Learning from Job 15-28
After more of the same from Eliphaz, Job responds, ‘How often have I heard all this before! What sorry comforters you are!’(16:1). With ‘friends’ like this, who needs enemies? This was not what Job needed. He needed ‘words of encouragement’(16:5). Where does true comfort comes from? It comes from the Holy Spirit - ‘the Comforter’(John 14:26). If we are to speak words of encouragement, we must listen to the voice of the Spirit. We must learn to speak with His voice, the voice of ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’(Galatians 5:22-23). Pray that ‘the meditation of your heart’ and ‘the words of your mouth’ will be filled with the Spirit of love. Remember - Without love, our words mean ‘nothing’(Psalm 19:14; 1 Corinthians 13:1-2). Let there be more love.
‘There is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure’(16:17). Is this no more than Job’s own opinion of himself? No! It is much more than that. It is also God’s view of Job: ‘my witness is in heaven, and He that vouches for me is on high’(16:19). When suffering comes our way, we can become bitter - blaming God and turning away from Him - or we can become better - ‘the righteous holds to his way, and he that has clean hands grows stronger and stronger’(17:9). What makes the difference? - It is ‘God’s love...poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’(Romans 5:3-5). Seeing our suffering in the light of God’s love, we say, with faith, ‘Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’(Romans 8:35-39). Let His love lead you from the bitter way to the better way.
Job listens to Bildad’s harsh words. He answers with a question: ‘How long will you torment me, and break me in pieces with words?’(19:2). Job couldn’t make much sense of what was going on in his life. He was sure of one thing. His ‘friends’ were missing the point of it all. They had it all wrong. They were not speaking the Word of the Lord. They were only making things worse for Job. We must be careful with our words: ‘The tongue is a fire...set on fire by hell...With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not happen!’(James 3:6,9-10). ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace’(Colossians 4:6). May our words ‘bring a blessing to those who hear’ them (Ephesians 4:29).
Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s return, our redemption - All of this is brought to mind as we read Job’s great words of faith: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives...in the end He will stand upon the earth...in my flesh I will see God’(25-26). Jesus Christ ‘has risen’ from the dead. He is ‘the living One’. He is ‘alive for evermore’(Matthew 28:6; Revelation 1:18). Jesus Christ will return ‘with power and great glory’. ‘He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him’(Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7). The Day of Christ’s return will be the Day of ‘our redemption’. ‘When He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is’. ‘We shall always be with the Lord’(Luke 21:27-28; 1 John 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Don’t forget the word of warning, spoken by Job to his ‘friends’- ‘There is a judgment’(29)!
‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. This is what we have here. Zophar doesn’t stop to think. He’s ‘like a bull in a china shop’. Zophar gives a detailed description of ‘the wicked man’s portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God’(29). He does not stop to ask, ‘Does all of this apply to Job? Is Job a wicked man? Is Job being punished by God?’. Before we rush into passing judgment on other people, here are some things to think about: ‘There is one Lawgiver and Judge, He who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that judge your neighbour?’. ‘Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Why do you despise your brother? We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God’. ‘Judge not that you be not judged’(James 4:12; Romans 14:10; Matthew 7:1). Think before you speak!
Job has listened to his ‘comforters’, and he is not impressed: ‘How then will you comfort me with empty nothings? There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood’(34). Job can’t make sense of all that is happening to him. He doesn’t understand what it all means. In all his confusion, there is one thing he doesn’t forget: God is in control. When he asks the question, ‘Will any teach God knowledge ...?’(22), what he’s really saying is this: ‘I don’t understand what’s going on, but God does!’. Later on, Job speaks these great words of faith - ‘He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold’(23:10). When you’re ‘going through the mill’, remember, ‘Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles...’(Isaiah 40:31).
Job’s ‘friends’ assume that Job is being punished by God. They are unaware that someone else is behind Job’s suffering - Satan! Job isn’t sure what to make of it all. Is God punishing him after all? Deep down in his heart, he knows that God loves him. Job asks the question - ‘Would He contend with me in the greatness of His power?’. He answers his own question - ‘No; He would give heed to me’(23:6). Job knows that God is a God of great power. He knows something else about God. He is a God of great love. He is not ‘all power and no love’. ‘God is love’(1 John 4:8). What really lies behind Job’s suffering? - ‘The devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!’. The time will come when God will say to Satan, ‘Enough! No more!’(Revelation 12:12; 20:10)!
Satan is working overtime! He is filling Job with fear. In his state of deep depression, Job says, “God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; for I am hemmed in by darkness, and thick darkness covers my face’(23:16-17). Where do these thoughts come from? Do they come from the Lord? No! They come from Satan! This is not ‘the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom’(Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7). It is a very different kind of fear, a fear which comes from Satan. How are we to overcome this fear? When depression threatens to overwhelm us, what are we to do? Look to the Lord. He ‘has not given us a spirit of fear’. He has given us His ‘Spirit of power and love’. He gives us ‘a sound mind’. Look to the Lord. Let His ‘perfect love cast out your fear’(2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:18).
Job’s ‘comforters’ are no friends to him. They fail to discern the presence and purpose of God in Job’s life. Job responds to them with biting sarcasm - ‘How you have helped him who has no power! How you have saved the arm that has no strength!’(26:2). They’re hopeless - no help to him at all! Why is their advice so useless? Job challenges them, ‘With whose help have you uttered words, and whose spirit has come forth from you?’(26:4). Their words do not come from the Spirit of the Lord. They come from Satan. They are his servants. He is using them. He is speaking through them. They are part of his evil plot to destroy Job. No wonder their words are so useless! There is no way the servants of Satan will ever help us to love the Lord better. We need the Word of the Lord spoken in the power of His Spirit.
‘The fear of the Lord -that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding’(28:28). True wisdom is centred on Christ. He is ‘our wisdom’. He is ‘the wisdom of God’(1 Corinthians 1:30,24). True wisdom leads us to put our faith in Christ. Through ‘the Holy Scriptures’, we receive the wisdom which leads us to receive ‘salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’(2 Timothy 3:15). True wisdom leads us to become ‘mature in Christ’, living a Christlike life: ‘The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, gentle, obedient, full of mercy and good deeds, straightforward and sincere’(Colossians 1:28; James 3:17). True wisdom gives glory to Christ. Our ‘faith’ does ‘not rest in the wisdom of men’. It rests ‘in the power of God’. ‘Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord’(1 Corinthians 2:5; 1:31).