The book of Job is one of the wisdom books of the Bible….and for good reason. Here is my summary of the book of Job.
Human beings are unable to understand why the righteous suffer (Job 28:20-21), but instead are to trust the wisdom of God in how He manages the complexities of the universe (Job 38-41).
Explanation of Main Idea
Job was a righteous man who had “complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). He was wealthy, a man of prayer, and identified as “the greatest man among all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). Yet he endured devastating loss and unimaginable suffering, losing his family and his health virtually overnight (Job 1:13-19; Job 2:7). He felt like his life was a waste; he wished he had never been born (Job 3:3-7). His friends attempted to explain to him that there must be a reason, and this reason must have to do with Job’s guilt (Job 4:7; 8:6; 11:6). Job maintains his innocence (Job 7:20) but really begins to struggle emotionally with what has happened to him (Job 10). Convinced of his innocence, eventually, Job begins to blame God and wants an opportunity to defend himself before the Almighty (Job 23:2-5).
After Job’s three friends are done “teaching” him, the author of the book strategically inserts a poem about wisdom (Job 28:1-28) amidst Job’s discourse. This poem seems to ignore the arguments preceding it as it enlightens the reader to the fact that humans can do amazing things, but they cannot come close to possessing or even understanding the wisdom God uses to run the universe (Job 28:12, 20-21, 23). Their best course of action is not to understand how and why God does things, but to fear the Lord and “turn from evil” (Job 28:28).
Job gets his wish as the Lord answers him “from the whirlwind” (Job 38:1). Yahweh’s answer is a staggering series of questions about creation and the way the world runs (Job 38-39) that leaves Job stunned (Job 40:4-5). A change takes place in Job as he realizes that he was in over his head (Job 42:1-6). God rebukes his friends as Job prays for them; and blesses Job by doubling his possessions and giving him a new family (Job 42:7-17)
Job was written to address the problem of human suffering, especially for the son or daughter of God. It does not answer the question of why suffering exists, but rather, leads the reader to a place of recognizing that God is supremely wise and can be trusted regardless of even the most horrible circumstances. Job teaches us that God is in control and the reason for human suffering, especially of a righteous person, is “too wondrous…to know” (Job 42:3). God manages many things in the universe which are beyond human comprehension, such as laying the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-6), managing snow and hail (Job 38:22), diffusing light and wind over the earth (Job 38:25) and so much more. Since He does a good job with this, He will take care of humankind and suffering.
- The Perplexity of Suffering
Job suffered like no other. At the beginning of the book, he is portrayed as a blessed man, full of life, wealthy, godly and happy. Thirteen verses in, and his life begins to fall apart. He eventually loses everything, including his health. The bulk of the book, some 33 chapters (Job 4-37), is devoted to humans trying to process the reasons why this occurring. No satisfactory answers are found. Job had done nothing to deserve this. The dialogue between Job and his friends, both it’s length and content, demonstrate the emotional turmoil and inability to find an adequate explanation for the dilemma of suffering.
- God is wise and in control.
God speaks in Job 38-41 and questions Job regarding the ordering and management of the universe. This section of the book contains very deep and moving passages aimed at emphasizing God’s wisdom and sovereignty over all. The implication here is that even though suffering may not be able to be satisfactorily understood by humans, God is wise, in control, and can be trusted. There are many, many things that humans fail to understand, suffering being only one of them.
- Human reasoning often falls short, therefore it’s best to focus on other ways of bringing comfort.
Job’s friends do not speak what is right about the Lord and Job’s problems (Job 42:7). They have brought their best explanations forward; their combined wisdom was of no help. They claimed that Job was guilty (Job 5:17; Job 8:6), when, as we know, God declared otherwise (Job 1:8). After many, many words and explanations, they were no closer to truth than when they sat in silence for seven days (Job 2:13).His friends original agenda was to “mourn with him, and to comfort him” (Job 2:11). They each came from their place (Job 2:11), and, when they saw him they “lifted their voices and wept…and sat down with him on the ground.” (Job 2:12-13). Being present with one who is suffering is a good thing; trying to explain why they are suffering is not.
- God is interested in and loving towards His creation.
Job begins with a heavenly scene; God is almost bragging about Job (Job 1:8; Job 2:3). God already knows what is in Job’s heart; He loves Job. While it is difficult to understand why God would allow Job to endure such crushing pain and loss, the story ends with God pouring out blessing upon his life. God is good toward him (Job 42:12-17).
- It’s ok not to know.
The reason for the suffering of Job is never directly given. The answer to his suffering seems to be found in his wrestling and turmoil. Ultimately, the answer is a Person not a reason. It is God Himself.
How Does This Relate To Us?
Human suffering is a universal problem; it is a common denominator for every human being. No one is exempt. The book of Job, unique in the Bible, gives us the best treatise for dealing with this difficulty: why do we suffer and how should we respond? The answer is found in trusting our wise God through our struggle and turmoil, understanding that He has everything under His control.
Job teaches us humility. We cannot know everything. Answers don’t always come easy. God is bigger than our problems, and yet He is loving and concerned about the details of our lives.
The book of Job helps us, as well, in loving people who are suffering. It guides us in these relationships. We should begin in like manner as Job’s friends: sitting quietly, mourning, weeping, just being there (Job 2:11-13); but we should not follow their example in subsequent chapters: giving reasons, answering deep theological questions, or playing the blame game (Job 4-37).
Job does help us to understand what happens in a suffering heart: the turmoil (Job 27:2), the questioning (Job 27:9-10) and anguish (Job 3). This process seems to be what can lead a righteous individual to a deeper closeness to God because of their suffering.
- Based on Job 1:1-5, Job was a righteous man. If this story was set in modern times, how might Job be described?
- What did Job’s friends do when they heard of his suffering? See Job 2:11-13. How do you think they felt about Job?
- The book of Job is a fascinating piece of literature and yet it is all about suffering. Why do you think the author would devote such effort to write it? Why do you think this is in the Bible?
- Read Job 28. The entire chapter is about wisdom. What is the relationship between wisdom and suffering?
- Read Job 38-39. What strikes you as you read these chapters? What impresses you about God and the universe or the animal kingdom?
Life Application Questions
- Job 3:1 states that Job “cursed the day of his birth”. Have you ever felt like you wish you had never been born? If so, why?
- Read Job 10:1-7. Job speaks out of the “bitterness of (his) soul” because, to him, his suffering make absolutely no sense. Have you ever felt similar to this? Why?
- In Job 16:1-5, the friends of chapter two have become “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2). What does Job claim he would do if the roles were reversed? How could you be a true comforter to Job?
- When God is done speaking, Job claims to have spoken about “things too wonderful” that he did not understand (Job 42:3). In what ways do you think suffering can be “wonderful”? Give an example of good you have seen in your own life or someone you know that came about because of suffering.