How do I study the Biblical book of Job?

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Answered by: Brady, An Expert in the Studying the Bible Category
For many Bible students, the Old Testament book of Job is filled with sadness, pessimism, and just old-fashioned complaining. Job is first seen as a stalwart example of integrity, praying regularly for his children as God Himself compliments His righteousness. A conversation between God and the Devil quickly turns into a test of Job's resolve, as every single thing that Job holds near and dear to his heart is taken from him: children, possessions, health, and even the support of his wife. Job's friends eventually appear at his side, initially grieving alongside of him, but when Job begins to moan about his condition, his friends quickly begin to accuse him of error. The book closes with God talking to Job directly, reminding him of Who is ultimately in charge. Ironically, God never once explains to Job the meaning behind his suffering, but Job eventually is brought back to a full understanding of his place in this life.

At first glance, Job is regarded as a loose set of ramblings without any coherent set of principles. Job complains, his friends compound his woes, and then Job continues to complain, all the while arguing for his innocence. Where Job sees injustice, his friends see sin, and the miseries of this life are a testament to God's abandonment of His once faithful steward.

Once one dives deeper, Job is seen in all of its glory. No longer does one see a broken-hearted man with a shallow complaint about his physical condition, but the agony of a soul that feels forsaken by His Lord. "Where is God?" Job argues. "What have I done to merit such a circumstance?" Job believes (wrongly) that the Lord has turned His back on someone who has always put God first in everything. Thus marks the conundrum facing Job's friends: if God cannot - or will not - abandon one of His own, then the only possible answer for Job's circumstances is his own iniquity. Job simply cannot accept this solution.

In Job's eyes, he has not sinned. This is not to say that he is perfect, but the book of Job is replete with examples of Job's integrity. "If my heart has been enticed by a woman," Job argues in Job 31:9-10, "then let my wife grind for another." If Job has been truly guilty of the sins his friends keep accusing him of, then he understands the plight. But the time he has spent on the ground have been used, in part, to reflect upon his life, and try to uncover the source of his pain. Finding none, Job turns his fist to the heavens and begins to question God.

This seeming injustice is what causes Job to converse with his friends for the bulk of the book, and every few chapters is a different conversational cycle of that experience. First, Job talks to one friend, then he talks to another, and so on, until all four friends fall silent. Finally, God opens up the heavens and asks Job what his role was in the creation of the world. This humbles Job, and he is now the one that falls silent.

Ultimately, the lesson of Job is not that we should never be angry about our circumstances, but to remember to hold our abiding faith in God closest during the times of trial. By directing his anger towards God, Job allowed his emotions to supersede what he knew to be true: that for those who are faithful to God, He is never far away.

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