Lecture 37: The Theology of Job 1 | Free Online Biblical Library

Lecture 37: The Theology of Job 1

Course: The Book of Job

Lecture: The Theology of Job 1


We have now looked at the entire book of Job and we are going to consider the message of Job or its theology in the next and final four lessons. First of all, let’s very quickly review the message of Job.

I. The Message of Job

A. Satan’s challenge is, “Does Job fear God for nothing?”

First of all, what was Satan’s challenge? Satan’s challenge was, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” The answer remarkably is, “no.” Job does not fear God for nothing. But what is the thing that Job gets from his fearing God? What is the benefit he gets from his devotion to God? It is not really his health and his wealth and his children, those are all secondary. They are good, but they are all secondary.

The real benefit Job gets from his fear of God is God Himself. We can get this from the words of Job himself when he was longing for the old days when he said, “Oh, that it was like it was when God was with me, when I would speak to him and he would answer; when God was near to me, God was close to me.” That is the thing Job missed the most. And at the end, his vindication by God is the main point. Getting new children is great. Getting wealthy again is fine. But the important thing is, he knew he was accepted by God. Furthermore, he now as never before, fully understood that God Himself was his hope in a world filled with evil.

It is a slight difference, but a very important difference between what Job was before and what Job was after. Before, Job thought in terms of God’s retributive justice as being the answer. People are evil, God punishes them. People are good, God rewards them. But now his hope is fixed much more on the person of God Himself. He is thinking about how God is his hope, how he is simply waiting on God in his own way, in his own time to fulfill the mystery, to do the thing that he talked about and destroy Leviathan. Again, it is not even the idea of destroying Leviathan that is his hope; it is God who does destroy Leviathan. That is his hope.

B. Our hope is in God

We can kind of compare this to our own situation as mortal beings. We are people who are mortal and who are doomed to die. What is our hope? Well, you could say our hope is in the resurrection, and that is true. But I would say it’s a little misleading to say our hope is in the doctrine of the resurrection, as if our hope were an abstract principle.

Our hope is in God, who raises the dead. Our hope is in confidence that God Himself will raise us up. Earlier I made mention of the confrontation between the Sadducees and Jesus about the resurrection; and mentioned the fact that when Jesus answered them, he didn’t refer to some passage that specifically dealt with the dead rising. Instead he simply cited God saying from Exodus 3: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. God is the God of the living, not the dead.”

It is the fact that we have God and that he is our hope and that he holds onto us; and that he identifies us as his own. That is our hope of eternal life, that he will act and that he will raise us from the dead. So in the same way, when it comes to facing the problem of evil, Job now understands that his hope is in the Person of God, not in an abstract theological principle.

C. The need for a heavenly redeemer

Job has also learned that there is a need for a heavenly redeemer. We talked about this in the first part of the book, how Job went through this progression of realizing there should be an intercessor between man and God and how Job realized there needs to be resurrection. Finally, he puts it all together in his hope in a heavenly redeemer who will rise against the dust and who will raise Job himself.

Job realizes first of all, that God is his hope, but also there is a need for a redeemer between man and God; and we see all of this fulfilled in the New

D. Job’s understanding of God came through redemptive suffering

Another thing that Job gets out of this story is that it is through suffering that he comes to a deeper understanding. Again, Job did not suffer because he had sinned. But his suffering brought to him, first of all the reality of evil in the world as he had never confronted it before; but it also brought him to an understanding of God that he had never had before.

The suffering that Job went through therefore brought him to a deeper compassion and a deeper knowledge of God. So the book, again, illustrates the
importance of redemptive suffering; not suffering as punishment, but redemptive suffering in the context of an evil world.

II. Misdirected Orthodoxy

A. Orthodoxy is essential but never sufficient

There is one more topic I want to mention in this lecture very briefly, and that is the question of misdirected orthodoxy. That is where we confront the theology of the three friends. Orthodoxy is essential, but is never sufficient. Orthodoxy is essential, but never sufficient.

Orthodoxy matters. Heresy is a bad thing. Heresy is very, very destructive. But orthodoxy can itself become so rigid and harsh that it begins to bend into a heresy without the person realizing it. In my view, the way it works basically is this: If you are a religious person who let’s say was brought up in a strong, we’ll say Christian tradition or a strong orthodox tradition, you accept it as something that is valid and true and you identify with orthodoxy. But you don’t really know God. You are not truly repentant. What will be the result? The result will be a hardened, bitter, brittle orthodoxy. You may hold to all the doctrines that you were taught, but you will do it in a harsh, unforgiving, unyielding and defensive manner. It is in fact the origin of much of what we call “legalism.”

Legalism does not come about necessarily because people sit down and they construct a theology of legalism and they say, “Yes, this is the theology I adhere to.” Legalism comes about in Christianity because people hold to certain essential Christian teachings, but they don’t really know God and their consciences are always bad. They are always aware of their lack of forgiveness when their orthodoxy is combined with that. What comes out is a very rigid set of rules that they apply to everyone else as a way to justify themselves. This is in fact, I think, what happened with the Pharisees who opposed Jesus. Were they orthodox in their Judaism? Certainly they were. They were probably theologically the best Judaism that time had to offer. They were very orthodox in their faith. But they did not know God and when they confronted Jesus, all they could do was become angry and bitter and turn it upon him, and eventually crucify him.

We see other examples of this in the Old Testament. For example, in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 7 we have a strange-looking little text. Let me read it to you. Jeremiah 7:1-4: “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message: Hear the word of the Lord all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says, the God of Israel: Reform your ways and your actions and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’”

That is strange. What does he mean by saying, “Do not say ‘the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord’”? I think we make a serious mistake when we think of the Israelites of this time as all just being out and out pagans; as if they had simply rejected the Lord and had all embraced paganism and that is the end of the story. Yes, they did have a lot of pagan elements that they had embraced and that they had thought was part of orthodox Judaism, so to speak. However, in many ways they were orthodox, kind of hyper orthodox. One reason they would reject a prophet like Jeremiah is, they thought they were orthodox, they thought they were right. So in this specific instance they knew that this is the Lord’s house, this is the temple, this is the house that the Spirit of God filled when Solomon finishes building it and consecrated it. This is the one place on earth where Yahweh, Maker of heaven and earth, is worshiped. And they fully believed that. So they thought, well, if this is the Lord’s house, this is the temple, then God is not going to let it be destroyed. So they had taken an orthodox belief that this was God’s house and they had so elevated it that even though they themselves were unrepentant sinners, even though they were to some degree idolaters, they still would confess, “This is the Lord’s house and God is going to protect it no matter what.”

When you read the book of Jeremiah, the surprising thing is, they didn’t hate Jeremiah because they were all pagans and he was preaching against them. They hated Jeremiah because they thought he was a heretic because he was one who was saying, “God is going to give us over to the Babylonians,” and they openly accused him of being a traitor.

Our point here is that orthodoxy is good; but if it is not combined with a true knowledge of God and a repentant heart, it is in danger of becoming hardened, misanthropic and Satanic. We have an example of this, of course, in the Gospels, many examples. In Matthew chapter 9 we have Jesus healing a man. Matthew 9:1: “Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought him a paralyzed man lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.’ At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, ‘This fellow is blaspheming.’”

Again, how would we normally react to someone who has pronounced other people’s sins forgiven? We would consider it blasphemy. We would say, “Only
God can forgive sin.” So did these Pharisees. But the Pharisees were unrepentant. They were people who did not know God and they did not recognize the work of God when God was among them in Jesus Christ.

Thus, the book of Job warns us to be careful about our beliefs and we are always to be on the alert to be careful about things that we know are outside the faith, things that come from atheists, things that come from famous heretics or something like that. Unless we are close to God, unless our heart is right with God, then we ourselves can take our orthodoxy and become brittle in it.

B. Job often prays but the three never do

This is shown in the fact again in the book of Job that Job often prays, but the three never do. In speech after speech Job will conclude his speech with a long prayer to God. At no point do the three ever pray.

We can call to mind, for example, Numbers 12 where Miriam and some others kind of rebelled against the authority of Moses, thought Moses was taking too much power to himself. And of course, God struck Miriam with leprosy and Moses called out to God for her to be healed, and she was. But here is the really important point. When God speaks to them about the nature of Moses, he says, “Moses is a man who speaks to me face to face as a man does to his friend.” To some degree that is unique to Moses. But the important point there is, Moses had a close relationship to God, a close walk with God. And if there is no walk with God, then orthodoxy again will become brittle and it finally will become heretical.

C. Job’s faith is combined with honesty

Finally, we should note in this regard that Job’s faith and his orthodoxy is also combined with great honesty. Job knows that he has not sinned to bring this upon him. And he will not pretend he has sinned or convince himself that he has sinned in order to save his doctrine. Job will do something the three will never do. Job will look around the world and say, “I see people all around me who never acknowledge God and yet they are doing fine; and I see all kinds of examples of oppression. I see suffering that is heartbreaking. Where is God in all of this?”

Job is just being very honest about reality as it is. Job doesn’t abandon his faith. Job does not turn away from God. He does not curse God and die, so don’t
misunderstand me. But I think a weak faith in God, a faith that is not combined with a close walk with God, is going to be very fragile, very bitter. That kind of weak faith in God is going to be easily threatened. Therefore, it will not be able to face hard facts. Job is the one who faces the hard facts and Job is the one who comes out with a much deeper understanding of God and humanity than the three friends ever would.

It is a matter of not turning aside to the right or to the left, as the Old Testament often says. On the one hand, orthodoxy matters. Heresy is bad, heresy is
destructive. Our faith in God needs to remain constant and fixed. It can’t be something that we are ready to give up on. On the other hand, our faith in God
needs to be willing to face the realities of life, but face them with faith. And our faith in God needs to be not just a matter of knowing the answers, but of knowing God and holding fast to God even when the answers are not apparent.

I think if we do this as Job did, then we are not going to fall into the trap of the three; and we will grow in the knowledge of God, even as we go through periods of suffering and doubt.

III. Questions and Answers

Question: As you described in the theological themes in Job, it really sounds like you are talking about the New Testament. It’s like there is a very strong
connection. Without being cynical, a lot of the things that I heard you say can describe so many situations in the church where for example, there are a lot of people that can mouth the right orthodoxy – I believe in justification by faith – but their relationship is dead or just about nonexistent. You can think about what you and I have seen in the university setting where students need to be encouraged to question things, to fight through them like Job did because only then, when you come out on the other side, do you really believe them. It has been interesting how New Testament-ish Job is; or you would probably say, “The New Testament is a lot like Job, isn’t it?” There is not this chasm between them.

Dr. Garrett: No, there is not a big chasm between them and you do see a lot of similarities. The three friends, of course they are very harsh, they are brittle, they are bitter and finally, they are absolutely cruel in the things they say, in addition to saying things that are not true. We can compare this, you mentioned in the Christian Church, Christians who can be very harsh, rigid and legalistic. It is interesting, it is not doctrinal; because those same Christians, who can be very legalistic and very harsh, will doctrinally confess a doctrine of salvation by grace through faith through the atoning blood of Jesus. Yet, with all that, they can still be very legalistic, very harsh, very brittle, have no real sense of the meaning of grace. It is a matter where you have to have faith, you have to have relationship with God and you have to be honest with your life and the world.

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