Job Lesson 4
CENTRAL THEME: God’s wisdom is found in fearing and obeying Him.
INTRODUCTION: Have you ever heard someone make the false claim that once you become a believer, all of your troubles will go away? Of course, that is not taught anywhere in the Word of God. A true follower of Jesus will have hope, joy, and peace in the midst of adversity and difficult circumstances, but they will have problems because we all live in a sin cursed world. People today are seeking words of wisdom and dependable counsel concerning how to navigate life’s challenges. We may search the Internet looking for the right piece of advice or help we need. We may fill our bookshelves with self-help books. While it is true others may offer helpful advice in life, the Bible reveals that the source and goal of wisdom is God; true wisdom comes from Him and leads to Him. Job 28:12-28 emphasizes this truth. QUESTION: How might a person determine if the advice he or she is getting has merit? How do we know we can trust the source for wisdom?
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT:
Job’s friends did not let up, they had reached their verdict. Job must be guilty. What was their evidence? It came down to the fact that Job had experienced extreme suffering. According to them, his sin had brought all of this about. In fact, chapter 22 lays out the case as plain as it can be. Again, according to his mistaken friends, Job’s circumstances revealed his hidden evil, and he needed to repent. Job’s reply in chapters 23–24, suggested that God had chosen him as an instrument of suffering. Bildad attempted to reply in chapter 25, but Job abruptly interrupted him and further asserted that an explanation of the trial was ultimately hidden in divine mystery. Job’s friends had no more arguments or comfort to offer him.
Job’s friends became silent after their final plea. Job, however, had more to say. In chapter 28, he launched off on a monologue and offered a profound reflection on God’s wisdom, utilizing all of creation as points in his speech. In the last three chapters of this section (chaps. 29–31), the reader is set up for Job’s final case. Job began with reflection on his blessed life before tragedy (chap. 29), only to follow it with a lamentable summary about his dreadful present situation (chap. 30). From here, Job offered one final appeal of his innocence and then fell into silence himself (chap. 31). Job and his friends exhausted their verbal ammunition and argued themselves further apart. One thing is clear, Job realized that neither him nor his friends had any WISDOM to offer in this matter. Therefore, his only hope was to be able to stand before God to be vindicated (23:1-17). Job and his friends explored all the human wisdom available. Now the question was where wisdom could be found. This lesson in humility is important for every believer. As we have seen before, God does not always reveal the reasons for His activity. Even in the things God does reveal, He often does not exhaustively reveal His plans. Certainly, what God chooses to reveal is sufficient. For those who have learned to trust in Him, that should be enough.
EXPLORE THE TEXT: JOB 28:12-28
Objective Statement: Every believer can find satisfaction by recognizing four steps in God’s divine offer of His wisdom.
STEP #1 – VALUED (vs. 12-19)
12 But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? 13 Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. 14 The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. 15 It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. 16 It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. 17 The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold. 18 No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies. 19 The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold.
“But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?” This question is at the heart of almost all human endeavors to uncover the mysteries of the universe. The search for wisdom has driven philosophers and scientists to the highest peaks of human achievement. Yet, all the human ability in the world put forth in the efforts to find wisdom will end in futility. In essence, no human has the ability to discover wisdom in his or her own power independent of God.
The wisdom of God is beyond our comprehension. It cannot be purchased with any human resources. In fact, Job argued that no one even knows its price. Building his case, Job listed the most precious resources mined from the earth and showed their inadequacy to pay the price for wisdom (vv. 15-19). WHAT ITEMS DOES JOB LIST CLAIMING THEY CANNOT COMPARE TO THE VALUE OF WISDOM? (gold, silver, onyx, sapphire, coral, pearls, rubies, or topaz cannot come close to rivaling the value of wisdom. This is a point with which the teacher of Ecclesiastes would certainly nod in agreement.)
It is instructive to read this section of the text in the context of the arguments of Job’s friends. They claimed that Job loved God because of the gifts that he possessed. As we have seen, all of these gifts had been taken away form Job. In 22:21-26, Eliphaz accused Job of loving gold and silver more than God. Underneath all of these arguments was the insinuation that poor Job was GREEDY, presumably this could be the sin his friends suspected of Job. However, Job defended his innocence the entire time and never indicated that he struggled with greed. His friends based their arguments on a wrong premise, and Job had been trying to show them their mistake the whole time. The comparison between wealth and wisdom is a thread that can be located in many places in the Bible.
The Book of Proverbs, which is also classified as wisdom literature along with the Book of Job, compares wealth and wisdom as well. Just like Job, the writer of Proverbs teaches that wisdom cannot be purchased with wealth. Wisdom literature is primarily focused on wise living and is application driven. All the wealth in the world cannot buy wisdom, which is a crown of honor. Wisdom cannot be purchased, nor can it be found by human exploration. Wisdom does not reside in the “land of the living” or in the deepest depths of the sea (28:13b-14). In the ancient world, bodies of water were often regarded as the personification of chaos and evil. Whether in good or evil, order or chaos, the wisdom of God cannot be found by human ingenuity. The wise person, according to the inspired writers of wisdom literature, values and treasures godly wisdom over all worldly treasure and earthly exploits. The implicit command here to treasure divine wisdom reflects the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21, with a reminder that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. Job seems to have understood this, even though his friends claimed that his treasure amounted of worldly things. Like Job, we should treasure the Giver above the gifts. This is true wisdom.
STEP #2 – HIDDEN (vs. 20-22)
20 Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? 21 Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. 22 Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.
Verse 20 begins like verse 12. “Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?” Job began by proclaiming that wisdom is invaluable compared to earthly wealth, and it is inaccessible by human abilities. In this section, Job turned his attention to the entirety of creation. Not only is wisdom hidden from the creatures who dwell on the earth, it is also elusive to the creatures of the sky. Even “fowls of the air,” who have the highest vantage point, cannot find wisdom. No creature is equipped for this task! The usage of creation in Job’s argument was a genius move on his part. In it he effectively closed his case that creatures cannot find all of the answers they are looking for in the theater of creation. This type of wisdom is found somewhere else.
Job then drew the readers’ attention below the earth, to “Destruction and death.” (vs. 21). Destruction is the Hebrew word Abaddon. Abaddon is a parallel to the grave. In the Old Testament, it means the place of utter ruin, death, or destruction (Ps. 88:11; Prov. 15:11). In Revelation 9:11, Abaddon is depicted as a bottomless pit. Essentially Job was saying, regardless of how high (birds) or low (grave) you go, the wisdom of God cannot be obtained. This sentiment is often expressed today when someone (even a non-Christian) says, “if only I could see the whole picture.” Or more grimly, “perhaps all will be revealed to me after I am dead.” When looking in all the wrong places, the search for wisdom can bring someone to despair. It is a difficult lesson to come to terms with what Job argued in verses 21-22, namely, that the creatures of earth, heaven, and the underworld cannot grasp true wisdom apart from the source of wisdom – GOD! However, we also understand from the Bible that the wise person searches for godly wisdom. WHY DO PEOPLE FIND COMFORT IN THE HOPE THAT ALL OF THEIR QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED IN THE LIFE TO COME?
STEP #3 – FOUND (vs. 23-27)
23 God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. 24 For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven;
After Job led the reader on a search for wisdom, both high and low, and consulted the earth’s creatures, he proclaimed that God alone knows where to find wisdom. Only God “understandeth the way thereof.” God is the only one who “knoweth the place thereof.” People cannot find wisdom in the skies over the earth. They cannot find wisdom in the depths under the earth. But God has the vantage point to see all, “to the ends of the earth.” He “seeth under the whole heaven.” Verses 25-27 say, “25 To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. 26 When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: 27 Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out.” The truth stated in verses 23-24 is now grounded in the doctrine of creation. As almighty Creator, God alone knows where wisdom has been placed. After all, it was God who made “the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure.” Likewise, it was God who “made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder.” Because God has established the order of creation, He alone can reveal wisdom to humanity. It is important to remind ourselves that everything God has revealed is an act of His grace. The creator God is not bound to reveal wisdom to any of His creatures. Yet, He chooses to do so in love. Even though He does not reveal all things exhaustively, what He does reveal is sufficient for all of life and godliness. While God reveals His wisdom to those who faithfully seek Him, that does not mean He will reveal all the reasons behind what happens to us and around us. Certainly, that was part of Job’s dilemma. He desired God’s Wisdom to understand why he was in the vortex of this great test of his faith. Although he did not have many answers, he accepted that God was in control and that someday, he might have enough illumination to see more of God’s perfect plan. In it all, Job trusted God, even though his “friends” completely missed the purpose of God’s working.
We must learn to trust God in the things He has not revealed or the things we cannot understand. Ultimately, this comes down to our understanding of the character of God. If we believe God is good and loving, we can be comfortable with mystery. If we believe that God is all wise, then we can submit ourselves to His providential hand. We must learn like Job that only God is the source of true wisdom. Moreover, God’s wisdom is seen in His creative work. If the heavens declare the glory of God, can we not also declare His benevolence? True wisdom and glory belongs to God alone. If we do not proclaim this truth, then the rocks of the earth will cry out in our place (Luke 19:40). This truth takes us to our final step about Wisdom.
STEP #4 – OFFERED (vs. 28)
28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
It has become clear throughout our text that true wisdom not only belongs to God but is also found only in God. What then is the key to accessing this wisdom? To answer this question, Job utilized a phrase that is common in biblical wisdom literature, namely, that wisdom is found in “the fear of the Lord.” (vs. 28) (See also Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; Job 28:28; Eccl. 12:13.) This theme is common in all of Scripture. The Law of Moses cites the fear of God as a reason to treat the disabled and elderly well (Lev. 19:14, 32). Moses chose leaders on the basis that they feared God and wouldn’t take bribes (Ex. 18:21). Moses also told the Israelites that God met with them in a terrifying display of His power so that they wouldn’t sin (Ex. 20:20). Even in the New Testament, we are told that a chief sin of mankind is “there is no fear of God” (Rom. 3:18).
In Job 28:28, the word translated “Lord” is the Hebrew word “Adonai,” which was often voiced as a replacement for “Yahweh” by ancient Jews when reading or praying Scripture. The qualifying sentence, “to depart from evil is understanding,” indicates that wisdom is found in fearing God and turning away from evil. Once again, the fear of God is linked to a moral command. In the case of Job, it seems that he was primarily focused on one’s respectful attitude or subservient relationship to God, which is expressed in pursuing holiness or an aversion to evil.
The concept of fearing God and turning away from evil is important for understanding the Book of Job as a whole. Job’s friends assumed that he had done something evil, though he maintained his innocence. In the last session, we followed Job’s plea with his friends to beware of wrongly ascribing evil to him, which was evil itself and would bring about judgment on them. In sum, the fear of God is a deep reverence brought about by the presence of God, who is vastly more powerful than any human being. The fear of God is a humble posture of submissive reverence.
True wisdom, then, begins with the fear of God. To fear God is to stand in awe of Him. God is the almighty Creator; we are mere creatures. God is sovereign; we are dependent. God is holy; we are sinners. As we have already seen in Scripture, we demonstrate that we fear God by keeping His commandments. If we acknowledge God as our King, we will naturally seek to do what He says. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote that “this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13). It’s not just our duty, it’s our essence. God created us to stand in awe of Him and keep His commandments. As one sage rightly stated, “My job is to be obedient to God. God’s job is everything else.” That’s the way to fulfill God’s plan for us. If God created us, He certainly knows what is best for us because it leads to repentance of sin and the pursuit of righteous living. This was the lesson Job was struggling to comprehend!
All of us have failed to fear God rightly and thus to live the perfectly wise life. There is only One who has walked the earth in perfect wisdom, and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the wisdom of God for us (1 Cor. 1:18-24). What we see then, is that the Christian life does not rest in the wisdom of man (a theme that Job explores thoroughly) but in the power of God.
Would those who know you say that you are a “God fearer”? If so, why do they make that claim of your life?
Remember our Objective Statement: Every believer can find satisfaction by recognizing four steps in God’s divine offer of His wisdom.
STEP #1 – VALUED!
STEP #2 – HIDDEN!
STEP #3 – FOUND!
STEP #4 – OFFERED!