TODAY’S READING: Job 18–20
In Greek mythology, Pluto was the God of the netherworld, ruling below the earth. In Ugaritic myths Mot was the god of death, the king of terrors that Bildad references in Job18:14. All peoples are terrified of hell, and all peoples dream of the milk and honey of paradise (Job 20:17). The global and timeless question is how heaven is gained and hell escaped. In Job’s day, the prevailing wisdom was that if you were evil, you would first suffer in this life and later suffer anguish hell. The logic was, “If I suffer, I must have done something wrong.” Job serves us all because he realizes that perhaps we suffer because we have done something right.
I met a new follower of Jesus this week. He is from Saudi Arabia, and I’ll call him Mohammed. Mohammed recently, with some trepidation, called his brother and revealed his new faith. Mohammed’s brother was shocked, alarmed, and warned him that he would one day stand before Allah and face the consequences. Thankfully, Mohammed’s brother did not threaten to level those consequences himself, but the reality is that Mohammed will indeed soon face persecution for his decision. Mohammed will suffer for what he has done right.
Perhaps we should read Job 19 through the lens of a brave Saudi deciding to follow Jesus and suffering for it. That Saudi can easily say with Job: He has removed my brothers far from me, and my acquaintances are completely estranged from me. My relatives have failed and my close friends have forgotten me… My breath is offensive to my wife, and I am repulsive to the children of my own body… I arise, and they speak against me… All my close friends abhor me, and those whom I love have turned against me… Why do you persecute me… (vv. 13–14, 17–19, 22). Those who follow Jesus and suffer for it know deep inside they have done something right—and they have Job to thank for this awareness.
Men and women like Mohammed who follow Jesus and pay the price for it can also follow Job to hope: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth, and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (vv. 25–26). Today Job speaks to the brave and suffering for Jesus’ sake in both affirmation and hope: “You have done nothing wrong, and at the last you will see God.” It’s not a little bit of hell now and a lot of it later (like Job’s friends thought). And it’s not a little bit of heaven now and a lot of it later (like the heresies of our day). The sober reality for the follower of Jesus is a little bit of hell now and a whole lot of heaven later. For Christ and Christian, for the godly and righteous, suffering always has and always will precede glory.