Lessons for Life from the Old Testament: Job
Lessons for Life from the Old Testament: Job
The Old Testament is divided into different sections, namely, Law, History, Wisdom and Prophecy. Job falls squarely in the area of wisdom writings. Not much is known about who wrote this book, when it was written, and when these events took place, but all that is really of no significance. What is important is to look at the message that is clearly taught in this interesting Old Testament Book. The reason for that is because it answers an important universal question about life and about God. Why does a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?
The graphic and powerful answer comes in this dramatic story that answers the question by taking the reader into the eternal realm. For many who have suffered over the ages, this book has helped to find answers that are otherwise very difficult to find elsewhere. Surely rewards in life in the form of riches and happiness are given to those who live good lives! Those who are evil face the results of their decisions in the form of sleepless nights, punishment and pain. So it would seem logical, and even a superficial study of the scriptures seems to indicate this. While Israel obeyed God things went well and when they chose to disobey, bad things followed. The book of Judges is a graphic illustration of this fact. In today’s world the peddlers of the so called “prosperity gospel” teach this aggressively, and the high life of its proponents is called as a witness to this false teaching.
The writer of the book of Job tells us the story of a person just like we all would want to be; good and prosperous. The problem however, is that in the reality of everyday living this picture exists only in our minds. As we take a closer look at reality we see that many who have given their lives in service to God (just like Job) seem to, at times, be living a hard life. So we find Job on the ash-heap scraping his sores with a shard.
When we take a quick look at the heroes of faith in the New Testament, like Jesus himself, John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul, we see people who did not have the luxury of prosperity and even peace in their lives. A look at the list of the Old Testament men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 shows that suffering and hardship was the reward for most, if not all of God’s heroes.
So in this book we are taken to look at the life of this wonderful man called Job, who is in fact, almost too good to be true. In Job’s own eyes and in the eyes of the Old Testament writer of this book, there is no fault to be found in him. His three friends however, disagree. Although they cannot put their finger on what exactly the sin is, they believe that Job is being punished by God for a sin or sins that are hidden. They bring to the life of Job the false human wisdom that if something bad happens in your life it is God punishing you for something bad you did. Job’s wife’s solution is to “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Many in despair still find this as the only answer.
For an answer to this incorrect human assumption, the book of Job gives us one of the few glimpses into the eternal world that exists beyond our physical existence. Here God and Satan are on different sides with different aims. Here the answer to suffering in this life can be found. It lies in the question about good and evil. It is interesting that in the New Testament it is only James who mentions Job and praises his patience (James 5:11). But it is also James who proclaims that “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted no one should say, God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil. Nor does he tempt anyone...” (James 1:12, 13 NIV). At the same time there is the reality of Satan who has powers, that even if limited, are very real.
Here then is the dilemma: why do bad things happen to good people and often seemingly good things to bad people? This is the same question that Agar deals with in Psalm 73. The answer can perhaps be summarised in the fact that we all fall under the power of Satan and he can offer us good or bad, according to what he wants to achieve. In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4 and Luke 4) Satan offered Jesus power and possessions while trying to deviate Jesus from his purpose. In Job’s situation he used the opposite tactic. Satan is always up to his tricks and so we need to be on the lookout. The answer Job finds comes in 42:1-6. Here instead of searching for answers that are beyond this physical world he comes to trust and depend totally on God: “My ears have heard of you. But now my eyes have seen you” (vs.5).
There is no doubt that following God’s way is always the best. At times life may be challenging, but in the end the reward is worth it. So we can learn some important lessons from this interesting book:
- There are things taking place in the eternal realm that we do not know about.
- We live in a world where bad things happen for many reasons. Some we have control over and others not (see Jesus teaching in Luke 13:4 about the wall of Siloam falling on people without discriminating between good or bad people. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and all suffered the consequences of a poor building construction).
- We need to not only hear about God but really see Him in a spiritual sense (compare Job 19:26; 41:5; Matthew 5:8 and Romans 11:8; Ephesians 1:18).
- When life brings its challenges to believers, t hey need to look up and see God on his throne (Revelation 4:1, 2). We will not always be able to understand everything, but we need to trust in God, do good, and look forward to our eternal reward.
- God, after all is in control of our eternal destiny, and nothing can separate us from the promises of God. (Romans 8:28-39 – we are more than conquerors in Christ)
Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.