Job – How the Story Ends – Part 2

Now we get to the ending we all remember – Job’s friends are chastised, and he is blessed.

First, God is angry: “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.” Whereas they were trying to get Job to “fix it,” God wanted relationship.

But God also gave them a way out as he always gives us a way out: “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.”

Their way out included a hefty fine as I’m sure those bulls and rams were not cheap. It was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice God would make in shedding the blood of his son. And it also included Job forgiving them, praying for them. It must have been humbling for them to go him and ask him to pray, admiting Job was right.

But I’m left wondering…what happened to Elihu, the youngster who came out of nowhere to deliver the last speech? He’s not mentioned. Impatient, maybe he didn’t stay around to hear from God. Maybe God had another plan to deal with him? We don’t know…

But then we get to the good part: “the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave job twice as much as he had before. “ Family came around him and ate with him, showed him sympathy and comforted him, giving him money and rings of gold. 

“God blessed the latter days of Job more than the beginning.” His flocks and herds increased, he had sons and daughters (his wife is not mentioned, but I assume she was a part of this). I’m sure the pain of loosing his first batch of sons and daughters never totally went away, but he had a new hope of legacy.

And just a side note, verse 15 is interesting, “And their father gave them (his daughters) an inheritance among their brothers.” This seems to be an extension of Job’s blessing as Job broke tradition and spread his blessing among his children.

“And Job died, an old man, and full of days.”

Whew, we made it to the end! I’m sure Job was “full” in so many ways. Full of memories, full of lessons learned, full of relationships, full of thankfulness, full of most everything! Most of all, God filled him with a relationship to himself. Job completed his purpose on earth, to be a model to us during unjust suffering, demonstrating to us how to view God’s blessings versus a relationship with him.

Thank you, Job.  

Job – How the Story Ends

Most of all know the end – God restores to Job what he has lost. We like the ending because it fits the “fairy tales” we dreamed of from our youth. But before we get to the end, let’s look at a few other things…

Job’s response begins with, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” They key word here is “purpose.” Job submits himself to God’s purpose, not matter how unfair it feels and how little he understands. It’s a submission of his will.

Then Job confesses, “I have uttered what I did not understand.” Job realizes his feeble attempts to comprehend God, his purposes, his justice were inadequate. It’s a submission of his intellect.   

Lastly, Job sees God, “now my eye sees you; therefore, I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Eye contact. In all of Job’s speeches, he declared his righteousness. But in “seeing” God, he saw himself. The contrast was so stark, he falls into the dust from which he was created. He needs no “sin” to make him guilty, unworthy of salvation. It’s in his “self,” who he is, that original sin lay. He repents for being human, expecting something from God for his feeble efforts, submitting himself spiritually.

We can’t run by this too quickly. Even unjust, unfair suffering has some purpose in God’s economy. So the questions are: whose purpose do we desire? Ours or Gods? Can we summit our will? 

And do we recognize who we are compared to God? Do we truly sense and believe how big he is and how small we are? Do we truly believe it in our minds, heart and spirit?

And what is our response to him? Are we willing to look at God, eye to eye? Will we fall to our knees in the dust? Will we humble ourselves? Will we repent, submitting our sin nature to God spiritually? 

At this point, Job did not know how the story would end. Right now, you and I don’t know how our story will end. As far as he knew, he would stay in the ashes, scrapping sores, the rest of his life, without answers.

And this could have been the end of the story…

Job – God’s Response

 

Poor Job. We just saw him trounced upon once more by a lad half his age (my uneducated guess). Job is out of words, and probably out of will. Dejected, he sits by the side of the road, suffering physically, mentally, emotionally distant from all he loved and lost, feeling far from God…

 Then God answers in a whirlwind!

First, the whirlwind. God could have come in any number of ways, as even rocks cry out his glory. But after all the “hot air” used to rebuke Job, God decided to out “wind” them all. He made his presence undeniable, his power unquestionable. 

And then the voice. What did it sound like? Imagine sitting there with Job through all those boring days of heat, nights of cold, and then lectures ending in silence — only to experience a mini-tornado — with a voice, the very voice of God!

And God addresses Job, not his friends. He speaks directly, asking questions of his own. He focuses on “Who am I?” as well as “Who are you?” Different than Job’s friends who made the case of who God is in order to bring Job to repentance, God uses it to show the differences in their relationship. It’s not about what we do or don’t do, or even the specifics of sin. 

It’s all about relationship.

It’s about the trust and faith we can have in a God who is all powerful AND all loving. Even when things are hard, and we suffer, can we trust in him?

And God does not owe us blessings —

Who then is he who can stand before me?
Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?
Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

Just as salvation is unjust in that we don’t deserve it, suffering may also be unjust. We have done nothing to deserve salvation. We may have done nothing to deserve suffering.

This goes against so much of what we, like Job and his friends, so falsely believe. It’s the focus of the book of Job. It’s not about worshipping blessing and refuting suffering – it’s about making God what we worship. It’s not about what we earn, good or bad. It’s about understanding our relationship with God and his grace, and placing our trust/faith in him.

God does not owe us anything.

It’s purely by his grace we can be saved.

Job – Elihu’s Anger

Then out of nowhere comes a guy named Elihu. He hasn’t been mentioned before nor do we know if he sat with the other three friends for a week before talking.

What we do know is that he “burned with anger,” mentioned four times in the first paragraph. Generally, he burned with anger. Then “He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God.“ Then he “burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong.”

Lastly, “When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.”

 It must have been frustrating for Elihu, listening and judging the arguments taking far longer than his patience. He may have had a chip on his shoulder since he was younger, not getting the respect he desires. Any way you look at it, he swooped in with the fineish of a 18 year old going for a layup at a 40+ year old basketball game!

Emboldened with his youth, he lets it rip, at times not respecting his elder, scolding him, “Pay attention, O Job, listen to me; be silent, and I will speak…be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”

Elihu goes on for six chapters, summing up in the last verse what he thinks about Job’s problem, “he (God) does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”

It’s a reminder to me of an important principle: Even if you think you can “score,” don’t be arrogant. Don’t let frustrations build up and emotionally cloud your judgement. Listen yourself to the wisdom of others, what they are saying, and see if you have anything more to add. Are you just trying to be the one who “wins?”

Poor Job. He’s done and he just got stomped on again. 

Job – The Final Round

We’re finally to the final round of arguments – aren’t you glad? I know I am…part of the reason I find it hard to stay connected when reading Job is because of all the back and forth. I’ve never liked arguing, being in arguments or hearing arguments – just ask my children!

Elipaz takes his turn again, and for the sake of his friend begs, “Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you.” He tries to reason with Job to just have the suffering over. But Job cannot compromise his integrity to confess sin he’s not aware of.

Job comes by back with an emotional appeal still claiming innocence, “what he desires, he does.” We don’t understand why God desires or allows suffering in our lives, but he does. 

Bildad takes his turn to make a short speech, as if he’s out of words, reminding Job, “how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!” I don’t think the name-calling helped the conversation…

Which is reflected in Job’s response beginning with several exclamations of how unhelpful his friends are! He continues to defend his integrity saying, “till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.”

Job continues to look for wisdom and understanding. In his final appeal in chapter 31, he goes into a series (16) of “if” statements, affirming that he knows there is cause and effect of which he is not aware. If he knew what he had done wrong, he is more than willing to confess.

Then, “the words of Job are ended.”

All the fight is gone; all the words said; Job has nothing left. It’s as if he is willing to go to the grave not knowing.

Know the feeling? At times, I have given up knowing why only to figure it out later. And there are some things I’m sure I will only understand on the other side. There is time to give up, to give in to God and be at peace that he is God. All his character is true, the power, the mercy, the love, etc. but at this point in time, he is not answering for a reason only known to him.

It’s hard to not understand why. Just like Adam and Eve, we want to be like God, to have him share his wisdom with us. But there is a point where he leaves us just trusting in him without understanding…

It’s called, “faith.”

Job – Injustice

Zophar seems to be tempered after blasting Job the first time and then hearing Job’s responses as Zophar takes a much kinder, reasoning approach. This time he makes the argument that the wicked do prosper and maybe Job thought he was righteous because of his blessings when he was actually sinning.

Job responded in kind, asking his friends to, “Keep listening to my words, and let this be your comfort.” It’s as if the one needing comfort is trying to reason with, comfort the others!

Job continues to speak aloud all the questions hidden in his heart, 

Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?

Isn’t it an age-old question? Why is there injustice? We know because we were created in the Garden, in perfection, that injustice should not be. 

We long for a perfect world.

And yet, this side of the Redeemer, we will not see it. Even now we see wicked people go unpunished while good people, hard-working people, righteous people are suffering. It goes against every bone in our bodies, and we do what we can, but it always seems to fall short.

Somehow, this encourages me instead of depresses me. Why? Because I know there is a Redeemer, I know there is hope. There is a reason for my longing for justice for this world because God put it into my soul. And I am not alone in this struggle. It has gone on since sin entered this world.

I think of the book of Revelation when John cries out, CLORD, Come quickly!” I have the feeling that if Job had lived after Revelation had been written, he would have been crying out the same words…

Job – I Know…

The speeches are getting shorter on both sides by the time we get to Chapter 18 where Bildad jumps into the conversation. Less tactful than Elipaz, Bildad warns Job of all the bad things that happen to those who have unconfessed sin.

A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare lays hold of him.
A rope is hidden for him in the ground, a trap for him in the path.
Terrors frighten him on every side and chase him at his heels.

Job replies, “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?” Instead of being a comfort, affirming Job for who he is and has been, his friends continue to try to convince him he has sinned until Job proclaims:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

What a proclamation! What a truth to stand on! When it gets tough, when all else fails us and even our friends turn against us, we know this is true – we have a Redeemer and when all else is said and done, he will remain.

Job lived before Jesus’ time, but he knew a Redeemer was coming. He knew redemption in his life through the truth of God and sacrifice. At this point, he may be doubting everything else he knew about righteous living, but he knew his Redeemer would at some point end all arguments, all struggles, all wrongs.

What a word of wisdom for my life!

Job – Grief

A slightly subdued Job responds to Elipaz, and yet his attitude not changed:

I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all.

(Do I hear a bit of southern drawl in Job’s “you’ll?!? Sorry – that wasn’t very spiritual!)

I do have compassion for Job. He’s at an impossible place, enduring more suffering than I can imagine. He had held each one of his sons and daughters on his lap, celebrating their birth. He had inspected his herds, proud of each little calf and his wisdom in how to breed them. He loved his dear wife, and she had turned away from him. And now his body was fighting him with waves of pain. 

And now these friends whom he had trusted for years were not giving him the answers he wanted…

I hear a bit of jealousy as he ways, “I also could speak as you do, if you were in my place.” He wishes with all his heart that he could be the comforter, and yet realizes he would be none the better.

Job goes on:

Surely God has worn me out…My spirit is broken…
My days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart.

Can you hear his grief, his sadness? This is different than his first speech there he wanted to die to escape the pain. This is deep grief that what was the purpose of his life, the desires of his heart, will never be.

Often, when we suffer, we first get mad. We feel the injustice of it. We’re frantic to escape and fight anyone who gets in our way.

But then there is an acceptance of the facts; we are suffering. It hurts. It’s sad. We grieve what is gone, never to be experienced again.

I’ve gone through phases of this with my cancer, declining health and what comes with age. Every time I break a bone, I’m reminded that no matter how hard I do rehab, it’s not going to be the same. I have friends who struggle with their relationship with their kids. Every time there is an altercation, trust is lost, and although they reconcile, it’s not the same. 

And it’s sad.

God didn’t create us for sin, for death, for illness, for all that Job is enduring. And it’s sad that he, that we, suffer.

Job ends with:

Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?
Will it go down to the bars of Sheol?
Shall we descend together into the dust?

Suffering produces deep grief.

Job – Second Round

Then sweet Elipaz speaks again. I’m not sure if he is tempering Zophar or defending him. I really wish I could have been the fly on the wall and heard the tone of what was being said.

But what he says does seem to be a response to both Zophar and Job. It feels as if he’s trying to deescalate the situation. He starts with another series of questions, but I can’t see who he is looking at, Job, Zophar or both.

Are you the first man who was born?
Or were you brought forth before the hills?

In other words, “Are you all powerful, eternal, all knowing God?”

Have you listened in the council of God?
And do you limit wisdom to yourself?

In other words, “Why are you so certain you are the only one who know right?”

What do you know that we do not know?
What do you understand that is not clear to us?

In other words, “What do you know that we don’t know?”

As I take a step back, those aren’t bad questions to consider when we’re in a heated debate. 

First, our ego, our need to defend ourselves, may be taking over the conversation, affecting the relationship. In the moment of defending ourselves, we honestly believe we are the defender of truth…and that is God’s responsibility.

Second, there are lots of truths in the world. Some of them even seem to contradict, yet we know they are still true (ie. we may die, yet we shall live). 

Third, every person is limited in their comprehension by their experience of what seems to be true as they have observed life.

I hear this lived out in our current situation – political parties who feel they are the ones to defend truth, contrasts in right and wrong which are hard to reconcile, people groups who minimize other groups in their pain because they have not personally experienced a truth. We’re escalating our arguments when we need to calm down, get perspective of who we are, who others are, and how none of us have the total truth.

Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself,
For emptiness will be his payment.
It will be paid in full before his time, 
And his branch will not be green.

Conflict sucks the life out of relationship. If we feel we have a corner on truth, we deceive ourselves. And even if we “win,” we’ll be empty.

Go Elipaz – I’m starting to like you!

Job – The Tag Team Begins

As Job argues back, it’s almost as if he hasn’t heard a word Elipaz said.  He is so filled with his own pain; he says that same things over and over, shooting questions like a machine gun. 

Which, by the way, is not an unusual response when dealing with pain. If you are a friend trying to comfort someone, don’t be surprised if your good intentions are rebuffed. It’s as if the pain is so loud, it’s hard to hear.

Job goes back to his old arguments – that he has been blameless and yet God is not blessing. He can’t understand it. As he sums it up, 

Is there any injustice on my tongue?
Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity?

In suffering, there are more questions than answers. It’s beyond us to understand the “why?” which leaves us physically and mentally exhausted, which leaves us open to despair, even pushing away those who love us, and the God who loves us.

I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath..

So Bildad picks up where his friend Elipaz was rebuffed, taking a slightly less humble approach:

How long will you say these things, 
and the words of your mouth be a great wind?

And Bildad starts with the “ifs” of life:

If your children…If you will seek…If you are pure and upright…

Job replies, as if he hears better now the truth that is in the midst of the questions. 

Truly I know that it is so…I must appeal for mercy…
He is not a man, as I am…
You have granted me life and steadfast love, 
And your care has preserved my spirit. 

So, in light of a softening of Job’s heart, Zophar joins in the conversation – and the tag team has officially begun!