The Book of Job is a portal into an unseen war, a tribute to the glory of God in creation, and a testimony to the fact that people inevitably disappoint each other and that great men are only men after all. This book can be very confusing, with so much wisdom to unpack, and therefore many scholars have written commentaries to help readers understand it. The Bible is its own best interpreter, however, and if you want to unlock the The Book of Job just flip ahead to The Epistle of James.
Oh, I know Job is only mentioned once in James’ letter, but every single verse in The Epistle of James is relevant to The Book of Job in one way or another.
Job’s life was a perfect model of the “pure and undefiled” religion that James wrote about, and when Job takes inventory of his life in chapters 29 and 31 of The Book of Job, it’s almost as if he is saying: “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18 NKJV).
James must have had Job in mind when he wrote that we all stumble in many things, we should be quick to hear and slow to speak, the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God, mercy triumphs over judgement, and “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 NKJV). He must have been thinking about Job’s friends when he wrote about the destructive power of the tongue and warned against worldly wisdom, favoritism and pride.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…–James 3:5-6 NKJV
To most scholars, The Book of Job is nothing more than a moralistic myth. But according to James, The Book of Job is nothing less than the oracle of God.
James began his letter by encouraging believers to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2 NKJV) and ended by saying: “Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience… You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord–that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:10-11).
Notice that God ordained the affairs of Job’s life to the end, which would be a stupid thing for James to assert if Job was only the product of someone’s imagination. We know that Job was a real, historical man because James esteemed him as a prophet, and fictitious people don’t prophecy. Job’s story must be true, because James could not have held him up as an example if he never actually existed.
So thank you, James, for helping Job’s confused readers more than all the commentaries that have ever been written.