Nashville Great Books Discussion Group

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Saturday, May 22, 2010


A few years ago a popular book came out called When Bad Things Happen to Good People. That could have been the title of Job’s autobiography. How do we know this? Because the Bible tells us that There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil…this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. But Job is in for a severe downturn in his fortunes. Right off the bat we’re faced with a question. Job was exceedingly wealthy. Was he the greatest man of the east because he was so successful? Or because he was perfect and upright? Or because he feared God and turned away from evil? Many more questions surface as we follow Job’s life.

Early in the story an odd scene takes place: the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. In some ways this seems like something straight out of The Iliad, where the gods and goddesses looked down from Mt. Olympus. “The Lord” in this scene doesn’t seem much different from Zeus. It’s evident that the Lord is proud when he asks: how about my man Job? Satan isn’t impressed. Of course he feareth God, and escheweth evil, look at everything you’ve given him; he’s rich, he’s healthy, he’s got a wife and lots of children. I’d be loyal too if I had all that stuff. Take it away and Job will crumble. So the Lord decides to let Satan put Job to the test. Why? Satan is allowed to take everything Job has, including his health. Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. Despite losing everything, Job stays faithful to God. Why? Most people would fold under those circumstances. Job didn’t. Was this why he was considered the greatest man of the east?

Then follows a long discussion Job has with his friends who have come to comfort him in his misery: when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place…for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him… But instead of making Job feel better they give him lectures. Here’s a typical one from Job’s friend Eliphaz: Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees. But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled… This is not helpful to Job. He listens patiently to what his friends have to say, then replies: No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you. But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these? … ye are all physicians of no value. They aren’t telling Job anything he doesn’t already know. But right now he’s hurting. He doesn’t need a lecture … Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me. Pity from his friends would help Job. But what would help more than anything is this: My desire is, that the Almighty would answer me. Amazingly, the Almighty does answer Job. Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said… What the Lord says won’t satisfy some readers; it sounds too much like “shut up, God explained.” But the ways of God are deep. And so is the story of Job's life.


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