The Difficulty of Job

Posted: January 21, 2023 in Uncategorized

No I’m not complaining about by church or my ministry. Read the title again. I’m talking about the book of Job from the Old Testament. For the last few years I have been reading a Chronological reading plan from the folks at The One Year Bible. Many theologians believe that the book of Job may have been the first book of the Bible written down, The One Year Bible folks put it behind Genesis, which seems right, so each year around this time, I find myself reading Job. The book of Job is really unusual. It starts off with a behind the scenes look into heaven itself. The enemy of our souls was going through the earth and stands before the Father. That in itself feels problematic, but it gets worse. God points out one of His “honor students” (my words), man named Job as a good example of humanity. Satan says basically, “Of course he’s good, you’ve blessed him in every way imaginable. Take all that away and he will curse you to your face.” God allows Satan to do just that, with clear parameters the enemy is not allowed to go beyond. This is one of the most valuable lessons of the book to me. Even the devil answers to God and is limited by him.

From this scene we switch to Job having lost most everything including his health. It seems only his health remains≥ Well his health and two other things. A wife who tells him to “Curse God and die.” I used to marvel that this is what God would let him keep, as it felt like insult to injury. That is until I had the realization that Job’s wife was probably in deep despair because she too had lost everything. The only other thing God left him keep was some “friends.” May first thought on these friends was, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”

Here is the difficulty, or at least my difficulty, with Job. Were it not for the fact that we have the scene of the discussion between God and Satan, everything, or at least almost everything, Job’s friends say is right on the money. They take him to task over sin, and the need for repentance, most of their arguments and their advice was completely correct, except it wasn’t. What was the problem? They were assuming Job was in the place he was in because of his sin. The fact though is Job was more righteous than they. Much of what the friends say to Job would “preach” except for the fact that, on it’s own it’s out of context. This is why we have to be careful with Job. When we see life as “cause and effect,” it becomes really easy to rush to judgment, but the bad things that happen are not always caused by our own individual sin. They may be part of life in a broken world. Job’s friends would have been right on the money, except for the fact that they didn’t know the whole story. Their initial response to their suffering friend was best. “11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhiteand Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

Is this to say there is never a time to call out sin? No, but that is part of the difficulty. Some things are blatant, and obvious, The problem comes when we assume cause and effect. Everything Job’s friends say looks right, and in many circumstances it would be right, but at the end of the book, after God takes Job to task, the way to forgiveness for Jobs friends was to ask Job to pray that they be forgiven for judging when they should have been comforting. Let’s make sure we don’t fall into that trap.

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