May the Name of the Lord Be Praised: Introducing the Book of Job

Ken Jones
Kim Riddlebarger
Friday, February 28th 2014
Mar/Apr 2014

In a current White Horse Inn roundtable discussion, Michael Horton (MH), Ken Jones (KJ), Kim Riddlebarger (KR), and Rod Rosenbladt (RR) discuss the book of Job. You can follow the rest of the discussion at

Job was a man deeply devoted to God, and Satan chided God for Job's faithfulness: Why wouldn't he be faithful? After all, he lived a charmed life’he was healthy, wealthy, and wise; his household was carefree. It was the ideal Norman Rockwell family. So God allowed Satan to test Job. There's no getting around the facts of the case: God not only foreknew Satan's testing, but he also sanctioned it. In Job 1:6-12, it's pretty clear from the story that Satan couldn't have had access to Job apart from God's permission.

Disaster followed disaster, and overnight Job lost everything precious to him: his possessions and his children. Yet Job responded, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised." Job refused to charge God with wrongdoing.

Satan returned to God and taunted, "But stretch out your hand again and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face." Job's body became wracked with sores and pain until his own wife said, "Curse God and die." But Job still replied, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"

MH: Where do we begin with the book of Job?

KR: You have to look at Job in its literary style, because it's a Wisdom book, and the prologue tells us everything we need to know that Job himself doesn't know. We know that Satan has been in the heavenly throne room and that God has said, "Consider my servant Job." But when Satan is allowed to torment him, Job knows none of this. All he knows is that his children are dead and everything is destroyed.

MH: Like us in our suffering, Job didn't have a prologue to his story. Ultimately, the center of the story is Job coming to that place where he doesn't understand why he is suffering. He has no philosophical resolution to theodicy, the problem of evil. But he knows there's a historical resolution when he says, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and in this flesh’which is rotting and falling off of my bones’in this same body and with these eyes, I will see my Redeemer standing upon the earth."

KR: That's the answer to the problem of suffering, though probably not quite the answer we want.

KJ: Job's declaration, "I know that my Redeemer lives," demonstrates the substance of his faith. In the following chapters, however, Job raises some serious questions’particularly, why all of this is happening to him. It's important to note that in the King James Version, Job is described in the first chapter as being "perfect and upright." Rather than looking at Job as this sinless individual, I think it speaks of his maturity: he is everything that a sinful, redeemed human being is supposed to be.

KR: In redemptive history, this introduces the theme that it will take the perfect obedience of someone to ultimately defeat Satan. Job is the epitome of human goodness and human righteousness, yet he can't defeat Satan. It's going to take the God-Man to come with a perfect righteousness to obey God's law and to ultimately bring about victory.

KJ: We should also note that for all his full faith in the Redeemer, there are points in Job's questioning where he sounds just like his friends: that is, he recommends to God his own virtue. He lists all the good he has done and then asks why he is suffering. What's going on here?

MH: Then he realizes that it's not for any particular sin’despite what his so-called counselors try to get him to confess. What he does come to see, however, is that he is sinful enough in God's courtroom to deserve this treatment and for God to be proved just. In chapter 16, he says, "Even now, my advocate, my defense attorney 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 human being, he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend." Earlier, in chapter 9, he says: "If only there were a go-between, a mediator." Once again, isn't this the story behind the story of God vs. Satan? The seed of the woman triumphing over the seed of the serpent?

KR: The story of Job teaches us that we can't discern the meaning behind the evidence at hand. What did Job do that caused this? That's the question that often leads to difficulties. I think we see this in the second chapter when the three friends show up. Initially they just sit with Job for a week and say nothing because they saw his suffering, and during this time they bring him tremendous comfort. It's when they start trying to figure out why Job is suffering that they become tormentors’going from quietly bringing Job comfort to opening their mouths and ruining everything. This is a struggle for me as a pastor when people ask for explanations as to why they're suffering, but often I have no answer. We have to learn to do what Job's three friends did: sit with the afflicted and not try to figure out why they're under affliction.

KJ: We've entered into an age of evangelicalism where the assumption’especially for us Calvinist, "intellectual" types’is that we must have an explanation.

KR: The more times I've given into that temptation, I've become the tormentor. It's a real struggle to keep my mouth shut.

KJ: I love the book of Job, because God never gives a reason for Job's suffering and nothing is presented in a prescriptive way’that is, Job wasn't told what he needed to do. Really, the crux of the story is in the first chapter. There is something cosmological, something greater at work and on display that we can't fully grasp. God is in control and Satan is our adversary. God's sovereign purposes include the presence of Satan, but he is not frustrated by it. There is much there that we just don't understand. There is only this slice of human reality for those of us who trust the living God in a fallen world until he returns.

Photo of Michael S. Horton
Michael S. Horton
Michael Horton is editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation and the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido.
Friday, February 28th 2014

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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