Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Job is a very interesting book of the Bible. It discusses (at length) one of the most asked questions in all of Christendom (or any other circle as well): “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Not only that, but it is written in a unique style like that of a discourse; and unlike the Song of Songs (which appears with a similar format in some Bibles) the players and their lines are clearly defined. It is actually written in a way that the whole book could likely be acted out as a play. Job is also possibly the oldest book of the Bible, considering it likely takes place before the Exodus, but it is not traditionally ascribed to Moses as the writer. The story centers on the title character of Job. He is tested by Satan through great suffering (none of which he had brought on himself). His friends try to help, but their views on suffering only lead them to accuse Job of wrongdoing. Afterward, God shows up, explains his position as the king of the universe, and then fixes Job’s life.
Christians are sometimes accused of reading too much into the Old Testament scriptures and forcing Jesus into places where his presence is not clearly indicated. Rightly so, as Paul writes, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). So what can a Christian do? Even if it doesn’t exactly feel Jesus-y, Paul says to take every thought captive to Christ, and so Christians do. There is a favorite verse among pastors from Job that helps establish that the patriarchs may have believed directly in Jesus, despite his birth coming much later. The passage, Job 19:25, reads, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” From the NIV Bible standpoint, it certainly appears that Job not only believed in Jesus, but he actually prophesied Christ’s (2nd?) coming to earth.
Maybe Job did know about Jesus despite not being told. But while reading through Job, it is clear that he certainly wanted the Jesus we have today in his life. Today, let’s take a look at Job chapter 9 to see what Job had to say. To give you some context, Job is lamenting his situation in chapter 9 as well as responding to his friend Bildad’s first speech. One of the first issues that Job addressed is a problem that nobody is righteous before God. He said, “Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can a mortal be righteous before God?” (Job 9:2) This is commonly repeated not only throughout Job, but through all Scripture. Even Paul tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is true, in front of God, nobody is perfect; in fact, when compared to God nobody is even “good.” Even Jesus, before being glorified, would not accept being called “good.” We read
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good- except God alone” (Mark 10:17-18).
Only God is good, compared to him we are nothing. This creates a problem for Job, who wanted to talk directly to God- but not for us. For Romans 3:23 is only part of what Paul was saying. The whole statement is found in Romans 3:22-24,
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Because of our Lord’s atoning death on the cross, we are able to approach God, knowing that we have been completely forgiven of all of our sins through Jesus Christ. So when Eliphaz asks in Job 4:17, “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” we can confidently answer “no.” However, it is a moot point since those who are in Christ have been cleansed by his blood.
Due to his status as being unrighteous before the Lord, Job is not confident in approaching God (as many of are before coming to an understanding of Christ). He laments,
How then can I dispute with him?
How can I find words to argue with him?
Though I were innocent, I could not answer him;
I could only plead with my judge for mercy.
Even if I summoned him and he responded,
I do not believe he would give me a hearing (Job 9:14-16).
Indeed, why would god listen to a worm like one of us? Job states that at best he could beg for mercy, and even then maybe God wouldn’t listen, as Job is a member of sinful mankind and therefore unfit to appear before the Lord. Thanks be to God then for sending his son! For as we already discussed Jesus, through his death, brought us into righteousness. And, being declared righteous, we now may appeal to our heavenly Father. This is why John writes,
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us- whatever we ask- we know that we have what we asked of him (1 John 5:14-15).
We, unlike Job, can be confident in coming to God with our troubles. Can you imagine how different Job’s understanding of things would had been if he and his friends had our New Testament?
Job realized that something was amiss in his understanding of God. Something was missing and because of that there was a gap between the creator and the created. Job states,
He is not a man like me that I might answer him,
That we might confront each other in court.
If only there were someone to arbitrate between us,
To lay his hand upon us both,
Someone to remove God’s rod from me,
So that his terror would frighten me no more.
Then I would speak up without fear of him,
But as it now stands with me, I cannot (Job 9:32-35).
God is not a man, but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is. He was born by a woman and can even trace a human lineage. The first chapter of the book of Matthew features mostly “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). So we have God and man together in Jesus Christ. Not only that, but Job wishes for an arbitrator. After his resurrection, Jesus went to heaven where he lives to this day. And what does he do there? We read in Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” How amazing it is that we have this savior in the form of Jesus! That we can approach God and have someone speak to him on our behalf!
Did Job not know about Jesus? It is hard to say. It seems unlikely that Job knew the Jesus we know, and he almost certainly didn’t have scriptures like our New Testament. Nevertheless, Job knew that Jesus was out there. We already read his “Redeemer” quote; but did you know that although being unsure of a heavenly mediator, Job prophesied his existence? Indeed, after saying he needed someone to talk to God on his behalf, later he claims there is someone like that. We read,
Even now my witness is in heaven;
My advocate is on high.
My intercessor is my friend
As my eyes pour out tears to God;
On behalf of a man he pleads with God
As a man pleads for his friend (Job 16:19-21).
For a man who predated even Moses, Job had a great understanding and great insight on the Lord. Even many Christians today find it hard to believe that we have a friend in heaven, but we do. Jesus Christ is God, but he is also a man, a man who understands this life we live. And, as not only our Savior but also our friend, Jesus lives to speak to God on our behalf. So even if your life is in the pits like Job’s was, there is always one ear attentive to your call, and one man who will always be there for you. His name is Jesus.
If you’ve never allowed Jesus into your life before, or you’d just like to clear up your relationship with him; take a moment to pray with me- you won’t regret it. Just read these words out loud:
You’re always there for me.
No matter how far I’ve gone from you,
Or how hard I’ve fought against you,
You’ve always stayed close.
Forgive me for not appreciating you like I should,
Because I need you, Lord.
Wrap your arms around me,
Be my spokesman in heaven,
And send your Holy Spirit to clean me up.
In your name, Lord Jesus, I pray,