I spent the month of November with Job. It was a gloriously difficult ride. After spending the last few days wrapping up some of my conclusions, I thought I’d like to do a series of posts over the next few weeks on 10 lessons I’ve learned from his story. This first post will be a summary of the book, and every Tuesday afterwards I’m planning to post two truths I gleaned from walking with Job.
The Book In Summary
The book of Job is a literary masterpiece. It begins and ends with narration but is poetry throughout except for the narrator’s introduction of a new character, Elihu, in chapter 32. In the opening scene, both the narrator and God establish that Job is an upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil. That is very important as it is repeated three times (1:1, 1:8, and 2:3). One day Satan presents himself before God, and God asks him if he has considered his servant Job. God allows Satan to take Job’s possessions and children. Job trusts God despite his suffering. Satan again presents himself before God, and God again brings up Job. This time Satan has permission to take his health as long as he doesn’t kill him. Again, Job trusts God despite his suffering.
Then three men come to Job—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—supposedly with the intention of comforting him. After seven days of silence, Job finally speaks beginning in chapter 3, lamenting his birth. Chapters 4 through 31 record the conversation between Job and his three friends. The author very craftily develops the story through various rounds of dialogue. Job’s friends become increasingly critical and judgmental. Job becomes increasingly defensive. His friends argue that Job must have done something wrong; otherwise, he wouldn’t be suffering this way. Job maintains he’s innocent, though his self-defense becomes progressively provocative to the point of calling God’s justice into question.
Round and round they go until a new character, Elihu, shows up in chapter 32. The narrator reveals that Elihu, after hearing Job and friends go at it to no avail, had bones to pick with both parties. He was mad at Job “because he justified himself rather than God” (32:2), and he was mad at Job’s friends because “they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong” (32:3). Elihu shows up and says that they’re all wrong. Job’s saying he’s more righteous than God, and his friends, despite all their rhetoric, simply can’t explain why this man is suffering.
Elihu reorients their focus completely. He turns their focus away from both man’s sinfulness and man’s righteousness and sets their sights on God (35:2-8). In addition, Elihu frames the discussion in a new way. While Job and his friends have been arguing as to whether Job was truly upright or not, Elihu says that even the righteous can be “bound in chains and caught in the cords of affliction” (36:7-12). And when they are, God has not taken his eyes from them (v. 7). In fact, he’s graciously commanding the righteous to return from their iniquity (v. 10). So are they righteous or sinful? The answer, Elihu shows, is yes. Truly the author of Job was not naïve as to the condition of the human heart. Elihu presents the reader with some astonishing, yet very realistic, complexities. Even Job’s self-defense and his accusations against God were mixed with declarations of hope and trust in God despite it all (see 13:15-16 and 19:25-27).
After Elihu gets his 15 minutes, he disappears, and the real hero of the story makes his entrance: God. While never explaining himself or his actions, God reveals his wisdom, knowledge, and ability by revealing Job’s lack of wisdom, knowledge, and ability. God doesn’t like when people challenge him. In light of God’s revelation of himself to Job, Job repents and concludes, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (42:5). So that’s what it took for Job to know God better.
God commands Job’s three friends to repent and to ask Job to pray for them. Interestingly enough he doesn’t say anything about Elihu. They do, God hears Job’s prayer, and Job is restored manifold times all that he had lost.
With this very broad overview in mind, stay tuned weekly for two new truths from Job that, Lord willing, I’ll be posting every Tuesday.
Share Your Thoughts
1. What strikes you most about the story of Job?
2. What do you do or where do you go when suffering comes upon you?
3. Share a verse that comforts you in suffering.