"FAITH ON TRIAL"
Bible Study on the Book of Job
Roland Cap Ehlke
most of the book consists of the words of Job and his counselors, Job himself
was not the author of the book which bears his name. We may be sure that the
author was an Israelite, since he (not Job or his friends) frequently uses the
Israelite covenant name for God (Yahweh; translated as "the Lord" in
the prologue (chapters 1-2) divine discourses (chapter 38:142:6) and the
epilogue (chapter 42:7-17) the word "Lord" occurs a total of 25
times while in the rest of the book (chapters 3-37) it appears only once
book of Job must be inspired by the Holy Spirit since it contains information
only which God could know. The style of Job is very close to other "wisdom
literature" (Psalms, Proverbs Ecclesiastes ).
dates are involved:
of the man Job and his historical setting, and
of the inspired writer who composed the book.
latter could be dated anytime from the reign of Solomon to the exile. Although
the writer was an Israelite, he mentions nothing of Israelite history. He had a
written and/or oral account about the non-Israelite sage Job, whose
setting appears to be during the second millennium BC (2000-1000) and
probably late in that millennium.
the Hebrew patriarchs, Job lived more than 100 years (Job 42:16). His wealth was
measured in cattle (1:3) and he acted as a priest for his family (Job 1:5).
raiding of Sabean (Job 1:15) and Chaldean (Job 1:17) tribes fits the second
millennium BC as does the mention of the "kesitah", "a piece of
silver," in Job 42:11. The discovery of a Targum (Aramaic paraphrase) on
Job from the first or second century BC makes a very late date for authorship
many places Job is difficult to translate because of its many unusual words and
style. For that reason, modern translations frequently differ widely. Even the
early translators of Job into Greek (the Septuagint) seems often to have been
Septuagint of Job is about 400 lines shorter than the Hebrew text, and it may be
that the translators simply omitted lines they did not understand. Translations
in other languages had similar difficulties.
The Book & The Man
is a giant among books. As we study this inspired book, we'll see how Job stands
as an Everest, towering above the world's greatest books. Dr. Martin Luther
said, "The speech of this book is powerful and imposing, as no other book
in all of Scripture." Thomas Carlyle, a famous Bible scholar exclaimed,
"There is nothing written, I think, of equal literary merit.”
are two reasons for such praise of the book of Job. First, it deals with one of
the most profound human concerns. Job confronts the mystery of why the Lord
allows his faithful children to suffer.
Job is written in magnificent language. Except for the first two chapters and
the last one, the book consists of poetry. In a word, the book of Job is a giant
because it contains profound teachings wrapped in the beautiful dress of poetry.
can hardly expect to exhaust the wealth of Job in this study. But we can, under
God's grace, come away from Job enriched and better able to enrich others.
discussing the contents of Job, we ought to consider the book's style, in
particular its poetry.
the other Old Testament books, Job was originally written in Hebrew. And like
the Psalms, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and large portions of
the prophetic books, Job is poetry.
people today think of poetry in terms of rhythm and rhyme. Hebrew verse,
however, consists of a balance of thoughts more than of words and sounds. Such
balance is called parallelism. This means that one line in Hebrew poetry
parallels the next. The second part of a verse echoes the idea of the first,
contrasts with it, or expands on it. The following are some illustrations of
parallelism in Job.
Here Job wishes he had never been born:
the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, "A boy is born!''
of Job's friends describes God’s majesty:
performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
He bestows rain on the earth;
he sends water upon the countryside. (Job 5:9, 10)
same friend accuses Job of evil...
not your wickedness great?
Are not your sins endless? (Job 22:5)
examples demonstrate that the language of Job is picturesque as well as poetic.
Days perishing, gloomy nights, unfathomable wonders, endless
sins---such is the vivid, colorful language we'll encounter in
the book of Job.
could have written such a book? God inspired it. So He is ultimately responsible
for its grandeur. Yet we know the Lord inspired Scripture's penmen to write His
thoughts and words in their own styles.
the book of Job does not name its human author. Was it Job himself? Possibly.
Some guess that it was Moses, the author and writer of the first five books of
the Bible and Psalm 90. Others think that it was written before Moses' time
(about 1400 BC) That would make Job the oldest book in the Bible.
others feel wise King Solomon wrote it. The author's lofty language and vast
knowledge of the ancient world support this idea. Speculation has suggested many
possible authors, but we probably will not know for sure until Judgment Day.
MAN FROM UZ
the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job" (Job 1:1) The opening
verse of Job turns our attention from the book's author to its main subject.
are told that Job lived in the land of Uz. The Old Testament contains several
references to Uz. Without writing out all the passages, we can cite them
is connected with Edom (Lamentations 4:21), with the children of Aram (Genesis
10:23), Abraham (Genesis 22:20, 21), the peoples of Canaan (Jeremiah 25:20) and
Esau's children (Genesis 36:28). All of these cannot refer to the same people
and places. Which one, if any, refers to the Uz of Job is uncertain. At any
rate, Uz could be placed almost anywhere between Arabia and Mesopotamia. The
author of the notes for this study suggests thinks Uz was the location of
northern Arabia. The hometowns of Job's three friends (we will meet them later)
were probably in this area.
for Job the man, we know nothing certain outside of what the book of Job tells
us. The description of his servants and his wealth in camels and other animals
would lead us to think of him as a rich sheik. And the book's descriptions of
life in Job's day would lead us to place him somewhere between the time of the
patriarch Abraham and Moses. That would be from about 2100 to 1400 B.C.
is the basic historical information we have on Job and the land of Uz. Exactly
where Uz lay and where Job fits into history must, with our present knowledge,
remain open questions.
whatever the place and whoever the man, this much is evident. Job and Uz were
real and historical, not mythical. This confidence is supported by a number of
facts. For one thing, Job is referred to by the prophet Ezekiel side by side
with the historical figures of Noah and Daniel...
of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my
hand against it... even if these three men--Noah, Daniel, and
Job-were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness,
declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 14:13, 14)
in the New Testament James refers to Job as a person:
as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke
in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have
persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord
finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:10,11)
addition to this Scriptural evidence, there are within the book of Job clues
indicating that Job and Uz were authentic. Mention of the Sabeans and Chaldeans
(1:15,17) places the story into real history. References to nomadic life and
geographical places such as the Jordan River (40:23) as well as an awesomely
authentic portrayal of human beings (in the person of Job and his friends), confirm
the historicity of the book.
book's poetry need not mean that Job and the other characters actually spoke in
poetry. Nor does it mean that they were fictional people. All it indicates is
that God inspired the book to be written in the poetic medium.
WEALTH AND FAITH
his day Job was famous for his riches. He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 1,000
oxen, 500 donkeys and many, many servants. As far more important possession was
Job's family--seven sons and three daughters. All this wealth made
Job '“he greatest man among all the people of the East" (1:3)
Job himself described the respect people showed him:
When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square, the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet; the chief men refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands; the voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouth. (Job 29:7-10)
riches and honor did not swell Job's head. Like wealthy Abraham, Job was
constantly aware that his blessings came from the Lord.
he was not of God's chosen nation Israel, he offered sacrifices to the true God.
Perhaps Job learned of the Lord through Abraham or from Moses and the Israelites
when they journeyed through wilderness. We are not told.
of Job's great faith was his concern for the spiritual welfare of his children,
all of whom appear on the scene as adults at the start of the book. When they
held parties and entertained one another in their homes, Job fretted,
"perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts'' (1:5) He
was worried that in pursuing youthful pleasures they would forget about God.
How many modern Christian parents haven” shared this same concern!
can almost see Job, the upright businessman. We might picture him looking over
his herds and flocks, servants and children, and saying, "Thank you, dear
God, for all these blessings."
all Job's wealth and faith cannot forestall the tragedies about to crash down
upon him. Little does he realize God is preparing him for trials such as few men
ever suffer. And little does this godly man suspect that soon his faith will be
tested almost to the breaking point.
his name is forewarning enough! In Hebrew Job can mean "the persecuted
1. Can you think of other wealthy men in Scripture who did not set their hearts on their riches? For a few examples read Genesis 13:2; 1 Chronicles 29:26-38; Matthew 27:57-60. What can we learn for ourselves from this?
2. Name some other Old Testament believers who were not Israelites. For some examples, see Genesis 14:18; Joshua 6:25; Ruth 1:15,16.
3. To what ceremony might the word "purify'' (KJV ''sanctify") refer in 1:5? For a possible explanation, look us Exodus 19:10 where the same word is used (there translated "consecrate").
4. How did Job's attitude toward his children conflict with today’s widely held view of letting children choose for themselves in religious matters?
5. Does the fact that most of the dialogues in Job were written in poetry mean they were originally spoken that way? Explain.
6. Does a lack of knowledge about the book's author detract from its inspiration? Explain.
7. Why does the believer consider the recognition of Job's literary greatness as inadequate tribute? Read Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:15, 16.
8. What purpose does the book of Job serve according to James 5:10, 11?
RICHES TO ASHES
day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also cam
with them" (1:6). With these words the scene shifts from Job to heaven.
There we find Satan before the Lord together with the angels (literally,
"the sons of God").
the devil begins his discussion with the Lord, Job is completely unaware of it.
As a matter of fact, he never learns of this dialogue. Yet it will change Job's
arrogantly informs the Lord that he has been "roaming through the
earth" (1:7). This "roaming" was no mere pleasure stroll.
Scripture warns, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil
prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter
God speaks: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like
him; he is blameless and upright, a man who f ears God and shuns evil"
(1:8). Here the Lord demonstrates that he still has his devout believers like
Job, in spite of Satan's activity on earth.
Almighty is not saying Job is without sin, but simply that he is a most devout
child of God.
Job is a believer, says the devil. But the motivation behind Job's devotion is
worldly according to Satan. He claims Job only trusts God because God has
blessed him. "But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and
he will surely curse you to your face!" (1:11)
devil knows that there are many who appear to follow God, but whose motivation
and attitude are wrong. Jesus rebuked just such
would-be-disciples: "I tell you the truth, you are looking for
me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loves (provided
by Christ) and have your fill." (John 6:26).
our own day some continue to look to the Christian faith merely as a road to
success in this life. These days we are hearing a lot about "successful
living" or "the radiant life" through Christ, as if the Bible
were nothing but a deluxe manual on how to win friends and influence people. Of
course, making God into a great provider is hardly the sum and substance of
true faith. Yet Satan insinuates that Job is this kind of "believer.”
the Bible Satan's deeds are described. But Scripture records his voice only
three times: here in Job 1 and 2, in Genesis 3 where he led Adam and Eve into
sin, and in the Gospel record of Christ’s temptation (Matthew 4). In all these
passages the devil's words ring the same. The
devil always tries to undermine what God says. The Lord has just finished
speaking of Job's faithfulness. Satan
comes right back and ascribes such devotion to false motives. This is the nature
of Satan, whose name means "the adversary.”
is in charge of the meeting between Himself and Satan.
The devil complains that the Lord has placed a protective
"hedge" (1:10) around Job. That is, God hasn't allowed Satan to test
him. Only when the Lord gives his consent can Satan move against
Job--and then, only as far as God allows.
"The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, everything he has is in
your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (1:12)
Lord allows Satan to do what he will with Job's family and possessions. But he
can” harm Job. Later God lets the devil go farther. He can do whatever he
wants to Job, but he must not take his life. “The Lord said to Satan, 'Very
well, then he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” (2:6)
as it is evident that Satan can do nothing without God's permission, it is
equally clear that the devil's power is vastly superior to man's. The Adversary
is able to manipulate Sabean and Chaldean raiding parties. He can send down
the ''fire of God” (1:16) upon job's sheep to consume them.
expression “fire of God' may refer to lightning or a rain of fire and
brimstone; in either case, it indicates Satan's power to manipulate the forces
of nature. He is also able to control the wind which destroys the house with
Job's children. Satan can bring sickness upon Job's body. No human being is able
to duplicate or withstand such power. We cannot help being awestruck by the
power of the Adversary. In the words of Luther's hymn we are reminded:
old evil Foe now means deadly woe
Deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight;
On earth is not his equal. (TLH 262; 1)
the end, however, we must return to the realization that the devil can do only
what God allows him to do.
himself recognizes that his afflictions ultimately come from God. In none of his
speeches throughout the book does Job ever mention Satan! He sees only God's
hand. And Satan's name appears no more in this book.
Once again given a free hand, the devil strikes quickly. Within a day he smashes Job with one disaster after another. Sabean and Chaldean bandits stea1 Job's 3,000 camels, 1,000 oxen and 500 donkeys. His 7,000 sheep die in a storm. He loses most of his numerous servants. And, worst of all, his ten children die when the house they are in collapses in a desert tornado.
later Job also loses his health. He is stricken with boils from head to toe. His
disease, possibly a form of leprosy, makes him an outcast from society. And so
we find Job sitting alone and scraping his itching sores with broken pieces of
sits on a heap of ashes. Ashes were symbolic of deep sorrow among the ancients,
as was the tearing of clothes, wearing sackcloth, shaving off hair and
sprinkling dust on one's head.
least Job still has a wife. Her advice to him is, "Curse God and die.”
(2:9) Thus she, too, unwittingly participates in Satan's scheme.
this is simply staggering. Where is there a word adequate to describe Job's
overwhelming and sudden suffering? Let us consider for a moment the ways in
which Job suffered.
to all of this, Job also seems to suffer at the hands of everyone and
initial reaction to his suffering is, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken
away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (1:21)These famous words have
been the basis of many a Christian funeral sermon. They emphasize that our
gracious God controls all things.
correctly declares that behind all his troubles lies the hand of the Lord. It is
not natural disasters, wicked men or even Satan himself. No, God simply takes
back what has always belonged to him.
Psalmist declared this truth when he wrote, "The earth is the Lord's and
everything in it" (Psalms 24:1) We may work for something, but our work is
merely the channel through which God blesses us. Human effort does not produce
blessings. God does. This is evident when we see how one person works hard and
becomes wealthy, while another works equally well but amasses no riches. Not
every student will get an "A.” A "C+" might be all he can
achieve yet his effort might be the same or even greater then the perfect
student. It is not simply better human planning, wisdom and exertion that makes
the difference. It is the Lord.
everything is God's he may distribute it as he pleases. We do not complain when
he gives us much. Should we then grumble when God takes back what belongs to
him? Or, in Job's words, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
one of his sermons Martin Luther pointed out a purpose in such action of God:
God often plays with us as a father plays with his infant from whom he takes
what he has given in order to test the attitudes of the child and to stimulate
its desire. For he gave it in order to produce confidence... So God acts with
all the visible blessings of this life, even with the very life he has given us.
He gave all in order to teach us to trust in him; but he also takes everything
back, at least in death, in order to test this truth. (Ewald M. Plass, editor,
What Luther Says, Vol. III. Concordia, St. Louis, Mo., 1959, p. 1390)
seems to understand this. Nevertheless, it is one thing to understand something
about suffering, and quite another to endure it. As Job sits upon the ashes a
dark question begins to haunt his tormented mind. It is a question that soon
will burst into an anguished cry.
GIVES WAY TO COMPLAINT
travels as quickly as the wind across the desert lands from one town to the
next, from one mounted tribe to another "The greatest man in the East has
been brought low!"
this tragic report, three of Job's friends come to visit him. They are Eliphaz
from the town of Teman, Bildad from Shuha and Zophar from Naama. We will be
introduced to these three personalities in the next section. For now, it is
sufficient to notice two things about them...
of all, they are genuinely concerned. Mere fair-weather friends would not
have journeyed as far as they did to visit poor Job. This concern is also
evident when they behold Job's sorry condition. We are told “They began to
weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads''
ought always to share their concern for those in need. The Bible states,
"As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those
who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10) Rather than envying
another person's prosperity or gloating over his problems, we are to ''rejoice
with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:15)
alone, however, is not enough. We are informed that Job's friends are also
silent. For seven days they quietly sit with him. Unfortunately, their silence
springs from something besides respect for Job, as they wait for him to initiate
silence comes from having nothing worthwhile to say. As we shall learn in
subsequent chapters, this is so serious a fault on their part that it will
destroy their friendship with Job and anger God himself.
Of course, everyone finds that words do not come easily in the face of tragedy. Nevertheless, a Christian should always have some word of comfort to speak for the welfare of the sufferer. Even though the suffering person may not immediately receive it, it is there to offer--namely, the Word of God. What makes Job's pain all the greater is that his friends are unable to offer the true comfort which God's Word alone can offer.
silence between Job and his friends is painfully long-a whole week! No
doubt everyone feels awkward, not knowing quite what to say.
the sufferer has to take it upon himself to break the ice. He does so in a
shocking way, as he curses the day he was born. Job blurts out:
the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, "A boy is
born!" That day - may it turn to darkness; may God above not care
about it; may no light shine upon it. (3:3,4)
these words Job sins. Although he does not now curse God - and never will
reach that point - Job does question God's goodness. He wishes the
Almighty had never created him.
declares, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew
12:34) Obviously Job's heart has been breeding bitterness and self-pity.
this outburst Job shows that his heart is sinful like every other man's. In
Luther's words, the human heart is "turned in upon itself.” We naturally
tend to make more of our own misfortunes than those of others.
Job's outburst strikes us as strange. How could these words come from the same
man who said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken a way; may the name of
the Lord be praised?” (1:21)
we see the complex nature of the Christian. True theologians have rightly said:
"Every Christian is at the same time a saint and a sinner.” St. Paul
described the dual nature of the believer in this way: "When I want to do
good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:21)
Scripture the great saints of God are shown in weakness as well as in strength.
The sins of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter and John are portrayed alongside their
does this not to encourage us to sin, but to remind us that no one can save
himself. For “there is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10)
Salvation and peace with God come only through one Man, the God-man Jesus
principle, of the believer's dual nature, is important to remember as we study
the book of Job. Throughout his trials Job reaches great heights of faith, only
to plunge from them
into near despair. Yet through it all Job will grow stronger. He does not know it yet but his sufferings will bring him
closer to God.
can’t see anything positive coming out of his situation. He sees only empty
darkness. All Job can do for now is cry out in anguish again and again,
"Why?...Why?...Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the
is the kind of question that suffering forces upon us. Sometimes people glide
along for years without considering the meaning of life. Suddenly tragedy
strikes. Then they start to think about God, life, death, purpose, sin,
righteousness, heaven and hell.
Job has been a believer all along, he struggled with these issues more than ever
as he and his friends tried to answer that one question: Why?
does God allow evil to strike his people? This question will consume the rest of
our study too. When we have answered it, we will then know the message of the
book of Job and will better understand the entire Christian faith.
1. In the midst of intense suffering a Christian may express Job's desire, "I wish I had never been born!" Does this mean he has completely lost his faith? Explain.
2. What are some of the sins of the great saints referred to in this lesson? Relate the believers to their sins, as recorded in Genesis 9:21; Genesis 12:10-13; 20:1,2. Numbers 20:7-12; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 9:51-55. How, then, was Abraham, “the sinner" justified? See Genesis 16:6.
3. Is it wrong to admit doubt? Read Mark 9:22-24. Why do some people hesitate to express their doubts or fears to other Christians?
4. Is it necessarily wrong for a person to wish to die, as Job does? What does St. Paul say in Philippians 1:23, 24?
5. It has been said, “There are no atheists in foxholes." Besides such dangerous situations as war, what other circumstances often turn people's thoughts more intensely to God? Does this interest always last? Why or why not?
6. Why is a warm handshake and the wish, "You have my sympathy'' inadequate at a Christian funeral service? What more can be said?
7. What should our motivation be for helping those in need? See John 13:34,35.
4 - 14
has spoken. Now his friends have something to reply to. In their responses to
Job they not only reveal their individual personalities, but also their common
discussions between Job and the three friends take up most of the book of Job.
One by one the friends speak, and Job responds to each of them. Except for
Zophar, each friend speaks to Job three times. We can outline the discussions in
the following manner:
cycle of discussion (chapters 4 - 14)
cycle of discussion (chapters 15-21)
cycle of discussion (chapters 22-31)
this section we will study the first cycle of discussions.
doubt Eliphaz is the oldest of the three, since he speaks first. He is polite
and begins talking in a kindly manner, "If someone ventures a word with
you, will you be impatient?” (4:2)
doesn’t” take long, though, for Eliphaz to get to the heart of his theology:
"Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the
upright ever destroyed?” (4:7) He does not directly name Job, but the
implication is clear. Destruction has come to Job's household, Eliphaz feels,
because of some sin Job committed.
claims to have gotten this insight from a mystical vision he had:
disquieting dreams in the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
spirit glided past my face,
and the hair on my body stood on end.
A form stood
before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice:
''Can a mortal be more righteous than God?" (4:13-17)
goes on to state that Job should view his suffering as a loving correction from
the Lord: "Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the
discipline of the Almighty" (5:17)
advice hardly satisfied Job. He sees that Eliphaz speaks out of fear. "Now
you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are
often feel afraid and guilty when they try to comfort others. They secretly
wonder, "Why did this happen to him and not to me?" Their conscience
tells them they are not better than the sufferer, yet they are spared. Why?
Eliphaz has no answer. Almost in panic he stabs in the dark for some rhyme or
reason to this mystery. All he can come up with is: Job must have done something
good is this to poor Job? Eliphaz has not been able to turn Job's thoughts away
from his misery. "The night
drags on, and I toss till dawn. My body is clothed with worms and scabs, my skin
is broken and festering'' (7:4,5)
Bildad speaks. Since Job has not gratefully received Eliphaz' advice, Bildad
decides to dispense with any courtesy. He begins, "How long will you say
such things? Your words are a blustering wind'' (8:2).
does Bildad merely beat around the bush. He comes right out with accusations,
"Does God pervert justice?...When your children sinned against him, he gave
them over to the penalty of their sin" (8:3,4). Imagine how such remarks
must sting Job, the loving, concerned, and praying father!
But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place. (8:5,6)
Unlike Eliphaz, Bildad does not appeal to dreams for his advice. No, he is a scholar who has studied the wisdom of former ages. So Bildad directs Job to ancient traditions: "Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing" (8:8, 9)
response, Job does not try to claim perfection. He knows Bildad's statements are
untrue, but he has no answers either. And so, like his friends, he begins to
grasp for some explanation. Perhaps God is arbitrary: "He would crush me
with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason'' (9:17)
is thee youngest and most vehement of the three. He appeals neither to visions
nor to tradition. He simply knows
Job is a terrible sinner! "Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he
would open his lips against you...Know this: God has even forgotten some of your
sin...Yet...if you put away the sin that is in your hand...then you will lift up
your face without shame" (11:5, 6, 13-15).
declares that God is being easy on Job. He deserves much worse! If only Job
would let go of his pet sin--whatever it might be--then
everything would be fine again.
answers with sarcasm, "Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die
with you! But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you"
states he is just as smart as his friends who, though once strangely silent, now
suddenly claim to have all the answers. And he sums up his feelings, “You are
worthless physicians, all of you!” (13:4)
FALSE NOTION OF SUFFERING
former friendship between Job and the three has been shattered. Though they come
to help, they cannot find the way.
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have much to say that is true. They recognize man's
sinfulness and God's just anger with sin. Eliphaz has correctly asked, "Can
a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?”
(4:17) They properly understand that Job, like everyone else, is a sinner. They
also realize the greatness of God and know that deliverance can come only if God
in with their correct ideas, the friends unfortunately share some dangerous
misconceptions. Chief among them is the thought that suffering is always a
punishment for specific sins. They
associate health and prosperity with righteousness, poverty and illness with
thought like Jesus' disciples once did in this respect. Remember how the
disciples were amazed when he told them it was harder for a rich man to enter
heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Mark
10:23-26). The rich were thought to be especially close to God and favored
idea is still around. And there is some truth to it. Very often, fearing God and
keeping his commandments leads to health and wealth, just as sinfulness often
leads to misery both now and in the life to come.
whole book of Proverbs emphasizes this, and so do our observations of life.
Which man is more likely to succeed in his work: the one who is lazy, has a
chaotic family life and is a drunkard or the man who uses his God-given
talents, governs his household well, and leads an upright life? Which nation is
more likely to prosper; the godless or the righteous? "Righteousness
exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people," states Proverbs
14:34. But often a false deduction is drawn from facts like this, namely, the
deduction Job's friends make. They cannot even comprehend the possibility of a
righteous man suffering.
deeply imbedded in human nature this concept is! Even among Christians there is
often a tendency to link illness or tragedy with specific sins. A young couple
loses a child and feels it is God's judgment on them because they once joked
about this child as being a nuisance. Or someone who is suffering terrible pains
asks his pastor what he did to deserve
all have the sinful tendency to turn from our Creator to ourselves, to
concentrate on what we are doing or not doing, to look to ourselves to find the
source of blessing or trouble.
"friends'' of Job are misdirected in another area too. Their whole approach
to Job is wrong. After Job's initial outburst, they assume a loveless, judging
and condemning attitude. It is possible to say all the right things, but in the
wrong way. Nowhere in their speeches do Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar exhibit any
love for Job. They are like a pastor who enters a hospital room, quotes a few
Bible verses to a sick parishioner and then leaves without showing any feeling,
sympathy or love. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians "If I speak in the
tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or
a clanging cymbal'' (1 Corinthians 13:1)
discussions between Job and the three friends will continue.
Job will continue to struggle with the issues at hand. Yet Job's friends
won” advance beyond the attitudes we have just described. This is the tragedy
of the "worthless physicians.”
15 – 21
a lifetime Job's friends have lived with the belief that suffering and sin,
prosperity and righteousness are inseparable pairs. And because of their false
doctrine, they are unable to help. All they can do is make Job feel worse.
the second cycle of talks, the friends begin trying to pin specific sins on Job.
They are looking for proof to back up their earlier accusations that Job has
sinned and is being punished. Eliphaz accuses Job of being conceited and
thinking that he knows everything. ''What do you know that we do not know? What
insights do you have that we do not have?" (15:9)
also chides Job for thinking himself better than his friends (18:3). And Zophar
indirectly accuses him of stealing. Without naming Job, he states, “For he has
oppressed the poor and left them destitute; he has seized houses he did not
three men issue severe warnings about the fate of the wicked. In the words of
Bildad, “Calamity is hungry for him; disaster is ready for him when he falls''
is often the case with people who have things going their way, the friends speak
in a condescending manner to the sufferer.
they do not come right out and say it, they consider themselves morally superior
to poor Job.
words of Job's friends only serve to make his agony increase. In answering them,
Job laments their lack of help. If he were in their shoes, Job states, he would
not just shake his head in disgust. He would "encourage" and
"comfort" his friends (16:4, 5).
declaring they are ''miserable comforters" (16:2), Job also demonstrates
how foolish their ideas are. For contrary to their theories, he points out that
the wicked often do prosper. (21:7, 8, 12-14)
the midst of this arguing, bitterness and confusion, Job sighs his most
d-desperate plea for compassion. First he relates how everyone has turned
summon my servant, but he does not answer,
though I beg him with my own mouth.
My breath is offensive to my wife;
I am loathsome to my own brothers.
Even the little boys scorn me;
when I appear, they ridicule me.
All my intimate friends detest me;
those I love have turned against me. (19:16-19)
In anguish Job now begs his "comforters":
pity on me, my friends , have pity,
for the hand of God has struck me.
Why do you pursue me as God does?
Will you never get enough of my flesh? (19:21, 22)
these anguished words, Job suddenly changes his line of thought. He makes a
that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,
that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
or engraved in rock forever! (19:23, 24)
knows that what he is about to say is worth preserving-in books and even
etched in stone. For in this darkest hour Job is about to exclaim the brightest
hope. Standing as one of the grandest statements of faith ever uttered and
glistening like cool water in a desert, this outburst expresses Job's faith in
know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes--I, and not another,
How my heart yearns within me! (19:25-27)
What will be said about us when we leave this earth? Many a tombstone gives a lasting statement of faith in our Savior. With this in mind the following epitaph has been requested for this pastor's tombstone based on this portion of Job.
was my comfort while I lived
I said: He lives who has me saved
He whom I trusted in my pain,
Will cover me again with skin
So that I from the grave shall rise
And live with Him in paradise.
In my flesh shall I see the Lord
This is confirmed by His own word.
have tried to diminish this great confession of faith by contending that Job is
merely hoping someone will come to prove his case against his friends, or even
against God. but Job is saying much more than that. Notice how he equates his
"Redeemer'' with God. Someday God himself will come and redeem Job, that
is, save him or defend him. not only will God redeem Job from false accusations,
but from death itself.
can this be? How can Job be so sure that even after he dies he will see God, his
Redeemer, with his own eyes? Simply because Job believes what God tells us about
himself, that ''with God all things are possible.'' (Matthew 19:26)
know, of course, the Redeemer Job here envisions came centuries after Job made
his confession. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, has come and stood upon the earth
as a man. He died as a man. He also rose again from the dead. And this living
Redeemer gives us the assurance, "Because I live, you also will live''
(John 14:19). Even though our bodies will die and rot, we need not be afraid. We
can be certain that in our resurrected bodies we shall see God, when our
Redeemer returns to the earth as he has promised he will.
in the Middle East, probably in a cave known only to desert rats and snakes, lie
the remains of Job's body. Someday our bones may also lie buried in a forgotten
hill. Yet we share Job's confidence that we too shall see God. For, like Job, we
know that our Redeemer lives.
course Job's understanding of the resurrection is not as complete as that of
Christians living in the New Testament era. Nevertheless, his faith rests in the
same Redeemer. Such a faith comes from neither experience nor human reason.
Faith in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is a miraculous gift of God the Holy
FAITH VERSUS STOICISM
Job's confession we see how the Christian view of suffering differs from human
philosophies. The ancient Greeks, for example, developed the Stoic philosophy.
Stoicism taught people to be indifferent to pain as well as to pleasure, not to
become very attached to anything. In this way the sufferer was encouraged to
keep his chin up in spite of disaster. Even today we say a person is
"stoic" if he seems indifferent to calamities. Other man-made
religions, such as Buddhism, teach the same. Detachment is the way to overcome
courage, however, is not based on indifference to the world around us. Rather,
it rests in the confidence that salvation lies ahead. We can bear up because we
know that God will finally deliver us and all who believe in Christ from sin,
pain, tragedy, sickness, frustration and death itself.
the entire Christian faith depends on the resurrection. As St. Paul wrote,
"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more
than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits
of those who have fallen asleep'' (1 Corinthians 15:19, 20). If there is not
life to come, then the Christian's strength in the face of suffering disappears.
But Christ's resurrection proves our hope is well founded.
does not remain long on the lofty heights of his proclamation. He soon begins to
slide back into gloom and confusion. But never again will he sink to the depths
of despair he experienced earlier. As he concludes his greatest confession of
faith, the worst is over for Job.
he and his friends move into their final discussions, Job touches on another
aspect of his suffering which deserves our attention. He says, “Look at me and
be astonished; clap your hand over your mouth” (21:5) Job's appearance is so
bad that it is sickening even to look at him!
words are a harsh reminder of suffering's ugly presence in this world. All
around us there is anguish. Yet human beings tend to look away from it. Many
people cannot bring themselves to visit nursing homes or institutions for the
retarded. People who have the ability to see try to avoid looking into the
glassy eyes of the blind. Hearing-people become unnerved when they try to
talk to the deaf. Able-bodied pedestrians leave unduly wide paths as they
pass by people in wheelchairs. The healthy often avoid taking seats next to the
deformed on plains and buses. And the rich do not like to drive through the
God does not want his people to close their eyes to suffering. Rather, he would
have us follow his own example. When he became a man he did not avoid humanity's
suffering. Christ Jesus the God-man looked at the poor, the lame, the deaf,
blind and diseased. He had compassion. He healed.
he went even further. Christ actually suffered for them, and for all of us. In
the words of the prophet:
was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and
carried our sorrows. (Isaiah 53:3, 4)
is God the Redeemer's relation to suffering humanity. Far from being aloof, he
became a part of it.
when Job declares, “Look at me," God is looking. The Lord is looking with
far more compassion and love than Job now realizes.
22 - 31
FRIENDS' LAST WORDS
opens the third and last cycle of discussion with wild accusations against Job:
"You demand security from your brothers for no reason...You gave no water
to the weary and you withheld food from the hungry...And you sent widows away
empty-handed and broke the strength of the fatherless"
(22:6-9). None of these charges had any grounds.
has little more to say. He simply restates the power and righteousness of God
and then describes man's insignificance. These final words of Bildad take up
for Zophar, Job's most vehement accuser, he has nothing more to say.
the three friends end their talks as they began. Nowhere have they made a
confession of faith as Job has. Their trust is not in the Lord, but in their own
righteousness. Although they knew about God, they do not know God, the Redeemer,
the One who forgives.
they lives in New Testament times, most likely the three would nave not accepted
St. Paul's words, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through
faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of
God--not of works, so that no once can boast" (Ephesians 2:8,
9). Job, however, would have accepted those words, for he had faith in God.
FAITH AND CONFUSION
Job's thoughts dart from one subject to another. He declares his desire to argue
his case with God (23:4). In spite of his brashness, Job again exhibits a
quality his friends lack. While they are content to talk about God, Job's
burning desire is to talk to God!
his boldness Job foolishly accuses the Lord, "The groans of the dying rise
from the city, and the souls of the wounded cry out for help. But God charges no
one with wrongdoing" (24:12)
soon contradicts himself, however, when he notes that God does indeed punish the
wicked, "For what hope has the godless when he is cut off, when God takes
away his life?'' (27:8) In other words, Job seems to conclude that it is
impossible to determine a man's standing with God on the basis of outward
appearances. People may be successful in life, but that is no sign of God's
favor. The Lord may still condemn them.
himself confirms this and warns us never to judge a person's spiritual condition
by his physical and material circumstances. In 1 Samuel 16:7 he teaches,
"Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the
beautiful imagery job goes on to describe the priceless value of wisdom:
"Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it, nor can it be had for jewels
of gold" (28:17) He concludes, "The fear of the Lord--that
is wisdom" (28:28) Here again we see Job's trust in God.
He still looks to the Lord as the source of the greatest blessings.
wisdom Job's thoughts turn to fond memories of the “good old days'' (29),
which he compares to his present sorry state (30). And then-as if going
around in a circle he returns to his old lament: God has not been fair (31).
we have seen, Job trusts God. Yet at the same time he accuses the Lord of being
unfair! How can Job be so divided? The answer lies in Job’s approach to that
tormenting question, "Why does a righteous man suffer?"
to agree with the friends' false notions, Job has used his own reasoning to try
to find an answer. and he has come up with the best answer human reason can find
which is that God is arbitrary.
we look at the world in which we live, Job's conclusion seems most logical.
There appears to be little or no fairness in this life. All men are not created
are born with staggering physical or mental handicaps. Others enter this world
with excellent minds and bodies as well as ideal opportunities for developing
them. Due to circumstances, some people suffer one setback after another,
while others soar from one success to the next.
godly saint like Stephen is stoned to death by wicked men; while a brutal
atheist like Joseph Stalin, who unmercifully and unjustly persecuted millions,
dies comfortably and in power. Where is justice in this world? -In the
words of the famous unbelieving lawyer Clarence Darrow, "There is no such
thing as justice-in or out of court.”
people would use the apparent injustice of the world as an argument against the
very goodness and power of God. Either God is not good or he is not almighty,
they contend. For if God is good, he will want to prevent unjust suffering. And
if God is almighty, he will be able to prevent it. So if he is both good and
almighty...then why does God allow suffering? This is the logical dilemma Job is
as this thinking appears to be, it still is wrong. For one thing, it is
presumptuous. How can man presume to judge God? Our intelligence and experience
are very limited, our vision shortsighted. But God knows
everything--past, present, and future. Surely he knows better than
we do what is just and unjust in the long run, in eternity.
the accusation that god is unfair overlooks the very nature of Christian faith.
Our faith is not based on what we can reason from experience. Rather, it rests
in the promises of God. As Hebrews 11:1 explains, "Now faith is being sure
of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
book of Job thoroughly studies mankind's two basic answers to the problem of
suffering by God's children. They are, of course, the answers of the
"friends" (suffering is always a punishment for sin) and of Job (God
is arbitrary). Both solutions are
wrong. Yet they continue to flourish.
views, and other similar ones, are based on human speculation. Consequently,
God's mercy and wisdom are not to be found in them. For the Lord declares,
"As they heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your
ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9) And again, "I
will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will
frustrate" (1 Corinthians 1:19)
the face of Job's anguished "Why?" human intelligence can only whistle
in the dark. No matter how many approaches it takes, it always arrives at a dead
end when attempting to fathom God's way with man. Human wisdom has little
comfort and no hope to offer. Least of all can it penetrate to the love of God,
which continues to shine behind the dark clouds of suffering.
there is to be an answer to Job's dilemma, it lies beyond human reason. God
himself must reveal it and that is just what the good Lord will do for Job. But
first Job must meet a young man named Elihu.
32 - 37
MYSTERIOUS YOUNG MAN
all the people in the book of Job none is as mysterious as Elihu, "son of
Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram" (32:2). He is mentioned in
neither the beginning nor the end of the book. He suddenly appears on the scene
and just as suddenly leaves, not to be heard of again.
can, however, offer an explanation for his abrupt appearance. No doubt the
sufferings of a famous man like Job attracted attention. So a crowd may have
gathered to listen to the heated discussions between Job and his three friends.
Elihu patiently refrained
from talking until the others exhausted what they had to say. He explains
his behavior thus:
am young in years,
and you are old;
that is why I was fearful,
not daring to tell you what I know.
I thought, "Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.” (32:6,7)
Sadly, as Elihu implies, "advanced years" do not always bring wisdom. At times youth displays an understanding rare even in older people. We think of Timothy, the young pastor to whom St. Paul gave this advice, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12) It is rare to find people like Timothy who seem to possess a maturity beyond their years.
comes close to this ideal. He starts his speech politely; for the most part he
speaks correctly; and certainly he does try to help.
this bring young man displays several faults. For one thing, he seems to lack
tact. Elihu says, "So Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without
knowledge he multiplies words." (35:16) Nowhere does Elihu speak this
harshly to the three friends, even though they spoke at least as foolishly as
job and without his expressions of faith.
Elihu behaves almost as if Job were an unbeliever, which is not the case at all.
[Job] keeps company with evildoers;
he associates with wicked men.
So listen to me, you men of understanding
Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
He repays a man for what he has done;
he brings upon him what his conduct deserves. (34:8, 10, 11)
talks on and on about God's justice. But he says almost nothing about God's
love. Consequently his presentation is one-sided.
Elihu's shortcomings, and especially from the three friends, we can learn what
not to do to someone who is down and out, namely, speak to him in a loveless
must be admitted, though, that young Elihu clearly sees the weakness in the
arguments of Job and of his three companions. He "became very angry with
Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three
friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned
him" (32:2, 3)
Elihu demonstrates the bankruptcy of the arguments of Job, Eliphaz, Bildad and
Zophar. Job has foolishly spoken as though he were able to judge God. He has
questioned the Lord's justice and wisdom. The three friends have foolishly
condemned Job. Obviously Job was not the ungodly sinner they had accused him of
being. So with Elihu's insight, the arguments cease.
he too is caught up in the view that suffering is a punishment for sin, Elihu
seems to catch fleeting glimpses of something more. Perhaps God does use
affliction for another purpose besides punishment and correction.
those who suffer he delivers in their suffering
he speaks to them in their affliction.
He is wooing you from the jaws of distress
to a spacious place free from restriction,
to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. (36:15,16)
it not be, implies Elihu, that God uses troubles to bring about good? Perhaps he
sends pain into our lives to turn us to him before WE FALL INTO SIN, NOT
ONLY (as the friends contend)TO PUNISH AND CORRECT US AFTER WE HAVE
ALREADY FALLEN! Thus Elihu suggests that the Lord is not silent (33:14) as Jog
argues. Rather, he is saying something to Job for his benefit.
hints of better things are the best Elihu has to offer. He struggles to rise
above the thinking of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, but he is also a child of his
times. And so Elihu slips back into the platitudes about sin and punishment Yet
of Elihu it can be said: He has come closer to helping Job than anyone else.
Elihu has touched on a vital truth, namely, out of mercy God allows his children
to suffer. Far from being a sign of God's displeasure, suffering can be, and
often is, a sign of his love. In the words of Scripture, "The Lord
disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son"
(Hebrews 12:6) That is to say, where there is Christian faith, there are bound
to be tribulations.
that the Bible defines faith as being "certain of what we do not see"
(Hebrews 11:1). If, however, we could always clearly see God's love and mercy in
our lives, then we would not have to accept in faith that God is merciful and
loving. We would have visible proof
But "we live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5;7). The Lord does not want us to trust in him simply because we are blessed with good health and riches and honor. Rather, he wants us to trust him simply because of what he tells us in his Word. As Luther put it, ''[God] must deal with us in such a way that we see that he must put faith into our hearts and that we could not produce it ourselves." Thus we are often called on to believe in spite of what we see and experience--not because of it.
the lord tells us over and over in his Word that we believers should expect
sorrows, troubles, persecutions and the cross. These come together with god's
blessings of forgiveness, love, peace, joy and eternal life.
he is still speaking, Elihu sees a storm coming from the north. He perceives in
it the power of God:
no one can look at the sun,
bright as it is in the skies
after the wind has swept them clean.
Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty.
The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power
in his justice and great righteousness, he does
not oppress. (37:21-23)
this, Elihu is right. For the storm will bring a revelation from God Himself.
VOICE FROM THE STORM
38:1 - 42:6
the Lord answered Job out of the storm
Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer me.
Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand. (38:1-4)
these thoughts God begins his longest direct discourse recorded in the Bible!
Job and his friends must have been overwhelmed by hearing the Lord's voice from
the storm. Every mouth must have been stopped as the small circle of men
listened in silence to the Lord.
was neither the first nor the last time in the Old Testament when God spoke
directly to men. He spoke directly to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), Abraham (Genesis
12:1-3), Jacob (Genesis 32:24-30), Moses (Exodus 3), Elijah (1 Kings
19) and others.
Christ's coming and the writing of the New Testament, we now have the complete
Scripture. Therefore we should not expect any more special revelations. The
Mormons, Christian Scientists, Moslems, Baha'is and others who claim such
contradict God's Word: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should
preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally
condemned.'' (Galatians 1:8)
Of all the chapters in the book, none are so magnificent as those that contain God's awesome words to Job.
Almighty does not venture to argue with Job. Instead of meeting him with
hostility, punishment and vengeance, God comes in love. Though Job's friends
condemned him, his Creator does not. Yes, the Lord will speak sternly with his
servant; but nowhere will God imply that Job suffered because of his sins.
than even discussing his troubles, the Almighty draws Job's eyes away from his
sufferings to the grandeur of his God. To begin with, God demonstrates that his
wisdom and power are infinitely beyond that of any human being. "Do you
send the lightning bolts on their way?" (38:35) "Does the hawk take
flight by your wisdom and spread his wings toward the south?" (39:26)
the wonders of his creation God moves to his loving care for the things he has
provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?
Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
Do you count the months till they bear?
Do you know the time they give birth?
They crouch down and bring forth their young:
their labor pains are ended.
Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
they leave and do not return. (38:41-39:4)
39:13-17 God also points to the ostrich, whom he has not endowed with
great wisdom. Yet the Ruler of the Universe himself protects the baby ostrich,
even though its own mother does not!
application from all this should be clear to Job. If God so carefully governs
the birth of ravens, wild goats and ostriches, won't he care about man, the
crown of his creation?
is the same truth Jesus teaches, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not
sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are
you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26)
the almighty challenges Job: "Will the one who contends with the Almighty
correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him! (40:2) Job has little to say.
All he can reply are these few words:
am unworthy--how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more. (40:4, 5)
desire for a confrontation with God is fulfilled. But now that it has come, Job
has nothing to say! It is one thing to smugly talk about god's injustice, quite
another to make those assertions in the presence of the Lord of the Universe.
Lord continues. He points out that Job has sinned by calling God unfair. In
trying to judge God, Job has placed himself above the Almighty (40:8-14).
But God is God! He is judge over all. St. Paul wrote, "But who are you, O
man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it,
“Why did you make me like this?” (Romans 9:20)
concluding his speech, the Lord spends considerable time on two mighty
creatures--behemoth (40:15-24) and leviathan (41).
students have always been interested in just what animals these Hebrew words
might refer to. Behemoth simply means "cattle' or "beast." In Job
40 the word probably refers to a hippopotamus or elephant. Either of these
animals could fit the description of this powerful beast, whose ''bones are
tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron" (40:18). It is possible that
in ancient times such animals did live in the Jordan Valley (40:23). Today,
however, they are not to be found in that region.
leviathan most likely is the crocodile, with "rows of shields" (41:15)
on his back.
states that leviathan's "sneezing throws out flashes of light" (41:18)
and "flames dart from his mouth" (41:21). Such statements would give
an accurate poetic picture of the water which glistens as it streams from the
declares that both animals--whatever their exact identification--are
so powerful that no man can match their strength. Yet the Almighty emphasizes
that both are under his control. For he is Lord over all, the King of Creation.
MESSAGE OF THE BOOK OF JOB
has spoken. And now...Job realizes he has been foolish to question God's wisdom
know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ''Who is this that obscures my counsel
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know. (42:2, 3)
finally realizes God's ways are above ours. The Lord's wisdom is greater than
ours, his mercy infinite and his power without bounds.
realization that God uses everything, including suffering, for his wise and good
purposes is really the climax of the book of Job. What can we do but trust in
him, our Savior? He has given us our life; he has preserved us; he has given us
the Redeemer and the hope of eternal salvation. And if he should send us pain
and suffering, will he not use that, too, in a way consistent with his mercy?
is the message of the book of Job.
last recorded words of Job are words of repentance:
ears had heard of you [God]
But how my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes. (42:5, 6)
has seen the Lord's goodness. And he recognizes his own evil for questioning
that goodness. Job confesses his sin and confidently places himself in the hands
of his loving God.
earlier in his trials Job could say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken
away; may the name of the Lord be praised'' (1:21). Now that concept is rooted
far more deeply within Job's heart. No longer is he haunted by doubts and
bitterness. Job is at peace with God.
CHRISTIAN AND SUFFERING
more than Job, we New Testament believers have reason to be at peace with God.
For we have an even more complete revelation from the: Lord. Through the New
Testament we know of God's great love in his Son, Jesus Christ. Because of
Christ's death on the cross, God has forgiven us all our sins.
Christ, God has revealed his love to all mankind. In Jesus' own words, "God
so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in
him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into
the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John
us learn, therefore, with the Apostle Paul "to be content whatever the
circumstances" (Philippians 4:11). After all, if God has given his only
Son into death to save us, won't he use all things--even
suffering--for our eternal good?
DEPARTING IN PEACE
both Job and his friends had sinned, the Lord was pleased with Job and not with
the other three. As indicated earlier, it was faith that distinguished Job from
Elipjaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Moreover, Job repented of his sins, while the
friends did not acknowledge any evil on their part.
God commands the friends to sacrifice seven bulls and seven rams. And the Lord
tells the three, "My servant Job will pray for you" (42:8).
Job prays for the very men who had treated him unfairly. Such prayer
demonstrates the sincerity of Job's repentance. it also reminds us of Stephen
and of our Lord Jesus, who asked forgiveness for those who wronged them (Acts
7:60; Luke 23:34). Certainly the kind of prayer offered by Job is effective, as
Scripture promises, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and
effective" (James 5:16)
this must be a blow for Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Their self-righteous
attitude is smashed to smithereens as God warns them to repent, since "you
have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has " (42:8).
Happily, they then do as the Lord directs.
job prays for his friends, the Lord restores his wealth. As soon as this
happens, Job's relatives and acquaintances also return. Obviously their loyalty
is shallow, yet Job seems content to accept their belated condolences and gifts.
Since he has come to realize that God will judge man's motives, Job is happy,
for his part, to look at their actions in the kindest possible way. Rather than
embittering him toward other people, suffering has made Job even more patient
and loving toward others.
for his possessions, they are doubled. Job now owns 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels,
2,000 oxen and 1,000 donkeys.
also has another seven sons and three daughters. Unlike all Job's other children
and even his wife, these girl's names are given the honor of being recorded in
the book of Job. They are Jemimah (meaning "dove") Keziah
("cinnamon") and Keren-Happuch ("horn of paint").
These children, of course, cannot replace the other ten job lost. Nevertheless,
they are blessings from a loving God.
what if God would have done none of this for Job? What if Job were to live out
his life in poverty, loneliness and disrepute?
that have diminished the Lord's goodness? Not
at all. For Job was at peace with
God before his restoration. A11 that Job's renewed prosperity illustrates
is that sooner or later God will deliver all-his people from suffering.
Some, like Job, may begin to experience it already in this life. But all
believers in Christ will know it fully in the life to come.
SO HE DIED
God restored his prosperity, Job lived another 140 years. It was a long and
peaceful time during which he lived to see his children's children "to the
fourth generation" (42:16)
no doubt, Job never forgot his trials. He must often have thought of how in his
darkest hour God had brought him to his boldest expression of faith. ''I know
that my Redeemer lives". And as the years brought him closer to death,
those words surely became more treasured.
Job, Christians all have been able to encounter death with courage. Naturally
death is never easy to face, whether it is our own or that of a loved one. Yet
Christ strengthens us. For ''death has been swallowed up in victory" (1
Christ Jesus, death has lost its sting. For us it is but the gate to glory. So
as we face life's troubles, we can actually look forward to the end of life on
earth. In the words of Johann Sebastian Bach, we can pray, "Come, sweet
Job was ready to die. The last verse of his book describes Job's passing very
simply and eloquently: "And so he died, old and full of years"
we prepare to close our study of Job, perhaps as word is necessary concerning
our entire approach to the book. Job, of course, lived in Old Testament
times--before God the Father sent his son Jesus Christ. Yet in our
survey of the book of Job we have made frequent reference to the New Testament
and to Jesus Christ. Was this fair? Or were we reading too much into Job?
Savior himself furnishes the answer. Jesus declares, "These [the Old
Testament books] are the Scriptures that testify about met' (John 5:39) In one
way or another all of the Scriptures point to Christ. Consequently, there is
only one way to read the entire Bible, both Old and New Testament. That is with
Jesus Christ at the center. Though Job did not know Jesus by name, Job still
placed his hope and confidence in him. This is what we call faith and trust.
PURPOSE OF PAIN: A SUMMARY
ALL SUFFERING SEEMS TO BE EQUALLY TRAGIC. Believers and unbelievers alike suffer
the same pain when they break a leg or are ill. For one, however, the suffering
is beneficial, for the other it is not. The terrible death of King Herod Agrippa
I (Acts 12:21-33) was certainly not a blessing for him; but Stephen's
death by stoning (Acts 7:54-60) was for him the entrance to Paradise.
Thus, depending on the individual and the circumstances, God uses suffering for
of those reasons applies only to unbelievers. It is a part of the
punishment for their sins. Here we use the word punishment to mean suffering
with no beneficial intent or results.
example, when God destroyed all but Noah and his family in the Flood, it was
definitely a judgment upon wicked mankind. The Lord had given 120 years of grace
for people to repent, but they did not turn to him. Then he destroyed them all
in an obvious punishment for sin. They are still being punished in hell, and
they will be for eternity. This punishment in hell we sometimes call "the
God's other use of suffering are reserved for his children. When he afflicts them it is always to their benefit. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) With this in mind we can summarize the reasons the Lord sends troubles into believers' lives.
first is disciplinary. This is to correct an erring Christian. A believer who is
drifting away from his Lord may be brought back through some tragedy. Perhaps
this is why pastors often find people more receptive to funeral sermons than
Sunday preaching. The loss of someone close makes many a lukewarm church member
very appreciative of God's Word.
other purpose for Christian suffering is a trial of faith. It was this type of
trial which God spoke of through the prophet Zechariah. He calls it a trial by
third [part of Israel] I will bring
into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
and I will answer them;
I will say, "They are my people,"
and they will say, "The Lord is our God'' (Zechariah 13:9)
of this kind of trial the Christian's faith is strengthened and refined. In the
severest sufferings the believer's eyes turn more steadfastly toward heaven, his
faith clings more firmly to God. Rather than growing stronger, the lure of Satan
and of the world weakens.
was by such a test that Abraham's faith was tempted and shaped into a grand and
beautiful form. "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a
sacrifice" (Hebrews 11:17) It was also for this reason that the Lord tried
Job; and for such a purpose God still chastises his children.
under the weight of a cross, God's children don't always remember that trials
are for their benefit. Yet God’s dealings with his children are not so
different from the way earthly parents deal with theirs. For what child
completely understands and appreciates exactly why his parents make him do
this or that? A little boy, for instance, can't fully grasp the benefits of
going to bed rather than staying up and watching TV. But some day he will
understand. For the present he can only trust his dear parents' word that this
is for the best. Likewise the sons and daughters of God trust that in some way
their heavenly Father is dealing with them for their good.
we must remember that as we think about the subject of suffering Chastisement is
never to be seen as punishment. The sufferings which we endure are but
strengthening for our good as we anticipate that great day when Christ will say
to each faithful child of God "well done good and faithful servant!"
notes of this study were taken from a study notes and commentary entitled “Faith
on Trial” written by Ronald Cap Ehlke.