Day 12        Job 1-2:10 ... Is God Unfair?

One book of the Bible is virtually ageless. It relates the story of Job, a rich "patriarch" who could have lived in Abraham's time, but whose story was probably reduced to this poetic form hundreds of years later, during Israel's literary Golden Age. Regardless, the book raises questions so urgent and universal that is speaks to every era. In recent times, authors like Robert Frost, Archibald MacLeish, and Muriel Spark have all tried their hand at retelling the story of Job.

In the period between the Old and New Testaments, Job became a favorite of the Jews (as proven by the ancient commentaries archaeologists have unearthed). His story centers around a question that haunted the Jews from the earliest day, when they were first chosen as God's covenant people. Somehow, they expected better treatment. Job had the courage to voice the question aloud - Is God unfair? - and no one has asked that question more eloquently or profoundly. The book seems meant to explore the outer limits of unfairness. Job, the most upright, outstanding man in all the earth, must endure the worst calamities. He suffers unbearable punishment - but for what? What has he done wrong? The book reads like a detective story in which the readers know far more than the central characters. The very first chapter answers Job's main concern: He Has done nothing to deserve such suffering. We, the readers, know that, but nobody tells Job and his friends. As the prologue reveals, Job was involved in a cosmic test, a contest proposed in heaven but staged on earth. People in Malachi's day had asked, "What do we gain by following God?" and that question gets at the heart of Job's test. Satan had claimed that people love God only because of his good gifts. According t Satan, no one would ever follow God apart from some selfish gain. Of course, Job was blameless and upright; he was also rich and healthy. Remove those good things from Job's life, Satan challenged, and watch Job's faith melt away. Or so Satan thought.

God's reputation is on the line in this book; it rests suspensefully on the response of a devastated, miserable man. Will Job continue to trust God, even as his world crashes down around him? Will he believe in a God of justice, even when life seems grotesquely unfair?

Point to Ponder: When have you questioned "why bad things happen to good people"?