If someone were to ask you what the theme of the book of Job was, what would you say? Perhaps you would ascribe to Job the same theme the majority of Christians today give it: suffering. If you were to go a little deeper, perhaps you would describe it to be a book about God’s sovereignty in light of suffering, or of Jobs faithful obedience in the midst of immense trial. While these subjects are undoubtedly essential features of the book, they merely scratch the surface of what the purpose of the book of Job truly is. To read and interpret the book of Job as simply “the book of suffering,” would be to undermine its more significant theological themes. Because this is the way many believers have been taught to understand the book, we oftentimes unintentionally, yet tragically overlook God’s greater agenda.
There are four key themes in Job many neglect to apprehend that I intend to address in this blog. Those themes being; the necessity of Scripture, the insufficiency of man’s wisdom, theological theodicy, and the total supremacy of God. My prayer is that the disclosure of these themes will guide us to a deeper knowledge of the God we serve, and His great, and wildly overlooked objective regarding the book of Job.
The Necessity of Scripture
Chronologically speaking, Job is the very first book of the Bible ever written. This knowledge is vital because in many ways, it is the introduction to the rest of Scripture. One of the main purposes for the book of Job, is to operate as a conviction for why you need your Bible. We see the conviction of the importance of Scripture manifest itself within many of Job’s monologues. Job prays for God to care for him (7:17-19), for forgiveness of sins (7:20-21), for a mediator that will show God sympathizes with him (9:32-35), for imputed righteousness (9:2), for a resurrection (14:4-14), and for communion with the Heavenly Father (9:34-35). Job earnestly desired, wished for, prayed for, and pleaded for the Gospel. (I happen to agree with my Bible professor stating that if somehow Job were able to read Romans during his life he would simply weep hysterically, tears of immense joy). So what exactly does Jobs desire for the gospel teach us about the necessity of Scripture? Simple. We have access to the very thing Job yearned, and wept, and begged for. The questions he asked regarding the Lord’s character; His faithfulness, providence, justice, mercy, love, goodness, etc. are all found within the pages of Scripture. Job’s sorrow did not only stem from his suffering, but from the knowledge of his sin against a holy God, and the need for a Savior. Because of Christs work on the cross recorded in the gospel, we are able to live in steadfast assurance of God’s character and our salvation.
The Insufficiency of Man’s Wisdom
God is right. Every believer should agree with this statement, yet do our lives reflect this truth? The book of Job seeks to present God as right in all He does by contrasting His wisdom with mankind’s insufficient knowledge. In the book, we are introduced to Jobs three friends as they come to “comfort” him. (In reality, we see that the purpose for their visit was not one of selflessness, but of self-interest. They came not to mourn with Job, but to understand what Job had done to deserve God’s wrath in order to avoid judgment themselves…but that’s another blog for another time!) Interestingly enough, each of Jobs friends adopts and represents a worldview. We have Eliaphaz the historian who looks to the past to predict the future (4:1-5:27), Bildad the scientist, operating by cause and effect methodology (8:1-22), and Zophar the philosopher, attempting to use his “wisdom” in order make sense of, and predict the actions of God (11:1-20). All three friends claimed wisdom by offering various rationale for Job’s suffering, as well as their own methods to earning God’s forgiveness. We see however, through the Lord’s rebuking of Job’s friends that they had “…not spoken of [God] what was right (Job 42:7).” Despite his foolish friends, The Lord allowed Job to receive true wisdom from one man by the name of Elihu. He was the first man to sympathize with Job, while simultaneously revealing Job’s self-righteousness. Elihu asserts God’s justice and questions Job’s perceived right to question the Lord. He reveals the complexity of God, and man’s inability to comprehend His ways (Job 34:10). The book of Job shows us just how limited man’s knowledge truly is, and how we in our own power do not possess the resources, insight, or skill-set to understand God. Therefore, who can question any of His ways? Job proves that God is not only right when we agree. God is not only right when our lives are going as planned. God is right in the face of disaster. God is right when death occurs. God is right when our lives differ from our plans. God is right when we cannot make sense of our current situations. God is right when He withholds our desires. God is right when He allows calamity. God is right when He sends tribulation. This book is about proving God is right, in a world gone wrong.
It is vital to note, that God is not only right in what He does, but that He is also good. This theme is especially important because it reveals the righteousness of God in that He is completely justified in all He allows to take place in both heaven and on earth. As complex a topic as it is to grasp with our own human minds, the book of Job exists to reveal God’s sovereignty over disaster, and goodness in the midst of affliction. The book of Job acts as a defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil. As presented in the book of Job, we should not view suffering as an indication that God is unjust. Instead, we should see it as the one who is perfect in knowledge, perfectly permitting circumstances for our good and His own glory. If the Lord has approved suffering, and if He has deemed it profitable to endure hardship—it is good. And because we serve a God who is holy and perfect in all He does—a God who is incapable of doing evil—we can trust that every single event that takes place in our lives was permitted by a good God. Theological theodicy within the book of Job allows believers to experience an unexplainable peace amongst affliction, because the book of Job advocates for a good God.
The Total Supremacy of God
Unfortunately, I believe that many Christians are guilty of this common misinterpretation of the book of Job: We read the first couple chapters of the book, and automatically, (oftentimes ignorantly) assume that Satan is running the show. Many believers unknowingly apply a deistic view of God to Job by perceiving the book as a story of the time Satan had his way, while God sat back and hoped Job would be able to resist the temptation to deny his faith and curse God. If you have had this interpretation of the book of Job, you have been guilty of inadvertently awarding Satan equal power to the Father. I too, am guilty of this misinterpretation. However, observing closely the dialogue between God and Satan throughout the book, it is easy to see who is truly in control.
The book of Job revolves around two courtroom scenes with God on trial in heaven and on earth. Within the first chapter, Satan already appears before God (Job 1:6). However, Satan did not simply present himself to God, for he is unable to do so. One does not merely enter a courtroom and present himself in front of a judge without first having been summoned. It is essential to recognize God’s supremacy in dealing with Satan within the very first courtroom scene, by acknowledging that it was God Himself who not only allowed, but ordered the devil to enter His presence. The dialogue between both God and Satan in this scene only further supports God’s predominance. Satan never speaks first—God says, and Satan answers. God always starts and never reacts, Satan only reacts and never starts. One thing I failed to realize before thoroughly studying Job was the fact that God initiates everything, and that the enemy was not presiding. Only with God’s sovereign permission was Satan allowed to test Job’s faith, and only by God’s sovereign safekeeping was Job able to resist his attempts and remain steadfast. Make no mistake, not for a single moment is God not in complete and total control, not only in the book of Job, but in the universe, and in the lives of mankind. Job shows us that there is no such thing as passive allowance, but that the Lord’s dominion extends throughout every single occurrence.
Much More than Suffering
Yes, suffering is an obvious feature of the book of Job, but I hope this post has proven that it is merely the means to expressing much greater theological themes. God chooses to further His agenda via suffering, He chooses to reveal Himself through trials. He uses Job’s suffering to reveal that He is accessible (through Christ’s work on the cross) while showing the necessity of Scripture. He uses Job’s suffering to expose that He is right through the insufficiency of man’s wisdom. He uses Job’s suffering to prove that He is good, regardless. And He uses Job’s suffering to display His total supremacy and sovereignty.
Let us repent of our surface-level interpretations of Scripture, and seek to delve deep enough into God’s word, that we may begin to experience just how theologically rich an overlooked book like Job, truly is.
**Miryea Gist is a junior at The Masters College majoring in English with a minor in Bible. With her degree, she plans to teach middle school English as well as continue to enjoy, and further develop her passion for writing. Born and raised in Arizona, she was home schooled from first through twelfth grade, and is the eldest of two.