As we’re going through the book of Job as part of our Bible reading plan – a very difficult, and interesting, book – we thought it would be good to provide some info on what to look for in the book.
One of the biggest questions of life is attended to in the book of Job: Why do bad things happen to good people?
Don’t we all want to know!
The book is essentially a story about a man Job. Job comes into serious suffering in his life for no apparent reason to him. We receive some background insight into a conversation in heaven between satan and God, but Job is never told about this. He essentially suffers blindly.
Many chapters are taken up with the advice and comfort Job receives from three of his close friends. Each of them has a view about why Job is suffering. Job’s discussions with them become quite heated at some points.
It’s important to know that his friends are right and wrong in their advice. This is a hard part to grasp in the book as it’s not easy to discern exactly what is right and wrong in their advice. But the main reason why they are wrong is that they essentially say to Job that he is suffering because he has sinned. ‘If he were to repent, everything would come right for him’, is their advice. But Job insists that he has not done anything so obviously wrong.
This idea of his friends is wrong because of two main reasons. (1) Some people suffer for no direct reason, and (2) if we don’t sin we are not promised a perfect life.
This is challenging because people do suffer because of their mistakes, and if we were to sin less a good amount of issues would come right in life. Nonetheless the book of Job insists the friends’ application of this truth is wrong.
The culmination of the book comes in chapters 40-41 where God answers Job. God’s answer is not as direct as many people would like. God never tells Job (and us) why he suffered. He does, however (and to paraphrase very liberally) say this to Job:
“Job, have you looked at creation lately? Are you able to make and control any of it? Is it not exquisitely made? I am in total control of the universe. I know what I am doing. Everything has purpose to me even if you don’t understand. Job, if you think you can run the universe better than me you are welcome to try. Even suffering is within my arsenal to bring about my perfect will. Job, will you rest in me being God and you not understanding everything?”
In the narrative God reveals important things about himself, yet never answers Job why he had to suffer. Yet after God reveals himself Job seems satisfied. In tragedy we don’t need answers, we need God.
And so the book ends.
Job is a rich literary work. There is more than meets the eye for us philosophically and in usage for everyday life.