The Book of Job - Part 18
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
March 25, 2018
Well, after all this time, after all these many weeks in a book I’ve never preached one verse from, we finally bring it to a close
There’s no way I could cover all the things we’ve discovered in Job, all the truths we’ve been confronted with, but I would like to take us back and look at a few highlights.
It all began innocently enough in chapter 1…
Job 1:1–6 (ESV) — 1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Job was a great man in God’s eyes with great wealth, great standing in the community, and great relationships in his family.
That is until that fateful day…
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
We don’t have time to go back and understand how Satan had access to God, but he obviously did from time to time. Satan means accuser, literally in the Hebrew it says “the Satan” or “the accuser.” He had been walking up and down the earth looking for people to accuse of wrongdoing, and God says, “Have you considered my servant, Job?”
Job 1:9–12 (ESV) — 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Not long after, wave one of Job’s intense suffering began. He lost his wealth and standing in the community and he lost his family, save his wife, in a series of calamities. In all this he did not sin against the Lord. He didn’t curse him. So began wave two of his suffering as he lost his health. He ended up sitting in the garbage dump on the outskirts of town, a shell of his former self in every way possible.
Three of Job’s friends, men of wealth and influence themselves, heard of Job’s plight and came to offer aid. When Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar arrived, Job was so disfigured by his disease-ridden body they didn’t recognize him. For seven days and nights they just sat in silence at his side.
They showed us…
The need for presence when crisis strikes.
And they also showed us…
The need for silence when crisis strikes.
Even if we do take the time to sit with those in great pain, we often feel we have to say something, as if, in the throes of their terrible loss, words could actually make things better. Much like we think those sayings on church signs could influence someone for Jesus.
Though they started well, they didn’t finish well. Once they began talking they messed it all up because they held to a common belief of ancient times (still around today): Only guilty people suffer before God, and thus implied it’s all Job’s fault.
Or as one pastor puts it, they were 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.”
Job, in response, swore his innocence, claiming if he could just have an audience with God and plead his case, all would be made right. Most of the book is the dialogue between Job and his friends, a back-and-forth of their accusing him of secret sins and his denials.
Finally, out of desperation, Job made an oath before God himself. The gist of the oath was if he was guilty of sin and that’s why he suffered, then may God judge him and destroy him. If he wasn’t, may God release him from his pain.
Everyone held their breath to see what God would do. While they waited, a young man named Elihu stepped up out of nowhere to rub more salt in Job’s wounds, for four whole chapters no less. And then came the storm! And out of that came the whirlwind. And out of the whirlwind God spoke.
Instead of saying, “I’m sorry, Job.” Instead of explaining why he had suffered so. God simply pointed him to his wisdom and glory displayed in creation. In a way, we could sum up what God said with this: “Job, I don’t owe you an explanation.”
Job 42:1–6 (ESV) — 1 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job said, “I get it.” And more than that the whole experience gave him something he hadn’t had before…
Job 42:5 (ESV) — 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;
After going through all this horrific suffering, after not receiving an explanation or an apology but a schooling on God’s wisdom and glory he says, “Before I had heard of you, now I see you.”
In other words, I knew you before and loved you, but now I know you in a way that’s even deeper and wider and more meaningful than anything I ever imagined. Forget everything I said. You are enough God.”
That kind of understanding of who God is only comes through suffering. Say what you want about fairness in all this, but Job - the one who suffered so terribly - was satisfied. In the end, Job didn’t curse God. It was the opposite. His relationship with God deepened in ways he could never have imagined.
Bottom Line: God proved Satan wrong.
Now we come to the final verses of the final chapter. Look at verses 7-9…
Job 42:7–9 (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.
Job’s three friends expected a pat on the back from God for representing him so well to Job, but that is not what they got. They talked all spiritual about God and said many things about him that were true, but the way they tried to pack God into their error-ridden formula made God’s anger burn against them.
And Job, who complained bitterly and said things about God in his pain that weren’t exactly right either, is given a pass. One pastor writes…
[This part of the story leads many modern readers to wonder aloud. “But why would God be so affirming of Job? Job cursed the day he was born, challenged God’s wisdom, cried out and complained bitterly, expressed deep doubts. It didn’t seem that Job was a paragon of steady faith throughout. Why would God vindicate him like that?”
The first reason is that God is gracious and forgiving. But the crucial thing to notice is this: Through it all, Job never stopped praying. Yes, he complained, but he complained to God. He doubted, but he doubted to God. He screamed and yelled, but he did it in God’s presence. No matter how much in agony he was, he continued to address God. He kept seeking him. And in the end, God said Job triumphed.
How wonderful that our God sees the grief and anger and questioning, and is still willing to say “you triumphed”—not because it was all fine, not because Job’s heart and motives were always right, but because Job’s doggedness in seeking the face and presence of God meant that the suffering did not drive him away from God but toward him. And that made all the difference. As John Newton said, if we are not getting much out of going to God in prayer, we will certainly get nothing out of staying away.
Now, this is perhaps the single most concrete and practical thing sufferers can learn from the book of Job. The Bible says that God is “near to the brokenhearted” (Ps 34:18). “He upholds all who fall, and lifts up all who are bowed down” (Ps 145:14). Those are universals—God is near and cares about all sufferers. In addition he promises to help groaning Christians with his Spirit (Rom 8:26). And he says to believers in Christ “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you” (Heb 13:5). Jesus says that we are his sheep and “no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
All of this means that even if we cannot feel God in our darkest and most dry times, he is still there. And so there is no more basic way to face suffering than this: Like Job, you must seek him, go to him. Pray even if you are dry. Read the Scriptures even if it is an agony. Eventually, you will sense him again—the darkness won’t last forever. The strength you need for suffering comes in the doing of the responsibilities and duties God requires. Shirk no commands of God. Read, pray, study, fellowship, serve, witness, obey. Do all your duties that you physically can and the God of peace will be with you.]
And then we have this satisfying bit of irony for Job. God, still addressing the three friends, says…
8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
It gets better…
Job 42:10–17 (ESV) — 10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. 12 And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.
God doubly restored Job’s fortune and he also restored his family…
13 He had also seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch. 15 And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers.
We’re going spend our last minutes in our message here, because I believe these verses hint at something we need to see.
In light of ancient Near Eastern cultural norms, two things are unheard of here. (1) The names of the daughters are given while the names of the sons are not. (2) The daughters are included in the inheritance, which normally only happened if there was no living son.
I could be wrong, but I think this unusual feature gives us one last amazing insight from Job into the ways of God.
I believe it points us to something that can be only understood if we look at it from the cross backwards. Many things in the OT make sense when looked at that way, things that could not be discerned at the time (Abraham’s command to sacrifice his son, for instance).
Remember, though the books of the Bible were written by multiple authors, the Holy Spirit superintended their writings overall. And that means there are threads of truth running through it those authors often weren’t aware of (the prophets were unaware of the kind of Messiah they prophesied about)...
When you study the Bible as a whole, you realize the concept of heaven as we know it, this side of the cross, was very limited on the other side. In the minds of an OT saint, heaven was a place reserved only for God and the angels. Sheol was the underworld abode of the dead (referred to as Abaddon in Job). That’s where people went when they died, not heaven. It had a place for the righteous and the unrighteous.
Jesus actually comes from heaven to us and affirms this understanding of the afterlife in his teachings, but he adds to it. God will merge heaven and earth in the end. So ultimately, God’s people will dwell with him in the new heavens and earth one day.
Now, keep that in mind, and now look with me at a sensitive subject these days: the roles of men and women.
Though there has been much abuse in this area in the church (which I will address in detail later on), when you study the Bible as a whole you see that, right now, because of God’s design seen in creation all the way back at the beginning before the fall, there are distinctions in the roles of men and women. Our falllenness mars that design, but it’s still there nonetheless.
Now when Jesus returns to make all things right, in that day when heaven and earth are merged and we live with God forever, the distinctions between men and women’s roles are erased.
1 Peter 3:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
That hints at the distinction in this life, but look on…
1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) — 7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
And then this…
Galatians 3:25–28 (ESV) — 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
You may be thinking I’ve lost my mind. Where are you going with this? This isn’t a message on feminism, I promise.
Now, let’s go back to the ending of Job and his three daughters. If we look at this from the cross backwards, we see a hint of heaven (the unheard of way Job’s daughters are treated), which I believe helps us frame suffering in this life properly.
When we read the end of Job, we, like Job’s friends, want to make it into a formula. Ah, if God allows me to suffer, then he is obligated to bless me doubly in proportion to the extent I suffered in this life. If I lost a husband, I’ll get one back doubly handsome and romantic. If I lost a 2,000 sq ft home God will give me back a 4,000 sq ft one when this is over.
No. Have we forgotten how God approached Job? In the whirlwind.
We cannot draw from Job’s story a guarantee of a doubling, even a restoring at all, of what we lost from suffering in this life. But, we are promised an inheritance in the next life, an inheritance reserved for us in heaven made up of riches that we cannot imagine as God’s children. Something we get to enjoy when heaven and earth come together and we dwell in the presence of God.
The smallest part of our heavenly inheritance will be worth more than double any suffering, any losses endured in earthly sufferings.
1 Peter 1:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
By the way, this may answer the question of why God didn’t give Job 14 sons and six daughters… he hadn’t really lost them. In heaven one day he would have 14 sons and six daughters!
Conclusion: The book of Job, though the least preached on or read from, is one of the most important books of the Bible because it gives us insight into the universal problem of suffering.The God whose way is in the whirlwind and storm uses suffering to bring understanding, to bring blessing, to turn evil’s intent back on itself and bring about the very opposite of what evil intended.
The book of Job, a book about an innocent man who suffered horribly, points us to another innocent man who suffered even more and turned evil’s intent back on itself in the biggest way possible: Jesus.
And that takes us straight into holy week which begins today, Palm Sunday, which takes us into Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified, and that takes us to Easter, the day Jesus rose from the grave victorious over death and sin!
And so ends the book of Job…
16 And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. 17 And Job died, an old man, and full of days.
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