Hidden Grace: A Commentary On Job

“Even if I were in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; If I were blameless, my mouth would declare me guilty.”

– Job 9:20[1]

 The Book of Job is a book that has always challenged my concept of God and understanding of The Bible in general. On the one hand, you have a man who is full of faith and love for God to the point that he would endure the loss of everything for Him. On the other hand, you have God agreeing to seemingly make a bet with a man’s life in the middle. I must admit that the idea of God accepting a challenge from Satan is a tad bit troubling. The book of Job has just as much relevance today as it had to the Jews far off in the past. The story must be embraced and shared just as The Bible should be shared in its’ entirety. Job represents the past, the present, and the future for every believer who dedicates their life to following God.

Dr. Charles Swindoll says the following of Job: “a better man never lived in his day. He was not only a good man, he was a godly man. He was not only a faithful husband, he was a loving and devoted father. He was a good employer […] Seemingly, senseless tragedy invaded the life of one who didn’t deserve it. And he and his wife were left to pick up the pieces.”[2]

 Job is not without its relevance to the time period it was written for. The Jews were in and out of exile. They were in and out of slavery and leadership. The Jews were lost in their ways at times and strong in their faith at others. The ancient Jews were a people who endured unspeakable terror and untold divinity. The Story of Job, for them, appears to be a story of encouragement. From my view, the Jews could have interpreted the story as saying that the trials they endured were simply tests of their faith by God. From this ideal, it is easy to see how quick they were to turn from God and pursue their own means of redemption and deliverance.

All believers can attest to times they have felt God is testing them. Believers tend to shun the idea that God would ever forsake them if they keep in His way and keep their faith. The idea of God deliberately placing obstacles in the way of a believer is a difficult concept to follow. Often, these perceived tests are explained as God strengthening the believer and their faith, and preparing them for something greater in their lives. Job is for the believers who feel that their prayers go unanswered at times. They feel like they have been stuck in a rut for days, weeks, months, and maybe even years at a time. Often times, the believer feels like they have lost everything and question whether their beliefs are even valid. Some even think that God has changed His plan for their life.

Michael Williams proposes the question: “can He know about our deepest longings, desires, horrid attitudes, and so on and then change His opinion about us?”[3] In theory, God could change His opinion of us at any time. But in religious tradition, God cannot change who He is or what His plan is. To do such a thing would cause God to become a contradiction. Every law and term for salvation would have to be written over again and those who adhere to the old standards would theoretically be denied salvation. To acknowledge this, one must acknowledge that God is constant throughout the Old Testament entirely. It must be acknowledged that even though we may interpret Job’s struggles as the product of a “wicked” God, it is still the same loving God that sought out the best for His followers.

The concept of feeling forsaken by God is nothing new to a believer. On the Cross Jesus Himself shouts “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”[4] in a direct word for word quote of Psalm 22:1. Peter Leithart suggests that God allows us to suffer to “suffer in him, with him, on our own  particular crosses, and thus come to share in his faith. In his abandonment, Jesus trusted his Father for rescue, and that hope was rewarded in the resurrection. In moments of persecution especially, we walk by faith not by sight, hoping against hope for a vindication that has not yet come.”[5] In other words, believers are called to suffer and be rejected just as God seemingly is by society. The approach makes sense and also presents a rally cry for believers everywhere. The New Testament touches on this concept fully when Jesus states: “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”[6]

Even the ancient Jews could relate to this call. God asked them to suffer, live, and die for Him and be granted salvation and deliverance. Such a notion is lost to us. Mankind often views itself as the centerpiece of the universe and the very top of the food chain. We view ourselves as the ultimate creation because Genesis says we were created in God’s very image. With that mindset comes the problem of ego. Often times, personal ego can cloud the mind of man to the point they can only see things from their own perspective. This leads to narrow minded presentations of opinion and inferred knowledge of the world in general. The call of man to lay everything down on the line for God is one that many cannot agree to. Life in this world is limited to one occurrence. Often times, people use that as a crutch and turn their religious beliefs into a balancing act. They spend their existence trying to juggle the idea of living for themselves while claiming to be living wholly for God. This is impossible.

Could this not be a central theme in Job? Job was challenged by Satan when he lost everything but his faith and reliance on God. When he questioned God, it was a presentation of man’s ego. God responds by saying “Where were you when I established the earth?”[7] He then leads into multiple examples of how vast and powerful He is. In this statement, God is reminding Job of how powerful He is and that His will should not be questioned. He challenges Job to view himself in relation to omnipotence and an everlasting God. God is reminding Job that his ego forbids him from seeing that God is with Him throughout his struggles and that the blame for Job’s struggles is on his faith alone.

This concept is very difficult to grasp at first, but consider it in simpler terms. Take a college student for example. They have had knowledge of an upcoming test for a month and have passed up studying for nights at nightclubs or parties at frat houses. Because of their decision, they fail the test and thus fail the course as well. The same holds true for a believer.  They make the decision to trust their lives to God, to sacrifice everything for their God, and to suffer for their God. Without the suffering a believer endures, there is no need for faith at all. Consider anyone can believe anything. I can believe that a dark sky at noon presents the possibility of rain. This requires no faith. Faith comes in when suffering comes in. Our egos are so large that it takes struggle to truly show us what faith really is.

One concept still seems confusing to most. Why would God make a deal with Satan? The answer is both simple and complex. God was so confident in Job’s allegiance to Him that He knew Satan’s wager would be a lost cause. Job’s character was certainly not representative of the time period it was written in. The Jews were certainly confused and felt abandoned at times. They were slaves in Egypt and stranded themselves in the wilderness time and time again. If God were to make this wager with a typical Jew in this time period, the results may have been very different.

The idea of God putting Job to the tests demonstrates Job’s genuine faith in God . But it also demonstrates the mercy and grace God offers man. His demonstration of mercy and grace towards us shows His concept of love in a very real way. Consider all the things we do to the planet outside of all the hurtful things we do to one another. We destroy our environments, kill off rainforests for factories, and contaminate the air with ridiculous amounts of pollution. We wage wars for monetary and political gain. We rob, cheat, and ridicule our neighbors and friends. We put possessions between our relationship with God and we turn away from Him time after time. God demonstrates His grace, mercy, and love by allowing the world to exist despite the environmental devastation we have caused. He demonstrates his mercy and love by forgiving us for when we turn away and helping us reconcile when we do another wrong.

Job was seemingly the manifestation of all the struggles Jews at that time faced. He is also the manifestation of the issues believers struggle with today. One could argue that God allowed Job to suffer to allow Job to represent what believers are called to do today. Perhaps Job was also allowed to suffer to show the believer that they are not alone. Imagine the Jews of the time period. Throughout their many struggles, they felt isolated, alone, and without hope. But God was still watching over them even when they turned away.  The same can be said when a believer suffers. They often forget that God is still watching and still there to console them.

If God were to not allow us to suffer, we could not possibly have free will. God is there to console us and help us through, but the suffering we endure is ours to conquer with Him. When Job’s friends began ridiculing him and offering counsel suggesting he was being punished or that God was not with him, Job was receiving counsel from the wrong source. In this instance, believers can find themselves. It is not entirely unfounded to believe that God speaks through others to us, but believers should devote their entire focus on God rather than others in times of struggle and turmoil.

Job’s faith was shaken, but ultimately remained with him despite almost giving up hope. The question a believer must ask themselves is whether they aspire to be as faithful as Job. Is it possible for any of us to remain as steadfast as Job seemingly was? Of course anything is possible, but The Bible is full of men who seem to live in ways a believer can only dream of. One might say that God purposely chose these men to set guidelines for how believers are to live out their lives. Of course a Christian can tell you that being as great as these men were is very difficult. While they were not perfect, they were true men of God. While they were flawed, they were true testaments to faith. Our inability to be anywhere close to where these men were may have been a driving factor in God’s plan through Jesus.

Grieving is a very difficult process for man to endure. Job certainly had his share of grieving throughout his struggle. As mentioned earlier, we cannot forget that God is present throughout the grieving a believer must endure. Robert Drinan writes of God stating: “On a recent flight I sat across from a man who for two hours cared for his restless and upset son. The father thought only of the child and tried to make him peaceful and happy. God acts that way to each of us all the time. God is the hound of heaven. He loves each of us as if we were the only person in the world. His love is abundant and abiding. Even though there are 6 billion human images of God in the world, God is personally and perpetually involved in the life of each of them.”[8]

Though a strictly theological approach, Drinan’s point is completely applicable. God’s relationship with each one of us is unique. Someone who was abused as a child and may not have a family unit finds a comfort and guidance to a wife and new start through God. A drug addict cleans their life up and recovers from their depression through God. A grieving widow finds rest for her teary eyes knowing that God has their loved one safe and without pain. The walks of believers are all different. The walks are at different points and different levels, but God is on that walk with each person individually. The same God that helped Job preserve his faith in tribulation enabled Noah to build an ark in the face of criticism. The same God that delivered Daniel from the lion’s den helped David defeat Goliath. While God was helping Job, God was helping the other Jews in their plights as well. How hard it is to wrap our minds around the idea that God is everywhere and can do anything.

Just how applicable is Job to your life? I suppose that depends on where you find yourself. Maybe you’re without a job and cannot figure out how to put food on the table for your family. Maybe you just got a new job after months of struggling to find one. Maybe you just lost a loved one, a friend, or an acquaintance. Whatever the case may be, there is a part of Job in all of us. Believers and non-believers alike can find a piece of their life in Job’s plight. We can all take away the universal truth that staying true to what we believe and putting our faith in a positive outcome is what living is all about.

Job’s story is also a reminder that we need God in our lives. We need God to help us strengthen our faith when we fall. We need God to console us when we are grieving. We need God to lead us and reveal to us what our unique purpose on this planet truly is. God truly used Job as a shining example of what faith in action is. Job could have never realized just how close God was to him if God had not revealed Himself to Job. God also reveals Himself to us in many ways. Through His mercy, grace, and will he reveals Himself to us. He reveals Himself to us through our church communities and through positive counseling. But most of all, God reveals Himself to us most when we are silent and listen.

What I take away from Job is that there was never and will never be a time in my life that God is not near me. I have come away with a better understanding of struggle and its relation to the preservation of faith. I can see how the Jews could relate Job to their lives and find comfort during their own struggles. I have gained a deeper understanding of what ego truly does to the human mind and how it blinds us to God and His work in our lives. Most of all, I have gained a better, but far from perfect understanding of just how far God’s love goes for us.

 “For you will forget your suffering, recalling it only as waters that have flowed by.”

– Job 11:16[9]

 


[1] Apologetics Study Bible For Students. Holman Christian Standard Bible. Ed. McDowell, Sean.

Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009.

[2] Swindoll, Charles R.: Job, A Man of Heroic Endurance. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson,

2004. p. 29

[3] Williams, Michael S. “The Book Of Job As A Reflection On The Practice Of Ministry.” Journal

Of Religious Thought 54/55.2/1 (1998): p. 5.

[4] Matthew 27:46

[5] Leithart, Peter J. “Forsaken, Not Shaken.” Touchstone: A Journal Of Mere Christianity 21.2

(2008): p. 5.

[6] John 15:13

[7] Job 38:4

[8] Drinan, Robert F. “Grieving, We Find Comfort And Wisdom In Awful Grace Of God.” National

Catholic Reporter 35.35 (1999): 19.

[9] Apologetics Study Bible For Students

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charlestinsley

My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. In particular, I post my thoughts, commentaries, and Bible Study teachings I have done. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor. I am currently studying for a Masters In Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary with PhD ambitions in the study of Theology. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

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