Job had a problem: He was good and he knew it. In fact, he was known far and wide for being exceedingly rich, fair, merciful, and generous. That’s not usually considered a problem, which really is the problem. When our good becomes acceptable, God becomes insignificant. We were never meant to set the standard for excellence.
(If you don’t consider yourself to be a good person, then you can stop reading now. This isn’t for you. “Bad” people don’t have this problem.)
The book of Job is particularly important because it is very old and very well written. I agree with those who place it between Abraham and Moses. That would make it between the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad, which are filled with war, mythology, and crude conduct, both on the part of men and of gods. Although Job’s estate was pillaged by marauding bands, he and his friends were committed to a remarkably high level of morality, reminding us of the Code of Hammurabi, which was probably written close to the same time. Moreover, God’s integrity is impeccable in the book of Job, in sharp contrast to the mythological gods. In other words, the book of Job describes a moral civilization living in the midst of less moral civilizations.
Job’s story is not about suffering, as it seems at first, but about goodness, especially God’s goodness. The idea of suffering comes in because Job thinks he’s so good that it’s not fair for God to allow him to suffer. He wishes that he could find God and argue his case. Then God would realize that He made a mistake.
“Oh, that I knew where I might find him…
Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
No; he would pay attention to me.
There an upright man could argue with him,
And I would be acquitted forever by my judge.” (Job 23:3,6,7)
Job was aware of the concept of a Redeemer who will return to the earth in the Last Days and give him life after death.
“For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,” (Job 19:25,26)
This is an amazingly complex understanding of goodness for such an ancient document. According to what is written in this book, Job understood that sacrifices were somehow tied to a single person who would redeem him, or pay for his guiltiness, in order for him to be good enough to see God face to face. Like many of us, Job had a head knowledge of redemption, but he stubbornly resisted admitting his personal need. Although I don’t want to be guilty of projecting New Testament doctrine on the Old Testament, I find it hard not to see this as Job’s personal conversion experience.
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees you;
Therefore I despise myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5,6)
I don’t know if there is a better message in history of God’s goodness until the story of the New Testament Redeemer. Merry Christmas!