The Book of Job tells the story of a righteous man made to suffer, so why does Job suffer? The explanation given by Job’s friends is that Job has sinned and his punishment is suffering. However, throughout the entire story Job claims his righteousness. The reader is put in an omnipotent position knowing much more than the characters in the story, but even the reader is not told directly why Job is suffering, or why his suffering is significant in a historical context. However, we are told that Job is blameless and upright.
Job’s story begins with the belief that his spiritual respect for God and his religious piety may be rooted in God’s blessing. God and Satan devise a test. Is Job’s spirituality a result of God’s generosity, or is God’s generosity the root of Job’s spirituality. Which came first the blessings or the righteousness? God rewarded Job for living an upright and blameless life with the gifts of children, extensive material possession, domestic unity, and joy. We see his moral maturity in his profound reverence for God. Job not only lives the letter but also observes and keeps the spirit of the law.
So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus, Job did regularly. (V 1:5)
Even Eliphaz recognizes Job’s past goodness. Job’s friend speaks to Job in chapter 4.Eliphaz offer words of help, of healing, and of warning to Job, but also of encouragement. He is the most sympathetic of Job’s friends, and reminds us of Job’s righteous acts reminding Job he had been quick to help those in need. (V 4:3-6)
Four staggering blows test Job’s righteousness. First, a messenger comes and tells him, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided them and took them away indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword.” (V 1:14,15) Before Job can recover another servant enters telling Job lightening had consumed his sheep and his servants. (V 1:16) Next Job is told the Chaldeans killed his servants and stole his camels. (V 1:17) Lastly Job is given the news that his children were all killed by a sudden great wind that caused the house to fall on them. (V 1:18-19) With his righteousness in tact Job appropriately tore his clothes shaved his head and worshiped God. Job faced affliction with the attitude of worship.
God declares Job, “a blameless and upright man one who fears God and shuns evil. And still he holds fast to his integrity…” (V 2-3) However Job’s test is not over Satan then attacks Job physically. Job is inflicted with painful boils. (V 2:7) Unwavering Job is steadfast. He clings to his faith in God. His wife however, rebukes faith and advises her husband to rebuke God and die. Job responds proving his faith.
Job’s spirit again withstands a crushing blow as his friends in an attempt to comfort him accuse him and implore him to accept God’s judgement for his sins. He has lost his wealth, his family including the support of his wife, he has lost his health and now his friends have turned against him. Job is absolutely and utterly alone.
Job understandably curses his life, but not God. Job can fight no further his burdens are too great. Job also, questions how can man be righteous before God. He begs for fairness. Job even complains against God, “God storming and striking without cause.” (V 9-17) However, in Chapter 16 Job’s faith again wins. He has been unable to let go of his innocence in the face of his friends’ accusations. Now he clings to God, “O earth do not cover my blood. And let my cry have no resting-place! Surely even now my witness is in heaven, and my evidence is on high.” (V 16:18-19) Job’s faith is claimed again when he looks to the future to find hope. (V 19:23,24)
Job believes in a God who has the answer to human need. Job’s faith leads to submission faith and courage. As Job’s plight worsened his despair deepened, however, his faith in a merciful God was unchanging.
The epilogue of the book of “Job” restores all Job lost including his status in the community, and his family. God also rewards him with an increase in his material wealth. Job is restored and rewarded because his test was grueling and his faith unwavering.
The Holy Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.