Job

The End of Job's Troubles

August 31, 2015 Series: Scripture: Job 42:10-17 by Chris Strevel

“Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten us, and he will bind us up” (Hos. 6:1). “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11). Can it be that the Lord loves us when we fall into sin or chastens us? When we feel suffocated by our trials, we may be tempted to cry, “Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses?” (Ps. 89:49), but he remains full of compassion. Whatever we experience, we must trust his love. Nothing alters his intent to do us good in our latter end (Deut. 8:16). The Lord has brought Job to feel his weakness, humbled his pride, and made him meek. Now, the Lord consoles him as a father comforts his injured or scared child. All is well, Job. You are my servant, and I love you. I have brought you through a hard time, and now I will bless you. But I never want you to forget my glory. My purposes remain too high for you to understand, my power too great, my wisdom too deep. Trust me. Do not try to debate with me or prove to me that you do not deserve these troubles. You do not understand all that has happened to you, but I do. God never mentions Satan’s schemes against Job, for it is not nearly as important for us to know the “middle man” and secondary causes of our suffering as it to yield to God’s will, power over us, and loving purposes. When he touches us with affliction, we must never forget his great love. We must often return to the “end of the Lord” in Job’s afflictions. God threw his faith into the fire, but he never for a moment left off loving or protecting Job. Always his intent was to give Job fuller tastes of his goodness, but with a difference. Never again would Job enjoy God’s blessings without remembering their source: the undeserved mercy and love of God.

Job’s Captivity Turned (v. 10)

If we are God’s children, to feel estranged from him is unbearable. It is worse than death (Ps. 13:3). The Lord now says, “It is enough.” He has accomplished his purposes in Job’s testing. Satan’s original accusation, “Does Job serve God for nothing?” has been refuted. When he lost everything, Job continued to cry to the Lord. Job has been humbled and his faith purified. God has shown to Job and to the whole world that true faith survives the worst afflictions, not because we are strong but because God is faithful. Notice, however, that only God can turn our captivity. Trials end only when his purposes for sending them have been accomplished. They may last all our lives. They will certainly last until we humble ourselves before the Lord. His captivity takes many forms: personal afflictions, domestic troubles, national judgements. He has many arrows in his quiver, and he always uses those that will most sharply sift us where we need it. Thus, we must fall into his hand and truly yield ourselves to him. Only then do we learn the discipline of the cross and sincerely confess, “Father, not my will but thine be done.” Job’s captivity did not end until he worshipped God in the dust of his misery. The blessings that followed were not so much the turning of Job’s captivity as was the resting of his soul in meekness before God.

We must take seriously that the Lord will teach us obedience to his will. Our Savior learned obedience by the things that he suffered, and it will be no different for us. The Lord has other purposes for sending trials, such as revealing “the greatness of his power in us who believe” (Eph. 1:19). Yet, we must always think of our obedience to the Lord. Where have I grown careless, lazy, or ungrateful? Am I trusting the Lord or myself? Surely the Lord is doing many great works in the world, and many think that it is a waste of time to get bogged down in his dealings with the individual soul. Are there not enemies that must be faced? Is not God’s glory in the world and the discipleship of the nations more important? He is vigilant over all that concerns his kingdom, and the souls of those for whom his Son shed his precious blood are important. He is our Father, and he will deal with us as he did with Job. Seasons of “captivity” we shall experience: to sin, hurt, weariness, sickness, and even death. He will turn our captivity when it pleases him. Our groaning and complaining and bitterness will not alter his purposes. We must yield. Our lives are not in our own hand. The times and seasons are the Lord’s. As soon as trouble comes or we feel his chastening, let us turn immediately to him. The only safe and wise response to God’s afflictions is to confess our sinfulness, admit our need of his fatherly discipline, and wait upon him to make an end. We are his, and he will do what is beset for us. In time, he will turn our captivity, either by making an end of the trial, or giving us grace to endure it patiently, or bringing us to heaven. The real captivity is not only the trial itself but also our sinful attitudes and responses to his working. When we are humbled before him, we may still be lying in the dust, as Job was, but we are turned. Our soul is restored to peace by reposing in the love and wisdom of our Father.

When Job Prayed for his Friends (v. 10)

Job’s friends had done him great wrong, but Job’s restoration is tied to his praying for them. We cannot be reconciled to him and remain estranged from his people, at least as far as peace depends upon us (Rom. 12:18). Harboring grudges and hurts will prevent our fellowship with the Lord. To be restored to him requires that we walk humbly with him and with men. This is also true of our enemies, for we are to love them and do them good. Job was appointed to intercede for his friends, and however justly he may have been hurt with them, he obeyed God. Since he could not do this with integrity unless he forgave them and embraced them as his friends and brothers, we are taught that we must pray for those who injure us, not with a smug sense of superiority but with sincere love and intent to do them good. Yet, it is often the case that we leave the wreckage of broken relationships behind us, even in the church, content to move on in our walk with the Lord without giving much thought to what God thinks about our cold hearts.  If we are humbled before God, however, we shall be humble before men. The best way to love those who have injured us is to pray for them and to seek their good. This does not preclude confrontation of their sins, but even if this fails to achieve mutual understanding, repentance, humility, and peace, we must nonetheless pray for them and seek to treat those for whom Christ died with tenderness, always willing to be reconciled.

Given the wickedness of Job’s friends and God’s displeasure with them, his directive may seem strange. Why would he tie Job’s restoration to his intercession for his friends? First, Job was taught by this not to blame his grief upon them. However much they agitated him, God was behind the test. It will help us to bear with the provocations of others if we remember, as David did when cursed by Shimei, that God is behind their injuries. What men intend for evil, God intends for good, either to rebuke us for our sins, humble our pride, or to teach us to treat our enemies with gentleness, as he does. Second, only toward the merciful does he show mercy. This is not because our mercy merits God’s mercy. But we have been forgiven a great debt against God’s justice, and we should therefore forgive the comparatively trifling offenses of men toward us. Since the Lord had graciously forgiven Job, he must now forgive his friends and pray for them. Third, we must not forget that Job was in some sense a priest and a wise ruler among his people. By telling him to intercede for his friends, the Lord is restoring Job to his former position and doing so in a public way. His three friends, family, and people are also taught that Job’s worthiness does not lie in his wealth but in God’s gracious acceptance of him. There is our priest and leader, in the dust of affliction, but still God directs us to seek his blessing and wisdom through Job. What a remarkable picture of our Lord Jesus Christ! Though he was despise and humbled in the dust of our curse and death, we must look to him and boast only in his cross, for he is God’s servant. No other sacrifice or intercession will avail for us before God but the One whom he has chosen to be the covenant of the people, the mediator of the covenant, our life and salvation.

Double for His Trouble (v. 10)

The Lord was not bound to restore Job’s outward fortunes (1:21). Yet, the Lord is generous to his servants. None ever served him for nothing. Our Savior said the same (Mark 10:30). Now, if the Lord sees fit for our house to burn down, this does not mean we should expect for him to give us two replacement homes. We can see more clearly than the ancient believers that our blessedness does not lie in this life but in the one to come. Under earthly blessings, the Lord typified the riches of heaven, so that they were taught to aspire for it. We see this very thing in Job. He lost everything, but the loss that troubled him most was not children and livestock but God’s friendly fellowship. Nothing was more horrible to him than his sense that the God he loved had become his enemy. So, we should not turn this “double” into a promise on God’s part to make our lives here a paradise. We already possess all things in heaven and in earth through Jesus Christ, and we must be content with food and clothing (1 Tim. 6:8). When we see the wicked blessed with abundance, we should grieve for them that the Lord has given them their good things in this life, for we know that he will give them misery in the life to come (Ps. 73:18; Luke 16:25; James 5:3).

At the same time, when God gives his servants earthly abundance, we must rejoice in his goodness to us and never allow his generosity to lull us to sleep or to make us forgetful that the true riches are waiting for us in his eternal kingdom. Then, if we have much, we shall not abuse it (1 Cor. 7:31), or think it is a birthright, or grow peevish toward God if we have less than others. The lesson we are taught here more than any other, however, is that God rewards his servants. Some are squeamish about this, thinking that if we have an eye toward a reward, then we are not sincerely serving God. Our Father thinks otherwise. He promises us blessings that we cannot now fathom. He does this to encourage us to bear the cross patiently and to set our affections on Christ and his eternal kingdom. We love and hold on to this life too much, and our Father weans us from the love of the world through suffering, so that we may set our hope upon him alone. Yet, we should not think of heaven as palaces stuffed with gold. The Lord speaks in terms of earthly magnificence because we are often unable to appreciate the true riches of fellowship with him without sin or any cloud of trouble upon the horizon that would lead us away from seeking our happiness in God himself. We should often think of heaven’s blessedness and our Father’s reward. When we stand before him, we shall never think that we have suffered too much or attempted too much for his honor. When we see the King in his beauty, no cross will have seemed too heavy. We shall see how light our burdens were on earth, how patient the Lord was with us. If anything, we shall want to have done more to please him. Rewards will lead us to think only of his generosity in giving such unprofitable servants anything at all. Then, when he crowns us with glory and honor, wipes away our tears, and admits us to everlasting happiness, we shall know that it was all by his grace and mercy. We shall know that we are in heaven by the sufferings and intercession of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Knowing this, we shall love him with pure hearts and feel that this is heaven: to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent to redeem us from all our sins.

Family Visit and God’s Generosity (vv. 11-12)

Where Job’s family and circle of friends were during his afflictions is unknown. It is likely that they stayed away out of grief or embarrassment – or fear. We often find that our family is unable to cope with our afflictions. If Job’s wife is any indication, then his afflictions were so grievous that no human words or sympathy could possibly uphold him, and she bitterly advised Job to “curse God and die.” If this was his wife’s best counsel, how would his extended family have responded to him? Hearing of his recovery, they now return to his side. Job would not have held this against them. If he could not understand what God was doing and despaired of life, he knew that their wailing and halting attempts to comfort him would have been a further aggravation. Let us always remember that “the heart knoweth its own bitterness” (Prov. 14:10). Still, if all we can do is weep with the bereaved, this is often sufficient. Would not our Savior have received some slight comfort had his disciples remained awake with him in his garden vigil rather than falling asleep? Sadly, comfort often goes to sleep in our hearts when afflictions strike. When those who need us the most and are tied to us by bonds of blood or covenant are laid low by God’s hand, we do not know what to say and either give miserable comfort or simply stay away. Job’s family chose the latter.

With his brothers and sisters near him, they sit down and eat with Job. They now weep with him and comfort him concerning all his losses. Odd that they hold a wake now that he is recovered, but we must remember that the loss of his children and health were heavy burdens to bear. The pain was still very fresh. How should we take their mourning over “all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him?” It could be simply a general statement of his calamities, for however much the Lord now accepted and had exalted Job, he had also laid him very low. None can come away from such an encounter without feeling its effects. But did the Lord do evil? He certainly brought calamity upon Job, and this word evil is sufficiently broad to cover all kinds of injuries, adversities, and distresses. But he did Job no evil, no injustice. Even so, his family recognizes that the Lord had done this to Job. They were wiser than many today, who ascribe all evil to Satan and prat on and on that God only does good. Scripture sings a different tune. “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (Isa. 45:7). It is not that the Lord does evil, or that the calamities that he brings are evil in themselves, either in their motives or tendency, but to us, they seem to be evil. Yet, because Job humbled himself before the Lord and was brought to recognize the Lord’s right to do with him according to his wise and holy will, they turned out for his good. Confirmed is the promise: “There shall no evil happen to the righteous” (Prov. 12:21). Men may mean their deeds to harm and injure us; Satan is certainly filled with malice against our Savior and his church. Yet, what man means for evil, God means for good to those that love him (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28).

His family also provides him with some financial assistance: a piece of money and an earring, which could also be turned into ready cash. We are not to think that God waved some kind of magic wand and instantly recovered Job. New children and cattle require time. In the short term, Job needed some family help, and they were willing to give it. These gifts were likely made at the beginning of Job’s recovery. As time passed, the Lord recovered all that Job had before, and more. In fact, he was more blessed after his affliction than he had previously been: multitudes of sheep, camels, oxen, and asses. The numbers given in verse 12 are exactly double his original wealth (1:3). By these gifts the Lord confirmed Job’s repentance and showed himself to be the source of Job’s wealth. Job would never forget it; from nothing to double. As the years passed, his family and friends would not forget that that “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” Each time they saw Job’s mounting wealth, they were to think, “This is the man whom we saw lying in the dust, covered with ashes, weeping for his dead children, and suffering.” We are taught by this that what we have is not tied to market forces or our own ingenuity. God made a dead man rich. Should we not trust him to provide for us? The Lord possesses all the wealth of heaven and earth. He distributes it according to his will, and he does not need our worrying or strength. He calls us to be faithful, but we must bear in constant mind that he is the giver of every good and perfect gift. We draw our daily bread from his pantry, not from our resources.

It is obvious that we should not expect for the Lord’s recovery of us to repentance and humility to be accompanied by vast amounts of wealth. Even if we are directly attacked by the devil, our children are killed, our possessions stolen, and our health ruined, still we should not expect the Lord to reward us as he did Job. We certainly have his promise to take care of us, but what of the apostles and martyrs, many of whom have suffered troubles commensurate to Job’s? What of the persecuted church, which takes “joyfully the spoiling of its goods” (Heb. 10:34)? Is it the hope of earthly wealth that should inspire us to suffer for righteousness’ sake? No; we have “in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34). This was not as clearly known then as it is now, for Jesus Christ has come and opened heaven to us. We have the Scriptures and the confidence that our Savior is preparing a place for us. In Job’s age, as we have seen, the Lord dealt with his people in a period of infancy, and he often led them to the higher blessings of heaven and life with him through the lower, earthly blessings. Did this dull Abraham’s faith? Daniel’s? Did it dull Job’s? Do we find him pining away for God to make him rich again? No; he wanted God. We are able to thank God with much or little of this world’s good only if, like them, our hearts are settled upon God’s promise. They wanted God; he was pleased to give them much besides, but this encouraged them to endure more and to believe more fervently in the coming Savior.

Job’s Beautiful Daughters (vv. 13-15)

Job’s daughters are singled out by name, for they were evidently marked out for their beauty and piety. He also had seven sons, whose names are not given. His children were not doubled in the same way as his worldly goods. Perhaps they were in one sense, for assuming his slain children to have been believers, they were alive with God in heaven. Some have reasoned in this fashion, but as we cannot say with certainty, it is best to leave the matter with the Lord. His first daughter’s name was Jemima, which means “day by day,” which testifies to the way Job lived ever after: trusting the Lord and rejoicing in his mercy, bruised but exalted. The second daughter, Kezia, was named after the spice cassia, likely implying that God had restored to him the aroma and taste for life. The third, Kerenhappuch, means “a horn of paint,” and may refer to her dark eyes, which were much valued in that age. They were the most beautiful women in the land. Job gave them an inheritance “among their brothers,” which cultural anomaly anticipates the allowance made for this in the Mosaic legislation (Num. 36:1-10). It is likely that they were also godly, for Job would not have rewarded vanity. Job’s gifts to his daughters are striking evidence of his enlightened views respecting women. He had none of that demeaning, dismissive attitude toward his daughters that one often finds today, even in professedly Christian homes. Fathers should give careful thought to the future wellbeing of our daughters, making sure that they are adequately trained to run households, provided for in the event that their husbands die or they are never married, and not treat them as ornamental. If we do, caddish men will do the same, and they will never be that picture of the church’s devotion to Jesus Christ that he intends them to be. Who the mother of these ten children was is not mentioned. If it was his first wife, she is unworthy to be mentioned. Anyone who encourages us to curse God is worthy to be forgotten. For my part, I think she was their mother, although Job might have had several wives. The silence might mark her with a permanent reproach and be a reminder to wives that they must reverence their husbands, especially when they are brought low, not be a thorn in their side or nagging them like a “continual dropping on a very rainy day” (Prov. 27:15).

A Long and Blessed Life (vv. 16-17)

The traditional view is that Job was around 70 years of age when his afflictions began, which would mean that he lived to be about 210 years old. This is well within the longevity range of the patriarchal age, likely within the general time frame of Abraham. He saw four generations of children after his afflictions. He spent those years blessing God for his goodness. It is certain that such afflictions left a permanent mark upon Job, yet it was not a bitter one. Humility restores our soul. We see life differently after passing through a season of affliction. Things that were once important are less so. We value walking with God more than anything else. We learn the fleeting nature of riches, health, and human relationships. Not that we grow cynical, far from it, but we do become meeker under God’s hand, knowing that our lives are in his hand, and ready to follow him wherever he leads. We learn to value every small blessing as an expression of his love for us. Thus, the “end of the Lord” in Job’s case was very pleasant and satisfying. The storms were over. He lived a long and full life, giving abundant testimony to what the Lord had brought upon him and his goodness in restoring him. He died in this faith, with his great-great grandchildren around him, a testimony to godliness and biblical religion in a fast-declining age, when God was preparing to do a far greater work in the family of Abraham, the promise of his coming Son, the salvation of the world, and the destruction of the accuser of the brethren.

One final word about Job – trust God. Troubles come to us that shake the very root of faith. The godliest believer will feel these fires, for God will refine our faith and show his strength in our weakness. When it is our time to suffer, let us remember Job. He suffered loss, cried, and for a time seemed to have lost hope and even reason. Yet, God’s testimony about him is that he is an example of patience to us. The Lord is working in our trials in ways of which we are unaware. He still brings his people low so that when he raises them up, everyone will know that he did it. When he brings us low, let us not doubt his love but trust that he is working all things together for our good. This is not so that our life will have a fairy tale ending but so that we shall ever after live for his praise and bear witness to his sustaining power. When we are humbled in the dust, our Lord is with us. He will never leave or forsake us. He will raise us up in due time, for our Savior is now exalted, extolled, and very high. We are raised and seated with him, and he will crown us with glory and honor after we have suffered a little (1 Pet. 5:10). Until then, let us trust him to perfect that which concerns us. This is what settles our hearts in times of trouble.

 

Profiting from the Word and Searching Our Hearts

1. Why must we think often upon the “end of the Lord” in Job’s afflictions? (see James 5:11)

2. What is the Lord’s main purpose in bringing us into seasons of “captivity?”

3. What does God teach all his children?

4. When will God turn our captivity?

5. Why did God tie Job’s restoration to his praying for his friends?

6. How should we love those who injure us?

7. Why can we not turn God’s “double” (v. 10) into a formula?

8. Why does the Lord promise to reward us for faithfulness?

9. Where should his promise lead us?

10. Why are friends and family often unable to cope with our afflictions?

11. What warning do we receive from Proverbs 14:10 about our expectations of comfort from others?

12. Where do you need to be a greater comfort to the grieving, suffering, and struggling?

13. What do we learn from Job about the treatment of our daughters and wives?

14. How are we to be changed by God’s afflictions?

Job Exalted!

August 24, 2015 Series: Scripture: Job 42:7-9 by Chris Strevel

We hear regularly of the fall of those who were reputed for wisdom and piety, almost elevated to God-like status by an age desperately looking for sages and heroes. Defenders of “family values,” a bland and impotent idea nowhere found in Scripture but much bandied about by social crusaders, sometimes turn out to be hiding their perversities behind a mask of public virtue. Preachers and politicians are notorious offenders on this point, for power and the adoration of the masses are an intoxicating mixture. It is not always the case that these corrupt, but it happens often enough to warn us against blindly following men. The Lord will not share his glory with another. If he would not share it with Moses and Elijah, then he certainly will not share it with the far inferior men on today’s public stage. And yet, we still persist in judging by the appearance of things. If a man comes to us with pleasing words, dazzling promises, or the appearance of virtue, most will run after him and worship the ground upon which he walks. The Lord, however, looks upon the heart. He sees men as they truly are, not as they pretend or as others believe them to be. To rebuke our foolishness in setting hope upon men, he often brings dramatic reversals in the fortunes of men and nations that leave us dumbfounded. A poor and despised man suddenly becomes rich and powerful. A man worshipped by the world is exposed as a fraud. These dramatic reversals are not simply the fodder of fairy tales. “But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Ps. 75:7). “He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent away empty” (Luke 1:53).

Here we find just such a remarkable reversal. Job’s accusers become the accused. As terrible as he still looked and felt, Job is appointed the mediator between his friends and the Lord. Those who seem to have won the debate are condemned for their words, while Job is declared the victor, at least in terms of his understanding of God’s providential dealings with men. And as roughly as the Lord has been dealing with Job, he is accepted (v. 9). God is angry with Job’s three friends, but he raises Job from the dunghill to be a priest. We must never judge the true condition of God’s saints by their outward conditions. God often treats his children roughly in this world, but this is so that he may spare them later. We are chastened now so that we may not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32). Thus, we are taught a very important lesson. The Lord will correct our faults. In the process, he will bring us very low, but if we humble himself under his hand, as Job has done (42:1-6), he will raise us up. We should not expect an easy time in the world, for then our faith would grow sleepy and indifferent to the Lord’s promises. When he chastens us, we are awakened so that his word becomes our only food and hope. Then, we learn humility before the Lord, which is a chief virtue that marks out his true children from the children of disobedience.

The Lord’s Anger at Job’s Friends (v. 7)

Although the Lord has rebuked Job for his hasty words and bitter spirit, his purpose in treating his servant so firmly is to humble and restore him. Never does he express any anger toward Job. However hard his providences may seem, his love is the root of them all, for he intends good for us, not evil. As Job’s three friends listened to God’s questions, if they felt a vindication coming, they were deceived by their prideful hearts. He is angry with them. We are not to take from this that they were lost men, for the Lord immediately shows the way they may be restored to his fellowship. At the same time, the Lord makes it clear that he is angry when his people are unjustly judged, especially by those who profess to be their friends. Whether prompted by shock at Job’s afflictions or filled with self-righteousness and pride, this is exactly what Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have been doing. They falsely accused Job of many grievous sins, and the Lord was angry with them for treating his servant in this manner. It certainly looked as if the Lord was judging Job as a wicked man, but with those who profess godliness and have a history of serving the Lord faithfully in the presence of many witnesses, we should never pass a judgment upon them based upon a change in their circumstances or because the Lord strikes them with affliction. This is to judge according to the flesh.

Notice that God has dealt first with his servant Job. Judgment always begins at God’s house (1 Pet. 4:17). Not that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were separated from his flock, but they were not as godly or as wise as Job. It might seem, then, that God would deal more firmly with them. Indeed, this is often the way we think. We say, “O, the world is so bad, and God will surely bring horrible judgments upon it,” while ignoring that this order is usually reversed in history. God gives his enemies their good things in this life (Luke 16:25), but he often afflicts his children so that they look like anything but the favorites of heaven. In this, God confirms what Job has been saying all along, which shows that Job was a prophet and well-taught by God. Therefore, when we see God’s children afflicted and the wicked prosperous, we must remember that our righteousness and glory are yet veiled. He will eventually “bring forth our righteousness as the light” (Ps. 37:6), but our lives and sonship are yet hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). We must not despair when God takes us to task for our faults but expect for him to do so, for he loves us and would make us partakers of his holiness. Nor should we harshly judge God’s children when they struggle in various ways, for not only is our turn coming, but we are also placed in a body to encourage one another, not to stand in judgment, as Job’s friends did.

This does not mean that we should abstain from making necessary judgments by God’s word, for our Savior commands us to make righteous judgments (John 7:24). Many shirk this responsibility for fear of getting their hands dirty, or because they do not love their wayward brothers as they should, or out of ignorance of God’s word. Though our age does not confront evil because it is evil, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we are bound to confront one another for disobedience to God (Matt. 18:15; Gal. 6:1). At the same time, this must be done with meekness (2 Tim. 2:25), for we are dealing with those for whom Christ died. Like Job’s friends, we often assume that because something bad happens to a professing believer that he may not be a believer. Especially when there is a conflict in the church, how quickly we turn enemy to those for whom Christ died, thinking that because they take a different view from us, they must be Satan’s servants. Yet, if we will remember that God afflicts his own and allows them to fall “seven times,” we would handle confrontation more gently and maintain loving attitudes toward those who are suffering or fall into a sin, seeking to recover them and remembering that we must encourage them toward godliness, not ground their faces in their weakness and afflictions. Job’s three friends did this, and the Lord was angry with them. He will be angry with us unless we forgive offenses, support the afflicted, meekly confront the wayward, and love our brothers as Christ loved us.

 

The Lord Decides the Conflict (v. 7)

To leave no doubt as to the outcome of the debate, the Lord more specifically identifies the reason for his anger. Job’s friends did not speak righteously about the Lord. This is stated twice (vv. 7-8). God takes our words very seriously, and this is especially true when we claim to be speaking for him. “By thy words thou shalt be justified; and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:37). Job’s three friends did not speak rightly of God and of his dealings with men in the world. Startling it is to our current way of thinking that God would be angry with them for misunderstanding providence! For a theological misspeak? There are no worse errors than theological ones. All modern errors, sins, and statist delusions are at their root theological sins. Job’s friends have said that the godly are always identified by their prosperous lives, while the wicked are always judged in history. From this faulty principle, they drew the conclusion that Job was a wicked hypocrite. In speaking against Job, therefore, they were really speaking against God.

The Lord declares that his servant Job has spoken the truth. “Right” (vv. 7-8) connotes that which is firm, established, and directed aright. The word is a fitting description of God’s truth, which is “forever settled in the heaven” (Ps. 119:89). Job understood that God does not always prosper the righteous or curse the wicked and that we must leave the final determination to the day of judgment. It is true that his afflictions and the provocations of his friends led him to make many rash statements, but for the most part he spoke the truth about God. From God’s approbation of Job, we learn that though there are many faults in us, the Lord accepts us as his for the sake of his Son. The most faithful believer is filled with many sins and feels his wretchedness, as Paul did (Rom. 7:24). In many things, we offend many people (James 3:2). Yet, once God accepts our person through the blood and righteousness of his Son, adopts us into his family, and seals us with his Spirit, he accepts our works also. They are stained by many corruptions, but they are cleansed through our union with Jesus Christ in his obedience and worthiness.

And notice that God accepted Job though he was in a miserable and sunken state. Four times in two verses he speaks of Job as “my servant.” He lost everything. His faith was terribly shaken, and his friends thought him to be cursed, but he was God’s servant. From this we learn that it is not our outward blessings but his grace for which he accepts us and our service to him. We are not God’s servants because we believe in him when everything is going as we would like but when we hold fast to his promises when life is crashing around us. We should never think that God loves and accepts us for any good or strength in us. Many of his most illustrious servants have been outwardly despised and suffered so many deprivations and hardships that the world looked upon them as cursed: Moses, Elijah and the prophets, the apostles, and supremely our Lord Jesus Christ. Did he look like the Servant of the Lord when he had no place to lay his head and was struck down on the cross for our sins? He was despised and rejected of men, but he was nonetheless God’s beloved Son and faithful Servant.

Many stains we have and many falls we experience, but once we are united to the Lord in faith and covenant, he owns us as his servants and children. By his grace and mercy, we are defined not by our faults but by our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. This should encourage us to pursue holiness, knowing that however many faults are in us, they are all forgiven for our Savior’s sake. He is our advocate before the Father, and since he has born our condemnation, no one can lay a charge against us. God has justified us through his Son’s imputed righteousness, and we are forever accepted as his servants, however weak we may be. This is the way to strength, when trusting God’s promise and not despairing of our many imperfections, we war manfully against the sin that is within us, cry out to God for mercy, and seek to please him in all things. Our sins he will not hold against us but will forgive them all, as he did Job’s, and he will own us as his children and servants. Should this not inspire us unto gratitude and obedience? Praise and joy? Hope and perseverance? That the holy God loves and accepts us as his servants through Jesus Christ is one of the greatest consolations we have in our weakness and failures, and one of the greatest motivations to love the Lord with all our hearts.

Since this is so, how careful we must be when speaking of God and handling his word! Job’s defense was far from perfect, but he knew that his friends were wrong. True servants of God speak his truth. They do not allow their outward circumstances and personal miseries to turn them one inch from his word. He gives all his servants “the love of the truth that they might be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). Many in the church fall more into the way of Job’s miserable comforters. They equate the Christian faith with success and prosperity. They know little of the sifting ways of God’s love and think that “godliness is a way of gain” (1 Tim. 6:5-6). They speak of formulas for prosperity and look for “principles” that will secure us against God’s testing and make our families as squeaky clean as a picture postcard. Reducing Job’s friends’ accusations to their lowest level, they said in effect, “Job, you do not look like a servant of God but like his enemy. God always gives earthly blessing and success to his servants. Their children are always godly, and they always enjoy the best of health.” In this they spoke like Satan when he tempted our Lord in the wilderness. He even used Scripture to justify his attack. Many false servants of the Lord do the same, twisting and taking God’s word out of context to justify their lies. Job makes a good case for God’s truth, but he made it poorly at some points. He was too quick to defend himself, but he knew that God often tests the righteous. He was even right in saying that his sufferings were no indication of a lack of uprightness. He pressed this too far, finally turning it into a demand to defend himself before God. Still, he knew God’s truth far better than his friends. He won the debate with them.

If we are to be God’s servants, we must handle his word wisely. We must never fall in with the modern deception that earthly prosperity is evidence of faithfulness to God. Nor must we think that God’s testing, even the hardest ones, indicate that he has turned away from us and no longer loves us. This is Satan’s lie, for he knows nothing of “the just shall walk by faith.” He only knows “get what you want now, on your terms, whatever the cost.” He knows nothing of submission to God or humility before him. These are the chief marks of God’s servants. They hold fast to God’s word, no matter what they see with their eyes. They confess, “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” They are not fair-weather friends of God, who serve him only to get what they want. Jesus rejected those who “believed in him” in Jerusalem, for he knew their hearts (John 2:23-25). They wanted to manipulate him. They did not love him or see their need of a Savior but wanted political deliverance and earthly prosperity. Like most Americans and many American Christians, they wanted the fruits of covenant obedience without faith and humility before the Lord of the covenant. Our Lord said that their “faith” was “no faith.” Job had faith in God. He believed God’s word. He needed to be taught more, but his default attitude was humility before God’s truth. He showed this when he listened to Elihu, who is not mentioned in the condemnation that follows because he was also a true servant of God. When we hold fast to God’s truth, it will cut off our pride and stubbornness, for though we are God’s servants, we are far from what we need to be. Still, God is near to those who “tremble before his word” (Isa. 66:2), and Job trembled before it. He did not hold fast to his own opinions but abandoned his objections to God’s treatment of him. He embraced them so that he might be near to God again. In this, he showed himself a true servant of the Most High God.

 

The Humbling of Job’s Friends (vv. 8-9)

Commanded to Offer Sacrifices

In condemning Eliphaz, who is singled out because he was the eldest and wisest, the Lord makes it clear that he is not cutting off these three men forever. He makes a way for their repentance and cleansing. He tells them to sacrifice seven bulls and seven rams. “Seven” seems to have the ideal number even before the ceremonies God commanded Moses. More important for us is that in that age prior to the giving of the law, God was reconciled to sinners only through blood sacrifice, which prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. This was evident immediately after Adam sinned, when God slew the animals to clothe them. After the flood, Noah offered numerous sacrifices, and later God provided a substitute for Isaac. There is no other way for our sins to be forgiven and our filth cleansed except through the blood of a substitute acceptable to God. In the absence of sacrificial blood, it will be our blood, for sin brings death and judgment upon the whole family of Adam.

This is a remarkable testimony that comes from God’s own mouth and thus cuts off all those lying deceivers who would make for themselves fig leaves out of their own works in an attempt to hide from God. That this gracious provision is of divine origin and did not originate in the blind hearts of men is evident by Adam’s response to his sin. He knew that he was guilty, but he had no clue what to do about his sin and chose to hide. When confronted, he sought the refuge of excuses rather than humility and blood atonement. God showed him the way forward through the blood of the substitute, and not as any temporary provision but as his fixed and settled purpose. He had pronounced death to all sinners; he would not go back upon his word. His justice cannot be offended without retribution to the sinner. He must die, or God must in grace and mercy provide a substitute victim. And from this line, we note that his will preceded the Mosaic provisions that made explicit what was communicated to the human race from Adam onward. So, when God commands Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to offer sacrifice to obtain cleaning from their sins, we are not to imagine a late date for Job or an editorial insertion but a confirmation of God’s redemptive purposes that he announced to Adam after he rebelled.

He has accomplished his purpose through the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. By faith in his blood and righteousness alone are we cleaned from our sins and reconciled to the holy God. When we sin with our words, theology, and treatment of others, there is only one cleansing for us: the blood of Jesus Christ. The fig leaves of making light of our sins or blaming others for them will only compound our guilt, as will saying things like, “Well, he said this; he did this to ,me; her sins are worse than mine.” That may well be, but what of our sins? We cannot atone for the sins of others; their sins are no excuse for ours. When we offend God’s holiness by transgressing his word, we must be cleansed or be damned. And we must not mingle God’s appointed sacrifice, his beloved Son, with our own filth and imaginations, as the unbelieving Jews do, who now make no pretense about forsaking the will of God on this point and saying that their works are self-atoning. Look what blindness has struck those closest to true religion because they have abandoned the word of God for the sake of their traditions. The Roman Catholics are as bad, for they would join our works to Christ’s sacrifice, with him providing the merit to atone for the guilt while we must provide the works to pay the penalty. This rubbish has deceived millions and mocks the cross of Jesus Christ. This one line in Job puts the lie to all man’s schemes of atonement. We are cleansed of sin’s guilty and penalty only through the blood of the substitute that God provides. If we reject God’s Son, there is nothing for us but God’s wrath and judgment.

 

Job’s Intercession Accepted

There is more of the gospel here than we might at first notice. We need not only an acceptable sacrifice but also an accepted mediator. We can spill oceans of blood, but unless there is one God accepts to make intercession for us with that blood, it will avail nothing. And what is most remarkable is that the very man whom his friends condemned is now appointed to be the mediator that God will accept on their behalf! Job must pray for them if they are to be reconciled. He is the righteous one; they are criminally guilty before God. Now, this is clearly a gospel picture, though not perhaps intended as a direct type. Blood sacrifice and mediation are the bedrock foundation of God’s dealings with men. We should not be surprised, therefore, to run into historical figures such as Melchizedek or for God to raise up Moses as intercessor for Israel. And when this principle is finally made clear in the whole priestly work of the Levites, we are taught that this has been from the beginning the only way for sinners to be reconciled to the God whom they have offended. We must have blood, and we must have a mediator. We cannot defend ourselves before God or offer to him anything that he will accept. He must provide a “daysman” between us (Job 9:33). Job had pled for one, and now the Lord makes him the mediator between his three friends and the holy God.

This is not to say that Job was worthy of this work, but God chose the humble to humble his friends. They must have looked at Job with amazement. This man will be our mediator? He is covered with dust and ashes and oozing sores. He looks more like a corpse than a man. Did not our Savior look the same and elicit the same reaction? Men still look at Jesus Christ as Job’s three friends must have looked at him. This man’s blood and intercession will save us? He is despised and rejected of men. He has nothing outwardly glorious that would incline us to look upon him as God’s Anointed. O, but in him, God humbles our pride by revealing the truth about sinners. We are the filthy and despised ones. We are the ones covered with sin’s leprosy and have nothing to commend us to God. He came lowly and cursed because our sins had cursed us. He was sunk so very low because our sins sank us beyond any hope of recovery short of God’s omnipotence and grace. We must have him to intercede for us before God. He is God’s appointed Servant and Mediator. If we are not represented by him before the throne of God’s holiness, we have no one to advocate for us. We cannot do so for ourselves. It is death’s ultimate deception that a sinner would think he can defend himself before the holy God before whom man is naked and open. For sinners, it is Jesus Christ or death, Jesus Christ or hell. Yet, in our death, we cannot see this. Like Adam, we think there is some alternative in our fig leaves. Only God can give us new eyes that we see our need of a Savior and run to Jesus Christ as our righteousness and cleansing. Our Father will accept him and no other. Christ Jesus the Lord is the only mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).

Job’s intercession for his friends was primarily intended to humble them and to point us to the true and final mediator. The same is true of the company of priests that God raised up for his people from Moses to the coming of Jesus Christ. We cannot be saved from sin and death without a mediator. This does not justify the whole cabal of saints that men have thought would help them before God. Praying to the saint of good health or safe travels is worthless. There is one main reason for this. Whether Job or the Old Testament priests, they were appointed by God to intercede for men. Only God can direct us to a mediator that he will accept on our behalf. Now that the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted above the heavens as the Great High Priest over the house of God, “there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When it comes to our deliverance from sin and acceptance with God, he alone is the propitiation for our sins. His intercession alone opens heaven for us and makes the throne of God a place of grace and refuge for sinners. All other supposedly effectual mediators are creations of man’s fallen imagination and evidence of his continued rebellion against God.

The Obedience of Job’s Three Friends

As evidence of their true faith in God, Job’s three friends obeyed every word God commanded. Not only were they too confounded to resist, but there was also evidently a true seed of faith in them. Job’s prayers were accepted on their behalf. The reversal is complete. The lesson is direct and convicting for us. God opposes the proud. He gives grace to the lowly. Job was made lowly by God’s word, and he was immediately exalted to intercede for his friends. Their restoration to God depended upon the very one whom they had accused of being a wicked man. Does this not teach us to be careful in our judgments of God’s saints? Those who disagree with us may very well be more highly esteemed in heaven. The poor believer who is despised for his mean clothes or shabby house may be far richer in faith. God simply will not tolerate pride of any kind. Pretending we are better than we are, sanctimonious words hiding inner corruption, and feelings of superiority in place, knowledge, or gifts are evil. Let us be humbled before the Lord and turn from our pride lest the anger of the Lord fall upon us. He loves us too much to let us believe a lie about ourselves or to look down upon his suffering people. We are one in Christ. When one member suffers, or is persecuted, or sick, or poor, or in need, the whole body shares this burden and must endeavor to support the weak. We must be known by our love and patience with one another, not our criticisms, aloof feelings of superiority, or begrudging acceptance of those who differ with us. We must look at the cross of our Savior and turn to him as our only Mediator. By these things we are truly humbled before God and show ourselves to be his servants.

Profiting from the Word and Searching Our Hearts

1. Why was the Lord angry with Job’s three friends?

2. Why then did the Lord deal more roughly with Job than with them?

3. Why it is dangerous to judge another believer based upon a change in his outward circumstances?

4. What encouragement should we draw from the fact that the Lord calls Job “my servant?”

5. What is significant about God’s command to Job’s three friends to offer sacrifices?

6. What does God teach us about the gospel in this section?

7. What are the dramatic reversals that God brings about in the relationship between Job and his three friends? What is the purpose of these reversals?

8. Are you judging based upon the appearance of things?

 

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