The Drama of Job
Philippe R. Sterling
The Book of Job addresses the mystery of unmerited suffering. It shows that God may have other purposes for adversity besides discipline for wrongdoing. The book also addresses attitudes in affliction.
I. An Accusation in Heaven: Will we worship God if we get nothing in return? (1:1 to 2:13)
The book presents Job as a man of character. For reasons about which the reader is informed but which Job does not know, Job’s wealth, children and health are taken from him.
Job’s Character: Job was an exemplary believer (1:1-5).
Job’s Calamities: God permits Satan to test Job (1:6 to 2:10).
Do we love God for His own sake? Job was subjected to two tests, one on his wealth and children (1:6-22) and one on his health (2:1-10). In each test are two scenes, one in heaven and one on earth. Each scene in heaven includes an accusation by Satan against Job, and each scene on earth includes an assault by Satan against Job and Job’s reaction.
Job’s First Test: Will we be godly apart from personal gain? “God gave and God has taken away; blessed be the name of God” (1:21).
Job’s Second Test: Will we be godly apart from physical health? “Shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (2:10).
The affirmation, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said”, proved wrong Satan’s predictions that Job would curse God. It vindicates God’s words.
Job’s Comforters: Three friends come to comfort Job (2:11-13).
Three comforters come and sit down in silence with Job for a week.
II. A Debate on Earth: Will we trust God though perplexed? (3:1 to 42:6)
Job’s Lament: Job regrets his birth and longs for death (3:1-26).
The silence of Job’s friends is broken when Job laments his birth and expresses his longing to die. Job’s suffering brings him to a crisis of faith. He does not curse God, but he wants some answers.
The Dialogue Cycles: Job’s friends uphold the traditional wisdom that suffering is always the result of sin while Job affirms his innocence (4:1 to 27:23).
First Cycle: The three friends respond to Job’s suffering by urging his repentance from sin (4:1 to 14:22).
Second Cycle: The three friends rebuke Job for not admitting sin (15:1 to 21:34).
Third Cycle: Two of the friends reproach Job for his unwillingness to confess sin (22:1 to 27:23).
The three friends present three variations of the traditional wisdom that suffering results from personal sin. Job affirms his innocence while agreeing that God has afflicted him. But why God was doing it was beyond his comprehension. Two times he asks God “Why?” (7:20, 13:24).
Job’s Poem on Wisdom: The fear of God is the source of wisdom (28:1-28).
Job’s Appeal to God: Job seeks to have God justify His ways to him (29 to 31).
Job speaks to God like an attorney summarizing his arguments before a jury. He denies guilt and rests his case. God remains silent.
Elihu’s Four Speeches: Elihu defends God’s justice and sovereignty and calls for Job to humble himself before God (32 to 37).
Since the debate between Job and his friends-turned-critics stalemated and since God said nothing, a fifth person enters the scene. Elihu, a young bystander, unsatisfied with both sides of the debate, speaks up to defend God’s justice and sovereignty. He points out that God can use suffering to benefit people and suggests that Job humble himself before God. Elihu prepares the way for God to speak.
God’s Two Speeches and Job’s Replies: By displaying His power and wisdom, God shows Job his ignorance and elicits his repentance and trust (38:1 to 42:6).
At last Job’s plea that God answer him is granted. God’s response is not what Job had anticipated. Job wanted a legal hearing. But instead of answering Job’s charges, God asks Job questions. In more than 70 questions, none of which Job can answer, God interrogates Job regarding many aspects of creation.
What does God want from Job? Simply trust. If we like Job are so ignorant about the world we live in, who are we to sit in judgment of God’s government of the universe? Unless we are able to duplicate His feats, we have no grounds to sue God.
Rather than explaining the problem of evil or the role of suffering, God rebukes Job for challenging His ways. The divine confrontation is in two parts with Job’s response of humility following the first part, and his response of repentance and trust after the second part.
Job made his judgments on the basis of incomplete evidence, an insight that those of us in the audience had been given in the beginning of the book. Though we may not understand God’s doings, we should trust Him. Though puzzled, we should still praise God.
III. A Resolution in Time and Eternity: Is there an answer to suffering this side of heaven? (42:7-17)
God calls Job’s three friends to repentance. God commands them to have Job pray for them. His correction accomplished, God sets about restoring double all that Job had lost.
Job’s true crisis was a crisis of faith. Why does God permit, even encourage, such a test of faith? The opening chapters of Job reveal that God had much at stake in one man’s response. One person’s faith made a difference. That is a powerful lesson. Like Job, we live in ignorance of what is going on “behind the curtains.” Our choices of faith matter not just to us and our own destiny but, amazingly, to God Himself and the universe He rules (see Ephesians 3:1-13).
We can trust God even when explanations are missing. Our temporal limits keep us from having heaven’s perspective. Although we may not obtain the answers to our questions, we can trust and worship God.
Main Idea: God’s ways are sometimes incomprehensible, but we can always trust Him. Though puzzled, we should still praise God.
New Testament Correlation