“The ear tests the words it hears just as the mouth distinguishes between foods.” Job 12:11
The Book of Job has some awesome expressions of insight that are able to bless our souls as we too seek to process the difficult experiences of life. This work, I believe, was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit for our blessing. It represents how difficult experiences take us deeper into the mysteries of life.
I think it may be fair to say that God’s intention through Job is to give us a picture of humanity’s suffering due to Satan’s temptation in the Garden of Eden. There is a sense in which the work could represent the suffering into which humanity has fallen because of Satan’s attempt to make God look bad. As Satan was the spoiler of Job’s blessing, so it is that he is the great villain in the drama of the ages concerning humanity’s existence and great trial.
It’s true that the situation for Job isn’t exactly parallel to Adam’s in that Job was not responsible for his suffering whereas Adam was. Nevertheless, they are the same in that a man becomes the victim of Satan’s challenge to God’s plan. All of humanity suffers because of sin’s entrance into the world through Satan’s attempt to spoil Adam’s innocence. In the story of Job, an innocent man is victimized by a ruthless power of evil. God allows both because He has larger plans to bring attention to His love and grace. As Job struggles with the meaning of his incredible suffering, so humanity struggles, because of temptation and sin, to find answers to the great questions about life.
As Job’s friends offer quick solutions based on Job’s guilt regarding sin, so the Accuser and his friends (various religions) continually seek to emphasize humanity’s guilt and responsibility toward God for its sin. As Job’s defence is that there is nothing he could possible do to ever satisfy God’s demands, so there is nothing any person can ever do to satisfy God’s holy law. As Job longs for a mediator (9:33-35) who could provide a point of reconciliation, so humanity subconsciously yearns for a mediator to make it possible to be reconciled to God.
In the end, just as Job, the servant of the Lord, discovers the greatness of God and repents toward full restoration and blessing, so the Redeemed discover God’s greatness (especially so, at the end of all time), and experience justification against Satan’s accusations followed by a restoration of God’s original blessing.
In any case, it’s interesting to try to read the Book of Job from the perspective of it being the great drama of the world’s existence.
Another way we might try to understand Job is to see it as a prophetic picture of Jesus’ suffering for the sin of the world. As the richest man in all the world, Jesus is also blameless and innocent (as Job was). Nevertheless, for the sake of our forgiveness, Jesus ends up being victimized by Satan’s attempts to discredit God’s creation. Just as Job, again and again, wonders about God’s purposes and attention, so Jesus cries out to God, asking why he has forsaken him (Matthew 27:46). At the cross, and in his death, Jesus is plunged into the abyss of the worst of sin’s suffering. But in the end, in his resurrection he is justified, and restored to his place of honour and blessing. Perhaps, that’s another way to read Job — thinking of what it was like for Jesus to suffer as he did while he was among us.
In the Book of Job there are many expressions of anguish, doubt, accusation, and wonder. In some instances there is truth even in the words of Job’s friends. We learn, however, because of Job’s innocence to listen more closely for true wisdom in his words.
In regard to the latter, I was impressed by the words at the head of this page which we find in the midst of Job 12. If you think of it, these words are extremely profound. Nature has a way of pointing us to wisdom if we look for it. In this case, Job is making an observation about the gift of how our mouths are able to discern the goodness (or sourness) of the food we eat. Think of the amazing gift of taste, or of the ability of our mouths to detect texture. As we grow, we learn to distinguish between what is good to eat, and what is not — all by the gift of discernment in our mouths.
In the same way, our ears develop the means of discerning what is palatable to hear, and what is not. By God’s grace, through a recognition of what is virtuous and good, we develop a taste for the best.
This ability to discern truth from falsehood, virtue from evil, and love from hate is, in the end, a great gift of God’s grace. According to the New Testament, God gifts us with the Holy Spirit through faith to have the gift of discernment in this way. Some also have unusual gifts of discerning spirits to warn others of that which is good or bad (1 Corinthians 12:10).
O the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how incurable his ways! (Romans 11:33). To Him be all the glory!