During the time of prosperity prior to the exile (587 BCE), a rigid moralism arose in Israel. The moralists applied the book of Proverbs to the human situation and claimed to teach how to have the good life. It seemed as if they had all the answers. The friends of Job repeat the pat answers about suffering and the moral order of the universe, but Job demonstrates that these answers are not sufficient for every situation. Innocent people really do suffer from no fault of their own.
The connections between good and evil and between reward and punishment are not always automatic, mechanical, and obvious. There is suffering where direct blame cannot be assigned to the believer. Job pushes the community of faith to consider that life can be arbitrary. In the face of this arbitrariness of life, the relationship with God becomes less a matter of rigid, doctrinal conviction and more of a personal encounter. Job shows that it is in the open, honest encounter with God that the true meaning of life is to be found.
This one-session study can easily be made into two sessions. Participants will seek to repeat the arguments of each of Job's three friends who try to find reason for his suffering. They will also wrestle with where God is to be found in suffering and how we might respond to those suffering in our midst.