Let’s take a moment to review what we’re read so far in the book of Job.
In the first two chapters, we learned that God regarded Job as blameless and upright. However Satan was not so impressed and he wanted to permission to attack Job’s life to see whether he could destroy Job’s faith. After all, Satan claimed, Job only worships God for what he can get from God in this life. And so, God gave Satan permission to attack Job to see if Job would worship God for nothing. Satan lost no time and soon Job’s possessions were either stolen or destroyed; all his children were killed in a freak accident; and painful sores covered Job’s body. And yet, despite all his suffering, Job continued to worship God. Instead of cursing God, he remained God’s faithful servant.
In chapter 3 Job cursed the day of his birth. He wished he’d never been born. And if he had to be born, he wished he had died at birth. And if he had to survive birth, he wished he would die soon. While he did not consider suicide — and the thought of taking his own life never once entered his mind — he nevertheless longed for death, because he thought that, by dying, he would have peace from all his troubles.
That was in chapter 3 which was a dark, dark chapter. And then from chapter 4 to chapter 14, Job’s three friends took turns to speak to him; and Job replied to each one in turn. And so, the first to speak was Eliphaz. The second to speak was Bildad. The third to speak to him was Zophar. And each one of his three friends relied on what another preacher has called vending machine theology. Put money in the machine and out comes a snack: always and immediately. And so, put evil in and out comes affliction from God: always and immediately. Put good in and out comes blessings from God: always and immediately. And that means that, since Job was suffering, then he must have done something evil to deserve it. He must have put evil in the machine and he’s now suffering as a consequence. God was punishing him for some sin. According to Job’s three friends, he now needed to turn back to God. Turn back to God and God will immediately bless your life once again.
But we know from chapters 1 and 2 that Job was a blameless and upright man. He was not being punished for his sin. God was not angry with him. God was not punishing him. Job’s three friends were dead wrong.
And we’ve thought about a number of things as we’ve studied the first fourteen chapters. For instance, Job’s extra-ordinary suffering points us to the Saviour’s extra-ordinary suffering. When the story began, Job was highly exalted. Then he suffered terribly when he lost his family and his possessions and his health. But the book will end with Job being highly exalted again. And so, the pattern of his life foreshadows what happened to our Saviour, because, as God’s Eternally Begotten Son, he was highly exalted. But then, he left the glory of heaven and came down to earth as one of us, where he lived a life of sorrow and suffering before dying on the cross and being buried in the ground. However, after his suffering, he was exalted to the highest place and received the name that is above every name. Job’s extra-ordinary suffering foreshadows the suffering of our Saviour, who suffered and died to make peace for us with God.
And, of course, since Christ suffered as one of us, then he’s able to sympathise with us in our weakness and suffering. Job’s friends came to sympathise with him, but they only made things worse. But Christ our Saviour is a true friend who is able to sympathise with us and to help us when we suffer.
The book of Job also points us forward to the resurrection. At various times, Job longed for death, because he thought that death would lead to peace. But when Job thought about the afterlife, he thought of it as a dark place, a land of gloom and deep shadows, where even the light is like darkness. However, in chapter 14 he seemed to be on the verge of a full hope in the resurrection, because he spoke briefly about the possibility of living again after death and experiencing some kind of renewal. But what was only a deep mystery to Job has become clearer to us because of the resurrection of our Saviour. And we know that because the Saviour died and was raised, so all who believe in him will live, even though we die. We will be raised and will live with God in body and soul forever in the new and better world to come where there is no suffering, but only everlasting joy.
And then, Job spoke about his wish for an arbiter, a mediator who would mediate between God and Job. And we know that Christ is our arbiter, our mediator with God. He has made peace for us with God so that God is no longer angry with us. He’s no longer the judge who is going to condemn us, but he’s become our loving heavenly Father. And the Lord Jesus is standing before God in heaven to intercede for us always.
And we’ve also thought about the spiritual battle which lay behind Job’s suffering. Job was not suffering because he was a sinner, but because he was a saint. And Satan wanted to destroy his faith in order to prove that we only worship God for what we can get from God in this life. He was saying we only worship God for what we can get out of God. But Satan was wrong, because even though Job lost everything, he remained God’s faithful servant. He did not curse God. He did not abandon his faith. He continued to believe and to worship God. He was willing to serve God for nothing. He was willing to worship God ‘come what may’, because ‘come what may’ God is still God and worthy of our worship. And we too are involved in the same spiritual battle; and we need to look to the Lord to strengthen our faith so that we will worship him ‘come what may’.
Today we begin the second cycle of speeches. So, between chapter 15 and chapter 21, Eliphaz will speak and Job will reply; Bildad will speak and Job will reply; and Zophar will speak and Job will reply. Today we’ll focus on Eliphaz and Job’s reply to him.
And it seems that Eliphaz’s patience with Job is running out, because he’s saying in verse 2 of chapter 15 that a wise man would not say what Job has been saying; and Job is full of hot air. What he says is empty. It’s worthless. Job is full of hot passion, when a wise man is calm and cool and thoughtful. And Job’s words are useless. They are unprofitable. Whereas we treasure up the saying of the wise, Job’s words are useless. And in verse 4 he even charges Job with undermining piety and hindering devotion to God. Job has been saying his friends are wrong, because God doesn’t always punish the wicked immediately; and often the wicked prosper in life. And, according to Eliphaz, Job is undermining piety because why would anyone fear God if he doesn’t punish the wicked? Why would anyone bother doing what is right if they know the wicked get away with their wickedness. No one who listens to you, Job, will ever fear God. And he goes on on verse 6 to say that Job’s own mouth condemns him and his lips testify against him, because it’s clear from what Job says that he’s in the wrong.
And in the following verses, he’s claiming that Job is arrogant for thinking that he alone is wise. So, were you the first man to be born, so that you were there when God made the world and were able to listen in on God’s council to hear his secret plans? Do you really think that you’re the only one with wisdom? Do you think that you alone have a special knowledge to understand what God is doing? And what he means is that he and his friends are just as wise as Job, if not wiser. We’re wiser and the grey-haired and the aged are on our side. Old people are said to have greater wisdom that young people. And so, those wise old people are on our side. They agree with us. You think we don’t know what we’re talking about, but we’re the wise ones; and you know nothing, Job. Yours words are worthless.
And you get the impression from verse 11 that Eliphaz feels insulted because Job was unwilling to listen to him. Didn’t I come to you with God’s consolation? He’s referring back to his first speech. Didn’t I come with consoling words? Didn’t I speak gently to you? But you weren’t satisfied with what I said. My words were not enough for you. And your heart has carried you away and your eyes flash and you vent your rage against God. So, you’ve been overwhelmed by your emotions. You’re not thinking clearly. You’re being foolish instead of wise like us.
Take a look now at verse 14. He’s pretty much repeating what he said earlier back in chapter 4 where he asked, ‘Can a mortal man be right in the sight of God?’ Now, he asks, ‘What is man that he could be pure?’ And, ‘What is one born of a woman, that he could be righteous?’ In other words, all of us are sinners. All of us are sinners. We all deserve to be condemned by God, because all of us are vile and corrupt. And we drink up evil like water. Just as water is vital to our existence, so is doing evil. Eliphaz is saying: ‘Job, you think you’ve done nothing to deserve your suffering. But all of us are sinners. And so, of course you must have done something to deserve it. And of course God is punishing you, because you are vile and corrupt like everyone else.’
That’s what Eliphaz thinks. But we know he’s wrong. At least, he’s partly wrong. He’s right when he says that none of us is pure. None of us is sinless. All have sinned and all of us fall short of doing God’s will. But God regards Job as blameless and upright. In other words, he’s done nothing to deserve what he’s now suffering. He’s not being punished for being wicked. He’s not suffering for being a sinner. He’s suffering for being a saint. So, Eliphaz is right that we’re all sinners. But he’s wrong about Job who was a good and godly man who trusted God and who sought to do God’s will.
But Eliphaz is convinced about Job’s guilt and he begins to lecture him in verse 17. Listen to me. Listen to me and I will explain to you what I have seen and what wise men have declared to me. And he goes on to repeat his vending machine theology. All his days the wicked and ruthless man suffers torment. Terrifying sounds fill his ears. When all seems well, marauders will come and attack him. He won’t ever escape darkness and he is marked for the sword. It’s as if there’s a sword hanging over him and it’s going to drop one day. He’s as good as food for vultures, because they will get him one day. The wicked man is filled with terror and distress and anguish will overwhelm him, because he shakes his fist at God. And so, because the wicked have rebelled against God, God will punish them. It’s inevitable.
In verse 27 he says about the wicked that though his face is covered in fat and his waist bulges with flesh, he will inhabit ruined towns and houses where no one lives. So, he may be doing well so that he’s grown fat, but it will not last. He will no longer be rich and his wealth will not endure. His possessions will no longer fill the land. He will not escape the darkness and the breath of God’s mouth will carry him away. Job has been saying that he has seen the wicked prosper. And Eliphaz is saying that while that might happen for a time, soon they will get what they deserve, because God always punishes the wicked in this life. And, of course, he’s been describing Job, hasn’t he? Job was living a life of luxury. His possessions filled the land. He was once the greatest man in the East. But now he’s been swept away by the breath of God. And so, face it, Job. This only happens to the wicked. And if it’s happened to you, then you must be wicked too.
And so, according to Eliphaz in verse 32, the wicked man will be paid back in full. He will be like a vine stripped of its grapes and an olive tree which sheds its blossoms. In other words, the wicked man will be like a barren tree. His life will be empty. Fire will consume him. The godless conceive trouble and give birth to evil. And they sow trouble for themselves, because in Eliphaz’s world, the wicked are always punished in this life. And if you’re suffering, Job, it must be because you’ve done something wicked.
And so, we turn to Job’s reply in chapters 16 and 17. And look what Job thinks of his friends. He says in verse 2 that he has heard many things like this. I’ve heard it all before. And then he calls them miserable comforters! A comforter is meant to alleviate our misery, but these comforters are only adding to his misery. Comforters are meant to help us cope with trouble, but they are only making his trouble worse. He says in verse 3 that their speeches are long-winded and he wonders if they will ever end. What’s wrong with you that you won’t stop this? If you were in my place, I could do as you do and make these long speeches against you. I could do as you do and shake my head at you. He’s saying: Anyone can do what you’re doing to me! But if you were in my place, I would encourage you with my words and give you comfort and relief. That’s what I would do for you if you were in my place. But they have been no help to him.
And according to verse 6 he feels no relief from his suffering whether he talks about it or whether he doesn’t. And he says in verse 8 that his own gauntness rises up to testify against him. That is to say, people will look on Job’s emaciated body and they will regard it as evidence of a sinful lifestyle. He knows he’s not guilty, but he knows other will think differently.
And it seems to Job that God is attacking him and is gnashing his teeth at him. God has turned him over to evil men who jeer at him and strike his cheek and unite against him. He remembers that once, all was well. But God has shattered him. God has seized him by the neck and has crushed him. God has made him a target and set archers to fire at him. God has pierced my kidneys without pity. Again and again God bursts upon me. He rushes at me like a warrior. Job is like a besieged city and God is attacking him.
It’s worth pausing to remind ourselves that it was Satan who was attacking Job. He was the one who wanted Job to suffer in order to see if Job would curse God. It was Satan who wanted to take away Job’s possessions and to take away his children and to take away his health. It was Satan who was attacking Job.
However, as I’ve said previously, Satan would not have been able to harm Job in any way if God had not permitted it. As we saw in chapters 1 and 2, Satan needed God’s permission to attack Job. Satan would not have been able to do anything to Job if God did not permit it.
And so, while in one sense Job was wrong, because it was not God who was attacking him, but Satan, nevertheless in another sense Job was right, because it was God’s will to allow Satan to attack Job. Everything that happens in the world happens because it is God’s will. He’s the one who determines all things. He’s the one who directs all things. That’s why, when we suffer, we cry out to God and ask him why has he allowed us to suffer like this. We cry out to God, because we know that, whatever happens to us, happens according to his most holy and perfect will. And so, it seemed to Job that God was attacking him, because Job knew that nothing happens apart from the will of God.
And Job is puzzled. He cannot understand what is happening to him. He’s wearing sackcloth and he’s sitting in the dust. He face is red from weeping. Dark shadows are under his eyes. He is suffering terribly. And yet, his hands are free from violence and his prayer is pure. He’s done nothing to deserve his suffering. He knows he’s innocent, but he doesn’t know why he’s suffering like this.
And in verse 18 he calls on the earth not to cover his blood so that his cry will never be laid to rest. The image here is of an innocent person who is murdered. And the victim’s bloodstain on the ground cries out for justice. And so, Job feels his life is about to end. And he wants the earth to leave his blood uncovered so that it will cry out on his behalf for justice. He wants justice, because it’s not right that he should suffer when he is innocent and has done nothing to deserve his suffering.
And, then, in verse 19, he refers to a witness in heaven, an advocate and an intercessor, someone who will plead with God on his behalf. It seems to him that God is attacking him. But is there someone in heaven who will stand up for him and plead his cause with God? His friends on earth have been no help. They have only accused him. But does he have a friend in heaven to speak up for him?
But then he adds right at the end of chapter 16 that soon it will be too late. He only has a few years left before he goes on the journey of no return. He feels his life is slipping away and it will soon be too late for him.
And so, his spirit it broken and his days are cut short. The grave is waiting for him; and it won’t have to wait much longer. He was looking for comforters to surround him, but all he has are these hostile mockers, who are only accusing him.
And in verse 3 of chapter 16 he asks God to give him the pledge which God himself demands. Do you see that? ‘Give me, O God, the pledge you demand. Who else but you will put up security for me?’ The background to this is that, in biblical times, if I owed you money but could not pay my debt, you would obviously be angry with me and want to prosecute me. However, on those occasions I could offer you a pledge to appease your wrath. The pledge was some item which was valuable to me; and I would give it to you as a promise or as a guarantee that, while I can’t pay my debt immediately, I will repay it someday. And by using this image, Job is depicting himself as being in debt to God. And it’s a debt he cannot pay himself. So, what can he do to appease God’s anger? What pledge can he give to God? What guarantee? Well, what he does is this. He asks God to give to God the pledge he owes. Let me repeat that. He asks God to give to God the pledge he owes. God is angry with him. And so, he asks God to do what is necessary to appease his own anger. God is angry with me and I need God himself to come between God’s anger and me.
His friends won’t help him. In fact, according to verse 5, they are denouncing Job. They are accusing him so that he has become a byword. That is, he’s someone people talk about. We can imagine parents telling their children to behave, because you don’t want to end up like Job! His eyes have grown dim with grief. His whole frame has become a shadow. That is, he’s a shadow of his former self. Upright men are appalled at what has happened to him. That is to say, truly righteous people are appalled at the abuse which an innocent man like Job has had to endure. And a truly righteous person will do what he can to defend the innocent against the ungodly. However, Job is stuck with his foolish friends. As he says in verse 10, he will not find a wise man among them.
His days have passed, his plans are shattered, as are the desires of his heart. He has nothing to hope for. If the only home he hopes to go to is the grave, where then is hope? It is nowhere. Who can see any hope for me? No one. Will hope go down to the gates of death with me? No. Will hope and I descend together into the dust? No. I have no hope.
Once again Job describes his suffering. He’s not only suffering outwardly, but inwardly too because of all these dark thoughts; and how he feels he has no hope; and he feels there’s nothing for him to live for; and he doesn’t expect any good to come. And he doesn’t know why he’s suffering as he is, because his prayer is pure and his conscience is clear. His friends insist he must have done something to deserve his suffering, but he hasn’t. And nothing he does helps, because if he speaks or if he’s silent, his pain is still with him and will not go away.
And yet there are these two glimmers of light, aren’t there? In verse 19 of chapter 16 he mentioned this witness in heaven, this advocate on high, this intercessor and friend. And in verse 3 of chapter 17 he asked God to give God a pledge on his behalf. That is, he asked God to do what is necessary to appease God’s own anger. God is angry with me; and I need God himself to come between God’s anger and me.
What was only a glimmer of light to Job has become a bright light for us, because God has done everything necessary to appease his own anger when he sent his Only Begotten Son into the world to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. An atoning sacrifice is a sacrifice which turns away the wrath of God. The Lord Jesus Christ suffered the wrath of God in our place when he suffered and died on the cross. Though he never did anything wrong, and was perfectly pure and innocent and free from sin, he took the punishment we deserve for our sins and shortcomings. He suffered the wrath of God in our place. And so, we can rest in the knowledge that God’s wrath has been turned away from us, because of Christ, who suffered in our place the punishment we deserve. In the person of his Son, God came between God and us. He did what was necessary to appease God’s anger.
And so, whereas Job was uncertain about God’s attitude towards him, we can know for sure that God is no longer angry with us. He is no longer angry with us, because Christ offered himself as the atoning sacrifice for sins to turn away God’s anger from us and onto himself. And so, we have peace with God forever. And though we suffer in this world, it is not because God is angry with us. We may not know why he sends affliction into our life, but we can be sure it’s not because he’s angry with us.
And Job spoke of a witness in heaven, an advocate, an intercessor. Again, what was only a glimmer of light has become a bright light for us, because Christ who died for us, was raised from the dead and he ascended to heaven, where he intercedes for us before the Father. And so, when we sin against God the Father, he’s there in heaven to defend us. And he defends us by pointing to his work on the cross and how he has paid for our sins and made peace for us with God. And so, though we sin, God will not punish us, because Christ is there to defend us. He’s a true friend, who does not accuse us, but who defends us. And he also intercedes for us and asks the Father to give us everything we need to persevere and to keep us from falling. And so, he doesn’t add to our troubles, as Job’s friends added to his troubles, but he relieves our troubles. And he helps us to remain faithful servants of Almighty God so that we will continue to worship God ‘come what may’.
And finally, Job felt he had no hope. But Christ’s resurrection gives us hope, because we know that, after our suffering in his life is over, we will have everlasting life in the presence of God. And our present suffering will pale in comparison to the glory to be revealed to us in the life to come. And in the life to come, God will wipe the tears from our eyes, and he will give us fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore and we will live with him in his eternal blessedness. And so, knowing this, we should persevere through every trial and trouble, because God has something marvellous in store for all those who trust in his Son.