When I consider the life of the patriarch Job, as recorded in the Old Testament, I think of tragedy as well as triumph. Job was rich in every way and then suffered incredible loss. However, he triumphed in the end because of his patient faith and was again abundantly blessed.
Job's name means "persecuted one" or "object of enmity." It is unknown who actually wrote the book bearing his name. Many believe Job himself to be the author, although some have suggested Moses or even Solomon. Despite not being able to identify the human penman with certainty, we know that the Holy Spirit inspired it to be written. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Tim. 3:16,17).
It is also unknown as to when exactly the events of the book took place. Some suggest 2000 B.C. as a good estimate due to certain details given in the text (cf. Job 1:5; 42:16). The book covers a span of approximately 150 years. There are several passages that support the historicity of the book (e.g., Ezek. 14:14 mentions Job with Noah and Daniel; James 5:11 refers to "the perseverance of Job"; Jer. 25:20 and Lam. 4:21 both refer to the land of Uz, where Job lived).
A fundamental lesson that all should learn from the book of Job is this: The Creator is worthy of our devotion even when we do not know or understand what He is doing. God deserves our praise simply on the basis of who He is, apart from the blessings He bestows. Those who can embrace this lesson and cling to it in times of distress--and even tragedy--are wise.
This book has been described by many as a literary masterpiece. Professor Richard G. Moulton suggests that the book is esteemed by numerous writers as the greatest poem in the world's great literature. Victor Hugo once stated: "Tomorrow, if all literature was to be destroyed and it was left to me to retain one work only, I should save Job." Tennyson declared that Job is "the greatest poem, whether of ancient or modern literature." Daniel Webster said: "The Book of Job taken as a mere work of literary genius, is one of the most wonderful productions of any age or of any language." Thomas Carlyle exclaimed that it is "one of the Grandest things ever written." Historian Phillip Schaff wrote: "The Book of Job rises like a pyramid in the history of literature, without a predecessor and without a rival." Friends, even if the book of Job was uninspired, we would be wise to study it. But, because it is from God Himself, we would be fools to ignore it!
The book of Job can be outlined with three simple points: (1) the prologue, (2) the dialogue, and (3) the epilogue. The prologue spans the first two chapters and the epilogue covers the last eleven verses of the book. Everything in between centers on dialogue among Job, his friends, and Jehovah.
Let's take a brief look at this time of an analysis of the book of Job from Wayne Jackson's outstanding commentary on it:
Almighty God challenged Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" (Job 1:8). This, of course, does not imply that Job was sinlessly perfect; it does affirm that he was a spiritually mature, devoted servant of God. Satan retorted that Job did not serve his Maker for "nothing" (1:9). If his prosperity were removed, "he will curse You to Your face!" (1:11). And so, Satan was granted permission to test the patriarch. The range of Job's affliction covers every facet of human endurance. First, all of his material possessions are lost; he is financially bankrupt (weaker men have committed suicide for less!). Second, his children are killed in a series of disasters (consider what your grief would be if your child were killed, and multiply it by ten!). Third, he is afflicted with a dreadful disease from head to foot and thus sat among the ashes of the city dump. Fourth, his wife spiritually forsakes him and urges Job to "curse God, and die" (this is Satan's fond hope; 2:9). Finally, he becomes the utter contempt of his contemporaries. Yet, through it all, he does not renounce his Creator, but later says: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (13:15).
Job's three friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) having heard of his horrible plight, came to comfort him. They are stricken mute by the awesomeness of his appearance and sit for seven days in respectful silence. The philosophy of Job's friends can simply be expressed in this fashion: (1) Suffering is the direct result of personal sins (and in proportion thereto), (2) Job is suffering greatly, and (3) Therefore, Job has committed some great sin. Their error, of course, was in the major premise of their argument. There is no basis for the assumption that suffering is always the consequence of personal wrongdoing.
Job responds that observation reveals that piety does not necessarily exempt one from suffering. In fact, it is frequently the case that "the tents of robbers prosper" (12:6). The man from Uz thus defends his innocence. He does not claim that he is absolutely sinless, but he does believe that his misfortune is out of proportion with any transgression he might have committed. Occasionally, Job does seem to make some rather drastic statements, but he acknowledges that his utterances are those of a "desperate" man (6:26).
Elihu, a fourth friend of Job's who enters the controversy later, is angry with the patriarch's "comforters" because they condemned him and yet offered no solution. He was further agitated with Job himself because he "justified himself rather than God" (32:2). That is, he had been more concerned with his own honor than the Lord's. Moreover, Elihu contends that suffering is not necessarily punitive. It may serve to teach, to strengthen, or it may be preventive in nature. Job listens in silence.
GOD SPEAKS TO JOB
The Lord does not condescend to quibbling with Job; rather, He majestically overpowers him with a grand affirmation of His universal sovereignty as evidenced by the unparalleled glories of the created world. Read and be thrilled by the record of Job 38-41. This incomprehensible chronicle of divine power reduces Job to the proper level of humility. Professor Newton Wray compares it to Peter's humiliation, "I am a sinful man," when he was so impressed with the awesome power of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 5:6-9). Job thus confesses, "Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand. Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know" (Job 42:3). And again, "Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (42:6).
JOB IS BLESSED
Because Job maintained his integrity, he is commended and blessed by Jehovah. As to material prosperity, "The LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before" (42:10). He was again blessed with ten children. The sterling character of this man of God is revealed by his prayer for his three pseudo-comforters. Truly, he was a great man.
Dear listeners, in future lessons we will endeavor to study portions of the book of Job. Due to the length of the book, our study will certainly not cover every verse. However, we will try to give attention to the major themes of the book as well as statements we believe to be significant, as we share some bits of wisdom from God's word we hope Christians will labor to apply.
As a side note, I strongly encourage anyone interested in in-depth Bible study to purchase a copy of Wayne Jackson's commentary on Job by contacting the fine folks at www.ChristianCourier.com.
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.