The Story of Job: An Introduction
Joni Erickson Tada tells the story of a Christian man who, a paraplegic due to a car accident, somehow marries a woman who also becomes his caregiver, but who in fact is a drug addict and who neglects him until he dies in his grossly fouled bed, insects crawling in and out of his mouth and nose and eyes, as, his looks and complaints communicating the indescribable acknowledgement of her heinous betrayal, imploring her for mercy, he breathes his last. Over a million dollars of insurance money she admits to spending on her habit, while her once trusting and utterly vulnerable husband literally wastes away, forgotten, tormented in every way. The pathos in this accont is voiced in each of our hearts as we ask, "Why?" How did God let this happen? In one of our fellowships, a single mom cries out the same question when her 10 year old son is run over on his bicycle and killed. Why? The cry of humanity. Is there any more profound question?
The account of the man Job, a contemporary with the patriarch Jacob, is all about Why? Not really about Job but about God, it communicates some vital things about God that address the Why? question. The world's most vital question, we should not expect less from the book of Job, the oldest historical book of the Bible.
Job is all about Why? Fundamentally a commentary on the Fall, the book examines the same issue revealed in Genesis chapter 3 and reveals the same dramatic tension. Job expands on the meaning of the Fall. It's a revisiting of that account and a kind of rebuttal against Satan's constant and historic slander of God. Many are not aware of this, but Satan's consuming passion is to discredit God, to malign Him, to unseat Him from His deserved place, by putting doubts about Him in human hearts. That's his thing, his mission. Doubts about God's goodness and love. Doubts that will grow from seemingly innocuous seeds to desparate weeds of discontent, denial, and disbelief. Listen up. Every grumbling you have ever muttered springs from this seed and is a chorus begun by Satan. From his fall to ours, and in all the vast time since, he has been all about this lie, The Lie, we can call it, that meaning and contentment are to be found apert from God. We see this first in the Bible's third chapter and again throughout the Bible's record of man. The Lie is at the root of every sin, every denial of God. "Eve," Satan begins in Genesis, "don't you know God is not trustworthy? Don't you realize He is holding out on you, not caring for you as He should?". Your Bible doesn't read like that? Well what do you think Satan means by "God knows that you will become like Him." God is holding out. Satan said it out loud, but we say it in our hearts every day, and must answer it each time, yea or nea. This is the root of the temptation that precipitates the fall from Eden. To go on without God. To not believe Him worthy of love and trust; to in fact disbelieve the things He has said about Himself and shows about Himself. To look for more.
The man Job therefore is an object lesson. Will he prove Satan's charge that God is unworthy of man's love? Many have called Job's account a cosmic gamble on God's part. God definitely puts His reputation on the line by using Job. But while we are never completely sure about Job until the story's conclusion, there is never any question of what God is truly like. The lesson of Job is that God is good, and being good and being God, He is enough. Enough when all is black, doomed, failed, and hopeless. God continuously calls us to that conclusion, moment by moment, just as he did Job.
There are of course many secondary leasons in the book of Job. Lessons about patience, about the unseen spiritual world, about the evil of religion, and yes, even about suffering. However, all come out of the one big item - that God is good and God is all. The book frames this lesson in the oldest question in human existence, "Why?" Why. Such a powerful question, embodying as it does all of life's meaning. Job sings the Why song all the way through. Many have missed this, because they look in the book for the answer to suffering, while overlooking the power in the question of Why. But the question is the answer. In the Eastern style, the lesson is in the asking, not in the answering, As I said, we ask "Why?" every day. Our asking shows we recognize spiritual decay. Why are things the way they are? Why did this or that happen? Why are mean people happy and nice people not? Why do babies die? Why are people oppressed? Why are there wars, hunger, terrors, murders, accidents, horrors, disease, evil? Why, why, why?! The Bible addresses these things, to be sure, and you should not miss that fact. Sin, what we call mankind's attitude of rebellion against God, is ultimately responsible for all evil, Scripture assures us. Even flora and fauna are affected. Although this sounds simplistic to many, the ramifications are anything but simple. They are tremendously complicated. The book of Job unashamedly asks the "Why?" question head-on, and rather than answer it, the book instead passionately, plaintively, protactedly, and prosaically, continues asking it, so that we will gaze long on the question itself, the real lesson in Job.
The "Why?" question is important, for it reveals your world view, what you believe in. Is God enough? It's that simple. He is enough. And not only enough, God simply is, and thus is Himself the answer. Few are satisfied with this answer, but it is in fact the point of the book. The book ends with God sharing with Job and his friends a little from His resume, His job description, if you will. If you expect something else, as most do, this is an odd and dissatisfying resolution to the book's tension. Few recognize however that the answer to life's grand question is a Person, not a circumstance. A Sovereign, not a solution. A relationship, not a resolution. The answer is a person because the question is actually about a person, as it was when posed to Eve so many millennia ago.
Admittedly, it is a hard answer, even for believers. How much more for others who expect the answer to be complex and either so cold and calculatingly scientific or so unearthly and otherworldly spiritual as to be unapproachable and virtually unobtainable. The is the way of man. But it is not the way of God, who purposefully puts to shame the wise by doing things they will consider beneath them. And this answer is otherworldly, because it involves the will, the placing of self into the hands of He Who made us, Who waits patiently for us to acknowledge Him. To renounce our rebelliion. To choose which side of The Lie we will come down on. The lesson of Job is that God is true, God is love and not capriciousness. God can be trusted. Despite the constant pressure from our enemy to reach for the falseness of "more", God is enough.