DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job
THE LIFE OF JOB – LESSONS IN HOLINESS AND HUMILITY
The Nadir of Job's Confusion and Response
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Job's first response to Eliphaz has been heart-wrenching. He compares his weight of calamity to the sands of the sea. In so saying Job justifies his rash words. He sees himself as God's victim "The arrows of the Almighty are within me; my spirit drinks in their poison. The terrors of God are arrayed against me" (6:2-4). After Bildad's repeat performance of Eliphaz' earlier irrelevant judgment, Job moves from bad to worse in his complaint.
Webster's dictionary defines "nadir" as the lowest point of despair, the point of celestial sphere diametrically opposite the zenith." Here Job reveals the deepest anguish of his heart. In effect, he does not even respond, even briefly to the direct accusations of Bildad. Job ignores those pointless barbs. He returns in his sorrows to muse and suggest more dangerously that God may have turned against him.
In Job 9 and 10 Job approaches the edge of the precipice of doubt and infers an indirect accusation against God Himself; the creature tries to make his case against the Creator. Again I remind the reader of the severity of that double encounter between God and Satan, the heavenly battle being also waged in the heart of a true believer bereft of the knowledge of Calvary. We are so accustomed to revert for comfort to the revelation of the Incarnate Christ, who is the propitiation for our sins and the risen life of an indwelling Christ who carries our sorrows. Yet Job's sufferings are faced in a vacuum of New Testament truths revealed to us.
The eloquent Isaiah has stated it well indeed. "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes are healed . . . And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53: 4-6). Job lived long before such promises were ever given.
Job's Finite Reasoning, His Deep Sense of Mortality Job 9: 1-13
Job gives vent to his questioning heart. "Truly I know it is so, But can a man be righteous before God?" (v.1). Job ponders the omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence of so great a God. Man is, in comparison, one in a thousand of whom God should even take notice (v.3). Job marvels at the wonders of God: He is wise in heart, mighty in strength, removes mountains, shakes the earth, commands the sun, seals the stars, treads on the waters, creator of the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades. Yes, his wonders are without number. "He goes by me, I do not see Him, if He moves past, I do not perceive Him . . . God will not withdraw His anger, the allies of the proud lie prostate beneath Him" (vv. 4-13).
With exquisite Hebrew poetry, Job paints God's awesome nature and by sheer comparison his own total insignificance. In effect, Job is saying: "I don't stand a chance of a hearing, let alone a response." Take note of the reference to the proud (v.13). Several times throughout the book of Job the writer makes a reference to pride. He seems to prepare his reader for what will appear to be the root of God's concern and Job's unknown sin.
Job's Sense of Loneliness Job 9:14-20
Job muses, "How can I answer Him?" He reasons: even if I am righteous, I could call for mercy but I have no way of knowing if He would even answer. In fact, I would not believe that He was listening to my plea." Job returns to his complaint--in part justified as Job seems to see it. "He crushes me with a tempest, and multiplies my wounds without cause. He will not allow me to catch my breath, but fills me with bitterness" (vv.17-18). I am no match for Him; here self-pity emerges as evidence of the old nature.
Job follows with a reverse judgment of God. "Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me; though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse." His confusion does not allow him to think logically. I'm in a lose/lose situation.
Job's Tentative Indictment of God -- his Nadir Job 9:21 24
I quote verbatim Job's dangerous fleeting conclusion. "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 the judges, if it is not He, who else could it be?' "
In his dilemma Job's musings come to a very rash conclusion that God, the ultimate Judge, has lost his sense of justice. He destroys the innocent and turns the world over to judges that equate the guilty with the innocent. Such is Job's upside down world as he feels it.
These are ready loaded words. He is confounding the very nature of the God "who loves righteousness and hates iniquity" (Hebrews 1:9). The fact the Job ends with a question may somewhat softens his subtle but false judgment of God under the pressure of ever present circumstances.
He will, however, somewhat retract this rash judgment of God. "Now, my days are swifter than a runner . . . they pass like swift ships." He adds: I am a loser. If I put on a happy face and try to forget my anguish that will not alter one iota my sad reality. God will not hold me innocent. On the other hand, if I am condemned, why do I worry? He adds to his confusion by saying: if I wash myself in snow water and do my best to cleanse my guilt, addressing God Job says, "You will plunge me into the pit and my own clothes will abhor me'' (vv. 25-31).
Suffering is God's way to expose to us our depraved nature that so often surfaces in times of trial. Such a recognition of Job's need and ours is a part of the "unlearning" process inherent in God" deeper dealings. Much more of this response will be seen in his response to God and his friends.
The Emergence of a New Testament Truth --a Mediator Job 9:32-35
But truth will emerge from the depths of suffering and need. Job in his loneliness surrounded by pitiful friends has lost his way. But in more profound reflection, he recognizes the absolute greatness of his God and his own insignificant life now lying in ashes. There must be some solution.
Job knew of no such mediator that he yearns to find, hence his sense of lostness, but there must be someone or some way to breach the abyss between God, the Judge, and man, be he a sinner or a saint. There must be a meeting place; only the Greater can intervene in behalf of the lesser. Without a gracious Mediator life can have no meaning or value. But Job persists in his hope and fears.
Listen to Job's conjecture, already a fact in God's eternal plan in Christ. "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. Let Him take His rod away from me, and do not let dread of Him terrify me. Then I would speak and not fear Him, but it is not so with me" (vv. 33-35).
One can only read Job plea with tears in one's eyes. How costly faith in God must have been Job's day. We, too, doubt all so often even with a full revelation of the mediator provided to guilty sinner. Paul's words resound for us with a deeper echo: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God and our Savior [the privilege of prayer and intimate communion], who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time . . . ." (1 Timothy 2:3-7).
Job's Relapse into Questioning God Wisdom Job 10:1-22
Job returns to his complaint. Again he justifies his giving free course to the bitterness of his soul. In his darkness he says: "Show me why You contend with me. Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands, and shine on the counsel of the wicked?" (vv.2, 3).The reader must not condemn Job too harshly for the questions asked, even if they may infer error. God remembers that Job is dust and He knows his heart, as earlier evidenced so clearly in the prologue of the book.
There is now a strong note of pathos on Job's part. He addresses God with a sense of reverence and reality. I paraphrase: You made me as an intricate unity, as a clay pot, from dust; you will return me to dust. In graphic terms he refers to his birth from God's hands. He likens it to pouring him out as milk, curdling him like cheese, clothing him with skin and flesh and knitting him together with bones and sinews? (vv.8-11). Job follows with a gracious sense of gratitude and balance: "You have granted me life and favor, and your care has preserved my spirit" (v.12). A cloud lifts and Job catches a glimpse of God's hand of mercy.
The insight of God's mercy is followed by the truth of God inflexible character. These things are hidden in Your heart. If I sin, You mark me; there will be no acquittal. Woe is me if I really am wicked. My righteousness does not allow me to lift my head in Your presence - I am clay. If I am proud, woe is me! You will hunt me like a fierce lion (vv.13-16). Once again the mention of pride occurs as a possibility; he seems to sense the direction of God's deeper probes. However, Job feels helpless in his trial as if God has His witnesses to prove him wrong.
His questions recur: "Why then have "You brought me out of the womb? Oh that I had perished and no eye had seen me! Job reverts to his first line of defense as in Job 3:1-2. Why am I living? Death would be a welcomed return to the land of darkness and the shadow of death. In a final burst of anguish: "Are not my days few? Cease! Leave me alone, that I may take a little comfort" (v. 20). Such a cry seems so unbecoming to Job's faith. But would you and I be willing to see our most secret thought expressed so bluntly?
Zophar's Satire and Sophistries Job 11: 1-22
Zophar, the Naamathite, is the third friend. He will be the briefest of the three and will repeat the same message as the others but with more caustic references to Job's sin already "established." If Eliphaz and Bildad have added injury to Job, Zophar adds insult. His virtue is he quits after two exchanges; he has had it with Job (Job 20).
He levels Job with a series of rhetorical questions: "Should not a multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be vindicated? Should your empty talk make men hold their peace? And when you mock, should no one rebuke you? (vv. 2, 3). Zophar continues by quoting what Job has never explicitly said – "my doctrine is pure and I am clean in your eyes." It goes downhill after that beginning.
He belittles Job by saying that he could never search out the deep things of God with a reference to heaven and Sheol. He paraphrases Job's earlier comment of God passing by (Job 9:11) but with the inference that God would indeed stop and discover his deceitfulness. Then comes the coup d'etat: "For an empty-headed man will be wise, when a wild donkey‘s colt is born a man" (v. 12). That is heavy stuff!
Zophar spins his sophistries by suggesting if Job would only prepare his heart and stretch out his hand and be forgiven by God, then he could lift up his face, forget his misery and his world would be secure, because hope would spring up, You could lie down and take your rest in safety. Yes, many would court your favor. (vv.13-20). Zophar follows the line of the stereotyped view that once a sin is confessed and forsaken - the sole cause of the God ‘s wrath, then the believer's life will be forever bliss. Zophar does conclude, however, with an ominous comment: "But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope -- loss of life!" (v. 20).
God's Principal Purpose in Sending Suffering to His Own 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
God's love pursues His ultimate purpose in suffering - a greater Christ-likeness which, in turn, becomes a source of comfort for others who suffer. We become His advocate that bears witness to God greater design. That design is our purification and greater blessing to others. The New Testament, which Job did not have, states it clearly: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort who comforts [encourages] us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4).
Paul enlarges on the full scope of divine suffering: "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia; that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves [past tense, aorist, note the clear reference to our union with Christ in death to sin], that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust the He will still deliver. . ." (vv. 9,10).
With submission to God's love in whatever form it may take, the believer now comforts and blesses others. We are equipped to be channels of His comfort and blessing. In addition, He purifies and enlarges the depth of our Christ-likeness. What a privilege to serve as God's instruments of blessing!
Job's "comforters" could not see this depth of grace in suffering. Christ's incarnation and suffering in our behalf and we in Him would put it all into full perspective.