Job is a very good man – as good as a man can possibly be – and yet he suffers as much as any man can possibly suffer (short of dying)…
The burning question in Job’s mind, as one might expect, is “Why? Why has this happened to me?” (e.g. Job 7:20,21) And later, when his mood is more reflective, “What might I have done to deserve this?” (e.g. Job 10:2) He flings these questions at God, demanding an explanation for this apparent miscarriage of justice – but God does not answer. (Even at the end of the book, when God does eventually speak to him, his questions are never answered!)
But his friends have plenty to say on the subject. They are absolutely convinced that suffering is invariably the result of sin; therefore, if Job’s children met with such a tragic fate (the kind of thing that insurance companies would describe as ‘an act of God’), it must somehow have been their own fault (Job 8:4)! And Job also must be harbouring some secret wickedness; so if he won’t own up to it, then he is guilty of hypocrisy as well!
But Job is an exceptionally good man, and his conscience is crystal clear. So if God is offended by something in Job, then He is offended by everybody on the planet. If God’s eyes are “too pure to look on evil” (Habakkuk 1:13), and “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6), we have no hope of gaining or keeping His favour. The logical conclusion, for Job’s friends, is that human beings are utterly worthless in comparison with the absolute holiness and purity of God (e.g. Job 4:17-19; 15:14-16; 25:4). We are like maggots, utterly contemptible; we are beneath His notice. Thus they pour scorn on Job’s all-consuming desire to question God – but at the same time, they also condemn themselves.
But we cannot help being weak and imperfect; it is our nature. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Why then does God burden us with demands that we cannot fulfil and insist on standards that we cannot meet? Is it just so that He can have an excuse for condemning us? If God really cares at all about the human race, why doesn’t He do something about our situation?
Job and his friends don’t know it, but the New Testament has the answer for our crushing inferiority with respect to God. The problem cannot be resolved by us; so the gulf must be (and has been) bridged from God’s side. “All are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)