The Book of Job is a powerful and insightful look into the providences of God and the mysteries which attend our living within those providences – sometimes with little means to understand what is going on. This is especially true when those providences lead us into un-explained suffering. This is Job’s dilemma.
Job asks throughout this chronicle – WHY? Why am I suffering so? This question, the perennial one we all ask in trial, is in fact never answered.
What Job does come to accept as enough of an answer is – WHO. He finds who is behind it all – His God. And in a final vision of His God in all of His glory, Job finds this God is worthy to be trusted. Knowing who this Who is…all is well – even though Satan and his machinations are at work too.
Now the purpose of giving us the background regarding Job that he was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” seems precisely aimed at preventing our assuming his trials are related to personal sin. Job’s sinfulness is the base assumption of His comforters. It is a vile assumption which must be crushed. When we live in a tit-for-tat universe, soon, every man is beyond mercy, and our prayers for them are nothing but foolishness.
What I would like to do here is attempt to paraphrase both Job’s words, and those of his comforters – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar in a more modernized way so as to bring this amazing piece of sacred and Divinely inspired poetry into the frame of our own lives more accessibly.
The narration begins by telling us of Job’s uprightness, and of his considerable fortune and pleasant situation. Married with 10 children. Devout. Wealthy. Well respected – Job loses everything in a day. And who can rightly begin to understand the crushing weight of the loss of his 10 children in one day – let alone the rest of his suffering? It boggles the mind.
Such is our hero in this study. And each day I will give you a key to the portions I am paraphrasing – which might serve you much better if you read the Biblical text in full for that day. It is usually 2 chapters or at the most 3 – and can be read in a few minutes.
But let us note at the outset several framing thoughts.
1. 1:1 & 1:8 – God Himself announces that this is a good man. Perfect? No. But upright, blameless, one who fears God and turns away from evil. He is NOT a scoundrel bringing down just condemnation upon his own head.
2. 1:6 – Even Satan must give an account of his actions to God – he is not permitted to run unfettered in God’s universe. And in 1:8 – even Satan’s thoughts are known to God as much as our own.
3. 1:20 – In times of great distress, it is imperative that we guard our hearts by justifying God in it. The Enemy of our souls is after the turning of our hearts against God. That was evident in Satan’s words. To suspect God of capricious acts. To assign to Him dark or sinful motives. To think of Him as detached, hard, uncaring or even cruel. Not only will Satan tempt us toward this, our own hearts often feel the need to blame someone for every ill. God is often the first we blame – especially when tragedy strikes and it is of the kind that obviously is out of the ordinary – catastrophic. “Acts of God” we call them. Things we put in His domain and that He could have prevented. The battle is to preserve right thoughts of Him, for who else is it that is our strength and shield? Who is our help? Who alone loves us so that we can truly trust Him even in the unfathomable. Only God. If we allow ill thoughts of Him, we remove ourselves beyond all hope.
4. 1:22 – It is not sin in Job in looking to the ultimate hand of God above all. This is not to deny the Devil’s role – it is simply not to make the Devil the sole factor – and to be sure that He looks to His God, rather than trying to deal with the Devil himself.
In chapter 2 Job will call this “evil” – he does not pronounce calamity good. He sees the “badness” in it – yet he also recognizes God in His goodness overruling all.
Read Chapter 1 with these 4 thoughts as a backdrop – and we will begin to groan with Job in the following chapters.