What does it say?
Every chronological Bible reading plan differs because certain events, people and writings cannot be dated accurately. This plan inserts Job following Gen 11, reminding me that Job is not a Jew. Most scholars agree that Job is the oldest writing in the Bible. Before Abraham in Gen 12, I meet Job instead. Theories abound, but one good guess puts Job among the kings of Edom of Gen 36, making him contemporary with the Hebrew Patriarchs.
Reading or listening, I imagine watching a drama or TV series unfold. This is an epic story written in a style defying complete definition because there is nothing exactly comparable. I imagine the tension as the Devil enters into God’s presence. I imagine the indescribable pain of losing my wealth, health and children in the same day. I imagine the comfort of friends coming to sit with me, yet frustrated that they begin to preach at me, completely misunderstanding me and my situation.
I feel Job’s pain in chapter 3. What seems to be the point of Eliphaz’s words in chapters 4 and 5? Would he have been wiser to simply comfort Job by his presence without feeling obligated to say anything or determine the reason for his suffering? What does Eliphaz see as the root of Job’s suffering?
What does it mean?
Primarily, this book doesn’t explain why bad things happen to good people. It’s about how good people suffer, not why. Job wants to know why this has happened, but even when God appears at the end, he never answers the why question. With all his anguish and questioning, Job models how to endure suffering without losing faith in God.
God doesn’t invent my suffering, but I learn from the dialogue between him and Satan that nothing happens without his knowledge or permission. There are questions for which I will never have answers.
How will I respond?
What do I most fear to lose? Is my life completely surrendered to God’s control? No matter how tight my grip, I can lose everything in a single moment of time. Why not remember it’s all from God anyway? He loves me and has a purpose in my suffering, but I don’t have to know it or understand. What one thing do I need to turn over to God today?
Is someone near me suffering? I am learning to love well, loving God, each other and the world. Will I go to this person simply to comfort with my presence and perhaps pray for them and/or with them? Can I do this without preaching, judging or having to come up with a reason or trite clichés?