Gordon E. Johnson

DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job


The New Testament Gospel Message in Micro Format

Job 33:23-33

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute

In a rather unexpected passage hidden away in the account of Job's sufferings, God has unveiled in micro format what the New Testament gives us macro format – a messenger, an incarnation, a ransom, a vicarious atonement and a graphic description of the wonder of God's grace in the one who believes in His love and mercy. The Old Testament bears witness to a genuine salvation, but it was not based on head knowledge but rather on a heart trust in and commitment to a faithful God who would reveal His thoughts and ways in His own way and time.

God chose to reveal Himself in ever deepening ways through Job's sufferings. Job was, then, a forerunner of the reality of God's triumph over Satan. God would take the initiative in refining Job's faith permitting with His divine constraints his devastating losses of wealth, children, health and wife. In such inscrutable ways He would deal with Job's self-righteousness and purify his faith. After "hiding pride from man" (Job 33:17), He would bless him with a double portion of all that He had taken. God's ways would result in a deeper holiness and humility. Elihu will be a bearer of this message in Job 33. 

God's ways and thoughts should not surprise us because indeed as Isaiah said: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts . . .  So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).

Jeremiah confirms the same in his letter to the Babylonian captives who languished there for 70 years: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29: 11). 

Until this stage of Job's travail Elihu had deferred to age and traditional culture on hearing Job and his friends' verbal battles; he never said a single word. Now no longer able to hold his peace, he became God's messenger to Job. After a rather direct but gentle reproof of Job's self-righteousness (vv.8-11), he makes the profound statement: "Why do you contend with Him? for He does not give an accounting of any of His words. For God may speak in one way, or in another, yet man does not perceive it" (vv.13.14). Elihu directs his remark to Job's situation.

Elihu delineates three ways in which God may speak to man but always with one overriding purpose. "Then He opens the ears of men, in order to turn man from his deed, and conceal pride from man" (vv.16, 17). God may speak in dreams or visions, always a tenuous message (v.15), and also by chastening on his bed of sickness or through adverse circumstances (v.19). But again man does not perceive God's intent to discover his pride and transform his character, thus his avoiding the Pit. Elihu is alluding to how God has already spoken to Job without his perception.

God Ultimate Way of Speaking    His Son with a Ransom for Man's Soul   Job 33:23-28

What follows now springs from the inspired text (Job 33: 23-28). However, my interpretation is guided by New Testament truths of the historic fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15). This statement of fact was uttered precisely in the moment of God's judgment on Satan and man's rebellion.

 "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons and because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying "Abba, Father " (Galatians 4:4-6). In the interval between these two statements thousands of years would pass and many Messianic prophesies would prepare the way for a literal divine fulfillment.

No doubt neither Job nor Elihu at this juncture could understand fully the words of Elihu's prophetic utterances. Peter does remind us of the inquiry of the prophets of old. "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (1 Peter 1:10,11).

Elihu, Bearer of God's Seven Fold Message    Job 33:23, 24

The third way God would speak implies His final way. The dreams and the chastening were preparatory to the next stage of God's dealings, should God be pleased. Indeed, God would use  the third way as the text indicates in prophetic terms.

Let us carefully exegete the text. "If there is a 1) messenger for him, 2) a mediator, 3) one among a thousand, 4) to show man His uprightness. Then 5) He is gracious to him, and says, 6) Deliver him from going to the Pit; 7) I have found a ransom" (vv.23, 24). These seven phrases must be carefully analyzed. Note the repetition and the progression of thought in God's initiative.

1). The "if"' clearly indicates that this is God's choice and man owes Him nothing. God will find and send His messenger.  The word "messenger" in the original has a variety of meanings: the "root meaning is to dispatch someone as a deputy, herald. When God is doing the sending, it may be an angel, a prophet, a priest or a teacher. The general sense is an ambassador . . . who represents the sender in an official capacity."[1]  

2).The messenger is further clarified by "mediator" or an interpreter of a difficult language to pronounce or to intercede.[2] Job had earlier cried out for such a mediator: "For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together. Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both" (Job 9:32, 33).  The very person that Job could not find in the earlier stage of his sufferings will be now God's choice, a mediator, an interpreter who will intercede for others.

3). Elihu further states that this chosen messenger whom God would send is "one in a thousand;" this messenger could not be any prophet or priest. "And the LORD our God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He has compassion on His people and on His dwelling place" (2 Chronicles 36:15).

4). There is still a further description of this unique messenger that definitely excludes every human representative, however chosen. "To show man His uprightness." There can be no other such person but Jesus Christ.  The book of Hebrews carries the clearest message. The Messiah, God's messenger, is the very Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-4); He is the God-Man (Hebrews 2:14-18); He is greater than the prophet Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18; Hebrews 3:1-6); He is the unique priest but after the eternal order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5: 1-10); finally, He is the Sacrifice Himself of what God offered for our sins (Hebrews 9:11-28).

In the climax of Hebrew's argument the inspired writer sums it up: "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption . . . lyPlace once for all, having aobtained eternalredemption . . For chrsit  hasnotentgered theholyplace made withhans, whidharecoiesofhte ture, butinto heaven iseself, ntoto apperar int eh Presence o fgodofr us.”” ( Hebrews (:12 24).For Christ has not entered the holy places made with  hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:12,24).

Who can reveal the very uprightness of God's perfection? Only the eternally-begotten Son can reveal the glory of the Triune God.

5). What follows is still more amazing The text continues: "Then He is gracious to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going to the Pit; I have found a ransom [margin-atonement]." This is the clincher. The word "gracious" can only mean: God gives freely without consideration of merit or effort. In fact, His grace is revealed in all its beauty when Christ died for us. "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit" (1 Peter 3:18).

6). The final benefit is: "Deliver him from going down to the Pit." The Pit or hell is referenced four times (vs.18, 22, 24, 28). God saves eternally. Isaiah saw it beforehand and unveils the premier prophesy of the incarnation of God's messenger "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin . . . By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:10, 11). Such a sweeping divine fact is far beyond our understanding.

It must be remember, however, that God is gracious only on the basis of His love and holiness. His holiness draws a line at sin. But the reason why He is able to be gracious and holy at the same time is because a ransom was paid to His Father who accepted His death as an atonement, a covering for our sin.  God's love and grace can never be separated from His absolute holiness. In this eternal arrangement before the foundation of the world, the Son offered to die voluntarily and take on Himself our sin (Revelation 13:8). Our eternal future is assured.

Paul lays out before us concisely God's sovereign plan of salvation. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation [atonement, ransom] by His blood through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed" (Romans 3:23-25).

7). Elihu quotes God as saying clearly: "I have found a ransom" [margin- atonement] (v.24b). The origin of the word bears out its theological meaning. "Kopher" pitch coating . . . a redemption price, ransom, satisfaction, sum of money . . . most of the time "kopher" means to atone  by a substitute payment . . . this identification was further symbolized when the worshipper put his hands upon the head of the animal sacrifice and confesses his sin over the animal before it was killed or sent away."[3]

One further thought is the derivation of the "kopher." "It is from the verb Kippurim [Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement] meaning expiation or atonement  . . . and means to be at one, to be reconciled, in concord, therefore atonement.[4] Could anything be more clearly viewed from the  prespective of the New Testament? Christ Himself affirmed this basic truth: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many"

(Mark 10:45).

God's Message, the Wonder of Our Union with Christ    Job 33:25-28

Elihu now lays out the results of God's being gracious upon providing a ransom, a seven fold description. 1). "His flesh shall be young like a child's, 2). He shall return to the days of his youth. 3). He shall pray to God and 4). He will delight in him, 5). He shall see His face with joy, 6). for He restores to man His righteousness, 7). And he looks at men and says,' I have sinned, and perverted what was right, and it did not profit me.' He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit, and his life shall see the light" (vv. 25-28). 

What follows is a paraphrase of the "eighth wonder of the world: the saint as a member of His body is joined inseparably to his Head. In God's plan the saint witnesses a veritable spiritual transformation of character and walk, the blessed union of the believing saint "hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). God in Christ renews him; He transforms him as the wonder of the "flesh of a young child." He returns him to the spiritual vigor of youth.

Furthermore the saint in union with Christ shares His very life and freely lives in His presence in open communion.  To behold His face is joy, not fear, and the saint shares the righteousness of his Lord. Now he shares in the glories of God and God Himself glories in His saint.  What a transformation! The saint's open communion is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.   

The saint now has a new sense of the presence of the sin nature and freely confesses its tendencies.  His soul returns again and again to the blood that cleanses from all sin (1 John 1:7) and ultimately his life sees the Light of the world.

Elihu concludes in these six verses the glorious trajectory of the Savoir who graciously paid the ransom.  What a graphic description of the ways of God in mercy and grace! He affirms within Job's hearing God's wonder.  "Behold, God works all these things, twice, in fact, three times with a man to bring back his soul from the Pit, and that he may be enlightened with the light of life" (vss. 29,30). God's ways are orderly and conclusive.

Truly Elihu has conveyed graphically God's saving grace. He has summarized, in one sense, the Ephesian epistle in Old Testament terms. Even without the full historical facts known to Job these truths were available to the faith of Job as we saw him in the prologue and later doubly blessed in the epilogue. But much more is yet to come. The work, the deeper work of dealing with Job's self-righteousness, remains and God Himself with deal with that once again in His own way. Surely the ways of God are past finding out.

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

For who has known the mind of the LORD?

 ‘Or who has become His counselor?

‘Or who has first given to Him

 And it shall be repaid to Him?'

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things,

To whom be glory forever. Amen."

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN:AMG Publishers), 1994, p. 2332

* 4397 in Strong’s Concordance .

[2] Ibid, p.2328, * 3887

[3] Ibid, p.2326, * 3724.

[4] Ibid, p.2326 , *3725.