Job, Pain and the Way of Wisdom

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).

What is wisdom for? This is a big question for us and a good one to start off a new year. What are we to do with what we know? Wisdom is just this:  it is knowing what to do and how and when to do it.

In our Bibles, we have a group of books that are labeled as Wisdom literature. This section of the Scriptures begins with the book of Job and follows on with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.

Job reveals that bad things, really bad things, can happen to a man of God — a man who prayed for his family, a man who had the attention of the Lord and the devil. Job loses his flocks and herds and ultimately 10 children to death. He also faces personal and painful physical affliction, to such a degree that prompts his wife to advise him:  “Curse God and die.” Such was her sorrow at seeing the love of her life in agony.

The man answered her tenderly:  “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (See Job 2:9-10.) This was Job’s way of saying all things are of God.

In Job, we get the important teaching about the dynamics of life when it hits hard. Job unveils to us the unseen elements at work in Creation. This book guides us in how to weather suffering, especially the kind of pain that comes suddenly, without warning, and beyond human understanding.

The Accuser at Work

It seems right to me that the wisdom books begin with teaching us about what to do with pain, because pain is always with us in one form or another. Our world is an imperfect world. Things have been falling apart since the Fall in the Garden.

None of us escapes from the effects of what sin has brought about. Death is real, too real for us to handle on our own. We need wisdom that begins with the fear of the Lord, an honor for Him who made us and whose promise to us is that He works all things together according to His perfect and good purpose (Romans 8:28).

And in Job we learn that Satan is part of the scene. This being is constantly active. He roams and seeks to devour people in their troubles and confusion. He’s constantly making accusations about us to God and about God to us.

Job, as we read through the passages, possessed an awe of God that was built on this relationship. His faith was not the religious brand cobbled together with ceremony and ritual. Click To Tweet

Something important is revealed in the first chapters of Job. Satan shows scorn and contempt for Job, saying that his faith is what it is because he has it so good. Twice the devil tells God that once Job faces trouble the man will “curse You to Your Face” (see Job 1:11, 2:5).

This indicates to me that the devil knew that Job had a relationship with the Lord. This man could come before the Face of God and Hell knew this and I think Job understood this too. God did have friends of His before Abraham. Job was one. Enoch and Noah must be counted in that circle as well, I believe.

Job, as we read through the passages, possessed an awe of God that was built on this relationship. His faith was not the religious brand cobbled together with ceremony and ritual. He knew the Lord and trusted Him. He refused to sin with his lips in the face of all that the devil had brought to bear on him.

The fear of the Lord was his stay, his foundation. It was because of his awe for God that Job could say all that he said, and he said a lot.

Redeemer and Resurrection

Part of what we are to do in our pain is to lament and complain to God. And Job shows us that this is OK.

It is right to speak from our hearts, even when what we have to say is so negative. We can stand in our integrity and be honest in the posing of our questions, of being true enough to ask why, and to even scream into the dark “Where are you, God?” A grieving wife and mother can say, “Curse God and die” and get away with it. Our God knows that we are but dust and His mercies endure forever (see Psalms 102, 103, 136, and 142).

The story of Job follows the struggle he has with his losses and afflictions. He does not face his situation quietly. He speaks his pain clearly. He pleads. He demands. He wants God to explain Himself.

Throughout the story though, he maintains a thread of hope. He knows that the Redeemer lives. He believes that he shall see his Redeemer.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).

Job’s hope, we could say, was built on nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness and upon the reality of the Resurrection and New Creation. He hung on to this fear of the Lord and eventually God met Job in the storm of his life.

It was an uncomfortable meeting for Job, as the Lord questioned and corrected His man. Firm and intimate relationships, however, can handle such hard conversations. Job saw his foolishness and determined that he should shut up and listen.

Fear of the Lord was at work in Job. He wound up wiser and was asked to participate in the program of His Maker.

The Double Portion

Many who read the book of Job like to focus on the happily ever after ending to his story.

And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters” (Job 42: 12-13).

Job got more than a restoration; he received a double portion of blessings. But we have to back up a bit to understand the full sense of the wisdom that came to Job.

What was that double portion all about? Let’s let Job tell us:  “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5).

After Job said this, the Lord gave him an assignment related to the three friends who gave him wrong counsel about the character of God. “And My servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly” (Job 42:8).

The folly these friends expressed was that Job’s problems were all related to his wrongdoing. They kept encouraging Job to do something religious to appease God and gain release from his suffering.

Job knew who he was and that he was loved by His Redeemer. Click To Tweet

That Job would not do for he had chosen the fear of the Lord. He loved knowledge and had enough understanding to hold fast to his integrity. Job knew who he was and that he was loved by His Redeemer. He would not attempt to flatter God with false admissions. He understood the truth of Psalm 130:3-5:

If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
But with You there is forgiveness,
    that You may be feared.

 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in His Word I hope.

Wisdom grows in us when we choose the fear of the Lord. It is our decision to rest in what we know about God. We can think on the thoughts that He has toward us and agree with the apostle Paul who wrote, “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15).

The wisdom books start with the destruction and death we read of in the first part of Job. But these books close with the marvelous truth of Song of Solomon 8:6:  “Love is as strong as death. …”

Love meets death. God is love and He met death in the Person of Christ. This is the ultimate word of wisdom for us to remember.

Death and the grave are defeated. Our Redeemer lives.

Steve Andrulonis
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