Recognizing God’s Grace unlocks the Extraordinary (part 1 of 2)
“An indirectness and slipperiness attaches to the whole book [of Job] … tricked out with figures of speech, and while it says one thing, it does another; just as if you close your hand to hold an ell or a little murena, the more you squeeze it, the sooner it escapes.” – Jerome (4th century AD, NPNF2, 6:491)
A brother-in-Christ Joshua shared his ideas of the difference between saying “redeem me” vs. “my redeemer lives”. Because of my lived experience of a modern-day Job that went from saying “redeem me!” to “my redeemer lives.”, I just had to unpack it further in this blog post. There is so much I want to share on this topic because this topic isn’t just intellectual talk. This was the key to my miraculous breakthroughs that baffled doctors and peers. This was Life itself to me.
Examine these 2 statements:
“Redeem me Oh Lord!”
“My redeemer lives.”
The first is a typical plea from a human in trouble, nothing wrong with it, but the focus is on “me”.
The second statement, the focus is actually on God – He lives, – and the relationship is intimate (my redeemer). It’s full of love.
The first is a plea from someone who may or may not know God intimately, though there is nothing wrong with it and in fact good to call on the name of the Lord.
But second is better. It shows you know God’s character well. It’s full of faith, love, and hope in Him. The focus is on who He is.
The first asks for help. The second says, “I know you so well, do what you do best. Save.”
God loves it when we see him for who he is, when our hearts comprehend what our minds cannot.
The first cry of “redeem me, Lord” can be found in the Psalms. At times, David was a king in retreat. He had people that hated him. He had people with an undying love for him. He had “problems” with a lowercase p. David had tough obstacles, but he was always in a position to find a solution with some of God’s help. The second cry was from Job. Job had “Problems” with a capital P. Job was in an impossible situation. There was no way for Job to save himself. There was no other way for anyone to think that it wasn’t God himself that was punishing him!
King David had the privilege of seeing God’s favor many times before. He beat Goliath with only a slingshot. He outlasted King Saul. I can easily understand why David can call out to God in his time of need. But Job? He took one loss after another until ALL of his friends thought he was a great sinner. Even more eye-popping is that slightly before Job uttered the ultimate acknowledgment of redemption, Job was already blaming God for all his ills. How is it possible for Job to have much higher confidence and understanding of God’s heart when his situation is infinitely bleaker than King David? It’s impossible, and that’s what makes the story of Job worth unpacking.
The full passage of “my redeemer lives” reveals a “faith” unlike what people commonly know as “faith”. People think “faith” is what we ourselves generate. This is true of many things. The chair held our weight before, we have faith it will hold our weight the next time we sit. But this faith when there is no reason left to have faith is what is known as “biblical” faith that only God can plant in your heart. This faith has two markers. We know because it reveals what the mind cannot comprehend – a greater revelation of who Jesus is and it is seen most clearly in dark times, not in good times.
I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)
Job is confident that when all the things that are set to destroy him have done all their damage, even when they have destroyed him, he will be intact again and see God himself “in my flesh” and with his “own eyes”, meaning that Job believes his redemption will be “in the land of the living” (Ps 27:13).
Such a high view of God’s grace!
But here is the actual million-dollar question. Where did this come from? Job lived under the Old Testament covenant of Law. This concept is new to his friends and to Job himself.
I know many people that would lament in their sufferings. There is nothing wrong with grieving when difficulties are very hard, or when there is a great loss. But, some people don’t want to fight through it because they don’t believe God is good enough to help them on this side of heaven. They say that life is too hard, and they want to see God in heaven.
I love the above passage because the person who said it was Job. And, no one on earth in history will ever suffer as much as Job. This is not an exaggeration. Let me explain.
Not only did Job will his entire business empire, but his family, his health (sores covering his body) and the respect of all men; his fall was also the most extreme. The Bible describes Job as the wealthiest and greatest man in the east. He literally went from the most prosperous, most honored to the least of all men. That’s sudden and extreme loss is psychologically jarring.
Many who have suffered much less have shown to not be able to handle it. As a finance-trained professional, I have read of many high-level fund managers or tycoons that commit suicide when they squander their fortunes or lose their reputations because of mismanagement, like Sanjay Valvani, 44, a hedge-fund manager who was charged with insider trading. (1)
But what is infinitely worse, again, I am not exaggerating, is that God seemed to flip the metaphysical rules on him and him alone. Sanjay was actually guilty of the crimes that led to his downfall. Job was totally undeserving of the punishment he got. In fact, under Mosiac Law, Job deserved fame and fortune.
Job and all of his friends were brought up in a form of “retribution” law; a precursor to the Old Testament Mosaic Covenant. They believed and also experienced that God blesses those who do good, and curses those who are sinful and unrepentant. This is obvious because God himself declared that “there is no one like Job” and that Job “is blameless”, and to corroborate the spiritual laws Job and his friends were under, Job was the greatest and richest man in the region.
In the very first chapter of Job, he is seen offering sacrifices to atone for sins, not just for himself, but even for his children just in case they did something wrong. Job’s righteous works were over and above what was necessary.
The most punishing thing about Job was that Job deserved the best, but received the worse; and, he became anathema to the world. To the world, he stunk. He was a walking curse.
You see, the world around him was forced to believe that Job must be hiding some egregious sins. They couldn’t think any differently because of the theology they were brought up with. This means that Job was forever going to be condemned by the world around him and that there is NOTHING he could do about it. He was too physically unable to do good works to show character, he looked too cursed to imply to people that God’s favor was on him.
His reputation was not just “low”, it was in negative territory because it looked like he was being cursed by God.
Job and his friends all acknowledge what Job thinks, “‘I am pure, I have done no wrong; I am clean and free from sin. Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy (Job 33:9-10).
But none of them really believed Job is innocent.
Faced with their own self-imposed choice of blaming Job or blaming God, limited by their knowledge of God’s higher purposes, they harden their hearts against their former friend. “There is no end to your iniquities,” says Eliphaz (Job 22:5), and then he invents some iniquities to charge against Job. “You have given no water to the weary to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry” (Job 22:8). “You have sent widows away empty-handed, and the arms of the orphans you have crushed” (Job 22:9).
The people constructed their own hardline narratives about Job and forcibly boxed Job in order to validate their fragile beliefs. Job was crushed by the collective worldviews of his friends that had no space for him. Fredrick Buechner once stated his belief that “If there’s no room for doubt, there’s no room for me.” Here he is referring to his doubts about life and God. But I realize this is also true when we deal with other people. If we do not give other people the benefit of the doubt, we might leave no room for them; and, if your judgments are inaccurate, so much is the damage you will be inflicting upon their innocence.
Job was totally crushed between his undeserved curses, his friends who had no room for him, the real hopelessness of the situation, the realization of how far he had fallen, the possibility that he lived his entire life in vain with the wrong belief, and theodicy paradox (How can God be good if I am suffering unjustly?) swimming in his head when physical pains temporarily subside and there are shades of lucidity.
When I think of the city of woe in Dante’s Inferno that warns, “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” I think of Job.
In this great darkness, Job doubted and attributed the evil acts against him to God the Father. This is an incredible no-no under Mosaic Law. This is the opposite of faith and righteous belief.
Your hands shaped me and made me.
Will you now turn and destroy me?
Remember that you molded me like clay.
Will you now turn me to dust again? (Job 10:8-9)
He tears me down on every side till I am gone;
he uproots my hope like a tree.
His anger burns against me;
he counts me among his enemies. (Job 19:10-11)
As hope was crushed and Job’s world narrowed down to the deepest parts of his soul, out came something hidden deep within Job’s heart, which is incredibly fascinating when we ponder about it. At what seems to be the absolute bottom, a place where Job had already turned inward, feeling betrayed by his friends, his own belief system that he thought was corect, God, the world and even himself. He suddenly uttered out something I find incomprehensible. This, to me, is the highlight of the entire book of Job.
I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth. (Job 19:25)
If Job really believed God was against him, who else could be powerful enough to change God’s mind? Job not only recognized that this mediator is not just a human being, but there are also even details – this redeemer will still be standing on the earth at the end of time. This redeemer is powerful enough to change God’s mind, He will live until the end, and has a bodily form that can stand on the earth. Not only these things, Job believes, even though there is no evidence for this, that this Redeemer is for him, not against him.
Who taught him this?
Nobody. Job’s mind was conditioned to believe what his friends believed. (Job 12:3)
This innate understanding of his Redeemer was not taught, meaning that this was a deeply buried truth planted there from long ago.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 states God has “set eternity in the human heart.” In every human soul is a God-given awareness that there is “something more” than this transient world. There is a timelessness outside of the temporal, there is absolute meaning to what seems like random suffering, and there is a love that is maximally great that better than the shadows of imperfect love on earth. This maximal love that has a name. What the Old Testament concealed is revealed in the New Testament.
He cried out to the part of God that contained His highest expression of grace, his beloved Son.
How did Job know about this… Grace personified?
Because Jesus himself said “He calls his own sheep by name … his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:2, 4)
Jesus says that he already knows who his sheep is and that those sheep already know Jesus’ voice and that God the Father and himself were one for all history.
Job knew the voice of his shepherd.
When Job didn’t know what to think, thoughts being drowned out by so many voices… the voices of condemning friends, the voice of physical pain and loss, his own voice that questioned God the Father himself, Job heard one voice that silenced them all.
One ring to rule them all.
One voice to rule them all.
This voice could only be heard deep in Job’s heart, revealed when all the hubris was crushed away.
He cried out to the part of God that contained His highest expression of grace, his beloved Son.
Job never met Jesus or knew His name, but his heart knew the attributes of his Redeemer. This is hardcoded in His sheep. This is why Job’s story impacts me hard. It shows that even when life totally doesn’t make sense, you are tempted to hate God because of unjust suffering, or that you think the Bible stories are fake, there will be a part of your heart that knows better and reaches out for better even when your mind is closed, or your heart is hardened.
This truth seems evident even outside of the Bible.
The very first verse of the Gospel of John, the most personal and most revealing of Jesus’ heart, of all the Gospels, spells out that the Logos “Word” existed with God right from the beginning.
In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2)
The “Logos”, (Greek: “word,” “reason,” or “plan”), in Greek philosophy and theology, is the divine reason implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning.
Even the Greeks knew of such a being, they could extrapolate this from their observations of the universe and logic that there must be an unmoved mover that has the ultimate meaning for the universe and vis-a-vis our personal lives.
The New Testament gave this “Reason” a name.
All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col 1:7)
Jesus completes Solomon’s prophetic insight that God set eternity in our hearts by giving the name and nature within the “eternity” that we are longing for. Jesus says that God the Father had “given them” to Him for all time, “no one can snatch them out of” his Father’s hand and that Jesus and the Father are on. (John 10:28-30).
This means that Jesus’ sheep are predisposed to get turned on to Jesus’ voice that is calling if only they can tune out all the competing voices in life.
Those who are suffering have the unique privilege of being maximally able to recognize all the hubris in their lives as their world shrinks inward until they find the place deep inside that they can fully trust. That place you can trust inside is not, like what modern pop psychology says, the real “you”, how can it be? The Bible says that your heart is “deceitful … and beyond cure” (Jer 17:9). Rather, it is the place that is absolutely not you. It’s the part of you that was seeded by God to long for the Redeemer and wants to be filled by His Spirit.
This experience of Job was exactly what I experienced as well.
When I called out to God, like Job, I wasn’t on a spiritual high, I was the opposite. Sores covered my body from head to toe. Doctors gave up on me and prescribed the highest immuno-suppressant to me, meaning that my life would be cut years shorter. I gave up on church. Rather, like Job, the church gave up on me because they had their own narrative of my life and faith. My Bible was ripped in two because I kicked it across the floor. My bedroom that I spent the last 1 year trapped in was as messy as my own life. Dead skin and blood stains peppered the ground, the chair, and the bed. Books of all kinds spewed out on the study table and floor. I lived in the dark because I hated the light, especially when the light would reveal all my disfigurement in front of the mirror. In contrast, a row of 20 trophies in academic studies and chess were on the high shelf, a photo album showing my days as a youth leader in Church and performing in an evangelical concert on stage to thousands reminded me of how far I had fallen. I was only searching for anything to numb the physical pains and to make me forget all that I lost, and forgot how I had no idea how to carry on. I loved God on some days, I hated God on others. I was indifferent to God on most. I was addicted to TV, computer games and porn. I was addicted involuntarily to my immuno-suppressants and other medical drugs to keep me alive, for every time I stopped taking those drugs, it would just be a matter of weeks before inflammations will cover my entire body.
I had every reason to give up on God. God had every reason to give up on me.
It was in this place that I suddenly yearned for an even deeper revelation of the Truth, the Logos, and somehow I understand that in Christ, there must be a greater reality. That’s when I swore to myself that I will always pursue Truth. I sensed, like the Greeks, that there must be an unmoved mover that started the universe and wanted to find out who He was. After a year of searching philosophies, history and religions, I ended taking another look at Jesus and finally wanted to see Jesus in the way He wants to be seen, and not how people tell me He is. I wanted to see Jesus as more than just words on a page, or what I heard from various pastors. Jesus lives in a higher dimension, I wanted to touch that higher dimension itself. In the middle of my addictions, I uttered out, “I am the righteousness of Christ. You can do exceedingly more than I can think or imagine.”
Everything changed from that day.
How could I come to this conclusion when everything was telling me the opposite? I was convinced God betrayed me. I was convinced that I was a sinner that didn’t deserve anything and no one cared about me. My only explanation is that it came from a place deep inside me that wasn’t exactly me. But instead, it was something that God planted in my heart. Perhaps it is not my own faith that mattered, but Jesus’ faith; and that there was a remnant of Jesus left in my, as described by ex-church goers who are guilty of ideological reductionism, “backslidden” state.
In a brief moment, God gave me a vision. I knew it was Him because of how incredibly peaceful I felt. It surpassed all understanding. I felt more secure than at any point before this. I saw myself pain-free, eczema free, married to a wonderful woman and had a career in business or finance and sitting on a couch in a 2nd story apartment overlooking a big public park. This apartment wasn’t in Singapore, I knew because I could feel the cool air breezing against my flesh. I wasn’t sure this was a vision. This was more like I was temporarily transported into a possible future.
Fast forward 9 years from that time. Gradually, my eczema started to get better, confounding all the doctors. I used the same medicines, the same treatments. They gave the same advice for my lifestyle that wasn’t effective for the last 2 decades. I found myself as a professional financial analyst in Singapore and then invited to work in Nashville as a senior business analyst. My peers thought this was nuts. No one gets hired directly from Singapore to the US in a senior position without years of professional experience or reputation. My closest friends who have seen my struggles over the decades could only describe what they saw as a miracle.
On the first day I arrived in Nashville, I rented the first apartment I saw that was next to my office building. Within 4 hours of arriving in Nashville itself, I found myself sitting on a couch overlooking the Centennial Park, on the second floor, cool wind blowing across my flesh. I remember the chill that crawled down my spine at that exact moment.
I was here 8 years ago.
Fast forward a couple more years. I am married to a wonderful girl that supports my work, sitting in a home that I fully own without debt, writing about what God has done and trading the financial markets.
I tell all the people who ask about my testimony, “my turning point came when my soul suddenly decided to want to see God the way He wants to be seen, and not what I or other people have conjured up.” Intense unjust suffering pushed me to this point, as fire tends to burn hubris up to reveal what is most lasting, most important.
I tell all the people who ask about my testimony, “my turning point came when my soul suddenly decided to want to see God the way He wants to be seen, and not what I or other people have conjured up.” – Kenneth W K Koh, modern-day Job.
If you are suffering, you might have lost many opportunities in life, but you have the greatest access to the greatest opportunity – to see God more clearly than others because the Bible promises that “God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34). The Bible didn’t say God is close to the very righteous or the church leaders, but specifically to the brokenhearted and crushed. And in seeing God more clearly, seeing Christ more clearly, you might end up with much more than you or any of your doubters would expect.
French physicist and theologian (my kind of guy!) Blaise Pascal was so much more correct than anyone was thinking when he wrote his famous quote:
“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This, then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by the reason..” -Blaise Pascal
Here, most people assume he means that God is personal, and not just an idea. Hence, we fully experience a person by our hearts, and not just our ideas of that person.
For myself, and in the case of Job, my heart contained the Reason, the Logos, the being that gives meaning to the entire universe, and that we will find redemption in the most unlikely of places, where the mind cannot understand when we call upon that Reason in way He wants to be called. Of all things, Jesus wants to be recognized as the Savior, the Redeemer, the personification of God’s Grace, the sacrifice for your sins, the Son of God. Not just a good man, teacher, political entity.
This is of the greatest comfort, knowing that in the greatest darkness we might lose everything, we find the greatest treasure instead.
I know that God treasures us finding this Redeemer more than anything else.
Remember all negative and even untrue on face value things Job was saying about God?
Job blamed God for killing him, doing nothing, and wished for death. These are all gross sins under Mosiac Law. God refers to people with a bad opinion of God as being “evil”.(Matt 25:14-30) In fact, you can make a case that his friends spoke correctly of God instead. They all believed God is good and only punishes evil people.
At the conclusion of Job, God flips everything on its head. What God says is as absurd as the crazy amounts of undeserved punishment Job endured. God said to Job’s friends, “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42)
“… You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:8)
God said that Job spoke the truth and his friends didn’t. Didn’t Job just accused God of evil intentions? God had punished people before who said less than this. This has boggled many over the centuries, including myself when I was younger. It was only after I received my own miraculous restoration that I understood the only answer to this.
The only way to make this puzzle fit is the new covenant of Jesus Christ.
Job indeed said the “wrong” things about God, and his friends said the “correct” things. But job identified and got the greatest thing correct. The greatest truth is the truth of the redeemer of Jesus Christ and calling out on his name to be saved.
This is the most important truth God cares about. And more importantly, God acts when you act on this truth.
Once we embrace the Redeemer and what He has done for us on the cross, God will “remember your sins no more” (Heb 8:12). When God sees you, He sees Jesus (1 John 4:17). That’s why in God’s point of view, Job said the “correctest” thing. God doesn’t remember Job’s past sinful thoughts while his friends were still presupposing on their own righteous works for salvation. condemning Job to the ground in the process.
Job’s Story is 4 dimensional. A story inside of a story (Part 2 of 2).
There is more. It will be mind-blowing, or your money back. I promise. Please read on.
It was only after Job called out to the Redeemer, it set the stage for the most epic restoration/redemption of all time on earth. This epic redemption from the epic fall of the blameless, epic isolation from God was God continuing to the next phase of his plan for us. Yup. I said us, and not Job.
You see, what Job wanted were reasons why God treated him unfairly. God never explained it to Job.
Instead, God continued to restore Job double of everything he had lost. He was the richest man in the land prior to the fall, now he is doubly rich. His health came back and he lived many long years and had an even bigger family that was more fruitful and beautiful.
Job wanted answers. God gave redemption. Job wanted to appease his mind and ego, God appeased his heart.
Most people stop here when it comes to Job’s story.
But Job’s restoration is far more.
Job used to be a “king”, in the sense that he was a civilian who had great honor and possessions, no doubt influential in society. But, after this ordeal, and after calling out to the redeemer, God promoted him to a new office. God declared that Job had spoken “correctly of God”, and that Job’s friends were wrong. God would only accept Job’s friend’s atonement if his friends went through Job first. Job’s friends had to go through Job to get to God.
He was now a “king” and “priest”. King in that he had great wealth and influence in society and Priest in that he is now qualified to represent the people to God, and God to the people.
Through Jesus, Job was promoted into the office of a King and Priest. Setting up the picture of what God intended for us today. In the book of Revelations, apostle John was given a vision of what the church was meant to be. What you were meant to be.
And from Jesus Christ … that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father. -Revelations 1:5-6
What happened to Job wasn’t really intended for Job himself, it was intended for us. God used Job to show us what happens when we recognize the imprint of grace embedded deep in our hearts and call out for the Redeemer. God wanted to show us, people who would be seeking God thousands of years later, an example of what Grace is.
Notice that before and after Job had that heart cry for a redeemer, there were two distinct patterns. Initially, Job was the most qualified for blessings (he did righteous acts, he worshipped and honored God, he was responsible with his family and business) and nothing could stop the bad things from happening. After, Job was the least qualified for blessings (he despised and blamed God, he despised his friends, he wished for death. Anybody in the entire Old Testament under the Mosaic law would have been severely punished for this, see Numbers 14, Numbers 21:4-9), he did everything wrong, and God gave him blessings of money and blessings that money cannot buy.
The second half of Job’s life was a picture of unmerited favor, of Grace that comes when we call upon Jesus. This grace is the ministry of life. (2 Cor 3)
The first half of Job’s life was to hint to us that the Mosaic Law will eventually be superseded by something greater. God was showing a picture of how the Mosaic law is the “ministry of death” (2 Cor 3), while the Gospel, through the Redeemer was the ministry of life.
I shuddered when I realized that when Job was most qualified for blessings (he said and did the right things\), nothing he could do could prevent the increasing curses to his life, and then when Job was least qualified (he said things that didn’t honor God anymore), there was nothing he could do to prevent all the overwhelmingly good things to happen to him either.
It was almost like Job went through a door to into a new world, a new country that had different metaphysical rules for him. From a world where Job was defenseless against the death and destruction from a fallen world controlled by the enemy, to a new world filled with grace that had an abundance of life.
I’ve read about such a door, a thousand years later.
Jesus said therefore again to them, `Verily, verily, I say to you — I am the door of the sheep … I am the door, through me if any one may come in, he shall be saved, and he shall come in, and go out [your whole world changes], and find pasture. (John 10:4, 9)
This door changes your world from a purposeless lack to God’s purpose and abundance.
`The thief doth not come, except that he may steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they may have life, and may have [it] abundantly. (John 10:10)
Almost the entire Old Testament shows the struggles of a hapless chosen people who would be continually frustrated wrestlings with obeying the Law of God. Their success and failures corresponded with going through seasons of blessings and punishment. The whole OT testifies that the Law of Moses cannot truly change us, we need a real Savior to change us from the inside out.
It boggles me that packed together with the writings of the Torah and the Prophets that the nation of Israel were custodians over, God had left the Book of Job right there, next to those writings… almost trolling the futility of what the nation of Israel was fixated upon, to be great by their own works.
Even from the beginning, when God had the Mosaic covenant with the people, He already hinted at the Gospel of Jesus Christ to come. I wondered what all the peoples, kings and prophets were thinking after failing time and time again to obey God’s laws. While they continually were frustrated at their moral bankruptcy, the Book of Job innocently stood there, daring them to take a deeper dive.
In my suffering and frustration, I too read the book of Job.
I hoped to get some kind of answer about why I was suffering. Like Job, I got none. Instead, God gave Job a revelation of who He was instead. God essentially told Job he was thinking too small, and then revealed more of how unimaginably powerful and intelligent God was. Job was humbled at seeing God in a new light.
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (Job 42:5)
As I pondered upon the entire story of Job, I put the pieces of Job’s story together and the jigsaw showed me a new picture of God as well. It humbled me.
Where else have we seen a person who …
Was blameless? Was called “there is no one like him”? Was over and above the requirement for righteousness? Was the greatest man in the region? Was most favored and loved by God? Was in a conflict involving God and Satan? Deserved the greatest of blessing but got the worst of all curses? Was despised by the same people who needed him for atonement? Was once so close to God but felt God had forsaken him? Got incredibly restored after his season of unjust suffering was over? Was promoted to a King and Priest such that people had to go through him for their salvation?
Job was a picture of Jesus. That was the real story for me.
Jesus was the most perfect person who came from heaven only to be punished by God by taking on the sins of the whole world. Jesus deserved the best and got the worst. He saved the same people that despised him. He felt forsaken on the cross, isolated from his tight bond with God the Father. After Jesus’ work on the cross was done, God promoted Him to his right hand in victory, and now everyone has to go through the works of Jesus to be saved. Jesus was the ultimate King and Priest.
Others have suspected the same thing.
In the anonymous Expositio interlinearis libri Iob (PL 53, 1475-1583), attributed to Pelagius, he writes in 4th century AD that Job was a “man of the gospel before the gospel was known, a man of the apostles before their commands were uttered” (translated by Rees)
Job was a “man of the gospel before the gospel was known, a man of the apostles before their commands were uttered” (translated by Rees) attributed to Pelagius
While people are trying to find philosophical answers to the problem of injustice, like Job, God decided to show a new revelation of Himself instead. God probably doesn’t want to answer the question because people had the wrong presuppositions before asking those questions. When people say they want to find “answers” to the problem of injustice, they really mean they want to find answers that satisfy what they already believe to be true. Because of our sinful nature, we are all naturally inclined to retribution law. We want what we deserve. The story of Job can only be answered by grace, or it won’t make sense. So God decides to show us all a picture of grace first. Once we see the book of Job from the lens of grace, the book suddenly becomes beautiful and meaningful. Without the lens of grace, the story of Job looks downright scary. It looks like God can punish anyone He chooses to punish whether you do your best to be a good person, or be an evil person. That’s a scary world.
Instead, we see that God only allows that sort of exemplary suffering for people that can take it; and God has bigger purposes and rewards for those that do take it. We also see that one man’s suffering (Job) can be used to bless the multitudes of people generations later. We also realize that can be part of a much bigger story than ourselves. God also shows that He might not answer the questions of your mind, but He will satisfy the desires of your heart in beautiful restoration.
This story of Job was written over a thousand years before Christ would come.
God brilliantly used the universal story of suffering to order to hide his plan of salvation in it, almost like a trojan horse. He used the “most brilliant” poem on suffering because He knew it’s the topic men have greatly wrestled with since the beginning of time, as evidence by the different cultures having their own traditions of “exemplary sufferers” that try to address the theodicy paradox. The Sumerian, Babylonian and Akkadian “Jobs” are all about good people that suffer either seemingly unfairly or don’t know the reason why they suffer and how they reconcile this with the justice of God. You’ll find the Biblical Job solely unique in its answer.
The poem known as Man and His God, sometimes dubbed “the Sumerian Job” (van Dijk 1953, 122-27; Kramer 1960, 170-82; COS, 1:573-75), written around the end of the third millennium solves the problem of the suffering of the pious by insisting that there is no such thing as innocent suffering and that humble confession of guilt is the only way to bring reconciliation between gods and man. The Sumerian Job does not know what offenses led to his downfall and wants to know them so he can confess. (ll. 107-13).
The Babylonian Man and His God (AO 4462), a poem of sixty-nine lines from the seventeenth century BC, is about suffering for an unknown cause (see Lambert 1987, 107-202). Ultimately, Seow writes, “Indeed, the sufferer presumes he must have done something to bring trouble upon himself. So he turns to his personal god, confesses his general sinfulness on the one hand and the persistent mercy of his god on the other, and is consequently restored.” (2)
The Babylonian Theodicy, an acrostic poem of twenty-seven stanzas of eleven lines each (BWL, 63-69), there “is no answer given for the suffering of “the just”, only an emphasis on the inadequacy of human knowledge of divine will.” (3)
The Akkadian text, known by its opening line Ludlul Bel Nemeqi (“I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom”) is about a pious noble who had wealth and status but lost everything for reasons he does not know (See BWL, 21-62, 343-45). The noble sufferer does not claim innocence but has thoroughly searched his conscience and believes that he had conducted himself according to the rules of moral order as he understands them (Moran 1983, 255-60). Eventually, the god Marduk restores the sufferer and the noble praises the deity. The earliest extant manuscript is from the seventh-century BC library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh.
The Sumerian and Babylonian “Jobs” didn’t depart from Mosiac “retribution” law. Those Jobs had secret sins and repented, and God restored them. The Akkadian “Job” essentially was perfect in following his conscience and in doing so beats God’s test, so to speak. This also doesn’t depart from retribution law either. There are no surprises here. This intuition is so … human?
The Biblical Job was declared as “blameless” from the start by God himself and then got punished. Later, Job was no longer “blameless”, he doubted and blamed God, a sin that would have great penalties under the Biblical context of Old Testament Law and then he still got restored more than he lost. All the other Job traditions were versions of the same retribution law, the Biblical Job was completely the opposite. While almost every other culture was focused on retribution law, God was hinting that this retribution law that the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Babylonians and even the Israelites were holding to isn’t everything. God was above this Law and change the nature of our salvation in due time. The need for a Redeemer outside of God that was as influential as God popped out of paradoxical suffering, subverting the common expectations of men and opened readers to a new concept – Divine Grace in the form of a Redeemer.
The story of the Biblical Job is so unique because Job’s experience doesn’t conform to retribution law and Job’s entire story points to Jesus instead. People who consider themselves wise who naturally lean to retribution law might be tempted to think the story of the Biblical Job doesn’t make sense, that it an inconsistent book with flimsy ideas. But what the “foolishness of God is better than man’s wisdom” (1 Cor 1:25).
God wasn’t interested in telling Job how he should be saved, God was interested in telling the readers how to be saved centuries later. Only when you insert Jesus as the Rosetta Stone will the book of Job make perfect sense in a 4-dimensional story. The story makes sense not only because of the people and places involved at the time, but you also have to include prophetic time in the future and find yourself involved in the story as well. Jesus dares you to find his picture in there today. Jesus is more than an idea or example for life. He is the key for abundant life today.
The award-winning journalist Phillip Yancey sums up the uniqueness of Jesus in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Jesus is radically unlike anyone else who has ever lived. The difference, in Charles Williams’ phrase, is the difference between “one who is an example of living and one who is the life itself.” (4)
Alfred Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland in the 1800s, calls it “the greatest poem of ancient and modern times”. He didn’t just call it the greatest poem in the Bible, but of all the books that he had ever read. For me, at the heart of the book lies the greatest person and the greatest plan God hid in plain sight.
Alfred Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland in the 1800s, calls it “the greatest poem of ancient and modern times”. He didn’t just call it the greatest poem in the Bible, but of all the books that he had ever read. For me, at the heart of the book lies the greatest person and the greatest plan God hid in plain sight. – Kenneth W K Koh
My last brain twister.
So Job gave a heart-cry for a redeemer like Jesus that totally changed his life, giving us an important life lesson to do the same when life doesn’t make sense. But Job was a picture of Jesus that had the ability in the future to mediate between others and God as well, so Job called for a version of his future self to save himself and then in saving himself became a king and priest like Jesus was to qualify to mediate for others?
My brain hurts.
PS: The Book of Job (/dʒoʊb/; Hebrew: אִיּוֹב – ʾIyyōḇ) is a book in the Ketuvim (“Writings”) section of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), and the first poetic book in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.
Job was estimated to have lived in the second millennium BC (2000-1000), that’s right smack during or after the time of Moses (~1700 BC). And, as we discussed earlier, the people around Job adhered to a theology akin to the Mosaic Law of good x blessings and bad x curses.
(2) C. L. Seow Job 1-21 Interpretation and Commentary, 2013 Illuminations, p52)
(3) ibid, p55
(4) Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew (p. 258). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
NPNF2: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series 2.
PL: Patrologia Latina.
Accession number AO 4462, Louvre Museum.
Moran, W. L. “Notes on the Hymm to Marduk in Ludlul Bel Nemeqi.” JAOS 103 (1983) 255-60.
Kramer, S. N. “Man and His God: A Sumerian Variation on the ‘Job’ Motif.” In Wisdom in Israel and the Ancient Near East (FS H. H. Rowley), ed. M. Noth and D. Winton Thomas. VTSupup 3. Leiden: Brill, 1960, 170-82.
Lambert, W. L. “A Further Attempt at the Babylonian ‘Man and His God’.” In Language, Literature, and History (FS. E. Reiner), ed. F. Rochberg-Halton. AOS 67. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987, 187-202.