The book of Job is a difficult book to read and so it is often a book that is avoided. One reason we avoid Job is simply that it bothers us. The book of Job is about a faithful man, a son, who is struck down by God. And even though he is restored at the end of the story, no one really wants to go through that. Who wants to be struck down like Job?
The opening verses of Job tell us that Job is a blameless (spotless) man and among the greatest sons (Job 1:3, cf. people, lit, ‘son‘) of the East. He is also a father who offers his own sons up to God on the altar (Job 1:5).
That’s Job. A righteous father and a clean-living son over whom God delights. A man who enjoys God’s favour. At least, that’s how it seems.
One of the things we learn from wisdom literature (Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) is that life is not always that tidy.
In Proverbs, the basic principle is: “You do this, you get that. You live like this and things go well, you live like that, and things turn sour.”
But in Ecclesiastes, we hear: “You know, sometimes you do this and you don’t get that. Life is messy.” Or as Ecclesiastes 9:1 puts it,
So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them.
That is a question we often ask ourselves in the midst of suffering. Is this love or hate? Is this a sign of God’s approval or disapproval of me?
And that’s exactly the situation Job is about to find himself in. Job is about to have his life laid upon the altar. He is the son whom God is not sparing. God is about to take away all that Job loves, including his reputation as a favoured and beloved son.
And the question will be, is this love or hate? Is this a sign of God’s pleasure or displeasure?
We look at Job’s story and, if we read it rightly, it frightens us. Job is a son whom God notices and delights in. The result is that Job is cut down.
We worry that God might notice us too. We worry that God might love us the way He loved Job – that He might treat us as sons.
The God who struck down Job is the same God who noticed His Son in the Jordan and spoke from Heaven. The same God who struck His only begotten Son on the Cross and raised Him in resurrection glory.
Job’s life points directly to the life of Jesus. It anticipates what it will mean to be a beloved son. It also gives us a way to navigate and make sense of our own suffering.
We have all experienced something of Job’s loss. We have said goodbye to loved ones. We have suffered sickness, loss of reputation, humiliation, grief and pain. If we stop at Job, the best we can do is hope that things turn out well for us in the end, as they did for him.
But reading Job does little to explain (or relieve) the suffering itself. Until Jesus comes into view. Then the suffering begins to make a little more sense.
This is the way God deals with those in whom He delights. This is how God has chosen to deal with the destructive power of sin without losing those He loves. And this is ultimately good news for us.
God comes to His people, but He does not come on our terms. He does not come and leave us untouched or unchanged. He lays us on the altar with Christ so that we might arise holy, beautiful and fit for life in His presence.
It means being noticed. It can mean being laid low in order to be remade. But it also means being the object of God’s deepest love and favour.