August 11, 2014.
Job is one of those books in the bible that most Christians know the overview of, but not really the content. Job is one of my favorite books in the Old testament. It is written in beautiful poetic language and tells a story that gives insights that are not often so openly given to us. The position of Job in the cannon is a little bit misleading as it is actually one of the oldest books in the Hebrew Scriptures, probably taking place sometime in the time frame of Genesis as the Mosaic law does not seem to be established yet. Job, the main character in the story, is an extremely righteous man who has been bless beyond compare when it comes to material things and his family. Due to this, the accuser comes before God and says that Job is only righteous because God has been so good to him.
“Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around 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 stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”
Thus God gives Job into Satan’s had to test him, eventually to the point of only sparing his life. In this Job is proven to be righteous and is doubly bless after having lost all. Here are four solid lessons that I believe we can take from the book of Job.
1. Suffering does not imply wrongdoing.
This one should be obvious; a lesson that most would say “Well yeah, of course, we don’t live in the ancient times anymore.” It is true that older cultures places more emphasis on blessings and curses being the direct consequences of our actions. At least explicitly… I don’t think we have moved as far away from this concept as we would like to think. If something goes right in our lives, we might give God all the credit (as we should, for ever good and perfect gift comes down from the Father- James 1:17). This indeed draws glory to His name. But there is a flip side to this concept: if good things come from the Father, then where do bad things come from?
Job is an excellent example of bad things happening to good people. However, his friends did not believe that this was possible. After an initial amount of time, they start to accuse Job of having some kind of sin in his life. As an example, his friend Eliphaz says:
“Remember: who that was innocent ever perished?
Or where were the upright cut off?”
Time and again do his friends berate him with questions and statements like this, telling him to just get over himself and repent of the sin that he is obviously hiding. But Job keeps telling them that he has done no wrong and there was no hidden sin in his life. Job was not claiming to have never sinned, but rather to not have any specific sin at the time that brought all this peril on himself. Rather he attributes his hard times to God not seeing his suffering, which was wrong as well. They go back and forth with the same arguments for many chapters, never really coming to a conclusion until God steps in in the end.
So why was Job suffering? The answer may be surprising to some. Job suffered because he was righteous; in fact, Job was probably one of the most righteous men on earth at the time. God singles him out:
“And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
Satan was looking to accuse mankind, and God picks Job to represent. Job’s suffering did not imply unrighteousness as everyone around him assumed. In fact, he makes an extraordinary statement to his wife when she basically gives up:
“Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
One of the reasons I think this point is so beautiful is the very fact that it is in such an ancient religious text. You will be hard pressed to find this concept in any of the other writings contemporary to it. I believe this is a good evidence for the bible to be inspired by God. If it wasn’t, this lesson in the book of Job likely would not be present.
2. If you question God, be prepared for His answer.
I think this is a good lesson to take for a couple of reasons. One, it shows that questioning God is not inherently evil. It is okay, in a sense, to question God sometimes. But when you do, you need to be prepared to be put in your place. While Job doesn’t have a sin that is causing this malady, nor does he sin in the process, he does make some pretty bold claims that perhaps he should have thought about before he said them, such as:
“Today also my complaint is bitter;
my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.
Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his seat!
I would lay my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know what he would answer me
and understand what he would say to me.
Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
No; he would pay attention to me.
There an upright man could argue with him,
and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.”
Notice what Job is saying. “I haven’t done anything wrong! Oh, if God were only here! I would plead my case and then you would see! Then you would know that I have done no wrong!” Job indeed may have done no wrong, but to make a claim like this might have been stepping over the line. The thing was, Job was wrong about one thing- God had not left him. He was not looking elsewhere and not paying attention to Job. We saw from the first point that he was probably even more so attentive to Job’s situation. Nevertheless, Job questions why God has left him. After all is said by Job and his friend, God gives him the answer.
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
I believe that this section of Scripture is one of the most breathtaking. God gives Job an awe inspiring and dreadful answer. It is almost sarcastic in nature (perhaps that’s why I like it so much). “Where were you, Job, when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” Wow. Can you imagine being Job in this situation. I can see him there, at a loss for words because there are no words. Job was getting his answer, wether he liked it or not. I encourage you to read this full section as it is truly amazing, highlighting the heights and depths of God’s power. In the end, Job has learned his lesson:
“Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
3. God does not owe us an answer why.
This lesson might be missed if you just do a quick read through of Job. After all, we just established that God did answer Job, right? Well, yes, God did answer Job, but not with the answer for which he was asking. Job’s question was ‘Why is this happening to me? I have done nothing wrong.’ or ‘Where is God to avenge me?’ We have the full story. We know why Job was suffering (refer to lesson one). But did you notice what God didn’t tell Job? Read through God’s complete answer and see if you find where he ever mentions to Job that he is suffering because Satan wanted to accuse mankind and God pointed to Job due to his righteousness. It’s not there. As far as we know, God never gave Job the answer to why he was suffering. God does not owe us an answer, though sometimes he does indeed give one. We must not think of it as our right to know. Can any of us say we have suffered more than Job did? I would hope not. But if not, then who are we to deserve an answer when this righteous man didn’t?
God asks us to trust him. We aren’t going to have all the information, and that’s okay. We don’t need it. What we need is to have trust in the Lord God Almighty, creator of the universe. Even when there is a reason, we may not get told what it is.
4. God is in control, always.
As we just said, we need to have trust in God. He is in control. Always. Period. Notice at the beginning of the story of Job, how God just points to Job and basically says “Take job and try him. He’s a righteous man.” It’s almost like God knew what was going to happen… shocking, right? What boldness Satan has to challenge the word of God. When God says that something is not going to happen, it’s not going to happen.
God is in control, even when it seems he isn’t. Often we look at our government or the governments around the word and think that things are simply out of control; but this is not true. Everyone who has power has been allowed to come to power by God. Even Pilot, who would issue, in essence, the death sentence to Jesus, the Son of God, was given this position by God:
“The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement,he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
God is in control. Even when it came to the crucifixion, Jesus said that he laid down his life by his own authority and that no man took it from him (he made this proclamation before the plot to kill him, ref. John 10:7-18). In the end, Job was explicitly shown who was in control- the one who had laid the very foundation of the earth. This is a beautiful lesson that never grows old.
I hope this study has helped you in some way. I’m sure there are many other lessons from the book of Job, but I’ll let you find them for yourself. If you have never read the book, I would highly recommend it. The middle might be a bit hard to wade through, but it is worth it in the end.
Suggested Daily Reading: Job 1-2, 38, 40, 42.
The Lord bless you and keep you.