Thoughts on the first chapter of Job

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“By faith, Abel offered to God sacrifice through which he had witness born to him that he was righteous.” —Heb. 11:4

Our Story Begins

Job’s story begins so simply, “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job.” The story of Job has been misunderstood, ridiculed and even feared. Some have tried to discard the story as mere fiction and fantasy. Many simply ignore or avoid the story because it hurts too much to read. In truth, this is a story that gives us a glimpse into the mystery of suffering; a journey of faith proved to be worth more than gold.

We don’t like to think of it, but there are times in our lives when we wander through a dark valley without seeing the path out. We question why we are suffering, whether God has a redeeming purpose in it all and how we are supposed to respond. Job’s friends will try to explain his problems by appealing to the logic of good orthodox theology. However in the end, Job’s almost irreverent appeal to God for an explanation leads to his justification and approval by God. While Job’s orthodox church-going friends are rejected, he persevered. Job eventually speaks directly to God about his suffering while Job’s friends speak about God to Job.

Traditionally, theology has wrestled with how a good and all-powerful God could, at the same time, allow or even cause (as Job claims) suffering and evil in the world. This is the argument Job’s friends pick up on. But the usual abstract arguments, spoken smoothly by Job’s three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar—are not only rejected by God and his man, Job, they are not even the point of the book.

This is not a book of rational, systematic theology. This is the story of one human being—one very human and very righteous being—that loses his possessions, his family and his health. It is also a story that takes place within the household of faith. In addition, it is faith that rebels and a God who loves the rebel, which is the surprise of the story.

When you get right down to it, though, there is something raw and wild about the book of Job. It is a book that can hold its own anywhere, whether in the university lecture hall or the beer hall. The hero is someone who can strike a chord with people who have never felt drawn to any other Biblical story or figure, including Jesus. The world respects Job with a deep natural affection. In the eyes of the world, Job is less a saint than a comrade in arms. He never founded a cult or a religion, and he has never commanded any kind of following. Who would want to follow him? No, he is not even a religious figure at all. Simply a man, and more than that, simply a man who suffered. To be honest, rather than preaching in favor of religion, Job preaches against it, and this is something every sinner understands. Simply by suffering so enormously, and by hanging on for dear life through it all, Job has won the world’s heart.

The greatness of Job’s faith lies in the greatness of his mere humanity. Like the Apostle Paul, this man’s spirituality did not thrive on covering up his weaknesses. On the contrary, he seems to glory in them. His faith stood up to having all his miserable frailty and human failure exposed and dragged out before the entire world. Right from the beginning Job seems somehow to have known in his bones that God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

So that is what we are going to examine. Hang on, because this may shake many of your stale and outdated theological doctrines.

If you’re interested, you can download the whole study of Job.

Other Bible Studies and Commentary are available at http://doulos-studies.info.

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