Reading Job

After reading the book of Esther, I read though Job. Some may avoid this book because of all the poetry. But commentators see the writing of Job as gifted in form and substance as a Shakespearian work. It does take a bit of patience for me, no pun intended, to read through Job, but after it is read a few times some things are seen a bit more clearly.

Most think of the question of Job as why do good people suffer. But that question, a very valid one, is never directly answered. Rather the book of Job is really a statement of a much larger scale. And one that might not seem obvious at first thought. Yes, the subject, Job, is a good man, a man very close to God. Then suddenly, all the riches and comforts and human contacts of this life are swept away, and all he is left with is a foolish wife and a very great torment, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

But the author does not address the whys of the dilemma of Job. The real answer to the book is very simply that God will be God. And He will be glorified in whatever He chooses to do with His creation. It almost seems like the answer belongs to a different book than Job. It is the same answer Paul gives in Romans chapter 9 to a similar question, how is sin and injustice compatible with an all powerful God, “who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” Rom. 9:20 It is an answer that at first seems a non-answer. But is basically the same thing God says to Job when He first speaks at the end of the book. It is incomprehensible to man.

But the question of Job is met with sublime force in a near identical situation in the Gospel of John. The disciples of Jesus saw a man born blind and asked Him “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9:2). And Jesus gave them an answer they were not at all expecting. The same answer God gives Job. Jesus’ reply was “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The disciples (and in turn us) look at a situation and find 2 possible conclusions. God looks at it from the center and sees the truth. And indeed it is with this thought that the book of Job concludes. In the end God glorifies Himself through 4 amazing chapters and the result is that Job is doubly blessed.

Indeed, the final chapters of Job is God’s reply to all the so called observations of Job’s friends. It is a litany of the glory of the God who created all things by the power and wisdom for His own glory. And just as virtually everyone in recorded Scripture who comes face to face with the God who is there and is not silent, Job’s response is to humble himself and to be silent.

Now about Job’s so called friends, one wishes they would also have kept their silence after sitting quietly with Job for seven days. Job was obviously in the deepest torment, they didn’t even recognize him when they saw him, so disfigured was he with the disease with which he was inflicted. The remarkable thing about their discourse the increasing antagonism they display to Job’s face. No words of encouragement, no sympathy, only increasingly strident attacks on Job’s character until they finally condemn him. At least they didn’t repeat his wife’s suggestion, that he curse God and die, but I get the sense that given enough time they almost could have.

To me the most powerful parts of scripture are those when God is speaking in the first person and especially when He reveals the details of His character. And the last chapters of Job are very powerful in this way. They start in Chapter 38 with these words: Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge?” And then for four fabulous chapters God reveals Himself to Job as the master of all that exists, and of all knowledge. Finally Job gets the proper perspective of God because He has spoken openly of the knowledge of God. Just like Job’s friends, we can speak of the things of this world as we see it, as it appears to us, is our understanding can explain. But in the end it is God’s perspective as Creator and Master that decides which view of the universe is correct and is useful for living a useful and fulfilled life. Without hearing it from His mouth we are only guessing, stabbing blindly in the dark. It is only in His light that we see the true purpose of this life.

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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