JOB
"FAITH ON TRIAL"

A Bible Study on the Book of Job

written by
Roland Cap Ehlke

  1. Introduction
  2. Job: The Book & The Man                   Job 1:1-5
  3. From Riches to Ashes                           Job 1:6-2:10
  4. Patience Gives Way to Complaint         Job 2:11-3:36
  5. Worthless Physicians                            Job 4-14
  6. Hope Amid Despair                              Job 15-21
  7. God Is Unfair!                                      Job 22-31
  8. Elihu                                                     Job 32-37
  9. God Speaks                                         Job 38:1-42:6
  10. Departing in Peace                                Job 42:7-17

Introduction

AUTHOR

Although 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 NIV).

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 (Job 12:9).

The 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 ).

DATE

Two dates are involved:

(1)   the date of the man Job and his historical setting, and

(2)   the date of the inspired writer who composed the book.

The 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.

Like 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).

The 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 highly unlikely.

LANGUAGE

In 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 perplexed.

The 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.

Job: The Book & The Man

Job 1:1-5

A TOWERING BOOK

Job 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.”

There 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.

Secondly, 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.

We 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.

HEBREW POETRY

Before discussing the contents of Job, we ought to con­sider the book's style, in particular its poetry.

Like 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.

Most 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:

May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, "A boy is born!'' (Job 3:3)

One of Job's friends describes God’s majesty:

He 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)

The same friend accuses Job of evil...

Is not your wickedness great?
Are not your sins endless?
  (Job 22:5)

These 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.

JOB'S AUTHOR

Who 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.

But 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.

Still 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.

THE MAN FROM UZ

"In 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.

We 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 quickly.

Uz 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.

As 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.

This 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.

But 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...

Son 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)

And in the New Testament James refers to Job as a person:

Brothers, 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)

In 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.

The 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.

JOB'S WEALTH AND FAITH

In 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)

But riches and honor did not swell Job's head. Like wealthy Abraham, Job was constantly aware that his blessings came from the Lord.

Though 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.

Evidence 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!

We 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."

Yet 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.

Perhaps his name is forewarning enough! In Hebrew Job can mean "the persecuted one.”

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION

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?

FROM RICHES TO ASHES

Job 1:6--2:10

THE ADVERSARY

"One 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").

As 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 life forever.

Satan 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 5:8)

Now 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.

The Almighty is not saying Job is without sin, but simply that he is a most devout child of God.

Certainly 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)

The 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).

In 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.”

Throughout 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.”

SATAN'S POWER

God 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)

The 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)

Just 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.

The 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:

The 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)

In the end, however, we must return to the realization that the devil can do only what God allows him to do.

Job 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.

JOB'S LOSSES

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. 

Sometime 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 pottery.

He 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.

At 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.

All 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.

  1. Financially (the loss of wealth)
  2. Physically (the loss of health)
  3. Psychologically (the loss of loved ones)
  4. Socially (the loss of prestige and influence)

Added to all of this, Job also seems to suffer at the hands of everyone and everything.

  1. Natural disasters (wind and fire)
  2. Evil people (the raiders)
  3. Loved ones (his wife and later on his friends)

THE LORD GAVE

Job's 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.

Job 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.

The 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.

Since 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?” (2:10)

In 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)

Job 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.

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION

  1. Is Job's wife advocating suicide?
  2. What comfort is there in knowing Satan's power is limited? (See 1 Corinthians 10:13)
  3. The world, like Satan, tends to see value in worldly success, but God doesn't. How can the handicapped and bedridden also serve the Lord?
  4. We often hear the statement: "The most important thing is your health." Why is this a foolish statement?
  5. How had Job's devotions prepared him for his suffering? What happens when someone is not prepared? See Matthew 7:24-27.
  6. In what way are a birth defect and suffering in a prison camp both "acts of God?”
  7. Is the evil in man (like the bandits who stole Job's pos­sessions) excused with the words, '“he devil made me do it"? Can people excuse their evil deeds by saying, "God made me this way"? Read James 1:13,14.
  8. Many religious books today stress the success Christianity can bring in this life. What's dangerous about this extra emphasis?
  9. Read Genesis 3:1-4 and Matthew 4:1-11. These are Satan's other words in Scripture. Discuss how his tactics remain the same and how they differ in each instance.  What can we learn from this?
  10. Comment on these words of Augustine. "He who is not satisfied with God alone is much too greedy." How did this apply to Job? How does it apply to us today?

PATIENCE GIVES WAY TO COMPLAINT

Job 2:11--3:26

THE THREE FRIENDS

News 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!"

Hearing 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...

SILENT CONCERN

First 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'' (2:12).

Christians 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)

Concern 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 the conversation.

The 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.

JOB'S OUTBURST

The silence between Job and his friends is painfully long-­a whole week! No doubt everyone feels awkward, not knowing quite what to say.

Finally 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:

May 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)

With 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.

Scripture 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.

Through 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.

SAINT & SINNER

Perhaps 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)

Here 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)

Throughout 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 faith.

God 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 Christ.

This 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.

WHY?

Job 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 womb?” (3:11)

This 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.

Though 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?

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.

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION

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.

WORTHLESS PHYSICIANS

Job 4 - 14

THE DISCUSSIONS

Job 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 religious outlook.

The 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:

A)    First cycle of discussion (chapters 4 - 14)

1)      Eliphaz--Job (4-7)

2)      Bildad--Job (8-10)

3)      Zophar--Job (11-14)

B)     Second cycle of discussion (chapters 15-21)

1)      Eliphaz--Job (15-17)

2)      Bildad--Job (18-19)

3)      Zophar--Job (20-21)

C)    Third cycle of discussion (chapters 22-31)

1)      Eliphaz--Job (22-24)

2)      Bildad--Job (25-31)

In this section we will study the first cycle of discussions.

ELIPHAZ - JOB

No 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)

It 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.

Eliphaz claims to have gotten this insight from a mystical vision he had:

Amid disquieting dreams in the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,

A 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)

Eliphaz 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)

Such 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 afraid" (6:21).

People 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 wrong!

What 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 - JOB

Now 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).

Nor 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!

Bildad continues...

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)

In 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)

ZOPHAR - JOB

Zophar 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).

Zophar 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.

Job 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" (12:2, 3).

Job 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)

A FALSE NOTION OF SUFFERING

Any former friendship between Job and the three has been shattered. Though they come to help, they cannot find the way.

Certainly 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 wills it.

Mixed 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 sinfulness.

They 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 by him.

This 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.

The 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.

How 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 this.

We 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.

LOVELESS COUNSELING

The "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)

The 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.”

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION

  1. How can we tell when Job and his friends are speaking correctly and when they err? Read Acts 17:10,11.
  2. Does St. Paul quote one of the friends' words approvingly? Compare Job 5:13 with 1 Corinthians 3:19. Which words of Job are often used in funeral services?
  3. What is wrong when we speak the truth, but at an inappropriate time? What should always be our motivation, even when we tell the truth? See Ephesians 4:15.
  4. The word “Rahab” in 9:13 (NIV) means “proud.” At times it may refer to haughty Egypt. See also Job 26:12. Psalm 87:4; 89:10; Isaiah 30:7; 51:9. Might such pos­sible references to God's power over Egypt give us a clue as to when Job lived?
  5. Does Zophar misquote Job in 11:4? Does Job go over­board in defending himself in 12:4b? Is Job saying he is sinless? Cf. 14:4. If you were in Job's shoes how would you react to Zophar's words?
  6. Relate Job's words in 12:23, 24 to incidents from history.
  7. Does Job deny there is a life to come in 14:10-12? If not, what is he saying? What hope does Job express in 14:14, 15?
  8. In what respect are the friends correct in their as­sumption that suffering is related to sin? Genesis 3.
  9. How did Jesus show that suffering is not necessarily a result of specific sins, although it can be? Read Luke 13:1-5; John 9:1-7.
  10. How can "faith healers" drive people to despair?
  11. As in the case of Job's friends, what can account for a sudden change from genuine concern to loveless ness?

HOPE AMID DESPAIR

Job 15 – 21

THE SECOND CYCLE

For 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.

In 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)

Bildad 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 build'' (20:19).

All 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'' (18:12).

As is often the case with people who have things going their way, the friends speak in a condescending manner to the sufferer.

Though they do not come right out and say it, they consider themselves morally superior to poor Job.

The 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).

After 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)

MY REDEEMER

In the midst of this arguing, bitterness and confusion, Job sighs his most d-desperate plea for compassion. First he relates how everyone has turned on him:

I summon my servant, but he does not answer,
t
hough 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":         

Have 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)

Following these anguished words, Job suddenly changes his line of thought. He makes a strange wish:

Oh, 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)

Job 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 the resurrection:

I 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.           

This 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.

Many 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.

How 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)

We 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.

Somewhere 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.

Of 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 Spirit.

CHRISTIAN FAITH VERSUS STOICISM

In 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 life's troubles.

Christian 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.

Thus 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.

LOOK AT ME!

Job 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.

Before 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!

Job's 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 slums.

But 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.

And he went even further. Christ actually suffered for them, and for all of us. In the words of the prophet:

He 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)

Such is God the Redeemer's relation to suffering humanity. Far from being aloof, he became a part of it.

So when Job declares, “Look at me," God is looking. The Lord is looking with far more compassion and love than Job now realizes.

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION

  1. What is Bildad trying to accomplish with his long description of the fate of the wicked? Is he successful?
  2. Is there something to Bildad's contention that Job is arrogant (see 18:3)?
  3. How would you feel if a sufferer spoke as harshly to you as Job does to his companions? Why should a comforter be willing to overlook many harsh things a suffering person says?
  4. Do you think that the treatment Job received from his relatives and acquaintances is typical for suffering people? What often happens to the elderly when their families leave them in a nursing home?
  5. How does Job describe his physical appearance in 19:20?
  6. In what way do Jesus' words in Matthew 7:1-5 fit Job's friends? How can we apply them to ourselves?
  7. Many people today think that O1d Testament believers had no concept of resurrection. But Scripture teaches dif­ferently: See Daniel 12:2; Matthew 22:23; Hebrews 11:13,16. How is our understanding of these things more complete than that of the Old Testament faithful?
  8. How does suffering help believers focus on the life to come?
  9. Is it possible that Job's answer is healthy? Is there something to the popular expression, "You can tell he's getting better; he's starting to complain?”
  10. In what ways are religious arguments like those between Job and his friends harmful? Can there be any value in them?
  11. Why do people in need sometimes despise those who try to help? How can we avoid this problem?

GOD IS UNFAIR!

Job 22 - 31

THE FRIENDS' LAST WORDS

Eliphaz 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.

Bildad 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 five verses.

As for Zophar, Job's most vehement accuser, he has nothing more to say.

So 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.

Had 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.

JOB'S FAITH AND CONFUSION

Meanwhile 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!

In 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)

Job 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.

God 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 heart."

With 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.

From 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).

GOD IS UNFAIR

As 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?"

Unable 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.

When 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 equal.

Some 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.

A 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.”

Some 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 trapped in.

WRONG REASONING

Convincing 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.

Secondly, 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."

DEAD END

The 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.

These 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)

In 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.

If 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.

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION

  1. To what event does Eliphaz refer in 22:15,16? How do you suppose people outside the nation of Israel got such knowledge?
  2. How did Job and his friends talk past each other? Is this still common today? How can it be avoided?
  3. What experiences common to suffering did Job relate in 23:8,9? What should a Christian do if he feels this way?
  4. Why did Eliphaz cling so fiercely to his theory, even to the point of falsely accusing Job? Does this say something to us about the tenacity of false religious notions? What can we learn from this when we discuss our faith with others? See 1 Peter 3:15, 16.
  5. Discuss the false solution which Christian Scientists offer for the problem of human suffering.
  6. In chapter 23 what indicates that Job was a wise observer of life? Do these things still happen? Give examples of such if possible.
  7. Read Psalm 73. Compare the Psalmist's thoughts and con­clusions with Job's.
  8. How can we answer the unbeliever who declares that God is unfair?

ELIHU

Job 32 - 37

A MYSTERIOUS YOUNG MAN

Of 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.

We 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:

I 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.

Elihu comes close to this ideal. He starts his speech politely; for the most part he speaks correctly; and certainly he does try to help.

Unfortunately 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.

Furthermore, Elihu behaves almost as if Job were an unbeliever, which is not the case at all. Says Elihu:

He [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)

Elihu talks on and on about God's justice. But he says almost nothing about God's love. Consequently his presentation is one-sided.

From 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 manner.

ELIHU'S INSIGHT

It 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)

Thus 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.

Although 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.

But 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)

Could 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.

Such 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.

SUFFERING AND FAITH

For 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.

Remember 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 of it.

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.

So 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.

THE APPROACHING STORM

While he is still speaking, Elihu sees a storm coming from the north. He perceives in it the power of God:

Now 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)

In this, Elihu is right. For the storm will bring a revelation from God Himself.

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION

  1. Discuss Elihu's contention that age may not always bring wisdom. Why don't people always grow wiser with age?
  2. What does Elihu say is the source of true understanding? See 32:8. What sources has Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar relied on for their ideas? To what source should the Christian look?
  3. Does Elihu entirely live up to his promise in 32:14?
  4. Where odes Elihu seem to pause and wait for an answer from Job? Is such willingness for give-and-take helpful when we are counseling someone?
  5. How does Elihu's pride reveal itself in 36:4? Is this trait common to gifted young people? How can a Christian youth combat it?
  6. What difference(s), if any, do you detect between Elihu's approach to Job and that of the three friends?
  7. Discuss the statement: "The best solution to suffering lies not in finding an answer but in faith in God's goodness."
  8. Review how, according to Elihu, God shows mercy in sending suffering. See 33:13-30.
  9. What does Jesus say about expecting suffering together with blessing? Read Mark 10:22, 30. When do our sufferings show that we are following in Jesus' steps?

THE VOICE FROM THE STORM

Job 38:1 - 42:6

GOD SPEAKS

Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm
He said:
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)

With 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.

This 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.

With 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 revelations 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)

GOD' SPEECH

Of all the chapters in the book, none are so magnificent as those that contain God's awesome words to Job.

The 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.

Rather 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)

From the wonders of his creation God moves to his loving care for the things he has made:

Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
a
nd 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)

In 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!

The 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?

The 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)

Now 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:

I 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)

Job's 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.

The 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)

In concluding his speech, the Lord spends considerable time on two mighty creatures--behemoth (40:15-24) and leviathan (41).

Bible 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.

The leviathan most likely is the crocodile, with "rows of shields" (41:15) on his back.

God 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 crocodile's mouth.

God 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.

THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK OF JOB

God has spoken. And now...Job realizes he has been foolish to question God's wisdom and justice:

I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ''Who is this that obscures my counsel
without knowledge?''
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know. (42:2, 3)

Job finally realizes God's ways are above ours. The Lord's wisdom is greater than ours, his mercy infinite and his power without bounds.

This 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?

This is the message of the book of Job.

REPENTANCE

The last recorded words of Job are words of repentance:

My 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)

Job 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.

Much 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.

THE CHRISTIAN AND SUFFERING

Even 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.

Through 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 3:16, 17) ­

Let 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?

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION

  1. In what ways did the Elihu section prepare for God's coming?   
  2. Why do you think the Lord waited so long before answering Job? Does he at times do the same to us? How? Why?
  3. What odes the Bible say about expecting further revelations from God? See Luke 16:27-31; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Revelation 22:18, 19.
  4. What examples from nature does God use to show Job (and us) his power? his wisdom? his love?
  5. What language in God's speech do you find especially beautiful, colorful or powerful?
  6. Why is nature also not enough to teach us about God? See Romans 1:18-23.
  7. Why do you think so much of God's speech consists of questions? Can we effectively use this approach in talking about our faith?
  8. Does God answer Job's questions from chapter 3? Does the Lord answer Job's charges about being unjust? Explain.
  9. Read Scripture's other reference to leviathan: Psalms 74:14; 104:26; Isaiah 27:1. Do all these passages seem to refer to the same creature?

DEPARTING IN PEACE

Job 42:7-17

SACRIFICE AND PRAYER

Although 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.

Now 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).

So 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)

All 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.

RESTORATION

After 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.

As for his possessions, they are doubled. Job now owns 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 2,000 oxen and 1,000 donkeys.

He 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.

But 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?

Would 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.

AND SO HE DIED

After 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)

But, 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.

Like 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 Corinthians 15:54)

Through 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 death".

Thus 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" (42:17).

CHRIST THE CENTER

As 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?

Our 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.

THE PURPOSE OF PAIN: A SUMMARY

OUTWARDLY 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 various reasons.

One 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.

For 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 second death".

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.

The 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.

The 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 fire:

This 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)

Out 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.

It 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.

Granted, 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.

Thus 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!"

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION

  1. Do you agree with the following statement: "In most instances, as in the case with Job, if life is lengthened out, the cal­umniated, the reproached, and the injured, will find justice done them before they die.”
  2. In what ways was Job's restoration incomplete?
  3. How are New Testament Christians blessed with fare more understanding of God's dealings than Job was?
  4. When we examine the lives of many great men and women of faith we discover much suffering. What good qualities have these people acquired through their hardships?
  5. According to Hebrews 11 and 12 what purpose does the example of famous believers serve for Christians today?
  6. How can our personal trials help us to comfort others in their afflictions? Is it necessary to have suffered the same afflictions as those we are trying to aid? Is it helpful?
  7. How has your study of the book of Job helped you? Do you think you are now better prepared to encourage other Christians? Explain.

Sources

The notes of this study were taken from a study notes and commentary entitled “Faith on Trial” written by Ronald Cap Ehlke.