“I Survived Reading the Book of Job”, I’ve never seen a T-shirt with that phrase but often that’s how I feel each year as I read through the Bible.
Reading through the Bible this year, I have once again survived the book of Job. The book challenges my reading as God “corrects” the 3 friends and their theology. In many ways, they sum up what most believe about God. They state what the obvious should be, how most situations work, or in most case “rules of thumb” when it comes to understanding how the world works. One problem, they are proven wrong. Put God in a box, and the lid shuts tight usually either snapping at a finger or leaving you on the outside. Challenge is, what these 3 friends say take up a big chunk of the book of Job.
Then there’s Job’s responses. He begs, pleads, moans, ready to give up and die. Yet James speaks of the patience of Job. He is commended and blessed by God. His pain is overwhelming, his situation terrifying. None would want to relive what he experiences. In the end even in calling God out. He wisely and humbly repents. What I appreciate most about Job is no matter what, he never lets go of God. What challenges me in reading Job is his railing against his life and demand of justice from God. Perhaps because I realize I need God’s mercy more then His justice, though both are at work.
In reading the last chapters of Job for me, there is always a relief. Not just that the book is over, but that God again speaks. All the human actors in this drama have a theory of how God works, and none, even Job, grasp the full picture. Only God does. Only God still does.
God’s plans are bigger than our plans. God’s view of the world is bigger then our view. When I can fully understand God, then I am on dangerous ground, equal with God. In a world that’s lost its sense of wonder at times, this is dangerous territory.
Job throughout the book has pleaded for a hearing before God. Job wants to know why (don’t we all?). Yet God never answers why, He simply, powerfully, eloquently declares who He is. He is God, beyond Job in his day, and beyond us in our day.
Then comes the “blessing”, a blessing I learned to appreciate thanks to John Ortberg. I have read through Job 25-30 times, and never caught this. Perhaps I was relieved to get through Job one more time and move onto Psalms. But this time around, Ortberg gave me a gift. This time I not only survived Job, I learned something new in Job 42.
In many ways, God “doubles” Job’s blessings. We would say he is richer than before. Except he has the same number of children (10). (His poor wife!). Then here it comes, Job 42:14, “He named the first daughter Jemimah, the second Cassia, and the third Keren Happuch.”
The Old Testament typically focuses on the names of sons, not daughters. None of them are names I’d give my daughters. These three names are from a man who embraces the gift of life God gives and the beauty of creation. Jemimah is the name for a dove—a bird prized for its beauty. Keziah means cinnamon, a valuable spice. And the oddest one is Keren-happuch. Ortberg says it means, “horn of eye shadow.” Just call her Maybelline.
Even more incredibly, these 3 daughters are given an inheritance. Didn’t work that way in Job’s day, but Job’s box for God has its walls blown out. He is not the God limited by my box, but worshiped in His creation. Job not only survived. He learns how incredible God is. Job goes away without his question ever being answered but discovers God is the ultimate answer for any question Job could ask. Perhaps this is why Job is a favorite book of the Bible for those who suffer. God is greater then our suffering. He is present in our suffering. In Jesus He came and suffered in our behalf. And like Jesus, suffering is not the last word, life with God is.
This year through Job I not only survived, I also learned. What lessons is God teaching you that stretches your understanding of who He is and what He does?