The suffering of Job gets a lot of attention, but as I’m reading through the book this time, I’m struck by the questions posed by Job or his friends, and those that arise from his situation. Like this, from Bildad, a ‘friend’: how can a person be righteous?
Job’s dour companions along a dark path shed little light on his dilemma, but occasionally they do raise a point worth pondering. How can a person be righteous? one asks–but from that one’s lips, the query is rhetorical. Already these friends have roundly condemned Job as a poser, a man who seems to have been righteous, but whose current misfortune has exposed him as a fraud. Isn’t the point of Job’s dilemma, they ask/accuse, that the chickens have come home to roost–that a serious downturn in fortune indicates Job’s corrupt heart and nature?
Job protests, insisting not just on his good character, but that this equation (present disaster is punishment for past sin) is wrong. So that question hangs in the air: can a person be righteous? That sounds more like a NT sort of question, one that gets answered with a resounding, Of course! Righteousness is possible those who trust Christ, the One who died so that they might be acceptable to God. But Job can’t yet make this appeal to Jesus; the Lord’s incarnation is still centuries or millennia in his future.
Instead, he demonstrates faith, insisting–despite the conventional wisdom exhibited by his ‘friends’–that God must be able to make people righteous. God is not capricious, not vindictive, not looking for an excuse to pounce on people–of all this Job is certain. Even if Job can’t see the actual solution to his problems, he’s confident that God has a way out, a way through. And it sounds like Job’s interest in being reckoned righteous before God is even more important than getting relief from his immediate calamities.
The friends don’t or won’t share his viewpoint. For them, the equation is very simple and universal: Job has sinned and is now paying the price; one reaps what one sows. Job, however, remains stubbornly fixed to the idea that God sees the heart and makes a way. We talk about the patience of Job, but reading through this book shows us that he is also a person of great faith.