There are three books of the Bible that are known as the Bible's wisdom literature—Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. They reveal the collected wisdom of generations of godly people and invite us to consider the complexity and simplicity of living wisely. Each of these books explores the same basic theme and question: what does it mean to live a good life?
In the book of Proverbs, we are given the perspective of a brilliant teacher, who offers her insights on a wide range of subjects from relationships to wealth to spirituality. Proverbs shows us that God’s wisdom can guide us through our lives—anyone can access his wisdom and enjoy the gifts that it freely offers.
In Ecclesiastes, we meet the critic, who explores three different themes, all of which attempt to show that life on Earth is meaningless. The critic opens with the idea that time moves forward and eventually we are all forgotten. Second, the critic states that no matter what, no matter how moral we are, human beings are destined to die. And finally, the critic explains that life is random—bad things happen to good, wise people and fools are rewarded. What is the point then? This book is a bit bleak, but it has a point. What the critic has said is true, but that doesn’t mean life can’t be enjoyed. When we recognize how little of life we control, we can truly appreciate what we have—good food, friends, and community. And we can trust that one day, God will restore the broken cycle of human life. He will come to clear the vapor—the hevel—and make all things right.
Throughout the book of Job, we see Job and his friends wrestling with the question of why a God who is wise and just would let horrible things happen to an innocent man. It's a question that God himself answers, though not in the way Job was expecting.
God takes Job on a virtual tour of the universe, giving him a window into all the complexities of the cosmos, and God is in total control of all of it. God is showing Job that his suffering is one small part of an infinitely large cosmic scheme.
Job is humbled by God’s response, his question being answered, but God still chose to restore all of Job's blessings to him. Even though individual humans are a small part of the universe, our problems are still important to God, and we can trust him to care for his people. Together, all three of these wisdom books show us the meaning of life and what it means to live wisely and fear God.
Job 1:6-12 Job 1:12-19 Job 1:20-21 Job 3 Job 4:7-9 Job 9 Job 38-40 Job 41 Job 42:10-17