DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job
THE LIFE OF JOB - LESSONS IN HOLINESS AND HUMILITY
Job's Musings and Mysteries, a Respite from His Friends
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
A Brief Review of Job's Sufferings
The prologue of Job, although unknown to him at the time, does establish for us a much better understanding of the larger picture of Job's sufferings. Such knowledge advises us to not judge too harshly Job's words of complaint in the midst of the "furnace of affliction." Job was a righteous man; God affirms it. His personal life, his family life and even his walk before God were well received. "Then Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant, Job, there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and shuns evil'"? (Job 2:3).
There follows the utter breaking of Job: his circumstances, reputation, health and finally his wife's curt counsel: "Curse God and die." In his solitude he was visited by three "friends; Job cannot contain his anguish. To make matters worse after a week's silent sorrow, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar unload on poor Job with some general truths but totally unrelated to Job's spiritual reality. They only make matters worse (Job 2, 3).
The spiritual wrestling match between them consists of three rounds: 4-14, 15-21, 22-26; Zophar gives up on Job in his last turn. To each encounter Job answers even more profusely than they with sorrow, sarcasm and solitude. The reader's heart goes out to Job; this is the height of human suffering, only surpassed by the Messiah's to come. But through it all, God is measuring the heat of the "furnace of affliction" and is furthering His purposes of love and grace.
The reader begins to see the slow emergence of the fruit of humbling--the Crucified life in New Testament terms. We must, however, not judge Job by our revealed truths of the Cross, but rather learn from him, a true believer with severely limited truth but equal faith-access to God Himself.
Suffering under God's restraining hand is heart and character learning--different and deeper than academic learning. This is the essence of our faith walk. Jesus states it cogently: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor" (John 12: 24-26).
Although suffering is surely not our goal, God has chosen to reveal deeper truths via the Cross, applied more directly to our hearts and lives. After all, the Cross is God's access to His heart of love and humility. "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Let the reader now glimpse five truths partially unveiled in Job deepest suffering. They emerge from the limitations of time in the Old Testament and will issue in the New with a breath of heaven. Job catches a glimpse of the God/man, a New Testament revelation:
1) *** "Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both . . . Then I would speak and not fear Him" (9:33, 35);
2) *** "Though He slay me, yet 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) *** "Surely even now my witness is in heaven, and my evidence is on High" (16:19);
5) *** then, the crowning truth "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, for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another" (19:25-27).
Job's Final Response to his "Friends" Job 26
As usual Job has responded in kind to his challengers. In Bildad's last brief discourse he asked five rhetorical questions but can pose no solutions. On the contrary he asserts: "How then can a man be righteous before God? Or how can he pure who is born of woman? If even the moon does not shine, and the stars are not pure in His sight. How much less man, who is a maggot, and a son of man, who is a worm" (Job 25:4, 6). This is hardly an edifying conclusion for poor Job. Bildad has no answer for Job's distress and suggests that there is none
Job's final response to Bildad begins with four futile questions: "How." "How have you helped him who is without power? How have you saved the arm that has no strength? How have you counseled one who has no wisdom? And how have you declared sound advice to many?" (Job 26: 2, 3).
Job's response is one of helplessness and yet makes an appeal to God's sovereignty. "Sheol is naked before Him, and Destruction has no covering. He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing . . . By His Spirit He adorned the heavens; His hand pierced the fleeing serpent. Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear to Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?" (vv.6, 7, 13, 14).
The prolonged debate has ended with Job's plaintive cry: a mixture of sarcasm and an inaudible cry for help. Bildad can only refer to God's omnipotence and His inaccessibility. His "friends" advice leads to nowhere, no hope.
Job Muses and Meditates on His Recent Past Job 27-28
In these two chapters Job appears to bring truth back into a better perspective. Truth has been distorted by his friends and by his own response. Job is still speaking to his condition among his friends as earlier described. He seems to justify his position before God. However, "As God lives, who has taken away my justice, and the Almighty who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God in my nostrils; my lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit" (27:2-4). Job had been branded by the three as a hypocrite and thus an evil man. In the face of this grievous error, Job appears to have a certain right to defend his basic integrity before God. "Till I die I will not put a way my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go. My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live" (vv.5, 6).
Job continues the musing with the inevitable judgment of God on the hypocrite and the wicked man. He describes what God will do to such in graphic comparison. "If his children are multiplied, it is for the sword . . . Those who survive him shall be buried in death, and their widows will not weep . . . The east wind carries him away, and he is gone . . . Men shall clap their hands at him, and shall hiss him out of his place" (vv.14, 21, 23); but Job does not see himself within that category of a hypocrite, hence his proper defense of his relationship with God. Job's faith rises even in the face of his unexpected sufferings.
In true Hebrew style of poetry Job makes multiple parallel comparisons that impact us sharply. "Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the earth and copper is smelted for ore" (28:1, 2). God creative powers are priceless; His ways are sovereign and right.
Man, however, is so limited in knowledge. "But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value . . . It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire. Neither gold nor crystal can equal it . . . For the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, Nor can it be valued in pure gold" (vv.12, 13, 18, 19). All such comparisons of material values only lead Job to the corrective view of wisdom--from God Himself. Job concludes the chapter with the ultimate expression of wisdom: "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'" (vv.27, 28).
In one sense Job has turned the corner on the first stage of his pilgrimage of suffering. He has been accused falsely and he responded harshly, but faith ultimately begins to triumph. He has put his accusation of hypocrisy behind him and now begins to see as in a mirror the breadth of "the mere edges of God's ways."
He now will re-live his life and memories of the past in the next three chapters 29-31 There is, however, still more to come. God has another human counsellor, Elihu, who will reveal hidden truths but still marred by the human element chapters 32-37. Finally God Himself will speak twice and Job will listen and eventually he will see God's face of love and holiness chapters 38-41, Job will learn lessons of holiness and humility, the epilogue chapter 42. "And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before" (42:10).
Job Reminisces About His Earlier Life and Reveals His Inner Thoughts Job 29
Job in a moment of quiet reflection begins to re-live his earlier prosperous life. ""Oh, that I were as in the months past, as in the days when God watched over me . . . when His lamp shone upon my head. Just as I was in the days of my prime, when the friendly counsel of God was over my tent; when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were around me, when my steps were bathed with cream and the rock poured out rivers of oil" (29:2,3, 4-6).
Job recounts all the blessings of life, family and friends. He recounts his generosity and his prominence. "Because I delivered the poor who cried out, and the fatherless and he who had no helper. The blessings of a perishing man upon me, and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind and I was feet to the lame" (vv.12-15). Before his affliction Job indeed was a savior to all who needed help.
Job claims to have walked in purity, prosperity, privilege, social position, prestige, reverence, pride and walked in his goodness, his mortality, generosity, justice and self-contentment (vv. 3-18). His pride and scorn, however, were blatant. "After my words they did not speak again. And my speech settled on them as dew. They waited for me as the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the spring rain" (vv. 22-23).
In Job's recounting of the past, he reveals a deep sense of superiority to others. Pride and utter disdain marked his earlier days. I counted some 50 references in chapter 29 to Job's boasting and pride--justified maybe on the horizontal scale but not before God.
Job Now Indulges in Deep Self-Pity Job 30
In those pleasant days now past, he reigned as a king and a comforter to those who mourned. But his present state is an absolute reversal. But now young men mock me whose parents I disdained to put with the dogs of my flock. "Indeed, what profit is the strength of their hands to me? Their vigor has perished, they are gaunt with want and famine . . . They are sons of fools, Yes, sons of vile men; they are scourged from the land" (30:2, 3, 8).
Now Job moves on from boasting to lamenting: "And now I am their taunt-song, Yes, I am their byword. They abhor me, they keep far from me; they do not hesitate to spit in my face" (30: 9-10). Deep, deep self- pity rises in Job and he recalls his glorious past and infamous present. He raises his voice against God: "I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You regard me, But You have become cruel to me. With the strength of Your hand You oppose me" (vv. 20.21).
Job's laments are now directed more toward the inevitable, his death. "For I know that You will bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living (v.23). Job continues his self-pity. "Have I not wept for him who was in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor". . . I go mourning, but not in the sun. I stand up in the congregation and cry out for help. I am a brother to jackals . . . my bones burn with fever. My harp is turned to mourning, and my flute to the voice of those who weep" (vv.25,26,28-31). I counted some 61 personal references in chapter 30 to his complaints--what an outpouring of sorrow and misery!
Job Proclaims His Relative Innocence and Pleads to Meet God Job 31
The reader is about to hear the last of Job's much speaking. Let no one sit in judgment of Job for his openness and honesty. We must remember always how God defines and defends Job in the prologue. His faith was genuinely placed in God. In addition to the fact that he lived, as far as we can judge, in Abraham's time, we have no way of knowing how he came to so strongly rest in God. On the contrary we are blessed with the full revelation of the gospel, the historical realities of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ and the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church, the Body of Christ. Who is left standing to pass righteous judgment on Job?
Job declares his innocence by beginning with one of the most basic of reactions of a virtuous man. "I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman? For what is the allotment of God from above, and the inheritance of the Almighty from on High? . . . Does He not see my ways, and count all my steps? (31:1, 2, 4).
What follows is a litany of 13 rhetorical questions that need no answer: If I have walked with falsehood (v.5); if my heart has turned from the way (v.7); If my heart has been enticed by a woman (v.9); If I have despised the cause of my manservant (v.13); If I have kept the poor from their desire (v.16); If I have seen anyone perish from lack of clothing (v.19); If I have raised my hand against the fatherless (v.21) ; If I have made gold my hope (v.24); If I have rejoiced because my wealth was great (v.25); If I have observed the sun . . . so that my heart was secretly enticed (v.26); If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me (v.29); If I have covered my transgressions as Adam (v.33); If I have eaten its fruit without money, or caused its owners to lose their lives, then let thistles grow instead of wheat, and weeds instead of barley (v.39.40).
I counted 84 personal references in chapter 31 making a grand total of 195 times that Job defends his self-righteousness in chapters 29-31. Job refers to himself, generally in complaint or self-pity. This is fuel for God's dealing with Job in mercy and grace, a good man now is in the process of becoming a Christ-like adopted son. This is God's ultimate design for all of us. His methodology is suffering that produces faith under humbling pressures eventually in spiritual growth.
What a litany of self-confident self-righteousness that only God can judge in Job 3-31! Job has responded in kind to his friends and to God using 513 verses--quite a record for verbosity. Then finally the long awaited words are read: "The words of Job are ended."
God, however, with infinite patience has more human counsel for Job through Elihu's three rebuttals. Job will not respond to Elihu, in itself very significant (Job. 32-37). Then God will speak twice from heaven. Jobs words will be few indeed after the first oracle Job 40:3-5 and after the second Job 42:1-6 -- a total of 10 words! Then comes the Epilogue where God's purifying purposes are fulfilled and Job learns lessons in holiness and humility.