The Book of Job - Part 10
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
November 19, 2017
We watched Job lose everything and suffer unimaginable pain in chapters 1-2. Emotional pain in that he lost his wealth and way more so his 10 children. Physical pain in that he lost his health and endured the effects of what were probably a number of diseases. And spiritual in that he felt abandoned by God, wondering why all this happened to him.
At the end of chapter 2 we saw his three friends arrive and do exactly what they should have, ministering silence and presence. In chapter 3 Job broke the silence with a heart wrenching lament, cursing the day he’d been born and wishing he were dead.
We might hope Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar might be understanding and helpful considering how well they started off. But we will be disappointed, as was Job.
Beginning with chapter four, thirty-four chapters are devoted to a back and forth between Job and his three friends (plus one more introduced at the end).
We won’t cover all these verse by verse, partly because it would be difficult but mostly because we don’t have to.
Though coming from different perspectives, all three friends say basically the same thing…
Job 4:7–8 (ESV) — 7 “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? 8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
Job 8:1–7 (ESV) — 1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said: 2 “How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind? 3 Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right? 4 If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. 5 If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, 6 if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation. 7 And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.
Job 11:1–12 (ESV) — 1 Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said: 2 “Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and a man full of talk be judged right? 3 Should your babble silence men, and when you mock, shall no one shame you? 4 For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’ 5 But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, 6 and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves. 7 “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? 8 It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? 9 Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. 10 If he passes through and imprisons and summons the court, who can turn him back? 11 For he knows worthless men; when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it? 12 But a stupid man will get understanding when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man!
Talk about rubbing salt in an open wound!
It is obvious all three friends held to a common belief: Only guilty people suffer before God, and thus are implying that it’s all Job’s fault.
Or as one pastor puts it, they are saying “Job wouldn’t be suffering like this unless he had failed to pray, trust, and obey God in some way. God would never be so unjust as to let all this happen unless Job had done something to deserve it. So if Job wants to be restored, he simply needs to confess all his known sins and get his life straight.”
Let’s just be honest. Sounds legit, doesn’t it? Especially if you read all the other stuff these guys say. Man, they are spiritual.
And we do observe in the Bible people suffering because they sinned against God. It was their fault.
King David, for example, committed murder and adultery and God brought down some serious judgment on him. And he suffered big time because of it.
The prophet Jonah, for another example, rebelled against God’s command to preach a message of repentance to the Ninevites, so he suffered a terrible ordeal in the belly of a great fish at God’s hand.
Certainly, sin does cause suffering for the saint. God uses it to show us the error of our ways and get us back on track, to discipline us like a father his child.
Eliphaz is actually right when he says…
Job 5:17 (ESV) — 17 “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.”
In fact, the Bible reveals that’s one of the ways we know we’re God’s children. He loves us enough to discipline us.
However, Zophar and the other two friends make this principle universal. They say suffering comes only to those who sin. They make it a formula:
Are you suffering? You must have sinned.
If we look deep into ourselves, we discover we hold to the same principle, whether we realize it or not.
When we hear of a brother or sister’s calamity, somewhere in the back of our minds we wonder. What did they do? Is there some deep dark secret in their life?
And even if we don’t wonder it out loud, we treat them like they did something wrong. I know of a pastor whose wife up and left him. He had done nothing wrong. It completely blindsided him. And in the middle of his pain he was let go.
Even if we don’t do that, we at least we hold to the inverse of the principle without realizing it.
Are you blessed? You must be living right.
In this way of seeing the world, only those who live righteously and please God are blessed with health and good fortune. It’s the same thing the three friends are saying, just applied from the opposite direction.
The question is does this formula prove true always?
Do the suffering only suffer because they sinned? Are the blessed only blessed because they are righteous? Were Job’s friends right? Ask…
What a story. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, having done nothing wrong. He served his master well anyway, only to be accused of trying to rape his wife. Thrown into prison, he served the jailkeeper well anyway, only to be forgotten for years.
There is never the slightest hint Joseph sinned in any way, yet he suffered terribly. After finally rising out of his plight into a high office in Egypt, he says to his brothers (the same ones who sold him into slavery)…
Genesis 50:20 (ESV) — 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
The blind man
John 9:1–3 (ESV) — 1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Luke 13:1–5 (ESV) — 1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
They wondered, what must these folks had done for God to judge them like that!
2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Or, finally, ask…
Chapters one and two give us the insight that Job nor his friends had. They make it clear this principle, this formula isn’t true. He was blameless; that was God declaration, not Job’s. And yet the horrors came like a tsunami.
Job didn’t know why he was suffering; he didn’t know about the wager between God and Satan, but he knew it wasn’t because of some hidden or unconfessed sin.
Job 13:15–19 (ESV) — 15 Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. 16 This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him. 17 Keep listening to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears. 18 Behold, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be in the right. 19 Who is there who will contend with me? For then I would be silent and die.
One of my favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption. In it a guy named Andy Dufresne goes to prison for a crime he did not commit. He could have plea bargained and got a lesser sentence and maybe enjoyed the better part of his life, but he refused. That meant admitting guilt to something he wasn’t guilty of.
Time and time again Job’s three friends pressed him to plea bargain and be restored, to plead guilty and get this over with. And every time Job refused because he knew he had not been unfaithful. That might sound presumptuous, but actually it reveals Job’s fierce uprightness.
He could have broken down and plea bargained with God in the hopes it might bring the suffering to an end. He could have pled guilty just in case. But he didn’t.
That, I think, may be one of the reasons God says in the end…
Job 42:7 (ESV) — 7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
Conclusion: One thing I’ve learned about God is He doesn’t like being put in a box, and he certainly doesn’t like being put into a formula.
I think that’s partly what the second of the ten commandments is about…
Exodus 20:4 (ESV) — 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Nothing on this earth can convey the greatness of who God is. He is too big, too high, too deep, too wide to be represented by any created thing. To try is to sin against Him.
In the same way, we can not ever truly know the fulness of His ways. We will never squeeze him into any formula.
One pastor writes…
“Even though Job’s friends can piece together strings of technically true statements, their pastoral mistakes stem from an inadequate grasp of the grace of God. [They think] suffering doesn’t happen naturally—it only happens if you live wrongly and bring it on yourself. But [they show] an ignorance of the teaching of Genesis 3:16, where God says that, because of sin, thistles and thorns will come up out of the ground—now for everyone. In other words, the world is broken by sin, and bad things do happen to people regardless of how well they live. Job’s friends therefore have a view of God that is very domesticated. There is never a mystery—if life goes well, it is because you are living rightly. If life does not go well, it must be your fault.
But … this puts God on a leash, as it were. “To bring God under obligation to a [human] morality … is a threat to His sovereignty.”
Jesus tells us…
Matthew 5:45 (ESV) — 45 … For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
And that is just the way it is.
Now, I imagine right about now you must be thinking, “This makes me uncomfortable. I get it that God is bigger than I could ever imagine, but knowing I can do everything right and still suffer is hard. Or that wicked people can do everything wrong and still prosper. That doesn’t seem fair.”
One of the things God is teaching me to do is take these hard things about Him, these difficult things and flip them around.
It is hard to handle that in his greatness he can’t be pressed into a formula, because it makes us feel safer. God is infinitely good, but he is not safe. But that same infinite greatness and goodness leaves us speechless when we consider what he did for us…
Romans 5:7–11 (ESV) — 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
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