Pause for thought
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I think people most often come to the book of Job expecting to find answers to questions about suffering. I certainly held that view up until recently.

But I think we need to be careful.

Job is a real person and not a generic human being. We can certainly learn lessons from Job’s experiences as believers, but an unbeliever coming to the story of Job is in for disappointment at best, and confusion and frustration at worst!

Job, first and foremost, is emphatically a believer, a worshiper, a man who fears God and turns from evil (1:1, 8; 2:3). He suffers precisely because he is a worshiper; if he were not Satan would have had no reason to test him! This is the logic of chapters 1 and 2. So the book of Job is about undeserved suffering, the trials of a man who belongs to God and trusts God.

However, the scripture is fundamentally a book about the Creator God and particularly his power over the whole of Creation and his wisdom in governing the universe. The character and justice of God are perhaps more critical issues for the book even than the predicament of Job. So while, obviously, it’s about the predicament and suffering of Job, in reality it’s about the righteousness of God. But this book is also about Job as an example of a believing and innocent sufferer. There is a deep sense in which, again and again, Job in his sufferings are premonitions of what was in store for Jesus and his sin-bearing passion. We are not surprised to find such shadows as these in the book. But we cannot just stop there. In a number of places, the New Testament speaks of Christian believers as sharing in the sufferings of Christ and of bearing trials in order that our faith may ultimately redound to the honor of God (see, for example, Col 1:24; Rom 8:17; Luke 22:31,32; 1Pet 1:7). In the same way as Job bows down in worship before God, simply because he is Almighty God and not for the blessings he receives, we too must learn to bow in humble adoration, even in the direst of circumstances. Along with all the blessings we enjoy in Jesus, we should also expect in some ways to experience what Job suffers — and we should not be surprised by this. The book profoundly foreshadows the gospel, as the undeserved sufferings of Job prefigure the sin-bearing sufferings of Jesus. It follows that we should learn from the errors of Job’s friends much about what religion looks like when it has morality but no gospel. We should be warned about the cruelty and emptiness of such religion. The most profound difference between the Old and New Testaments is the New Testament’s emphasis on grace, mercy and love (see, for example, John 3:16-17) We have seen that Job says things he ought not to say and needs to repent of some of his words. In this he is exemplifying our predilection to believe that we know better than, or can reason or deduce what God must be thinking — a good definition of “pride”. So, Job helps us to see how our sufferings can lead us into sin as we rail against God and begin to speak and think as though we knew better than God how to govern the world (and particularly our own lives). As with Job, we need to repent and bow afresh before the majesty and wisdom of the Creator. As one of my favorite worship songs has it, “And when we don’t understand the purpose of His plan, in the presence of the King, bow the knee!" In the book, we hear the accusations of Satan, the wailing of Job, the unhelpful commiserations and advice of Job’s family and friends, unvarnished truth from Elihu, but the last word is reserved to God Himself. In chapters 38 through 42 of Job, God speaks directly to Job — out of a tornado, no less! — and provides example after example of His creative glory and righteousness. All of his examples are of things which mankind is powerless to create or understand, and puts the role of creator and creation into proper perspective. God chastises Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar for telling Job things about Him that are untrue, but he then demonstrates his mercy by accepting Job’s prayers and sacrifices on their behalf to restore them! It is also ironic that in the end Job is better off financially than he started! Let me end this short study in the book of Job by quoting the last few verses. Note that in a departure from the practice of the time, Job includes his daughters in his will! “When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring. So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. He named his first daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land no women were as lovely as the daughters of Job. And their father put them into his will along with their brothers. Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life.” Job 42:10-17 NLT The book of Job teaches us, above all, about the sovereign wisdom and faithfulness of God. and also about the steadfastness of Job. This steadfastness is supremely exemplified by Jesus Christ who also incorporates his adopted brothers and sisters into his eternal will. I trust and pray that you appreciate the eternal position you are in.

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

Friday March 10th, 2023