(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today we commemorate St. Job, whose account is found in Volume 2 of the series.)
The Prophet Job
The synthesis of God and man is nowhere more eloquently expressed than in the Book of Job of the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, that sacred book which is the wellspring of the true religion and the cornerstone of great literature. The popular concept of Job as a man of infinite patience is a narrow view of man and of God that can be expanded only by a serious, as opposed to casual, reading of the “Good Book.” Job was much more than a man of patience, the virtue with which he is usually associated and which has made his name familiar to those who have never turned a page of the Bible. This paragon of forbearance exemplifies the depth of faith which conclusively proves that man was cast in the image of God, endowed by Him with the qualities of spirit that separate man from the rest of God’s creatures.
Born nearly five thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Job is placed on equal footing by the Orthodox Church with the many saints who were to be placed among us after the Savior appeared on earth, as foretold in the pages of the Old Testament. As revered as any saint, Job’s life of trial and anguish stands for all time as a monument to man’s kinship with God, an interpretation of the kindred spirit which spills over from the Old to the New Testaments to be forever implanted in the soul of man through Jesus Christ, the Man from Nazareth who died to save the world.
The Book of Job is divided into five parts, which consist of the prologue and epilogue written in prose form, and three middle parts expressed in the beauty of language that can be found only in poetry. The dramatic appeal of the life of Job goes beyond the principle of the triumph of good over evil, extending to a philosophy by which the religion of Jesus Christ’s followers is enhanced, the simple philosophy which puts real meaning into the commonly-quoted phrase “Keep the faith.” In his many long hours of trial Job had no need to be reminded to keep the faith, but in keeping it he solidified it for all mankind, particularly for those masses of humanity who have had more than their share of suffering. He helps the more fortunate in counting out their blessings.
Job lived in a land called Uz, bordered by Idumea and Arabia, leading a peaceful life of plenty and of piety, evincing a devoutness which indicated to all but the evil-minded that he was close to God. It was these forces of evil which challenged the piety of Job, alleging that it stemmed solely from his serenity in the midst of the plenty with which he had been provided, and that, had he been born into poverty, his faith would have been diminished accordingly. It was the classic confrontation of Satan with God, with Job as that instrument by which the will of God and the spiritual strength of man would be asserted. As a result of this epic clash of good and evil, the devout Job was put to the test as no man in history by a loosening of a barrage of woes that was the ultimate in trying a man’s soul.
God allowed the trial of Job, and his servant was not found wanting. Job suffered by divine design what few others have by calamitous accident, commencing with the loss of his wealth, which was as nothing compared to the loss of his children and finally his health, in a sequence of wretchedness calculated to bring him to a crossroads in which he had a clear-cut choice of the road to despair urged by his wife, or the one of hope, which at the moment seemed to lead to nowhere. Even after the loss of his royal friends, Eliphas of the Thaemenites, Baldad of the Saucheans and Sohar of the Minaeans, each of whom concluded he was being punished for unknown sins, Job clung to his faith with the classic remark: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
This man Job lived under the dismal clouds that rained nothing but misery upon him and looked up to see the light that lay beyond, which was invisible to the less hardy in spirit, seeking not to ask when the clouds would break to let in the light he knew to be there, but to praise the source of the light. Long after others had scorned him in the belief that the light of heaven had been extinguished, he assumed that posture of unyielding faith which has inspired Christians for two millenia.
St. John Chrysostom was one of many who wrote of the life of Job in dedication to the devotion he demonstrated so admirably 2500 years ago.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikipedia.