This week we finish up the book of Esther, and read halfway through the book of Job.
This marks a shift from the books of history and now we enter the books of poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs and Eccelesiastes). In Jewish tradition, Job is understood to be the grandson of Abraham's brother. So chronologically we are going way back into the history of Israel. The book of Job appears to have been written to address the problem of evil and why the righteous suffer. The first two chapters act as a prologue to set the scene and then we move into cycles of speeches between Job and friends.
Cycle 1 (Chapters 3-11) - Job, Eliphaz, Job, Bildad, Job and Zophar
Cycle 2 (Chapters 12-20) - Job, Eliphaz, Job, Bildad, Job and Zophar
Cycle 3 (Chapters 21-31) - Job, Eliphaz, Job, Bildad, Job
Job's three friends never seem to waver from their belief that Job must have sinned to incite God's punishment. They continually berate him for refusing to confess his sins, even though they themselves are at a loss as to what Job has done wrong. In their theology, God always rewards good and punishes evil, with no exceptions. Job meanwhile maintains his innocence. He refuses to curse God or accuse God of injustice but wants an explanation as to why this is happening to him.
We get introduced to another person in chapters 3-37. Elihu almost takes a mediator's path - attempting to hold together an understanding of God's sovereign power and righteousness along with God's gracious mercy. He condemns the approach by Job's other three friends and argues that God's righteousness is being misrepresented and his loving character discredited. Elihu lifts up many of God's attributes: mighty, just, quick to warn and to forgive. He suggests that Job does need to repent - not from a particular sin - but from his arrogance in presuming to understand God.
When I read through the book of Job I realize that we still wrestle in today's society with these same issues - understanding evil and suffering and supposing to know how God operates. It's comforting in some part to realize that these are not new struggles. But they are definitely issues worth reflecting on.
Here is the schedule:
23, Sunday: Esther 7-10
24, Monday: Job 1-4
25, Tuesday: Job 5-8
26, Wednesday: Job 9-12
27, Thursday: Job 13-16
28, Friday: Job 17-20
29, Saturday: Job 21-24
May God add His richest blessings to the reading, the hearing, the understanding and most importantly the living out of His holy word. Amen.