Job Lesson 3
Central Theme: Believers can trust God to be faithful to them.
Introduction: A person doesn’t have to be alone to be lonely. We can be surrounded by people and yet not feel connected to them. That can happen even when sitting at a table with people we would count as friends. Such was the case with Job. He was surrounded by so-called friends and yet experienced the sting of abandonment and loneliness because they had turned against him. However, Job realized that even though his friends had abandoned him, the Lord never would.
Think about a time when you felt alone even though you were surrounded by people. What factors make a person feel alone even when in a crowd?
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT: Job 15:1–21:34 follows the dialogue between Job and his three friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar). Job’s friends assumed that his circumstances indicated he was at fault for his suffering and needed to repent. Throughout the dialogue, Job insisted he was innocent and there was no hidden guilt underlying his suffering.
Ultimately, Job believed God allowed suffering to fall on him—had providentially allowed it—without providing him a reason. In times of suffering we often look for meaning. However, there are times when no there is no explanation other than we live in a broken and sinful world. In general, suffering is no respecter of persons.
The Book of Job addresses issues of suffering, the problem of evil, the justification for God’s mysterious ways, the meaning of faith, and the nature of the relationship between God and mankind. But a key question of the book is this: What is the nature of wisdom and where can it be found? In Job, we learn that the order of the universe is not fully revealed to us, and we must learn to trust in the God who presides over the universe.
Job’s friends maintained the belief that he was suffering punishment for some wickedness in his life. In Job’s responses, he refused to accept their explanation of his predicament, and he would not take responsibility for what they claimed (19:2-6).
In chapter 19, Job responded in anger with complaints concerning Bildad’s treatment of him. In essence, Job asked how his friend Bildad could live with himself after harassing Job in this way, which added to his suffering (vs2-3). The focus of this chapter, however, doesn’t fall completely on Job’s friends. In fact, vs4-22 is essentially a charge against God. Job indicated that if indeed he had made a mistake, which he hadn’t, it would be in response to the treatment he had received from God. In other words, he was not suffering this treatment from God because of a previous action.
At the conclusion of this speech, Job uttered some of the most famous words of the entire book when he expressed incredible hope in a heavenly Redeemer (vv. 23-29). Believers can trust God to be faithful to them. Let’s see how Job trusted God by looking at three responses of Job in this chapter.Let’s Explore THE TEXT by looking at Job’s response concerning his:
1. FAILING FRIENDS (Job 19:19-22)
V19 “All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me.” So far in the book, Job wondered why God was treating him the way He was. At the beginning of chapter 19, Job expanded on his questioning and lamented at the way his family and friends had despised him as well. Job’s friends assumed he was to blame for his suffering. In v4, however, Job proposed that even if he had done something wrong (even unintentionally), that was his own problem and he certainly did not need others to compound it by treating him without compassion.
His friends had mounted their case against him, but Job deflected their accusations, and aimed them at God in v6-8. God was the One who had providentially allowed Job’s suffering, and He had not issued a reply to Job’s cries for an explanation. The imagery Job utilized is striking, namely that God had hunted him like a wild animal and had treated him like an enemy, laying siege against him. With this as the context, Job focused on the problem at hand.
The suffering he experienced had caused discord in all of his relationships. Not only did his family find him repulsive (vs13-18), his inward friends (closest) betrayed him (v19). From Job’s perspective, no one was helping him. His friends were only adding to his suffering. One might expect sympathy from close friends, but in this case Job’s friends only turned against him. Unfortunate as it was, Job was alone in his misery.
V20 “My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.” Job shifted his focus from the anguish caused by his friends to his own personal suffering. He utilized metaphor to explain that he was holding on for dear life. Not only did his skin barely cling to his bones, but he was barely making it by the skin of his teeth, symbolizing a close escape. This common idiomatic expression, which is still used today, communicates just barely accomplishing or avoiding something.
It is clear from the book as a whole that Job’s emotional and physical suffering witnessed to the fact that he had narrowly escaped his own death. It is amazing, considering the intensity of his trial, that Job still had his bearings.
V21-22 “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me. 22 Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?” In light of this predicament, Job begged his friends for pity. He was being touched by God and could use a break from the blows he was receiving from them. Again, his closest friends not only pursued him but also added to his persecution.
The question raised by Job was why his friends continued their relentless pressure on him. The final words issued in v22 are heartbreaking. Job basically asked, “When will enough be enough?” But not only would his friends continue to debate him, in the ensuing chapters God also would challenge him. Job’s suffering seemed to have no end, and there was no relief in sight.
How long would Job’s friends persist in accusing him and feel no shame for doing so? Even if Job had done wrong, it was God’s prerogative to execute judgment, not theirs. They weren’t helping him. They were adding to his suffering.
It is difficult to imagine the pain of having close friends react this way. One cannot help but be reminded of the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:15 to “weep with those who weep.” True friends are to identify with the others in the “ups and downs” of life. Friends should be a healing balm in painful times. People enduring hardships need others to show compassion to them. When there are sorrows, true friends minister sympathy.
If anything, the reaction of Job’s friends in this book serve as an example of what not to do. What are practical ways we can minister to others in times of suffering if we don’t have the answers to why they are suffering?
Job’s second response shows his trust in:
2. LIVING REDEEMER (Job 19:23-27)
Job’s words in vs23-27 stand apart as the most notable in the entire book. It is significant that these words of hope abruptly appear after an onslaught of despairing comments. This is a sudden expression of trust in God was a powerful note of certainty in the midst of confusing and even chaotic suffering.
Vs23-24 “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! 24 That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!” Job expressed his desire for his words to be recorded, graven with an iron pen and lead in rock to last forever. Perhaps Job saw his life coming to an end and wanted these hopeful words to serve as his legacy for future generations. His desire was for his words to stand as a monument to be preserved to give wisdom for those who came after him. In many ways, this book itself serves as the fulfillment of his expressed desires.
Vs25-27 “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
The climax of this section stands out in v25, where Job declared with confidence that his Redeemer liveth. In the Bible, the concept of a redeemer is first laid out in Leviticus 25, where a close relative may come to the aid of a suffering family member in distress over property (Lev. 25:25-38) or one who needed support for personal well being (Lev. 25:47-55). In the Book of Ruth, Boaz not only functioned in both of these ways for Ruth but also took her to be his wife. God is referred to as a redeemer in several Old Testament passages (Pss. 19:14; 77:15; Isa. 41:14-16; 43:14; 48:17). In Exodus, God redeemed His people from slavery in Egypt (6:6; 15:13). All of these images together paint a picture that points to Christ the Messiah and Redeemer of His people.
In this passage, Job expresses his faith in God as his Redeemer. Job envisioned this Redeemer triumphing over the grave for Job’s benefit. As v26 makes clear, Job expected he would be vindicated in a “face-to-face” meeting with God. This is a powerful statement of faith from a man whose plea throughout the text had been to gain an audience with God. He would not only receive a face-to-face meeting with God, but God would rise from the earth to redeem him.
While the idea of Redeemer does not find its fullest expression until the New Testament in Jesus, here in the Book of Job the concept is central to Job’s hope. This hope is first found in 9:32-35, where Job spoke of a mediator between himself and God. This mediator would allow Job not only to stand before God but also speak before God. In 16:19-21 this idea is developed further, where the mediator is believed to arbitrate with God on behalf of Job.
As New Testament believers, we understand that ultimately Jesus Christ is the Mediator who will not only allow us to stand before God, but who also died for our sin so that He could plead our case before God the Father.
It seems that Job affirmed not only that God heard his cries—even though He had been silent—but also that God would answer him in a personal meeting. It is not clear when Job believed this meeting would take place. Regardless if Job understood this meeting as taking place before he died or in the bodily resurrection, the truth still stood to provide hope “even after after my skin worms destroy this body.” As believers, we affirm the existence of life after death and can live with confidence in God’s redemption. Job expressed in 14:25 “…all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.”
We also have a sure and mighty hope in a physical resurrection. This reminds us of the words of Paul, which echo Job’s words: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55). In light of this, we can give great thanks to God in the midst of suffering. He “giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).
On his day of redemption, Job believed that he and God would not meet as strangers but as two intimately familiar with one another. The very thought of such a meeting caused his heart to long within him. We will see later in the book that Job would see God (42:5), and after God prompted his repentance, would restore or redeem him. Even before that day, in this passage even, Job declared his confidence in God who would validate his claim of innocence.
How might we apply the truth that Christ lives, and lives to make intercession for us before God, to the heart of a sufferer?
3. WARNING ISSUED (Job 19:28-29)
Verses 28-29 “But ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me? 29 Be ye afraid of the sword: for wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword, that ye may know there is a judgment.”
After exploring and expressing the future hope he had in redemption, Job now directed the next words to his friends and issued them a warning. The punishment they declared he was undergoing would be the punishment they may experience themselves. Job’s friends saw his suffering as the common lot that falls upon the wicked. Because Job was suffering, they condemned him as wicked and wrongly asserted he was only getting what he deserved. Their harsh judgment continued despite Job’s declaration that he was innocent of the very things with which they charged him.
Why did the friends spend chapter after chapter assuring Job that he had warranted God’s anger, despite Job’s claims of innocence? Maybe it was because if Job had done nothing to deserve his suffering, the same suffering might fall on them. This possibility would be unsettling. If God allows suffering among the most pious and innocent, why should they expect to receive different from God? After all, the Bible teaches us that God will render to each according to his works (Psalm 62:12) but also calls for trust as God works out judgment according to His purposes.
These truths make Job’s final words in this passage all the more searching. In fact, Job argued that they should fear the sword themselves. The utilization of sword imagery in Job 19:29 is notable as well. According to Deuteronomy 19:16-19, false testimony demands the same penalty that would have been issued to the accused. Giving false testimony breaks the ninth commandment (Ex. 20:16) and has vast implications on others (Ps. 27:12; Prov. 6:19; 12:17,19; 14:5; 19:5,9; 25:18). For this reason, proper judgment and punishment deters people from such actions. The seriousness of false testimony is weighty, and Job’s friends should have weighed their own assumptions and words carefully.
How does the truth that we will be judged by the same standard we judge others teach us to measure our words and sometimes keep our mouths shut?
Job’s warning to his friends was an act of compassion. This is especially moving, considering how they had treated him. Every warning before the final judgment is an act of mercy. At the end of the book, Job’s friends escaped the deadly consequences they deserved only by virtue of Job’s prayers for them. (See 42:7-9.) What an exemplary friend Job was! What a fine example of steadfastness he provides us! James 5:11 reminds us: “Behold, we count them happy which endure. 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.”
This passage provides a warning to all of us concerning how we treat others, and specifically a warning to be slow to judge others based on our perceptions. A clear hope in meeting God face to face should not only bolster our steadfastness and faithfulness, but should also prompt us to speak the truth to others, even warning them of what’s to come.
Job looked forward to being restored after his death and to seeing the Lord face to face. One day, Job would see God as He is. This should remain the hope of all Christians as well.
For believers, the sight of God will be welcomed and will incite worship. For the wicked, the sight of God will bring about judgment and horror. Before our last breath, we need to come to a right relationship with God. If we truly believe that our Redeemer lives and we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, then we have nothing to fear. However, if we have not bowed the knee to the living Redeemer, Jesus Christ, we will bow one day in fear.
What do we learn from this lesson today? We have learned that:
- Even when our friends fail us, believers can trust God to be faithful to them.
- Sometimes our circumstances will have no explanation.
- We can trust God even when it seems He is silent.
- For ourselves, we need to be strengthened in the truth that we have hope in the redemption that will one day be ours in Christ.
- Finally we should be careful to love others and help bear their burdens when they are going through inexplicable suffering.