The Joy of Job: An Investigator's Perspective on the Most Righteous Man on Earth

The Joy of Job: An Investigator's Perspective on the Most Righteous Man on Earth

by Maribeth Vander Weele

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Overview

Winner of the Gold Medal Award in Theology 2019 Illumination Book Awards


Winner of the Gold Medal Award in Theology, The Joy of Job provides profound insights into the Old Testament story of Job, offering sacred lessons into self-examination, religious pride, and discernment. With meticulous Biblical exegesis, The Joy of Job challenges the traditional interpretation of a book that has confounded readers throughout time. Surprisingly, the Old Testament masterpiece emerges as one of the greatest stories of repentance and restoration ever told. Kirkus Reviews praises The Joy of Job’s“profound moral meaning” and “delightfully unrelenting” interrogation of Scripture. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly's BookLife recognizes The Joy of Job for its "excellent exegesis" and "refreshing insight." Illumination Book Awards awarded The Joy of Job its highest honor in Theology, the 2019 Gold Medal Award. Visit JoyofJob.com to learn what Bible scholars and readers say about The Joy of Job.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781732240810
Publisher: Sagerity Press, LLC
Publication date: 10/01/2018
Pages: 138
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Maribeth Vander Week is founder of the Vander Weele Group, a Chicago-based firm that provides investigative services, domestically and abroad. She was an award-winning investigative reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times before joining the Chicago Public Schools as a key member of the 1995 turnaround team and subsequently as its Inspector General. In 1994, she authored, Reclaiming Our Schools, the Struggle for Chicago School Reform, published by Loyola University Press. She is a graduate of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

REPUTATION

"They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain. When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them."

— JOB Job 29:23-24

Imagine being a newcomer in a place of worship when you overhear two men speaking together. One of them says:

"Hey, did you notice that when I walk through services, people part to make a path for me?"

Intrigued, you edge closer. This must be a powerful man, you think. Is he a preacher? A rock star? A politician? A sports hero?

"Everyone stops talking when I enter the room. They hang on my every word. I'm the wisest person around," he says. "And look: When I smile at them, they can't believe they came this close to me!"

Did he really say that?

If he were a preacher or politician, would you like him? If he were a famous musician, would you respect him? If he were a sports champion, would you want your son or daughter to emulate him? Most importantly, would you leave thinking that someone so fixated on his own acclaim — someone who so loved the stage of human approval — was truly righteous? Yet, these are the sentiments of Job who, in Chapter 29, Verses 7-11, recalls his way of life before catastrophe afflicted him:

When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square, the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet; the chief men refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands; the voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths. Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me.

Job continues in Verses 21-24:

People listened to me expectantly, waiting in silence for my counsel. After I had spoken, they spoke no more; my words fell gently on their ears. They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain. When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them.

To New Testament readers, Job's opinion of his own importance sounds familiar. Jesus described the teachers of the law and the Pharisees in a similar way.

Everything they do is done for people to see. ... they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called "Rabbi" by others.

The Bible instructs God's followers to glorify God, and the Lord states in Isaiah 42:8, "I will not yield my glory to another," but Job focused on another type of glory: his own.

In one of the book's obscure but powerful throwaway lines, Job explained, simply, that he expected that his own glory would not fade.

But fade it did, and in all that he lost — children, wealth, and power — Job was fixated most on one particular type of loss: his loss of reputation. Job said he was humiliated, jeered at, and ridiculed, even by little boys. Young men whose fathers he would have disdained to put with his sheep dogs mocked him in song. Mockers surrounded him and were hostile toward him. They detested him and spit in his face. They struck his cheek in scorn. He had become a laughingstock to his friends, and even his intimate friends detested him. His dignity was driven away by the wind. Success had also been driven from him. He was full of shame.

Job sorely missed his own adulation. Despite his initial reverent words and a heroic refusal to stop believing in a powerful God — a choice that has been rightly venerated throughout the centuries — Job was devastated by his loss of prestige, a loss he blamed on God. It was God who had stripped him of his honor and removed the crown from his head. It was God who made him a byword to everyone, a man in whose face people spit. It was God who had wronged him.

Lamenting loss of stature is an understandable human reaction in times of devastation, but it is not that of a righteous man filled with the Spirit of God. The proud nature disdains shame most of all, says William Gurnall in his landmark book, The Christian in Complete Armour.

In contrast, the Apostle Paul relinquished his reputation as a wise and powerful religious leader to take on the sufferings that would lead him and others into the knowledge of Christ. Paul no longer sought the praise of man. He had no need to garner approval like a rock star from the powerful. In fact, Paul stated that if he were trying to please people, he could not serve Christ. Other Apostles also rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for Christ's name.

Although Job mourned the loss of his path "drenched with cream" and the rock that "poured out for [him] streams of olive oil," Abraham willingly left his home country for the unknown land of Canaan.

Consider Moses, one of the great men of faith whose journey is recounted in Hebrews 11, the book of faith heroes in which Job is notably absent. Moses, by faith, walked away from the honor and riches of being in the household of the powerful Pharaoh. "He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of [the promised] Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward." When instructed by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses did not believe himself worthy to undertake such a task.

Job, in contrast, saw himself not only as eminently worthy of leadership, but entitled to praise for one reason: because he rescued the poor and the fatherless. "I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban," he recalled of his former way of life.

* * *

"Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me," Job recalled. Job's statement raises a pressing question: Was it accurate?

Evidence suggests it was not.

First, Job's claim of universal regard is, on its face, unrealistic. What leader garners universal acclaim? Even the wisest and holiest leader in the world, Jesus Christ, faced a murdering crowd consumed by jealousy. Furthermore, like any great leader, Job would have made difficult decisions that left some people angry. His wealth would have attracted naysayers and envious critics.

Second, a highly regarded man in power garners sympathy — not contempt — after he faces tragedy. Think of a great leader who suffered a disaster not of his own making, a leader such as U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who was stricken with polio. Although the extent of his disease was not fully known, the public knew he had been afflicted. Did such a disaster decrease his stature? No, experience tells us that heroes who face adversity gain more — not less — respect from their adoring people. How then could family, friends, the chief men, servants, his community — everyone — drop Job like a hot potato when this good man ran into trouble that he did not create? Why were those pearls of wisdom he boasted about no longer in high demand?

Third, Job's claim that everyone spoke well of him for rescuing the poor is contradicted by his own description of skirmishes he had with a group of starving young men living among the rocks. These young men detested him — and the feeling was mutual.

Fourth, the only friends who visited Job forcefully contradicted his claims of blamelessness. When Eliphaz the Temanite talked to Job, nearly the first words out of his mouth were, in effect, "You reap what you sow." Zophar the Naamathite said that God had even forgotten some of his sins. Elihu, son of Barakel the Buzite, begged Job to return from evil. Bildad the Shuhite concurred. All four agreed: Job was not blameless.

As we shall see, Job eventually came to realize this himself.

CHAPTER 2

INNOCENCE

"I will defend my integrity until I die."

— JOB Job 27:5 (NLT)

Job's preoccupation with his loss of stature was matched in intensity only by his fixation on being proved innocent. He had done nothing wrong, he maintained. He was blameless.

By Job's account, he hadn't walked in falsehood, nor had he been deceitful. He hadn't concealed sin in his heart. He hadn't been enticed by a woman. He hadn't put his trust in gold, nor did he rejoice over the fortune that his hands had gained. He did not worship the sun or moon. He did not rejoice over his enemy's misfortune or curse him. He hadn't denied justice to his servants. He hadn't failed to pay for the yield of his land, nor did he break the spirit of its tenants.

He hadn't denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary. He shared bread with the fatherless, rearing them from his youth and rescuing those who had none to assist them. From his birth, he guided the widow and he made her heart sing. Anyone he saw perishing for lack of clothing or needing clothes, he helped.

Job shared his food, and because he opened his door to travelers, no stranger had to spend a night in the street. He was eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and father to the needy. He put on righteousness as his clothing; justice was his robe and his turban.

* * *

Some of these claims seem farfetched. Job said he guided the widow from his birth or, as the King James Version of the Bible puts it, "from [his] mother's womb." This would mean that even before he was a toddler, Job shared his wisdom with widows. Similarly, he reared the fatherless in his youth. This suggests that before he owned his own home or land, he began raising other people's children.

Like his other claims, Job did not restrict the description of his largesse to one or two people; he spoke globally. Job said he helped "anyone" perishing for lack of clothing or needy without garments. He did not miss a stranger in need.

As those in the giving professions might recognize, Job — amazingly — did not specialize in one or two types of vulnerable populations: He helped them all. The poor. The blind. The lame. The fatherless. The widows. The orphans. And the strangers.

Anyone who has run or witnessed a large food distribution program or charitable organization knows the considerable logistics this would involve. It would require structures to house the operations. It would entail obtaining enormous amounts of food, tirelessly preparing meals, communicating to the villagers the distribution hours, erecting tables, and creating assembly lines to serve the food. It would require finance systems to purchase supplies and pay the workers. It would require clean-up operations, too.

For "anyone needing clothes," his servants would have to shear the sheep, sew the clothing, ensure that the sizes were right, and distribute each piece. To be eyes to the blind, Job might have assigned personal assistants to meet their needs. For the lame, he might have instructed couriers to bring food to their homes. To house every traveler, he would need plenty of bedrooms.

Imagine the operations this would require — coupled with boots-on-the-ground intelligence to locate every needy, blind, lame, fatherless, widowed, and traveling person.

Job's representations of his own benevolence raise multiple questions.

First, what happened to his charitable operations after the disasters that took away Job's herds? The servants who died in the disasters were tending the animals. Where were those running Job's feeding, clothing, and housing programs? In contrast to the feeding programs of the Biblical Patriarch Joseph, for which the source and method of storing food was described, the Bible contains no references to how Job's massive operations were organized or how they were dismantled when disaster struck.

Second, after the disasters, why didn't Job express concern about the people he could no longer help? People who manage charitable operations connect emotionally to those involved. They know their names. They know their stories. They know their families. Such a massive operation would have been Job's "baby," something he invested in since ... well, from the time he was born. And when the operations suddenly shut down, one would expect that he would have worried about the fates of those he no longer served. Why did he not lament the loss of his mission — that he could no longer be used by God to serve these suffering people?

In contrast, the Apostle Paul, amidst his suffering and impending death, spent his time in prison fixated on what would happen to those entrusted to his care. With great passion for others, not for himself, Paul guided the churches and gave instructions on everything from putting on the armor of God to staying in prayer at all times.

Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch woman who lost her family to the horrors of Nazi Germany, worried continuously about the souls and fates of the inmates who suffered with her in the horrific conditions of the concentration camps. She was gripped also with concern about the Jewish refugees hidden in her home when the Nazis invaded it.

Yet Job, in all his laments, never once expressed concern for the welfare of those he had been blessed to have helped.

Third, and most telling of all, why did not one of the vast numbers of people he helped appreciate him enough to send a note of condolence or bring a dish of stew when he faced his own suffering? Why didn't they rally around him? Except for four friends, who vigorously challenged his claims of blamelessness, and his wife, who encouraged him to die, Job was universally deserted. As we shall learn, not one person took his claims of benevolence at face value.

* * *

Job's claims of righteousness have a familiar ring. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, as follows:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

It is difficult to conceive that any humble, God-fearing man or woman could believe that he or she has done everything right. Every time we step out of the flow of the Spirit, every stray word of gossip we utter, every time we withhold forgiveness, every proud thought we think, every time we act unkindly, and whenever we walk in fear, anxiety, or despair instead of faith, we fail to meet the standards of righteousness.

Galatians 6:3 states, "If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves." 1 John 1:8 says, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." Proverbs 20:9 states, "Who can say, 'I have kept my heart pure. I am clean and without sin'?"

Like King David, who was blinded to his sin with Bathsheba until Nathan the Prophet helped remove the veil, evidence suggests that Job saw his world through spiritual blinders. Job was gripped by a powerful delusion about himself, others, and God.

As Job's friend Bildad asked, "How then can a mortal be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure?" Bildad was right. When Job professed to be pure and universally benevolent, he was claiming the impossible. As William Gurnall states in his book, The Christian in Complete Armour, "Hypocrisy is the loudest lie, because it is given to God himself."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Joy of Job"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Maribeth Vander Weele.
Excerpted by permission of Sagerity Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Chapter 1 Reputation 1

Chapter 2 Innocence 9

Chapter 3 Family and Friends 17

Chapter 4 Servants 37

Chapter 5 God's Injustice 43

Chapter 6 Elephant in the Room 57

Chapter 7 Breakthrough 77

Chapter 8 Tapestry 87

Chapter 9 The Shrewdness of God 99

A Word from the Author 111

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