Job Lesson 7
CENTRAL THEME: God honors those who humbly profess dependence on Him.
INTRODUCTION: Reading about something, hearing about it, or watching it on TV, really never compares to experiencing something in person. WHAT WAS THE MOST ENERGIZING EVENT YOU EVER ATTENDED IN PERSON? Seeing the speed of the professional athletes, or to stand on a historical battlefield, or to witness the sunset on the Sea of Galilee is so much more impactful that just seeing pictures. At the end of the Book of Job, Job said that he had heard about God but now he had seen Him. Job gained a greater understanding and appreciation of God!
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT:
In this last chapter of the Book of Job, the Lord revealed Himself to Job in a very direct way. In response to this meeting, Job demonstrated complete humility by submitting to God’s sovereign power. Job also showed sorrow for his earlier disposition toward God in light of his suffering. Even though Job had defended himself against his declared friends’ charges of hidden sin and rightly ascribed his suffering to the providential purposes of God, here he admitted that his earlier understanding of the true situation lacked perspective. Job realized that his earlier assumptions regarding his circumstances were based on insufficient knowledge of God’s mysterious will.
While discussing the attributes of God revealed in this Bible passage, it is important to keep in mind that all of God’s qualities and actions do not exist in isolation from one another. God is one. From our limited perspective we can know God only through divine revelation. In theological studies, His attributes are often categorized based on His revealed words and divine actions. The incommunicable attributes of God are those that belong to God alone—attributes that humanity does not possess. God is unchanging in His perfections and thus can be trusted to act in accordance with His will at all times. Job learned these truths from hard lessons and direct conversations with God. It also reminds us that we cannot fully understand God’s ways, for we do not possess the perspective needed to trace His paths. However, what God reveals to us about His attributes is sufficient for a life of faith and trust in His hand.
In the end, God sovereignly chose not only to vindicate Job before his friends (42:7-9) but also to restore Job to fullness of life and family. Job’s trial was unimaginably painful, but his life ended full of blessing (vv. 10-17). These blessings came as a gift from the one true God who can be trusted to work out His will in the lives of His children. This does not mean that God will always vindicate or restore those who suffer greatly in this life. But knowing that God is unchanging does allow us to trust that, in the end, those who put their faith in Him will receive divine vindication through Christ and heavenly blessings beyond imagination. As much as it would have brought Job comfort to finally be vindicated before his friends, it was more important that he found restoration before his God. In the end, the only opinion of us that really matters is God’s. God’s opinion of us was made clear on the cross of Christ. When people repent of sin and place their faith in Christ, they will be vindicated before God, because God will accept them not as they are, but as Christ is.
EXPLORE THE TEXT: JOB 42:1-11
Objective Statement: Every believer should admit their need for God by following these three processes to absolute dependence.
PROCESS #1 – ADMIT (vs. 1-6)
Verses 1-2 say, “1 Then Job answered the Lord, and said, 2 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.”
In many ways, Job 42:1-6 represents the climax of the dialogue between God and Job. Job’s initial response to God was unsatisfactory and brought about an onslaught of questions from God to put him in his place (40:3-5). Here the exchange was resolved. The first thing Job confessed was God’s absolute and uninhibited sovereignty over all things. The sovereignty of God means that He is God and He can do whatever He wants to do because He is God. As sovereign, He exercises His rule with absolute authority. God’s control means that everything happens according to His plan and intention. God’s authority means that all His word ought to be submitted to, and His commands ought to be obeyed. Job confessed, “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee” (vs. 2). This is a breathtaking admission from a man who had suffered profoundly. This confession did not come easily but through mental toil and emotional anguish. Many times, the most precious truths we hold about God are strengthened from the places of deepest experience.
3 “Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. 4 Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.”
In light of this confession, Job repeated God’s words back to Him in the form of a question, “Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge?” (vs. 3). Job admitted he had done just that. He had spoken of things he did not understand, indeed, things too wondrous for him to know. The things Job spoke of concerning God came from a place of insufficient knowledge. God’s will in his circumstances was hidden or obscured. In this sense, Job’s questioning of God without full knowledge only made things more difficult. It was only through God’s counter-questioning that Job realized he was pushing the boundaries and reaching beyond his limits. This was illustrated in chapters 38–41, where Job was shown to have limited knowledge of the natural world. Therefore, how could Job speak as though he possessed sufficient knowledge of God’s moral universe? There is a great lesson in humility here, namely, that one cannot assume or prescribe meaning to God’s actions without God’s clear revealed purposes in those actions.
HOW DOES PROFESSING OUR SHORTCOMINGS OPEN THE DOOR FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING OF GOD?
5 “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.”
Job admitted he was operating from secondhand knowledge about God. Based on hearsay, Job had learned that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. However, God does not always operate in this manner from a human perspective. There are times when the wicked seem to flourish and the righteous face suffering and trial. At this point, Job had gained greater wisdom by seeing God for who He is—the Creator Lord of the universe and not a divine vending machine of blessings and judgments.
As God revealed Himself to Job, Job’s understanding and wisdom was enlarged. Like the psalmist admitted in Psalm 73:16-17, Job could say: “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” Like Job and the psalmist, as we accept the Lord’s control over all things, even suffering, we see Him as God and Lord in a new way.
6 “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Finally, Job expressed his remorse: “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (vs. 6). At first glance, this seems to coincide with the assertions of Job’s friends that he needed to repent and be restored. However, 42:7-8 denies that his friends were correct. WHAT THEN DID JOB REPENT OF IN VERSE 6? The Book of Job makes it clear that he did not suffer because of a particular sin. However, we do see that he became bitter toward God in his suffering (chap. 3). Job repented of the bitterness that had grown in his heart toward God, which led to his accusation that God was unjust and had treated him unfairly.
God did not allow Job to grow in bitterness but intervened to bring him to a place of humble trust and submission. Thus, Job shifted his focus from demanding answers (that the Lord never provided) to gaining peace by submitting to the Lord, even though he did not have all the answers to his questions. In the same way, believers can admit their dependence on God for all things in life. This shift in the mind of Job was a gift of grace from God. As always, when God reveals sinful attitudes of the heart (like bitterness) it is always with the intent of providing an opportunity to repent.
PROCESS #2 – REPENT (vs. 7-9)
7 “And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. 8 Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job. 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them: the Lord also accepted Job.”
Like the opening two chapters of the Book of Job, the conclusion returns to narrative prose. After Job repented of his bitterness and submitted to God, God turned His attention to pronouncing His displeasure with Job’s three friends. God addressed Eliphaz as the representative leader of the group and expressed His anger at them for incorrectly speaking about Him: “My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends” (vs. 7b). Their assertion that Job was guilty of sin because he suffered (based on the idea that only sinners suffer) was not true, and they needed to repent. The three friends showed no signs of backing down from their assertions, unlike Job, who in the end repented of his bitter heart. Job repented, and now it was time for his three friends to do the same.
God chose to show the friends grace in allowing Job to intercede on their behalf by offering sacrifices as a sign of their repentance. The text tells us they brought “seven bullocks” and “seven rams” to Job as God commanded.
Job acted as their mediator before God, just as he did for his children in Job 1:5. Moreover, by commanding that the friends go to Job and seek prayer indicates that they must seek his forgiveness as well as God’s. By using their exact names, “Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite,” God focused on the details necessary for repentance. This is a call for three specific people to repent of specific sins by following specific commands. Sin should never be seen as an abstract principle but as specific attitudes and actions that call for active repentance. In the end, the text indicates that they were restored in their relationship to Job as well as God because they responded as God had directed them.
There is a lesson that can be learned from the actions of Job’s friends throughout the book. There are times when God allows inexplicable suffering in the lives of His saints. Like Job’s friends, we must be careful in our help (even with the best intentions) to not increase their pain. The Book of Job teaches us that God is gentle even with misguided counselors. As we have seen before, we must be careful not to ascribe reasons or meaning for all suffering. Our first posture must be to weep with those who weep. God cares for our relationships with other Christians and calls us to intervene and even pray for them in times of struggle. Prayer for suffering saints, rather than philosophical pontifications or theological constructs, is the best response to their suffering.
In the case of Job, God’s command for him to intercede for his oppressors displays grace in full. Although God was angry with Job’s friends for their treatment of Job, it was God Himself who took the initiative to restore them. Furthermore, by making them depend on Job for their restoration, God dispelled their theology of earning God’s favor through their own righteous acts. They could not come to God through their own power but only through the prayers of another. In all of this, it becomes clear that Job prefigures a greater Intercessor who pleaded on behalf of His torturers. All of these things point to the grace of God in restoring sinners to Himself despite their unworthiness. Job points us to Jesus, who on the cross prayed for the forgiveness of those who would torture and execute Him (Luke 23:34). Just as God accepted Job’s prayer and reconciled the men to Himself and to Job, God accepts Christ’s work on our behalf to reconcile us to Himself and one another.
In a very real sense, the questions that arise from the Book of Job are answered in Jesus Christ. Why do the innocent suffer? That has only happened once. Jesus is the only truly innocent sufferer. And the reason for His suffering is made clear in the New Testament. Jesus suffered so that all who believe in Him could repent of their sin and be restored to God. Therefore, when someone suffers, they cannot properly ask if God loves them. Certainly He does. Suffering is no respecter of persons. If anyone ever doubts the love of God, they should look at the cross. There is no greater love than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends.
HOW DOES GOD’S GRACE TOWARD JOB’S FRIENDS GIVE US HOPE AS IMPERFECT FRIENDS? HOW DOES JOB’S INTERCESSION FOR HIS FRIENDS POINT US TO JESUS, WHO IS THE GREATEST FRIEND WE COULD EVER KNOW?
PROCESS #3 – RESTORED (vs. 10-11)
“10 And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”
At the close of the book, we are told how God “turned” Job’s life and fortunes. It is important to state that the end of the book does not confirm the friends’ theology of retribution. As we have seen, the innocent can suffer according to the will of God. The wicked can experience relative peace and blessings in this life. In the same way, we must remember that God did not necessarily restore Job’s life because he repented but because it was God’s good pleasure to do so.
Again, God is sovereign and will do what He wills. Job was never told why he suffered. He simply submitted to the wisdom of God and learned humility under His powerful hand. Assuming that God will always restore fortune to those who repent leads to the mistake that Job’s friends made for the entirety of the book. While there are general observable patterns for how the righteous and wicked fare in this life, we must be careful to not put God in a box.
In the case of Job in particular, his life was restored and his possessions doubled. It was in God’s good pleasure to tie Job’s restoration to his intercession on behalf of the friends who treated him so wrongly. Interestingly enough, Job’s restoration began with the very ones who had been so hard on him and had distanced themselves from him when he needed them most (Job 6:14-23; 19:13-22). With reconciliation comes restoration of relationships, and now they ate together and comforted one another, which is a reversal of what had happened before. Before, his friends had multiplied Job’s suffering, now they multiplied his wealth by presenting him with money and gold rings. What a wonderful ending to a painful and troubled life. In the end, Job died an old and happy man, leaving behind a large, prosperous family and beloved friends.
Once again, we must point out that God does not promise to restore all losses or to fully reward His people in this life. Job’s love for God was not dependent on the gifts and rewards that came from His hand. Now that God had revealed Himself to Job and Job had met Him face to face, he had a proper attitude toward God, knowing that God does not always reward everyone with a pain-free life. This teaches us that any good things we experience in this life are not deserved but are expressions of divine grace. There is nothing we can do to merit or earn God’s grace.
While these truths are evident in this life, there is a reward beyond our imagination for every righteous person in the age to come. Regardless if we suffer little or suffer deeply, prosperity and pleasantness await those who are found righteous in Christ. As Christians, we can be reminded that what God has in store for His redeemed people, will far outweigh any losses experienced in this life. In the new heavens and new earth, God’s people will receive an eternal reward that is unimaginable. Isn’t this the good news of the gospel for all who trust in God?
Job’s final speech shows his unstoppable God who is at work to heal and save and restore in ways too profound for human understanding. In the end, Job was treated by God better than he deserved. This greater-than-we-could-imagine treatment is available to all people in Jesus Christ. It really is breathtaking to consider the lengths God has gone to offer us the riches of eternity. In Jesus Christ we are treated better than we deserve. Christ took upon Himself what we deserve so that we could experience the eternal joy that only He deserves.
HOW DO THE ETERNAL REWARDS OF HEAVEN ALLOW US TO ACCEPT THE FACT THAT GOD MAY NOT VINDICATE US NOW OR RESTORE CERTAIN THINGS WE HAVE LOST IN HIS LIFE?
Remember our Objective Statement: Every believer should admit their need for God by following these three processes to absolute dependence.
PROCESS #1 – ADMIT
PROCESS #2 – REPENT
PROCESS #3 – RESTORED