Lecture 38: The Theology of Job 2
Course: The Book of Job
Lecture: The Theology of Job 2
We are continuing our study of the theology of Job, the message Job has for us and its abiding significance for us.
I. Relationship Between Job and Apocalyptic Literature
We have talked about the relationship between Job and apocalyptic literature and we have noted all kinds of similarities. The fact that Job has these strange composite animals at the end, behemoth and Leviathan; and we see these kinds of composite animals in Daniel 7 and 8. The fact that Job uses a lot of numbers like 3 and 7, common in apocalyptic literature. We have seen things where Job calls upon the reader to understand and so does apocalyptic type text.
II. People on Earth Are Suffering, But There is a Heavenly Reality That They Don’t Know About
Moving beyond that, let’s try to get to the main point. Apocalyptic literature in my understanding has one crucial feature. I’m talking about Biblical apocalyptic literature. For those of you who know it, I’m not talking about texts like first Enoch or something like that. I’m talking about the Bible. In the Bible, apocalyptic literature’s major theme is, people are suffering down here on earth, the people of God are suffering, but there is a heavenly reality that they don’t know about and this heavenly reality is over and ultimately controlling the struggles and the pains of people down on earth. But ultimately God’s way will prevail. The plan of God, the will of God, the ultimate desires of God for the human race, they will all come to pass.
So let’s just briefly think about it. The book of Daniel again, what is Daniel primarily concerned with? It is concerned with the fact that the Israelite people
seem to have completely lost their place. The Davidic kingdom is fallen. Jerusalem is gone. There is no more Davidic King on the throne. So it seems like Israel’s place is completely gone. Israel’s time is over. In fact, it is now called “the times of the Gentiles,” the time when Gentile nations would be dominant over the people of Israel. So you see where it goes through these four empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. But basically it is speaking of how the Jewish people, the Israelite people, need to persevere in their faith. The heavenly visions and the encounters with the angels tell Daniel that there is a reality he doesn’t see. There is a plan of God, so to speak, that he is not aware of, but it will come to pass. So Daniel and his people need to persevere, need to hang on in faith through this extended period of their humiliation and suffering, the times of the Gentiles, the time when all the world is under Gentile power, until God brings about a great restoration.
III. Evil is Pervasive
In my opinion, we have much the same thing in the book of Revelation, although it is directed toward the sufferings of the Church. The Church is afflicted. The people of God bear all kinds of persecution for the name of Jesus and for the word of their testimony. It looks like the evil powers of this age, the principalities and powers are all controlling. It looks like evil has won. Yet they are called to persevere in their faith and as an encouragement to persevere in their faith, again they are given a heavenly vision. They are given a revelation and an apokalypsis, an unveiling of the ways of God and the plan of God to enable them to persevere until salvation comes. That is what basically I think is going on in Job. Job is a book about the problem of evil and Job is held up as the example, as the test case, the righteous man who suffers undeservedly. He and his experiences and all the things he describes, all the injustices he describes seem to present a world in which evil is absolutely triumphant. There is no goodness, there is no virtue, there is only suffering and pain and evil. Again, as in the theology of the night spirit, it is a world that seems to be in nihilism.
But behind it all there is God and God speaks to Job and God gives Job a glimpse of the heavenly realm, so to speak, when he speaks to him of behemoth and Leviathan; in that he enables him to understand that God will defeat Leviathan, he will defeat the powers of evil. God will bring about true justice. Therefore, it is the place of Job to persevere in his faith, to endure even though he doesn’t know how or when God will do all these things.
As I have said before, we come back to the issue described in the last verse of Job 28, “To fear the Lord, that is wisdom; and to turn from evil, that is
The problem of evil is, as I have mentioned before, a longstanding problem in the Old Testament. Proverbs 24, verses 19-22 says the following: “Do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of the wicked, for the evildoer has no future hope and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.” What do we have in this proverb? It is a very simple statement to the effect that yes, we all know the evil are all over the place; and it is upsetting, it is frightening, it is depressing; and we fret. But the passage is saying, don’t do it. Eventually things will turn out right. The passage doesn’t give you much information beyond that, but it just says to be confident in God, the evil ultimately have no future.
What we have in the book of Job, if you will, is a much more full exploration of that issue. What Proverbs puts in two verses, Job puts in an entire book and it explores it very, very thoroughly. Job shows us and does not flinch from the fact that evil is pervasive. It never hides the reality of human suffering. It never glosses over it in order to make it easier on the reader. It describes the suffering of the righteous, the wretchedness of the poor and the unchecked violence of the ruthless. It also describes the prosperity of the godless. It is the whole state of the world. Job is able to look at the idea that a righteous and Almighty God governs everything and say, “How does it square with this? How do these things go together?” And then Job explores all of that.
IV. The Wisdom We Have is Limited
The wisdom that we have in this regard remains somewhat limited and opaque; certainly it was for Job himself. Job did not understand all that Jesus would do. For him, all of that was a mystery. He did not realize how Jesus would conquer sin and death at the cross and resurrection. Nevertheless, he holds to his faith that God will do a great work of salvation.
V. Job’s Experience is Reflected in Revelation
What we experience in Job has a reflection, I would say, in the book of Revelation, many places in Revelation. Let me give you just one, Revelation chapter 6, verses 9-11: “When he opened the fifth seal I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and their testimony that they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, Holy and True, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe and they were told to wait a little longer until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.”
I want you to notice, we have the saints under the altar. In my opinion, this is essentially symbolic for the suffering of the Church through the generations, the martyrdom and the affliction and the abuse the Church must take. They call out, ”How long, God, until you judge the earth?” Which is precisely what Job cried out.
“How long, God, until you step in and do something?” In the vision they are given white robes, signifying their righteousness, and told to wait a little longer.
In my opinion the main point of this text is not to speak of some benefit for the souls who are in heaven. It is written for the sake of the readers, telling the reader that our waiting upon God, our faithfulness, our perseverance, our adherence to our testimony in Christ, is our righteousness; and that we persevere in that and we must wait a little longer until all the evil that must take place, does take place. As Revelation puts it, “Until the full number of the souls who should be slain, have been slain.”
What we have in Job is essentially the same thing. There is evil. We don’t understand what is going on. We cry out for God to do something about it. God
tells us that our faith and our perseverance is our righteousness and that there may be more suffering ahead. But we need to wait until God knows it is time to act.
VI. Christ is the Hidden Wisdom of God
The fulfillment of the apocalyptic hope of Job is of course, as we have said, in the New Testament. Christ is the hidden wisdom of God and it was manifested on the cross where the wisdom of God looked like folly to humans - to Jews and to Greeks. But it was the wisdom of God and it was the power of God.
This was a mystery that no one could have imagined. Just to kind of grasp again the majesty of all this, let’s remind ourselves of something that Paul wrote in Ephesians chapter 3, beginning with verse 7: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given to me to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”
I want you to see how similar what Paul says is to what we have read in Job and what we have been discussing. First of all, everything that God would accomplish in Christ was a mystery hidden through the ages. Again, God showed Job that God would destroy Leviathan, but he didn’t show him how. It was simply something God would have to do and something Job would have to wait on. Now in Christ we have this mystery hidden through the ages that is now revealed. Notice also, Paul says that the wisdom of God is now made known. What did we talk about in the book of Job? We talked about the hidden secret wisdom of God, as described in Job 28; again, what I have called the type 3 wisdom. This is the wisdom that no human could imagine, that no one could have worked out in their mind, no theologian could have figured out. This was the plan of God, kept hidden in the mind of God until it was revealed in Christ. Notice, it is made known to who? To the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms; what we have spoken of as the principalities and powers, and what I think we see manifested in Job in the future of behemoth.
So it is through Job’s suffering that he comes to understand how behemoth will be confronted and now it is in Christ that it is revealed and in the sufferings of the church that the reality of the work of God is made known to rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. Paul says this is the eternal purpose of God, that we might belong to God and be reconciled to him.
I hope it has been clear that when I speak of Job as being kind of apocalyptic in how it approaches things, that I am not really saying that I think Job is just like Daniel or just like Revelation. But I am saying that Job has tapped into a major theme of the Bible and especially of the New Testament; that there is this hidden wisdom of God, this hidden plan of God to conquer evil and redeem people. And that this is now ultimately fulfilled in Christ; and so I see a close tie between the theology of Job and the theology of the New Testament.