Anyone who has lived for any length of time will be aware that life is not fair. The world is broken, creation groans and humanity suffers. This unfairness arises because human sin has sullied God’s good creation, because in Satan we have a spiritual enemy who seeks to harm us and because humans have a tendency to hurt each other - from schoolyard bullying to international wars. While life is unfair, Christianity gives comfort, showing God is for us and has entered the unfairness of our human existence through Jesus Christ.
We are also given an overview of Job’s business ventures which reveal he is very wealthy. The author underlines Job’s character writing, He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. (Job 1:3) John Walton sums this up writing, Everything about Job is ideal, which has the purpose of portraying him as the ultimate example of a person who is beyond reproach and who has achieved success by the highest standards.
However life is not always fair and this is reflected in later in the book when Job asks, “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes. Their homes are safe and free from fear; the rod of God is not on them.” (Job 21:7–9) “Yet they say to God, “Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?”” (Job 21:14–15)
We know the wicked don’t always prosper but it happens often enough to cause us to question the fairness of life. We see examples of this in the news when an elderly person is conned out of their lifesavings, a couple buy their first home only to find the builder has cut corners. We see the unfairness of life in the recent tornado that ripped through one of the poorer areas of our city, where some could not afford insurance and lost what little they had.
Life is unfair, fickle, unpredictable. We can’t assume those who are suffering have done something to provoke the wrath of God. Indeed, Job’s blameless life underlines he is not being punished for doing wrong. What is going on in the life of Job? Clearly Job is not just someone picked at random. He is God’s prime example of what a godly man is like. The issue is – if the most godly man can be made to curse God, then what about lesser people? If Job falls then all are vulnerable. From Satan’s perspective, if Job is propped up by God’s blessings and there is nothing more substantial in his relationship with God, if Job falls, God’s plans are in tatters, and Satan has struck a serious blow.
Satan tried to make Job fall, and also tried to make Jesus fall. If Jesus fell into sin, God’s plan would have failed. But Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations, and conquered sin and death. Doing so, Jesus not only entered into to our suffering, but has opened the way for us to find the comfort of God through this life, and wholeness of life with God through eternity.
There is a mystery in the book of Job we cannot fully grasp or easily explain. In the end, this book is leading us to God, and to the relationship he offers us. More fully the answer is to see God enter our suffering in Jesus Christ so we can find his comfort and peace. In the end we will find God can be trusted through our suffering, not as one who watches disinterested from afar, but as one who joins us and is with us in our suffering. So let us take God’s hand, receive his comfort and strength and walk with him through the days that lie ahead.
Rev John Malcolm