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Job is a very disturbing book. It’s so disturbing that some bible scholars try to argue the whole thing is just a fable and it never really happened. Others choose to fixate on the classic “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the Name of the Lord,” line and pretend that the whole book is a lesson on praising God when you’re down. Not hardly. We can fantasize about how great we’d handle tough times with worship songs like “Blessed Be Your Name” but in reality, it would be shocking if we were able to do as well as Job, who spends most of his time in a very foul mood. Should we expect any better from a man whose life is being torn apart by God? In this post, we’ll take an honest look at the book of Job and discover the many valuable lessons it teaches. They might not be the lessons we were hoping for, but if we are serious about growing closer to God, they are lessons we can’t afford to miss.
Chapter 1: The Contest
“A man named Job lived in the land of Uz. He was an honest and innocent man; he honored God and stayed away from evil.” (1:1)
The book begins by telling us about Job’s character. This man is as righteous as they come. We know that no human is perfect, but Job is putting major effort into honoring God with his life. He’s also the father of ten children and a very wealthy man. He deals in livestock, and has large numbers of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys. He’s got a huge spread of land and many servants. He’s the millionaire of his time with a far reaching reputation: “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East” (1:3).
We know Job’s children are grown adults because they have their own homes where they take turns throwing parties for all their siblings to enjoy. Clearly the family gets along well, and clearly Job is no spring chicken. We don’t know for sure when Job lived, but the general consensus is that he should fit somewhere in Genesis. One theory is that he is Jobab, a descendant of Esau, who is listed in Genesis 36:33. Job’s exact age is irrelevant, because the focus of the book is on his character. The man cares about righteousness—even to the point that he presents frequent sacrifices to God on behalf of his children, in case they got a little too carried away at one of their parties and offended Him.
After making sure we’re clear on the kind of man Job is, the unknown author suddenly switches scenes. Now we’re in the courts of heaven and we’re told some angels come to see the Lord. “…And Satan was with them,” we’re told. The Lord responds by asking Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Now here we must pause to put things in perspective. First, whoever wrote the book of Job obviously had some Divine help, because there’s no window into Heaven that people can peek through to watch the angels come and go. Obviously the Holy Spirit revealed this part of the account to the author, just as He revealed the Creation account to Moses. It’s quite easy for God to show us anything He wants from any point in history and from any dimension of space. Some people try to argue that this heavenly scene sounds too ridiculous to be real, yet the Bible is filled with descriptions of God giving people visions of heaven, angels, Himself on a throne, and other prophetic images. God speaks through visions, dreams and metaphors. There’s nothing about this scene in Job to suggest it isn’t just as real as all the other heavenly scenes we read about in the Bible.
Now then, if God knows everything, why is He asking Satan where he came from? To start a conversation, for God has a specific agenda in mind.
Satan answered the LORD, “I have been wandering around the earth, going back and forth in it.” (1:7)
We know that Satan’s never up to any good. It sounds like he’s been drifting about the earth looking for trouble he can stir up. Why has he suddenly decided to pop into Heaven since he and God are enemies? We don’t know, but it’s like watching two opposing army generals get together for a session of verbal fencing. God starts right in with this provocative comment:
“Have you noticed My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him. He is an honest and innocent man, honoring God and staying away from evil.” (1:8)
This is clearly an attempt to rile Satan up, for God knows that His opponent can’t stand seeing humans choosing righteousness. God is luring Satan into a trap: dangling Job in front of him as a very tempting soul to torment. Satan immediately takes the bait.
But Satan answered the LORD, “Job honors God for a good reason. You have put a wall around him, his family, and everything he owns. You have blessed the things he has done. His flocks and herds are so large they almost cover the land. But reach out Your hand and destroy everything he has, and he will curse You to Your face.” (1:9-11)
Satan often gets blamed for being the start of Job’s troubles, but it is clearly God who sets up the contest by baiting Satan with Job’s name. God wants Satan to go after Job because God has decided it is time to take His loyal man to the next level of spiritual growth. The Book of Job is a close up picture on the mechanics of spiritual refinement. It is the only detailed glimpse we get in the Bible of just how brutal God’s methods of maturing us can be. Job is about enter the mother of all spiritual valleys and God has decided to use Satan as His refiner’s fire.
Satan doesn’t know what God’s plans for Job are. He has no idea he’s being used like a pawn. Instead, he thinks he’s being very clever by suggesting that Job’s loyalty to God is not as great as it seems. Satan suggests that Job is just sucking up to God because God is blessing him so much. By saying this, he is hoping to rile God up so that He’ll want to prove to all the angels that Job’s loyalty is more than skin deep. Satan is looking for an opportunity to persecute a human that God loves and he thinks that he can trick God into giving him one if he uses some clever psychology.
God doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. He sees Job’s heart and knows how sincere he is. But unsuspecting Satan is cooperating beautifully with God’s plan. Playing along with Satan’s game, God pretends that Satan’s comments have bothered Him and says:
“All right, then. Everything Job has is in your power, but you must not touch Job himself.” Then Satan left the LORD’s presence. (1:12)
Satan is quite excited now. He thinks he’s tricked God, when really he’s the one who’s been fooled. Off he rushes to see how fast he can take Job down. Since he’s banned from attacking Job directly, he goes for the next best thing.
We’re told that it’s a peaceful day on Job’s massive property. All of his children have gathered there for a party at the eldest son’s house. Meanwhile, the servants are going about their usual work of tending to the herds and the land. Suddenly a band of evil men swarms in to where the oxen are plowing and the donkeys are grazing. They round up the animals and herd them off as stolen property, then they kill all of the servants with their swords, leaving only one survivor who runs off to tell Job the terrible news. The messenger hasn’t even had a chance to finish his story when a second messenger rushes in with more shocking news.
“Lightning from God fell from the sky. It burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!” (1:16)
Job’s financial house is crashing to the ground. A huge portion of his wealth has been stolen or burned. But there’s more bad news to come. The second messenger is still talking when a third man rushes in.
“The Babylonians sent three groups of attackers that swept down and stole your camels and killed the servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you!” (1:17)
Satan has been very busy. He’s hitting Job with a sequence of carefully coordinated attacks. Each of these disasters took time to pull off, so they were probably all happening at the same time in different places. Satan then did whatever he had to in order to fix it so the three messengers would all arrive at the house at about the same time. His plan is to send Job into a crippling state of shock by giving him all the terrible news at once. And he’s still not done. A fourth messenger now rushes into the room, breathless and terrified.
“Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine together at the oldest brother’s house. Suddenly a great wind came from the desert, hitting all four corners of the house at once. The house fell in on the young people, and they are all dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you!” (1:18-19)
This is the worst news of all, and no doubt Satan has gone to great pains to make sure this messenger arrived last. Ten children dead in one blow: how does a father respond to such horrific news?
Where is God in all of this? He’s right in the middle of it, making sure that Satan’s nasty schemes succeed right on schedule. God also wanted the messengers to arrive at the same time so that Job would get all the bad news at once. Both Satan and God want Job to be taken down as quickly as possible, but their motives are different. Satan is out for a sadistic thrill, whereas God wants to get the worst part over with quickly. A long period of meltdown is what God has planned for Job. He doesn’t enjoy seeing His man in such pain, but He has determined that it is the only way to push Job to the next level of spiritual growth.
The Book of Job demonstrates a principle about spiritual growth which is very upsetting to us. The way God has set things up, we simply can’t mature in the faith without suffering. The closer we want to be to God, the more suffering will be required. This doesn’t mean our whole lives have to be filled with grief and anguish: our suffering can be condensed into short seasons of intense misery with plenty of joy between. But we simply can’t get to certain levels in the faith without pain.
There’s another complication to all this: pain by itself will get us nowhere. Simply having a tough life is no guarantee of spiritual progress. Our hearts have to be aligned with God for suffering to produce spiritual fruits. Job was totally aligned with God when he entered his period of suffering, and he remains aligned with God throughout his ordeal. It’s a common misconception that when our hearts are right with God, we’ll always have a smile on our faces. This isn’t true. As Job will demonstrate, our souls can be pleasing God while our flesh is screaming at Him in hate.
Having just been informed in a matter of minutes that his children are dead and his great wealth is gone, Job is in a state of emotional shock. People in his position only have a few moments of clear thinking left before their emotions win the day. Job uses those precious moments to declare his loyalty to God one last time.
When Job heard this, he got up and tore his robe and shaved his head to show how sad he was. Then he bowed down to the ground to worship God. He said: “I was naked when I was born, and I will be naked when I die. The LORD gave these things to me, and He has taken them away. Blessed be the Name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or blame God. (Job 1:20-22)
If you understand the psychological stages of shock, this behavior isn’t as superhuman as it sounds. Job’s emotions haven’t reacted to his situation yet. They’re temporarily frozen, which gives him the freedom to clearly express the true attitude of his soul. When he is in a rational state of mind, Job reveres God and understands that everything he has is a gift. He is humble, grateful, and obedient. He understands that God is the Creator-King while he is only a lowly creature. He has great respect for God’s Authority and desires to honor Him with reverential language. This is the rational side of Job—this is the attitude of his soul. But rational Job is about to have all of his clear thinking taken away from him. A tsunami of screaming emotions is starting to thaw and soon it will come roaring in his direction. He’ll be knocked over and drowning before he can blink.
Chapter 2: New Rules
Leaving Job in a state of shock, we suddenly find ourselves back in Heaven as Chapter 2 begins with another sparring match between Satan and God. Satan has slinked up to Heaven again, and once more God begins to bait him about Job.
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you noticed My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him. He is an honest and innocent man, honoring God and staying away from evil. You caused Me to ruin him for no good reason, but he continues to be without blame.” (v.3)
Notice how God refers to Satan causing Him to do something. No one can make God do anything He doesn’t want to do, but He knows that Satan is too arrogant to understand this. Satan’s ego is so huge, he thinks he actually can trick God into doing something, and here God intentionally encourages this delusion in order to rile Satan up again. Upon hearing that he’s lost the contest, Satan’s ego is predictably affronted. He is quick to come up with a reason why the game was rigged in God’s favor.
“One skin for another!” Satan answered. “A man will give all he has to save his own life. But reach out Your hand and destroy his flesh and bones, and he will curse You to Your face.” (v.4)
Here Satan is saying “You’ve been too easy on him, that’s why he hasn’t betrayed You yet.” Satan hates Job and wants to see him in anguish. Satan delights in torturing the souls God loves. Much to his delight, God immediately gives him permission to attack Job physically—Satan can do anything short of killing him. Well, this is a fine turn of events and Satan wastes no time in attacking. He covers Job in boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Boils cause intense agony in humans. With his whole body covered in them, Job can’t walk or move without terrible pain. This plus all the emotional trauma makes his life a living hell. We’re told he sits down in an ash heap, scraping himself with a fragment of pottery and feeling massively depressed.
Job is a married man and his wife is as upset as he is over the shocking death of all their children. She doesn’t have boils, but she doesn’t need them to hit her limit. She sees her husband sitting miserably on the ash heap and knows he is fighting to hang on to his respect for God. The whole scene disgusts her. She’s had enough.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (v9)
We can all identify with Job’s wife. If we say we can’t, we’re liars. Humans can only take so much stress before they crack. Job’s wife is correct to recognize God as the ultimate Source of all their problems. She’s wrong to curse Him, but she’s also extremely upset. Do you mean everything you say when you’re at the end of your rope? Of course not. We shouldn’t be judging Job’s wife harshly here, for we can’t see her heart. She is no doubt in anguish over seeing her husband in such miserable pain and the whole situation looks hopeless. Perhaps by cursing God, Job can bring Divine wrath upon himself and be put out of his misery. In this desperate situation, death seems to be the only source of comfort left.
Job answered, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Should we take only good things from God and not trouble?” In spite of all this Job did not sin in what he said. (v10)
Job’s tenacity is impressive. The sincerity of his dedication to God is being clearly demonstrated here, yet we must remember that he is also being given grace by God to act as he is. Good intentions aren’t enough to help us overcome screaming nervous systems. Too often in the Church, we hold up martyrs who were supernaturally empowered to die with a smile on their faces and then we say that every truly devoted Christian would act like them. This simply isn’t true. Soul devotion and physical grace are two separate things. If your entire body is screaming in pain, you’re going to start screaming along with it. If some sadistic torturer tells you that the pain will stop if you say something nasty about Jesus, you’ll say whatever he wants unless God gives you supernatural strength right at that moment. We humans are very frail creatures. We’re like crystal figurines that are easily smashed to pieces by one blow from a hammer. Do we say crystal is flawed when it shatters upon impact? No, we expect it to break. If it doesn’t, we’d say it was miraculous. So also, we should expect Christians to say nasty things about God when they are under extreme stress. That is normal human behavior. To refrain from hating God with our words in such a moment is a miracle for which only God can take the glory. If we understood this, there would be a lot less condemning of those who cursed Jesus under pressure. Instead, we make Christians feel terrible for not doing what only God can do.
Let’s consider how Satan feels at this point in the story. His goal is to get Job to curse God. He tries to use Job’s wife to push him into it, but his efforts fail. Job resists the temptation. Satan now needs a new weapon. Job’s closest friends are the next best thing after his wife, so along come Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. No doubt they think they’re coming to comfort their friend because they’re such nice people, but Satan sees into their hearts. None of these men are equipped to comfort Job. Their theology is underdeveloped, they’re far less mature in their walks than Job is, and Satan knows that when they’re confronted with Job’s predicament they’ll do what every young Christian does who can’t accept what he sees: deny reality and attack the person who is making him uncomfortable. These three men are the perfect weapons for Satan to use to drive Job into the ground.
In verse 12 we’re told that Job is so disfigured from his boils that his three friends can’t even recognize him. To demonstrate their sympathy for him, they all tear their robes, throw dust in the air and join Job on his ash heap. Seeing how great his agony is, they just sit with him in silence for seven days and nights—a cultural custom that seems strange to us today, yet was considered polite behavior back then.
Chapter 3: Job Breaks
Speaking is one of the critical ways that human beings try to relieve stress. After a week of unrelenting pain, Job’s internal resources are gone. He is totally despaired, and begins Chapter 3 with a long suicidal speech. Cursing the day he was born, he wishes he could have died at birth so that he’d never live to experience his current torment. Such reasoning is common for those in his despaired state of mind. When everything about existing hurts, you naturally want to die. God gave us logical brains, and it is very logical to look for a way to end your pain when you’re hurting. We shouldn’t be surprised by Job’s despair—only that he took so long to start vocalizing it.
Chapter 4-5: Eliphaz Speaks
It’s very disturbing to listen to suicidal talk—especially from someone you care about. When Job finally runs out of words, Eliphaz rushes to try and give him some anchor of hope to hang onto. His advice boils down to “Hey, Job, remember all the good things you’ve done in life. Plus, you fear God. You’re a good person, and in this world, good people are never destroyed. It’s the evil people who God punishes and destroys, but the good people always prosper.”
Is Eliphaz blind? All the evidence he needs to disprove his simplistic theory about how God works is sitting right in front of him, but he won’t acknowledge it. Job is as good as they come, yet clearly God has torn his life apart. The hope Eliphaz is trying to offer Job is useless, yet unfortunately he doesn’t stop here. He now starts to make some very nasty inferences about Job. He claims to have been visited by a supernatural being in his sleep—either an angel or the Spirit of God Himself. This being supposedly said to Eliphaz:
‘Can a human be more right than God? Can a person be pure before His Maker? God does not trust His angels; He blames them for mistakes. So He puts even more blame on people who live in clay houses, whose foundations are made of dust, who can be crushed like a moth. Between dawn and sunset many people are broken to pieces; without being noticed, they die and are gone forever. The ropes of their tents are pulled up, and they die without wisdom.’ (4:17-21)
Eliphaz is painting a very grim picture of God—describing Him as a Being who can’t wait to violently punish people the moment they make one misstep. This is hardly a comforting picture to offer to a hurting friend. What happened to talking about God’s compassionate, gentle side? The last thing Job needs right now is a visual image of God scowling down at him, yet this is exactly the image Satan wants him to have, for he is trying to grind Job down.
In Chapter 5, Eliphaz continues with more nasty comments.
“Call if you want to, Job, but no one will answer you. You can’t turn to any of the holy ones.” (5:1)
Now Eliphaz turns against his friend, suggesting that Job has done something bad to bring such trouble on himself. Eliphaz reminds Job that no trouble just happens by chance—people bring it on themselves.
“Hard times do not come up from the ground, and trouble does not grow from the earth. People produce trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (5:6-7)
After delivering this nasty zinger, Eliphaz then switches sides again, pretending to be on Job’s side and urging him to take his troubles to God. He then waxes eloquently about how wonderful God is, yet his emphasis remains very negative. Rather than saying things like “God is closed to the brokenhearted”, he says “He ruins the plans of those who trick others so they have no success.” Eliphaz keeps hinting that Job’s sudden lack of success is obviously a Divine punishment for sins he committed. Now if Job crawls back to God in repentance for the wrong he’s done, perhaps God will be merciful—after giving Job a hearty spanking, that is, because God loves stomping on people.
“The one whom God corrects is happy, so do not hate being corrected by the Almighty.” (5:17)
Eliphaz’s position is clear: “Job, you brought this on yourself so admit it and humble yourself so that God will forgive you.” Thanks for nothing, Eliphaz.
Chapter 6-7: Job Answers Eliphaz
When we’re in the midst of intense suffering, it’s easy to fall into the trap of false conviction. Eliphaz’s assessment of Job’s situation is based on the assumption that God would never intentionally devastate souls who are loyal to Him. Many Christians in the Church today cling to this idea with great tenacity. Once we fall for the lie that all suffering must be a form of Divine discipline, then when we’re diagnosed with some terrible disease, it’s easy for Satan to convince us God must be mad at us. Eliphaz did his best to sell Job this theory, but Job wisely rejects it. He knows there is nothing on his conscience and he’s not going to take the blame for what’s happening to him. God is the One responsible for Job’s misery and Job boldly says so in his reply to Eliphaz. He then goes on to accuse Eliphaz of being a rotten friend.
“They say, ‘A person’s friends should be kind to him when he is in trouble, even if he stops fearing the Almighty.’ But my brothers cannot be counted on.” (6:14-15)
Even in his miserable state, Job’s discernment is intact. He knows what Eliphaz’s real problem is, and he says so:
“You see something terrible, and you are afraid.” (6:21)
After listening to Eliphaz insult him many times, Job now retaliates with a zinger of his own:
“Honest words are painful, but your arguments prove nothing. Do you mean to correct what I say? Will you treat the words of a troubled man as if they were only wind? You would even gamble for orphans and would trade away your friend.” (6:25-27)
He ends his speech by asking to be treated more fairly.
“But now please look at me. I would not lie to your face. Change your mind; do not be unfair; think again, because my innocence is being questioned. What I am saying is not wicked; I can tell the difference between right and wrong.” (6:29-30)
Job is saying: “Stop treating me like an idiot. I know what right and wrong are. I’m telling you in all honesty that I haven’t rebelled against God and I didn’t bring this on myself.”
At this point, Job is feeling very misjudged and picked on. As his speech continues into Chapter 7, he reviews his miserable plight in detail in an attempt to get more sympathy for his situation.
“But I am given months that are empty, and nights of misery have been given to me. When I lie down, I think, ‘How long until I get up?’ The night is long, and I toss until dawn. My body is covered with worms and scabs, and my skin is broken and full of sores.” (7:3-5)
He then directs his frustration at God, boldly complaining about the misery He has inflicted on Job. In this speech, we get a glimpse at the psychological element of Job’s torment. God isn’t just racking Job’s body with pain, He’s also going after Job’s mind by giving him terrible nightmares and filling his head with images so horrible that Job wishes he could be strangled to death.
It’s important to note that Job isn’t blaming Satan for his problems. Satan is just a middleman, who can do nothing against us without God’s permission. Job understands this, which is why he is directing his complaints at God, who he knows is ultimately responsible for his plight. At the end of the book, we will see that God praises Job for speaking rightly about Him—a very powerful statement considering all the nasty things Job accuses God of doing. Far too often in the Church today, we are taught that it is blasphemous to blame God for our suffering. We’re taught to view Satan as the one who attacks us while God is our loyal Defender who never wants to see us unhappy. Yet as the Book of Job clearly teaches, all suffering is inflicted on us by God. Who He uses as His instruments in delivering that suffering is a trivial detail. We must learn to see God as the One responsible for our pain if we are to grow past certain stages of spiritual infancy. Job’s friends adamantly refuse to see God as the Source of Job’s problems, which is why all of their advice to Job is so useless.
At the end of the book, God is angry at Job’s friends for presenting Him in a false light. This is quite interesting, since the friends are all careful to try and talk about God with great respect and reverence. Yet God isn’t impressed with flowery words when we’re rejecting His truth. It should have been obvious to the friends that things weren’t as simple as they wanted them to be. They knew Job’s character. They should have listened to him and considered the possibility that God could have had another reason for bringing pain into Job’s life besides punishing him in anger. Yet because they refused to think and refused to wrestle with concepts that would make them uncomfortable, God was very upset with them.
Chapter 8: Bildad Speaks
After listening to Job’s long, mournful speech, Bildad gets mad. He is upset because the theology Job is presenting about God makes Bildad feel very threatened. He won’t accept the idea that God would intentionally inflict suffering on a righteous man.
“How long will you say such things? Your words are no more than wind. God does not twist justice; the Almighty does not make wrong what is right.” (8:2-3)
As far as Bildad and many Christians today are concerned, it is wrong to make good people suffer. Bildad won’t accept a God who would act so strangely, so he gives a long speech about how Job needs to wake up to the obvious: God only punishes evil, but He always helps the righteous.
Chapter 9-10: Job Answers Bildad
Since his friends are so focused on God’s great justice, Job comes at them with a new challenge: since God is so holy, no one can ever hope to be totally innocent in His eyes. He then talks at length about how awesome and powerful God is—how unfathomable His ways are and how mere mortals can’t even detect His Presence, let alone defend themselves from His great power. God will do whatever He darn well wants to and no one can stop Him.
“That is why I say, ‘God destroys both the innocent and the guilty.’ If the whip brings sudden death, God will laugh at the suffering of the innocent. When the land falls into the hands of evil people, He covers the judges’ faces so they can’t see it. If it is not God who does this, then who is it?” (9:22-24)
Job refuses to agree with his friends’ theory of a perfect world in which good is always rewarded and evil is always thwarted. “It’s way more complicated than that, just look around you,” Job says. “God causes corruption and wants it to be. He has no problems with innocence being slaughtered.”
Although we might find Job’s arguments disturbing, they are totally in alignment with what God says about Himself in other places in the Old Testament. We can find many passages in which God describes Himself raising up corrupt rulers to afflict people as a way of punishing nations. When God causes such wide scale misery, both the righteous and the wicked are affected. Job’s description of God being intimately involved in every aspect of His universe is totally correct, as is his insistence that God destroys both the innocent and the guilty.
Chapter 10 is a continuation of Job’s speech. In this Chapter, he vents his despair and frustration with how cruelly God is treating him. He speaks directly to God, reminding Him of his frailty, begging for mercy, and asking why God ever had him be born in the first place.
“Your hands shaped and made me. Do You now turn around and destroy me? Remember that You molded me like a piece of clay. Will You now turn me back into dust?” (10:8-9)
Chapter 11: Zophar Speaks
Now we hear from the third friend, Zophar. Also playing the part of God’s defender, Zophar accuses Job of speaking blasphemously against God, and of being an arrogant sinner. Once again, Zophar insists that the solution to Job’s problem is clear: he must repent of his sins.
“You must give your whole heart to Him and hold out your hands to Him for help. Put away the sin that is in your hand; let no evil remain in your tent. Then you can lift up your face without shame, and you can stand strong without fear. You will forget your trouble and remember it only as water gone by. Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun, and darkness will seem like morning.” (11:13-17)
This is more useless advice. Job is not rebelling against God in his heart, nor has he said anything about God that isn’t true.
Chapter 12-14: Job Answers Zophar
Job is fed up with his three friends lecturing him.
“You really think you are the only wise people and that when you die, wisdom will die with you!
But my mind is as good as yours; you are not better than I am…Those who are comfortable don’t care that others have trouble; they think it right that those people should have troubles.” (12:2-3, 5)
Job continues with another long speech about how God controls every aspect of the world and does whatever He wants to whoever He wants.
As is often the case during dark nights of the soul, God is giving Job the silent treatment. Though Job keeps crying out to Him in desperation, God is refusing to answer. Of course Job finds this extremely frustrating, for he knows that God is the only One who is worth talking to at this point. His three friends are totally worthless.
“But I want to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God. But you smear me with lies. You are worthless doctors, all of you! I wish you would just stop talking; then you would really be wise!” (12:3-5)
Job is tired of listening to his friends’ baloney about how the universe works. They are refusing to own who God really is and he says so:
“You should not speak evil in the Name of God; you cannot speak God’s truth by telling lies.
You should not unfairly choose His side against mine; you should not argue the case for God.
You will not do well if He examines you; you cannot fool God as you might fool humans.
God would surely scold you if you unfairly took one person’s side. His bright glory would scare you, and you would be very much afraid of Him. Your wise sayings are worth no more than ashes, and your arguments are as weak as clay.” (13:7-12)
Job knows he is speaking truth about God, and therefore his friends shouldn’t be treating him like God’s enemy. Even though he is miserable and God is refusing to talk to him, Job is confident that God would side with him against his friends. His instinct is correct, for later on God does take Job’s side against his friends, commending Job for speaking truth and condemning the friends for lying.
God’s silence is the thing that makes our suffering truly unbearable. Over and over, Job cries out for God to answer him.
“God, please just give me these two things, and then I will not hide from You: Take Your punishment away from me, and stop frightening me with Your terrors. Then call me, and I will answer, or let me speak, and You answer.” (13:20-22)
Chapter 14 is a continuation of Job’s speech that demonstrates how well Job understands his own frailty and fallen state.
“Lord, do You need to watch me like this? Must You bring me before You to be judged? No one can bring something clean from something dirty.” (14:3-4)
Here Job is saying: “You know I’m evil by nature and can never compare to Your perfection, so why are You punishing me for it? What is it You want from me?”
Chapter 15-17: Eliphaz Speaks, Job Answers
Eliphaz pipes up again with another round of “the wicked will always perish and it’s your own fault that you’re suffering like this.” Convinced he is right, Eliphaz accuses Job of being pompous and of thinking he has the corner market on wisdom.
“You are not the first man ever born; you are not older than the hills. You did not listen in on God’s secret council. But you limit wisdom to yourself. You don’t know any more than we know. You don’t understand any more than we understand. Old people with gray hair are on our side; they are even older than your father. Is the comfort God gives you not enough for you, even when words are spoken gently to you? Has your heart carried you away from God? Why do your eyes flash with anger? Why do you speak out your anger against God? Why do these words pour out of your mouth?” (15:7-13)
Job counters with another complaint about how lousy his friends have turned out to be:
“You are all painful comforters! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What makes you keep on arguing? I also could speak as you do if you were in my place. I could make great speeches against you and shake my head at you. But, instead, I would encourage you, and my words would bring you relief.” (16:2-5)
Job is probably being a little too optimistic here. Words aren’t very comforting to a man in his position. Even if Job’s friends acknowledged that God was sticking it to him, how much comfort would this bring Job? Not much. Anguish is a necessary element of growth, and there are many times when God will intentionally block us from being able to comfort people in pain. But even when there are no words that will help, hurting people often demand that we keep trying to come up with something, as Job does with his friends. When we are desperate for help and God isn’t coming through, we look to people to come up with some magic combination of words that will create some light at the end of our dark tunnel. Without God’s help, they can’t come up with anything, and a vicious cycle of bitterness and frustration is the result.
Chapter 18-19: Bildad Speaks, Job Answers
Now that everyone has declared their theological positions, more conversation is pretty useless, yet the foursome keeps trying. By now everyone’s feeling irritated and insulted. It’s the three friends against Job as insults fly back and forth. In Chapter 18, Bildad begins his speech with this complaint:
“When will you stop these speeches? Be sensible, and then we can talk. You think of us as cattle, as if we are stupid.” (18:2-3)
He then delivers a long, dramatic description of what God will do to wicked people—and by now it’s obvious that the three friends consider Job to be in the wicked category. In Chapter 19, Job begins his reply by saying:
“How long will you hurt me and crush me with your words? You have insulted me ten times now and attacked me without shame. Even if I have sinned, it is my worry alone. If you want to make yourselves look better than I, you can blame me for my suffering. Then know that God has wronged me and pulled His net around me.” (19:2-6)
Job refuses to budge from his claim that God is destroying him on purpose, even though Job has nothing on his conscience. He insists that God would take his side because he is trusting in God’s good Character. This is an excellent example for us. The way that Job tenaciously clings to the idea of God being his Defender demonstrates the confidence we can have when we know we are aligned with God in our hearts. Even though Job’s life has been torn apart, he refuses to let anyone define his relationship with God for him. He knows in his own heart where he stands with God, and he won’t let that be taken away from him.
Chapter 20-21: Zophar Speaks, Job Answers
Zophar now speaks up with another round of “the wicked get what they deserve.” Job replies by asking Zophar to please listen to him and try to understand what he is saying. He then counters Zophar’s simplistic theory about the wicked by pointing out a bunch of real life examples of how evil people prosper in the world, live long happy lives, and then die and are buried in expensive tombs.
Chapter 22-24: Eliphaz Speaks, Job Answers
Eliphaz now pipes up again, insisting that Job must have done terrible wickedness.
“Does God punish you for respecting Him? Does He bring you into court for this? No! It is because your evil is without limits and your sins have no end.” (22:4-5)
He then makes up a bunch of specific crimes that Job never committed: stealing from people, ignoring the poor, mistreating widows and orphans. Grasping at straws, Eliphaz simply considers Job’s powerful position in society, then lists off a bunch of crimes that a man with such power would be able to do. But of course the whole speech is ridiculous because Job hasn’t done any of the things Eliphaz accuses him of.
When Job replies in Chapter 23, he doesn’t bother to even comment on Eliphaz’ obnoxious accusations. Instead he only groans about how desperately he wishes he could connect with God again.
Chapter 25-31: Bildad Speaks, Job Answers
Chapter 25 is a very brief chapter—only six verses long. It’s Bildad declaring that God is righteous and no one can be worthy in His sight. True, but irrelevant to Job’s complaint. All these eloquent speeches about God’s greatness are really attempts to scold Job for being irreverent, and Job knows it, which is why he feels so insulted by them.
Then Job answered: “You are no help to the helpless! You have not aided the weak! Your advice lacks wisdom! You have shown little understanding!” (26:1-3)
“I will never agree you are right; until I die, I will never stop saying I am innocent. I will insist that I am right; I will not back down. My conscience will never bother me.” (27:5-6)
This is Job’s longest speech yet, continuing on for several chapters as he talks about God being the only Source of wisdom, reflects on how great his life used to be, and groans about how miserable he is now. In Chapter 31 he defends his integrity.
Chapter 32-37: Elihu Speaks
At last the three friends give up on haranguing Job. He’s clearly convinced of his own innocence before God, and he’s insisting that God is persecuting him unfairly. Now a fourth friend is suddenly introduced: young Elihu. We don’t know when he arrived, but he’s been around long enough to hear what all three of Job’s friends have been saying. Elihu has interpreted Job’s speeches to mean that Job thinks he is more righteous than God. Job never said he was more righteous than God—in fact several times he has recognized the hopelessly fallen state of mankind. But he’s also been very vocal about how impossibly nonsensical God’s behavior is, and this is what is really bothering Elihu. Like most Christians today, Elihu wants God to make sense. He wants the righteous blessed and the wicked punished. None of Job’s four friends recognize the concept of spiritual refinement. They clearly don’t believe in the idea that God intentionally inflicts us with trials in order to push us on to the next level of faith. To them, everything God does to us must be in response to our past behavior. If we’ve sinned, He punishes us. If we’ve been good, He blesses us. What no one in this book realizes is that God focuses on our futures, not our pasts. The trials He puts us through serve as catalysts to create new changes within us. God is like a baker who stirs carefully measured ingredients into a bowl, mixes them together and then sits them in a hot oven until something entirely new is created. A cake doesn’t look like a cup of milk or a raw egg or a cup of flour, yet all of these ingredients were necessary in order to make the cake come into being. No one starts pouring eggs, flour and milk into a bowl without having a specific goal in mind. So also, God doesn’t just put us through random trials, hoping it will all work out in the end. Instead, He has a specific end goal in mind, and He works according to precise formulas which only He understands.
God is a Master at maturing human character. He knows exactly which ingredients to use—exactly what ratios of suffering and blessings will produce the desired outcome. This is a principle that neither Job nor his friends have learned yet. Like many Christians today, they think life is primarily a system of rewards and punishments for our behavior. Such a limited view will naturally lead us to many depressing conclusions about God, for He puts us through the worst forms of suffering in order to get us the greatest spiritual rewards. If we don’t understand that suffering is a prelude to greater growth and joy, we will end up concluding God must not love us anymore. This is exactly what many souls today think when they find themselves going through horribly long spiritual valleys. From their perspective, God goes from being a good Friend to an indifferent Stranger or Sadist who actually enjoys hurting them. At this point in the book, Job has already vocalized both of these options as possibilities. He is wise enough to know that God isn’t holding unconfessed sins against him, but he doesn’t understand the principles of refinement.
Since Job’s friends all believe that God is punishing him for his sins, they are naturally anxious to separate themselves from him in God’s sight. This is why we see them going on at such length about how glorious God is. They’re trying to stay on God’s good side by adamantly defending Him against all of Job’s negative insinuations.
Anger is fueled by either pain or fear. At this point in the story, we’re told that Elihu is boiling mad. He thinks he’s mad because Job is so pompous and the three friends are failing to put him in his place. But like the three friends, Elihu is shocked and upset by the suggestion that God would inflict suffering on a righteous man. He desperately needs this idea to be proven wrong.
Elihu is very young, and in his culture, age is very respected. Old men are viewed as wiser than young men, so Elihu’s been biting his tongue all this time as he’s been listening to the older men analyze Job’s situation. But now Elihu can’t stand it anymore. Just like the other four men he’s sitting with, Elihu thinks that he is the smartest man in the room. This is going to be a hard point to sell since he’s so young, so he begins his long speech by reminding everyone that wisdom comes from God, therefore anyone can be wise if God gives him insight.
“I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.” (32:6-9)
Elihu now accuses the three friends of being foolish and inept at arguing.
“I waited while you three spoke, and listened to your explanations. While you looked for words to use, I paid close attention to you. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments. Don’t say, ‘We have found wisdom; let God, not a man, refute him.’” (32:11-13)
That last line reveals Elihu’s carnal motivation: he wants to see Job get told off by people. He doesn’t want to wait for God to bring Job around through internal convictions. Elihu wants to win an argument right here and now. He wants to humiliate Job in public and make him admit defeat. Elihu is proving himself to be a nasty friend. It’s pretty obvious that everyone’s worn out from arguing, plus Job is in brutal agony every second. Yet his friend’s wretched, disfigured appearance fails to stir up any sympathy in Elihu’s indifferent heart. He wants to prove that he is superior to Job by winning a verbal war against him.
“These three friends are defeated and have no more to say; words have failed them. Now they are standing there with no answers for Job.” (32:15-16)
Notice the language Elihu uses—this is nothing more than a contest to him. The friends all tried and failed. Now he’s going to hit the ball out of the park and wow them all with his brains.
It’s not enough for Elihu to tell everyone how brilliant he is; he also paints himself as being incapable of being biased.
“I will be fair to everyone and not flatter anyone. I don’t know how to flatter, and if I did, my Maker would quickly take me away.” (32:21-22)
Don’t miss the arrogance of this statement. Elihu says that the fact that he is still living proves what a fair person he is. If he was to ever give an unfair judgment, surely God would kill him. Elihu is claiming to be nothing less than perfect, therefore everyone should now hang on his every word. What a huge ego.
As Chapter 33 begins, Elihu turns his attention onto Job. “Don’t be afraid of me; I will not be hard on you,” he says in verse 7 as he loads his ammunition. He then summarizes everything Job has said down to this:
“You said, ‘I am pure and without sin; I am innocent and free from guilt. But God has found fault with me; He considers me His enemy. He locks my feet in chains and closely watches everywhere I go.’” (33:9-11)
Job said a lot more than this, but this summary is fair. Elihu now begins what he obviously feels is a brilliant rebuttal, yet he doesn’t even address what Job has said. Instead he focuses on Job’s complaint that God won’t speak to him.
“Why do you accuse God of not answering anyone? God does speak—sometimes one way and sometimes another—even though people may not understand it.” (33:13-14)
Elihu goes on to say that Job’s intense suffering IS God speaking to him, and the message is obvious: Job needs to repent of his sins. Well, this is hardly an original thought. Elihu is saying the same thing that Job’s three friends have been saying for 30 chapters, yet for some reason Elihu thinks his rendition of this tiresome point is somehow extra brilliant.
“Job, pay attention and listen to me; be quiet, and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me; speak up, because I want to prove you right. But if you have nothing to say, then listen to me; be quiet, and I will teach you wisdom.” (33:31-33)
Elihu’s speech is full of hypocrisy. He claims to be on Job’s side—eager to prove him right—yet in reality he is out for Job’s blood. He’s also very condescending, constantly telling Job to be quiet while he educates Job’s dense mind on obvious basics.
As Chapter 34 begins, Elihu is still talking. After claiming that he isn’t out to hurt Job and that his judgment is totally unbiased, he then unleashes an arsenal of vicious insults. He accuses Job of keeping company with wicked people and of delighting in insults the way a man delights in water. He then quotes Job as having said “it is no use to try and please God” (34:9). Job did say this, and he meant it like a man who has worked as hard as he can to please a woman only to keep getting the cold shoulder from her. “What’s the use of pleasing God when He turns away from you like this?” is how Job meant his comment, yet Elihu is now twisting his words to mean something else. When Elihu quotes Job, the sentiment becomes “Pleasing God is a waste of time. Evil is so much more fun.” Job never expressed anything like this, but unbiased Elihu is having a great time mangling Job’s meaning and making up a bunch of wrong inferences.
Elihu now goes on to talk about how glorious God is. Like many Christians today, Elihu refuses to believe God would ever associate Himself with evil.
“So listen to me, you who can understand. God can never do wrong! It is impossible for the Almighty to do evil. God pays people back for what they have done and gives them what their actions deserve.” (34:10-11)
What is wrong? What is evil? How we define these terms depends on whose perspective we’re using. God says that everything He does is good, yet according to human standards, God does a whole lot of evil. What’s good about sending Satan over to torture a righteous man? From Job’s perspective, his brutal suffering is clearly a form of evil. It is unjust, for according to God’s own standards, it is wrong to punish people for doing right. Job was doing right and now he’s being brutally punished. This is wrong and evil.
In the Church we say that Satan is evil and God is good. Everything Satan does is evil. This is all fine, until we come across a man like Job. If everything Satan does is evil, and Satan is the one attacking Job, then Job is correct in claiming he is being treated evilly. And if Satan can’t do anything without permission from God, then Job is also correct in saying God is the One truly responsible for the evil in his life. Job is not afraid to recognize that God gets His Divine hands dirty with evil all the time. What Job doesn’t understand is that God always uses evil to bring about a greater good. Job grasps the first critical truth: evil and God are inseparable, for God is ultimately responsible for all evil. This is a very important point to understand and not many Christians can handle it. Like Elihu, they try to divorce God from all evil, completely ignoring His intimate relationship with demons and the fact that He created Hell—a place filled with horrible torments and never ending pain. How can a God who is all good sustain the existence of such a horrible place? Because God is only “all good” from His point of view. Whenever God does evil things, He calls it good because He’s the One doing them. But if a human were to do the same things, God would call it evil. God operates by a double standard—He is above His own Law. It’s evil when we murder, but it’s good when God murders. It’s evil if we watch someone be abused without trying to help them, yet it’s good when God gives Satan permission to torture us and stands there watching us writhe. It’s evil when we injure someone, but it’s good when God injures them. God is always good from His perspective, but from ours He does both good and evil. Job is a human and so his assessment of God is from the human perspective. God has no problems with being associated with evil, as we will discover shortly. On the contrary, He is very pleased when we recognize what “all-powerful” really means. When we don’t, and we pretend that bad things happen against God’s will because God is not in total control of His own universe, then God gets annoyed.
“Truly God will never do wrong; the Almighty will never twist what is right.” (34:12)
Elihu is wrong to say this because he is speaking from the human perspective. He is looking at Job’s situation and saying “You’re out of line to blame God for this. God shouldn’t be associated with anything that we humans think is bad or unfair.” This is the attitude that gets Elihu and the other three friends in trouble with God later on. They are limiting Him—refusing to recognize His involvement in things they don’t like. Once we limit God to having to be good by human standards, He becomes a much smaller, limited deity. It is unacceptable to reject God’s absolute Authority just because we find some of His activities disturbing. God finds such an attitude very offensive, and unfortunately it is an attitude that is very prevalent in the Church today.
Elihu clearly loves the sound of his own voice because he won’t stop talking. At the end of Chapter 34, he sticks it to Job again by saying:
“Job speaks without knowing what is true; his words show he does not understand. I wish Job would be tested completely, because he answered like an evil man!” (34:35-36)
Elihu isn’t making any effort to hide how much he wants to see God grind Job into the dirt. Elihu really needs to stop and think about his rotten heart attitude, but he doesn’t. He keeps tearing Job down in Chapter 35, assuring him that God doesn’t talk to evil people.
God does not answer evil people when they cry out, because the wicked are proud. God does not listen to their useless begging; the Almighty pays no attention to them. (35:12-13)
In Chapter 36, Elihu is still blabbing on, reminding everyone yet again of how brilliant he is.
“You can be sure that my words are not false; one who really knows is with you.” (36:4)
He goes on to say a bunch of glorious things about God, knifing Job with more insults between longwinded passages about how God controls every aspect of the weather. He then ends his eternal speech with:
“The Almighty is too high for us to reach. He has great strength; He is always right and never punishes unfairly. That is why people honor Him; He does not respect those who say they are wise.” (37:23-24)
Considering how many times Elihu has claimed to be wise in this one speech, it’s pretty ironic that he finishes it by saying God doesn’t respect those who claim to be wise. According to Elihu’s own logic, God doesn’t respect Elihu because the man is impossibly pompous.
Elihu is a great example of how foolish we become when we decide that we are wise in our own eyes. The man is so deluded he can’t even see how he much is contradicting himself. We see this same pattern with many theologians in the Church today. Men and women who go about flashing their degrees in biblical studies often end up denying much of what the Book teaches, yet they insist that their warped interpretations of Scriptures are brilliant.
Chapter 38-42: The Lord Comes to Job
At long last, God speaks up. In Chapter 38 we’re told that He speaks to Job from some sort of tornado. It’s a great relief to finally see God responding to His suffering little man, especially when we know that Job’s gut is right: God isn’t mad at him, nor is he punishing him—that much is made clear in Chapter 1.
God’s long speech to Job is the most disturbing part of this book. We can understand why the friends were so nasty because they were feeling theologically threatened by what was happening. We expect God to comfort Job with some long overdue compassion, yet instead God starts off by railing at him.
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” God demands in 38:2. What is this? Is God now going to side against Job also?
“Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know.” (38:3-5)
God’s tone is harsh and sarcastic. Like each of his friends, Job believes he has the most accurate understanding of God. This is a conclusion which God is now challenging. What can some dot of a human possibly know about the almighty Creator? Can such a small brain really wrap itself around the infinite complexities of God’s Nature? Of course not. To make this point exceptionally clear, God begins listing off just a few of His accomplishments as the Creator of the universe. Putting the celestial bodies into place, forming the earth, setting the boundaries between land and sea—does Job understand how to do any of these tasks? Of course he doesn’t, and if Job can’t even understand something God does, he has no hope of ever understanding God Himself.
God continues on for two more chapters about how powerful and unfathomable He is. He peppers Job with questions that no human could answer. He boasts about His intimate involvement in every aspect of His Creation. When we get to Chapter 40, He finally ends His speech with a challenge for Job to reply.
“Will the person who argues with the Almighty correct Him? Let the person who accuses God answer Him.” (40:2)
While Job accurately described God’s activities on earth—blessing and cursing both the righteous and the wicked—he drew some conclusions about God’s motivations that God didn’t like. Job did great by insisting God was the Source of his suffering, but he then drew false conclusions about God’s reasons for persecuting him. It’s one thing to acknowledge God doing something, it’s another thing to explain why He did it. Explaining God is a pretty arrogant thing for any human to think he can do. God does give us insights about Himself that help us better understand Him as we progress in the faith, but we mustn’t ever slip into thinking we’ve got Him all figured out. When trying to understand God’s nonsensical treatment of him, Job leapt to the conclusion that God no longer cared about him. Trying to understand God with human logic was where Job went wrong. At this point in his walk, he hasn’t learned that God uses suffering to grow us, so he fell for the classic trap of thinking that God will suddenly turn hostile towards us and that His love is a fickle thing which cannot be counted on. By hammering the point that He is way too big for a human mind to fathom, God is steering Job away from trying to use human logic to understand Him. Job needs to learn not to rely on his own understanding, but to leave room for God’s truth to surprise him. God’s love never falters, and He never turns against those who sincerely care about pleasing Him. These are important truths that God wants to teach Job, and this long ordeal is part of the way He’s driving these principles home.
It’s easy to believe God is good, loving, and for us when our lives are going great. Job was a wealthy man who was living in total luxury. God knew that Job’s confidence in Him was sincere but untested. In order to strengthen Job’s trust and security in God’s love, God put him through hell. It is only after we survive an excellent imitation of God leaving us, hating us, and laughing at our pain that we will become totally free from the fear that He would ever do any of these things in reality. Of course the first time God plunges us into spiritual refinement, we’re going to panic as Job did and we will believe our relationship with God has fallen apart. The only way to overcome our fears is to have God make them a reality. A man who is terrified of heights can overcome his fear by climbing heights and seeing that no harm actually comes to him. In a similar manner, God helps us overcome the fear that His love for us will suddenly change by surrounding us with “evidence” that He has turned against us. Because Job knew his conscience was clear before God, the only way he could explain what was happening to him was to conclude that God had turned against him. Yet God will never turn against us once we are His, and this is what God wants Job to learn.
After hearing God’s overwhelming speech, Job realizes how ridiculous he was to think he had figured God out.
“I am not worthy; I cannot answer You anything, so I will put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke one time, but I will not answer again; I even spoke two times, but I will say nothing more.” (40:4-5)
Job’s answer is good, but God isn’t done. He continues His speech, using more examples from the Creation to show how unfathomable He is. When He finally stops, Job speaks up boldly. God has not invited him to speak again, but Job wants to be very clear about how wrong his attitude was.
“I know that You can do all things and that no plan of Yours can be ruined. You asked, ‘Who is this that made My purpose unclear by saying things that are not true?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand; I talked of things too wonderful for me to know.” (42:2-3)
It seems God has appeared to Job in some personal way—more than just a tornado—for Job says:
“My ears had heard of You before, but now my eyes have seen You. So now I hate my words; I repent and I will sit in the dust and ashes.” (42:5-6)
Job’s response is excellent and clearly demonstrates the humility of his heart and his great reverence for God. After everything God says, Job has no reason to hope for any cure. God has intentionally come at His little man in a frightening form in order to complete the last phase of Job’s refinement. How will Job respond if God pretends to have no sympathy for him? Will he be bitter or will he try to honor God? Even though this conversation hasn’t gone at all like he expected, and even though God seems totally unsympathetic and not about to relieve any of Job’s suffering, Job chooses to honor God instead of exalting himself. Now that God has adjusted his perspective, Job sees how arrogant his previous words sounded and he is repulsed by them. He accepts God’s will for his life even though he has no explanation for it, and he resigns himself to sitting in the ashes without saying anything more about God.
God is thrilled with Job’s response. Job has passed the test with flying colors, he has gained the maturity God wanted him to have, and now God can finally get back to loving on His little man. Turning His attention to Eliphaz, who is either sitting beside Job or somewhere else, God announces:
“I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not said what is right about Me, as My servant Job did. Now take seven bulls and seven male sheep, and go to My servant Job, and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will listen to his prayer. Then I will not punish you for being foolish. You have not said what is right about Me, as my servant Job did.” (42:7-8)
Twice God exalts Job as being right while his friends were wrong. This is a very important point that we don’t want to miss. Job was right in acknowledging that God is behind every act of good and evil and that He does not always act “good” and “fair” from the human perspective. The friends all denied these things and refused to acknowledge aspects of God that made them uncomfortable. As a reward, they must now humble themselves to Job and own the error of their ways. God will only forgive the friends if Job agrees to pray for them—He couldn’t make a stronger statement of loyalty to Job than this. After they worked so hard at kicking Job while he was down, God is now making the friends do the groveling. Very satisfying.
Pompous Elihu isn’t even mentioned by God, yet since he sided with Job’s friends, we know that God is not pleased with him. Perhaps he was convicted by seeing what happened to the other three men. Or perhaps he remained too arrogant to learn anything.
God loves to bless us and He wants to encourage us in life. He does not enjoy putting us through suffering, but He will not spare us from it because He knows it is necessary to take us to the next level of growth. Whenever He sees a chance to heap on the blessings between trials, He is eager to do so, as Job’s story shows. We’re told that God gives Job twice as much wealth as he had before. Such material excess would ruin most men, but because Job is so aligned with God, he isn’t led astray. Friends and family come to comfort him now that the frightening ordeal is over and they each bring an offering of gold and silver to help build him back up again. He then goes on to have ten more children—seven sons and three exceptionally beautiful daughters. He lived another 140 years and saw his great-great-grandchildren. Then he died and went home to the Lord—his greatest joy yet.
Job’s story has some unique aspects to it. He was super rich and his life seems to have had only one relatively short period of extreme misery in it. Our paths are different than his and our trials take on different forms, yet when we are being torn apart in the jaws of spiritual refinement, Job’s words will have a great ring of truth to them. His unashamed honesty, his refusal to accept false conviction, and his desperate longing for God are all things we can learn from no matter where we are at in our walks. His superb articulation of the mental, emotional and spiritual torment he endured help us put words to our pain today. When we are undergoing refinement, the Book of Job offers us a lot of validation, as well as warning us not to expect very much from other believers.
It is very distressing to be around a soul that God is ripping apart. Many of our brothers in Christ will try to avoid us, just as Job’s family avoided him until his trial was over. Others will try to comfort us, yet their methods will often make us feel condemned and hopeless. We mustn’t expect other people to be able to answer impossible questions. “Why is God doing this to me?” is a question only God can help us with. He will help us, but not until the trial has accomplished its full purpose. We need to be patient and try to remember that God’s love for us never changes, no matter how hostile His behavior becomes. When we’re not going through refinement ourselves, we need to be sensitive and compassionate towards those who are. We might not have answers that can lessen their pain, but we certainly don’t need to go playing the part of Satan in their lives by making a bunch of false accusations about them. None of us are qualified to judge another man’s heart. The best we can do is stay focused on God’s love for us and trust that He will work all things together for our best.
When we sincerely desire to please Him, God will never let us be destroyed by the things He puts us through. Any normal man would have killed himself in Job’s situation, and Job himself talked quite a bit about wanting to die. Yet God did not let him take his own life because God wanted him to receive the rewards He still had for him on earth and to experience the soul benefits that his suffering would bring him. Always we need to put our hope and trust in God and not rely on our own understanding. If we sincerely want to please Him with our lives, God will make sure that we do.