At All Souls’ we have wanted to go deeper into scripture and have been looking at books no one preaches on!
One book which is often skipped over is the book of Job, probably because it is quite depressing, a Job goes through awful suffering and is “comforted” by some friends who aren’t always that helpful. (As an aside phrases like “plenty more fish in the sea” when a relationship has ended, or “snap out of it” when you’ve got depression, or “well they had a good innings” when you’ve been bereaved are all unhelpful “Job’s Comforter” phrases, so please, please don’t use them!)
In theological circles people get very worked up about whether or not Job is actual or allegorical, to me that actually misses the point of Job. We live in a fallen world, and Job is true not because it happened (although I think it did) but because it happens, and happens all the time all around us (and sometimes to us).
The point is bad things happen to good people, beliefs in stuff like Karma are held up to be ridiculous -bad things happen to good people, and bad people sometimes seem to prosper-.
The book never gives us a clear answer to why suffering happens, but it does show that in the midst of it all God is present and doesn’t leave us or forsake us, nor is he lacking in power, nor is the devil -the architect of evil- equal to God, God is far, far greater in power, might and majesty.
Anyway, Job was the first book of the Bible to be written, and so more theological ideas had yet to be worked out, or at least written down.
Job asks a really profound question, which although buried in the midst of the text is I believe the heart of the book “If a person should die, shall they live again?” -Job 14:14.
It is a great question, probably this question (or a variant of it) is the most asked existential question of humanity.
Often people try to answer this philosophically “more people in the world believe in an afterlife than don’t, and most of the greatest minds have believed there was more to life than we can see, hear, smell and touch”…
We can answer if hypothetically “probably is/probably isn’t” (as marked by a rather bizarre campaign by Richard Dawkins and slightly better response by Alpha from HTB a few years ago).
We can answer it historically, has anyone ever claimed to have risen from the dead? Which I believe will take us to the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. The one who drew deaths sting. The one who died so for us death is no longer a full stop but rather a comma. Because of Jesus after death comes life for all who trust in him.
Yet how every answer this question, we need to answer it personally, “If I should die, what is going to happen to me, will I live again?”
You see questions of existence aren’t just academic questions, they effect the very core of who we are, it is about what and why we live, and who we are living for… How we answer this question effects everything, whether we have hope of not? Where will we personally spend eternity?
There was a course written a while ago, called E.E. which stood for Evangelism Explosion, which asked a very simple question “if you died tonight, and God asked you ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ Many would answer about being a good person, or flag up their religiosity, but, the only right answer is not to do with what we have done, but in what Christ has done, the unearned gift we could never have paid.
Jobs question, “If someone should die will they live again?” is answered in the resurrected Christ.
Job prophetically spoke of Christ’s defeat of death and sin, when he said “I know my redeemer lives” -19:25– later on in this message, (the shadow of the cross falls outside of time, bringing the great heroes of the Old Testament into the arms of their Heavenly Father).
Amid all the suffering of the world, the message of Job we live in, we know that this isn’t the end of the story, but rather is part of a bigger, more beautiful story, which is fulfilled in Jesus.
I’ll close with some graffiti I once saw… it said “Jesus is the answer” to which someone had written underneath “yeah, but what is the question?”