The Book of Job
A commentary explaining God's control through suffering.
Who Was Job?
The Book of Job is an exceptionally difficult book to understand. This book provides a historical account of a man’s intense and extreme suffering, but shows that God’s sovereign hand is the cause of it. Many people look to this book to find comfort in a time of suffering. Many people look to this book to try and understand why God allows pain and suffering. The truth is, this is not God’s ultimate purpose for this book. This is not to say that the Book of Job doesn’t offer comfort and answers, but God’s purpose for any portion of scripture is to teach us who He is. One of the common misconceptions is that sometimes bad things happen to “good people.” The point of the Bible is that there is no such thing as a “good person.” The Book of Job explains that there are people who have faith, and there are those who don’t. That is how God sees things. The Bible shows that no one is good. In that case, everyone is qualified to have something bad happen, and God is fair to cause those things to take place according to His sovereign control. The miracle is that anything good happens to anyone at all, seeing that all people are bad in the eyes of God.
These are truths that are taught throughout the Bible can cannot be dismissed when reading the Book of Job. The focus of Job is not the extent of suffering that Job experienced. The focus of Job is not about the way he was treated by his friends when he was suffering. The focus of Job is not that he was a victim and was deserving of restoration. The testimony of Job must fit within the context of the Bible’s universal message. Thus, the Book of Job shows how God treats all people the same way, but those who have faith in the Lord respond differently according to their knowledge of God and relationship with Him. In other words, everyone suffers in life, and because we all fall short of the glory of God, we deserve it. Still, those who have faith respond to the struggles in life in a way that glorifies God: confessing His sovereignty, submitting to His purposes in spite of the difficulty, and trusting that God will somehow produce good from our lives so that we don’t sway in our affection towards Him.
The testimony of Job shows that he was a man of faith. Thus, knowing that Job suffered greatly, the Bible is clear to teach that God’s people are not exempt from difficulty. Seeing later that God highly commends the faith and attitude of Job, it is clear to see that the quality of faith we have does not promise the absence of difficulty. In fact, the argument could be made that the greater the faith, the greater the trials. This teaches that life’s difficulties are not always caused by the consequences of specific sins. Our wicked conduct will produce difficulty by nature, but not all difficulty is caused by specific wicked conduct. The depravity of the soul and the attitudes that sin causes in our hearts is the cause of all difficulty, because depravity validates that God is right and we are wrong. It shows that we deserve what we get even though we might not have done something specifically wrong at that time. This was true of Job.
Knowing this, it is important to study the evidence of Job’s faith and the quality of it. In Job 1:1-5 the Bible gives a brief background about Job and his family. First, the scriptures testify that Job was a “blameless and upright” man. These words can be tricky to deal with. In the KJV of the Bible, the scriptures state that Job was “perfect and upright.” This phrasing doesn’t suggest that Job was “perfect” in the literal sense. In fact, this book is sufficient to point out the fact that, in spite of the favor God gave to Job, he truly had many flaws. The original word for “blameless” or “perfect” deals with completeness. The Bible is trying to describe that Job was a man that was sound and whole. This same word is used in Psalm 37:37 to teach that such a person’s life results in “peace,” referring to circumstances that parallel salvation. This helps explain that Job’s blamelessness and perfection referred to his faith. He was “whole” in the sense that he believed in God and who He is. Job was complete in that his life had purpose that was directed by the faith he had in God. The KJV of the Bible uses the word “perfect” to explain that Job was perfect in the eyes of God since the results of saving faith produce the peace of God and ultimately oneness with God in His eternal kingdom.
The term that describes Job’s “uprightness” speaks to a similar idea. The original Hebrew language often uses this word in the phrase, “right in the sight of the LORD.” It is often used to describe those who kept and followed the commands of God according to the Law of Moses. It is often used to describe those whose lives were lived according to the faith they had in God – the work of faith. This shows that Job’s life was centered on doing things that were right in God’s eyes. Job didn’t try to make up his own standards of living. Though the testimony of Job likely takes place before God gave the Law to Moses, Job sought the Lord by faith, doing things that were pleasing to God based on his personal relationship with him. This doesn’t suggest that Job made up his own worship system. This doesn’t suggest that Job made up his own standards of righteousness. In fact, the description of Job as “upright” shows that the faith Job possessed was not manufactured from within Job. Job’s faith was produced by God and given to Job so that his faith produced specific results that pleased God. So, when trying to examine the quality of faith that Job had, it is important to remember this truth. Job was upright, not because he naturally knew what was right by his own thinking, but because God showed him what righteousness was based on the faith God gave to Job according to His sovereign will.
The Bible states that Job was a man that feared God and shunned evil. These details add substance to the description of Job as “upright.” Job was upright because he did what was pleasing in God’s eyes. Job knew what was pleasing to God because of the faith he received from God. The faith that Job had in God produced fear of God, and scripture teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Since Job feared God’s identity and the consequences of offending such a powerful King, he submitted himself to the standards that God taught him were right. God revealed Himself, and by extension, His goodness and righteousness through the faith He gave to Job. That revelation gave Job the understanding of who God is, as well as what is truly right and wrong. In fear of offending the God Most High, Job abstained from that which was contrary to God and did what God revealed of Himself as good.
The scriptures go on to show how Job lived according to the fear of the Lord. Job 1:1-5 explains that Job had a large family and a considerable farm. He was rich in every sense because of the blessings he received with seven sons and three daughters, as well as the abundance of cattle. This subtle detail is helpful to date the testimony of Job. Living in the region of Ur (northern Arabia in the region of Edom), Job’s riches were measured by his possession of cattle, not precious metals like gold or silver. This economic valuing system is consistent with the valuing system at the time of Abraham. For this reason, many conservative scholars place the time of this book somewhere around the time of Genesis Chapters 11-12. The Bible explains that Job’s family was large and close. His children would often gather together for dinner and celebrate feast days. Also, the Bible states that sometimes those feast days would get out of hand causing his sons to be drunk. When this happened, Job would perform the duties of a priest. It was also common for the patriarch or father to act in this role during the time of Abraham. The scriptures plainly state that Job would sanctify his children by rising early in the morning and sacrificing burnt offerings on behalf of his children.
It is important to consider a few details here. First, if the testimony of Job took place before the time of Moses, it is clear to see that Job was practicing the righteous commands of the Law before God gave them to Moses on stone tablets. Job understood the concept of sanctification. Job understood the importance and spiritual value of blood sacrifice. The Bible specifically states that Job offered sacrifices on account of how the conduct of his sons was reflective of them cursing God in their hearts. Job understood the nature of sin was internal in the heart. Job understood that blood sacrifice appeased God, and was willing to perform the role of an intercessor (priest) to cleanse the hearts of his sons. These matters would later be described as the righteous works of faith in the sacrificial system in the Law. These matters would later be spiritually fulfilled by Jesus – the Great High Priest who was also the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Thus, the Bible shows the quality of wisdom that fearing the Lord produces when God’s people receive the faith that He provides.
Notice that Job is described as blameless/perfect, and upright in the eyes of God because of faith, but that his faith was primarily expressed in the ministry conducted towards his family. Job served the spiritual needs of his family before all other things. He recognized the flaws of the souls of his kids and addressed those things spiritually. He knew the holiness of God and knew the conduct of his family was imperfect and an offense to God. He put forth extra effort, as the focus and start of his day, to intercede on behalf of his family, seeking the Lord’s mercy. Job’s faith in God caused him to pursue God, not just for his own well-being, but also for the spiritual well-being of those around him. The faith that God gave to Job was made evident in the work that Job did to seek the spiritual health of his family above all other things. In conclusion, the reason that Job is described as “blameless and upright” is because his life paralleled the life of Jesus Christ Himself! Even before the proclamation of the Law, Job had faith in God that provoked conduct that matched the character of Jesus. Job wasn’t discontent to see the ministry of his family as too small or plain. He poured into the people that God put around him and was committed to ensuring their spiritual well-being. Based on the events that would take place shortly in Job’s life, his conduct proved to be wise and critical! Still, even those who live in such a manner can expect opposition and difficulty. Though Job had moments where his life was parallel to Jesus, his testimony will show that he was also a human being, prone to sin against God like anyone else, so that the “goodness” of Job was merely a reflection of God’s own goodness through him. Though faithful, Job was still a man. Praise God that faith is sufficient to please Him, enabling God’s mercy to forgive our nature that is contrary to Him!