I can’t say I know all about the Book of Job, but I think I know a bit about it and here’s one thing I know:
The Book of Job reveals God’s grace.
Some will dispute this, saying the book instead reveals a cruel God who uses Job as a pawn in a game played between God and Satan. Here’s how they might characterize the opening scenes: God asks Satan where he’s been lately, Satan says he’s been out cruising through the world here and there, and God asks if Satan has happened upon Job.
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8.)
Job is described as a man who cared for his family so much that he would engage in morning sacrifices for them as a habit of worship. It is like the parent who gets up each day and enters into prayer for her or his children, asking for God’s blessings on them.
And Job was wealthy beyond measure, a sign to onlookers that he must have been a righteous man to be so well blessed by God.
Satan is unimpressed. He tells God that the only reason Job is such a goody two shoes is because God treats him well. Take away everything Job has and we’ll see how things go is Satan’s point.
God says OK, try it.
So Satan does.
Satan attacks Job and strips him of everything he has. Job loses his wealth, his herds, his crops. He loses his children when they all die in a horrific building collapse. He even seems to lose his relationship with his wife as she insists he curse God for their suffering.
And then Job strips himself of his fine clothes, and sits in a pile of ashes, and mourns.
It’s a harsh and miserable life Job faces. Yet we are told:
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:22.)
Where is God’s grace in this? After all, it seems like Job is the one showing stoic grace in his suffering. Yet later in the book we see that Job questions God, a line of interrogation in which he complains of the injustices he endures and demands to know why he should suffer when he’s done not one single thing to deserve it.
Discovering God’s Grace
Here’s where God’s grace is found: Job’s relationship with God never depends on what Job does. At one point we see him offer loving sacrifices to God, enjoying the many blessings in his life, the family and wealth God had given him. Later he complains that he’s being treated unjustly, that he had done nothing to deserve his grief and pain. Neither of these stages of his life had even the slightest effect on his standing before God.
Rather, Job eventually discovered that in all his circumstances he was still in a right relationship with God. How do we know? God said so when he rebuked Job’s friends for suggesting God made Job suffer because of Job’s sins.
“I am angry with you … because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7.)
The truth Job spoke – and spoke repeatedly in the conversations recorded in the Book of job – is that while Job might not understand why he was being made to suffer, he knew God was not punishing him for his sins. And the questions Job asked in those conversations were not out of line. He spoke from his grief and confusion, and God graciously allowed that grief and confusion to be expressed just as Job expressed them.
This is the grace of God revealed in the Book of Job.
Whether in joyful prayers and sacrifices or grief-laden questions born of confusion, our relationship with God is fixed throughout. This is because our relationship with God does not depend on us.
Our relationship with God depends on God.
In other words, Job had a relationship with God because God has a relationship with Job. Job, like all people in Old Testament times who lived in anticipation of God’s glory to come, is blessed through the finished work of Jesus Christ:
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40.)
Their perfection is the same as ours: Jesus. And just like them, we have a right relationship with God because of what Jesus has done. You have a right relationship with Jesus because Jesus has a relationship with you.
And that’s what the Book of Job really means.