Job 1-37 records a series of speeches between Job, his three older friends, and a younger listener named Elihu. Job justifies himself rather than God and sees himself as righteous. Now, however, a new speaker appears on the scene —God Himself. God calls Job to account before Himself, asking Job a series of questions determined to humble and rebuke him. In response, Job humbles himself before the Lord, acknowledges God’s power and justice, and admits that he is in the wrong. God restores Job’s losses when he prays for his friends; Job lives a full life with riches, respect, and three generations of descendants. “In the whole story of Job,” wrote G. Campbell Morgan, “we see the patience of God and endurance of man. When these act in fellowship, the issue is certain. It is that of the coming forth from the fire as gold, that of receiving the crown of life.” 1 No matter what God permits to come into our lives, He always has His “afterward.” He writes the last chapter —and that makes it worth it all.
At the conclusion of this lesson regarding Job’s conversation with God, students will be able to explain that the presence or absence of suffering in a person’s life does not reflect his standing before God.
Suffering or the lack of suffering i s not a reliable gauge to determine a man’s right standing with God. Outward appearances of success rarely indicate biblical faith; and outward appearances of failure rarely indicate a lack of faith. The answer to the question of suffering does not come by looking back at one’s past but by looking up to the Creator.
God allows what He hates to accomplish the good He loves--a child of His expressing simple faith in Him. Suffering doesn’t create faith--it reveals genuine faith, develops and matures that faith.
1 G. Campbell Morgan,
The Answers of Jesus to Job
, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1973), 117.
2 Warren W. Wiersbe,
(Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1996), s.v. Job 36:1.
Review what God has revealed about Himself and about humanity through the previous stories. Review the four filters through which man interprets his world. In the previous week we looked at Job’s conversations with his four friends. Today we look at Job’s final speech to his friends as he defends himself against their accusation that unrighteousness on his part causes his present suffering. The text then introduces the LORD’s conversation with Job.
1. Job defends himself from his friends accusations by looking back at his life for verification of righteousness.
Job looks back at past blessings ( 29:1-25) It is easy to walk with God when life is good and you ‘feel’ blessed. Good times, however, rarely develop the kind of faith that pleases God. Six times in verses 2-11 Job looks back over his life to the times he ‘felt’ blessed by God, “When God watched over me”: • When His lamp shone upon my head and when by His light I walked through darkness (verse 3) —a time when God made Job’s way clear. • When the friendly counsel of God was over my tent (verse 4) —a time when God was intimate with Job. • When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were around me (verse 5) —a time when the family prospered. • When my steps were bathed with cream and the rock poured out rivers of oil for me (verse 6) —a time of full cupboards and barns • When I went out to the gate by the city, when I took my seat in the open square (verse 7) —a time of admiration by others • When the ear heard, then it blessed me, and when the eye saw, then it approved me (verse 11) —a time of exaltation B.
Job also looks back at past deeds to validate his righteousness (Job 29:12-25) • I delivered the poor, the fatherless, and the one who had no helper (verse 12), I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy (verse 13); I was eyes to the blind and I was feet to the lame (verse 15) —Job provided for those without. • I put on righteousness and it clothed me. My justice was like a robe and a turban (verse 14) —Job was known as a man of integrity and justice. • I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the case that I did not know (verse 16) —Job fully committed his life to helping others. • I broke the fangs of the wicked and plucked the victim from his teeth (verse 17) — Job punished the wicked predators who preyed upon the weak.
• Men listened to me and waited and kept silent for my counsel (verse 21) —Job was a “man’s man.” • I chose the way for them, and sat as chief, so I dwelt as a king in the army, as one who comforts mourners (verse 25) —Job held a position of prominence. Everyone wants to rule over others, but suffering as a sickly outcast opens the eyes of the heart.
2. Job looks up as he interacts with God and understands the source of righteousness. God redirects Job’s gaze upward and takes him to the apex of His wisdom and greatness by a series of questions (Job 37:14 - 41:34)
Job fails to
to God and His greatness until the LORD forces Job to look upward by asking him seventy questions beginning with, “Listen to this, O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know when God dispatches them, and causes the light to shine?” (37:14-15). Each question demands an answer that Job cannot give. God’s question midway through His list of questions, “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?” (40:2), brings Job to his knees in surrender to the Lord. Only God existed before creation; therefore, Job’s small answer demonstrates that an upward look grants an accurate view of self. “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer. Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further” (40:4). God continues His interrogation until Job sees God as Omnipotent and Sovereign.
3. Job sees 20/20 (Job 42:1-6)
Job recognizes God has a purpose for everything--even suffering. He also recognizes that he is in way over his head. “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know . . . I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3, 5-6).
What does this lesson teach us about God? Man? Sin? Redemption? • Heavenly operations are hidden from man and, therefore, during times of suffering, require man’s faith in the revealed character of God. Heaven will one day fully reveal the spiritual benefits of suffering; therefore, we must wait for that day. • Suffering doesn’t originate with God but is permitted by God for His own redemptive and sanctifying purposes. Suffering has redemptive possibilities as it awakens man to ask questions about life, purpose, and God. • God, Satan, and humanity all question motives. Only God knows the motive of a man’s heart. Satan always imposes His motives upon man. Fellow men often misinterpret each other’s motives and actions. Suffering reveals Job’s motive in loving God--He simply loves and fears God.
• Circumstances are not reliable gauges to spiritual realities. Personal wealth and health do not prove spiritual well-being. A person of poverty and physical brokenness may be spiritually healthy. Christians must resist questioning the upright walk of a fellow believer who experiences suffering. • God’s purposes in suffering often remain hidden. God used Job to expose the wrong theology of Eliphaz (observation & experience), Bildad (tradition, man’s wisdom from the past), and Zophar (reason). God’s ways must be revealed by God. People today benefit from Job’s suffering (James 5:11). God never wastes the suffering of His saints. • Job’s story reveals man’s limitations. Suffering reveals his smallness, powerlessness, and mortality. Suffering prompts people to think about spiritual things, causes, and God . C. S. Lewis describes the voice of suffering, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.” 3
through asking a series of questions to reveal His power, wisdom, and sovereignty. God speaks to J ob’s friends to instruct them to offer sacrifices through Job.
by accepting Job’s sacrifices, restoring his losses, honoring his prayers, and blessing his latter end.
His creative wisdom and power--these seventy questions only expose the tip of the iceberg of God’s limitless knowledge and power. Romans 8:28 is ALWAYS true because of WHO GOD IS. Circumstances are the least reliable gauge to ascertaining spiritual health.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18. How did Paul view suffering? What motivated him to endure his various afflictions? How does his view of suffering relate to Job’s story? Paul and James both offered a strange view of trials (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:1-5); what is their view? Why does it seem strange, and how can we integrate this view in our lives today? 3 C. S. Lewis,
The Problem of Pain: The Intellectual Problem Raised by Human Suffering, Examined With Sympathy and Realism
(New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1976), 93.