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On Job

by Caleb Lin


Foreword My eldest son Caleb has had two seasons of Job-like experiences in his young life, so the book of Job has been a topic of discussion between us on and off. I also know that after he emerged successfully from each season with a greater ability to love the unlovable, Caleb has been doing a lot of thinking on this subject of suffering and justice. This latest piece of writing on his musings on Job has both touched and impressed me deeply. May it bless you as much as it did me.


December 11, 2022


I just finished reading Job, finally, and did some research afterwards because I was still confused about the purpose of Job. Indeed, Job proceeded mostly as I remembered it - Job pleads his innocence, his friends berate and accuse him, and ultimately God shows up and says, “who do you think you are?”. Apparently the prose section after God shows up, where Job is vindicated and blessed, is potentially tacked on later, and it is analyzing Job without his vindication that perhaps brings the most insight.


A few details that popped out to me this time that did not before:

  1. Job’s friends reiterate over and over that God is perfectly just, and the evil are always judged with calamity while the righteous are always blessed, so therefore Job must be wicked. This is reminiscent of the Jewish mindset post-exile and the tone of 1/2 Kings, where the kings were judged as doing either right or wrong in the eyes of the lord, almost always correlating with the success of their kingdom. The fall of Israel in the end is blamed on idol worship and a lack of piety to God.

  2. God actually says in the last chapter that what Job said about him is accurate, while what his friends said is false. This means that we should reinspect Job’s statements about God - indeed, God does not always bless the righteous and punish the wicked. Does that mean that God is laissez faire when it comes to humanity?

  3. The power of leviathan is an important part of God’s argument to convey how incomprehensibly powerful God is.

  4. There is an important differentiation between the wisdom of God and the justice of God. The two are perhaps overly-conflated in Jewish culture, but Job seeks to delineate the difference between the two, and show that God’s wisdom is truly unknowable, and thus we cannot understand his justice.

After reading some analysis and thinking about what I’ve read in the NLT version, there are a couple important takeaways:

Job’s place in Jewish Canon Job is an important book in the Jewish canon to establish that suffering is not equivalent with judgement, and it is important to continue to seek God amidst suffering, because it does not mean that you have been cast from his presence necessarily.


Relationship with God is the Ultimate Reward Job stresses the importance of relationship with God over the blessings of God. The purpose of life is relationship with God, not happiness or material gain or blessing, and thus it should not matter whether we suffer or prosper, so long as we get to experience God.

This becomes more apparent if you read Job without the final prose section where he is blessed. This makes it more clear that the true culmination of Job is Job’s encounter with God, perhaps in a more powerful way than any human except Moses has had the privilege of doing up until this point. If Job had lived his whole life in blessing, he never would have gotten to meet God, and that is the ultimate blessing.

Crucially, Job must seek God diligently through suffering and cry out over a period of time before God appears to him. This shows that there will be times when God hides himself from us, but it is during those times that we must seek after him all the more - and it’s ok to argue with God and get mad at him! What matters is that like Job, we must continue to trust in God’s wisdom and justice, and demand that he meets us in our suffering.


Suffering is a Core Part of Our Experience of God Job paves the way for Jesus’ suffering, and thus the New Testament theology that continually reiterates that suffering and persecution are not holy judgement, but part of God’s plan. Paul tells us in the book of James to consider trials to be pure joy, as the testing of our faith develops perseverance. And perseverance is what helps us to endure our trials more like Paul (with joy), and less like Job (with complaining and indignation). But it is only possible to consider suffering to be joy if we are able to change our paradigm to see that the purpose of life is not happiness, but relationship with God.


God’s Justice is Not about Prosperity, but Closeness with Him Ancient Jewish thinking was that true justice means that the evil are punish and the righteous prosper. But Job presents a different paradigm - God’s true justice is this: the evil are cast from God’s presence, while the righteous get to see God. That is why bad things can happen to good people, because God does not see life as a dichotomy of Good and Evil, but rather as one of closeness vs separation with himself.

That is why Job begins with Satan’s accusation: God’s people only love him because he blesses them. Satan is literally playing devil’s advocate here and saying that a system where the righteous are blessed doesn’t make sense in God’s framework, where the goal is framed as the worship of God by Satan (but we can interpret this as closeness with God).

As a result, the reward for a righteous life isn’t prosperity, but that upon death, that person gets to be with God for eternity, while the wicked are cast from his presence. This framework makes the Bible holistically logically sound, and gives reasoning behind why judgement just occur after death, and why the judgement for our lives is heaven (with God) or hell (away from God).

And so, as long as we view life using prosperity vs suffering as our primary razor for the quality of our lives, we will always miss the bigger picture of what God is trying to accomplish in our lives. Of course, God knows this, and so oftentimes he will still bless us to help us draw closer to him, but it in suffering that we truly get to know God in a deeper way, and in overcoming adversity, grow our trust in him.

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