The Wisdom of Job
“Job answered the LORD and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted’” (vv. 1–2).- Job 42
In addition to Psalms and Proverbs, Job is also reckoned among the books that make up the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. This work provides critical insight into the nature of suffering and the sovereignty of God, and its instruction is vital for viewing our pain in a Lord-honoring manner.
The account of Job’s suffering was likely put into writing after his death, but the man Job was a historical person who lived sometime during the era of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (c. 2000 B.C.). As such, its account is one of the oldest stories recorded in the Bible.
Unlike the other Wisdom Books, Job includes sections written in the genre of historical narrative. These sections open and close the work, providing the context for the dialogue between Job and his friends that takes up most of the book. Chapters 1-2 introduce the book by telling us of Job, a righteous man of faith whose uprightness is well known in his day. We also get a window into heaven, as it were, in these chapters. The author pulls back the veil and describes the dialogue that takes place between Satan and God concerning Job. Satan claims that Job only believes because he is a man greatly blessed, a fairweather follower who will abandon his trust in the Lord if he loses his prosperity. God permits the devil to test Job’s faith by robbing him of his wealth, family, and health. Over the course of the rest of the story, Job proves Satan wrong. He does not abandon his faith but continues to seek the Lord, even revealing his hope for the resurrection of the dead (19:25-27).
Despite the persistence of his faith, Job does question God throughout the book, demanding to know why he, a righteous man, is suffering undeservedly. Job’s “friends” repeatedly tell him that he must be suffering because of personal sin, and though they say many true things about our Creator, they wrongly imply that suffering and sin always have a one-to-one correlation. In fact, the Lord never explains to Job why he has suffered. What He does do is answer Job out of the whirlwind to remind him of His sovereignty and that much of His will and purposes are inscrutable (chaps. 38-41).
Though that answer is not what Job was searching for, it is enough. He bows to God’s wisdom and admits that he does not fully comprehend the ways of God (chap. 42). All wise people rest finally in the sovereign goodness of the Lord.
Wise people maintain the distinction between Creator and creature, recognizing that there are some matters where God has chosen to remain silent. They respect the Lord’s decision and do not try to speak where He has not spoken. They trust in His sovereignty and goodness, believing that He will be faithful to all of His promises. May that be true of us, that we might be wise and trustworthy servants of God.
Passages for Further Study
1 Peter 3:14a