Tag Archives: Book of Job

Finding Christ in Job

 

Having looked at some keys to interpreting the Book of Job in it’s context, it would be irresponsible to leave our studies without addressing its foundational impact on the New Testament, but more specifically how this book anticipates the coming of Christ and informs our understanding of His person and work.  Often, Luke 24:25-27;44-47 has been cited as a principal for how we should allow the Old Testament to inform our understanding of Christ.   In applying this, we must also allow the New Testament to guide our understanding of the Old Testament.  A simple way to view this relationship is the familiar phrase of Augustine, “The New  is in the Old concealed.  The Old is in the New revealed.”  Another way to consider this is that while the Old is foundational to the New, the New is the fulfillment of the Old.  Divorcing this relationship has historically led to a myriad of interpretive difficulties.

There are a few general ways in which this relationship between Old and New Testaments have traditionally been understood, which we’ll mention below, but most importantly we must understand that all of Scripture, its 66 books, is divinely inspired, meaning that above all it has one central Author, the Almighty God, and that His revelation of Himself is perfectly consistent from book to book, human author to human author (1 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21).

A few of the ways in which the Old and New relate to each other are by way of

  1. Direct quotations of the Old in the New
  2. Echoes, how one may see one book or passage resonating with another
  3. Allusions, a passing references of one passage seen in another that may or may not be fleshed out in its original context
  4. Types, a relationship of lesser to greater between people, places, events or institutions (type–>antitype)

Examples of each abound in Job, as in the rest of the Old Testament, while we could certainly spend time examining each of these ways in which Scripture uses, relates, and interprets itself, our focus here will be on how Job himself is a major typological contributor to understanding the person and work of Jesus Christ.  A clear, implicit example of a type/antitype relationship is found in Romans 5:14 as it describes Adam/Christ,

“Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”

Here we see that Adam is called a type of Christ, who appears as the second , albeit greater, Adam.  Returning to Job, in a sense, he lays for us the foundation of how to understand the justice, goodness, and certainly the freedom of God in afflicting the righteous, which culminates in the sin-bearing, wrath-absorbing death of His Son Jesus Christ, by means of a typological relationship with Christ, Job as the type, Christ as the antitype.  He does so in numerous ways, but chief among them is the pattern of a suffering servant, which Christ supersedes as the Suffering Servant.  The type/antitype relationship may be seen in the following summary observations from Job:

  1. The Righteousness of Job
  2. The Priestly character of Job
  3. The Pleasure of God
  4. The Temptation from Satan
  5. The Loss of Possessions
  6. The Physical Suffering of Job
  7. The Derision of Job
  8. The Abandonment of Job Psalm 22:1-2; Matthew 27:46
  9. The Words of Job 1 Peter 2:22; Isaiah 53:9
  10. The Submission of Job
  11. The Vindication Job
  12. The Exaltation of Job

Working through the Book of Job chronologically, the first point of contact between Job and Christ we come to is the righteous character of Job in Job 1:1.  As we’ve discussed before, this righteousness must be taken seriously in order to rightly interpret the book of Job, however, it does not mean that Job was sinless, as per his own admission as well as his final repentant statement in chapter 42.  Nevertheless, the suffering of this righteous man points us to the greater righteousness of another suffering man, the God-man Christ Jesus.  Our Lord was not merely righteous by external standards, but was and is completely holy and sinless (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Next, we are informed of the priestly character of Job in offering frequent sacrifices to God on behalf of his children (Job 1:5).  It would be enough to consider this aspect of Job’s priesthood alone, though as the book concludes we know that Job again performs a role of mediation between God and man, though this time of his “enemies” (Job 42:8-9).  Again working from the lesser to the greater, or from type to antitype, the priestly character of our Lord is far superior than that witnessed in Job, first because as mentioned Christ was sinless and needed no sacrifice for Himself (Hebrews 7:26-27).  Second, his sacrifice was not merely anticipatory as those under the Old Covenant, but His was efficacious, truly satisfying the wrath of God.  Third, our Lord’s priesthood was not merely the sacrifice of an animal, but of Himself (Hebrews 9:11-14; 2:17; John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).

Moving on to our third observation, we read of God’s pleasure with Job by boasting of his righteousness and offering him up to Satan (Job 2:3).  In a similar fashion, we read of God’s commendation of His only begotten Son in Matthew 3:17, “and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  An additional, more comprehensive passage may be found in Isaiah 42:1-9.  Fourth, is that of the Satan’s temptation of Job, through loss of property, family, and health.  Christ too was tempted by Satan, but in a far more direct manner, though Christ Himself had voluntarily experienced far greater losses and was depleted of food, water, shelter, family, and friends in the wilderness, yet He was victorious in every way (Matthew 4:1-11).  Likewise, our Lord was faced with the day to day temptations that this life brings, as well as the added pressures upon Him for being the Son of God ( John 6:15), yet he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Fifth, and related, was the loss of possessions that Job had experienced, including his children and health.  Again, we point that Christ’s losses were far greater, yet He willingly laid them all aside (Philippians 2:7-8).

Next, and most prominently, is the suffering of Job.  Here we want to broadly consider Job’s sufferings, which could include the majority of the list we’re examining.  Though Job’s suffering is well chronicled throughout the book, including the marring of his physical appearance to the point of being unrecognized (Job 2:12), Christ’s sufferings were far greater (Isaiah 52:14).  The principle passage for our consideration is a familiar one, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, detailing the Suffering Servant.  Here we read of the prophecy of Christ’s coming as Sufferer

  1. Marred physical appearance beyond recognition
  2. No form, majesty, or beauty; undesirable
  3. Despised and rejected by men
  4. A man of sorrows
  5. Acquainted with grief
  6. Despised and unesteemed
  7. Bore our griefs, carried our sorrows
  8. Afflicted by God
  9. Pierced for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities;
  10. Chastised to bring about peace
  11. Wounded to bring healing
  12. Bore the sins of man
  13. Oppressed and afflicted
  14. Led like a lamb to slaughter
  15. Buried among the wicked
  16. Crushed by the Father
  17. Anguished in soul
  18. Poured out His soul to death
  19. Numbered with the transgressors
  20. Bore the sins of many
  21. Made intercession for the transgressors

Seventh and eighth from our list of observations above on the type/antitype from Job, we consider the derision and abandonment that he faced from his friends, family, and even the young men in the town square (Job 12:4;17:6; 29:7-10, 21-25; 30:9-15) .  So too did our Lord face a similar, though greater derision,

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters,[d] and they gathered the whole battalion before him.28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.” Matthew 27:27-31

As previously discussed, Job is comprised of monologues and dialogues and speech or words having to do with speech comprise nearly a quarter of the words in Job.  As the conclusion of Job indicates, particularly the speeches of Elihu and Yahweh, Job’s words were bounded with pride and often bordered on blasphemy.  In a very real way, Job was far too free with his words and allowed the circumstances of affliction to stir up indwelling sin and overflow into the words of his mouth.  Conversely when our Lord faced derision and abandonment, suffering and anguish, though He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, He never uttered a word in return.  Note 1 Peter 2:22-23, citing Isaiah 53:9

22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

As the Book of Job concludes, we are drawn once again to the words of Job, though much briefer and penitnent this time around, as he repents of his words towards God (Job 42:1-6).  By way of this contrition and recognition of God’s majesty, Job submits to the divine affliction that he has endured.  Keep in mind, to this point he has no indication that the affliction will subside.  As to the greater, Christ submitted to the will of the Father from beginning to end,

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Finally, the vindication and exaltation of Job draw our minds to the greater vindication that Christ received from the Father, namely resurrection from the dead, and His own exaltation to right hand of the throne of God.

19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23

The sufferings of Job serve as a two-way lens through which on one side we may see the sufferings of Christ magnified while through the other our own sufferings minimized.  The sufferings of Job, great as they were, pale in comparison to the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Not only did He bear the marks of suffering in His physical body, which is important, but He bore the weight of sin and the wrath of God.  May Job be an encouragement to us in our sufferings and afflictions, but ultimately may he point us to Christ, who suffered for us willingly, bearing the wrath of God for sin for all who believe.  He also is our far greater example for persevering in our suffering.

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Is Affliction Discipline or Judgment?

 

In the book of Job, one of the primary faults of both Job and his poor counseling friends was their inability to understand how divine affliction can be justly administered to the righteous.  On the one hand, the friends failed to reconcile this with the justice of God, while on the other hand, Job failed to reconcile this with the goodness of God.  The argument of the former was that God afflicts the unrighteous, so Job must by necessary consequence be unrighteous.  The argument of the latter was that God arbitrarily afflicts both the righteous and the unrighteous because He’s basically a big meanie who borders on being unjust.  The friends of Job were certain that his affliction was the product of divine retribution correlated to sin, consequently they viewed Job as being in the cross-hairs of God’s punishment.  Job continually maintained his innocence, but didn’t have a category, other than the capriciousness of God, for why he was being afflicted.

Thankfully, Scripture is not silent on the issue of whether Christians are either under divine discipline or divine judgment, so we’re not left wondering or debating the issue.  In the Book of Hebrews, chapter 12, we have a verse that speaks precisely to the heart of this very issue.  I’ve included the surrounding verses for context

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Briefly, the author of this passage exhorts believers to persevere on their pilgrimage to holiness, fighting against sin, and embracing the discipline that comes from the hand of the Lord.  In doing so, he supports his statement by citing an Old Testament passage (Prov. 3:11-12), which is the modus operandi of the author.  With this citation, and his own discourse, he uses the word discipline (Grk. paideia) 8 times (note the underlined use above is supplied by the translation).

In it’s first entry on this word, Thayer’s lexicon defines it as,

the whole training and education of children – which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment.”

The use of this particular word helps the author support his example of the relationship of a father to his children with respect to discipline.  Here, he creates a parallel of the earthly relationship of father to children in order to relate to the heavenly relationship of God the Father with His own children.  In doing so he firmly roots the source of discipline as love, the motivation as the believer’s good, and the goal as holiness.

A.W. Pink in his brief, but helpful book titled Comfort for the Christian elaborates on this word by preferring the translation, “son-training.” He writes

“Unhappily there is no word in the English language which is capable of doing justice to the Greek term here.  ‘Paideia’ which is rendered ‘chastening’ [KJV; ESV discipline] is only another form of ‘paidion’ which signifies ‘young children,’ being the tender word that was employed by the Saviour in John 21:5 and Hebrews 2:13.  One can see at a glance the direct connection which exists between the words ‘disciple’ and ‘discipline’.  Son-training would be better.  It has reference to God’s education, nurture and discipline of His children.  It is the Father’s wise and loving correction which is in view.”

Considering this in relation to the affliction that Job experienced we are, more easily than he and his friends, able to reconcile his righteousness with his suffering concluding that it was for training of a son, not punishment of an enemy.  In fleshing out this distinction between divine discipline and divine punishment further, Pink makes a threefold distinction.  First, he notes the character of God, acting in the former as a Father and the latter as a Judge.  Next, he draws a distinction between the recipients, sons for discipline and enemies for punishment.  Finally, the distinction in design, one is retributive, the other remedial.  “One flowing from His anger, the other from His love.”  Recall in the Book of Job that the entire argumentation of the friends was the misapplication of divine retribution.

God has reserved His divine punishment, or wrath, for those who have not repented and trusted in Christ for salvation.  God’s children are no longer under His wrath, no longer capable of receiving divine punishment, as that was exhausted for them in Christ’s death on the cross.  There is, however, divine discipline or chastisement, reserved exclusively for His children, from His love and for their good.  Turning one final time to Pink, he observes in the cases of David, Job, Abraham, and Paul four distinct purposes for this divine discipline.  For David, his affliction was retributive, or punishment for the sins he had committed.  Keep in mind however that this retribution is not condemning, not judgment, and not sourced from wrath.  It too is driven from God’s love for David’s good, as we may now see in Psalm 51 among others.  Turning to Job, A.W. Pink categorizes his affliction as “corrective” or we might say refining, as it exposed the indwelling sin of Job’s heart, namely pride.  With Abraham, we have and educative use of affliction for the purpose of “developing spiritual graces.”  Finally, with Paul and his thorn in the flesh, Pink describes this as “preventative against pride.”

Our loving Father knows the right affliction at the right time for each of our spiritual conditions whether it be punishment for sin, corrective or refining for sins which we were unaware, educational – that we might grow in our knowledge of God, or preventative – hedging us in to keep us from sin.  How good it is to meditate on this omniscience of God and know that in His wisdom, from His love, He cares for each of His children not leaving them to wander aimlessly like the sheep we are, but as the Great Shepherd He brings the rod for our own good.   Do not despise this, nor grow weary, but endure dear Christians, “God is treating you as sons.”

Interpreting the Book of Job

 

The book of Job can be a challenging and intimidating study, not only for the content focusing on the suffering of Job, but the difficult language, poetic style, historic references, etc.  Add to this the archaic Hebrew language and commentaries will be divided on how to interpret some of the more challenging passages.

How then should we approach Job?

Our first answer might be, with humility, but after that there are several interpretive keys that will help us understand the main flow of the book, even if some of the obscurity remains a mystery.

First, the purpose for the book may be found in the interaction between God and Satan; Satan vs. God, not God vs. Satan.  God is not actively engaged in a struggle with Satan.  Satan is not a loose cannon or a rogue employee.  He’s a dog on a chain, but he’s God’s dog, completely unable to act apart from the permissive will of God, as we see here in Job.

Within this interaction, we have our first interpretive key for understanding Job.  Initially we must note that God has called Satan to His presence.  At first glance it may be easy to presume that this interrogation takes place in heaven, but in reality we cannot be dogmatic about the location.  In other words, we don’t know for sure that Satan was “in heaven”.  Additionally, we have no indication that this is a recurring event, nor that it lasts for an extended period of time.  What we do know is that it is God’s own initiative to offer up Job to Satan.

With this, Satan begins his antagonism toward God in which he questions God’s very character.

“Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” Job 1:9-11

“Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” Job 2:4-5

Satan is asserting that the reason Job is blameless and upright is directly related to God’s hand of blessing on him.  In a sense then, he becomes the father of the prosperity gospel.  He challenges God to remove His hand and to watch how Job will curse Him to his face.   Fittingly in is his role as the accuser of the brethren, Satan’s accusation of Job to God is that should his possessions and then his health all be taken away, he would then curse God.  By this, Satan is challenging the very character of God by challenging the character of Job which God has just boasted of.  In other words, Satan believes that the way to attack the integrity of God is to attack the integrity of Job.  If his faith turns out to be a fraud and his character hypocritical, then Satan will be proved truthful in declaring the Job only served God for blessing.  Inherently, this implies that God is not worthy of being served in and of Himself.  Keeping this in mind while reading through Job will help in navigating the purpose of Job’s affliction.

Second, the character of Job is critical to maintain the flow of argumentation between Job and his three counselors.  In the opening of the book we are given 2 couplets describing the character of Job: blameless and upright, fears God and turns away from evil.  This does not mean that Job has some kind of sinless perfectionism, nor does it mean that Job was a super-saint.  It means that Job was not living in any kind of open sin.  It means that Job was not hypocritical, claiming one thing yet living a lie behind closed doors.  God affirms this in His own declaration of Job’s character as He repeats it to Satan, twice.

Knowing that Job truly is a godly man and knowing that there is no indication of an unrepentant sin helps us understand the perspective of the friend’s accusations against Job, as well as his insistence on his innocence.  Additionally, it helps us understand the vigor with which Job defends his integrity and desires vindication.

Which brings us to the third interpretive key, namely the line of argumentation from the perspective of the counseling friend’s.  The central argument that they make against Job is the equivocation of sin and affliction.  They each see a 1:1 correspondence that points backward from the affliction that a person is experiencing, to a sin that they must have committed.

As noted previously, this is a strict application of the doctrine of retribution, though as seen in Job, is wrongly applied.  Essentially, the counseling friends of Job fall into the same kind of trap that our Lord’s disciples did in John 9,

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

It should be pointed out that the law of retribution is not a foreign concept to Scripture, indeed it is a central tenet.  However, the problem from the friend’s perspective is their incorrect application, subordinating God to His own principle and insisting that Job’s affliction must be the result of retribution.

Fourth, it is common to read Job and take all that he says as good while taking all that his friends say as bad.  This will inevitably lead to misinterpretation.  Personally, I’ve been hesitant in the past to quote from anything that the friends have to say even though it may look and sound like a truth simply because it came from their mouth and traditionally they have been viewed as poor counselors (which they are!!).  However, better advice might be to take the good and leave the bad.  This applies both to Job and the counselors.  Each side has some good points, though as John Calvin points out, Job maintains a good case but pleads it poorly; the others bring a poor case but plead it well, “when we have understood this, it will be to us as it were a key to open to us the whole book.”

Finally, there is a temporal layer in the argumentation from both Job and his friends that must be noted.  The friends consistently appeal to the blessings of God in this life directly flowing downstream from repentance of sin.  This over-realized eschatology frames their application of the prosperity gospel to Job’s situation.  As an aside, this is precisely the error of modern day proponents of the prosperity gospel.  They press the promises of Scripture, particularly those of the Old Testament, which mention material blessings into this age.  Indeed, God may bless His children materially in this life, but on the other hand, He may not.  Ultimately, the material blessings of scripture, i.e. health, wealth, and prosperity are fulfilled in the age to come.

The breadth, width, and depth of Job is immense and it can inevitably be overwhelming.  Preparation in studying Job may be just as important, if not more so, than the actual study.  Outlining a plan with a few of the interpretive keys mentioned above can be a helpful step in rightly interpreting the book and properly applying its richness to the Christian life.