Summary: The book of Job is about a hero who endured an astonishing test of faith.
It’s about Faith?
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to the book of Job, chapter 1 and follow along as I read verses 9-11.
9 Then Satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing?
10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face."
Amen. The word of God thanks be to God.
Most of the people who read the book of Job say that it is about the problem of suffering. More specifically, it is about the problem of undeserved suffering. If God is love and God is good, why do good people sometimes live and die in such pain and misery?
Chapters 3-37 of the book of Job have no action at all. These chapters consist of long speeches by Job, his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and a younger man, Elihu. The speeches discuss Job’s situation. Job has lost everything. He lost all his money. He lost all his children. He has been afflicted with a loathsome skin disease. He is sitting on a pile of ashes, scraping at his open sores with a piece of clay pot. And the question he and his friends examine is: Why has this happened?
It is a question everyone asks. The book of Job seems especially suited for our time. The twentieth century was a century of progress. It was also a century of pain. The twentieth century began with a genocide. The Turks tried to wipe out all Armenians. The century ended with a genocide. The Serbs tried to wipe out everyone in the former country of Yugoslavia who was not Serb. The Twentieth Century had two world wars, and a hundred minor wars and a dozen or more major attempts at genocide. And now in the opening years of a new century, we have terrorist assaults on our society.
It is no surprise then that many modern authors have used Job as a figure for the human condition. Archibald MacLeish did it with J.B. (1956), Neil Simon did it with God’s Favorite (1975). Robert A. Heinlein wrote Job, A Comedy of Justice (1984). Then there was Robert Frost with "The Masque of Reason", and William Safire with The First Dissident. H.G. Wells wrote The Undying Fire, and Thornton Wilder wrote Hast Thou Considered My Servant Job? All these literary works explore the problem of pain, which was the problem Job and his friends were arguing about.
Job and his friends agreed that a loving and powerful God ought to do certain things. God ought to reward those who do good and punish those who do bad. Therefore, Job must be suffering because he has done evil. Suffering is the punishment for sin, so Job’s friends argue, and therefore Job has committed some horrible sin, but Job knows this is not so. His friends are trying to explain suffering, but their theology fails to match the facts.
Many people still follow the theology of Job’s friends, even in church. It goes like this. If you believe in Jesus, Jesus will be with you, and everything will go well with you. Your business will prosper, your family will gather around you, you will live a long, happy life in peace and comfort. This is called the “Prosperity Gospel.” It is a false doctrine. It was not true for Jesus when he lived among us. He was crucified. It was not true for the early church, they were thrown to lions. Historically, there is no evidence that belief in Jesus leads to worldly success or good health. In fact, Jesus said, my kingdom is not of this world.