There's an unusual fascination about the Job story. It is told so fully, and made so vivid, and is so human. It is the first of all these books to be written down. It is put at the gateway into this old Book of God.
There is purpose in all this. For it deals with the sorest question of human life through the ages, the problem of suffering. Here, simply told, put into men's hands at once, is God's own answer to the problem. And it proves an answer that answers. It is full and adequate.
It is striking that there are two parts to the story. The first has caught the eye of the Church; the second part has been strangely slighted, indeed ignored.
Yet the story is not complete, and the answer not understood, unless and until both parts are taken together. It is one story.
There are six chapters in the story, all told. In part one there are five chapters. In part two there is just one chapter.
But what a chapter this sixth, this last chapter, is. It fairly vibrates with bubbling-over joy. Music and exuberant singing fill the air. Laughter and congratulation, praise to God, and happy fellowship among men echo everywhere.
The sun is shining. The birds burst their throats with song. The very air is a-thrill with human gladness. And the music is now in the major key. The minor chording that swept and wept all through part one now becomes a blessed undertone to make the joyousness of the major stand out in bolder relief.
How strange that the last bit of the Job story has been so ignored. The graduation day exercises have been strangely pigeonholed out of sight. Did some one behind the scenes have a hand in that?
Look a bit, briefly, at the six chapters of the Job story. Chapter one is the scholar in school. The picture is drawn as men saw him. It tells his common reputation in the whole countryside. He was perfect and upright in all his dealings with his fellows.
There was more, he reverenced God, and earnestly sought to please Him. He was thought fully and intelligently deliberate in this.
When there had been a time of feasting and convivial enjoyment in the family he was careful to have a special time of prayer afterward, that if anything had been done or said displeasing or not-pleasing to God it might be forgiven, and so no unsuspected root of wrong-doing be allowed.
It was his conscientious habit to be pleasing to God in the whole habit of his life. And he was careful to guard the life of his growing family.
All this was commonly known. He was the leading citizen in the community. And this was his reputation. He was upright with others, a thoughtful father in his family, and saintly in his own personal life.
His very name suggests his character. Names grew up in those days, up out of a man's character. Here the name given has a distinctly spirit significance. That would be natural with such a man, for his saintliness, his spiritual habit of character, was the outstanding trait. He was called Job, that is, the man hated, hounded, persecuted to the utmost possible limit.
His character made him hated. He was heartily disliked by those of the opposite ilk. Especially he was hated by the unseen spirit prince of evil, whose personality in that early day was never questioned.
This is the picture men saw, a man so conscientious, so upright, so thoughtfully methodically righteous and saintly as to arouse opposition in some quarters.
There's another bit in the picture of the man that comes out later in the whole story. It was the side that God saw, the inside of his character.
He was so humble that, probably quite unconsciously, he was proud of it. There was a subtle unsuspected inner satisfaction with his spiritual attainments.
What a strange bit of irony, pride in being humble! But a snake may crawl noiselessly through the greenest grass, and among the most fragrant flowers.
He was so conscientious in planning the whole habit of his life as pleasing to God that he slipped a bit in the real thing.
Without being aware of it that very conscientiousness, and methodical care, and saintliness of habit, got in to his inner subconsciousness even more than God Himself.
He would have been the first to pull himself up had he recognized the tendency. He was quick as a flash on his face when God actually spoke to him, and things got straightened out.
But that's the man, the scholar in the school, the two men in one, the man his neighbours saw, and the man God saw.
That's chapter one (Job_1:1-5). Men saw a humble godly man. God saw a bit of dross in the rare fine gold of this man's character.