Job is denounced by his justified-by-works friends, but refutes their ideas. He criticises God for not having a complaints procedure for people like himself, yet at the same time, he witnesses to his friends in a magnificent poem on finding wisdom and truth.
‘One of the grandest portions of inspired Scripture . . . A Heaven-replenished storehouse of comfort and instruction . . .’
‘The patriarchal Bible, and a precious monument of early theology . . .’
‘It is to the Old Testament what the Epistle to the Romans is to the New . . .’
‘Acknowledged to surpass in sublimity and majesty every other book in the world . . .’
These are some of the phrases used in descriptions of the Book of Job by commentators of the past, and not surprisingly, for although these events took place about the time of Abraham (2000 BC) this book has such a powerful evangelical character and message that it can only add lustre to the phenomenon of divine inspiration. It presents man’s need of salvation by grace, a personal walk with the Redeemer, and his caring sovereignty, contrasted against the dismal rewards of justification-by-works theology.
Far from being in the least primitive, as one might expect of such early history, the Book of Job contains teaching unique in the word of God for its profound spiritual sophistication. In no other book of the Bible do we find the confrontation between Satan and Almighty God over the temptation of men; a perfect summary of the views of theological ‘liberals’ of all ages presented by themselves; an event of revelation coming upon a surprised and unready recipient, and a comprehensive biographical view of the discipline and sanctification of an individual believer.
To do full justice to the Book of Job, it is really necessary to accept that there was considerable underlying tension between Job, as a true evangelical, and his friends, who as quite typical ‘liberals’ found Job’s spiritual opinions deeply offensive. Despite all that they had in common (wealth, property, learning and literary gifts) Job was a thorn in the side of these friends because he seemed ‘holier-than-thou’ in his manner. He believed in a personal God who could be known and felt, and he professed to have a living relationship with God such as they knew nothing about. Job insisted that only perfect holiness was acceptable with God, and as man was incapable of achieving this, he could only approach God as a weak, lost sinner, seeking salvation as an undeserved mercy.
All this was highly injurious to the pride of Job’s friends who regarded their prosperity and success as evidence of God’s favour toward them. So when Job was cut down by poverty, loss and disease, though they were his friends, and though they felt truly sorry for him, his debased condition soon evoked their pent-up resentment over his spiritual ‘superiority’.
There is one further presupposition which will help considerably in understanding this book. It is to accept that it is not primarily a book about suffering. Of course there is a background of suffering, and suffering runs through nearly every chapter. But in spite of this it is not a book which sets out to explain all human suffering or to answer the problem of pain. According to Scripture people suffer for different reasons – sometimes for sin, and sometimes to glorify God, to prove him and to demonstrate that the sustaining power of God is sufficient for every circumstance. The Book of Job only touches upon Job’s suffering. But we do learn much about some aspects of suffering as far as it applies to believers.
Dr Masters’ booklet The Meaning & Purpose of the Book of Job is available for purchase from the Tabernacle Bookshop.
Related Resource: The Meaning and Purpose of the Book of Job