DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job
THE LIFE OF JOB – LESSONS IN HOLINESS AND HUMILITY
A Brief Review of Job's Plight in God's Presence
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
At long last Job's sufferings will soon end. But it will not be before God has the last word, a devastating word for Job's self-righteousness. But as always God in love refines and purifies His saints for their eternal profit. The writer of Job has given us no word as to the time factor involved in Job's unparalleled loss of financial worth, family, health and his wife's final destructive comment. The losses came in such rapid-fire succession. However, time is always a multiplying factor in suffering. But God Himself sets the clock and we suffer not one day without His presence and grace.
Because the journey for Job has been so intense and varied, wisdom requires a brief assessment of the life of Job, the classic Bible human sufferer. Ezekiel in his dire punishment of Israel's apostasy twice says: "'Though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,' says the Lord God." (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).
The Divine Perspective the Prologue Job 1:1-2:9
The prologue and the epilogue frame the life of Job and introduce the principal protagonists in his trial - God with the divine intent and Satan with the malignant intent. God Himself twice raised the question to His adversary if he had considered (Job 1:8; 2:3). This in no way invites Satan to do what he wishes; it rather reveals God as the active protagonist who by definite restraint on His adversary is adversaryHisHwill oversee Job's suffering to His desired end of holiness and humility. The truth of God's gracious sovereignty guards the correct interpretation and guarantees its divine conclusion.
Satan exits his two celestial visits intent on destroying Job and proving God mistaken. Calamity on calamity falls on Job in trip-hammer-rapidity. Job had absolutely no knowledge of these behind-the-scenes encounters. He has committed no overt sin to the best of his knowledge that would warrant this reality. But his faith stands strong. Twice the famous words: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD" (1:21). The final encounter ended with: "'¿Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips" (2:10).
The Three Infamous Friends Eliphaz, Bildad y Zophar Job 4-31
After Job's heart-broken elegy of his ever having been born (Job, 3), the three friends who had earlier traveled from afar came expressly to be a comfort to Job; according to their culture they sat silent in sackcloth and ashes for 7 days. They tried to explain Job's sufferings by their cultural stereotypes: God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Since Job's punishment was so severe, his sin must have warranted such punishment – cold comfort for Job. Their best attempts were totally irrelevant to Job's trial, only adding to Job's anguish. In the last analysis God castigates the three friends explicitly in the epilogue (Job 42:7-10).
The anguished responses of Job to his friends' counsel were immediate and verbose. A numerical account is informative. The friends' counsels came in three cycles with Bildad's third response only a short and bitter 6 verses. Zophar by now had given up on Job foregoing his last turn because Job was righteous in his own eyes. Their allegations tallied 211 verses. Job's responses, on the other hand, amounted to 408. In Job's personal monologue Job 29-31, he makes 195 references to himself in a spirit of self-confidence with respect to his past. If these three chapters were added, 96 verses should be added for a grand total of 505 verses of Job's to the 211 of his friends.
Job's Responses Reveal a Wide Range of Personal Anguish and Confusion Job 6-26
The reader must remember Job's ignorance of the behind-the-scene celestial reality. However,
God was moving in His unique way to reduce the strength of Job's self-confidence, or more
explicitly stated, his pride of self. The Book of Job becomes, then, an insight into the perils of
the sin nature of Job and the believer whom God recognizes as His own son. The mystery of evil, the pride of Lucifer himself, is the background of Job's suffering. The triumph of God in Job is an evidence of God's ultimate triumph over all evil through the death of His Son on the Cross.
Job's responses reveal the wide range of our sinful nature: anguish, indignation, confusion, depression, cutting sarcasm, self-pity, anger, fear, attacks and defenses of self. My Irish mother in her quaint accent would say it was: "a pig's supper." But behind it all, God was at work.
Job's lowest point, his nadir, is when Job appears to make a tentative indictment of God Himself. Let it be clear: Job did not curse God to His face as Satan had twice predicted (1:11; 2:4, 5). Job is attempting to argue his case: "Truly I know it is so, but how can a man be righteous before God? If one wished to contend with Him, He could not answer Him one time out of a thousand" (Job. 9:2, 3).
In developing his argument Job asks a loaded question that might call into question God's justice. He states: "I am blameless, yet I do not know myself; I despise my life. It is all one thing; therefore I say. ‘He destroys the blameless and the wicked. If the scourge slays suddenly, He laughs at the plight of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He? who else could it be?'" (Job 9:21-24)
In the Darkness of Suffering the Clouds Break and Job's Faith Momentarily Triumphs
In the very passage where Job appears to hit bottom in his best efforts to understand his circumstances, he sighs: "For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and we should go to court together. Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both . . . Then I would speak and fear Him, but it is not so with me" (9:32, 33, 35). Job's logic of faith in the midst of his suffering anticipated exactly what God would do in Christ who is now our mediator par excellence.
As proof of the reality of Job's faith and standing before God, Job breaks through the clouds of confusion with real affirmations of heart faith. Suffering teaches what no seminary can teach. It teaches the heart and the will of the believer to yield to God's wisdom. In the throes of his doubts we hear this classic statement: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. He also will be my salvation" (13:15, 16). What more can you ask for?
In the on-going dialogue Job calls his friends - "miserable comforters are you all" (16:2) but concludes the chapter with a yet stronger affirmation of his faith. "Surely even now my witness is in heaven, and my evidence is on high" (v.19). The crowning affirmation of all glimpses of God began with the customary lament. "Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has struck me! . . . For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold and not another" (19:21, 25-27). There is no clearer passage in the Bible than Job's confidence of faith. His faith vindicates God's evaluation of Job given so clearly in the Prologue.
Job's Revels in His Past But Reveals His Personal Pride Job 27-31
Job responded to Bildad's last brief counsel with his last lengthy dissertation in which he affirms his righteousness and then re-lives to his own satisfaction the happy past in which he was honored and in which he found his strength. But God was observing a different Job. His self-congratulations would seal his divine humbling yet to come. Job was indeed speaking the truth about his personal conduct, but that was a product of God's grace and not Job's doings. Indeed Job was a man of human integrity and free of sensual sins; fourteen times in Job 31, he repeats the phrase: "If I have walked with falsehood . . . etc. with the confidence that no one could question his integrity.
God was not duly impressed with Job's secret pride and would give him still another chance to hear what God would say in through His messenger in Job 29-31. That opportuniyy came with the unexpected intervention of Elihu.
God's "Messenger" for Job's Learning the Ways of God Elihu Job 32-33
Elihu had been a silent "ear-witness" to all the proceedings from Job's earliest days, a younger man who deferred graciously to his elders. However, on hearing the stand-off between Job and his friends, he could wait no longer. With respect and humility he begins his divine role as a special "messenger" to Job. God would give to Job another opportunity to weigh the truth of God's discipline in love.
Elihu's analysis given to Job was brief, to the point, and shared in grace. "Look, in this you are not righteous . . . Why do you contend with Him? for He does not give an accounting for any of His words, for God may speak in one way, or in another, yet man does not perceive it" (33:12-14). He then clearly lists some of His varied ways: a dream, vision; He "chastens with pain on his bed [loss of health describing what God did to Job]."
But of far greater value, Elihu affirms God's grand design: "Then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction. In order to turn man from his deed and conceal pride from man, He keeps back his soul from the Pit, and his life from perishing by the sword." (vv.15-18). The verses are the quintessence of the Book of Job - God's Grand Design, from pride to the breaking process of self-righteousness to true holiness and humility, the queen of all virtues.
What follows is the very heart of the "how" God accomplishes His Grand Design. He sends "a messenger for him, a mediator, one among a thousand, to show man His righteousness. Then He is gracious to him . . ." (vv.23-28). This "messenger" [ultimately the Messiah] brings heart transformation who "restores to man His righteousness . . . I have found a ransom . . . He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit and his life shall see the light" (vv. 26-28). Elihu's summation covers it well: "Behold, God works all these things, twice, in fact, three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the Pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life" (vv.29-30).
Elihu God's "Messenger" Loses his Way and Turns on Job Job 34
Elihu had proved to be God's timely spokesman in Job 32, 33, but in Job 34 he assumes the role of God himself by chastening Job for not obeying his counsel. In fact, he resorts to even greater animosity toward Job than his earlier friends. How easy it is for the human messenger to let his carnal judgment rest on his own efforts! The counselor has to learn to be God's spokesman but to leave the results with truth in the hands of the Spirit of God. No counseling degree or experience guarantees the wisdom of human counsel.
Elihu allows his impatience to rule the day. "For Job has said, ‘I am righteous, but God has taken away my justice. . . .What man is like Job, who drinks scorn like water who goes in company with the workers of iniquity, and walks with wicked men? for he has said, ‘it profits a man nothing that he should delight in God'" (vv. 5-9). What an about-face! Job had never such a thing.
In his anger he concludes: "Oh, that Job were tried to the utmost, because his answers are like those of wicked men! for he adds rebellion to his sin; he claps his hands among us, and multiplies his words against God" (vv.36,37). Under this new duress Job neither responds nor defends himself.
In God's Mercy Elihu Returns to his First Message Job 35-37
Elihu again assumes his role of a humble and gentle messenger. "Bear with me a little, and I will show you that there are yet words to speak on God's behalf . . . For truly my words are not false; One who is perfect in knowledge is with you" (37: 2,4). In a re-assuring tone Elihu describes God's greatness; He is mighty and despises no one.
He goes on to describe the thunder of His voice. "God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend . . . Listen to this, O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God . . . Teach us what we should say to Him . . . As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, in judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress. Therefore men fear Him; He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart"
(vv. 5,14, 23-24).
With these somewhat mixed messages, God is illustrating the strength of His revelation and the often human weakness of His messengers. In Elihu's first message (32, 33), God foreshortens the coming of God's ultimate messenger, the Messiah, and His transforming power in the life of the believer (33:12-30). In the second message he loses his way and excoriates Job for his slowness to obey his message (34,35). Then he returns and asks for a hearing that leaves a wonderful word picture of God's character and power - the God who disciplines His own in love.
The inspired writer relates Elihu's last message (35-37) which is a beautiful preparation for God's first intervention with Job. Elihu has prepared Job to hear His thunderous voice which rules the created universe and will speak directly out of a whirlwind to one of His very own. "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me" (Job 38:1).
With this challenge God will launch His first of two "rounds" of reproof and the humbling of Job. God will purify Job's faith and his repentance and renewed faith will lead to true holiness and humility.