The Story of Job

The story of Job has fascinated students of the Bible for a very long time. In fact, many people think that the book of Job may have been one of the very first books from the Old Testament actually written down and not just told as an oral story. But regardless of when it was actually written down, this book and this story have captured the attention of readers for a long time. I think that has to do with the fact that it basically asks one of the single most difficult questions we have ever asked a human species: Why does evil exist? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God when things go so wrong?

In case you aren’t familiar with the story of Job, here are some of the highlights:

  • Job is one of the most righteous people of his generation.
  • Job is a shrewd rancher and businessman with lots of cattle, hired help, and children too.
  • Satan (presented in this story as a member of God’s throne room–perhaps better translated in this story as “The Accuser”) does not believe that good people will remain good if bad things happen to them. Satan challenges God by saying that Job will curse God if his wealth and good standing are taken away from him.
  • God accepts this proposal from Satan, and allows Satan to take everything from Job and eventually to attack his health too.
  • Through all of this, Job does not turn his back on God. Job remains faithful and righteous.

As the story continues on, Job begins to wrestle with the question that we began to ask a moment ago–Where is God when bad things happen? Why doesn’t God intervene and prevent evil? How could a good God be good when there is so much pain and devastation in the world?

And for the last 40 chapters approximately, Job, his friends, and God have a robust conversation with one another trying to figure out exactly what the answer to these questions is. (For those who are invested in that answer, the book ends without a giving a satisfactory response other than to say that God is the Creator and Sustainer of this world and God remains Sovereign even through all the bad things that take place in the world. Maybe that response ought to be more satisfactory to us than we normally think it is or isn’t.)

So, where does Hope play into this story about Job? There is, as is usual, much that could be said about this, and more than I will take the time to write about today. However, for just a moment, I will ask you to reflect with me on this: For Job, Hope becomes more important or necessary in his life when he has less. 

At the beginning of the story, Job is not a bad guy. In fact, he is described as the “greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3). But, Job has no need for Hope at that point in his story. He is righteous and just, but he has no need for Hope for something because he already has everything! It is only when his possessions, his children, and his own health and well-being are taken away that Hope ever needs to enter the picture. 

And this is true in broader and more general terms too, even today. We can very easily fool ourselves–when we have it all or when life is going well–that we don’t need God. Or that we don’t need Hope, specifically Christian Hope. We can become so easily distracted by our things or by our desires and wants that we miss out on what Job comes to learn. He needs Hope! We need Hope! Our world needs Hope!

When Jesus begins his ministry, he spends a lot of time with the “wrong” kind of people. It is tax collectors and sinners, women, diseased people, the poor, etc. It is exactly the kind of people who need Hope. They don’t have something to distract them from their desire to see the world become more in tune with God’s intentions like Job does at the beginning of this story. They want Hope because they know what Job learns–bad things do happen to good people. Evil does exist in the world. Life is full of pain and heartache. 

But, Hope promises something different, something more. Hope promises (God promises) that what is now is not what God wills. There is something better out there. There is reason to Hope. God’s Kingdom is breaking into this world, and one day all will be set to rights. Injustice will be no more. Pain and death will be done away with. Sins, both individual and collective, will be forgiven, and our wounds will be healed. 

So, this week, I ask you to put on a lens of less. See the world through the eyes of those who have less so that you can see and desire more of this Hope.