Monday, October 19, 2009

Job's Justification

This is our final week in our short trip through the book of Job. It turns out that this gloomy book has a happy ending. After enduring the loss of his family, wealth, and health, moral lectures about his own sinfulness from his friends, and even a few pointed questions from God himself, Job is finally vindicated. Although Job admits that he has spoken about things he did not understand, God's verdict is still that Job has spoken truthfully about God while his friends have not. Job 42 gives the details of Job's vindication and restoration. Job is blessed even more than before. He once again has his health, he is again blessed with 10 children, and his wealth in livestock is double what it was before. Job's restoration as a spiritual authority is symbolized in his sacrifice and prayer on behalf of his three friends which God accepts and his restoration to his former place of honor in the community is symbolized by all those who had known him before his suffering coming and dining at his house. Job was righteous before his suffering, he endured that suffering righteously, and in the end God vindicated or justified Job's faithful obedience as righteous by blessing him even more than he had before.

As I've been working through the book of Job, I've been struck many times by the parallels of Job's suffering with the life of Jesus. I've often wondered if Jesus' own reading of the book of Job as he grew up was instrumental in shaping his own understanding of his messianic mission; if perhaps passages like these in Job and the suffering servant passages in Isaiah led Jesus to the conclusion that he could suffer righteously. As I was reading this last chapter of Job today, I was struck once again by the parallels between Jesus and Job, especially as Paul sums up the story of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11. The pattern of movement from greatness to obedience in humiliation and suffering to restoration and exaltation as a result of that obedience which we find in the book of Job is the same movement found in the Christ hymn of Philippians 2.

The pattern in both of these stories shows that God will ultimately vindicate those who place their trust in him; Job's fortunes are restored and Jesus is "exalted to the highest place and given the name that is above every name". But this pattern also clearly shows that the kind of trust that God requires is not easy trust that is only present when things are going well. Real faith, real trust is the kind that endures the suffering of Job, the kind that carries a cross.

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