Not covered in our reading plan: Job 3-37
Last week we started reading the book of Job. We saw the accuser question Job’s motives for honoring God, and God allows Job to suddenly lose his possessions, his family, and his health.
Next come 36 dense, poetic chapters not included in our reading plan. First, Job begins to express his grief as he curses the day he was born. Then Job and his three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar begin an extensive back-and-forth discussion. Their exchanges focus on three main questions:
Is God just?
Does God run things based completely on their notion of justice?
How can they explain why Job has lost everything?
As they dialogue, Job and his friends automatically assume that they know what God’s justice should look like. They all believe that everything in the universe should work based off of what some call the “strict principle of justice.” In other words, if you are good and honor God, He will reward you, and if you are evil and sin, God will punish you by having bad things happen to you. All of them take for granted that this is how God chooses to run the universe—be good and get rewarded or be bad and get punished.
As Job speaks, he vehemently argues that he is innocent and so his suffering cannot be a punishment from God. Either God doesn’t run the world according to justice, or maybe God himself is unjust!
His three friends have the exact opposite point of view. They believe that God is just, meaning (to them) that He runs the world according to this strict principle of justice, and therefore Job must have sinned. They even start making up sins he might have committed!
Job calls his friends windbags and worthless counselors. He ends up giving up on them and eventually takes his case directly to God. We see Job on an emotional roller coaster as he cries out to God. He used to be confident that God is just, but now he is having a hard time reconciling that with the fact that he is suffering. Check out his emotional outbursts–for instance, he accuses God of being a bully (16:9), and even wonders if God is directly responsible for all the injustice in the world (9:22). But as soon as he speaks that thought, he is petrified, for he deeply wants to believe that God is completely just.
Take a look at chapter 28 where, in a change of tone, Job talks about how impossible it is for humans to find wisdom. God alone knows where wisdom may be found, Job concludes.
In chapters 29-31, Job makes one final statement of his case. He continues to maintain that he is innocent and demands that God explain why he is suffering. In 31:35 he cries, “I sign my defense; let the Almighty answer me.”
Suddenly a surprise friend, Elihu, appears on the scene. This younger friend is angry at Job for declaring himself to be in the right rather than God. He’s also angry at the other three friends for declaring Job to be guilty without a shred of evidence. He offers a more nuanced explanation of Job’s suffering: maybe God lets us suffer as a warning to avoid future sin and to build character.
Finally, dramatically, God shows up in a whirlwind. He defends himself against Job’s accusation of being unjust in some surprising ways. Start in chapter 38 to read God’s amazing virtual tour of the universe and the other unexpected ways He replies to Job and his friends.
As you read this book of Scripture, here are some questions for you to ponder, to journal about, or to discuss with your D-group:
Does the book ever answer the question of why good people suffer?
What do we learn about the character of God from the book of Job?
Is God just?
What does Job do right and what does he do wrong?
What can we learn about how to respond to God in times of suffering?
Do we humans have the capacity to understand God’s wisdom?
Some scholars feel the biggest theme of this book is to trust God and his wisdom; what do you think?
For an insightful 11-minute overview of the entire book of Job, check out The Bible Project’s video here.
Not covered in our reading plan: Genesis 13-14
After Pharaoh sends Abram and his mobile village away from Egypt, they wander around Canaan. Because both Abram and Lot have numerous flocks and herds and tents, it soon becomes obvious that the land cannot sustain them both. Even their herdsmen begin to quarrel. Abram suggests they part company and generously offers Lot first choice of which land to inhabit. Lot chooses the east plains, towards the city of Sodom. After Lot departs, God promises again to Abram that He will give him all the land he can see in any direction and that his offspring will be as countless as the dust of the earth.
Next, as the region is engulfed in war between cities (city-states?), Lot and his family are captured. Abram springs into action and rescues Lot and all his clan. Following this rescue, Abram meets with Melchizedek, who is both a king (of Salem) and a priest (of God Most High), an unusual combination. He offers a blessing upon Abram and Abram gives him a tenth of his possessions. Stay tuned to read about Melchizedek again in the fall, when the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is a “high priest (forever) in the order of Melchizedek,” for Jesus is the ultimate priest-king!
Written by: Jennifer Harris
Photo Credit: Jeremy Thomas