Job is not an easy book to read. The first two chapters and the last one aren’t bad, but all that bickering between Job and his friends in the middle is hard to follow. But taking it a section at a time with my ESV Study Bible and Be Patient (Job): Waiting on God In Difficult Times by Warren W. Wiersbe helped.
Job’s suffering was extreme. He lost all of his wealth and his ten children in one day. Then he lost his health. The person closest to him, his wife, was not much support (but then, she was grieving, too). Job’s friends came and sat with him in his grief for a whole week. They were better friends to him then than when they opened their mouths. They all wondered the same thing: Job, what in the world did you do to bring such suffering on yourself? God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked, right? So you must have really done a number to warrant all this.
Job tried to point out, several times, that the wicked aren’t always punished–at least not in the time or way we would think. Therefore the opposite is true: people who do right sometimes suffer for no apparent reason.
God had said in the beginning that Job was an upright man. He didn’t allow Satan to torment Job for punishment. Rather, Satan had accused that Job only followed God because God had blessed him. Basically, he said God bought Job’s allegiance by all He had blessed him with. Take away all that, and “he will curse you to your face.”
Job never cursed God. He maintained his integrity and faith. Yet at times, knowing he was in the right caused him to question whether God was doing right in His treatment of His faithful servant.
In the end, God set straight the three friends plus Job.
Here are some of the insights Dr. Wiersbe offered:
In times of severe testing, our first question must not be, “How can I get out of this?” but “What can I get out of this?” (p. 24).
The problem with arguing from observation is that our observations are severely limited. Furthermore, we can’t see the human heart as God can and determine who is righteous in His sight. Some sinners suffer judgment almost immediately, while others spend their lives in prosperity and die in peace (Eccl. 8: 10–14) (p 37).
Nothing that is given to Christ in faith and love is ever wasted. The fragrance of Mary’s ointment faded from the scene centuries ago, but the significance of her worship has blessed Christians in every age and continues to do so. Job was bankrupt and sick, and all he could give to the Lord was his suffering by faith; but that is just what God wanted in order to silence the Devil (p. 52).
Beware of asking God to tell others what they need to know, unless you are willing for Him to show you what you need to know (p. 60).
Now Job had to put his hand over his mouth lest he say something he shouldn’t say (Prov. 30: 32; Rom. 3: 19). Until we are silenced before God, He can’t do for us what needs to be done (p. 186).
I especially appreciated what Wiersbe said at the conclusion of Job’s trials, after God had restored him: “Job’s greatest blessing was not the regaining of his health and wealth or the rebuilding of his family and circle of friends. His greatest blessing was knowing God better and understanding His working in a deeper way” (p. 192).
If you’d like even more resources on Job, I can recommend Beyond Suffering: Discovering the Message of Job by Layton Talbert and The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God, a poetic rendering of Job by John Piper (linked to my reviews of them). Also, I wrestled a few years ago with Where Is God’s Compassion and Mercy in Job?