I find the book of Job to be very fascinating. Yet, I have found that as straight forward as the story line is, the lessons to take away can be somewhat elusive. Elusive may be the wrong word. Perhaps a better way to put it is that there seems to be many layers to truly understanding this book. However you want to describe it, each time I read it I strive to understand the book in a new way. This year it has happened that my reading of Job has coincided with a reading of “The End for Which God Created the World” by Jonathan Edwards. This has been a very helpful combination for it has opened my eyes to a whole new level of understanding in regards to what is going on in Job.
In his book Edwards goes to great lengths to demonstrate that the ultimate (or chief) end of life is to glorify God. Consequently, everything God does and everything He desires that we do revolves around that end. As I have dwelt on this mindset, I have found that this concept essentially unlocks a deeper understanding of the book of Job. Before I go any further, let me qualify the concept of glorifying God. Put simply, the ultimate end of all existence is to to know, understand, and react to the majesty of our Heavenly Father. Even more simply, it is the honoring of God through a state of worship.
So, as the book opens we find a man that is truly living in a state of worship, a fact which bothers Satan immensely. Therefore, we see that Satan devotes himself to upsetting this worship. Although it takes him a few tries, it appears that he eventually succeeds in his efforts. Yet, as Joseph said in the book of Genesis, what Satan intended for evil God intended for good.
So it happened, that through intense life turmoil Satan upset Job’s state of worship. Adding to the frustration, three of his friends exasperated him further with their antagonistic words of advice. Now, while everything thus far is fairly strait forward, it is the following conversations with his friends that seem to be the most difficult to tease out. After all, each of the arguments contain some truth and some error. In my past readings, my understanding has been limited to the fact that the three friends had a faulty theology which assumed that all suffering was a result of specific sins, coupled with a lack of sympathy for how the suffering was affecting Job’s feelings and words. However, in light of Edwards book I see now that there is more there.
The questions I have always asked are what would have been the appropriate response to Job? What aspect of there response was most upsetting to God? Was the biggest problem the lack of sympathy? Perhaps, it was that they didn’t believe their friend in his proclamation of innocence. I’m sure that these were all a part of the problem. But, I believe there was something deeper as well. You see, all three of his friends fancied themselves theologians of sorts, yet not one of them understood the ultimate purpose of theology. As Edwards points out, the ultimate purpose for an understanding of God is to worship Him. While each one of them had some understandings of God, not one of there responses was insightful enough to bring Job back into his former state of worship. On the contrary, there responses seemed more aimed towards tearing him down. As I have looked at the book in that light, I have been stunned by just how perfect God’s response was. It was God’s response that returned Job to an even higher state of worship than which he started.
Now that I am looking at Job in this new light, I see a whole new series of questions. Are we honoring God in all that we do? When we study about God, are we merely satisfying our curiosity about Him or are we drawing into a state of awe and wonder? Are we seeking to bring others into a state of worship as well? My prayer is that we would live our life wholeheartedly for His Glory!