After challenging myself with the Book of Revelation I decided to study another book of the bible that’s always challenged me. For me, the Book of Job is one of the most challenging books in the bible. Job is an old testament book that tells the story of a righteous man who has his life fall to pieces all around him. In this lengthy book, we’re faced with some of the great debates of our faith. Why would a good God let bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it? Why do wicked people prosper while righteous people suffer?
history of the book
As far as the history of the book goes, Job has been the most challenging for me to find clear answers on. The study books I trust suggest Moses or Job himself as the authors of the book.
summary of the book
Before I go into my thoughts on the book of Job, I wanted to do a sort of summary of it. For those who may have never read the book of Job or haven’t read it for a long time, I would strongly suggest you read it for yourself, as my summary won’t even come close to capturing the complexity of the story and the themes of the book. You can read it for yourself RIGHT HERE. With subject matter this sensitive and complex, I feel like having a good grasp of the material is important.
So, short summary. Job is a great and wealthy man. He loves God, obeys God, and has huge herds of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys. He also has ten kids. One day, Satan approaches God and says that the only reason Job loves God is because God has blessed him and given him so much. So God allows Satan to take away Job’s possessions. All of his animals are either stolen or killed, and his ten children all die. Job does not curse God, saying that the Lord gives and the Lord also takes away.
Satan returns to God, saying that if Job were to suffer some physical affliction then he’d definitely curse God. So God allows Satan to hurt Job so long as he doesn’t kill him. Satan nails Job with a horrific disease. Job’s wife tells him to “Curse God and die”, but Job tells her that they take the good from God, should they not also take the bad? Three of Job’s friends hear of his suffering and come to him. When they see how bad it is they sit with him for an entire week and nobody even speaks. Then Job goes off, unleashing a spectacular pity party as he wishes that he’d never been born.
This is where it gets even worse for Job, as his friends slowly but surely turn against him. They accuse him of being a sinner, saying it’s his lack of repentance or fear of God that’s brought this misfortune upon him. Job continues to wish for his own death, and as his friends words grow harsher and harsher, Job maintains his innocence. He begins to ask why God is doing this to him, asking for a chance to plead his case to God directly. While his bitter complaining continues, as do his requests to argue his case before God, Job still shows flashes of belief and reliance on God. Job talks about the unchallengeable might and majesty of God, but also talks about the unfairness that exists when wicked people prosper.
Eventually, Job gets his wish, and God speaks to him from out of a whirlwind. God lays out a beautiful look at the unknowable and unfathomable things He does, challenging Job with questions about where Job was when God was creating the world. God firmly and clearly establishes that His ways are His own, that He alone is God. Job realizes his error and repents. God chastises Job’s “friends”, then restores Job and gives him even greater riches and wealth than he had before.
my thoughts on the book of Job
It doesn’t feel fair when terrible things happen to good people. The most honest, godliest, pure, and innocent among us sometimes get murdered. Sometimes little kids get killed by drunk drivers. These are tragedies so large and so heartbreaking that they could tempt us to look up at heaven and ask God that single, nagging question. Why?
The fact is, I don’t know why. Just as Job didn’t understand it, I’m going to be flat out honest here and say that I don’t understand it either. But isn’t that the point of the book of Job? The fact that at times, we’re simply not going to understand. God reveals His heart to us in the bible, He reveals so much of His nature and who He is to us. But He doesn’t reveal everything. He is God. His mind and His power are infinite. Our minds and our powers have limits. So really, to me one of the big lessons of the book of Job is that some aspects of God are unknowable for humans. Our place is our place, and His place is His place.
However, one of the aspects of God that is knowable is that He never breaks His word. He is the God who keeps His promises. He sticks to His word, the bible. While I’d love to be at some point in my life, I’m no bible scholar. But here are some things I do know. God loves us. God gave up His only son to death so that we could have eternal life. God tells us He’ll break our addictions, that He’ll protect us from the devil, that He won’t forsake us, that He’ll listen to us when we speak to Him, that He’ll carry our burdens for us, that He’ll never allow us to endure more hardship than we can handle, that He’ll sustain us, that He’ll dwell within us so that we may overcome fear, that He’ll forgive us of our sins. There are so many more things God tells us in His word. So no, I don’t know exactly why terrible things happen to undeserving people. But I have faith in God and His word
And really, I guess that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Faith, and the character of God. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I have faith that God is a good God, that He wants good things for His people, and that He’ll always deliver on the promises of His word. As for the character of God, I think that’s really the crux of any issues or arguments people may have with the book of Job.
The only way to truly learn anyone’s character, their real character, not just the outer facade but the truest and deepest character, is to get to know them. It takes a relationship with someone to fully understand who they are, why they do the things they do, why they say the things they say. I spend time with God. I talk to Him daily through prayer, I commune with Him through praise and worship several times a week, I learn about Him several times a week from wise teachers, and probably most importantly, I get to know His heart by reading the bible. While I’ll spend my entire life getting to know Him, what I know so far is easily summed up in one word. Love. The bible says it plain as day in 1 John. God is love. I know it to be true on all levels. My brain, my heart, and my soul. And if that’s my understanding of the character of God, then accepting challenging books of the bible like Job become much simpler. Did he step back and allow some truly unpleasant things to befall Job? Yes. Did he do it for a reason? Yes. Did Job (or do I) fully understand those reasons? No. Did Job still love God through it all? Yes. Was God faithful in restoring Job and rewarding him? Yes.
Before I finally move off of this, I feel the need to touch upon the idea of free will that plays into all of this. God didn’t create us all to be robots. We’re free to do with our lives whatever we want. The nature of free will is messy. One person’s choice can have drastic and tragic repercussions for other people. Evil people can prosper while righteous people suffer. What the righteous person knows, however, is that this world is temporary. A lifetime of suffering here is nothing compared to an eternity of glorious existence in Heaven with God. God honors those who suffer in His name, and some of the holiest people of the bible counted it as a source of rejoicing when they were allowed to suffer in God’s name. Job’s suffering was temporary, and he handled it in a manner that not only led to rewards while he yet lived on earth, but that led to the eternal reward. He had free will, he could’ve cursed God, but he didn’t. Ultimately, he chose to trust God and he learned the lesson that God stands tall above us, and His ways aren’t always for us to understand. And that’s exactly what I choose to do. I wish only good things happened to good people, but I trust God. I have faith in His ways, and in His plans, and in His word. So I exercise my free will by choosing to accept that He’s in control, even when it feels like the world is out of control.
If you’re someone who views Job as a display of a vengeful or uncaring God, I’d ask that you continue to read the bible. Job is one of 66 books, and I freely admit that it’s among the more challenging and hard to understand books in the bible. In many ways it’s a book about the unknowable aspects of God, so if you’re looking to learn about the character of God that doesn’t exactly make it the greatest place to start. Of course, for those looking to justify their disbelief, Job’s often a place they’re going to be drawn to. My deep and continuing prayer is that they’ll be drawn beyond Job and into a relationship with God where they’ll come to know Him as I know Him. Then, one day, they can return to Job and read it with a deeper understanding of the Lord.
closing and prayer
I know this ran much longer than my usual posts but I just couldn’t find any natural way of splitting this into two entries. Maybe it’s fitting, seeing as the Book of Job is incredibly long too!
For prayers today, it seems only fitting that since it’s Labor Day that we should pray about our jobs. I’ve found that my faith as a Christian has never been more challenged than in the workplace. So today, let’s just lift up our jobs and those of our fellow believers. Pray for strength, grace, and the ability to work in a way that shows the love of Jesus to our co-workers. The way we live our everyday lives is part of our ministry, after all, and a big portion of our time is spent in the workplace.
I love you guys, and I thank you for spending part of your day reading this blog. Never forget that this beautiful God I write about loves you. He created you, and He wants to have a relationship with you, and He loves you with a deep and unfathomable love.