The Book of Job
I want to read the first five verses of chapter 1 of the book of Job: "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually."
The best way to study the Bible is the way that God has written it, and God has written the Bible in sixty-six books; and the best method of Bible study is the book method. There are no substitutes for it. If you study the Bible by the book method, it saves you from ruts and hobbies. You know, mankind, apart from the grace of God, is an extremist and we run off on tangents unless we are held in check by the clear teaching of the Word of God and the influence of the grace of God through His word upon our souls.
Now, here is a book away back in the heart of the Old Testament which God has placed there with forty-two chapters in it. This is a long book, but let me say that this is a strong book. It has some grand teaching in it for the souls of God's people, and a great warning for the world of mankind that knows nothing of the grace of God. This book deals with "The Problem of Piety and Pain" or "Why Do the Godly Suffer?" Why do good people suffer? What is the answer to the problem of piety and pain? Why should a good man be made to suffer? We know that it is true, that if a man sins, God punishes sin, and suffering is the result and the penalty and punishment for sin. Then why does a good man suffer?
Here is this man Job. He is the outstanding character in the book, and here is this man suffering.
- Suffering knows no exception. Chapter 5, verse 7 says, "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." If you didn't have it yesterday and you don't have it today, you should look out for tomorrow. If you had it yesterday, you should look out for today. "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." Suffering knows no exception, to the rich, to the good, to the bad, and to the indifferent.
- Suffering knows no explanation. This book deals with "The problem of piety and pain," or "Why do the Godly suffer?" But it does not give the explanation of it in this book. Suffering is part of life's experience. We turn to this book in the heart of the Old Testament. I want to say to you that it is God's handkerchief to dry away human tears from the eyes of suffering saints.
This book of Job, with its forty-two chapters has a wonderful message for the people of God. I want to start this book by looking at some matters in it. I want you to move along a certain line for just a few minutes before I come into the heart and center, and the heat of this book. I want to talk to you first about:
- Its position in the Scriptures.
- Its place in history.
- Its province in literature.
- Its plan and outline.
- Its purpose in our lives.
I am going to take a few minutes to deal with these matters.
- Its position in the Scriptures. The Hebrew scriptures were grouped and classified together to form several sections. There are seven divisions in the literary structure of the Bible. There is a seven fold division in the literary structure, and the section in which the book of Job is found contains Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. There are how many books in the Old Testament? Thirty-nine. Now watch. Before you come to the book of Job there are seventeen books of history. After you leave the Song of Solomon, there are seventeen books of Bible prophecy—seventeen books of history from Genesis down to the book of Esther, and then there are seventeen books of prophecy which have to do with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. All the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi were on the tiptoe of expectancy. Someone is coming, the Messiah. Seventeen and seventeen make what? Thirty-four. And we need how many more to complete the Old Testament? Five. And we have these five books in the heart of the Old Testament, and these books touch the heart of God.
Job deals with the wonderment of the mind, or why do the Godly suffer? Psalms deals with the worship of the soul. Back in Scotland they used to sing Psalms in morning worship. It deals with the worship of the soul. It draws the soul out to God. When you come in from a hard day's work, if there is anybody around now that ever does it, and are tired and read Hebrews about better things, you can't find a good thing in it, you are so tired. And you read about "joy" in the book of Philippians and you haven't got any in your soul. You read about heavenly things in the book of Ephesians, and you certainly don't feel heavenly while you are tired. But you just turn to Psalm 1, you turn to Psalm 32, you turn to Psalm 42, and your soul is drawn out and lifted up toward God. Psalms deals with the worship of the soul.
Now, Proverbs deals with the walk of the feet. That is the only book in the Bible that tells you in detail where you should not put your feet, and where you should put your feet.
The next one is the book of Ecclesiastes. This book is the one that deals with the work of the hands. That book opens with darkness, everything is dark. In the middle of it, as you move along toward the middle and toward the close of it, it is dawn, there is some light shining in. And when you get to the last chapter, it's daylight. That book deals with the work of the hands. "I got me this, I planted me vineyards, I got me this, and I got me the other thing." That is the book which deals with the matter of a man trying everything down here to satisfy his heart without God.
And then we come to the Song of Solomon which deals with the worthy bridegroom of the soul. Would you notice this? Job deals with the wonderment of the mind; Psalms, the worship of the soul; Proverbs, the walk of the feet; Ecclesiastes deals with the work of the hands; and the Song of Solomon is the worthy bridegroom of our soul. That is a wonderful book. It deals with very familiar terms, in fact, these are bridal terms. It has to do with bridal experiences of the soul, but experiences between the soul and the Saviour. It tells us that the joy of the soul is fellowship with the Saviour; and when she, the type here of the church, is not having fellowship with Him, she is out looking for Him. And it deals with the joy of the Saviour, His fellowship with the saved. When He isn't having fellowship with her, He is looking through the lattice and she is lying on the couch and he says, "Come away, my fair one, rise up and come away, my dove, the winter is past, spring is here, the birds are singing." That deals with the worthy Bridegroom of the soul.
Here we have these five heart books of the Old Testament, and at the beginning of them is the book of Job. Now, its position in the Scripture is, that it's one of the five heart books of the Old Testament, the Jewish Scripture.
- 2. Now, I want you to notice its place in history. Following its position in the Scripture, critics have attempted to prove that the story of Job is just an allegory and lacks any kind of a historical foundation. But I am a Christian, I believe the Bible, and I believe and accept the plenary inspiration of the Scripture. The prophet Ezekiel mentioned Job along with Noah and along with Daniel.
Daniel was real, Noah was real, and so was Job. Besides, Job is mentioned again in the Epistle of James. He had a place in history.
- 3. I want to mention a word about its province in literature. This book is the only dramatic poem in the Bible. Its main section has a discourse that is poetically recorded. This is in the front chapters of the book, from three down to fourteen, and they are preceded by a narrative prologue in prose and are followed by a prose epilogue.
- 4. Now, the next thing I want you to notice is the plan and outline in the book. You notice that Job's name is at the head of the book. This is a long book, but it is one of the most simple books in the Bible to read and study. The book lends itself to a threefold division related to the man's name at the head of the book. Here is what you find:
- The man before the trial in verses 1-5. That's not hard to remember, is it?
- Then the man in the trial, and that goes from chapter 1, verse 6 to the close of chapter 41.
- Then we have the man after the trial in chapter 42. That is all there is in the book. The book then deals with three things: the man before the trial, the man in the trial, and the man after the trial. I will be back to deal with this in just a moment.
- 5. Now, the purpose of the book in our lives. Why has God placed it there? I am talking to you now about the important, practical issue of the content of this book. There are three views of punishment and pain that are expressed in this book. Job's three friends (you have all heard of them) said that suffering is punitive, that it is God punishing us. The book of Job teaches us that we must not think that and we must not believe that suffering is punitive. The chastening hand of God is not for punishment. Job himself, in his agony, says that affliction is something that is passing. It is like a preacher in a prayer meeting one time who said, "I think we should have a testimony meeting before we close the meeting." He said, "Perhaps some of you would like to quote a verse of Scripture, perhaps some of you would like to tell an experience you had with the Lord today, or some new experience from the hand of God. Perhaps some of you would like to quote a verse of a hymn that has been a blessing to your soul. Who will be first?" One got up and quoted a verse of Scripture, somebody got up and told what the Lord had meant to him, and then a colored brother got up and said, "I thank the Lord for that verse that says, 'and it came to pass'", and sat down. Afterwards the preacher went to him and said, "Say, that verse you quoted, I don't see anything in it, you must only have quoted part of the verse." "Oh, no," he said, "I quoted all I wanted to." He said, "What was it you said?" I said, "I thank God for that verse that says, 'and it came to pass'" The preacher said, "What do you get out of that?" and he said, "I thank God it didn't come to stay."
And Job believed that his punishment hadn't come to stay. That's what I want you to notice here. He is like Peter and Paul, they said the same thing, that their afflictions were for a night, or for a season or only for a moment.
There is a man by the name of Elihu in chapters 32 to chapter 37. He affirms that suffering is always purposeful. (32:14-29) God has a reason for it. And I want to say to you, we shouldn't waste our tears or our pain. We should get something out of them. He says it is always purposeful. And this man, Elihu, was God's true messenger on the matter of suffering in the portion in which he is dealing with it. I want you to keep that in mind.