The book of Job almost shipwrecked my faith. I had never spent much time reading it, but I thought I knew what it was about:
God wants to prove a point with Satan, so He sends all sorts of troubles to Job. Job endures and eventually cries out to God, “Why have you done this to me?” God responds, “Who are you, a mere man, to question me?!” God never answers him, Job humbles himself, and God eventually restores him.
I used to think, “Jesus goes to great lengths to describe God as a loving father. Didn’t he basically say, ‘If you ask God for a fish, he won’t give you a snake’? It sure seems like Job got a snake.” There was a time when I said to God, “Fine. You’re all-powerful, all-knowing, above all. But I’m a better father than you. I’d never do that to my kids.” I didn’t realise that God was trying to say to me, “Neither would I!”
My problem was that I hadn’t paid attention to what the book of Job actually said, I’d just assumed I thought I knew what it meant. Then I did a study of it, and paid attention to what the book actually said, and here are some condensed thoughts from it.
The source of Job’s troubles
God was not the one who came up with a plan to destroy Job. God was actually quite proud of Job. Satan conspired to destroy Job. Satan comes to “Kill, steal and destroy” (John 10:10). Jesus, who is the exact representation of God’s essence (Hebrews 1:3), comes to bring abundant life! So why did God allow Satan to oppress Job? I’m not quite sure. I suspect that after the Fall and before the Cross, Satan had certain freedoms to operate in the world. But Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). I don’t think Satan has these freedoms anymore (at least, not in the same way). And either way, God doesn’t sit in heaven planning destruction for His people. God is love (1 John 4:8).
Why did God rebuke Job’s three friends?
God rebuked Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar “because [they] have not spoken of me what is right” (Job 42:7). You can pretty much ‘ignore’ most of their speeches, because God rebuked them for the counsel that they gave.
Why didn’t God rebuke Elihu?
Elihu was that young guy that spoke right at the end, and basically rebuked Job and his friends. Most people brush over Elihu’s speech. Even some commentaries say that it doesn’t add much to the conversation. Oh, how far from the truth! The reason that God didn’t rebuke Elihu is because Elihu was right. Elihu’s speech agrees in essence with God’s speech. I think we get lost in the archaic sounding poetry of all the speeches and think that everyone basically says the same thing, but that’s not true. Elihu rebukes Job for the same reason that God rebukes Job!
Why did God rebuke Job?
This was the biggest surprise. God didn’t rebuke Job for questioning Him! God rebuked Job because Job accused Him of being unjust. In the beginning, Job doesn’t turn against God or accuse God of wrong-doing, but by the end of his speeches he is convinced of his own righteousness, and that therefore God is unrighteous in his treatment of Job. What a horrible sin! Job’s sin wasn’t that he attributed his downfall to God (that’s another discussion); it was that he said,
“I will maintain my righteousness” (27:6)
“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defense–let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser [God] put his indictment in writing.
Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
I would put it on like a crown.
I would give him an account of my every step;
like a prince I would approach him” (31:35-37).
I would wear my indictment like a crown and like a prince I would approach Him?! It’s no wonder God roars from the whirlwind! Elihu responds to Job with,
“But you [Job] have said in my hearing–
I heard the very words–
‘I am pure and without sin;
I am clean and free from guilt.
Yet God has found fault with me;
he considers me his enemy’” (33:8-10).
“Job says, ‘I am innocent,
but God denies me justice.
Although I am right,
I am considered a liar’” (34:5-6).
Job basically had said to God, “I am faultless, and yet you have unjustly found fault where there is none!” That maligns God’s character.
Elihu goes on to say,
“Can he who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn the just and mighty One?” (34:17)
“To his [Job’s] sin he adds rebellion;
scornfully he claps his hands among us
and multiplies his words against God” (34:37).
After Elihu finishes, God speaks not to Elihu, but to Job, out of a storm, by giving a long list of his credentials for governing the earth and managing justice. This climaxes with,
“Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” (40:7-8)
There’s Job’s problem! God accuses Job of the same thing that Elihu accuses Job of doing: “Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” God’s not angry that Job questioned Him; He’s angry because Job exalted himself above God!
How did God deal with Job’s sin?
Job has basically committed the worst possible offense imaginable – he has defiantly shaken his fist in his Creator’s face and said, “I am better than you!” (As I write this, I’ve just realised that that’s what I had been doing too: “I’m a better father than you.” I hadn’t planned that irony…)
What punishment should this wrathful, evil, unjust, unloving, ‘snake-giving’, vengeful, cruel, tyrant of an unrighteous god give to Job?
He blesses him.
Job merely says, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5-6), and so God “made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before” (42:10). What a response from God!
Obviously, there is a lot more to the book of Job, and there are a lot of questions that I haven’t addressed (e.g., 1:6,21-22, 2:3, 36:11-12), but hopefully this is enough to spark some discussion, and, if you, like me, have struggled with the book of Job, perhaps this will encourage you to look at it with fresh eyes and see in it the God who is loving, and yet just, who doesn’t plan our downfall, but who sent his son to earth to get rid of Satan’s schemes once and for all and give us life… abundant life.