"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).
GENESIS, EXODUS, LEVITICUS, NUMBERS, DEUTERONOMY, JOSHUA, JUDGES, RUTH, 1 SAMUEL, 2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS, 1 CHRONICLES, 2 CHRONICLES, EZRA, NEHEMIAH, ESTHER
Job 1:1 "Job ... was blameless and upright; he feared God and turned away from evil." That is the description of the man whose intense experiences are recorded in this biblical book. In the following verses we learn about the basic circumstances of Job's life before those experiences began, but in this character description we have the essential information we need to interpret those experiences. It is difficult to imagine any higher praise. Two words tell us the result while two phrases reveal the secret: Job was blameless and upright because he feared God and turned away from evil. Recognizing that at the outset will guard us from the mistake of thinking at any point that what Job experienced had anything to do with the man himself. From God's perspective, Job's sufferings were neither judicial penalties for wrongdoing nor parental chastisements for correction. The unnamed author of this book tells us something in the first two chapters that Job himself did not know until much later, perhaps not until after his death: the soul of this blameless and upright man became a battleground between heaven and hell. A subtle and sinister lie was met and silenced through Job's experiences. We see Job bereft of all the things Satan said were necessary to his loyalty to God: wealth, family, and health. He passed through great mental strain in dark days, but emerged stronger and more blessed than before, vindicating saving faith and refuting satanic accusations without even knowing it at the time. The book of Job teaches that difficult experiences faithful believers go through may have their explanation in some far-reaching purpose of God, and that suffering may be an honor conferred that will be richly rewarded. In God's great tomorrow, we who love Him shall have strange and glad surprises.
Job 2:13 "No one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great." This statement gives true sanction for using the word friends to describe Job's visitors. By this time in the narrative we have seen Job stripped of just about every earthly possession or privilege: his property, his children, his health, and the comradeship of his wife in his faith. He sat in appalling loneliness and desolation. There was no gleam of interpreting light for him to make sense of what he was going through: Job did not know of any reason for his sufferings. In that dark hour, all the acquaintances who had enjoyed themselves under his prosperity were conspicuous by their absence, except for 4 men. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar arranged together to come right away when hearing of Job's dire situation; Elihu came later. What they saw when they got there touched them to their depths, for Job was hardly recognizable because of his pitiful condition. Their grief soon found expression in tears, and then came the supreme evidence of friendship. We do well to remember it to their credit throughout what follows. For 7 days they sat with Job in silence. They never spoke until he did. All they said was in feeble answer to his first outpouring of grief, an outpouring perhaps made possible by their sublime and sympathetic silence. Their true friendship endured through a rough and sometimes reckless exchange of words. The mistake the friends made was trying to find a solution without realizing they had insufficient information. It was born of their satisfaction with what they knew, most of which was true, but was not all the truth. Nevertheless, their mistakes were the outcome of their friendship. It is impossible to think this through without realizing how often the sympathy of great silence is more blessed than any speech can be.
Job 3:1 "After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth." This chapter records the first great outpouring of complaint from Job's lips. It is a truly terrible outcry that is more a cry for escape than a description of his sorrows. Job's body was covered with ruinous running sores, and his mind was continually wracked with anxious torment. Escape seemed the only desirable thing, but Job gives no suggestion of seeking escape through death by his own act. He had come to hate life, which is why he cursed the day of his birth because it brought him to days like these. That led him to celebrate death as a blessing through which a man or a woman escapes the sorrows of life. At this point we may be tempted to begin criticizing Job since the Bible clearly teaches that death is an enemy. We may truthfully say that no one has any right to curse the day of his birth or lament the fact of his life, but before we say a word, let us honestly place ourselves in similar circumstances. Jesus, having perfect knowledge, said of Judas the betrayer, "The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matthew 26:24), for Judas ended up in hell. Job did not have perfect knowledge, but with perfect honesty he poured out all his heart was feeling. Such outpouring is a far more healthy thing than dark and silent brooding, but Job later rightly repented of these and other rash words to come. He did not know but we do by virtue of the book bearing Job's name that God has a reason for the suffering His people endure, and our job is to trust Him.
Job 4:18 "He puts no trust even in His servants; and against His angels He charges error." These words occur in Eliphaz's response to Job's complaint. In considering every response of every friend throughout this book, we need to distinguish between the general truths they uttered and their failure to bring any specific, on-target help to Job. They were wonderful men in the light and understanding they possessed, but there were so many things they did not know. Their persistent mistake was attempting to explain everything by their knowledge, which as spacious as it was, was altogether too narrow to apply to Job's situation. Take the highlighted words, for example. It is true that God is so exceedingly great, it is impossible for Him finally to trust in any other than Himself. In the ultimate knowledge, even that of angels is folly by comparison, and the greatest angel of all is guilty of the greatest error. Satan, Job's accuser, is a fallen angel, but Eliphaz and Job did not know then that Job's sufferings were because God was proving Satan wrong. Eliphaz concluded that all suffering must be some kind of well-deserved punishment from God, but we know from the first chapter of this book that he was wrong. His own statement was a rebuke, had he but known it: even then God was charging him with error.
Job 5:17 "Happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty." Eliphaz is still speaking. Notice first that what he says here does not apply to Job: God was not correcting him. All Job's sufferings were produced by Satan with permission from God. In that permission God was honoring a blameless and upright man who feared Him and turned his back on evil by admitting him to partnership in operations that vindicated saving faith and humiliated the devil. Recognizing that, we do well to ponder the general truth that Eliphaz uttered in the highlighted words, especially since "man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward" (verse 7). God as the perfect Father disciplines His sons and daughters when by any disobedience they cease being blameless and upright. When they start compromising with evil, God mercifully draws their attention to that fact with pain and sorrow so they can be restored. The book of Hebrews quotes what Eliphaz says here (and Proverbs 3:11-12) when it asks, "Have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? 'My son, do not despise the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives'" (Hebrews 12:5-6). That process is grievous at first, but then comes joy: "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). How wise are those who patiently undergo that kind of training! Those who do not are forfeiting inner peace. Far better to submit to the troubling that comes from God today than experience the troubles that come from our own waywardness and wickedness, unchecked by God's paternal correction and chastisement.
Job 6:8 "Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant me the thing that I long for!" The speech of Eliphaz added terribly to what Job was suffering. His friend misunderstood and read the worst into the situation, attributing his sufferings to some sin in his life. Job knew that his friend's reasoning was unjust. Even though he himself did not understand his sufferings, he understood enough about his own life to recognize that Eliphaz's answer to the anguish he was experiencing was false. That anguish now flared into anger, and no wonder: what hurts more than an accusation from a friend when your conscience knows you are innocent? Tortured by the injustice, Job let fly a barrage of words that include a prayer request that God would crush him and cut him off. We listen to him in profound sympathy, yet having his full story, we know how dire a disaster it would have been for him if that request had been granted. Job would have missed the double blessing that came after his trials, but even more important, he would have been removed from the high privilege of cooperating with God on a mission of eternal significance against supremely evil accusations. There is light in this for us. When in the fierceness of some fiery furnace of suffering, we beg for it to be cut off but instead experience ongoing pain and great silence from above, then let us remember Job and remain confident that there is some explanation for what we are going through. When we learn it, we shall thank God that He did not do what we ignorantly asked for.
Job 7:20 "If I have sinned, what have I done to You, O watcher of men?" After his direct and angry reply to Eliphaz, Job continues in a bitter complaint against the stress and misery of life, describing it as strenuous toil during the day and restless tossing and turning at night. He describes man as a servant whose labor is meaningless, saying that nothing is satisfying because nothing is lasting. Job piles up word pictures to emphasize that: a weaver's shuttle, the wind, the glance of an eye, a vanishing cloud. There is absolutely no ray of hope in his outlook on life. Job's complaints took an interrogatory form from beginning to end. His questions show he held a blurred vision of God, but his method of asking questions demonstrates he was not satisfied with his own vision. Had it been possible to give biblical answers then to Job's questions, they would have amazed him with the amazement that leads to worship. Take the highlighted question, for example. Its simple meaning is that since God is so great, the sin of one man surely cannot affect Him. The truth, however, is that is altogether too small a thought of God. He is so great in love and concern for the crown of His creation that He is affected, wounded, and even robbed by human sin. Job was, like his friends, hindered by a philosophy and theology far too narrow.
Job 8:13 "So are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless will perish." Bildad was a man of different mold to Eliphaz. His speech was characterized by greater directness. By comparison it lacked in courtesy, but it gained in force and clarity. His limited outlook, however, was the same as Eliphaz's: Since God is just, He always and at all times prospers the righteous and punishes the evil. Bildad made no direct charge against Job, but implies guilt. He was quite right in his statements of general truth, but quite wrong in his intended deductions as far as Job was concerned. Recognizing that failure, consider the truth of the highlighted sentence. Hope, as expectation with desire, plays a tremendous part in human life. It is the continuous inspiration of activity, whether good or evil. Nevertheless, it is a patent fact that life is filled with failed hopes. Men and women are often saved by hope, but it is equally true that they are lost by it. How are we to account for that? Everything depends on the nature of the hope. It is the hope of the godless that perishes, and by it men and women are lost. Hope set on God is always realized, and by it they are saved.
Job 9:33 "There is no mediator between us who may lay his hand upon us both!" Two chapters are now occupied with Job's reply to Bildad. He first admits the truth of what Bildad was saying in general—"in truth I know that this is so" (verse 2)—and then immediately asks, "But how can a man be just with God?" The context makes it clear Job is not asking "How can a man be made just before God?" as a humble penitent seeking forgiveness, but rather "How can a man prove that he is just or right before God?" in a self-vindicating way. In a passage of great power he goes on to describe the greatness of God, who is infinite, invisible, and invincible. He concludes it is useless for a man to attempt to be just with Him, and assumes his position is hopeless. He feels like his days sweep by him devoid of any good. Then from deep within he utters the highlighted cry, giving expression to the profoundest need of the human soul: a mediator between God and man. That is what every man and woman needs in a profounder sense than Job intended: a means of divine justification that includes pardon and cleansing, along with the access to God that Job craved. The good news of the New Testament is "there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5), who was raised from the dead and is now "at the right hand of God, interceding for us" (Romans 8:34). Through Christ, those of us who trust Him "have obtained access by faith into the grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:2). Think how thrilled Job would be to read this: "He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:17-18).
Job 10:20 "Leave me alone so I may have a moment of comfort." Even though Job felt it was impossible to argue with God, he made his appeal to God himself because he had no mediator, pouring out his agony in the presence of the Most High. After complaining of his sufferings, attributing them all to God and asking if God really delighted in what He was doing or if His vision was faulty, Job bluntly told God to leave him alone. It is a terrible revelation of the tempest-tossed condition of soul into which such suffering brought Job, who later repented and was vindicated. Job did not and could not understand at this point that all his anguish was serving a divine purpose that would benefit all God's people by proving definitively that Satan's accusations were nothing but lies. Job's prayers and demands were answered in the highest sense by not being granted. When one day we understand our life's experiences as we now understand Job's, our profoundest gratitude to our Father will find expression in the thanks we give Him for His refusal to grant some of our sincerest requests.
Job 11:7 "Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty?" Zophar now speaks with words that are much harsher but fewer than Eliphaz or Bildad, yet that reflect the same deficient philosophy and theology as theirs. He criticized Job for affirming God's wisdom while at the same time calling it into question. In a passage of great beauty Zophar himself describes God's wisdom, applying it to Job's case by insisting that since God in His infinite wisdom knows all about Job's sin, the sooner Job admits the guilt that brought on his great suffering, the sooner he would be made well. God's wisdom is indeed infinite and perfect, which is why Zophar's deduction about Job's guilt was wrong. God knew all about the meaning of Job's pain as neither Job nor his friends knew it: Job was not guilty of any sin that brought on his suffering. Turning to Zophar's highlighted questions, no one can know everything there is to know about God—not even a Zophar or a Job. That truth applies both to those who suffer and those who watch as others suffer. Let those who suffer remember that God has reasons, not today discoverable, for permitting their continued pain. That is the last refuge of the afflicted, but it is a safe and quiet place. Let those who watch resist the temptation of attempting to explain, lest they commit the serious sin of misrepresenting God in their attempts to vindicate Him—something far worse than the sufferer does in his or her outpourings of inquiring agony.
Job 12:10 "In His hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." Job's last and lengthy (3 chapter) reply in this first round of discussions is laced with sarcasm against his friends' shallow thinking as he continues to maintain his innocence from anything he did to bring on his suffering. Job first shows contempt for his friends' so-called wisdom and then displays his underlying faith and convictions about God. He recognizes that all life is sustained by God, creatures as well as humankind as the crown of creation. This tremendous truth means that nothing is outside the rule of God, a fact that filled Job's soul with a sense of both awe and helplessness. There is no comfort in it, however, until we learn about the wonderful character of God. Job knew it only in part, but was about to learn much more through his suffering that would bring him immeasurable comfort. Recognizing the life-giving power of God will save us from active rebellion since it leads to a wise fear of Him. But when we know—as is given us in the Son of God to know—the facts about His character, that truth becomes a huge consolation in all difficult circumstances. The most important question we can ask about God is not What can He do? but Who is He? That is answered only in Christ, the radiance of God's glory "and the exact representation of His nature, who upholds all things by the Word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3). In the Lord Jesus Christ "all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9).
Job 13:8 "Will you slant your testimony in His favor? Will you argue God's case for Him?" Job's emphasis in those questions is on the character of his friends as he understood it. He described them as forgers of lies and worthless physicians, turning their judgment back upon them with this serious charge: they had been speaking unrighteously for God. The idea is that men and women may argue in defense of God upon false lines through limited knowledge. The result in this case is that Job's friends treated him unjustly. They did not know that and they certainly did not intend to do so, but they did. That proves their inability to defend God since He is never vindicated by any argument that involves injustice to any human being. The more carefully we ponder the book of Job, the clearer it becomes that silence is more appropriate in the presence of many problems that are presented to us by the experiences of others. To sit in silent sympathy by the side of those who suffer is always helpful. To affirm to them the fact that God is wise and can make no mistake is always right. To attempt to explain the suffering by our personal insight may lead us to misrepresent God or do an injustice to someone who needs our support instead. While Job's knowledge of God was imperfect, it was deeper than that of his friends.
Job 14:14 "If a man dies, will he live again?" Let these words be carefully considered in their setting. After dealing with his friends, Job is now making a direct appeal to God. His pain leads him to focus on the fact that man's life is transitory and full of trouble. His observation that there is hope for a tree that it will bud again seems to have awakened in his mind a wondering hope that found expression in his highlighted question. As soon as Job asked, he declared that if it was so, he could endure all the days of his conflict. It was only a gleam and almost immediately overwhelmed in the darkness of his despair, as the next sentences show, but that gleam later turns into bright light. As we observe all the experiences through which Job passed, we discover that the human spirit is of such a nature that even in the mist of the most appalling darkness, it expresses its highest capacities by the questions it asks. Job asked a tremendous question here, and God's full answer to it is Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The apostle Paul explains that God's purpose "now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). As Jesus Himself said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die" (John 11:25-26). Jesus answered Job's question so completely as to leave no room for doubt.
Job 15:35 "They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity, and their mind prepares deception." With this chapter we begin the second cycle of discussion between Job and his friends. Sadly, the philosophy of those men was the same as in the first, each of them charging Job afresh even more zealously than before. Eliphaz here understandably reproves Job for justifying himself at God's expense, but accuses him of many unfounded evils. He launches into a lengthy lecture on the frightful state of wicked people who harden their hearts against God and the judgement to come. His concluding statement, highlighted above, is probably better translated, "They conceive mischief and bring forth affliction," for that is how Eliphaz used the Hebrew word here translated "iniquity" in his first speech (Job 5:6). He is basically saying that Job's afflictions were the result of his evil or mischievous thinking. That, of course, flatly contradicts God's description of Job as a blameless man who turned away from evil. It is nonetheless true that to conceive mischief is always to bring forth suffering.
Job 16:19 "Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high." Job basically ignores what Eliphaz said because he was saying nothing new, yet criticizes him and the others for being miserable comforters. Job is feeling upset by their stubborn persistence to argue with him and accuse him of assumed evils. In the midst of his complaining he says, "My adversary glares at me" (verse 9) and "God hands me over to the ungodly" (verse 11). That leads to his statement about a heavenly advocate in the highlighted verse. In view of the revelation given to us in the first two chapters of this book about God and Satan, these things might suggest that Job somehow was coming to a measure of understanding of what was happening to him. The darkness was still about him, and in some senses the agony of his soul was deepening, yet it is impossible to read this address without realizing that through the terrible stress he was at least groping after light, and God was allowing some shafts of it to shine through. In the midst of his turmoil, his faith triumphs over his doubt, for Job believed that God knew the truth about him and would be his witness. Those of us who love Christ may employ these words with greater confidence, for "we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).
Job 17:15 "Where then is my hope? As for my hope, who can see it?" The light faded immediately and Job passed again into thick darkness. He was in the midst of terrible difficulties that he describes in this chapter, surrounded by mockers without any wise man to help him, yet he struggles through the darkness towards God's vindication. Again Job thinks of death, but in it he now sees no brightness or release. That is the meaning behind the two highlighted questions about hope. He was not willing to abandon hope by looking for release in death. This is a great unveiling of a mental mood. The idea that a man can live again was here for the moment forgotten, yet Job's spirit was obviously in rebellion against a hopeless outlook on both life and death. Job was conscious of God's presence in his sorrows and that of a mysterious adversary who followed him relentlessly and tore at him without pity. Somehow that adversary was working under God's control, yet Job knew that God was his witness. We see light in these complaints and can imagine later how Job would come to recognize that his passionate desire and outcries for God to defend him were gleams during his darkest days. That is one reason the book of Job has brought comfort and strength to countless distressed souls. It mirrors their own experiences and helps them move on to rest, even without a full explanation, in faith that the explanation and hope will be realized.
Job 18:21 "Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him who does not know God." Bildad now resumes the discussion, obviously feeling insulted since he accuses Job of treating him and the others as stupid beasts. Then he pontificates again on the issue of wickedness. He first declares the preliminary experience of the wicked: his light is put out. It is a graphic portrayal of a criminal's life and death. "The flame of his fire" or spirit "gives no light." His "vigorous stride is shortened" since he cannot see properly, "and his own schemes bring him down" (verses 5-7), which is how his life is extinguished. Lacking light, the wicked person falls into all sorts of snares and traps. Following his death he becomes extinct as far as earth is concerned, for "his remembrance perishes," he is "chased out of the world," and he leaves no children who enter into his inheritance (verses 17-19). The highlighted verse is Bildad's closing summary. This chapter gives us a powerful and accurate description of criminal behavior in our world then and now. It is all true so it needs to be taken to heart, but is not true regarding Job so Bildad is again guilty of misapplying truth.
Job 19:6 "Know then that God has overthrown me and has closed His net around me." The answer Job gives to Bildad in this chapter is brief by comparison with his previous answers, but it touches the deepest note in despair so far while at the same time expresses the most splendid note of hope. Even though Job was not wicked, he was experiencing the life of the wicked that his friends described: being forsaken by his own relatives and close friends, ignored by others, offensive to his wife, disrespected by children, and reduced to skin and bones. All that was happening because of some unexplained action of God, whom Job continued to focus his attention on. The word translated "overthrown" in the highlighted verse has also been translated "wronged" and "subverted," but rather than charging God with injustice, it seems more that Job was attributing all his suffering to God's action or permissive will as the bottom line. He rightly understood God's sovereignty over all. That gave him his greatest pain because no explanation of the reason was forthcoming. He later learns from God Himself that he did not need to know the reason but did need always to trust Him because He is trustworthy. Perhaps Job already sensed that here deep down because he then utters one of the most moving confessions of faith ever uttered to the glory of God: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God with my own eyes" (verses 25-27). It is an amazing apprehension of resurrection truth that at the moment defied any attempt at demonstration or detailed definition.
Job 20:29 "This is the wicked man's portion from God, even the heritage decreed to him by God." Zophar, the harshest of Job's friends, admits in this chapter that he is responding out of haste and anger. It is sad that he apparently did not listen to or think about Job's profound confession in the previous chapter of a bodily future resurrection, for as the highlighted summary verse implies, he does nothing but repeat himself about the sufferings that come by divine appointment to the wicked. What he says is true, but it is also true that the same sufferings come at times to men and women who are not wicked, and not by divine appointment but by divine permission. That was the story of Job. The narrowness of Zophar's thinking made him again unjust to Job. Leaving the false application and considering only the truth in itself, we have a memorable description of the instability of evil gains. There is a triumph, but it is short-lived. There is a rising up in the world, but it is followed by a swift vanishing. There is a sense of youth, but it turns to dust. There is a sweetness, but it becomes sour; a swallowing down that ends in vomiting, and a getting without gaining. The final nemesis of the wicked person is that God turns upon him and pursues him with instruments of judgment. Darkness envelops him, "the heavens reveal his iniquity, and the earth rises up against him" (verse 27). Godlessness is folly, for it never brings man what he seeks.
Job 21:34 "How then will you comfort me with empty nothings? There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood." Job here ends the second round of discussions by summarizing what he thinks is wrong with what his friends were saying. They had tried to comfort him, but in vain, because what they said was wrongly applied to him and not even completely accurate regarding their favorite topic: the fate of the wicked. Sometimes wicked and ungodly people continue for years in prosperity and go down to their graves in peace from what we see on the surface. Job himself, however, was also limited in his outlook. If in his friends' arguments there was no comfort for him, it is equally true that in his answers he brought no conviction to them. All this is strangely suggestive to us as we attempt to discuss human life: we are certain to make our own blunders when we attempt to explain it. Since there are things of which the human mind is not cognizant—qualities that elude us, facts and forces of which we are ignorant—however sincere and truthful we may be, the solution of many actual experiences may well elude us. Two follies are revealed. The first is indulging in the condemnation of a person on the grounds of what we know, for there may be crucial facts we do not know. The other is attempting to answer false condemnations by our own devices, for they may be as faulty as those of our fallible judges. There are times when we should be silent, being assured that what we do not understand God understands perfectly. In such silence we may wait for Him.
Job 22:21 "Submit to God and be at peace with Him; in this way good will come to you." With this chapter the third and final cycle in the controversy between Job and his friends begins, and Eliphaz is again the first speaker. These cycles are making a downward spiral, for now Eliphaz makes a definite charge against Job, declaring the sins that, according to his philosophy, would naturally account for the sufferings Job was enduring. He picks the most dastardly sins possible to a man of wealth and position: exploitation of the poor, neglect of the starving, and oppression of the helpless. In this charge Eliphaz makes a dreadful mistake, for all the sins he lists were opposite the truth of a compassionate man like Job. Eliphaz's next move is to appeal to Job to know God better so he can be blessed himself and be a blessing to others. He begins that appeal with the highlighted verse. It is hard medicine to take after the false charges that come before, but it is nonetheless true. One begins this acquaintance with God by "receiving instruction from His mouth and establishing His words" in one's heart" (verse 22). Then comes the putting away of all unrighteousness and abandoning human treasure as worthless in comparison to returning and being restored to God. In Him is delight, with Him communion, and through Him triumph. With this will come the ability to help and deliver others. Had Eliphaz applied those words to himself, he would have found that his own imperfect acquaintance with God was the reason he was unable to bring any real comfort to his suffering friend.
Job 23:10 "He knows the way I take. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job ignores the outrageous charges Eliphaz made against him, returning to them in a later speech. Responding to the advice to acquaint himself with God, he exclaims, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him! (verse 3). Job's greatest desire was to appear before God's judgment seat to plead his cause, but he could not find Him no matter how hard he looked or prayed. In the midst of this bitter complaining, out flamed remarkable evidence of the tenacity of Job's faith, highlighted above. He knew that God knew the path of suffering he was taking. He also affirmed that God was using his sufferings to refine him to come out as pure as gold. He declares his loyalty to God and His Word, saying, "I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (verse 12). Then immediately this statement of faith dissolves into words of trembling and fear. Whatever God was doing, Job could not persuade Him to stop! He knew His presence, but it troubled him. He was afraid of God because He had not delivered him yet. Despite his fear, Job's confession of faith was truly great—greater in its apprehension of truth than even Job understood. Through everything Job was experiencing, God was moving toward vindicating the gold in this man. This is the persistent power of faith: it reaches out towards and grasps great truths that reason unaided never discovers.
Job 24:1 "Why are times of judgment not stored up by the Almighty, and why do those who know Him not see those days?" Here Job is complaining of God's apparent withdrawal from human affairs not only in his own life, but also in the world at large. He asks the reason for God's non-interference in the highlighted question, and then mentions all the wicked people Eliphaz spoke of earlier, but Job goes into much more graphic detail, saying, "God does not call them out for their folly" (verse 12). That is, He does not immediately judge most offenders for their crimes, so making them examples and displaying their folly to all the watching world. In the meantime, says Job, the average murderer, adulterer, and robber all continue their evil courses with seeming impunity. He admits it is true they will pass off the scene and die, but for the moment they remain in security. He ends by challenging anyone to deny the truth of what he is saying. The correct response to Job's opening challenge is that times of judgment are stored up by the Almighty. He will judge wicked men and women for their folly. God is neither absent from human affairs, nor does He fail to interfere. As Jesus said, one day God will say, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you" (Luke 12:20). It often may seem as though God were doing nothing, but such seeming is always false. Faith holds to that certainty and waits with confidence.
Job 25:2 "Dominion and awe belong to God; He establishes order in the heights of heaven." The brevity of this speech by Bildad, the last from any of the 3 friends, is suggestive. It demonstrates that even though Job has not convinced his friends that their philosophy does not include his case, he has succeeded in silencing them. Bildad was not prepared to discuss the general truth Job had enunciated, but he had no sympathy with the personal application Job made of that truth by justifying himself. The same thing was true of Job. He did not quarrel with the general statements of his friends, but protested strongly against the deductions they made against him. So far we have heard men arguing within the limits of imperfect knowledge and not arriving at true conclusions. Nevertheless, Bildad's highlighted words affirming the absolute sovereignty and order of God are magnificent. That conviction is the foundation of strength and confidence in human life. To act upon it, in addition to accepting it theoretically, is to be silent in the presence of many things we cannot explain. Job's friends had a correct theory of God in so far as it went, but they did not act in complete harmony with it or they would not have said what they did about His servant Job.
Job 26:14 "Behold, these are but the outskirts of His ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?" In this chapter we have Job's answer to Bildad, which begins with withering sarcasm and scorn for his having so little of value to say. By contrast he then speaks of the power of God in a way that demonstrates he knew that power more perfectly than his friends, which still only scratched at the surface. Job describes God's power in the underworld by saying that those who are deceased "tremble," that Sheol "is naked," and that Abbadon has "no covering." God "stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing" (verse 7). The whole material fabric is upheld by His power. The mysteries of controlled waters and light and darkness are within the sphere of His government. The raging of a storm and its quieting are also the result of God's power, but all those things "are but the outskirts of His ways," to quote the highlighted verse. Since they are only "a whisper," how could we understand when He thunders? Here is further evidence of Job's great faith and remarkable apprehension of the greatness of God. The outskirts of God's ways are so wonderful that the central facts must be beyond our grasp; the whisper of God speaks so loudly that the full thunder of His speech must be beyond our register or comprehension. And so we are constrained to worship. Soon Job would worship the Lord himself when hearing the truths of this chapter in an expanded way from God's own lips.
Job 27:2 "As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter." Our reading now brings us to a new stage. The next 5 chapters contain nothing but the words of Job. They fall into two great speeches, each introduced by this statement: "Then Job continued his discourse" (27:1 and 29:1). After he answered Bildad in the previous chapter, he seems to have paused, expecting Zophar to speak a third time, like the other friends did, but Zophar remained silent. In this chapter Job starts by protesting that he is innocent of all charges that his own sin was the cause of all his suffering. He rightly maintains his integrity. The highlighted words reveal the state of his soul at the time. His faith remains despite his perplexity and pain: Job believes that God lives, that He is Almighty, and that He is governing, but he also believes God is responsible for making his soul bitter. Job goes on to strengthen all that his friends said about the ultimate punishment of the wicked. It was true—all of it. But here was his problem and his pain: it did not account for his sufferings. Job knew there must be some other way to explain what was happening to him. His friends had not found it, and he did not know it.
Job 28:23 "God understands." These are the strong and central words of this inspirational chapter on wisdom. Job first describes man's ability to extract precious items from the earth, such as gold, silver, and copper. He paints a detailed and beautiful picture of the labor involved. His point is to inquire about an even greater treasure: "Where is wisdom to be found?" (verse 20). The answer is in these words: God understands. To prove that Job points to the wondrous things only God can do—He "looks to the ends of the earth," He makes "a weight for the wind, "He metes out the water by measure," and "makes a decree for the rain." Job concludes that "the fear of the Lord is true wisdom and to forsake evil is real understanding" (verse 28). The fact that God understands means the things that perplex us do not perplex Him; the mysteries by which we are surrounded are no mysteries to Him. He Himself "knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14). When our best friends misinterpret our experiences and therefore misunderstand our complaints, God understands. Believing that is the secret to experiencing comfort and confidence.
Job 29:2 "Oh, that I were as in months gone by, as in the days when God watched over me!" Probably after a pause, Job resumed his speech once he determined that his friends really were done speaking. This second address is Job's final speech. It is not so much an answer to his friends as it is a statement of his whole case as he saw it. He was still without a solution to the mystery of his sufferings. That of his friends he utterly rejected, for this address builds up to a solemn oath of innocence at the end of chapter 31. The highlighted words introduce Job's description of the good old days, our first detailed look at what his life and character were like before the dark days. At the top of his list was his fellowship with God, when Job was conscious of God's guidance and blessing. Then in one sentence with a sob of great agony, he referred to his home life: "my children were around me" (verse 5). He described the abounding prosperity of those days and recalled the esteem in which he was held by all classes of people. The secret of that esteem was the attitude he had toward others. Job had been the true friend of all who were in need. Clothed with righteousness and crowned with justice, he had administered the affairs of the people in his life in ways that punished the oppressor and relieved the oppressed. For example, "I made the widow's heart sing for joy" (verse 13). In this reminiscing, Job knew that God still saw him now that things were different, but he seems to have felt there was a difference in the quality of the watching. Because we know what Job did not know about the reason for his suffering, we recognize that the watchful care of God had never ceased or diminished through all the pain and difficulty.
Job 30:1 "But now." This phrase introduces Job's descriptions of the circumstances in which he found himself. It is a graphic and terrible portrayal, especially compared with the good old days he just described. What seems to have bothered him most was that people he described as base treated him with contempt. Job suffered acute pain inside and out from reviling crowds. His supreme sorrow was when he cried to God, no answer came. That led his soul to revolt by accusing God of cruelty (verse 21). With his question "Did I not weep for the person in trouble?" (verse 25), Job was unfavorably comparing God's apparent attitude toward him with his own compassionate attitude toward suffering men and women in the days of his prosperity and strength. When "but now" is the starting point of our thinking and we contemplate only what we see close at hand, we also will be tempted to make the same agonized outcries. For our comfort let us remember that God still watched over Job in his rebellious state, uttering no word of rebuke and sustaining him even when Job was unaware God was doing so.
|"THIS IS MY RESOLUTION"|
Job 32:8 "There is a spirit in humankind, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding." The stage in this ongoing drama is now clear, for Job and his 3 friends have stopped talking. It is not surprising therefore that a moderator appears. His name is Elihu. This chapter opens with background details about this young man and his bold undertaking to speak on an issue that had been so largely and learnedly argued by his seniors. He explains that he had patiently heard all they had to say, but he has something new to offer (verses 14-17). Elihu promises to speak impartially (verses 21-22) and apparently did well enough that Job made no reply to him, and God did not rebuke him at the end of this book, as He did Job and especially the 3 friends. With the highlighted words Elihu declares what he conceived to be his right to speak at all. He was not trusting to age or wisdom but to divine revelation. "There is a spirit in humankind" reveals our unique capacity for receiving communication from God. "The breath of the Almighty gives them understanding" shows how God makes use of that capacity. The breath of God reaches that inner spirit and communicates His thoughts to individual men and women. That God should speak to the crown of His creation is not supernatural, but natural. The deepest truth about human nature is that we were created with the capacity for fellowship with God. That capacity is destroyed by sin, but restored by grace.
Job 33:29-30 "God does all these things often to a man to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him." These words are a summary of Elihu's arguments up to this point about the methods and purpose of God in His dealings with people. He declares, "God is greater than man. Why do you complain against Him that He does not give an account of all His doings? Indeed God speaks once, or twice, yet no one notices it" (verses 12-14). The two ways are a dream or vision in the night and suffering to turn back a person's "soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him." Elihu's philosophy was that suffering is educational—that through it, God is leading men and women to a higher plane of life. His philosophy was wider than that of Job's friends, who saw nothing in suffering other than punishment for sin, or of Job, who was tempted to believe his suffering was meaningless. Elihu saw it as a process through which the individual soul can gain clearer light, and so fuller life. He is right, and it proved to be exactly so in the case of Job, but there was more to Job's suffering than that. Elihu, Job, or Job's friends did not yet have any conception that men and women may endure suffering for the sake of others, as Job essentially was doing by proving God right and Satan wrong about the durability of saving faith.
Job 34:12 "Surely God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice." Job gave no answer to Elihu's first speech so Elihu proceeds to give a second speech in this chapter and the next that refutes two charges Job made against God because of his suffering: 1. That God was unjust for afflicting a righteous man. 2. That nothing is gained by being loyal to God. Elihu argues against Job in a vigorous way by essentially saying that even though Job was not literally a scoffer who traveled in evil company, he was aiding and abetting the cause of wicked people everywhere by saying such things. He proceeds to argue for the justice of God, as the highlighted verse displays. This is a great truth and Elihu's arguments in support of it are irrefutable. The authority of God is beyond all appeal, and He never is obliged to answer to anyone. He cannot be influenced by any low motive; whatever He does is right. The government of God is based upon perfect knowledge. He sees every person's doings and His judgments are the outcome of His understanding. Those who are wise submit to Him. Elihu leaves the matter to Job's own conscience and concludes with a sharp rebuke for his peevishness and discontent (verses 33-37). All this Job bore patiently, perhaps because while his other friends had accused him of things his own conscience cleared him of, Elihu charged him only with what his own righteous heart, upon reflection, was probably starting to accuse him of.
|The Young Man Gains a Hearing|
Job 35:6-7 "If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against Him? And if your transgressions are many, what do you do to Him? If you are righteous, what do you give to Him, or what does He receive from your hand?" Elihu uses those words in his answer to Job's claim that nothing is gained by being loyal to God. He declares first that when Job questioned the advantage of serving God, he was guilty of setting up his own righteousness as being more than God's. In the highlighted questions, Elihu is attempting to lay bare the very foundations of truth concerning the sovereignty of God. He is not trying to justify sin or say that God does not regard it, but that His own happiness is not so marred that He will act in any other way than what is right. God is not under any inducement to swerve from strict justice. Since He will bless whom He ought to bless and punish whom He ought to punish, there is an obvious advantage in being righteous. The whole biblical revelation, centered and consummated in Christ, shows that whereas human sin inflicts wounds upon God, men and women living righteous lives bring joy to His heart. Job's claim that God was unjust for afflicting him as a righteous man is utterly ironic, for God afflicted the perfectly righteous Son of God to provide the justification Job craved beyond anything he could have imagined.
Job 36:2 "I have yet something to say on God's behalf." Elihu begins his third and final speech with statements affirming the greatness of God. He is absolutely sure of his ground and at once plunges into his theme: that God does not preserve the life of the wicked, nor does He withdraw His eyes from the righteous. Those who are right with Him are not immune from suffering. Elihu's view clearly is that God has something to teach man that man can learn only by processes that sometimes involve pain. That is a great advance on the solutions suggested by Job's 3 friends, but it does not apply to Job's case since God was not attempting to teach Job. He was rather using him to answer an essential misinterpretation of the relation between God and man, and therefore conferring high honor upon him. We continue to hold Job in high esteem as a result, yet again see the wisdom of silence in the presence of suffering.
Job 37:23 "Touching the Almighty, we cannot find Him out. He is exalted in power and will not do violence to justice and righteousness." Rising above mere argument, Elihu speaks of the greatness of God, starting at verse 26 from the last chapter until God Himself appears at the beginning of the next. He is setting the stage for the greatest appearance of all and the conclusion of this intense book. God will speak out of a whirlwind that Elihu appears to describe as it develops in this very chapter and part of the last: drops of water, skies pouring down, thunder, lightning bolts, cattle scattering, a tornado, cold from icy winds, broad waters frozen fast, thick clouds, a sudden stillness, a hot southern wind, clearing skies, and golden sunshine. Elihu's concluding words, highlighted above, emphasize both the impossibility of perfectly knowing the Almighty and the certainty that He always does what is just and right. "Therefore men fear Him" (verse 24), says Elihu. That is not to say that since God is great, He is greatly to be feared. Notice what Psalm 130 says: "If You...kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared. I wait for the Lord...and in His Word I put my hope" (verses 3-5). We are to fear, honor, and trust God because of His gracious and forgiving nature in addition to His power.
Job 38:3 "Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me." In the dramatic setting of a whirlwind, the divine voice speaks. Although Job had waited long to hear it, the first word is a challenge. Job was to brace himself like a man for conversation with God. This is a great call, revealing at once the divine estimate of human dignity and the conditions upon which God can deal with man. When a man acts like a man, God can speak to him and he to God. When God spoke this way to Job, He gave him no explanation of the mystery of his suffering. Instead He unveiled His glory before Job's mind, leading him to more perfect confidence in Him with regard to experiences not yet explained. The first details in this unveiling are the simplest facts of the material universe, which are sublime beyond the comprehension of man—the foundations of the earth, the boundaries of the oceans, the line of the horizon, the rotation of the earth upon its axis, the realm of the dead, the storehouse of snow and hail, the diffusion of light, the direction of wind, the path of the thunderbolt, the blessing of rain, the guiding stars of heaven, the ability to think, and the provision of food for His creation. Job was being led to forget himself as he contemplated the breadth of God's knowledge and the stupendous ease of His own activity.
Job 39:1 "Do you know?" The great unveiling of the Almighty continues, and with this question Job's mind was directed to recognize its own limitation. The voice of God speaks first of intricacies regarding the birth and rearing of animals. Then He describes the splendid freedom of the wild donkey and unharnessed strength of the wild ox. Did Job know these things? They all are under His government, as are the differing manifestations of power, wisdom, and even foolishness among His creatures. For example, the ostrich rejoices in the power of its legs but foolishly abandons its young to the elements. No reason is given for this deprivation of wisdom for the ostrich, but the fact is affirmed that God did it. He also bestows all the strength of the war horse, directs the hawk towards the South, and guides the eagle to make its nest on the heights. The collective picture in Job's mind and ours is of God everywhere guiding and governing. The reasons for what He does are not disclosed. Thus Job was being led not to lean on his own understanding, which was baffled everywhere in the presence of common things in his life, but to recognize anew the wisdom and power of God.
Job 40:4 "Behold, I am of small account." The Lord pauses to ask Job an important question: "Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it" (verse 2). The man of mighty speech and strong defiance to all the arguments of his friends gives the humble answer above. God's method of addressing Job was producing its effects, for Job was obviously realizing the comparative insignificance of what he understood in the midst of a universe so wonderfully governed. Since it reveals God's interest in even the smallest matters, it practically shouts of God's compassion and understanding about everything concerning Job. This was just the first of a divine two-part lesson to Job, for he would soon learn that he was very important to God. For the moment it was important that he realize the greatness of God. This was breaking in upon his mind with new force, for he answered, "What can I reply to You?" There was nothing he could say and Job now had the sense to realize that. He put his hand upon his mouth and his silence was at once his opportunity for wisdom. Over all He rules, man alone is able to commune intelligently with God. In the midst of his suffering, Job had complained of God's methods. The Lord now called upon Job to endeavor to occupy His place. There was a tender and healing satire in this call, for it led Job to a healthy sense of his own limitation and the perfect sufficiency of God.
Job 41:1 "Can you?" God's address to Job ends with the challenge that Job should make an attempt at governing dinosaur-like beasts. As fearsome as those creatures were, anything in the material realm is far easier for man to manage than matters in the moral realm that Job once professed to know more about than God. There is a playfulness here of great tenderness in the suggestions the Lord makes about these fierce monsters. On a more serious note, however, Satan—who instigated Job's troubles—is very much like the monsters, but the Lord manages him with ease. The question God puts to Job throughout this chapter is, "Can you?" It compelled Job to recognize his own impotence in the big things of life and to bow before the power of God.
Job 42:4-5 "I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and repent in dust and ashes." This is Job's answer to the Lord. It is characterized by the stateliness of a great submission. Job had been brought to a new sense of God. In the power of it he realized that much of his past speech came from ignorance, and confessed that it was so. This utterance of surrender was a complete vindication of God. Job did not receive here an explanation of his suffering, but the suffering was forgotten. He had found himself in relationship with God, and in so doing had found rest. The epilogue is full of beauty. The Lord turned to the friends of Job, for His wrath was kindled against them, but it was mingled with mercy. Their intention had been good, but their words had been wrong. To them God vindicated Job by calling him "My servant," as He had done at the beginning. In this great book we learn that God may call men and women into fellowship with Himself through suffering, and that knowing His character and work is the best source of strength. It has been painful to see such a holy man as Job so agitated and prone to quarrel with God, but here he comes to his right mind again by repentance. It has also been hard to see Job and his friends so much at odds with one another although they were all wise and good men, but under God's guidance the differences between them melt away through sacrifice and prayer. It has been especially difficult to observe such a remarkable godly man so seriously afflicted, but Job is healed of all his ailments, more beloved than ever, and blessed way beyond what he had before. Here is a concluding ray of light from the New Testament: Whatever Scripture "was written in earlier times"—such as the book of Job, it "was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4).