What the Book of Job Really Means

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.

Satan Before the Lord, Corrado Giaquinto (1703–1765) (Wikimedia)

Satan Before the Lord,
Corrado Giaquinto (1703–1765)
(Wikimedia)

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.

Job, Léon Bonnat (1833–1922) (Wikipedia)

Job, Léon Bonnat (1833–1922)
(Wikipedia)

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.

***

Tomorrow we’ll look at What the Book of James Really Means, and this series will close the next day with What the Book of Revelation Really Means.

***

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29 Responses to What the Book of Job Really Means

  1. Laura Droege says:

    Wonderful post, Tim. I know this is comforting to me, someone who is questioning God a lot right now, and it will likewise be comforting to those undergoing a time of suffering and grief and questions. Our relationship depends on Him. Not me. (Thank God!)

    As a side note, I’ve found it interesting that God tells Job to make sacrifices for his friends (who have sinned with their false teaching/non-comforting words) but not for his wife, who told him to “curse God and die.” I think it might be because she is speaking out of tremendous grief and anguish; she’s lost ALL her children and is facing the death of her husband.

    And, as second side note, while we tend to think of the ending of Job as being a happy one, we tend to gloss over the fact that this couple has still lost their first set of children. Even having more children doesn’t replace the first, devastating loss. Job and his wife probably grieved for those children even while they rejoiced in their new ones. If this ending has happiness, it’s not found in God restoring a family, wealth, etc., to them, but in their discovery that God is sovereign and good and our relationship with him depends on him.

    • Tim says:

      That’s a great point about Job’s wife. She appears so angry and bitter, but it may have been an expression of faith still.

      On the ending, I’ve thought the same thing, Laura. They must have missed those children terribly, even as they experienced joy with the children who came to them later in life. Families are complex.

  2. Laura Droege says:

    Reblogged this on Laura Droege's blog and commented:
    My grandfather died last week, and I will be attending his burial this morning. (We’re holding a formal memorial service later, probably in late April, when more family can attend.) So in lieu of posting something of mine, I’m reblogging this post from Tim Fall. As someone who questions God on a semi-regular basis, I found his thoughts on the book of Job refreshing and comforting. I hope you will, too.

  3. Tim, was interesting timing yesterday your blog and my comment. Today it is my turn, as this post echoes with some reading I’m currently doing.

    Have started going through Robert Capon’s Kingdom, Grace and Judgement, while at the same time reading again Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel. I think your dead on with your connection to the story of Job and grace.

    I also think there is a direct correlation between this and the temptation of Christ to this regard; It is the same temptation that all of us face daily. It is the temptation to rest in the faithfulness of God or to tighten our shoelaces to get ready to run the spiritual mile in our strength in order to gain some respectability.

    When we consider all of Job’s friends challenges they were all to correct himself, change himself, get up and do something. Make himself presentable to God again. Job’s question to God deals with our struggle to present a respectable amount of righteousness to God, that should merit God’s favor. While God replies who are you demand favor, I give because it pleases me to do so.

    Great thoughts Tim, thanks

    • Tim says:

      That’s a great connection to our present temptations, Patrick. We want to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and improve our relationship with God, or at least we’d like to think it’s possible, while God says our relationship with him is wonderful because of who he is and it doesn’t depend on us.

  4. Pastor Bob says:

    Interesting addition to some of the more “traditional approach” (a way of looking at why bad things can and do happen to good people).

    Thanks!

    • Tim says:

      I thought of that more traditional approach too, Bob. It makes me think that just asking “why” when tragedy strikes is not the end of the matter. What we really need to do is realize that God is with us no matter what we’re going through.

  5. Jeannie says:

    It seems so simple and straightforward, Tim: our relationship with God depends on Him, not on us. Yet we can easily forget that and wonder if what we feel, think, and say in times of struggle and grief will somehow weaken that bond. I’m so grateful that nothing can snatch us out of His hand (not even us).

    • Tim says:

      “wonder if what we feel, think, and say in times of struggle and grief will somehow weaken that bond.”

      It adds to the burden when we think that our doubts and grief and questioning God will somehow cause him to love us less. The fact that he is with us always – including in those tragic times – just shows how high, deep, long and wide god’s love really is.

  6. Helen says:

    Someone on here last week said, in reply to a harsh comment, “Never mind the wording, look at the Sovereignty”. We often forget the Sovereignty of God when things go wrong, but isn’t it a wonderful fact that He has it all in His Almighty hands?

  7. Reblogged this on multicolouredsmartypants and commented:
    Excellent post from Tim Fall about the book of Job.

    I remember a well-meaning friend saying to me, when I was talking about the horribleness that I was experiencing at that time, if I had read about Job. I looked at him, frowned, and asked if Job had read about me.

    Laura is absolutely right. No matter how much one might end up with, it can never take away the deep and lasting sorrows. But having gone through those sorrows and surviving and still loving God brings about a faith of a different kind – a spiritual maturity maybe? It means you’re not dependent on life being good to thank God for His blessings. You know that God is always good. God is always. God is.

    I’m struggling right now. Had my EMDR session this morning and it was a bit like being hit by a tidal wave. It’s inexpressible, frankly. But I do know that God is good, and that God has always been good, even through every sad or bad or mad or terrible experience. God was never remote and distant – He was with me. I know that. And my sorrow, my sorrows, *all* of our sorrows, He shares. He gives us beauty for ashes. This is why we mourn on Good Friday and celebrate come Easter Sunday. Hallelujah!

    • Tim says:

      I’m praying for you to get some good rest tonight and be refreshed by morning, sfk.

      And I love the way you put this: “… you’re not dependent on life being good to thank God for His blessings.” That is a powerful truth to live in.

  8. Pingback: What the Book of James Really Means | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  9. Mary Anne says:

    “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
    And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

    I do NOT like the Book of Job. I do not like it, Sam I Am. But if there are any verses from it that I cling to, it’s those.

  10. Pingback: What the Book of Revelation Really means | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  11. Tim says:

    “it is humanity’s job to control inner evil”?

    It is Christ’s finished work that has conquered evil, whether inner or outer.

    • Didn’t God tell Cain to control his inner evil? Didn’t Jesus say, Ye know not what (inner evil) Spirits ye are of? How is it you cannot grasp “In That Day Teachings?” Jesus actually does want inner evil controlled but you proudly say no to this essential idea? Open your spiritual eyes and grow and grow!

      • Tim says:

        Right. James clearly teaches we are to resist Satan and Satan will flee from us. (James 4:7.) The ultimate victory over evil has already been won, though, through the finished work of Christ.

  12. Tim says:

    Hi RWB. Thanks for commenting. It would be fine to link to your poetry on subjects related to a post here, but to copy and paste a lengthy piece like this will probably mean people are going to skip over it. Or it might interfere with people reading other comments posted after yours.

    So feel free to link to related material, but please hold back on using the comment section as a place to replicate one of your own posts in whole.

    Thanks,
    Tim

    • No comment regarding this breakthrough understanding of Job? ??? Are you open to higher ground, the way Moses was? Being open is, hence, God approved! Be open!

      Best sermon and poem explaining the Book of Job, by Robert Winkler Burke of In That Day Teachings

  13. m stair says:

    “Job’s moving confession and Jesus’ Good News is that God has created us with the capacity to remain, to continue forever, still possessing our known understanding of “self.” We do not have to perish (disappear from existence) but through God’s Grace can be carried through to a new creation of reality.

    Excerpt From: Mike Stair. “The World’s Favorite Bible Verses.” MS Peabooks, 2013. iBooks. https://itun.es/us/8lbRJ.l

  14. Vashra Araeshkigal says:

    This is one of your best I have read thus far.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Vashra.

      • Tim says:

        I’ve asked you before not to leave entire blog post length comments. I will delete this in a moment and allow you to post a shorter comment with a link to your site if you like.

        • rwburke says:

          When did your “wake up” die? Why are you proud to be incurious? What is going on that your mind cannot handle things longer than a Twitter post? If you are not concerned for the poor state of your attention, are you bothered that I try to help you? How is being incurious: scriptural? Hm?

        • Tim says:

          You are welcome to join in, but not take over.

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