The Book of Job - Part 12
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
January 28, 2018
We have taken about a six-week break in our Job study, and I think that’s a good thing. Though it’s a book often overlooked, it’s rich and full of practical yet faith-stretching truth.
You know the story by now. Job was, and I’m quoting God here, “blameless and upright.” That doesn’t mean he was perfect or sinless but that his ways were straight in regards to God. He followed the straight path of righteousness overall.
Job had this great walk with God and he had great wealth, some even think he may have been a king. On top of that he enjoyed a great family with great relationships. If you had asked Job how life was back in the day he would have said, “Great!”
But trouble began when God offered him to Satan as an example of a good servant. Satan said, “Sure he is because you have given him great wealth, great status, and a great family. But take all that away and he’ll curse you to your face.” In other words, Satan accused Job of serving faithfully because he wanted God’s blessings but not God.
And for reasons hard to understand, God allowed Satan to take away his wealth and status, his family save a wife, and eventually his health to prove Satan wrong. This intense suffering entered Job’s life not because he had done anything wrong but because he had done everything right.
As Job sat in the local garbage dump, nursing festering sores and grieving over his losses, three friends came to console him. They did anything but offer comfort! Job’s friends believed only the unrighteous suffer, so Job must have done something to offend God. Most of the book follows the back and forth between Job and his friends: they accuse him of secret sin and he declares his innocence, begging for a chance to plead his case before the Almighty.
As much as I would love to cover these discourses verse-by-verse, we are going to fast forward near their end to a chapter that seems out of place. The three friends are done talking, and Job is winding down his defense. Out of the blue, he starts talking about mining…
Job 28:1–11 (ESV) — 1 “Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold that they refine. 2 Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from the ore. 3 Man puts an end to darkness and searches out to the farthest limit the ore in gloom and deep darkness. 4 He opens shafts in a valley away from where anyone lives; they are forgotten by travelers; they hang in the air, far away from mankind; they swing to and fro. 5 As for the earth, out of it comes bread, but underneath it is turned up as by fire. 6 Its stones are the place of sapphires, and it has dust of gold.
It should come as no surprise to you that when I read this I think of The Lord of the Rings and the dwarves who worked and lived in the deep, dark mines of Moria that ran beneath the Misty Mountains. Has nothing to do with this message.
7 “That path no bird of prey knows, and the falcon’s eye has not seen it. 8 The proud beasts have not trodden it; the lion has not passed over it. 9 “Man puts his hand to the flinty rock and overturns mountains by the roots. 10 He cuts out channels in the rocks, and his eye sees every precious thing. 11 He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle, and the thing that is hidden he brings out to light.
It is important when we read this to remember how very ancient the book of Job is. It is possibly the oldest book in the Bible going back over 4,000 years (possibly 6,000 or better!). And here is a detailed account of sophisticated mining methods.
Job is impressed with man’s resourcefulness in making the earth give up her hidden riches. He hunts and digs and even moves mountains in his search for precious metals and stones, bringing them out of the darkness and into the light.
Man is mighty smart; what he pulls out of the earth’s depths is mighty valuable, but…
Job 28:12–22 (ESV) — 12 “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?
This is the heart of chapter 28 (and an important bridge to what’s coming). Some scholars even call this chapter a hymn to what Job’s mention here. WISDOM.
When we think of wisdom we probably think of knowledge or experience, maybe good judgment. Some might even equate it with common sense.
Others might see it as the ingenuity of man, his ability to understand things, to make things, to overcome things, much like the men who mine the earth in our hymn here.
Wisdom is those things from an earthly perspective. But what Job refers to here is more than that. The wisdom he speaks of is more valuable than anything mined from the earth; it’s an understanding beyond what man is capable of on his own. The kind of wisdom Job’s interested in…
13 Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living. 14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ 15 It cannot be bought for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price. 16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire. 17 Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. 18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls. 19 The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold. 20 “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? 21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air. 22 Abaddon and Death say, ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’
Now you techies (and a techie is someone familiar with technology) know I’m a Mac guy. I use a computer - as well as other tech products - made by Apple. Some of you are PC/Android guys. I’m sorry (there’s an ongoing war between Apple and PC/Android much like Alabama and Auburn).
I like Apple products because they are just better and cooler. Recently I visited an amazing place called the Apple Store. All things Apple are there.
But there are a few Apple products you can only get at the Apple store at their headquarters in Cupertino, California: fancy and expensive mugs, pens, t-shirts, and the like. Those items are exclusive to that store and found nowhere else. Neat.
There is a place true wisdom is found and nowhere else, a wisdom more valuable than and beyond anything man can produce. Who knows the way to that kind wisdom and understanding?
Job 28:23–27 (ESV) — 23 “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. 24 For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. 25 When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, 26 when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, 27 then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out.
If we had time we’d spend weeks looking at this because these verses point us to something fascinating about wisdom. Note how Job takes us back to the beginning, when God created all things, implying that wisdom, like everything else, was established, even created by him. And look at this in Proverbs 8, where wisdom is not a principle or idea, but a person…
Proverbs 8:22–31 (ESV) — 22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26 before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.
It’s interesting that wisdom is personified in the Bible as a woman. Those women who have husbands or brothers get that.
The wisdom of Job 28 and Proverbs 8 has her source in God. She is beyond man’s wisdom and more valuable than anything man offers. But how does she express herself in our lives? That’s seen in the next verse…
Job 28:28 (ESV) — 28 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ”
Job, unsurprisingly, is considered a wisdom book in the Bible, along with Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. The truth of verse 28 here runs through them all like a thread…
Psalm 111:10 (ESV) — 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
Proverbs 9:10 (ESV) — 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV) — 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
Note the connection between wisdom and understanding or insight. There is a difference between knowledge and understanding. You can have great knowledge and still not have understanding.
You see “…understanding… means insight [into] how things work. [Wisdom is] putting to use what you know so you get things done. Wisdom, therefore, is not just knowledge of facts. Wisdom is knowing what to do with the facts once you get them.”
Man is crafty and smart. In ancient times he understood how to mine the depths of the earth and produce treasures of gold, silver, and precious stones. Those things made a fellow wealthy and powerful, but they didn’t bring happiness. Wars were fought over attaining them. Atrocities were committed in the pursuit of them. Understanding without wisdom.
Ancient man also understood religion, morality, and social norms. The Jews, perhaps, were the greatest example of this. They kept their faith’s culture, practices, and peculiarities century after century, exile after exile. Yet with all their religious knowledge, they still fell short of pleasing God. When God came down in the flesh, they rejected him. Understanding without wisdom.
In modern times, man has unlocked the mysteries of the atom and so much more. Through science and technology, he has created wonders approaching the borders of our imagination. But at the same time he has attempted to replace God with them, or at the least eliminate the need for God. Understanding without wisdom.
Within modern Christianity, there is more access to discipleship resources and information on our faith than ever before, yet we find ourselves in the same place as the Laodiceans in the letters to the seven churches where Jesus said…
Revelation 3:15–17 (ESV) — 15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
We can quote hundreds of Bible verses and maybe be able to read Greek or Hebrew or have devoured 1, 2, and 3 John - the works of John MacArthur, John Piper, and John Calvin - and still not have wisdom….
Charles Spurgeon said, “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as the knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”
Gerhard von Rad, who wrote a book on the wisdom literature of Israel, defined the kind of wisdom Job highlighted as, “becoming competent with regard to the realities of life. Knowing how things really happen, knowing how things really are, and knowing what to do about it.”
Wisdom is, for the want of a better way to phrase it, where the rubber meets the road in faith. It’s where theology and practicality meet.
The Bible can tell you why we get married (theology, doctrine) for example, but wisdom tells you whom to marry and what do when things get hairy in the marriage.
Job says, the Psalmists say, wise old Solomon says, in the end, true wisdom is fearing God (taking him seriously) and turning away from evil.
Conclusion: Some believe chapter 28 isn’t Job’s words but the narrator's, or perhaps even material added later, because it seems out of place, disjointed from the rest. You may even be thinking, “What does this have to do with the story of Job?”
Think about it. In addition to suffering the loss of his wealth, family, and health, he had suffered the accusations of his three friends (miserable comforters are you all!). He agonized through 24 chapters worth of their so called wisdom put forth in puffed-up pride and faulty religious formulas, in which they wrongly believed God made only the wicked suffer.
Job’s one statement - ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding’ - contained more truth than all their many words put together. “The three men had knowledge, but they lacked wisdom.”
There’s another reason I think the wisdom hymn is inserted here. Think about what those suffering want more than anything else: to understand why. Theology helps, for sure, but it only goes so far. It must be joined by wisdom.
Not the average run of the mill wisdom, not the wisdom of man in philosophy or science, but the wisdom of God. Job did not know why he was suffering, but he knew that ultimately the answer was found in God.
One Bible scholar says…
“True wisdom is accessible to God alone—which means that it can come from him alone. The wisdom which will contain an answer to Job can come only from God. Chapter 28 thus stands in the book of Job as a warning that any further speculations along the lines of the three friends will be fruitless. The way out of the impasse will not be from below, upwards, but from above, downwards. It will not come as part of the belief system of mankind, but only as a gift of God. The starting-point for true knowledge of God is God himself in his own self-disclosure. We need to meet the Lord as he comes to us in grace. We need to begin with the fear of the Lord, in communion with him as he chooses to make himself known.”
One pastor said, “Wisdom is not so much a matter of mastering a bunch of rules; it’s a love affair with wisdom you need. You need to long for wisdom.”
That’s a good word for us as we close.
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