Since the dawn of time, individuals, people of various races and ethnicities, and nation-states have all craved the elusive concept known as “peace or tranquility.”
As a matter of historical record, President Roosevelt stressed that people all over the world “shared Americans’ entitlement to four freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.”
The book of Job which is found in the Hebrew Bible attempts to give humanity a glimpse of how to deal with peace and tranquility when a person’s world is completely upended.
The book of Job is perhaps one of the most inscrutable books to be found in the 39 books of the Old Testament.
The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible is broken down into three sections: (1.) The LAW or Pentateuch; (2.) The Prophets; and (3.) The Writings).
The central protagonist in the book of Job is the man in which the book is named after – Job himself.
Job lived in the land of Uz (modern day Iraq). A quick thumb nail sketch of Job’s life reveals that he was a
- Holy Man ( a man of tremendous Prayer to GOD who is called “The El Shaddai”)
- A Married man with 10 children (7 sons and 3 daughters)
- A Very Wealthy Man with many servants
- Known for his tremendous Wisdom, Stature, and Standing within the community that he lived in
- A Patriarchal leader in his region of the world.
Job’s upright character was later referenced with the utmost respect by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14).
The vicissitudes of life hit Job in rapid succession and he goes from being an extremely successful and prosperous man to a human being who literally finds himself “on the ash heap with no answers” (JOB 2:8-10).
Unbeknownst to Job, an evil celestial adversary known as “Satan” or “the Accuser” has asked GOD – “The El Shaddai” – for permission to strip Job of his family and possessions and secondly, to afflict Job with terrible bodily affliction.
Job’s wife is in such heartache and misery that she tells her husband to forsake his integrity and commitment to GOD and to curse GOD and then die.
Job rebukes his wife for engaging in folly.
It gets worse for Job in the fact that three of his “best friends” – three men named Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – come to comfort him, but in their zeal to interpret why Job is suffering – they proclaim that Job must have some secret or unconfessed sin – they end up exacerbating Job’s pain and suffering and send him recoiling into anger and self-defense.
Job declares that he is innocent of any hidden evil or secret sins and that he would like GOD to answer him and explain why he is experiencing all of this “gratuitous evil” pain and suffering.
Eventually GOD intervenes and alleviates Job’s suffering.
GOD engages Job in a dialogue, but GOD does not directly answer Job’s queries.
Instead GOD answers Job’s inquires by asking JOB a series of intriguing questions.
Job acknowledges the fact that GOD is GOD alone by responding to The El Shaddai with this humble response in Job 42:2-6:
“I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. 6 Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”
GOD rebukes Job’s three friends for not speaking truthfully about GOD as His Servant Job spoke.
Job’s three friends could not understand how a truly righteous man could suffer evil and pain on such a massive scale. Job’s three friends were guilty of an erroneous “worldview.”
Yet, if all of us are honest we wonder why there is so much pain, war, famine, disease, and evil in this world.
The philosopher J. I. Mackie wrote many years ago that “If GOD is omnipotent then why is there so much evil in the world?”
Time does not allow this writer in the confines of this essay to tackle that question today, but suffice to say some of the best answers to Mr. Mackie’s question can be found in the prolific writings of the brilliant Philosopher Dr. Alvin Plantinga.
Dr. Plantinga is the author of what is known as “The Free Will Defense.”
The book of Job is a reminder to all human beings that Science, Literature, Politics, and Philosophy can only take us so far in answering questions such as “what is the ultimate meaning in life.”
The book of Job reminds the “faith community” – and humanity by extension – that ultimately there is a GOD who is aware of the pain and suffering that humans experience and that this GOD is never insensitive or indifferent to human pain and suffering.
Whether or not that pain in suffering exists in the Middle East, the Ukraine, the Ebola crisis in Africa, geopolitical perplexity in Russia, and or the uncertainty transpiring in North Korea, the Sacred Writings – both the Old and New Testaments – assure human beings that they are not alone and that The El Shaddai (GOD Almighty) is there and “He is There and He is Not Silent” (Francis Schaeffer 1972).
A slow and deliberate reading through the book of Job may be of assistance to us in the midst of a world that has gone “topsy-turvy.”
The book of Job provides a unique and transcendent point of view (this literature has been with mankind for at least 3,400 years!) that aids us in practicing “self-awareness.”
The vicissitudes of life shake everyone.
Reflection upon “Sacred Literature” is one means by which one may find strength, help, and peace to march forward into the uncertainties of daily living.
The Psalmist David said it best when he averred that,
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”