Gordon E. Johnson

DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job


A Bird's Eye view of Job

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute

In my life long ministry with the Rio Grande Bible Institute, God's deeper dealings with His servant Job have been a challenge to my spiritual life and a source of strength in weakness.  The theme of Job, as an inspired book, towers over the Old Testament canon with a distinct moral paradigm. The Hebrew canon consists of the Law, the Prophets to be read officially in the synagogue and the Writings: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, etc. which were for private meditation and wisdom.

Job is a classic of Hebrew prose and poetry, but more importantly it unveils to the believer of any age the availability of the Triune God through suffering which He permits and controls. The book of Job responds to the most basic ethical questions and concerns of mankind, the perennial theme of suffering. The book of Job deals with ethical values but is firmly grounded in the truths of faith and in the sacrifice of the coming Messiah. It is not suffering per se, but suffering under the hand of God introducing the believer into the throne room of the All Mighty, El Shaddai. 

Because of the length of the book, 42 chapters, I cannot attempt a verse by verse treatment. Let me sketch out the framework of the book of Job. [You may want to refer to this frame work often]

1.     The prologue (Job 1, 2) sets the stage and establishes the identity of Job, the heavenly scene, the interaction with Satan, the adversary, the sudden simultaneous loss of his fortunes and family and Job's initial amazing response. Then follows the second devastating loss of health and the love of his wife and a still more amazing acceptance of God's blows with heart resignation.

2.     The arrival of the three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar and a full week of astonishment and silence.  The "pot" simmers and will soon boil over!

3.     Job opens his mouth to lament his having ever been born. This is the epitome of human anguish and sorrow (Job 3).

4.     The three cycles of interaction are recorded between his friends and Job's more verbose

response to his friends; the dialogue often reflects human reasoning which is good at times, but more often not at all relevant to Job's spiritual struggle  (Job 4-26).

Let me trace the gradual emergence of New Testament truths in the crucible of suffering. This remarkable emergence is a definite proof of the value of suffering.

Job's reaches the nadir of his despair in Job 9:22-24. But he ends with a glimmer of hope. *** "Neither is there a daysman betwixt us, that might lay his land upon us both" Job. 9:33. This urgent need is a foreshadowing of the incarnation. "God manifested in the flesh" 1 Timothy  3:16.

A resurgence of hope follows more suffering in Job 13:15. *** "Though He slay me yet will I trust him but . . . ."  Note the strength and determination of God's grace in Job.

An additional hope springs eternal. *** "If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard time I will wait, till my change comes" Job 14:14. Man, created in God's image, has an insatiable desire for a future with a divine purpose.

Still another glimpse of hope. *** "Also now, behold my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high" Job 16:19. Suffering under His hand has created a confidence in the ultimate personal reality.

A final assurance of faith. ***"For I know that my redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself and my eyes shall behold, and not another.19: 25-27.This statement is the concise expression of divine control and Job's  ultimate satisfaction in seeing God. Do you trace the progress in this continuum?

5.     Job begins a long discourse on a variety of themes (Job 26 -31). However, he begins to justify himself. In doing so, he reveals an amazing knowledge of nature in his day. In Job 29 Job is recalling the pleasant past with 50 references to himself; in Job 30 there are 61 references and in Job 31, he adds another 84 references for an estimate of 195 references to "I, me and mine." Without realizing it, he reveals his inward pride and hidden self-righteousness for what they are worth to him, but not to God.

6.     Elihu, a younger man introduced into Job's equation, begins his advice, some quite appropriate and others off target, but he does better than the three friends, at least on balance (Job 32-37).

7.     God now answers Job in two rounds of 60 questions exclusively taken from the physical world (Job 38-42:6). Job cannot respond, let alone even answer one!  Job is devastated and broken before El Shaddai. First he sees himself as vile and covers his mouth Job 40:4, 5. After the second round of humbling, he abhors himself and repents in dust and ashes. Job 42:6. Suffering under God's hand has reached its goal-- reduce Job and exalt God's righteousness.

8.     Epilogue (Job. 42:7-17) God turns the captivity of Job when he prays for his friends. He receives a double portion as proof of his new knowledge of himself in God's holy presence.  Job's new standing before God is now in true holiness and humility. The original enigma is resolved for any age to grasp. We were chosen in Him to be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4) and through suffering and believing the Message of the Cross we stand before Him holy and humble.

With this overview of Job's lot, listen to James' challenge to us who face a variety of trials "My brethren count it all joy when you fall into various trials. Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord" (James 1:2-7).

James concludes his epistle with these words of commendation: "Indeed we count them blessed who endure [suffer]. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and have seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful" (James 5:11). Suffering under His mighty hand, the ordained "how" of victory, brings ultimate glory to the Worthy One. 

The Background of Job and His Day

The unknown writer states all that we know about the protagonist of the book: "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil"[1]  While we know relatively little about Job as a historical person, we can be assured that he lived; the Bible testifies to that fact. Ezekiel was gauging the evil in his day and makes a startling comparison: "Even though Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, as I live," says the Lord God, ‘They would deliver neither their son nor daughter; they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness'" (Ezekiel 14: 20). James concludes with the example of Job (James 5:11).

Hebrew culture and literature deal only in the historicity of life, not in the mythical and the legends of the past. On the contrary, the book of Job addresses the essence of a believer's relationship to God in any epoch illustrated by the life of a single Gentile from an unknown era whose faith in God accords fully with what the Old Testament consistently teaches.

The consensus of scholars is that Job may date from Abraham's day through whom God launched the Abrahamic Covenant of the Messiah. Job would have known God through the Oral Tradition which is a recognized source for the preservation of the early accounts of creation recorded faithfully in the Old Testament canon.

Such historical truth known to Job would have been: the fall of Adam, God's clothing of our parents with tunics of skin (Genesis 1:21) thus symbolizing the covering of their sin and hence forgiveness, along with Abel's sacrifice. Job may have known of Enoch's prophecies (Jude 14,15), his walk with God and his translation and possibly of Noah's having found grace in the eyes of  the Lord, and his offering of clean animals (Genesis 8:29).

Job may well have been a contemporary of Melchizedek, king of Salem who blessed Abraham, the greater blesses the lesser, and to whom Abram gave tithes (Genesis14:18). The most telling argument for an early date is that there is no reference at all to any of the multitude of Mosaic rules of worship and sacrifice. Such an absence demands an earlier era.

In addition, I have always been intrigued with the thought of there having been many true believers among the Gentiles, such as Melchizedek, who also received the truth through the Oral Tradition. The book of Hebrews vouches for the reality and role of Melchizedek, making him a type of Christ, the eternal King Priest (Hebrews 5:5, 6).

Heaven will reveal how God has been known among the Gentiles. Our Bible does give us a trustworthy historical background of the lineage of the Messiah through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It does not purport to reveal all that God may have done by His truth revealed to such as Melchizedek and others. Heaven will surprise us!

Prologue  Job 1:1-12

The Prologue establishes once and for all and in the very words of God Himself "that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil" (1:1). God's evaluation here and restated later to Satan himself "there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil" (2:3) establishes the reality of Job's faith. Such a peerless testimony by God ends all doubt of Job's genuine knowledge of God.

Regardless of what may transpire in the rest of the book, this is our firm point of departure. Job was, by no means a perfect man; the dialogues with his friend reveal areas of self-righteousness unknown to Job. These were the very areas that God was probing and would transform. 

"Job was whole-hearted and sincere in his loyalty to God. He was not of double heart (a heart and a heart) . . . as in 1 Chronicles 12:33 seeking to serve two masters, God and himself."[2] His holy fear of Lord put Job in the full context of the Old Testament.  His shunning of sin reveals a transformed heart, yet to be further purified through sufferings.

God added His blessing by giving to Job seven sons and three daughters, a full quiver (Psalm 127:5). In Old Testament times wealth  was measured in cattle and possessions. Job had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys and a very large household, "so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East" (vs. 2,3).

The Scene in Heaven   A New Dynamic    Job 1:6-22

The reader is not prepared for what follows. The sudden insight into Job's suffering about to be unveiled forever changes our understanding of suffering. Suffering is not a half-hearted  collusion of fate or chance.  For the believer, suffering has an eternal purpose and a divine control; the book of Job will change forever our outlook and "in-look" on suffering.

"Now there was a day when the sons of God [angels] came to present themselves before the LORD and Satan [adversary] also came among them" (v. 6). What follows astonishes us. The LORD questions His adversary as to his purpose on earth. "From where do you come?" (v.7)This response was his restless search to accuse and destroy God's work on earth. To our amazement the LORD clearly raises the case of Job with the adversary: "Have you considered My servant Job . . .?" Another rendering is: "have you set your heart on Job?"

The LORD takes the initiative and challenges Satan with reference to Job's faith and God's grace.  In so doing God Himself is putting His power, person and grace on the line. Job will become a test case in which God wins or "loses."  We are staggered by God's willingness to let Job be yet another proof to Satan of His power and grace!

The adversary curtly responds with sheer cynicism saying in effect: "You have him in your pocket; you bought him with all that he has." Satan, then, throws down the gauntlet to God: "But now stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (v.11). The battle has been joined! 

This encounter of the LORD and Satan with respect to Job puts suffering in a totally different perspective. Paul later says: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against power, against the rulers of this darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). 

However, we must not fear the adversary because he is a defeated foe. Satan is seen in the opening two chapters but is not glimpsed in the rest of the book. El Shaddai gives His permission to Satan but within strict limits of temptation ; He alone will ultimately transform Job's heart. God prescribes what will lead to the triumph of His grace in His son. The victory without question is the grace of God operating in a mortal believer. Suffering, then, is never pointless or nonproductive in God's hand.

The LORD had made the initial suggestion: "Have you considered My servant Job . . . "? He testifies to His grace in Job. Satan rejoins the encounter with a brashness and cynicism to which the Lord responds with: "So the LORD said to Satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your power: only do not lay a hand on his person (v.12).

Then ominously "Satan went out from the presence of the LORD" (v.12).

[1] A few references will be from the King James Version: Rev. C. I. Scofield  Oxford University Press 1945.  The majority will be from the New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983.

[2] Mrs. Jesse-Penn Lewis, The Story of Job, A Glimpse Into the Mystery of Suffering (Bournemouth: the Overcomers Book Room), 1903, p.11.   I am greatly indebted to the prolific writings of Mrs. Jesse-Lewis (1861-1927) who was an English Keswich speaker and Bible teacher. She was very influential in the Welsh revival along with Evan Roberts (1905) and had a fruitful ministry in Russia, Scandinavia, Canada and USA. Her theme was the Biblical exposition and application of our death to sin and our union with Christ as presented in Romans 6. Her life and teachings have informed my heart and thinking since my adolescence. I highly recommend her writings.