Lessons from Job

  • Series: Let God be God
  • Author: Ray C. Stedman
Read the Scripture: Job 1 - 42
Job 1 - 42

1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

4 His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, "Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." This was Job's regular custom.

6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"
Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."

9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."

12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger."
Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

13 One day when Job's sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised."

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

1 On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"
Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

3 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason."

4 "Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."

6 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

9 His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

10 He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

11 When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

1 After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said:

3 "May the day of my birth perish,
and the night it was said, 'A boy is born!'

4 That day—may it turn to darkness;
may God above not care about it;
may no light shine upon it.

5 May darkness and deep shadow claim it once more;
may a cloud settle over it;
may blackness overwhelm its light.

6 That night—may thick darkness seize it;
may it not be included among the days of the year
nor be entered in any of the months.

7 May that night be barren;
may no shout of joy be heard in it.

8 May those who curse days curse that day,
those who are ready to rouse Leviathan.

9 May its morning stars become dark;
may it wait for daylight in vain
and not see the first rays of dawn,

10 for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me
to hide trouble from my eyes.

11 "Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb?

12 Why were there knees to receive me
and breasts that I might be nursed?

13 For now I would be lying down in peace;
I would be asleep and at rest

14 with kings and counselors of the earth,
who built for themselves places now lying in ruins,

15 with rulers who had gold,
who filled their houses with silver.

16 Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child,
like an infant who never saw the light of day?

17 There the wicked cease from turmoil,
and there the weary are at rest.

18 Captives also enjoy their ease;
they no longer hear the slave driver's shout.

19 The small and the great are there,
and the slave is freed from his master.

20 "Why is light given to those in misery,
and life to the bitter of soul,

21 to those who long for death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure,

22 who are filled with gladness
and rejoice when they reach the grave?

23 Why is life given to a man
whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?

24 For sighing comes to me instead of food;
my groans pour out like water.

25 What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.

26 I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil."

1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:

2 "If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
But who can keep from speaking?

3 Think how you have instructed many,
how you have strengthened feeble hands.

4 Your words have supported those who stumbled;
you have strengthened faltering knees.

5 But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
it strikes you, and you are dismayed.

6 Should not your piety be your confidence
and your blameless ways your hope?

7 "Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?

8 As I have observed, those who plow evil
and those who sow trouble reap it.

9 At the breath of God they are destroyed;
at the blast of his anger they perish.

10 The lions may roar and growl,
yet the teeth of the great lions are broken.

11 The lion perishes for lack of prey,
and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.

12 "A word was secretly brought to me,
my ears caught a whisper of it.

13 Amid disquieting dreams in the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,

14 fear and trembling seized me
and made all my bones shake.

15 A spirit glided past my face,
and the hair on my body stood on end.

16 It stopped,
but I could not tell what it was.
A form stood before my eyes,
and I heard a hushed voice:

17 'Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can a man be more pure than his Maker?

18 If God places no trust in his servants,
if he charges his angels with error,

19 how much more those who live in houses of clay,
whose foundations are in the dust,
who are crushed more readily than a moth!

20 Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces;
unnoticed, they perish forever.

21 Are not the cords of their tent pulled up,
so that they die without wisdom?'

1 "Call if you will, but who will answer you?
To which of the holy ones will you turn?

2 Resentment kills a fool,
and envy slays the simple.

3 I myself have seen a fool taking root,
but suddenly his house was cursed.

4 His children are far from safety,
crushed in court without a defender.

5 The hungry consume his harvest,
taking it even from among thorns,
and the thirsty pant after his wealth.

6 For hardship does not spring from the soil,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground.

7 Yet man is born to trouble
as surely as sparks fly upward.

8 "But if it were I, I would appeal to God;
I would lay my cause before him.

9 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.

10 He bestows rain on the earth;
he sends water upon the countryside.

11 The lowly he sets on high,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.

12 He thwarts the plans of the crafty,
so that their hands achieve no success.

13 He catches the wise in their craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are swept away.

14 Darkness comes upon them in the daytime;
at noon they grope as in the night.

15 He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth;
he saves them from the clutches of the powerful.

16 So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts its mouth.

17 "Blessed is the man whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

18 For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.

19 From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will befall you.

20 In famine he will ransom you from death,
and in battle from the stroke of the sword.

21 You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
and need not fear when destruction comes.

22 You will laugh at destruction and famine,
and need not fear the beasts of the earth.

23 For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
and the wild animals will be at peace with you.

24 You will know that your tent is secure;
you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.

25 You will know that your children will be many,
and your descendants like the grass of the earth.

26 You will come to the grave in full vigor,
like sheaves gathered in season.

27 "We have examined this, and it is true.
So hear it and apply it to yourself."

1 Then Job replied:

2 "If only my anguish could be weighed
and all my misery be placed on the scales!

3 It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—
no wonder my words have been impetuous.

4 The arrows of the Almighty are in me,
my spirit drinks in their poison;
God's terrors are marshaled against me.

5 Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass,
or an ox bellow when it has fodder?

6 Is tasteless food eaten without salt,
or is there flavor in the white of an egg

7 I refuse to touch it;
such food makes me ill.

8 "Oh, that I might have my request,
that God would grant what I hope for,

9 that God would be willing to crush me,
to let loose his hand and cut me off!

10 Then I would still have this consolation—
my joy in unrelenting pain—
that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.

11 "What strength do I have, that I should still hope?
What prospects, that I should be patient?

12 Do I have the strength of stone?
Is my flesh bronze?

13 Do I have any power to help myself,
now that success has been driven from me?

14 "A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends,
even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.

15 But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams,
as the streams that overflow

16 when darkened by thawing ice
and swollen with melting snow,

17 but that cease to flow in the dry season,
and in the heat vanish from their channels.

18 Caravans turn aside from their routes;
they go up into the wasteland and perish.

19 The caravans of Tema look for water,
the traveling merchants of Sheba look in hope.

20 They are distressed, because they had been confident;
they arrive there, only to be disappointed.

21 Now you too have proved to be of no help;
you see something dreadful and are afraid.

22 Have I ever said, 'Give something on my behalf,
pay a ransom for me from your wealth,

23 deliver me from the hand of the enemy,
ransom me from the clutches of the ruthless'?

24 "Teach me, and I will be quiet;
show me where I have been wrong.

25 How painful are honest words!
But what do your arguments prove?

26 Do you mean to correct what I say,
and treat the words of a despairing man as wind?

27 You would even cast lots for the fatherless
and barter away your friend.

28 "But now be so kind as to look at me.
Would I lie to your face?

29 Relent, do not be unjust;
reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.

30 Is there any wickedness on my lips?
Can my mouth not discern malice?

1 "Does not man have hard service on earth?
Are not his days like those of a hired man?

2 Like a slave longing for the evening shadows,
or a hired man waiting eagerly for his wages,

3 so I have been allotted months of futility,
and nights of misery have been assigned to me.

4 When I lie down I think, 'How long before I get up?'
The night drags on, and I toss till dawn.

5 My body is clothed with worms and scabs,
my skin is broken and festering.

6 "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle,
and they come to an end without hope.

7 Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath;
my eyes will never see happiness again.

8 The eye that now sees me will see me no longer;
you will look for me, but I will be no more.

9 As a cloud vanishes and is gone,
so he who goes down to the grave does not return.

10 He will never come to his house again;
his place will know him no more.

11 "Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

12 Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep,
that you put me under guard?

13 When I think my bed will comfort me
and my couch will ease my complaint,

14 even then you frighten me with dreams
and terrify me with visions,

15 so that I prefer strangling and death,
rather than this body of mine.

16 I despise my life; I would not live forever.
Let me alone; my days have no meaning.

17 "What is man that you make so much of him,
that you give him so much attention,

18 that you examine him every morning
and test him every moment?

19 Will you never look away from me,
or let me alone even for an instant?

20 If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
O watcher of men?
Why have you made me your target?
Have I become a burden to you?

21 Why do you not pardon my offenses
and forgive my sins?
For I will soon lie down in the dust;
you will search for me, but I will be no more."

1 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:

2 "How long will you say such things?
Your words are a blustering wind.

3 Does God pervert justice?
Does the Almighty pervert what is right?

4 When your children sinned against him,
he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.

5 But if you will look to God
and plead with the Almighty,

6 if you are pure and upright,
even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
and restore you to your rightful place.

7 Your beginnings will seem humble,
so prosperous will your future be.

8 "Ask the former generations
and find out what their fathers learned,

9 for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.

10 Will they not instruct you and tell you?
Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?

11 Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh?
Can reeds thrive without water?

12 While still growing and uncut,
they wither more quickly than grass.

13 Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless.

14 What he trusts in is fragile ;
what he relies on is a spider's web.

15 He leans on his web, but it gives way;
he clings to it, but it does not hold.

16 He is like a well-watered plant in the sunshine,
spreading its shoots over the garden;

17 it entwines its roots around a pile of rocks
and looks for a place among the stones.

18 But when it is torn from its spot,
that place disowns it and says, 'I never saw you.'

19 Surely its life withers away,
and from the soil other plants grow.

20 "Surely God does not reject a blameless man
or strengthen the hands of evildoers.

21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.

22 Your enemies will be clothed in shame,
and the tents of the wicked will be no more."

1 Then Job replied:

2 "Indeed, I know that this is true.
But how can a mortal be righteous before God?

3 Though one wished to dispute with him,
he could not answer him one time out of a thousand.

4 His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.
Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?

5 He moves mountains without their knowing it
and overturns them in his anger.

6 He shakes the earth from its place
and makes its pillars tremble.

7 He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
he seals off the light of the stars.

8 He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads on the waves of the sea.

9 He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.

10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.

11 When he passes me, I cannot see him;
when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.

12 If he snatches away, who can stop him?
Who can say to him, 'What are you doing?'

13 God does not restrain his anger;
even the cohorts of Rahab cowered at his feet.

14 "How then can I dispute with him?
How can I find words to argue with him?

15 Though I were innocent, I could not answer him;
I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.

16 Even if I summoned him and he responded,
I do not believe he would give me a hearing.

17 He would crush me with a storm
and multiply my wounds for no reason.

18 He would not let me regain my breath
but would overwhelm me with misery.

19 If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty!
And if it is a matter of justice, who will summon him

20 Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me;
if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty.

21 "Although I am blameless,
I have no concern for myself;
I despise my own life.

22 It is all the same; that is why I say,
'He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.'

23 When a scourge brings sudden death,
he mocks the despair of the innocent.

24 When a land falls into the hands of the wicked,
he blindfolds its judges.
If it is not he, then who is it?

25 "My days are swifter than a runner;
they fly away without a glimpse of joy.

26 They skim past like boats of papyrus,
like eagles swooping down on their prey.

27 If I say, 'I will forget my complaint,
I will change my expression, and smile,'

28 I still dread all my sufferings,
for I know you will not hold me innocent.

29 Since I am already found guilty,
why should I struggle in vain?

30 Even if I washed myself with soap
and my hands with washing soda,

31 you would plunge me into a slime pit
so that even my clothes would detest me.

32 "He is not a man like me that I might answer him,
that we might confront each other in court.

33 If only there were someone to arbitrate between us,
to lay his hand upon us both,

34 someone to remove God's rod from me,
so that his terror would frighten me no more.

35 Then I would speak up without fear of him,
but as it now stands with me, I cannot.

1 "I loathe my very life;
therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.

2 I will say to God: Do not condemn me,
but tell me what charges you have against me.

3 Does it please you to oppress me,
to spurn the work of your hands,
while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?

4 Do you have eyes of flesh?
Do you see as a mortal sees?

5 Are your days like those of a mortal
or your years like those of a man,

6 that you must search out my faults
and probe after my sin-

7 though you know that I am not guilty
and that no one can rescue me from your hand?

8 "Your hands shaped me and made me.
Will you now turn and destroy me?

9 Remember that you molded me like clay.
Will you now turn me to dust again?

10 Did you not pour me out like milk
and curdle me like cheese,

11 clothe me with skin and flesh
and knit me together with bones and sinews?

12 You gave me life and showed me kindness,
and in your providence watched over my spirit.

13 "But this is what you concealed in your heart,
and I know that this was in your mind:

14 If I sinned, you would be watching me
and would not let my offense go unpunished.

15 If I am guilty—woe to me!
Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head,
for I am full of shame
and drowned in my affliction.

16 If I hold my head high, you stalk me like a lion
and again display your awesome power against me.

17 You bring new witnesses against me
and increase your anger toward me;
your forces come against me wave upon wave.

18 "Why then did you bring me out of the womb?
I wish I had died before any eye saw me.

19 If only I had never come into being,
or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave!

20 Are not my few days almost over?
Turn away from me so I can have a moment's joy

21 before I go to the place of no return,
to the land of gloom and deep shadow,

22 to the land of deepest night,
of deep shadow and disorder,
where even the light is like darkness."

1 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:

2 "Are all these words to go unanswered?
Is this talker to be vindicated?

3 Will your idle talk reduce men to silence?
Will no one rebuke you when you mock?

4 You say to God, 'My beliefs are flawless
and I am pure in your sight.'

5 Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
that he would open his lips against you

6 and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom,
for true wisdom has two sides.
Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.

7 "Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?

8 They are higher than the heavens—what can you do?
They are deeper than the depths of the grave —what can you know?

9 Their measure is longer than the earth
and wider than the sea.

10 "If he comes along and confines you in prison
and convenes a court, who can oppose him?

11 Surely he recognizes deceitful men;
and when he sees evil, does he not take note?

12 But a witless man can no more become wise
than a wild donkey's colt can be born a man.

13 "Yet if you devote your heart to him
and stretch out your hands to him,

14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,

15 then you will lift up your face without shame;
you will stand firm and without fear.

16 You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.

17 Life will be brighter than noonday,
and darkness will become like morning.

18 You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.

19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
and many will court your favor.

20 But the eyes of the wicked will fail,
and escape will elude them;
their hope will become a dying gasp."

1 Then Job replied:

2 "Doubtless you are the people,
and wisdom will die with you!

3 But I have a mind as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know all these things?

4 "I have become a laughingstock to my friends,
though I called upon God and he answered—
a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!

5 Men at ease have contempt for misfortune
as the fate of those whose feet are slipping.

6 The tents of marauders are undisturbed,
and those who provoke God are secure—
those who carry their god in their hands.

7 "But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish of the sea inform you.

9 Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?

10 In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.

11 Does not the ear test words
as the tongue tastes food?

12 Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?

13 "To God belong wisdom and power;
counsel and understanding are his.

14 What he tears down cannot be rebuilt;
the man he imprisons cannot be released.

15 If he holds back the waters, there is drought;
if he lets them loose, they devastate the land.

16 To him belong strength and victory;
both deceived and deceiver are his.

17 He leads counselors away stripped
and makes fools of judges.

18 He takes off the shackles put on by kings
and ties a loincloth around their waist.

19 He leads priests away stripped
and overthrows men long established.

20 He silences the lips of trusted advisers
and takes away the discernment of elders.

21 He pours contempt on nobles
and disarms the mighty.

22 He reveals the deep things of darkness
and brings deep shadows into the light.

23 He makes nations great, and destroys them;
he enlarges nations, and disperses them.

24 He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason;
he sends them wandering through a trackless waste.

25 They grope in darkness with no light;
he makes them stagger like drunkards.

1 "My eyes have seen all this,
my ears have heard and understood it.

2 What you know, I also know;
I am not inferior to you.

3 But I desire to speak to the Almighty
and to argue my case with God.

4 You, however, smear me with lies;
you are worthless physicians, all of you!

5 If only you would be altogether silent!
For you, that would be wisdom.

6 Hear now my argument;
listen to the plea of my lips.

7 Will you speak wickedly on God's behalf?
Will you speak deceitfully for him?

8 Will you show him partiality?
Will you argue the case for God?

9 Would it turn out well if he examined you?
Could you deceive him as you might deceive men?

10 He would surely rebuke you
if you secretly showed partiality.

11 Would not his splendor terrify you?
Would not the dread of him fall on you?

12 Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay.

13 "Keep silent and let me speak;
then let come to me what may.

14 Why do I put myself in jeopardy
and take my life in my hands?

15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
I will surely defend my ways to his face.

16 Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance,
for no godless man would dare come before him!

17 Listen carefully to my words;
let your ears take in what I say.

18 Now that I have prepared my case,
I know I will be vindicated.

19 Can anyone bring charges against me?
If so, I will be silent and die.

20 "Only grant me these two things, O God,
and then I will not hide from you:

21 Withdraw your hand far from me,
and stop frightening me with your terrors.

22 Then summon me and I will answer,
or let me speak, and you reply.

23 How many wrongs and sins have I committed?
Show me my offense and my sin.

24 Why do you hide your face
and consider me your enemy?

25 Will you torment a windblown leaf?
Will you chase after dry chaff?

26 For you write down bitter things against me
and make me inherit the sins of my youth.

27 You fasten my feet in shackles;
you keep close watch on all my paths
by putting marks on the soles of my feet.

28 "So man wastes away like something rotten,
like a garment eaten by moths.

1 "Man born of woman
is of few days and full of trouble.

2 He springs up like a flower and withers away;
like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.

3 Do you fix your eye on such a one?
Will you bring him before you for judgment?

4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure?
No one!

5 Man's days are determined;
you have decreed the number of his months
and have set limits he cannot exceed.

6 So look away from him and let him alone,
till he has put in his time like a hired man.

7 "At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.

8 Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,

9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.

10 But man dies and is laid low;
he breathes his last and is no more.

11 As water disappears from the sea
or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,

12 so man lies down and does not rise;
till the heavens are no more, men will not awake
or be roused from their sleep.

13 "If only you would hide me in the grave
and conceal me till your anger has passed!
If only you would set me a time
and then remember me!

14 If a man dies, will he live again?
All the days of my hard service
I will wait for my renewal to come.

15 You will call and I will answer you;
you will long for the creature your hands have made.

16 Surely then you will count my steps
but not keep track of my sin.

17 My offenses will be sealed up in a bag;
you will cover over my sin.

18 "But as a mountain erodes and crumbles
and as a rock is moved from its place,

19 as water wears away stones
and torrents wash away the soil,
so you destroy man's hope.

20 You overpower him once for all, and he is gone;
you change his countenance and send him away.

21 If his sons are honored, he does not know it;
if they are brought low, he does not see it.

22 He feels but the pain of his own body
and mourns only for himself."

1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:

2 "Would a wise man answer with empty notions
or fill his belly with the hot east wind?

3 Would he argue with useless words,
with speeches that have no value?

4 But you even undermine piety
and hinder devotion to God.

5 Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty.

6 Your own mouth condemns you, not mine;
your own lips testify against you.

7 "Are you the first man ever born?
Were you brought forth before the hills?

8 Do you listen in on God's council?
Do you limit wisdom to yourself?

9 What do you know that we do not know?
What insights do you have that we do not have?

10 The gray-haired and the aged are on our side,
men even older than your father.

11 Are God's consolations not enough for you,
words spoken gently to you?

12 Why has your heart carried you away,
and why do your eyes flash,

13 so that you vent your rage against God
and pour out such words from your mouth?

14 "What is man, that he could be pure,
or one born of woman, that he could be righteous?

15 If God places no trust in his holy ones,
if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes,

16 how much less man, who is vile and corrupt,
who drinks up evil like water!

17 "Listen to me and I will explain to you;
let me tell you what I have seen,

18 what wise men have declared,
hiding nothing received from their fathers

19 (to whom alone the land was given
when no alien passed among them):

20 All his days the wicked man suffers torment,
the ruthless through all the years stored up for him.

21 Terrifying sounds fill his ears;
when all seems well, marauders attack him.

22 He despairs of escaping the darkness;
he is marked for the sword.

23 He wanders about—food for vultures ;
he knows the day of darkness is at hand.

24 Distress and anguish fill him with terror;
they overwhelm him, like a king poised to attack,

25 because he shakes his fist at God
and vaunts himself against the Almighty,

26 defiantly charging against him
with a thick, strong shield.

27 "Though his face is covered with fat
and his waist bulges with flesh,

28 he will inhabit ruined towns
and houses where no one lives,
houses crumbling to rubble.

29 He will no longer be rich and his wealth will not endure,
nor will his possessions spread over the land.

30 He will not escape the darkness;
a flame will wither his shoots,
and the breath of God's mouth will carry him away.

31 Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless,
for he will get nothing in return.

32 Before his time he will be paid in full,
and his branches will not flourish.

33 He will be like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes,
like an olive tree shedding its blossoms.

34 For the company of the godless will be barren,
and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes.

35 They conceive trouble and give birth to evil;
their womb fashions deceit."

1 Then Job replied:

2 "I have heard many things like these;
miserable comforters are you all!

3 Will your long-winded speeches never end?
What ails you that you keep on arguing?

4 I also could speak like you,
if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
and shake my head at you.

5 But my mouth would encourage you;
comfort from my lips would bring you relief.

6 "Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved;
and if I refrain, it does not go away.

7 Surely, O God, you have worn me out;
you have devastated my entire household.

8 You have bound me—and it has become a witness;
my gauntness rises up and testifies against me.

9 God assails me and tears me in his anger
and gnashes his teeth at me;
my opponent fastens on me his piercing eyes.

10 Men open their mouths to jeer at me;
they strike my cheek in scorn
and unite together against me.

11 God has turned me over to evil men
and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked.

12 All was well with me, but he shattered me;
he seized me by the neck and crushed me.
He has made me his target;

13 his archers surround me.
Without pity, he pierces my kidneys
and spills my gall on the ground.

14 Again and again he bursts upon me;
he rushes at me like a warrior.

15 "I have sewed sackcloth over my skin
and buried my brow in the dust.

16 My face is red with weeping,
deep shadows ring my eyes;

17 yet my hands have been free of violence
and my prayer is pure.

18 "O earth, do not cover my blood;
may my cry never be laid to rest!

19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
my advocate is on high.

20 My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;

21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as a man pleads for his friend.

22 "Only a few years will pass
before I go on the journey of no return.

1 My spirit is broken,
my days are cut short,
the grave awaits me.

2 Surely mockers surround me;
my eyes must dwell on their hostility.

3 "Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.
Who else will put up security for me?

4 You have closed their minds to understanding;
therefore you will not let them triumph.

5 If a man denounces his friends for reward,
the eyes of his children will fail.

6 "God has made me a byword to everyone,
a man in whose face people spit.

7 My eyes have grown dim with grief;
my whole frame is but a shadow.

8 Upright men are appalled at this;
the innocent are aroused against the ungodly.

9 Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways,
and those with clean hands will grow stronger.

10 "But come on, all of you, try again!
I will not find a wise man among you.

11 My days have passed, my plans are shattered,
and so are the desires of my heart.

12 These men turn night into day;
in the face of darkness they say, 'Light is near.'

13 If the only home I hope for is the grave,
if I spread out my bed in darkness,

14 if I say to corruption, 'You are my father,'
and to the worm, 'My mother' or 'My sister,'

15 where then is my hope?
Who can see any hope for me?

16 Will it go down to the gates of death
Will we descend together into the dust?"

1 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:

2 "When will you end these speeches?
Be sensible, and then we can talk.

3 Why are we regarded as cattle
and considered stupid in your sight?

4 You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger,
is the earth to be abandoned for your sake?
Or must the rocks be moved from their place?

5 "The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out;
the flame of his fire stops burning.

6 The light in his tent becomes dark;
the lamp beside him goes out.

7 The vigor of his step is weakened;
his own schemes throw him down.

8 His feet thrust him into a net
and he wanders into its mesh.

9 A trap seizes him by the heel;
a snare holds him fast.

10 A noose is hidden for him on the ground;
a trap lies in his path.

11 Terrors startle him on every side
and dog his every step.

12 Calamity is hungry for him;
disaster is ready for him when he falls.

13 It eats away parts of his skin;
death's firstborn devours his limbs.

14 He is torn from the security of his tent
and marched off to the king of terrors.

15 Fire resides in his tent;
burning sulfur is scattered over his dwelling.

16 His roots dry up below
and his branches wither above.

17 The memory of him perishes from the earth;
he has no name in the land.

18 He is driven from light into darkness
and is banished from the world.

19 He has no offspring or descendants among his people,
no survivor where once he lived.

20 Men of the west are appalled at his fate;
men of the east are seized with horror.

21 Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man;
such is the place of one who knows not God."

1 Then Job replied:

2 "How long will you torment me
and crush me with words?

3 Ten times now you have reproached me;
shamelessly you attack me.

4 If it is true that I have gone astray,
my error remains my concern alone.

5 If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me
and use my humiliation against me,

6 then know that God has wronged me
and drawn his net around me.

7 "Though I cry, 'I've been wronged!' I get no response;
though I call for help, there is no justice.

8 He has blocked my way so I cannot pass;
he has shrouded my paths in darkness.

9 He has stripped me of my honor
and removed the crown from my head.

10 He tears me down on every side till I am gone;
he uproots my hope like a tree.

11 His anger burns against me;
he counts me among his enemies.

12 His troops advance in force;
they build a siege ramp against me
and encamp around my tent.

13 "He has alienated my brothers from me;
my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.

14 My kinsmen have gone away;
my friends have forgotten me.

15 My guests and my maidservants count me a stranger;
they look upon me as an alien.

16 I summon my servant, but he does not answer,
though I beg him with my own mouth.

17 My breath is offensive to my wife;
I am loathsome to my own brothers.

18 Even the little boys scorn me;
when I appear, they ridicule me.

19 All my intimate friends detest me;
those I love have turned against me.

20 I am nothing but skin and bones;
I have escaped with only the skin of my teeth.

21 "Have pity on me, my friends, have pity,
for the hand of God has struck me.

22 Why do you pursue me as God does?
Will you never get enough of my flesh?

23 "Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,

24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
or engraved in rock forever!

25 I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.

26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;

27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

28 "If you say, 'How we will hound him,
since the root of the trouble lies in him, '

29 you should fear the sword yourselves;
for wrath will bring punishment by the sword,
and then you will know that there is judgment. "

1 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:

2 "My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer
because I am greatly disturbed.

3 I hear a rebuke that dishonors me,
and my understanding inspires me to reply.

4 "Surely you know how it has been from of old,
ever since man was placed on the earth,

5 that the mirth of the wicked is brief,
the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.

6 Though his pride reaches to the heavens
and his head touches the clouds,

7 he will perish forever, like his own dung;
those who have seen him will say, 'Where is he?'

8 Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found,
banished like a vision of the night.

9 The eye that saw him will not see him again;
his place will look on him no more.

10 His children must make amends to the poor;
his own hands must give back his wealth.

11 The youthful vigor that fills his bones
will lie with him in the dust.

12 "Though evil is sweet in his mouth
and he hides it under his tongue,

13 though he cannot bear to let it go
and keeps it in his mouth,

14 yet his food will turn sour in his stomach;
it will become the venom of serpents within him.

15 He will spit out the riches he swallowed;
God will make his stomach vomit them up.

16 He will suck the poison of serpents;
the fangs of an adder will kill him.

17 He will not enjoy the streams,
the rivers flowing with honey and cream.

18 What he toiled for he must give back uneaten;
he will not enjoy the profit from his trading.

19 For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute;
he has seized houses he did not build.

20 "Surely he will have no respite from his craving;
he cannot save himself by his treasure.

21 Nothing is left for him to devour;
his prosperity will not endure.

22 In the midst of his plenty, distress will overtake him;
the full force of misery will come upon him.

23 When he has filled his belly,
God will vent his burning anger against him
and rain down his blows upon him.

24 Though he flees from an iron weapon,
a bronze-tipped arrow pierces him.

25 He pulls it out of his back,
the gleaming point out of his liver.
Terrors will come over him;

26 total darkness lies in wait for his treasures.
A fire unfanned will consume him
and devour what is left in his tent.

27 The heavens will expose his guilt;
the earth will rise up against him.

28 A flood will carry off his house,
rushing waters on the day of God's wrath.

29 Such is the fate God allots the wicked,
the heritage appointed for them by God."

1 Then Job replied:

2 "Listen carefully to my words;
let this be the consolation you give me.

3 Bear with me while I speak,
and after I have spoken, mock on.

4 "Is my complaint directed to man?
Why should I not be impatient?

5 Look at me and be astonished;
clap your hand over your mouth.

6 When I think about this, I am terrified;
trembling seizes my body.

7 Why do the wicked live on,
growing old and increasing in power?

8 They see their children established around them,
their offspring before their eyes.

9 Their homes are safe and free from fear;
the rod of God is not upon them.

10 Their bulls never fail to breed;
their cows calve and do not miscarry.

11 They send forth their children as a flock;
their little ones dance about.

12 They sing to the music of tambourine and harp;
they make merry to the sound of the flute.

13 They spend their years in prosperity
and go down to the grave in peace.

14 Yet they say to God, 'Leave us alone!
We have no desire to know your ways.

New International Version
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The book of Job is far too complex and far too profound to do a "once over lightly" treatment, so I would like to go back this morning and recall to us the great truths that it has brought before us. This is probably the very first book of the Bible that was ever written; it takes us back to the earliest days of man's redemptive history. Job was probably a contemporary of Abraham. He did not live in the Promised Land; he lived in another country of which we know very little, the ancient land of Uz. Yet his faith reflects that heritage of revelation which had passed down to men and was widely scattered throughout the earth. It had come through the stories that men had told each other, beginning with Adam and Eve, and through their children; passed on down to the days of the Flood, and then carried on beyond that by the sons of Noah. So we have a very early faith represented in the book of Job. Yet, as we have seen in going through it, it is in line exactly with the greater revelation of Scripture which we come to in the Old and New Testaments.

There is a tremendous setting forth of great and marvelous truth in this amazing book. It does what every book of the Bible does to some degree: it strips away the illusions of life and permits us to see life as it really is. Now, in my judgment, there is nothing more valuable about Scripture than that, for we do not live very long without learning, often to our chagrin, that life is not what it really seems to be, that things that we think to be reality and truth turn out to be illusions -- delusions if you like. We are surrounded by widely accepted philosophies and ideas that are not true. Men are exhorted to live on the basis of ideas that are false, and we have to learn that. It is very hard for us to do so.

It is very difficult to believe that what we think we see happening is not really what is happening. That is why we struggle so with believing the Bible because it is a book that corrects these false conclusions that our senses often bring us to, and challenges the phony thinking of the world around us. That is why it is so important to come together and let the Spirit of God take the Word of God and set us straight, to correct our thinking and renew our minds, as Paul says in Romans 12. So I would like to go back through the book of Job and pick up the great truths that it sets before us. This book is so complicated in its presentation that sometimes we have gotten lost and have missed or forgotten the truth that came before us earlier.

 
The first surprise that hit us in Job was in Chapter 1 where we were suddenly taken behind the scenes of this world and shown what goes on when a believer is being tried or tempted. Now, we are all tried and tempted, we are all presented with alluring invitations to get involved with deadly and destructive things, or we are pressured to lose our tempers, or lose our faith, and act in a different way than the Word of God says we should. We always see those temptations as coming to us from a combination of adverse circumstances, or perverse people, or both. We see that our trouble is that things are not working out the way we planned. If God would only straighten out these things and make them work according to our expectations, everything would be fine -- or if he would just get rid of some of these troublesome people around us!

But here in the book of Job we see that is not the whole story. What is really happening is that we have suddenly become the point in God's line of scrimmage (if I may use a football analogy), through which the devil and his angels have decided to try to run the ball. All the pressure of that well-trained, powerful team of evil is directed at us, and we discover that we are the focus of his attack. That is what went on with Job, and that is what goes on in our life as well. We find we are no longer sitting safely on the bench, watching the game and enjoying it. Suddenly, we find ourselves thrust right out in the middle of it. And the most important thing is that we forget that is what is happening. We see it only in terms of what is visible to us.

In reading the book of Job we must never forget what we are introduced to in the first chapter. In facing the problems of our own lives, we must never forget that this book reveals what is happening to us in the midst of the troubles and temptations and pressures that we are being subjected to. That is why we must never forget that life is not a Sunday School picnic. The world around thinks it is, or that it ought to be, that somehow we deserve to have a good time and enjoy ourselves, that that is what we are here for. Now nothing is further from the Christian position:

We are not here to have a good time. God gives us good times, but every one of them comes as a gift of his love and grace; they are never something we deserve. We are not here to try to enjoy ourselves, to amass as many comforts we can, and retire to a happy life. We are here to fight a battle against the powers of darkness. We are here to be engaged in an unending combat with powerful forces that are seeking to control human history. We have been called into the battle; we must never forget that. That is why the Christian cannot plan his life, plan his retirement, like a worldling can. We are living different lives. This is no picnic.

The older I grow the more I learn to see this present, earthly life of mine as I thought once of my time of service in the U. S. Navy during World War II.  I looked forward to the ending of that time of service. I enjoyed it, it was an exciting time, but I looked forward to the end of it. Though I wanted to do well during that time, it was only a temporary period, and the real life would begin when I got out.

We can think of our present life very much as a boy might who goes away to college. He is there to learn something, to get ready for something, not to enjoy himself. Now you can have a lot of fun in college; that is not wrong. But no one goes to school for that purpose -- or at least they should not. College is not for spending money and having fun; college is for learning something. And so is life. That is why God has taught us what is going on behind the scenes right here at the beginning of the book of Job. That is reality.

Then this is all connected to that line of truth the book reveals about the nature of human evil. What is humanity like in its basic character? As we have gone through this book, we have seen how these friends speak to Job about various wicked people and almost always they speak in terms of murderers, thieves, rapists, fornicators, cruel tyrants, unjust, wretched people. These are the wicked, as these friends see them, but as we pursue the book and the argument of it, it becomes clear that these things that they point out as wickedness are really only the fruit of something deeper in human nature. They are coming from a deep-seated root of pride in fallen humanity, pride that expresses itself as independence, self-sufficiency, "I've got what it takes, I can run my own life, I don't need help from anybody."

We are determined to always have our own way and to manipulate things so that we get what we want. That is the root. Jesus said it: "Out of the heart of man proceed murders and adulteries and fornication and hostility and anger," (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21). All the evil things of life come from the root of pride. What we learned in this book is that that pride, in its terrible, vicious character, is equally expressed not only in terms of murder, thievery and robbery, but also it can come out, as we have seen in the three friends and even in Job himself, as bigotry and pompousness, as self-righteous legalism, as critical, judgmental attitudes and condemnation of others, as harsh, sarcastic words and vengeful, vindictive actions against someone else. That is wickedness, just as much. So we learn that human evil is not something confined to the criminals of the land. It is present in every heart, without exception, and it takes various forms. We are only deceiving ourselves when we say that their form is wrong and ours is right. Pride is the root of all sin, and it can express itself in these various ways.

Now, coupled with this is what the book teaches us about the nature of faith. Job thought he was exercising faith when he obeyed God and did what was right when it was clearly to his best interest to do so. We find that many people think like that today. They think they are exercising great faith when they believe that God is there, that they are living their lives day by day with the recognition that God is watching and is present in their affairs, and they are doing the right thing because they know that if they do not, they will get into trouble. They call this living the Christian life, this is exercising faith. It is a form of exercising faith, I grant you that. It is believing, at least, in the invisible presence of God; but it is a weak faith. Those who live according to that are serving God only when it is in their best interest to do so.

This was the accusation that Satan hurled at God when Job was discussed before him. Satan said, "Job serves you only because you take care of him. If you remove your hand of blessing from him, he'll curse you to your face," (Job 1:11). Many people are living like this. They are really only serving God as long as he blesses them. The moment the blessing ceases, or difficulty or trial comes, they want to quit serving him. Every week I get evidence of this. Every week some report comes to me of how someone has gotten into some difficulty or some trouble has come, and they have turned their back on what they had professed about their Christian faith and thrown it all over and were living for themselves and for the world. It is weak faith that only serves God when he blesses. We learn from this book that great faith, the kind that makes the world sit up and take notice, is revealed only when we serve God when it is difficult to do so, when serving him is the hardest thing we can do. That is what we have here in the book of Job.

Remember the picture the New Testament gives us of the sufferer of Gethsemane who faced that hour in the garden with the recognition that he was afraid of what was coming. He confessed to his own disciples that his heart was exceedingly sorrowful within him, even unto death, and he asked three of them to pray for him and uphold him through a time of deep and terrible pressure upon him. Yet, in that hour of anguish, though he prayed, "Father, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me," reflecting his true humanity, how he shrank from the hour of anguish and pain, nevertheless, by faith, he added the words, "not my will but thine be done," (Matthew 26:39). Now that is great faith. That is what you finally see exhibited here in Job himself. Though he trembles, though he falters, though he fails, the last thing he does is cling in helplessness to God and asks him to do something to explain his perplexity. That is why Job becomes an example of faith. Great faith is being exercised probably when you feel like you are being the least faithful, when you are being so weak that you cannot do anything but cling. In that moment, heaven is looking over and wondering at the greatness of faith. That is what this book teaches us.

All this adds up to the true view, then, of the nature of fallen man. Man appears at his best in the person of Job. When this book opens, you have a very beautiful picture of a highly respected and greatly honored man, a sincere, moral, devoted, selfless, godly man who spends his time in deeds of good and help to many people, obviously intent upon doing what God wants. Therefore, we would call him a deserving man, infinitely deserving of God's blessing, because he so faithfully served and followed him. There are many people like that in the world who are not even Christian who live on those terms. They are, in a sense, godly people in that they recognize that there is a God and try to follow him. They are devoted and selfless people, and that is fallen man at his very best.

But what this book is designed to do is strip away all the outward appearances from that and show us Job as he really is. He finally came to see himself as he really was: a self-deceived man. He imagined he had resources in himself to handle life and problems, resources that he really did not have. This is one of the tremendous lessons of this book.

We too imagine that we have power to stand and be true to what we believe, like boastful, blustering Peter, who said to the Lord Jesus, "I will never deny you. I will lay down my life for you," (John 13:37). And he meant every word of it. Yet, when the hour of temptation struck, he found himself as weak as putty, and so do we until we come to realize, as Job did, that he had no resources to stand in himself, that God had to hold him, or he would never be held. Out of his weakness came his strength.

This book shows us that Job discovered he was a lover of status and prestige. When God took away his position in the community, he began to hearken back to it and to think longingly of those days when he had a position of high honor and dignity, when he could walk out into the community and people bowed before him and respected him. Job discovered that he liked that. It was what made him keep on serving God, because he had that kind of honor and prestige accorded to him. When all that disappeared, he found himself querulous and angry and upset because he had been denied what he thought was his right.

What this book teaches us is that our hearts, more than we understand, long to share the glory of God. We really do not want to serve God unless we get some glory for ourselves out of it. That is often the reason why we do things -- because we are motivated by a desire for status and prestige in the eyes of others. All this is stripped away from Job.

As you read this book you discover that God seems to come across as someone somewhat smaller than Job himself does, that Job's self-vindication and self-justification makes God look less than he is. That is the terrible evil of that attitude; it robs God of his glory. Remember, in Paul's word in First Corinthians he says, "No flesh shall glory in God's presence," (1 Corinthians 1:29). This is what we find in our own lives very frequently. How this book reveals this to us.

The great theme of the book -- and the one for which it is world famous -- is its treatment of the reason for suffering in the Christian life. None of us struggles when we are told that suffering is sent by God to punish wrongdoers. We have a long list of names that we could present to God of people who deserve this kind of thing. It is eminently just for God to punish wrongdoers with suffering, we think. People who hurt others and are vicious, cruel, and wicked ought to be made to suffer for what they do. Our whole system of justice is built upon that principle. That is why we put people in jail and fine them, because we are trying to carry out justice through punishing wrongdoing. That satisfies our sense of justice -- except when we happen to be the wrongdoers getting punished. Then, of course, it is all very unfair.

We can even handle what the Bible teaches about suffering, that it is sent to awaken us when we are tending to go astray. Even though we are saints, suffering is sometimes sent to wake us up and get our attention, and we can handle that too. We have all had experience of it when we were drifting away and thought everything was going fine. We are tooling along and doing OK, we think, when suddenly some catastrophe strikes, some terrible trouble comes. At first we resent it, and complain bitterly, and ask why should this happen. But it keeps on, and finally we begin to listen to what God is saying. When we listen, we see things that are wrong. Now this is happening in Job; we understand that.

But that is not all that the book of Job teaches us about suffering. There is something far greater than that. This book teaches us something that should have been obvious to us from our reading of the Gospels, and that is the fact that Jesus suffered. Now, obviously, Jesus did not suffer because he was a wrongdoer, nor did he suffer because he needed to have his attention captured by God. He was always sensitively responsive to the Father's will, and always did that which was pleasing in his sight. Yet his life was filled with suffering from beginning to end -- rejection, misunderstanding, disappointment, cruelty, harsh words, and unjust treatment -- all the way through, so that he merited the description of the Old Testament, even before the cross, that he was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," (Isaiah 53:3).

Why did he suffer? He suffered because suffering, in a Christian, is a way of allowing God to demonstrate that Satan is a liar and a cheat. That is what is going on in the book of Job. Satan had made proclamation before all the universe that men served God only because God blesses them, and that if you remove the blessing, men would curse God to his face; that man does not see any intrinsic value in God himself, but it is only his own self-interest that makes him serve God.

Now, far too often believers have confirmed that lie of Satan. But here in the case of Job, and, as frequently happens in our own experience, suffering is sent to prove that Satan is wrong, that God will be served even when he does not bless any longer, because he is God, and he is worthy of the praise and the honor and service of men. That is why Jesus suffered. He suffered as a demonstration to all mankind that God was still God and was worthy of service no matter what happened. That is why death meant nothing to the Lord. He despised the cross, we are told, "Having his eye fastened on the joy which was beyond, he despised the cross" (Hebrews 12:2), and went on to become the great sufferer of Calvary. Job teaches us that suffering is a means by which evil is answered, and God vindicated. Therefore, it is a high and holy and glorious privilege that is granted to some Christians, more than others, to uphold the glory of God in the midst of the accusations of the devil in this world. I hope we will learn to see suffering in that way. Sometimes we deserve it. Sometimes it comes because of our misdeeds; it comes to awaken us. But sometimes it is granted to us because it is a high and holy privilege we have of doing what Paul calls "sharing the sufferings of Christ, filling up that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for his body's sake, which is the church," (Colossians 1:24).

Some years ago I was introduced to a woman who had just lost her husband and her son in an auto accident. Her heart was broken; she was devastated by this double loss that had suddenly come into her life. When I went to see her she was weeping, torn-up, hardly even able to speak because she was so overcome by her grief. Somebody had asked me to try to comfort her, but I wondered what to say to her. Looking to God in prayer, I laid my hand on her shoulder and said, "You have been given a very high and holy honor." Glancing up through her tears, she said to me, "What do you mean?" I sat down with her and went through some of the Scriptures, pointing out to her that we are given the privilege of suffering for Christ. Paul puts it that way in Philippians. "It has been given on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his name's sake," (Philippians 1:29). I pointed out to her that God had given her the privilege of bearing difficulty and trial, given her an opportunity to demonstrate that his strength and his love and his grace will continue, despite all the outward circumstances, even the worst of things that life can throw at us. As we talked together, a new look came on her face. She said to me, "I see what you mean." We prayed together and I left her. Later, I heard that her life was such a radiant testimony throughout all that time of struggle that hundreds of people were touched and saw their own sufferings in a different light as a result.

I once had to go see a Christian couple who had just had a Mongoloid baby. I said something very similar to them. I said, "God has called you into very high privilege in giving you this. You're being given a chance to demonstrate something that very few other Christians are asked to bear. If you will see it in that light, what a difference it will make." That couple did take it that way, and their dealings with that child as he has grown have been a constant testimony to scores and scores of people of the goodness and the greatness of God.

Now, this is what you get out of Job. Job is teaching us, by means of the symbolism of these two great beasts, Behemoth and Leviathan, how God handles evil. What God is saying to Job is, "Look, you've had a part in this with me. Your suffering, your unexplained torment, the physical affliction that you've been going through, have been the means by which I have been able to lay hold of these two ferocious powers to control them, regulate them, and keep them in bounds in the world. You have been the instrument of it." Job, therefore, was given a view of the tremendous glory of bearing suffering for the Lord's sake.

Then, of course, the greatest theme of all in this book of Job, and the one that I hope we will remember more than anything else, is that it reveals to us the character of God himself. God often appears to us as a cold, impersonal Being, distant from us, uncaring, even ruthless and vindictive, demanding many things from us; a powerful Being, but without compassion.

I am sure if you conducted a poll you would find that that is the most common view of God in the world today. Almost everyone out on the street, if he thinks of him at all, thinks of God as being a rather cold and distant Being, who is powerful and just, hard and demanding, an angry God. That is the common view of what is usually called the "Old Testament God," as though God were two kinds of Beings, one in the Old Testament and one in the New.

But what this book shows is that behind that appearance (and even Job saw him that way for a while), God is always exactly what he is, not ruthless and cold, but actually deeply aware of our problems. He is deeply concerned about us, carefully controlling everything that touches us, limiting the power of Satan and allowing certain expressions, according to his knowledge of how much we can bear. He is patient, forgiving, and ultimately responsible for everything that happens.

In the beginning of this book you have God and Satan and Job. By the end of the book, Satan has faded into the background, completely disappeared. All you have left is God standing before Job, with his arms akimbo, saying to him, "All right, Job, I'm responsible. Any questions?" When Job begins to see what God is working out in his vast, cosmic purposes, and what he is making possible by means of the sufferings of Job, he has no questions to ask whatsoever. The final view of God in this book is of a Being of incredible wisdom who puts things together far beyond the dreams and imaginations of man, who is working out incredible purposes of infinite delight and joy that he will give to us if we wait for his purposes to be worked out fully.

This book mentions a time when "the sons of God shouted with joy" (Job 38:7), at the creation of the world, but other Scriptures tell us about a time that is coming when the sons of God will be revealed. Paul calls it "the manifestation of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19 KJV), when all creation will shout in a greater glory than was ever hailed at creation, in the new creation, the new thing that God has brought into being by means of the sufferings, the trials, and the tribulations of this present scene. That is why Scripture speaks in numerous passages about "this slight momentary affliction preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17 RSV), and of how "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us," (Romans 8:18). When that day breaks, the one thing for which we will be infinitely thankful, the one thing above all others that will thrill us and cheer us and cause us to glory, is the fact that out of all the created universe we were chosen to be the ones who bore the name of God in the hour of danger and affliction, problem and trial. There is no higher honor than that. That is what Jesus means when he says, "Blessed are you when men persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name's sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your honor before the Father. For so persecuted they the prophets who were before you," (Matthew 5:11-12 RSV).

Now, the sufferings of Christ involve more than just reproach for his name's sake. They involve illness, affliction, accident, the so-called handicaps with which people are born -- all this becomes part of sharing the sufferings of Christ if we take them as a privilege, and not as a reproach. If we view life as God sees it, seeing this as only a temporary time when we have a great opportunity to bear honor for Christ that we will never have again, never again in all our eternity of time will we ever have the privilege of bearing suffering for his name's sake in a day of reproach.

So, as we are called to that, I hope and pray that this book of Job will help us to understand the realities of life, the greatness of the privilege that has been accorded to us, and the richness of glory God heaps upon us when he allows us to suffer for his name's sake.

Prayer:

Our Father, words fail us to express what we feel in our hearts. We do count it indeed a mighty privilege to bear reproach for your name's sake. We know that the day is coming when that will be our chief joy, that will be the treasure that we have laid up in heaven. We hope, Lord, that it will be a rich treasure indeed, that we will stop our complaining and stop our grieving and stop our griping about what you send, and count it a great joy and privilege to bear suffering and reproach for your name's sake, sharing the sufferings of Christ, that we may also share in the glory which is to follow. We ask in his name, Amen.

Title: Lessons from Job Author: Ray C. Stedman
Series:Let God be God Date:January 8, 1978
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