To be honest, though, the book of Job takes us even deeper than a cosmic chess match between two unequal players, God and Satan. Satan never makes a reappearance after Job 2, but God and His ways are on trial throughout the book as Job, his three friends, and the younger Elihu try to make sense of what God is doing in Job’s case. None came up with the right answer.
The three rounds of conversations that comprise the bulk of Job build to a climax. Feeling the rising tension as you read will enable you to appreciate the book’s conclusion. The book of Job begins with two chapters of prose introduction, to the principal characters of the story: Job, God, Satan, and Job’s three friends. Job loses everything but refuses to blame God in any way.
Round One (Job 3-31)
Job 3 is where Round One of the conversations begin. Job opens the conversation, not by questioning God overtly, but by lamenting his own existence. Such a complaint implies that Job has not received fair treatment from God, an implication the three friends pounce upon. As the conversation cycles, the three friends stick to their guns: God punishes the wicked and blesses the righteous. If you are experiencing trouble, then you must be wicked. Repent and your life pathway will smooth out again. Initially, the friends treat Job rather kindly as they press their theology on him, but as the conversation continues they get increasingly harsh.
Job also stays his ground: he is not suffering because of any specific sin he has committed. He avers unswerving loyalty to God. But Job does have questions—lots of them—for God. God has unfairly made him the target of His wrath, and Job would like a chance to argue his case with Him. Job even denies, on occasion, that one can tell a person’s moral standing before God just by their prosperity or lack thereof—a proposition his friends find intolerable—but Job does believe fearing the Lord is wisdom (28:28). The lengthy conversation with the three friends ends by Job’s making a final defense of his integrity (chapter 31). Round One is over.
Round Two (Job 32-37)
Round Two brings Elihu into the ring with Job. He is upset with Job’s friends because they failed to silence Job, and he is upset with Job because Job justified himself instead of God. Elihu has a valid point (that Job justified himself more than God) and correctly views chastisement as a way for God to open our ears to His instruction (36:15), but even he comes short of the mark in putting his finger on why Job is suffering.
Are there any other answers out there as to why Job has suffered the loss of fortune, family, and reputation?
Round Three (Job 38-41)
In Round Three, God speaks and provides the answers that have been needed all along. But He answers by not giving an answer at all. Both His speeches (chs. 38-39, 40-41) are almost nothing but questions.
Questions for Job.
Questions that reveal that Job knows nothing about running the universe and that Job is powerless to control creatures--like Behemoth and Leviathan--that God created and, therefore, easily controls. Although God provides Job with no answers as to the why of his suffering, Job, remarkably, walks away fully satisfied. He confesses his ignorance, realizes he has spoken rashly, and repents.
In the prose conclusion to the book (ch. 42), God accepts Job’s repentance, commends Job before Job’s three friends, and blesses Job with double what he had enjoyed before.
The key point that emerges from these three rounds of conversations (although Rounds Two and Three are more monologues than conversations) is that we do not have and we do not need answers to life’s greatest enigmas. We need rather trust that the sovereign God--who runs our universe and everyone and everything in it--is wise, good, all-knowing, and all-powerful.
As you read Job, look for these five themes:
- How Job’s speeches often turn into prayers as he takes his frustrations to the Lord
- How the three friends insist that calamity is an infallible sign of divine displeasure
- How Job insists on his righteousness (6:10; 9:21; 24:4-5)
- How suffering is an issue of divine sovereignty and not Satanic power (1:21; 2:3, 10; 42:11)
- How God’s questions affirm His omniscience, sovereignty, wisdom, and power