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19th May

Job 1-3; Psalm 134

Bible in a Year
7 minutes
In this article
19th May

Job 1-3; Psalm 134

Bible in a Year
7 minutes


We're taking a break from the prophets for a bit, and we're going to focus on the wisdom books instead. These books each take a unique way of looking at the world to better understand it and live well. The first wisdom book we have is Job.

It's set in the land of Uz and so has nothing to do with God's people, the Israelites. It is also not set in any particular time. Job could have been around at the same time as Abraham, or David, or even the exile. We have no idea. The reason for this is that it isn't important. What is important is the issues that this book wrestles with.

Job 1-3 - Prologue

Job 4-37 - The speeches of Job and his friends

  • Job 4-14 - Round 1 of speeches

  • Job 15-21 - Round 2 of speeches

  • Job 22-26 - Round 3 of speeches

  • Job 27-31 - Job’s monologue

  • Job 32-37 - Elihu’s monologue

Job 38-42 - God’s speeches to Job

The premise of the book is to wrestle with the question of evil and suffering. Job, who previously flourished under God, suddenly has his world turned upside down and suffers greatly. This completely undoes Job’s worldview. He cannot reconcile how a good and just God could allow this to happen. Throughout the book he wrestles with this trying to understand does God not care? Maybe God’s a bully, and he’s the source of suffering?

Meanwhile, Job’s friends come alongside to offer their wisdom. God is always just, so if Job is suffering, it must be that he is being punished for some sin he committed. However, we’ll see from the start of the book that Job is righteous and that these friends must be wrong.

When God finally comes at the end of the book, he points out to Job that he can’t possibly comprehend all that God does across the earth and why he does it. But despite that, God commends Job for seeking an answer directly from God. In short, the book of Job doesn’t seek to answer the problem of evil and suffering, but does seek to give us a framework for wrestling through it with God.

Job 1-3

The book opens on Job, a great man of God. He lived right; he feared God, and he avoided evil. He had the perfect amount of children (three and seven were both considered perfect or whole numbers), and he regularly made sacrifices for him and his family just in case any of them sinned. Job is the model follower of God.

Then the story switches to God's throne room, where God has summoned all the spiritual beings who help him rule the earth, to hear their reports. Imagine the Prime Minister sitting at number ten listening to the different reports of all their ministers.

Then in walks Satan. In the original language, Hebrew, it can be argued that this is better translated as ‘the satan’. See, when you read Satan, you most likely think of the ultimate evil, big bad guy lurking behind scenes throughout the Bible, but that's not necessarily who the book of Job is talking about. Satan is a title, not a name, and it means 'accuser'.

In the contexts of God getting reports from all his ministers, the satan was the minister who was allowed to challenge ideas, and put forward different view points. A devil's advocate, for want of a better phrase. This is important. If you read this story, seeing the satan as the ultimate big bad, you will get yourself tied up in knots with questions that aren't helpful. So here the satan is meant to question things, which is exactly what he does.

God calls the satan forward and asks for his report. Where's he been and what's he been up to. The satan responds that he's been exploring the earth, and so God asks if he's seen Job. God then boasts about how great Job is. How faithful and godly he is.

So the satan poses a question. A legitimate question. What if Job is only faithful to God because God gives him nice things? If you removed those things, would Job still be faithful? God clearly feels that this question is valid, and so he gives the satan permission to test his theory. He can take all of Job's 'stuff' away, but he is not to harm Job himself.

And so we cut back to Job and watch as, in one day, Job loses his livestock, his servants, and his children. All the good things that God has blessed him with are gone. What is Job going to do? Is he going to stop being faithful to God because God has stopped blessing him? No. Job recognises that God is free to give and to take away as he wishes, and so Job continues to bless and praise God as before. The satan's theory was incorrect.

Some time passes and God is holding another council meeting in his throne room, hearing reports from his spiritual beings. God sees the satan and asks him what he's been up to. After the satan had told him, God points his attention to Job. He points out that Job has still been faithful, therefore the satan's original theory was wrong.

So the satan decides to push a little further and keep questioning. What if Job is still faithful because his life is still fine? Sure, he has lost a lot, but he is still strong and healthy. If you were to take away his health and his strength, what then? Would Job still praise God then? So God indulges the satan once more, giving him permission to harm Job but not kill him. So the satan goes down to Job and inflicts him with sores all over his body, and then he goes. That's the last time we hear of the satan in the book.

At this point, Job's life is miserable, and even his own wife tells him to just give up, curse God and then die. But Job refuses. He continues to be faithful to God. The satan's theory was wrong again. Three of Job's friends hear about what has happened to him and come down to support him. They weep with him and for seven days they sit and mourn with him.

The main problem now is that Job has no idea what has happened. He wasn't in God's throne room. He didn't hear the conversation between God and the satan. And so he is left wondering, why did these bad things happen to me? This is the question that Job and his friends are going to wrestle with for the rest of the book.

Job's opening speech lays out this question. Why? He takes time to mourn what has happened to him. He curses the situation he finds himself in, and rightly so, it's pretty bad. Then he switches to questioning what it is all for. If this is what life has to offer him, it would be better if he'd never been born. He then questions why he's still alive now. If his life is only going to be miserable from now on, why does God let him continue to live? Why couldn't God just kill him now and be done with it? Job's mourning is very real to read.

As you read this, it may even stir up some uncomfortable feelings in yourself. What Job is doing here is the Biblical practice of lament. There is evil and pain in this world, and as Christians, we can often be tempted to ignore it and just focus on the good. But these ancient people of God didn't ignore the evil around them. They grieved it. And they used that grief and these questions to push them closer to God and wrestle with him.

Going forward, we're going to get some responses from Job's friends. They will try to answer Job's questions or challenge him for asking them. Spoiler alert, they get it wrong. But as we read this book, if you find it stirring up some uncomfortable stuff, let me encourage you to bring it all to God. That is exactly what this book is trying to achieve. To show you how to take your pain and hurt and wrestle with it well.

Psalm 134

This psalm isn’t attributed to anyone in particular and is named as a psalm of ascent. These psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Festival of Weeks, and Festival of Tabernacles) or possibly by the Levites as they ascended the steps of the Temple. Psalm 120-134 are all psalms of ascent.

In this ascent journey we’ve gone from being far from God's presence (Psalm 120), to seeking God’s presence (Psalm 121), and then to reaching God’s presence (Psalm 122). From there, the psalmist has asked the Lord for help (Psalm 123) and then praised the Lord for his protection (Psalm 124).

From within Jerusalem, they reflected on the nature of righteousness and wickedness (Psalm 125). They thanked God for how he has restored his city, but also ask for more (Psalm 126). This leads the psalmist to reflect on the importance of God being first and foremost in our live (Psalm 127) and fearing God (Psalm 128).

Having focused on God’s authority and power, the psalmist then reflects on how God rescued them and Israel from oppressors (Psalm 129). Then the psalmist called out to God to rescue them from, and forgive them for, their sin (Psalm 130) and placed their trust in the Lord (Psalm 131). Then came the reflection on God’s covenant with David and commitment to dwell amongst his people (Psalm 132).

With all the people gathered round the temple, the psalmist celebrates the unity of God’s people (Psalm 133). Now, finally gathered at the temple before God, the psalmist blesses God.

The psalmist calls all that serve the Lord to bless him. This would likely have been the priests. The congregation calls for the priests to go into the temple and bless God on their behalf and, in return, God will lead the priests to bless the people on his behalf.

Then the call is widened to all people to lift up their hands to God’s temple and bless the Lord. In return, the Lord, the creator of the heavens and the earth, will bless you.

As Christians, we believe in the priesthood of all believers, so we all have direct access to God ourselves. But just as God used the priests to bless the people, we too are to be used to bless all creation.

These psalms of ascent lay out an example of the different areas and ways we can pray as we come before God. From reflecting on our need for God, to thanking him for his protection, to asking him to help us in our time of need. One after another, the psalms build that sense of expectation and awe at being able to enter into God’s presence.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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