I came across a quiz today on someone's blog. The blogger is a well-known pastor. The quiz was actually an exam that they set for anyone who is being considered for the office of elder or deacon. Now, leaving aside the fact that this seems to be adding a qualification to he ones listed in the Pastoral epistles, I want to consider one of the questions. It asked the candidates to match up a book of the Bible with a popular “error”, to find out if the candidate knew which books to turn to. There were several of these “errors” and several Bible books, each to be used only once. So, by elimination, the error “Good people don't suffer” had to be matched with the book of Job.
Now that matching is probably correct. Job certainly has information about suffering. However, the implication was that this is the primary focus of the book of Job. Now, this may be a controversial point, but I do not believe that suffering is the primary focus of the book of Job. The primary focus of the book, in my opinion, is Spiritual Warfare.
The first thing we learn about Job is that he was “blameless and upright”. We are not told that he was “sinless”. even the KJV use of the word “perfect” does not imply sinless perfection as we would understand it today. He was blameless, because he was redeemed, and trusted in God, and he was upright, because he tried to follow God's commands. Therefore there was justification (blameless) and sanctification (upright). Nevertheless, there were faults in his life, even before the troubles that befell him.
Something odd happens at the beginning of the book of Job. There is a conversation between Satan and the Lord. This conversation is frequently used by preachers to illustrate facts about Satan in topical sermons on the subject of the Devil. but the rest of the book of Job is rarely interpreted in the light of this conversation. God has given Satan leave to touch Job's life. The subsequent conversations between Job and his first thee friends ought to be interpreted in the light of this conversation – yet this heavenly dimension is rarely mentioned again, once preachers have started to expound Job 3 onwards. In fact, it is my contention that Job's conversation reveals areas of his life, where he has allowed Satan to get a foothold. These areas are instructive to us.
1. Job offered sacrifices on behalf of his (adult) children. He was sure they had sinned. He was almost certainly correct. These parties that they were having in Job 1 have all the hallmarks of orgies. but why was Job offering sacrifices? What good would such sacrifices do, if the young people themselves were not convicted of their sins? as parents of adult children, there comes a point where we are still responsible to pray for them, but not responsible for their actions or sins. If Job wanted to be effective, he could have spoken to the young people, and pleaded with them to repent. His continual offering of sacrifices was a vain ritual, and by this “panic” action, he allowed Satan a foothold. It is not our job to become “Holy Spirit Junior”, in order to try to rescue those we love, by means other than the Gospel. such an attempt to rescue by our efforts really amounts to a form of incantation. Job's sacrifices were really a form of superstition.
2. Job was controlled by fear. He was clearly fearful of what would happen to his children. In Job 3:25, he confesses that what has happened is what he had always feared would happen. Why has Job wasted time fearing the disaster? Did this open a gateway for Satan to come in and accomplish what Job had feared? It is possible that Satan learned of what Job feared, through this entry point, and therefore carried out actions which would fulfill this self-fulfilling prophecy. Fear of consequences is an entry point for Satan into our lives. We speak of what we fear, and Satan can make it come to pass.
3. Job despises the good things God has given. God gave him life, and caused him to be born. It is understandable that Job feels crushed by his suffering, but that is not a justification for cursing the day he was born. (Job 3:1)
4. Job wishes for God to crush him. This is an ungodly vow.We should not make such pronouncements on ourselves. such pronouncements are dangerous. Once again, Satan is able to fulfill such vows for us.
5. Job forgets the promises made to him. He trusts in God, because God is his Redeemer (Job 19). Yet, in chapter 9, Job states that there is no mediator. This is an opinion directly contradicted by the prophet Elihu in Job 33. And, when God later reminds job of the creation, it is clear that job should have remembered about the proto-gospel preached in Genesis 3:15.
6. Job allows entry to Satan by reflecting on his own goodness. When accused of terrible sin by his “friends”, he should have responded by acknowledging that he was a great sinner who had a great Savior! Instead, he pleads his own righteousness (Job 12:3 – “I am not inferior to you”). In case you think he could not have such knowledge in Old Testament times, remember that it is in the Old Testament that we read that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
These are just a few of the examples, where we should interpret Job's conversations in the light of the spiritual conversation in heaven, between the Lord and Satan.
The Spiritual Warfare of the book of Job caused Job to suffer. So there is a lot we should learn about suffering in this book. But the primary focus should be on the Spiritual Warfare. I believe that is what the book is about.