I’ve just gotten to Job on my Bible reading schedule. The schedule I’m using places Job between Genesis 22 and 23, which is apparently where it is believed it occurred chronologically.
I still remember the first time I tried to read Job. I was 23, in my first year of law school, and had just been baptized in the Lutheran church. My husband gave me an NIV Study Bible as a baptismal gift. I don’t remember why I decided to start with Job as the first book I would read, but it wasn’t a good idea. Maybe I thought I knew enough about the Bible because I had attended two years of Sunday school in sixth and seventh grade and didn’t need to read the basics. At any rate, I would not recommend Job as a place to start for a new Christian.
Don’t get me wrong – I think Job is a great book. But for a new Christian, I think John, Romans, or Hebrews are all much better places to start. In terms of Old Testament, Genesis and Psalms are good places to start.
Job is one of those books of the Bible from which one must be careful not to pull verses out of context. The dialog between Job and his friends reveals how they saw the world and how they understood God. They didn’t necessarily have as much wisdom in this area as they thought they did.
But then again, we are often much like Job and his friends. We think we understand what God is up to, why He has done something or not done something. When things don’t go right we speculate that God is meting out punishment or teaching a lesson (especially if it is someone else’s trouble we are speculating about). And maybe He is, but maybe He’s just trying to show Satan that He knows us better than Satan does and that in spite of hardships we will maintain our attitude of worship towards God. (See Job 1-2). We really don’t know why a particular incident of suffering and hardship has befallen a good person.
What we do know is that God does what is just and right, and that His goal is the greatest good and the furtherance of His kingdom. He is faithful and trustworthy. His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. But we are His children and He loves us. (He loved Job, too, only Job didn’t know it).
I had a nice block of quiet time to myself yesterday morning, and so I made it through chapter 16 of Job. I know I just said you have to be careful about taking verses out of context, but there were four verses that really jumped out at me. I don’t know if I’d ever really noticed them before. Chapter 9 is titled “Job’s Third Speech: A Response to Bildad.” At the end of this speech Job says:
32 “God is not a mortal like me,
so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial.
33 If only there were a mediator between us,
someone who could bring us together.
34 The mediator could make God stop beating me,
and I would no longer live in terror of his punishment.
35 Then I could speak to him without fear,
but I cannot do that in my own strength.”
Did you catch that? Job thought he needed a mediator between him and God. Of all of Job’s prayers, God eventually answered this one.
We now do have a mediator between us and God, and that is Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus we no longer need to live in terror of God’s punishment – Jesus took the punishment for us. We can now approach the throne of God without fear because we can do so in the strength of Jesus and do not have to rely on our own strength. Because of Jesus we have a hope that Job lacked when he was in the midst of his greatest trials. When our hope is shattered by suffering and loss, Jesus gives us new hope and peace.
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:1-5 (NLT).