The book of Job is set in a faraway land called Uz. The author of Job is anonymous, and the time in which the book was written is unknown. The ambiguity of the book’s setting is intentional. Rather than focusing on the historical details of the story, the author invites the reader to focus on the story itself and the questions it raises.
At the beginning of the story, Job is introduced as a “blameless and upright” man who “feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job is also wealthy and successful. He has a large farm and many children.
Readers are then transported to the heavenly realms, where God’s angels, or messengers, present themselves before Him. Job 1:6 says, “and Satan also came with them.”
Here, Satan (the Hebrew word “Satan” means accuser or prosecutor) addresses God and His relationship with Job. The accuser wonders if Job only loves and obeys God because of his prosperity.
So, God allows the accuser to inflict suffering on Job.
After Job endures suffering (his livelihood, his children and his health are taken from him), the book goes into a long discourse between Job and his three “friends.”
For more than 28 chapters, Job goes back and forth with these friends, who try to offer Job advice or explanation as to why he is suffering.
Is God just? Does God run the universe on a black-and-white principle of justice? How can Job’s suffering be explained?
Though Job’s friends are seemingly well-meaning, they all make a fatal assumption: God always blesses good and wise people, and He always punishes evil and foolish people. Throughout this long discourse, Job goes back and forth, trying to reconcile his suffering with God’s justice.
Finally, Job takes up his case with God and demands that God show Himself to him (Job 31:35).
So God intervenes.
For several chapters, God takes Job on a virtual tour of the universe. He explains the smallest of details about weather, plants and animals, as well as the grandness of His creation in the form of two mighty creatures the world has never seen.
God reminds Job that running the universe is a lot more complex than he could ever imagine. God is able to see all of it and control all of it, but Job can only see a little and has even less control.
God ends His response to Job by asking if he would like to run the world for a day. Job responds in repentance for his pride.
God honors Job’s struggle, his honesty and his willingness to come to God in prayer.
The book ends with a generous gift from God. Job’s family and wealth are restored to him, not because Job is a good person, but because God is a good God who gives graciously.
Grief: In the wake of his suffering, Job endures all of the stages of grief. The book reminds the reader of the reality and complexity of grief, but it also reminds us that God meets us in the midst of suffering and grief.
Human perspective vs. Godly perspective: The purpose of Job is to explain the difference in human perspective and Godly perspective. The book explores several schools of human thought on the purpose of suffering. But ultimately, God shows Job what the world looks like from His perspective, which is infinitely wider than his.
Job 1:1: “In the land of Uz there lived a man named Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”
Job 42:1-6: “Then Job replied to the Lord: ‘I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’”
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
Job explores the difficult question of God’s relationship to human suffering and invites us to trust God’s wisdom and character.
In this life, all will face suffering and hardship. When we search for reasons behind suffering, we tend to either simplify God, like Job’s friends, or accuse God based on limited evidence like Job—neither of which draws us closer to Him.
But when we honestly bring our pain and grief to God, and trust that He cares for and knows exactly what He is doing in this complex universe, we grow closer to Him and our faith is strengthened.