From Genesis to Esther, the books of the Biblical narrative have pretty much proceeded in chronological order, starting with the creation of the world and ending with the return of the Jews from their exile to Babylon. The book of Job breaks that pattern, for although it is placed after the book of Esther, it is considered to coincide with Genesis and the days of the patriarchs.
Consider, for example, that Job performed sacrifices on behalf of his family, functioning as a priest – just like the patriarchs did prior to the Mosaic Law and the God-ordained priesthood and sacrificial system. His wealth was also measured in flocks and herds, just like Abraham.
Knowing now the era in which Job is presumed to have lived, it is fascinating to think of how early in history God had started to prepare the world for the idea of the suffering servant. Although Job was not sinless, the text makes it perfectly clear that it was not Job’s sin that brought disaster upon him, but rather it was God allowing Satan to afflict Job due to Job’s faith in God.
We are all familiar with how Job was afflicted, losing his children and his health and enduring the theological speculations of his friends. But when all is said and done, Job was vindicated and established as the prototype suffering servant. How many times did the Lord refer to suffering Job as “My servant”?
The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job
? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Job 1: 8
The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.” Job 2: 3
It came about after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” Job 42: 7 – 8
The Biblical concept of the suffering servant is not unique to Job, being further developed by the prophet Isaiah, who spoke of a man who would be crushed by God as a guilt offering for the sins of the people.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of My people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53: 8 – 11
The fulfillment of the suffering servant, established in Job and prophesied by Isaiah, is of course Jesus Christ, who, being the Lord of all creation ruling over a sinful people, came as a servant and not as a tyrant, to save His people rather than destroy them.
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20: 25 – 28
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2: 3 – 7
How did Jesus serve us? In His own words, just quoted, He gave “His life a ransom for many”. He served us by being crushed by God, as Isaiah foretold, so that our sins might be forgiven. He bore the wrath that we deserve, He took the punishment we earned through sin. He served us by being the servant of Isaiah 53.
Because Jesus’ great service to us required suffering unto death, He is greater than Job, whom God did not allow to be killed.
So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.” Job 2: 6
Because Jesus’ suffering accomplished our salvation, He is greater than Job, who is not our savior. Job’s suffering teaches us important theological doctrines regarding the nature of God and human suffering, and we can relate to him when we suffer for reasons not related to our own sin. But Job is not our savior and there are limits to what we can learn from the suffering of Job.
But the suffering of Christ – and the glory of His resurrection – the learning is limitless! We will ponder Him for eternity – an eternity in which there will be no more suffering, but only inexpressible joy.