DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job
THE LIFE OF JOB – LESSONS IN HOLINESS AND HUMILITY
Job in God's Crucible - Some Light Begins to Dawn
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
God's hand remains heavy on Job. The prologue introduces us to the background of spiritual warfare in heaven. God suggests to the devil that he might consider His servant Job. Job was totally unaware of that context. God will bring suffering into Job's life to purify his faith and bless him greatly. After the satanic onslaughts under divine restraint, Job seems to excel beyond our expectations (Job 1-2).
However, for seven days his troubles silently percolate in him; he cannot restrain his anguish and could wish himself to have never been born. He conjectures concerning a desired non-existence being better than his lot (Job 3). The first round of the three "comforters" found Job a very verbal respondent with a mixture of anguish and self-defense (Job 4-11). Now the first round in the spiritual boxing match is over and Job will defend his cause.
Job's Reflections and Defensive Response Job 12:1- 13:28
To use the boxing analogy, Job comes out of his corner swinging. Unaware of the depths of his own self- righteousness, Job will take on his "comforters." God, fully aware of Job's problem, allows the divine process of his "unlearning self" to proceed.
If Zophar has used satire and sophistries, Job will respond in kind. It becomes tit for tat. To all three he speaks with sheer sarcasm: "No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you! But I have understanding as well as you. I am not inferior to you. Indeed, who does not know such things as these" (vv.2, 3). Later he boasts: I am not inferior to you" and then adds that they are "forger of lies, all worthless physicians" (13:1-3). His sharp response reveals a hither to unknown side to Job's character. Earlier he had been more of a victim. Now are seen resistance and self-confidence. Suffering does unmask aspects of the old sin nature unknown to man but known to God whose love motivates Him to deal with such aspects of the old "ego."
His friends had painted a one-sided picture life - the evil are cursed and the good blessed. But Job reminds them that life is not that neatly divided: "The tents of robbers prosper and those who provoke God are secure -- in what God provides by His hand" (v.6).
Job proceeds to give his hearers a lesson in what he knows - an aspect of pride. With the unique feature of Hebrew poetry, he multiples parallels from nature, backed up by the wisdom of the ages (vv.7-12).
He continues to address the sovereignty of God in all areas of life: He breaks and no one can rebuild; He imprisons and no one can release; He plunders princes, overthrows the mighty; He makes nations great and destroys them; "He enlarges nations, and guides them; He takes away the understanding of the chief of the people of the earth . . . and makes them stagger like a drunken man" (vv.13-20). His examples are multiplied. God answers to no one. Job sums up his reaction to his "comforters' counsel. "Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes, and your defenses are defenses of clay" (v. 12).
Job's Point of Departure Affirmed "Though He slay me . . ." Job 13:10-28
Then suddenly we see another side of Job and his basic faith in God. "Hold your peace with me, and let me speak, then let come what may! Why do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hands? Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so I will defend my own ways before Him. He also shall be my salvation, for a hypocrite could not come before Him" (vv.13-16).
Out of the crucible of suffering, Job re-affirms that steadfast faith seen earlier in the prologue. He had been overwhelmed with the onslaught of his sufferings. His friends with consistently wrong-headed counsel had totally misread his situation. Job is now prepared to affirm his original commitment. His forthright statement: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" comes through strong and clear. Amid all the varying counsels given in the book of Job, this one stands out as a pinnacle of faith.
In an earlier state of depression he had lamented on not having a mediator (9:32-35). But in the absolute need and absence of the same, Job envisioned that which would be the very nature of the Messiah's coming. Out of suffering and a death once again life springs.
Now in a similar fashion, Job lets faith direct his will in spite of his feelings--the principle of "the corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies will begin to bear much fruit" (John 12:24-27). The eternal truth of death or separation from the self-life is a constant theme that runs throughout the Old and is expounded fully in the New Testament. God teaches our renewed will through the suffering that He sends; they are always measured out for our good and His glory.
Of course, Job is a work in progress, as are all of us. He follows up the clarion affirmation: "Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. He also shall be my salvation." His insistent accusers did not know that Satan had incited God to "destroy him but without cause" (Job 2:3). God was intent on blessing Job in yet a greater measure when he will have cleansed him of his self-righteousness.
Poor Job with a deep sense of need now honestly seeks God's face. "Only two things do not do to me, then I will not hide myself from You: withdraw Your hand far for me, and let not the dread of You make me afraid. Then call, and I will answer; how many are my iniquities and sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin" (vv.20-23).
We must feel the pathos of Job; he was not conscious of any overt sin, for, on the contrary, he had sought to be the priest of the family and had stood the early tests of calamity. After this expression of openness to God, he relapses into despair again. "Why do You hide Your face, and regard me as Your enemy? . . . For You write bitter things against me, and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth" (vv.24, 26). Conscience still speaks but the offerings of blood sacrifice can still the guilt.
Job's Soliloquy on Man's Brevity and Yet a Question Surfaces Job 14:1-22
Job's darkness has enveloped him again. With a variety of expressive comparisons, he laments: "Man who it born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue" (vv:1,2). He adds that there is hope for a tree that, if cut down, may bud and bring forth branches like a plant. Man simply disappears (vv.7-11).
Out of this troubling dilemma Job asks a question that infers hope. "If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of your hands. For now You number my steps, but do not watch over my sin. My transgression is sealed up in a bag and You cover my iniquity" (vv.14 – 17). Once again the sheer logic of being God's creation must bring forth future hope. But again Job relapses. Progress is slow but hope is there in the bosom of faith and will yet burst forth.
The Last Rounds Begin Job Emerges with a Sure Hope Job 15 – 25
In the greater interest in Job and his reaction, I will summaries briefly the last two rounds. The three "comforters" respond to Job's suffering: Eliphaz (Job 15), Bildad (Job 18), Zophar (Job 20), Eliphaz (Job 22), Bildad (Job 25). Zophar has given up on any hope of convincing Job.
l will rather turn to Job's self-righteousness defense but all along, God is doing His deepening work of grace. Job is slowly "unlearning" his righteousness, as God continues to test his faith.
**** Eliphaz turns on Job with a full condemnation: "Are you the first man who was born? Or were you made before the hills? (15:7). "If God puts no trust in His saints, and the heavens are not pure in His sight, how much less man, who is abominable and filthy, who drinks iniquity like water! (vv.15,16). Eliphaz then appeals to the wisdom of the ages to shame Job into thinking that he can resist God's judgment (vv.17-35).
Job's response to Eliphaz is curt. "I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all! Shall words of wind have an end? . . . God has delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over to the hands of the wicked . . . I have sewn sackcloth over my skin, and laid my head in the dust. My face is flushed with weeping and on my eyelids is the shadow of death; although no violence is in my hands and my prayer is pure" (Job 16:2, 3,11,15-17).
But once again Job exclaims: "O earth, do not cover my blood, and let my cry have no resting place! Surely even now my witness is in heaven, and my evidence is on high"' (vv.18,19).This is the fourth outburst of faith--my witness is in heaven. The prologue has already established that gracious fact, unknown, of course, to poor Job.
It is worthwhile to review the earlier brief expressions of a growing faith. 1) He needs someone to place His hand on both; a mediator there must surely be (Job 9:35). 2) Then "Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him . . . He also shall be my salvation" (13:15,16). 3) If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes (14:14). 4) Now this expression of growing faith: "My witness is in heaven" (16:19).
**** Bildad takes his turn to double down on Job wickedness, hence God's punishment is more than justified. "How long till you put an end to words? Gain understanding, and afterward we will speak [caustic comment indeed]. Why are we counted as beasts, and regarded as stupid in your sight" (18:2, 3). It is clear no resolutions can ever be between Job and his friends. Bildad paints a stark picture of the wicked (vv.5-21).
Job's response to Bildad repeats his anguish. "How long will you torment my soul and break me in pieces with words? These ten times [innumerable times] you have reproached me; you are not ashamed that you have wronged me" (19:2,3) .
But now listen to Job as he makes his supreme statement of faith, in spite of all his words of anguish. Job is a deeply wounded man in the depths of his divinely ordained suffering at the hands of his friends: "Have pity on me, have pity on me, Oh you my friends, for the hand of God has struck me! . . . Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! (vv.21-24).
Now come the most outstanding words written in the Old Testament by one under God's chastening hand; Job knew nothing of the context of his sufferings or the love that moved God to submit him to such sufferings as never before envisioned by any mortal.
The only greater sufferings were those of God Himself when "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10); God's own suffering were shared by His only begotten Son in our behalf to pay the "kofer" or price to redeem us. He became our propitiation at infinite cost to the Triune God (Romans 3:25).
**** And now the fifth and greatest affirmation of faith and immortality in the Old Testament. "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. How my heart yearns within me! (19:25-27).This is Job's consummate expression of faith amid the darkness of deep trial. For a moment the clouds break and the "Son" shines through.
Job's confident affirmation of his seeing in his flesh [glorified], the Messiah, his Redeemer, is evidence of the divine inspiration of Scripture. He could not know that final grand day without it being a revelation to his severely tested faith in God. This glorious truth must have cheered thousands of Old Testament saints who walked by faith and not by sight. "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13).
The second speech of Zophar (Job 21), the third speech of Eliphaz (Job 22) and brief speech of Bildad (Job 25:1-6) follow but with very little new development of reason. Job responds to them in defense his own self-righteousness (Job 23, 24, 26, 27, 28 – five chapters of his discourses on a variety of topics [107 verses]. No one has convinced any one. There is much value, however, in Job's responses as he shows a remarkable knowledge of nature and how God rules over his world.
Job concludes this section with a concise summary and ends it with precise counsel of the Old Testament. "From where then does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air. Destruction and Death say, ‘We have heard a report about it with our ears'.' God understands its way, and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heavens, to establish a weight for the wind, and mete out the waters by measure. When He made a law for the rain, and a path for the thunderbolt, then He saw wisdom and declared it. He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out. And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding'" (Job. 28:20- 28).