We began the third cycle of speeches last week when we studied Job chapters 22 to 24 which contained Eliphaz’s third speech to Job and Job’s reply. And do you remember? It seemed that Eliphaz’s patience with Job had come to an end; and all thought of comforting Job had been set aside, because he began by attacking Job. ‘Is not your wickedness great?’ he said. ‘Are not your sins endless?’ And he went on to list the sins he was sure Job had committed. And he asked: ‘Will you keep to the old path that evil men have trod?’ And he meant: Will you keep to the old path of sin and rebellion which the evil men in the days of Noah trod. And we all know what happened to them, because they were carried off to the grave before their time when God sent the flood upon them. And that’s what’s happening to you, Job, because your wickedness is great like theirs. And so, Job, you should submit to God and be at peace with him. In this way, prosperity will come to you. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored.
So, the reason you’re suffering, Job, is because you have done wrong. God is punishing you for your wickedness. And so, give up your sins and return to God. If you do, then God will bless you once again.
That’s been Eliphaz’s position from the beginning. And Bildad and Zophar said the same thing. But we know that God regards Job, not as a sinner who deserves to be punished, but as a blameless and upright man who fears God and who shuns evil. He hasn’t done the things Eliphaz says he has done. He hasn’t trod the old path of sin and rebellion. He hasn’t done evil. He isn’t wicked. He’s not suffering because he’s a sinner. And so, Eliphaz was wrong about Job.
That was Eliphaz’s third and final speech. Today we have Bildad’s third and final speech. And it’s very short. He doesn’t have much more to say to Job. In fact, he doesn’t say anything new, but merely repeats what has been said before. As one of the commentators puts it (Kline): this shows that the three friends have exhausted their resources of wisdom. They run out of things to say. In fact, as I’ve said before, Zophar, the third friend, has absolutely nothing more to say. Eliphaz made three speeches to Job. Bildad made three speeches. But Zophar only made two and he doesn’t speak again. And his silence shows that they’ve been beaten. They thought they could conquer Job and persuade him of his sinfulness. But Job would not give in to their accusations; and he rightfully maintained that he was innocent.
The three friends believed that only the wicked suffer. They did not realise that a righteous man might also suffer. And Job was a righteous man who suffered. And his suffering foreshadows the suffering of the perfectly righteous man, who is Jesus Christ our Saviour, who did not do anything wrong and who never sinned once in all his life. And yet the Lord Jesus suffered unbearably when he gave up his life on the cross and bore the wrath of God in our place. He was pierced, not for his own transgressions, but for our transgressions. He was crushed, not for his own iniquities, for for our iniquities. He was punished in our place so that we can have peace with God forever. He was perfectly innocent and righteous, and yet he suffered in an extra-ordinary way. The three friends believed that only the wicked suffer and they did not realise that a righteous man might also suffer. Job was a righteous man who suffered and his suffering points us to the Saviour who suffered for us and for our salvation.
Today we have Bildad’s third and final speech in chapter 25 and Job’s reply in chapter 26. Chapters 27 and 28 are Job’s summing up speech to all three friends. So, if you imagine this was a formal debate, Job opened the debate. His friends then spoke and he replied to each one in turn. And then, when the speeches were over, Job was allowed to close the debate. I should perhaps also say that some Bible scholars believe that chapter 28 contains the words, not of Job, but of someone else. After all, chapter 28 is all about wisdom; and Job hasn’t said anything about wisdom before. But then other scholars make the point that there’s no indication in the text itself that someone else is speaking. If there were a change of speaker, you’d expect the text to make that clear. And others (such as Ash) say it doesn’t really matter one way or the other, because it’s still God’s word to us.
But let’s turn first to chapter 25 and Bildad’s third and final speech. ‘Dominion and awe belong to God’, he says; and ‘he establishes order in the heights of the heaven’. He means God is sovereign over all. He rules over all and he is to be feared and held in awe by everyone. And because he rules over all, he has established order. And his forces cannot be counted. That is, his army of angels is very great and cannot be counted. And the light of his glory is over all. He is a great and awesome God. And so, how can a man be righteous in his sight? How can one born of woman be pure. Humans are weak and feeble. Job is weak and feeble. How can you ever hope to stand before God and make your case? That’s what Job wants to do. In chapter 23 he was confident that, if he could find God, he would be able to state his case before God. But Bildad is saying that it’s impossible: you’re only a weak, feeble human. You can’t stand before God who is might and awesome and great.
The moon and the stars appear glorious to us. We see them in the sky and we wonder at their brightness and beauty. But they are neither bright nor beautiful to God. And if that’s how the moon and the stars seem to God, what does he make of us? — because we’re only maggoty men. That’s all we are. That’s all you are, Job. Who do you think you are when you say you want to state your case before God? You’re only a worm in his sight.
Bildad and his friends have been unable to explain Job’s suffering. They have said he was suffering because he deserved it, whereas he insisted he had done nothing to deserve his suffering. And so, in the end, all Bildad can do is say: You’re human. And because you’re human, you deserve to suffer, because humans are only maggots and worms in God’s sight.
And in one sense, Bildad is right. We are only human. And compared to God’s splendour and majesty and glory, we are nothing at all. We are feeble and frail and weak. But that’s not the full story, because God honoured us in the beginning by making us in his image. And though we are nothing compared to God, he nevertheless made us a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honour; and he made us to rule over the rest of his creation. So, he has honoured us. And though we are sinners, who sin against God continually, God is merciful and gracious and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. And he does not deal with us according to our sins and he does not repay us according to our iniquities. Though we are sinners, he cares for us and is patient with us. And he loved us so much that he sent his Only-Begotten Son to be our Saviour and to deliver us from our sin and misery in this life and to give us everlasting life in the presence of God forever. Compared to God, we are nothing. We are weak and frail; and we are sinners too. But God honoured us when he made us and he loved us so much that he gave up his Son for us. Bildad was right and wrong. He was right about God being mighty and awesome. He was right about humans being weak and frail and sinful. But he was wrong to liken us to maggots and worms, because we are loved by God even though we are weak and sinful.
And Job begins his reply to Bildad in chapter 26 with sarcasm. ‘How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm this is feeble! What advice you have offered…. And what great insight you have displayed.’ He’s saying: Bildad, you have been a big help! I’m sure you have helped so many people, because you offer so much help and advice and wise counsel. I’m lucky to know you! Who has helped you to utter these wise words? Whose spirit spoke from your mouth? Everything you say is wonderful.
That’s what he’s saying. But he’s being sarcastic, isn’t he? Bildad has not helped him. And he has not shown great insight. His words have not been wise or helpful. They are hurtful and foolish. And, as I’ve said before, some of the commentators think Job’s friends are agents of Satan; and Satan is using them to try to crush Job’s spirit and to get him to renounce his faith and to curse God. And so, whose spirit spoke from his mouth? Some might say it was the spirit of the Devil.
And in the verses which follow, Job speaks about God’s sovereignty and his infinite power to make the point that God’s greatness is beyond our understanding. So, how can we understand God’s way? Bildad and his friends think they understand what God is doing in Job’s life. They understand his works. But who can understand God’s works or ways? Who can’t understand him because he is so great.
And so, God rules over the dead. That’s in verses 5 and 6. He refers to the dead and to Death and to Destruction. Death and Destruction refer to the place of the dead. So, those who are dead and who dwell in the place of the dead are under God’s power and authority. The dead do not escape from God; and dying is not a way to avoid God, because the dead and the place of the dead lie naked before God. He sees them and rules over them.
And then in verses 7 to 10 he writes about God’s sovereignty over the world and all that is in it. He spreads out the northern skies over empty space and suspends the earth over nothing. This speaks to us of God’s great power, because he’s able to suspend the world in space without having to rely on a nail or hook to keep it in position.
The reference to the northern skies might be significant, because the Canaanites believed their gods lived on a mountain in the north. In that case, while the gods might live in the northern skies, God made the northern skies. And God wraps up the waters in his clouds; and yet the clouds do not burst under their weight. Since rain falls from the clouds, it seems to Job that the clouds are holding up the water. And they’re able to hold it up year after year without being destroyed. And God covers the face of the moon with his clouds and he marks out the horizon as a boundary between light and darkness, because, of course, the sun rises above the horizon to give light on the earth each new day. This is all under the power and authority of God.
And the pillars of the earth quake at his rebuke. The pillars of the earth are the mountains that rise up from the earth to reach the sky. But they tremble and shake when God sents an earthquake. And by his power he churns up the sea with a storm. And by his wisdom, he cuts Rahab to pieces. Rahab was a mythical sea-monster, but it is no match for God. By his breath, the skies become fair because he blows away the storm clouds. And his hand pierced the gliding serpent. The sea, and storms, and Rahab, and the gliding serpent represent wickedness and chaos and disaster. But God rules over them all, just as he rules over every aspect of his creation, from the place of the dead to the moon and skies above.
Our God is great and glorious and powerful. Every day we see the evidence of his power and might in the way he sustains and controls his creation. And yet, says Job, these are but the outer fringe of his works. If you imagine all of God’s works laid out before you, then what you see in creation is just the edge of his works. It’s just the beginning of what he can do. All you’re seeing is a little glimpse of his power. We’re only hearing a whisper of what he has done, let alone the full thunder of his power. Somebody wants to show you how powerful their music speakers are. They turn it up until you say it’s too loud. You can’t stand it anymore. And they grin and say the volume is only turned to 2 or 3 and it can go all the way up to 10. It’s already too loud. What would it be like at 10? And what we see of God’s power in the world around us is nothing compared to the full force of his power. His power is infinite. It’s limitless. It’s endless. It just goes on and on. A strong man lifts a weight and we’re amazed at his strength. But he’s exhausted afterwards and he can’t lift the weight again until he rests. And he can’t lift anything heavier. But creating and sustaining the world and directing the world and defeating his enemies does not exhaust God’s power. It doesn’t even come close to exhausting his power, because his power is infinite. It’s limitless. That’s what our God is like.
The friends have been talking about God. They think they understand his works and his ways and how he always and immediately blesses the righteous and he always and immediately punishes the wicked. But we’re not able to understand God’s works and ways, because he is far beyond our imagining. As for Job, he knows he is innocent. He knows he has not done anything to deserve his suffering. He knows his friends are wrong about him. He knows those things. But he doesn’t know what God is doing or why. And how could he know, when God is so much greater than we can even imagine?
In chapter 27, Job addresses, not Bildad by himself, but all three of the friends. And the chapter begins with an oath: ‘As surely as God lives’, he says. And ‘as long as I have life within me’, he says. And he promises that his lips will not speak wickedness and his tongue will utter no deceit. So, he swears to tell the truth. We’re to imagine he’s in court and he’s giving his testimony. And what is his testimony? I will never admit that you are in the right about me. And until I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and will never let go of it. My conscience will not reproach me.
So, this is Job’s testimony: my conscience is clear. I know that I am in the right with God. And I will not listen to you and I will not admit you are right when you say that I have done wrong.
In order to silence his so-called friends and to get a little peace from them, Job could so easily have agreed with them. Then they would have left him alone. But he knows they are wrong and that he is innocent and that he does not deserve what he’s suffering.
And then, he asks God to judge his enemies. That’s in verses 7 to 10. And when Job refers to his enemies, he may well be referring to his so-called friends who have become his enemies by accusing him falsely. So, may they be like the wicked and the unjust. In other words, may they be condemned and punished like the wicked and the unjust.
And then he turns to his friends in verse 11 and says that he will teach them about the power of God and he will not conceal from them the ways of the Almighty. And he wants to teach them in particular about the fate which God has allotted to the wicked and about the heritage which a ruthless man can expect from God.
So, this is the punishment a wicked man may expect to receive from God. Firstly, their families will be destroyed. This is in verses 14 and 15: however many his children, they will be killed by the sword or they will starve or a plague will get them. Secondly, his property will be taken from him. This is in verses 16 and 17: though he heaps up silver, it will be given to the innocent; though he piles up clothes, the righteous will wear it. Thirdly, his prosperity is fragile and will not last. This is in verses 18 and 19: his house will be like a moth’s cocoon, which does not last and is easily crushed. His lies down at night a wealthy man and wakes up a poor man, because all he has is taken from him. Fourthly, he will suffer because of natural disasters. This is in verses 20 to 23: The terrors will overtake him like a flood. A tempest will snatch him away and the east wind will carry him off and he is gone. It hurls itself at him without mercy as he tries to flee from it to safety. Thunder claps at him in derision, because he cannot stand up to it.
Job is teaching his friends about the power of God. And he’s also saying that this is what God will do to the wicked. Though they might prosper for a while, eventually God will condemn them and punish them. They will not escape justice forever, but God will one day judge them and condemn them.
And when you hear Job say that, you might think that he’s only repeating what his friends have been saying, because they too have insisted that God punishes the wicked for their wickedness. However, the difference between what Job is saying and what his friends said is that the friends believe that only the wicked suffer. Only the wicked suffer. And they did not realise that a righteous man might suffer too.
In their mind, only the wicked suffer. And so, if Job is suffering, it must be because he’s wicked. But Job was a righteous man. He was blameless and upright. And so, it’s possible for a righteous man to suffer. And, as I’ve already said, Job’s suffering foreshadows the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only perfectly righteous man; and yet he suffered in an extra-ordinary way when he suffered and died for us and for our salvation. The three friends believed that only the wicked suffer. And yet the Lord Jesus suffered. And he suffered for us.
And when Christians suffer in the world today, it’s not because God is punishing us for our wickedness. He’s not punishing us, because the Lord Jesus Christ suffered the punishment we deserve in our place. He took the blame for us and established peace between God and us. And so, when we suffer, it’s not because God is punishing us. It’s not because he hates us. It’s not because he regards us as his enemies. Through faith we have become his people; and he loves us with an everlasting love; and no further payment will be demanded from us for our sins, because Christ has paid for our sins in full with his life. And so, when Christians suffer today, it’s not because God hates us. And though we may not understand why we’re suffering, nevertheless everything we know about God makes us believe that he was a good reason for sending suffering into our life, because our God loves us with an everlasting love and his plans and purposes for his people are always good.
And in the final chapter today, we learn about true wisdom. In verses 1 to 11 we read about how humans have been able to mine the earth for precious metals and stones. So, we’re able to mine the earth for silver and gold and iron and copper. In the darkest pits, we’re able to discover treasure. We build shafts and we go down deep under the ground to find sapphires and nuggets of gold. No bird of prey has ever been there; no falcon’s eyes have seen those mines. Proud beasts of the forest and field do not go there. Only human have gone down below the earth to uncover these treasures. Humans alone have laid bare the mountains. We tunnel through rock. We have searched the sources of rivers. We have brought hidden things to light.
That demonstrates our ingenuity and how we have been able to locate treasures hidden below the ground. But where can wisdom be found? That’s a treasure which is harder to find. Where does understanding dwell? It cannot be found in the land of the living. So is it in the deeps of the sea? No, it’s not there. Can it be purchased with gold? No, it can’t. Can it be bought with onyx or sapphires? No. The price of wisdom is beyond the price of rubies. So, where can it be found? Where does it dwell? How can we get it? We can get gold and silver and precious stones. But were can we get wisdom and understanding? It seems to be hidden from the eyes of every living thing. It is concealed even from the birds of the air who fly overhead and see everything else; but they can’t spot wisdom. Is it among the dead? No, it’s not there because Death and Destruction have only heard a rumour that it exists, but they haven’t seen it for themselves. So, where can it be found?
According to verse 23, God understands the way to wisdom. He alone knows where it dwells, because he’s the one who sees all things. By mentioning the wind and the rain in verses 25 to 27, he perhaps means that God created and sustains the wind and the rain by his wisdom. In any case, he’s saying that God knows where wisdom is found. So, how do we get wisdom? What is the secret to understanding? Job and his three friends have been trying to make sense of Job’s suffering. What does it mean? Why has it happened? The three friends thought they understood, but they were wrong. And Job knew they were wrong, but he did not understand why he was suffering. So, all four of them need wisdom. How can they get it.
Here’s what wisdom is. Verse 28: Wisdom means fearing God and shunning evil. That is: worship God and shun evil. This, of course, is what God said about Job in the beginning. God said he was a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil. So, Job has been a wise man all along. And the lesson for us is that this is what we’re to do when everything in life is going well; and when everything in life is going badly. When life is good; and when life is terrible. When God sends good things into our life; and when God sends affliction in our life. Whatever happens to us, our response must always be the same: worship God and shun evil. And that means we’re to worship the Triune God, who is God the Father who loved us and sent his Son to save us; and God the Son who became one of us and who gave up his life for us; and God the Spirit who is our sanctifier and who helps us to shun evil and to do God’s will here on earth. We’re to worship him and we’re to avoid sin. That’s the way to live wisely in the world. That’s what we’re to do every day in every circumstance. What should you do? You should worship God and you should keep from sin. This is the will of the Lord for all his people.