I have made it into the book of Job on my “read-through-the-Bible-in-180-days” journey. I have always found this book to be a little hard to understand and have learned by experience that you can’t really have many takeaways until you get to the end of the story and get God’s perspective on all that has been said.
If you know the story, you’ll remember that Job was a righteous and blameless man who loved and served God with all his heart. I believe Satan was a bit jealous of Job; he decides to accuse Job of serving God only because of the blessings God has given him. God gives Satan permission first to touch Job’s wealth and family, but not him personally. When Job passes the test with flying colors, praising God even as he mourned his children’s deaths, God gives Satan even more liberty to touch his health. Job finds himself covered in boils, having lost everything dear to him, even his wife’s support.
Four of Job’s friends come to comfort him: Three old guys…Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar, and one youngster, Elihu. The bulk of the book is a back-and-forth conversation between these five men. Job defends his integrity and claims to be righteous before God; his friends are sure that he is overlooking some hidden sins that have caused this calamity. In the end, Job will be vindicated (I haven’t made it to that part yet), but will also be reminded again of how big God is, and how foolish we are to think we can argue with Him. Job’s friends will be reprimanded, as their assessment was wrong.
My favorite passage so far is Job 23:8-17. It’s too good to summarize; listen to Job’s amazing faith.
“Behold, I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He acts on the left, I cannot see Him; He turns to the right, but I cannot see Him.
But He knows the way I take; when He has put me to the test, I will come out as gold.
My foot has held on to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside.
I have not failed the command of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
But He is unique, and who can make Him turn? Whatever His soul desires, He does it.
For He carries out what is destined for me, and many such destinies are with Him.
Therefore, I would be terrified at His presence; when I consider this, I am frightened of Him.
It is God who has made my heart faint, and the Almighty who has terrified me,
But I am not destroyed by darkness, nor by deep gloom which covers me.”
Job confesses that he is confused and feels abandoned. He can’t see God’s purpose in all that has happened, yet he expresses incredible confidence in God’s character and sovereignty. Even though everything has been stripped away from him, he trusts that in the end, he will “come out as gold.” He determines not to turn away from God or His commands. He recognizes that God is to be feared; he knows God has intentionally brought suffering on him but because he trusts God, he is not overcome by it.
Job has his moments. At times, he wishes he’d never been born, and he grows frustrated with his friends. Yet his faith overcomes all doubts, all depression, and all disillusionment because he surrenders to the authority of his Creator. What a great lesson for us as we navigate disappointments and challenges in our lives!
Failure to see God’s purpose doesn’t have to result in a loss of faith. God doesn’t owe us any explanation, and in fact, as far as we know, Job never knew why his life took such a turn. In the end, he did indeed “come out as gold,” as he humbled himself under the hand of the Almighty God, trusting his destiny to the One who sees the beginning from the end.