Pertinent Lessons from the Book of Job

There are certainly occasions while serving in public office that your world falls apart, whether by the orchestration of Satan or not. When that happens, Job stands as an example to us of the way we should respond – with an inalterable and unshakeable confidence in the God of the Bible who has revealed Himself to us and mankind. Like Job, will we stand on the promises of God during these times? Absent personal abilities or resources of our own, will we hold steady as God leads us through insurmountable hurdles that only He can provide the solutions to or deliver us from?

On a much larger scale, can the truth of the book of Job – God’s removal of His restraining grace – be possible on a nation level as well? As evidenced by the almost daily tumultuous events in America, I think so.

Like Job, God calls us to faithfulness, both personally and professionally, no matter what crises we may be encountering. May Job encourage you this week to stand firm and be rock-solid in your perseverance through the myriad of present national difficulties!

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Ralph Drollinger

I. NAME

As with many OT books, the title is derived from the chief character of its narrative. The Hebrew word Job means “persecution.” Most appropriate. (Be careful what you name your children!)

II. AUTHOR AND DATE

The book states that Job never knew of the drama unfolding in heaven; it follows then that he could not have been its author. The leading candidate for authorship is Solomon. Although Job lived at a different time, Solomon could have written about Job, just as Moses wrote about Adam and Eve, with divine enablement. The style of writing is reminiscent of Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes.

The date of Job’s life in biblical time can be deciphered by the following bookends of internal evidence: There is mention of Adam and Eve (31:33), and life after the flood (12:15) so Job lived after that. But he probably lived before the Covenant of Abraham (Gen. 12); the Exodus, and the Law of Moses, since they are not mentioned. Accordingly he most likely lived in what is referred to as the Patriarchal Period of the OT – probably at the beginning of that period. This is further evidenced by the book’s descriptions of conditions contemporaneous with the Patriarchal Period such as the existence of the Chaldeans (1:17; cf. Gen. 11:28); the measurement of wealth in livestock (1:3; 42:12); and Job’s conducting of priestly functions within his family (1:4, 5) (versus the existence of a nation with priests) (cf. Lev. 1:4). All that to say Job probably lived some time after the time of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9) but before or simultaneous to Abraham (Gen. 11:27ff.). Therefore, one could best think of the book of Job as a 42-chapter footnote in Genesis 11.

III. BACKGROUND

Satan, an angel who when tempted had himself fallen, not long before this account here in Job, had tempted Adam and Eve, who as a result fell as well. This is an important perspective: After the flood God, in a sense, is starting over. Satan, perhaps feeling flush with victory, thought he could tempt and defeat one of God’s most faithful individuals (1:1) in the beginning of the start over. Perhaps Satan thought the defeat of Job was as strategic a victory as the defeat of Adam and Eve; it makes parallel sense. Accordingly the book of Job begins with this overall insight to the reader (1:6-2:10). Satan, ever the accuser, asserts to God that Job is only faithful because of God’s blessings, and so God allows Satan to test Job. In the end, Job illustrates the power and perseverance of true saving faith. Bereft of his worldly blessings with neither theological explanation nor pragmatic solutions, Job trusted in the very nature of God’s goodness no matter the disasters (temporarily) in his personal life and his standing before others. The crescendo of the book is God’s ultimate reward for Job’s unswerving faithfulness.

May this be our take-home application as well, again for emphasis, as stated in the preamble: When your world is falling apart, and there are certainly those occasions while serving in public office, be it the orchestration of Satan or not, Job is an example to us of inalterable and unshakeable confidence in the God of the Bible who has revealed Himself to us and mankind. Like Job, will we stand on the promises of God during these times in our lives? Absent personal abilities or resources of our own, will we hold steady as God leads us through personally insurmountable hurdles and obstacles that only He can deliver us from or provide the solutions to? Like Job, God calls us to faithfulness no matter what we may be encountering. May Job encourage you this week to stand firm and be rocksolid in your perseverance through the myriad of present difficulties!

IV. EMPHASIS AND THEMES

Why do you trust in God? Why do you serve him? Is it because of the benefits? Job’s faith was tested and all such thinking was forever removed. His only reason for belief was pure: He believed because of the attributes of God – who He is. God is deserving of worship, adoration and respect, if for no other reason, because He is one’s creator. If He is who is revealed in Scripture, then ultimately it matters not what He may or may not do for those He created! That is a huge message of the book. Another main theme relates to suffering. Even when one cannot figure out personal plight, one need trust in the sovereign integrity of Holy God. The ultimate answer to personal pain and suffering may not be in finding a solution, but in submitting oneself to the forging of a closer communion with Abba Father (cf. Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

PRESENTED WITH THE MYSTERY OF SUFFERING, INTIMACY WITH GOD SOON BECOMES THE ONLY SALVE

And in that light, suffering always makes perfect sense! Why? Because God desires communion, now and for all eternity! As Francis Schaeffer has insightfully noted, the very fact that God is triune in His being serves to inform of His want for fellowship and close proximity; the suffering of the saints fulfills those objectives! If sometimes the reason for suffering is unknown and accompanied by personal innocence, think of God’s desire to commune throughout it. Remember:

THE CREATED ARE SOMETIMES IGNORANT PAWNS IN A HEAVENLY CHESS MATCH

Scripture also teaches that there are other purposes for suffering and any study would be incomplete and imbalanced without mention of them. Suffering can also relate to humanly-knowable reasons. A brief description of each of these follows.

A. SUFFERING FOR STRENGTHENING

In 2Corinthians 12:7-10 the Apostle Paul states why God allowed a “thorn in [his] flesh.” Unlike Job, he knew exactly why he suffered per verse 10:

Therefore, I am well content with weakness, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

God intended continual suffering in Paul’s life for the purposes of keeping him dependent on Him in contrast to “exalting myself ” (12:7). God’s strength, states this passage, is perfected in one’s weakness (12:9).

B. SUFFERING TO COMFORT OTHERS

2Corinthians 1:3-7 states how one’s suffering builds character and compassion in order to effectively comfort others who may be suffering. Note verse 3 and 4 in this regard:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
C. SUFFERING FOR CHASTENING

In Hebrews 12:5-12 the writer of the book states,

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him.

The passage goes on to say in verse 10

He disciplines us for our good, that we might share His holiness.

Like a father raising his children and not sparing the rod (Prov. 23:13), God “scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6b) in order to mature His children and they in turn embody Christ-likeness.

D. SUFFERING FOR SIN

In Numbers 12:1-2, Aaron and Miriam showed a lack of respect for Moses – making statements in public in order to undermine his leadership:

Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); And they said, “Has The Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well? And the Lord heard it.

God confronts their sin personally in vss. 10-12 and Miriam is plagued with leprosy. She ended-up being put out of the camp for seven days for her punishment. In this case the public sin of defamation was requisite of public acknowledgement and punishment.

E. SUMMARY ON OTHER FORMS OF SUFFERING

It is wrong to conclude that all suffering is parallel to Job’s situation. There are at least four other biblical reasons. While no other person has the right or the discernment to accurately judge why another is suffering, (cf. the error of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar), it is incumbent on every believer who is sinning to “examine himself ” (cf. 1Corinthians 11:28-29) lest at the communion table he eats and drinks in an unworthy manner and bring judgment on himself.

V. OUTLINE

In-between the prologue (chap. 1-2) and the epilogue (42:7-17) lies the heart of the book (3:1-42:6). Herein are three similar debates with three cycles voicing three respective opinions. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, three friends of Job – who too are ignorant of the heavenly setting – attempt to theologically and pragmatically deduce why Job is suffering. The first cycle, wherein each of the three presents his respective argument, is found in 3:1 to 14:22. The second round of debate by each is contained in 15:1 to 21:34, and the third round by each is in 22:1 to 26:14. Job responds in his defense in 27:1 to 31:40. After that Elihu singularly takes the stand and attempts to make the concluding argument regarding the purposes of suffering. After that (38:1 to 41:34) God talks directly to Job prior to his vindication in the epilogue.

VI. APPLICATION TO GOVERNING AUTHORITIES

The following seven truths can be distilled from careful study. Each has application to the life of a governing authority:

A. TRUST BEFORE REASONING

Job’s three friends tried their best to explain what was happening to Job, but in the end, their theology was rebuked by God (42:7). Perhaps this is why the book is so long; the length serves to illustrate, express and then dismisses the futility of their theological reasoning. That’s to say this: Today, no pastor or theologian has all the answers regarding suffering! Why? Scripture doesn’t provide all the reasons regarding suffering. “We see in a mirror dimly” states Paul in 1Corinthians 13:12.Deuteronomy 29:29 says that “The secret things belong to the Lord.”

AT THE END OF THE DAY THEODICY REMAINS AN ANTINOMY

How finite man explains the existence of evil in light of God’s justice, omniscience, omnipotence and sovereignty (Theodicy) requires humility and Job-like faith. Such is akin to personally stating, “God is infinite, I am finite, therefore I cannot expect to understand everything perfectly – antinomous to me, it is not to God!” The greatest and most profound lesson of the book is that one need trust in God over and above one’s limited, finite and fallen personal reasoning. Job hugely underscores the necessity of this kind of mindset in this life. Born from such is humility and subsequent God-given strength: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives strength to the humble” (James 4:6). Meekness is the result.

An illustration of this principle: Why hard-working godly men and women lose political races remains a mystery. Nonetheless we trust in Him if it happens.

B. HEAVENLY MATTERS AFFECT EARTHLY LIVES

Satan sought from God the right to test Job (1:9-12) – just as he asked permission of God to “sift Peter like wheat” (Luke 22:31). Again, Job knew nothing about this heavenly matter. Accordingly, one’s adversity in this world could relate to unknowable heavenly matters. Reinforcing this precept (again) is Deuteronomy 29:29a, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God . . . ” In that God is the Creator and man is the created, He is not obligated to inform His workmanship (poiema, Lit. “What has been made”) (Ephesians 2:10) about all of His plans. States Romans 9:21, “Or does not the potter have a right over the clay…?”

IT IS NOT AS IF THE FINITE ARE CO-LANDLORDS WITH THE INFINITE

It is not requisite of God to confer with His tenants before dealing with His proprietary affairs! Lest there be any doubt, Isaiah 55:8 makes it clear: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD.”

Even though Job was blessed in the end, God never informed him about the heavenly matters behind the scene. In a similar sense the reasons why injustice and evil might befall a righteous governing authority may never be known in this life; Job says that’s okay: Don’t necessarily expect them to be.

C. THE RIGHTEOUS SUFFER

James 1:2-5 is a good, principled NT distillation of the overall narrative of Job:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Wisdom (Sophia) is the existence of emotional sobriety necessary to view life’s circumstances through the objective lens of biblical truth. More generally, it is “the skill at living life for God’s glory.”

GOD MIGHT NOT UNVEIL THE REASONS FOR SUFFERING, BUT HE PROMISES TO GIVE WISDOM IN SUFFERING

Hopefully wrought through hurt is the keen sense of clarity to pursue personal growth and spiritual maturation. Adversity draws one nigh unto God because closeness is often the only antidote that comforts.

As a governing authority, view righteous suffering as a good thing. It is God’s means of achieving a more intimate relationship with Jesus. What could be of greater value?

D. DON’T JUDGE SPIRITUALITY IN RELATION TO SUFFERING

Since bad things happen to good people all the time one need always refrain from judging another’s spirituality based on their painful circumstances (cf. Mt. 7:1-2). Don’t be like Job’s buddies! Job had neither material wealth nor physical health during his time of intense trial – yet he remained throughout a very godly man.

E. PERSEVERANCE IS PRIMARY

Perseverance in the faith is a most noble virtue as demonstrated throughout this book. The believer in the midst of suffering should not walk away from God, but draw intimately close – it is only out of pain that peace is birthed, an unexplainable peace, “. . . the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, [that] will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

WHEN THE SEARCH FOR EXPLANATIONS SEEMS TO END IN A FRIGID COLD YONDER, IT IS ONE’S PERSEVERENCE THAT DISCOVERS THE TENT OF WARM COMMUNION

F. GOD IS GOOD

No matter the tumult, one can safely be assured that his or her well-being lies in the warm hands of a loving Father.

And those warm hands may be one’s only comfort for a time: Short on anesthesia, God typically appears in the operating room with just several tools in His pocket: Scalpel, pliers, sandpaper and a needle. But even though surgery is rough, He holds the best interests of the redeemed; one always comes through it, heals, and is stronger in Christ.

G. GOD IS FAITHFUL AND BLESSES THE RIGHTEOUS

Suffering may be intense, but for those chosen of God (cf. John 15:16), it always ultimately ends in blessing, if not in this life, in the heavenlies. States James 1:12 and echoed in the last chapter of Job (42:10) are these marvelous attestations to the faithfulness and blessings of God Almighty:

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.

James 5:11 is an apt summary of the faithfulness and eventual blessing of God relative to His own:

You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

Amen!

VII. SUMMARY

If one’s suffering is not explainable via Strengthening, Comforting, Chastening or Sinning, the book of Job affords much insight into how the believer should deal with suffering when at a loss for explanations. Here then is how he or she should think and react. May these seven truths guide and inform our thinking as we journey down the path of life this side of heaven.

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