It’s been awhile since I delved into Job from a devotional point of view. Reading and re-reading it through slowly over the last several weeks has given me a huge new appreciation for the significance of this ancient piece of biblical literature. Being a kind of theodicy it turns out to be deeply philosophical offering endless opportunities for speculation on the nature of God and life here on this planet.
One of the outstanding aspects of the book that I hadn’t realized before is how much it is a metaphorical (and thus prophetic) picture of the suffering Messiah. We hear in the book the plaintive cry of Jesus who asked in similar ways to Job, “Why have you forsaken me?” Beyond that imagery there are specific references to being slapped in the face and being spit upon (Job 16:10 and 17:6; also 30:10) — insults that also happened to Jesus at the time of his trial and crucifixion. As the suffering of Jesus was misunderstood by his own people as well as his disciples so it is that Job’s suffering many years earlier is also totally misunderstood by his friends. In the words of Isaiah 53:4 of the suffering servant being thought of as smitten of God, so it that Job’s friends thought that he too was being punished by God for his wickedness. Little is know about Job but as an actual historical man of antiquity he stands out as a truly righteous man who didn’t suffer in these circumstances in any way for his own sin but simply as a challenge from Satan to God concerning the strength of his integrity based on faith and grace.
As is typical of the majority of people, Job’s friends have a moralistic view of life. If you live right, God will bless you; if you don’t live right, you will experience trouble in so many ways. But this equation does not stand up to close scrutiny since it is evident that the wicked appear to live luxurious, care-free lives — something Job knows. And he knows he isn’t suffering because he has been wicked, contrary to the opinion of his well-intentioned friends. He realizes there is more to it than that. He wants to argue his case with God but realizes he needs a mediator. There is another dimension of acceptance with God that he is convinced exists. He is confident that he will experience the resurrection and that his life will be redeemed from death. In one way or another he is counting on grace for his justification before God. And in the end, that’s what he experiences.
Job is justified before God, not on the basis of his good deeds, because in the end even he is humbled by what he experiences concerning demonstrations of God’s power and majesty. Yet God has mercy, rewards Job for his faith, and judges his friends for their ill-founded counsel of Job.
There is a lot more to Job, but a brief devotional tour of this book calls me to greater reflection and study of its rich contents.