Today’s numbers are showing that the United States has the leading number of cases of coronavirus in the world. Many states like Washington, Louisiana, and California are functioning under a ‘stay at home’ or ‘shelter in place’ order. Some states, like Florida, are receiving backlash from the media and leading experts for starting the quarantine late. Countries all over the world are working to flatten the curve that this pandemic is taking. Regardless of age, demographic, or underlying health issues, it seems the coronavirus is capable of infecting all. Which leads many to ask the question: How did this happen, and where is God? In the face of suffering, many refute the claims of God, others blame Him for their pain, while few bless and worship Him. In the life of Job, we see a man faced with great suffering—who lost everything. So what does the book of Job teach us about the Coronavirus?
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What Do We Know about the Book of Job?
The Book of Job is ultimately about the value of God in the midst of pain and suffering. The first two chapters present a series of descriptions and dialogue about a man named Job through the lens of God and Satan. Their dialogue, and the suffering that follows, give light to how humanity experiences suffering, how we should respond to suffering, and how God is sovereign over all suffering.
Who Is Job and Did He Write the Book?
Set in Uz, far away from Israel (1:1), comes a story about a man named Job. Job was not an Israelite, yet somehow came to know the God of Israel (1:21). He is found as righteous before God, although God grants Satan permission to attack Job, stripping him of his family, possessions, and health. The events seem to be set in the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the unknown author is believed to be a Hebrew who speaks great wisdom (due to his quotes from Proverbs).
What Genre Is the Book of Job?
The Book of Job is considered to be one of the three books of wisdom literature found within the Bible. It is broken into three main parts: The prologue, which provides context in the heavenly realm of Job's character and the circumstances of his suffering (1:1-2:13). The Dialogue, which consists of dense Hebrew poetry, and includes the conversations between Job, his 4 friends, and his suffering and standing with God (3:1-42:6). The book concludes in the epilogue, which provides the rebuke of Job’s friends and restoration and answer to Job (42:7-17).
What Is the Main Theme of the Book of Job?
The Book of Job seeks to speak into humanity’s suffering and it’s relation to a sovereign God. The book cues questions such as: Is God just, and does He run the world according to justice? Is God better than the loss of our possessions? Our health? Is God better than life itself?
Ultimately, the main theme and purpose of this book is to reveal that the value of God is supreme over all things (Psalm 66:3). God is just (Isaiah 30:18), but the purpose of this book reveals that our limited view of the world makes God’s justice incomprehensible. Rather, the book probes readers to consider that God is more satisfying than anything on earth. We see that God is not to be cursed, but rather to be feared, worshipped, and reverenced in the midst of suffering (Job 1:20-22). Throughout Job, and scripture as a whole, the book provides context for James 5:10-11 which says:
“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
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What Does Job's Story Teach Us about God and Suffering?
As James states, the Lord is full of compassion and mercy, despite our anguish. God set in motion the conflict and suffering of His servant Job (Job 1:6-8). God grants Satan permission to cause turmoil in Job’s life. We see that Satan is weak without the power and approval of God. And yet, even through this, there is still the great understanding that God is merciful and compassionate towards His people. In the face of great suffering, whether that be a story like Job’s, or death, grief, sickness, and financial loss like we are experiencing now through this pandemic, we must first consider the character of God.
In Job 38:1-42:6, we see God answer Job through two speeches. First, God reveals to Job how limited his understanding of the world is. He reveals to Job that God is the creator of all things (Genesis 1:1), and He alone holds the whole world together. Second, God specifically asks Job whether or not He is powerful over creatures, as God is. God reveals himself to Job as almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, and yet still compassionate and merciful to finite creatures like ourselves (Amos 3:6). We see that God is not simply a participant in the world, but that He rules over it (Isaiah 45:7). He alone governs sickness, Satan, life, and death (Lamentations 3:38). In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, we can trust the fact that God is sovereign over the fear and suffering we feel. We can look to God in the midst of our pain and respond as Job does:
“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” - Job 1:20
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What Does Job's Story Teach Us about Mankind and Suffering?
Suffering should invoke a specific response from us—that is, the worship of God. Job experienced such loss, all His possessions, all 10 of his children, the health of his own body, and yet none of these warrant the cursing of God. Rather, they warrant the worship of and reverence of God. In his response to his wife, Job claims that she speaks as a “foolish woman” for telling him to curse God. He rightfully asks her “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:9-10).
In the midst of the coronavirus, we must be willing to question our own response to God. Even in the uncertainty that the pandemic is bringing, God is worthy of being blessed. Our proper response to suffering is not to sin with our lips and curse God, but rather to fall to our knees in prayer and worship, just as David proclaimed throughout the Psalms. May we also consider that Job's suffering was not related to sin. God made the righteousness of Job clear three times within the first chapter. This spreading pandemic may or may not be related to our personal sin as well. The Bible clearly speaks of God as a Father who lovingly disciplines us in our sin (Proverbs 3:11-12). The knowledge of this should point us to repentance and faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but should not lead us to blame all suffering on sin. We know that Job was not receiving a punishment—for his suffering happened despite his good standing with the Lord. God was allowing great pain and suffering to reveal who the greatest value of all life is (Job 1:1-2:13).
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What Comfort Can We Draw during a Pandemic from God's Interaction with Job?
We can find comfort in the midst of this pandemic the same way Job found comfort. His hope, allegiance, joy, identity and ultimate satisfaction was not found in his possessions, his family, or his health. They were found in the everlasting, blessed name of the Lord. Job treasured God more than his family, and lived out the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:37:
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Job exemplified what Paul says in Philippians 3:7-8:
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”
Christians, we must remember throughout this pandemic that our hope is not found in our people, our health, or our things, but in the Lord. We should expect suffering as Christians, but can trust scripture like 1 Peter 5:1-11 where Peter states that,
“After you have suffered a little while, [God] will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever.”
God is here, reigning sovereignly over all things—whether we are restored in this life from our suffering, or the next (Revelation 12:10-11). We do not know His reasons, but we do know His plans cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2). If you are a believer, we can put our faith in the God who reigns sovereignly over all suffering. We can find peace and contentment amidst suffering with the knowledge that,
“all things work together for the good of those who love him, and are called according to his purpose.” - Romans 8:28
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Who Do You Place Your Security In?
Friend, if you do not yet believe in this almighty, just, compassionate, and merciful God, let me urge you to see and savor the glory of God today. Consider the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus found in the book of Mark. Think on the fact that this loving Father, the God of Job, sent His only son Jesus, to die an excruciating death for your sin. Jesus took the penalty of our sin on the cross so that we could find everlasting life in him. Jesus’ resurrection provides our ultimate hope in life and death, peace that surpasses all understanding, the removal of all sin and condemnation, and unspeakable joy. God in His infinite wisdom suffered and gave us His own life, all His possessions, rights, and freedoms in heaven so that you and I could see and savor the absolute glory, value, treasure, and wonder that God is.
In the midst of this pandemic consider where your allegiance and identity lie. Is it in the hands of a God who’s plans cannot be thwarted? Or is it in our own limited understanding of the world we live in? I urge you today, to trust in the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords, and the God who suffered to provide us with life and peace.
- The Bible Project - Job and Wisdom Literature
- Desiring God - Look at the Book: Job
- Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 869-933). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
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