Who would not like the Lord God to say about us what he first said about Job before his trial: “There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (Job 1:8). Following his grievous trial and subsequent humility, God said Job had spoken “the thing that is right” (Job 42:7). He is even included with Noah and Daniel who are noted for their righteousness (Ezek. 14:14,20).
Job provided early wisdom literature
Job lived before Moses and was likely a contemporary of the patriarchs. His words, which were written in a book (19:23), may have provided David and Solomon a basis for some of their wisdom. Note the frequent marginal references in Job to like statements in Psalms and Proverbs. For example, Job says: “And unto man he (God) said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28 cf. Prov. 1:7; 8:13). Job’s words would have been a source of help and comfort to Moses and to the prophets who came after. And we have in the book of Job a supreme example of God’s working with and developing one of His sons.
Job lived in the land of Uz and was the greatest of all the men of the east (Job 1:3). Since it was to the east country that Abraham had sent his sons by Keturah (Gen. 25:6), perhaps Job learned the gospel from Abraham or one of his descendants.
An example of suffering endured
Up until Job’s time, we read of no other man of God who suffered so terribly. He lost his children, his property and was afflicted with a repulsive disease. Job struggled to understand why he was suffering. His friends falsely accused him (20:19) and as he tried to answer these miserable comforters (16:2), Job’s feelings were revealed. He made known how he revered God’s word and how he tried to please God.
“My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:11,12).
God was pleased with Job and, much like the one who was greater than Job, his life was given as an example for others to follow (1:7-8). Jesus resisted sin and pleased his Father with much the same words as Job: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4 citing Deut. 8:2,3 which may actually be an echo of Job). Both Job and Jesus experienced the horrible feeling God had left them (Job 30:20; Psa. 22:1) but they both clung to Him and no other. Their hope was in God only who could save them from death (Job 13:15,16; Heb. 5:7).
Job determined to understand God
Job could not understand what had happened to him. How could he justify God’s bringing upon him judgment which was rightly due the wicked (Job 36:17)? Many of the wicked prospered and continued to do so until the day of their death (21:7). Why was Job, a righteous man, being treated like a sinner (27:13-23)? What purpose could there be in the events that had invaded his life? Should Job stop being righteous?
Job concluded that even though judgment had been taken from him, and the Almighty had vexed his soul, he would hold fast to righteousness until death and not let it go (27:2-6). He recognized that God had delivered him to the ungodly (16:11), was performing the thing appointed for him (23:14) and he would come forth as gold (23:10). So Job chose to keep on being righteous, even under trial, for his one desire was to see God and be accepted by Him. Job was consumed by an earnest desire for that day (19:25-27 margin). Such was the endurance and patience of Job.
Righteous suffer for others
Note that it is God who starts all the action by directing the adversary to consider Job. Was it necessary for Job to suffer not only for his own benefit, but so that the sinners of his day could be brought to God? Job certainly was not suffering for his own sins. His trial, much like that of Jesus, was placarded before all. Indeed, Job’s brothers and sisters of all ages are familiar with his agony. Yet in all this he continued to speak what was right about God, so much so that all who have suffered loss can find direction and solace in turning to Job.
Many brethren in James’ time, who were just, were being condemned and killed, a fate they did not resist (Jam. 5:6). Be patient like Job, says James, and wait for the Lord’s coming (5:11). During their trials neither Job nor Jesus had received righteous judgment from either the ecclesia or the nations around. But true judgment would come for these brethren in James’ day, even as it had for Job and Jesus. We know that in the end the wicked will be weeded out of the earth (Psa. 37:22,34). However, God is not willing that any should perish and while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). James’ determination was not only to encourage the righteous to hold fast, but to turn sinners to God (Jam. 5:20).
Parallels to the book of James
When Job’s three friends heard of all the evil that had come upon him, they came to mourn with him and to comfort him. James, also, is mindful of the afflicted and instructs us to visit them (Jam. 1:27). Just as the three friends benefited from their visit to Job, the afflicted sometimes provide us with answers. We can learn from them to endure and keep ourselves unspotted from the world. God allowed Jesus to die for us and placarded his death before us so we could learn from his trial how to put away sin.
At first, Job did not count it all joy to undergo his losses. Neither did he rejoice that he was made low (cf. James 1:2,10), nor did he understand that the trying of his faith was working patience (Jam. 1:3).
Job asked wisdom of God, and God answered him since Job had not wavered in his devotion to God (Jam. 1:5,6). The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind (Job 38:1). A revelation of the majesty and supremacy of God and His care for all His creation brought Job to the realization that God exercises control and care over all His creation. And when he realized his arrogance, Job repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:5,6).
Striking parallels to Jesus
Job could now see the bigger picture: God required more than obeying commandments and worrying about himself. Job must reach out to others and extend to them the forgiveness, longsuffering, love and mercy God had shown to him. He must pray for his friends.
“While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
The Lord then commanded Job’s three friends to “take seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job” (42:8).
Job is accepted by God, and now Job can be a merciful and faithful savior of his friends for he himself has suffered being tempted (Heb. 2:17,18). Job prayed for his brethren who had cursed him. And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends (42:10). James may well have been thinking of Job when he said that to be healed we should confess our faults one to another and pray for one another (Jam. 5:16). James says,“the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” and Job’s prayer did avail much. Not only were his friends accepted by God, but his captivity was turned and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. All his brothers, sisters and acquaintances came to eat bread with him and to bring gifts.
James could identify with the friends of Job. He knew this is what had happened to him when his own brother (Jesus) prayed “Father forgive them.” It was for James he was praying, for he was one of the unbelievers, and James with those like him were forgiven. Yes, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
In perfecting his son, God has opened the way for sinners to come to Him, a purpose begun in a small way in Job.
Shirley Robinson (sister-wife of Jack Robinson)