Wisdom Books Part 1 of 5
The Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon
The Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon comprise the Hebrew wisdom literature and form a unit. As such, they offer deep insights into the biblically legitimate ways to understand both life and the Author of life. This series will examine each book in successive order.
The book of Job views life as suffering. All suffer, though in varying degrees. What is the origin and source of pain? People everywhere instinctively associate it with sin, which accords with God’s purposes since He linked sin to pain in the curses of Genesis 3. Sin and pain do not have a one to one correspondence; but by decree God connects the two in our minds and sometimes in our experience.
Why would He do that? God’s purposes toward His elect are redemptive rather than punitive. Pain and suffering are not expressions of His wrath. Rather, they are the loving and gracious inventions of God, whose purpose it is to alert us to the presence and danger of sin.
Suffering is one of those rare direct conduits to the soul that bypasses reason and goes directly to the soul itself. Suffering is not an intellectual exercise. All of our being is enveloped in a black shroud, all peace is banished, and sense of well-being lost, while the soul endures its dark night. One must be convicted of sin, not pain. But if it is the soul itself that pain targets, what is its intended effect?
Pain compels questions and the first question is usually, “What did I do to deserve this?” Often, we find no direct connection to sin. But sin is more than what I do – it is also who I am. Pride, lust for autonomy and the belief that my life belongs to me are interwoven into the fabric of my soul. They are so much a part of me that unless the Bible had taught me otherwise, I would never have recognized them as sin. And it is these that God targets with the steely scalpel of pain. It is no accident that God performs His surgery without benefit of anesthesia. Suffering empties a man of himself.
God does not expect us to enjoy pain, thereby creating a race of masochists. Although I said earlier that suffering directly enters the soul and bypasses reason, God nonetheless wants us to reason about our suffering. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) In the midst of suffering, James instructs us to rationally “consider” God’s purposes in our suffering and rejoice in them, returning thanks for what He is accomplishing in us.
God uses a thankful heart in the midst of suffering and the indwelling Holy Spirit to transform our souls. I cannot be dogmatic, but I suspect that without pain/suffering our entire race would be doomed to Hell. And if even a few were saved, they would not be optimally prepared to live in eternity with a Holy God. In short, suffering is both redemptive and transformative of soul. In eternity, none will regret the suffering which God brought on him. But he might regret his response to it.