on the adversary’s radar until God said something about him, and then God gave permission for the adversary to test him. If God hadn’t incited the whole course of events, it wouldn’t have taken place.
At the time Job was written, Israel was in exile. Israel was within the empire of Babylon and was picking up influences from Zoroastrianism (which the Bible was then stepping forward to combat) and we also see the development of angelology and, most importantly, the theology of a Messiah and the theology of meritorious suffering.
There’s no messiah theology showing up in Job. The other three are present in spades.
At first we see the obvious explanation for suffering: God is allowing his people to be tested, but it’s not God doing it, only God’s servant with God’s permission. This is to combat the idea that there are two equal deities, one good and one evil, at work.
Moreover, when Job is first struck, he asks if he should accept good from the Lord and not evil, in case we’re especially dense and didn’t realize God was behind it all. (And that verse, by the way, got me through the days after Emily was diagnosed with anencephaly.)
There’s more to it, though. It’s not just that God tested Job. It’s not just that Israel needed an explanation for why the good should suffer.
It seems to me, reading it now, that God wanted an excuse to bless Job even more than he already had. So he gave Job a chance: keep going, and I’ll bless you twice as much as before.
That’s not explicit. It’s implicit in the way things work out: the doubling of Job’s possessions, the resurrection of his children. Looking at it now, I really believe God set it up — pointed the adversary at Job the way you’d fire a gun, then let it work out, then stepped back in to call the game — for a reason to give Job even more than before, including the gift of a direct conversation with the Almighty. All blessings he wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t been put to the test.
Something I ask myself whenever I get put through the wringer: What changes does God want this to make in me, and how will he use it as a blessing?