The Patience of Job?
Scripture to meditate on:
Then Job replied:
“Even today my complaint is bitter;
his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning.
If only I knew where to find him;
if only I could go to his dwelling!
I would state my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would find out what he would answer me,
and consider what he would say to me.
Would he vigorously oppose me?
No, he would not press charges against me.
There the upright can establish their innocence before him,
and there I would be delivered forever from my judge.
“But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
My feet have closely followed his steps;
I have kept to his way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.
“But he stands alone, and who can oppose him?
He does whatever he pleases.
He carries out his decree against me,
and many such plans he still has in store.
That is why I am terrified before him;
when I think of all this, I fear him.
God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me.
Yet I am not silenced by the darkness,
by the thick darkness that covers my face.“ – Job 23
As we’ve been reading Job’s lengthy complaints and laments you might be curious about Job’s reputation for patience and long suffering. Surely, what we’ve read thus far has not exactly been a model for developing character in the face of hardship.
Biblical scholars point to the New Testament book of James as clue about Job’s ill-fitting reputation. Here, James suggests that first century believers adopt the “patience of Job” (5:11) in the face of Roman persecution. One might well wonder where James got the idea that Job was suffering patiently. Again, Biblical scholars have a few theories.
One suggestion notes that the Greek word James uses for ‘patience’ might better be translated into English as ‘endure’ or ‘persevere’.1
A better explanation comes from exploring the version of the Job story early Christians were reading. The original book of Job was likely written in an ancient Arabic or Aramaic language. A number of scholars now suspect the Greek translation in circulation during the time of James may have intentionally downplayed Job’s angry responses to God, transforming his words into something more pious and patient.2
What is certain is that scripture honestly reflects the raw reality of human pain and suffering. Equally certain is that God has provided a response to that pain in the person of his own son, the promised Messiah, who carried all our suffering, including Job’s, to the cross of Calvary.
“Will anyone teach God knowledge, the one who judges the exalted?” – Job 23:22
Questions to ponder:
- Timothy tells us that all scripture is inspired by God and can be used to teach and correct us. What do you think the book of Job is intended to teach us?
- What have you learned from your time reading and praying through this ancient text?
- Have you experience moments in this study when this ancient text seemed very modern?