Illustration: Satan Before the Throne of God by William Blake (click to enlarge)
The book of Job is an interesting book, to say the least, yet it is also a challenging one for all of us. Chapters 1 and 2 set the stage for the entire book, introducing us to all the characters and setting up the theological questions that will follow. In the very first verses, we meet a man named Job who has wealth-a-plenty, yet the narrative wants us to know that he is not a greedy, self-made man; instead, he is a righteous man who is “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1).
Then we are brought into God’s throne room, where Satan (literally, the accuser) comes before God, who apparently is the one who has blessed Job with all of his earthly gifts. But now Satan wishes to attack Job, removing his blessings and gifts, in order that Job might be shown to love God only as a means to an end. And God permits it.
Verses 2 and 3 of chapter 1 tell us all that Job has (including his children); then verses 13-19 describe how Satan takes away all of Job’s property and children. And though Job’s health remains good at first, Satan will eventually target Job with disease in chapter 2. Yet in spite of the terrible circumstances, the story is sure to point out that Job neither sins nor blames God (Job 1:22; 2:10).
The prologue of the story makes clear that Job is a righteous man who trusts and honors God both with and without the blessings given him by God. In the midst of his suffering, his lips confess, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” But the other remaining characters, namely Job’s wife and three friends, wish to figure out God’s ways and convince Job that he should either curse God (Job 2:9) or that somehow Job’s life has caused God to respond with displeasure.
This brings us to chapter 3, which begins a long period of silence from God. Though Job is clearly righteous and has responded in a godly way, he still cries out, “Let the day perish on which I was born” (Job 3:3). In sum, it’s the question why that we probably all ask ourselves when going through a difficult time.
God’s revelation of himself is married to God’s hiddenness, which means that we humans can’t figure out God’s working and ways in heaven. All human attempts at trying to resolve this question (as Job’s wife and his friends do) are akin to what Luther calls a theology of glory. They look past where God has chiefly revealed himself, namely in the cross and resurrection of Jesus, and try to figure out God apart from suffering. They think there is another God behind who God himself has said he is.
The Christian, on the other hand, has been set free of trying to figure out the hidden ways of heaven; knowing that in spite of the suffering we now encounter, God is good, because he has shown himself to be in Jesus. This frees the Christian to not look past the suffering that he experiences, but instead to call suffering what it is, all the while rejoicing that God is good and trusting in his promise that he will make all things new.