The book of job Anne O’BrieN
A Bible Study on the book of Job. We encourage you to pray before you begin reading that the Lord would open your heart and mind to be receptive and responsive to God’s message contained within this study. There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds.
The Book of Job – a series of ten studies Study 1 – Job chapters 1&2 Chapter 1 Considered by some to be one of the older books of the Bible, Job deals with one of the most modern of questions: Why does a loving God allow suffering? However, this book is no theological debate, but one which seeks to find answers from the experience of one trusting God in sufferings and trials. Paul Stevens said that what we ultimately need to know is “not whether the universe is friendly, but whether there is a friend in the universe”. In this book we also get an insight into what is happening in the heavenly realms, so that we are reminded that often there is a bigger picture that we are unaware of. Perhaps more importantly, the book will help us to trust God in our trials and also help us to support others in theirs. Read verses 1-5: Job was “blameless and upright”, a God-fearing man who was mightily blessed with family, cattle and servants, earning him respect among the people (of the East – probably east of Israel). The whole family enjoyed their wealth and often celebrated together. Job acted as a type of priest, making sacrifices on behalf of his children so that they were all blessed physically and spiritually. We note that sacrificing to God was a regular occurrence – Job was a spiritual man, who worshipped God. Read verses 6-11: Satan means adversary or enemy – one who is opposed to us. And in verse 7 we see him as being actively engaged in roaming the earth looking for trouble. The Devil (another name for Satan) is described in 1 Peter 5v8 as prowling around like a roaring lion. In verse 9 we see Satan accusing God of gaining Job’s worship by pouring out abundant blessings on him. So that, quite apart from Job’s situation, we see a heavenly contest taking place with Satan’s question to God being: “Would Job still worship You if all he has were to be taken away from him?” Read verse 12: The Lord agreed to Satan’s challenge, with the stipulation that Job himself should not be harmed. We justly wonder why! What reasons do you think God may have had? Our standard response is to say that God wanted to test Job’s faith, or grow Job’s faith, to see whether Job was a worshipper because of what he got out of it. But God’s reputation is also at stake here. Would Job still worship him because he is Sovereign Lord of all, Lord Almighty, El Shaddai? ‘Lord Almighty’ is used over 30 times in this book. It is God’s Name which is at stake as much as Job’s well-being. Read verses 13-19: In quick succession 4 terrible things happen to Job and his family: Job’s oxen and donkeys were stolen and his servants were killed (v14,15) Fire from heaven fell and burnt up the sheep and the servants (16) Enemies stole the camels and killed the servants (17) All Job’s children were killed as the house collapsed on them (v18,19)
Satan did not waste any time in putting his plan into action. I think it must have broken God’s heart to see Job suffering. The question now was: Can Job still trust in God in his grief and sorrow as much as he did when he had everything? Satan thought not. 2
Q. When our faith gets a knock because circumstances are not as we hoped – how do we react? Read verses 20-22: Job tore his robe and shaved his head – both signs of grief and repentance. But, he still worshipped in submission to God’s will and praised God. He saw God’s hand in it all. He didn’t understand why, but he still honoured God. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord”. Job recognised that by accepting God’s Sovereignty we can always have hope. In Satan’s first challenge, God had won.
Chapter 2 Read verses 1-6: Satan had failed in his challenge to God. Job had maintained his integrity (v3). But Satan was bent on destruction. (Satan’s three main characteristics are Accusations, Deception and Destruction.) “If you take Job’s own health away he will not worship you”. Satan knew that poor health can often be our Achilles’ heel – the very thing which saps our strength and faith. And so, God allows Satan to attack Job’s health, with the proviso that he spares his life. Notice that God is still the One who is in control of the conditions. Q. Why does God choose to work through our weaknesses rather than through miracles? Read verses 7-10: Satan caused Job to suffer from a painful skin condition amongst other dreadful things (mentioned elsewhere) so that his wife even said to him, “Curse God and die”. So, Job suffered emotionally too as his wife didn’t share his faith. In fact, she seemed to be “kicking him while he was down”! But faith is about obeying God in spite of our feelings and our circumstances, knowing that somehow he is working out his will and that he still loves us. Notably, it is suggested in verses 9 and 10 that Job’s wife’s response was sinful whereas his was not; suggesting that lack of faith is sin. Note: Satan can only touch people with God’s permission. It will be for a purpose (which we may not understand this side of eternity). God can use these times ultimately for our good and for his glory. Even if we can get our head round this and apply it to ourselves as well as Job did, it still presents us with the problem of how we can help others in their difficult situations. This, of course is the theme for the rest of the book. In these last 3 verses 0f chapter 2 we are introduced to Jobs friends.
Study 2 - Job chapters 3-5 Whilst chapters 1&2 dealt with the discourse between The Lord God and Satan, the next section of the book deals with the conversations between Job and his three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. These men were probably also wealthy landowners who had travelled a distance to visit Job when they heard of his great loss. They had agreed that they would go and sympathise with him, but they obviously were not prepared for what they would find (2v12). They came with good intentions. Q. What 4 things did they do that showed their sympathy? (2v12&13)
Chapter 3 Read 3v1-10: Notice Job did not curse God, neither did he curse himself, nor did he threaten suicide, but he did curse the day he was born. “I wish I’d never been born” is the sum of his words. Job loathed his present life, but he did not hate God. Understandably, Job was having “a good old moan”. We must remember at this stage, that having lost everything, Job was only just coming out of the first stage of grief – which is shock. He had been unable to function properly. For seven days and nights he had sat on the ground in silence. But coming out of that period of ‘numbness’ brought him into a place of pain, so bad that he wishes he had not been born. He is obviously bewildered and can find no understanding about his loss. And, being a righteous man does not make his grieving any the less. Read 3v11-22: Almost predictably, Job’s next question is “Why?”. Is he asking this of God, or his friends, or even of himself? The attacks which caused Job’s loss came from the Enemy (1v15 and 1v17) and from Nature (1v16 and 1v19). Job’s question is not so much ‘why has this happened?’ but ‘why has this happened to me?’. The very thing that God stipulated to Satan, “spare Job’s life” (1v12), is the thing that Job cannot at this point accept. Severe grief causes us to focus inwards. This book is all about Job, and yet his suffering is common to many. Read 3v23-26: Job knew that he had been “hedged in” (v23) by God, he knew that God protected him and that his life was in God’s hands, so he could not understand WHY all this had happened to him. Q. Are Christians protected by God’s hand? Are they immune from suffering? What words does Job use to describe feelings that are common to us all at such times? Job describes how he has lost his peace, his rest (mentally, spiritually and physically) and he only feels turmoil. In today’s language we might say he was an emotional wreck, he may have had panic attacks, he was feeling stressed out by all that had happened. Even great men and women of faith can experience depression and fear. Job did not know, but God had his reasons for not allowing him to die. We do not see God berating Job for his response. His way of pouring out his heart was far healthier for him than bottling it all up. Job’s question of “Why?” is not answered at that point, but we can be encouraged because we have more answers than did Job. God allowed Job to live: To teach a lesson to Satan and his fellow angelic beings To encourage Job to trust him in the bad times as well as the good To help Job to gauge God’s wisdom against man’s 4
To ultimately prove Job worthy to other men To help us in our grief and sorrow To ultimately bless him even more than before
From this point on in the Book of Job we see Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar alternately responding to Job’s pronouncements. The type of things they say typically represent the type of things that people still say today. In chapters 4&5 we see what Eliphaz has to say in response to Job’s speech.
Chapter 4 Read 4v4-5: Eliphaz says: You give other people good advice but when bad times come to you, you are dismayed. In other words: practise what you preach! Q. How would you respond to this? How would Job have felt? Read 4v7&8: Eliphaz says: Sinners suffer the consequences of their actions (implying therefore that Job had done wrong). Job was suffering ergo Job was a sinner. Q. How would you respond to this? How would Job have felt? Read 4v16,18,&19: Eliphaz has some kind of vision or dream, where he judges God to be unmerciful, implying that Job cannot expect to receive grace from the hand of God. If God judged the fallen angels why would he not also judge men as severely? Q. Where is the flaw in this argument?
Chapter 5 Read 5v8: Eliphaz’ advice, “If I were you”, is that Job (being a sinner) should repent and appeal to God for mercy, the implication still being that Job has brought this upon himself. He rightly says that God is a miraculous God who can change all things, so that there is always hope in God (v16). Q. Is it possible to say the right things in the wrong way? Read 5v17&18: This is what we might call cold comfort. “Be happy when God chastises you. For although he hurts you, he is able to deliver you and bring you through it”! In fact Eliphaz goes on to promise all kinds of random blessings if Job will only cheer up and trust God! (verses 20-27: you won’t die, you will never be slandered, dangerous animals won’t hurt you, you will never be robbed, your sons will be important – what sons??). What is more, Eliphaz claims to know this all from his own experience (v27)! Q. In what ways do the words of Eliphaz cause Job to focus on his own shortcomings? In what ways could God’s silence and patience help Job to gradually rebuild his faith? 5
Study 3 - Job chapters 6-8 In these chapters Job again states how he is feeling and his second friend, Bildad, attempts to give him some answers. Some aspects of this conversation highlight the difference between a practical friend and a spiritual friend.
Job Chapter 6 Read verses 1-7: Job describes how he is in anguish, he is miserable, he feels he has been targeted (arrows v4), he cannot eat – symptoms which are common to all who suffer great tragedy. He’s kind of saying: “Can’t you see how bad my suffering is?” (v2) and “Do you blame me?” (v3b) and “We don’t give ourselves bad things, why has God given me this?” (v6-7). Read verses 8-13: Now Job goes from wishing he had never been born to wishing he could die (v9), while he is still faithful (v10). He says there is absolutely nothing he can do of himself, there is nothing left (v11-13). We clearly see that Job is literally at rock bottom. And yet, he doesn’t blame God and he still wants to maintain his witness. Q. How can pain and suffering affect our spiritual being? Read verses 14-20: Job uses the metaphor of a river. Just like a river his friends are undependable, they dry up, they overflow, they meander, they deceive. Job felt his friends were less than useless. He felt that if a friend were not a friend in time of need then they were not truly God’s child (v14). Q. How easy is it to be a friend to someone who does not share your faith? Is it easier when both parties share a love for God and have an understanding of his ways? Read verses 21-30: Job still feels that his friends think that his suffering is his own fault but he wants to be accepted as he is, and allowed to express his pain. But his friends have never had a personal experience of such pain. Verse 29 shows us that Job still knows he is a good man. He reminds his friends that his integrity is at stake, and so it matters to him that they believe him.
Job Chapter 7 In chapter 7v1-10 Job opens the paragraph with the words, “It’s a hard life” (paraphrase). Again, he has a ‘good old moan’ – with reason – because we see how his disease has progressed. Added to the boils, he now has scabs and abscesses, and worms attacking his raw flesh (v5). Read verses 11-16: Precisely because Job knows God is his Heavenly Father, he feels able to pour out his innermost feelings. He probably knows he shouldn’t be, but he is experiencing bitterness (v11), and sleeplessness (v13,14), selfhatred (v16) and a wish to die (v16). Job is complaining, on the one hand, that God is not doing anything for him, but then he will move on (in the next few verses) to complain that God won’t let him alone. 6
Q. Do you think God gets angry with us when we complain? Read verses 17-21: This paragraph is all about “me”. Job uses the words ME, I, and MY 10 times. His grief, his loss, his disappointment in God and his constant pain, has driven his thoughts inwards. And yet he still relates to God, he still knows God is there even though he cannot appreciate the fact that God is still for him. Q. What would Job’s suffering be like without any faith in God?
Job Chapter 8 Chapter 8 – It is now Bildad’s turn, in his wisdom, to offer Job some of his thoughts and advice on the situation. Read verses 1-7 Read verses 3&4: Bildad’s reply to Job is quite heartless. He begins in verse 1 by calling Job a “windbag”! Then he feels the need to apportion blame. So, instead of encouraging Job, he decides to defend God. Bildad’s logic says: God cannot be responsible, and Job says he is righteous, therefore his children (who weren’t there to defend themselves) must have sinned. But Bildad is not looking at the situation as one who trusts God. He only sees God as Judge, and not as One who shows love and grace to those who follow him. Q. Why do we feel a need to apportion blame? Did Jesus ever blame sinners? Read verses 8-22 Read verse 13: Bildad’s next stage of his argument was: If your children didn’t sin, then perhaps they forgot God. He is tackling Job’s grief in a purely logical way with no sympathy for Job’s feelings and with none of God’s love in his heart. Even if our children do grow up and “forget God” He never forgets them. They cannot be saved on the strength of their upbringing, but I believe he will never leave or forsake those who we have entrusted to Him. Think about the example of Samson who was dedicated with a Nazarite vow at birth. His life was far from exemplary, but God honoured the vow of the parents and ultimately used Samson in a wonderful way to fulfil his purposes. Read verses 20-22: Lastly, Bildad says: If, as you say, you and your children really are blameless, then surely God would give you back your strength and your joy. Interestingly, this statement will turn out to be prophetic! But that wasn’t how Bildad intended it. And Job certainly did not know this hope at that time. Bildad’s approach was: “God says it, and that settles it”. But he only seems to base his idea of what God says on tradition (v8), and not on what God is actually saying by his Spirit. We certainly need to know and apply the Word of God, but we also need to know, understand and apply the Grace of God in the way that Jesus did. Q. So, was Bildad’s ‘help’ wise, spiritual, or neither?
Study 4 - Job chapters 9-11 Job chapter 9: Job asks 4 questions for us to consider: How can we be righteous before a perfect God How can we argue with God and put our case before him? How can we be purified from sin? Who will mediate for us?
Read verses 1-13: Job acknowledges that God is so great and he is in control of all things, including the universe and wonders that cannot be fathomed. He is invisible and yet he is there all the time. How can any person measure up to his standards (v2,3)? And yet (unbeknown to Job) God had called him righteous (chap 1v8). Q. How is it that we are born sinners and yet can be called righteous? Of course, Job didn’t realise that when he was saying these things he was portraying the need for Jesus who would be the ultimate answer to his question. Hebrews tells us that the “righteous” of the Old Testament were those who lived by faith in God. So, even then it was faith and not works that could bring a person into a relationship with God and make it possible for God to see them as righteous. Read verses 14-20: The words that Job writes here are like those used in court where a person is trying to prove their innocence. How can I answer God’s charge, how can I dispute with him? (v14) Would he really give me a fair hearing anyway? (v16) I feel as if God is against me whatever I say (v17). My accuser is powerful and I feel defenceless (v19). If I justify myself then I condemn myself, for I would be guilty of pride and arguing with God (v20). Therefore I cannot win. If only Job had the New Testament! Romans 8v33-34 tell us that if God justifies a person then no-one can condemn him. Read verses 21-24: Job felt that God was mocking him. He was unaware of the dialogue between Satan and God and it had not occurred to Job that he was being tested, although he acknowledged that his suffering was being allowed by God. In many ways he is making himself feel worse – punishing himself with worry and adding to his problems. He continues these thoughts in verses 25-31. “I must be really bad if this is how God treats me”, “Even if I purify myself (v30 – snow water, soap) I still couldn’t be good enough”. Read verses 32-35: “If only there was someone to mediate between myself and God” (v33). This sentence sums up the longing of the whole of the Old Testament. People cannot be good of themselves – we are all born into this sinful world. Sin must be punished (blood sacrifice). Job realised the need for a mediator. Ultimately all of his longings were to be realised in Jesus.
Job chapter 10 Read verse 3 Job’s big question throughout this chapter is “WHY?”. He is still complaining, not so much about his pain, but because he feels he has been unjustly treated by God. He even asks, “Is it because it pleases you?” And he continues his questioning: Verse 8: You created me, why would you want to destroy me? Verse 13, 14: You know all about me and you know if I have sinned. 8
Verse 18, 21, 22: Why did you ever allow me to be born? I would be better off dead. Think about/Discuss these points written by Charles Spurgeon: It may be that God is contending with you: To show his power to uphold you To develop grace in you Because you need to consider if you have sinned To humble you Because he wants you to enter into the “fellowship of his sufferings” (Philippians 3v10-11)
Chapter 11: In this chapter Zophar speaks out of his wisdom and logic. He asks Job three questions: Don’t you even know that you deserve to be punished? How come you’re so ignorant about God’s ways? You are obviously guilty of something. Why don’t you repent?
Read verses 4-6 Zophar was very severe in his approach and lacked compassion. In verse 6 he says: God has even forgotten some of your sin – he’s probably punishing you even less than you deserve. Job knew that he was a sinner – in the general sense – see Job 9v2 and 19v20, but he claimed to be blameless because, having examined himself, he could find no particular sin which would have prompted his suffering. Read verses 7-9: Zophar has a point when he says (paraphrase), “God is all knowing and we are not, so why shouldn’t we just trust him and accept what comes to us?” Q. How much truth is there in Zophar’s logic? Read verses 11-15: Zophar says: If you are suffering, you must be guilty, therefore you must repent. Does suffering indicate guilt? No. However, as a result of Adam’s Fall we are all born into sin, and therefore as a result we all experience ill-health at some time and in varying measures. BUT, we do not believe that God uses sickness and pain as a punishment. He may allow it in order to help us to trust in him and to keep us from pride. (Even the Apostle Paul had his “thorn in the flesh”.) Read verse 20: Zophar had this one final message for Job, “If you don’t listen to me, you have no hope”. This statement was true to a degree (we do all need to examine ourselves and repent), but sometimes half-truths can be very misleading and also harmful. Zophar’s theology was judgment by circumstances. Praise God that HE offers us grace and mercy and hope.
Study 5 - Job chapters 12-15 Having been much maligned by his three friends, Job states 3 three things that he knows: He declares the greatness of Creator God (chapter 12) He reaffirms his own faith (chapter 13) He believes there is always hope and renewal (chapter 14)
Then Eliphaz speaks again for the second time (chapter 15).
Chapter 12 – God’s greatness Read verses 1-4: Job makes the point that just because he is in dire circumstances, it doesn’t mean that he is inferior to his friends or any less wise. They have been putting him down and laughing at him, even though he knows he is righteous (v4) and was as successful as they were. Q. Does the world judge us on our success or on our character? Read verses 7-15: Verses 7-9: Even the animals have more wisdom than his friends! They declare the glory of God Isaiah 43v20: The wild animals honour God Psalm 148v7-12: All of creation glorify God
We can even learn from the earth and the fish (v8). All of creation shows wisdom by obedience to God’s will. Verses 10-15: Job was wise enough to know that his former good life was not a result of his own wisdom but of God’s greatness and goodness (v10). He knew that understanding and wisdom come with age (v12). But he also knew that all wisdom comes from God who has control over all nature (v14&15). Q. How does God impart his wisdom to us?
Chapter 13 – Job’s faith Read verses 1-5: Job knew it was better to speak to God than to his three “friends”. God is truth – his friends were lying (v4). Often, wisdom can mean silence. Q. How much do you agree with Job (v5)? Job lists some of the consequences of a lack of wisdom: You can speak wrongfully on God’s behalf (v7) You may be arguing with God (v8) You will ultimately be called to account (v10) You may bring judgment on yourself (v11)
Surely a reminder to us all to “put our brain into gear before opening our mouth to speak”.
Read verses 13-16: Here, Job’s faith really shines out: He is putting his trust in God, come what may (v13) To rely on himself would be putting his life in jeopardy (v14) He will always hope and trust in God, even though he may be asked to die for God (v15) He feels he cannot lose, if he trusts in God (v16)
Q. When “the chips are down” where do we place our faith? Read verses 20-22: Despite all this, he continues to ask God for a reprieve from his sufferings. We are not meant to be fatalistic about suffering. It is right to accept that God is working out his purposes in our lives, but it doesn’t mean that we should not also pray for healing. Job, even in his diminished state, is able to give us the encouragement that: There is always hope God always listens to us (v22) Suffering has a purpose, to increase our trust.
Chapter 14 – Hope for Renewal Read verses 7-17: Job likens a man who dies to a tree, and a river bed that dries up. And yet, when the rains come, even dry river beds will again run afresh with the water of life, renewing apparently dead trees and plants (v9). In Job’s day they had no Scriptures and no knowledge or understanding of eternal life. And yet Job asks the question, “Will we live again?” and states, “I will wait for my renewal” (v14). And Job even has the inspiration to write of God’s mercy and grace, “Surely, having made me you will cover my sin” (v16,17). We know that the Blood of Jesus covers our sin so that (when we accept Jesus as Saviour and repent) God looks on us and sees us as righteous. Way back in time, Job trusted in God and he seemed to have an understanding of these things. His faith, like Abraham’s, was credited to him as righteousness. We do of course note that Job wasn’t saying he was perfect. His faith fluctuated in the same way that ours does. The following verses of this chapter (v18-22) show us that, despite his faith, Job was (understandably) feeling sorry for himself – and had another “good old moan” at God.
Chapter 15 – Eliphaz Read verses 1-6: Eliphaz now has a second attempt at counselling Job, but in these verses he effectively calls Job stupid and full of hot air! He says Job speaks nothing of value (v3), he actually accuses him of hindering devotion to God! He then says that Job is condemned by his own lips (v6). Actually, the opposite was true – Job was speaking words of wisdom, and his words actually validated his faith. Read verses 7-13: Now, Eliphaz accuses Job of being arrogant and cannot accept that Job knows things that he does not (v9) – especially as Job is a younger man. Eliphaz equates himself and his friends with the grey-haired wise old men (v10). My guess is that Job was in his forties and they were considerably older. (Job’s father was still alive.) Of course, Job wasn’t perfect, he ranted and raved, but deep down he knew that God was still with him. 11
Read verses 17-25: “Listen to me” says Eliphaz (v17). His conclusion is this: The wicked suffer (v20) and rage at God (v25). Therefore, Job must be wicked! Read verses 27-35: Eliphaz’s message was that Job was doomed. There was no hope and no way back to God’s blessing. He had no understanding of the love and mercy of God. He had no spiritual insight or wisdom – just his own logic. Despite Job’s suffering, we have to be glad that “he knew what he knew about God” and no-one could take it away from him. Likewise, when we have Jesus in our life, we have something that the world cannot give, and the world can never take it away.
Study 6 – Job chapters 16-20 Chapter 16 – Empathy Read verses 4&5: Job’s friends were not able to see things from Job’s perspective and Job accused them of having no empathy – let alone sympathy. Job says, “If I were you I would have offered words of encouragement and comfort”, calling them miserable comforters (v1). Q. How important is empathy? How easy is it to be empathetic? Why is empathy better than sympathy? Read verses 6-8: Job alternates between speaking to his friends and to God. Here we get the picture of Job at ‘rock bottom’ pouring out his heart to God, totally exhausted by everything. But every time he does this it ends in him throwing himself once again onto God’s mercy. Read verses 15-21: Sackcloth, dust, weeping, were all signs of grief and to some extent – repentance. We don’t just see a physical struggle in Job, but a mental and spiritual struggle too. He was experiencing such a mental conflict. On the one hand, he believed that God was against him (v12-14), but on the other hand he knew that God was listening to him and that he had a righteous witness – an advocate – in Heaven. (A witness being someone who was watching him and could attest to the truth of his words.) And so he believed that ultimately he would be vindicated. His witness (the Holy Spirit?), his intercessor (a prefiguration of Christ?) was on his side. This amazing insight helped him to experience faith which overcame his doubts. Hebrews 7v25: Therefore, Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 4v15: Jesus was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, Jesus can empathise with us. Jesus wasn’t just in heaven interceding for us since his time on the earth. He was in Heaven from before the creation of the world. Job didn’t know Jesus, but he somehow understood that there was an intercessor who did empathise with us and who could bring our case before God.
Chapter 17 – Job’s humiliation Read verses 6-9: Job felt he was surrounded by mockers (v2). His friends made his misery worse by mocking him when he would not receive their counsel. They mocked him for his faith in God. His name had become a “byword” to the people. (Thankfully, for Job, his name is now synonymous with patience and not with humiliation.) It was so bad that people spat in his face (v6) and he had become a mere shadow of himself (v7) so that people were appalled (v8). Q. Who was the perfect man who took on himself the shame and humiliation of mankind? In what way does Job teach us about Jesus? 13
Chapter 18 – Bildad replies In verses 5-21 Bildad gives a long descriptive speech about the wicked man, insinuating that Job is such a man. He says the wicked: Get themselves into trouble, it’s their own fault (7-10) Always find themselves in the way of calamity (v11-16) Are not remembered by anyone (v17,18) Leave no family or inheritance (v19) People abhor them, and even God does not know them (20-21)
Bildad’s aim seems to have been to make sure that Job knew he was wicked and that’s why he was being punished. We know that this couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was not Job’s wickedness, but his faithfulness, that is being revealed through his suffering. And even God was confident in Job’s trust and faithfulness.
Chapter 19 – Job’s reply Read verses 13-20: Job summarizes his present condition. He is alienated from any family he had left, and his best friends have forgotten him (apparently, they all believed he was wicked). His servants no longer responded to his requests – even when he begged for his life. He said even his breath was repulsive to his wife (implying she too, turned away). He is scorned and tormented by children who (in that culture) should have respected him. And he has lost a lot of weight. No wonder he felt he had cause for complaint!! Read verses 25-27: Quite suddenly, Job’s faith “clicks in” with this amazing prophetic revelation of God’s eternal and saving grace. He speaks of a redeemer who will come to the earth. He speaks of life after death and his desire to see God. God has not chosen to reduce his shame or suffering, but he has assured Job that he has a redeemer. In the wider context this is an amazing prophecy about the coming of Jesus Christ who, at that time, was yet to come. In the Bible there is what might be called progressive revelation about Jesus and eternity. The Jews believed in a place of the dead (Hebrew: Sheol, and in Greek: Hades) but they had no belief in an afterlife. That is, until the prophets came and began to prophesy about the Messiah who would come to be Saviour and Redeemer – one who could make people right with God. After the Day of Pentecost the Bible no longer talks about Hades and Paradise, but about Heaven and Hell. But Job (possibly 2000 years before Christ) calls him “my” redeemer. He seemed to appreciate the personal connection to someone who would stand for him. In Jewish culture a redeemer was one who would ensure your inheritance was not lost by buying back property and by taking responsibility for relatives. Job claimed this and in doing so he was counteracting Bildad’s words in Chap 18v17. Praise God, our Redeemer Jesus Christ, did fulfil the prophecy of verse 25 and by the purchase of our souls with his blood and has redeemed all who believe in him. “Redeemed” – bought us back. He created us for himself; we went away from him; he bought us back with his blood. We are redeemed and when we read Job 19v25 we get that witness in our Spirit that he understood what we understand. Amazing!
Chapter 20 – Zophar replies All through this chapter Zophar’s dispassionate reply to Job is a general observation on the wicked – Job included. His speech is motivated by the fact that he had had his nose put out of joint by Job’s rebuke (v3)! He still insists that Job is wicked although he only speaks in a general sense. Q. When counselling someone how important is it to listen to them and to keep the discussion focussed on them? 14
Study 7 – Chapters 21-27 Chapter 21 – Life’s not fair! Read verses 7-16: Job is now asking the questions that many people today still ask, “Why is it that the wicked prosper?” He says: Why do they live a long time? (v7) Why do they have many children and their families thrive? (v8) Why do they live in safe homes? (v9) Why do they have fruitful farms/businesses/trade etc? (v10)
All this … when they don’t even care about God’s ways! It doesn’t seem fair to him that those who are wicked often fare better than those who are righteous. Q. Can you think of any examples of this? Read verses 22-26 & 30-32: So here, Job compares those who have with those who have not. Both end up being buried in the same ground, both are eaten by the same worms. And he says, even in death, the wicked seem to get more honour (v32). Q. Is this true. And do the wicked truly escape judgment?
Job chapter 22 – Eliphaz replies Read verses 6-9: The very first verse of Job told us that, “Job was blameless and upright, he feared God and shunned evil.” And yet Eliphaz accuses Job of: Only lending money to those who offered him security (v6) Having plenty, but refusing to give to the starving (v8) Sending widows and orphans away empty-handed (v9)
How little he knew Job, and how little he knew God! But then look at how Eliphaz changes his tone and ‘turns on’ spiritual advice in verses 21-30. He says, “submit to God and then …”: You will be at peace with him (v21) You will be restored (v23) You will delight in God (v26) You will hear from God (v27)
Q. How is it that Eliphaz could be both cruel and spiritual? Do we ever fall into the same trap?
Chapter 23 – “I”, “me”, “my” Read verses 1-9: Notice now how suffering can turn our thoughts inwards. Job has become absorbed with his own situation. He uses the words “I, me and my” nearly 20 times in these verses. I guess there are times when we all have difficulty getting our minds off things that are troubling us. But, when Job looks to the Lord he finds the way to “snap himself out of it”. So he says, “BUT” … 15
Read verses 10-12: Job reminds himself: “But, God knows all this, he knows every step I take. Therefore, he must be testing me in order to purify me – like gold”. If you are in possession of something that looks like gold the way to find out is to test it by putting it in the fire. If it is genuine it will lose nothing. If it is not genuine any impurity will be separated out. Fire can never destroy gold. It can only come out better. Job went into the “fire” of suffering and affliction as a righteous man – he came out as a righteous man. Other Biblical Books of wisdom say these same things (e.g. those written by Solomon) but Job was able to write from personal experience and that adds much more weight to the truth of his words.
Job 24 – Observations on the wicked Here Job lists the deeds of evil men (incidentally, unchanged throughout history!): They are robbers of cattle, sheep, donkeys (v2-3) They are people who deny the poor their rights (v4-8) They traffick people, including children (v9-10) They do not pay wages, they enslave people (v11) They are murderers (v14), adulterers (v15), and thieves (v16)
But, Job reminds us that, “God’s eyes are on the way of the wicked. Their deeds have not gone unnoticed” (v23). God knows the way of the righteous (23v10), but he sees all the bad things too. Q. How is this chapter relevant to today?
Chapter 25: Bildad’s reply Read verses 1-6: Bildad had no hope for the future life – but to be fair, most people would have shared his views. A lot of people today would also say that human beings are no more than animals. They have chosen to believe evolutionary theory rather than the Bible. But that belief does not account for the presence of mind, body and spirit – which makes us so much more than the animals.
Chapter 26: Job’s reply In this chapter Job appears to reply to Bildad with heavy sarcasm! “O, Bildad, how you have helped the powerless!” meaning, “How have you ever helped the powerless?” (Job, of course, referring to himself.) Remember, Bildad had implied that Job was no more than a worm! (25v6) Bildad had spoken of God’s creation (25v2,3) but now Job enlarges on this theme: The earth is suspended (v7) gravity Clouds for rain form above it (v8)
the water cycle
The moon waxes and wanes (v9)
controlling the tides
The horizon marks out the limit between earth and sky (v10) The skies and the seas are subject to God’s laws (v11,12) God’s breath (the wind) changes the weather (v13) (The gliding serpent is very likely a star formation) These things are but a whisper of God’s creative power (v14) No-one will ever know the full extent (the thunder as opposed to the whisper) of God’s creation and power (v14)
Job had much more insight than Bildad but he acknowledged it was nothing compared to God’s greatness.
Job chapter 27: Job’s integrity and Divine Justice Read verses 1-6: Never will Job deny God or his greatness. He resolutely continues to trust God despite his circumstances. He also trusts God to judge the wicked (mentioned by Bildad), so that he says: Their families will not prosper (v14) No-one will weep for them (v15) Their wealth will go to the righteous (v16) Their house cannot be a refuge, when they die all is gone (v19) Death will surely come to them all (v20-23)
(Compare Job’s conclusion now with what he said in chapter 21) In summary- Even when things seem unfair we have to trust God.
Study 8 – Chapters 28-37 Chapter 28 – Where can wisdom be found? Read v 1-11: People were mining the depths of the earth thousands of years ago, which is quite amazing. And they discovered beautiful jewels and metals beneath the earth’s surface. Just as today, their discoveries gave them possessions and knowledge, but they didn’t bring wisdom. Q. What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Job makes the following points: Wisdom is not found by exploration of earth or sea (v14) It cannot be bought at any price (v15) Its price is beyond that of rubies (v18) In fact, wisdom is hidden (v21) God alone knows its source (v23) Wisdom came at Creation (v25-27) The fear of the Lord is wisdom
Q. As Christians, how or where do we find wisdom? (1 Cor 12v8) If wisdom came at Creation, what does that tell us about people who only believe in Evolution?
Chapter 29: Read verses 1-17: Job begins by remembering “the good old days”: Days of light when God’s blessing was on his house (v3,4) When his family were with him and all was well (v5) When he felt like “the cat who got the cream” (v6) When other people respected him (v8-10) When he could help others (v12-17)
In summary, they were days when he was mightily blessed by God, and as a result, he was able to bless others. This theme continues to the end of the chapter.
Chapter 30 – But now … Read verses 20-31: What a contrast to chapter 29! Verses 1-19 describe how everyone absolutely detests Job and turns away from him. Verses 28-30 (read) describe the extent of Job’s illness and this gives us the reason for why people found him so repulsive. His skin is black and full of pus and peeling off; plus he has a fever. The most likely diagnosis for this is necrotising bacterial infection (necrotising means leading to death). He smells so bad because he is covered in boils and dead flesh. He would have been in excruciating pain. No wonder people turned away. No wonder he felt aggrieved! 18
Chapter 31 – Job’s defence Verse 1: he would never commit adultery Verses 5-6: he would never lie Verse 7: he would always be faithful and true Verse 13: he would be fair to his workers Verses 16-19: he would always share what he had Verses 25-28: he never coveted greater things Verse 29: he never rejoiced at another’s misfortune Verse 32: his door was always open to strangers Verse 35-40: Job felt he could not be condemned for his works
Q. Being as perfect as we can before God – is it enough?
Chapters 32-37 – Enter Elihu Chapter 32 In these chapters Elihu, a younger man, intervenes in the debate between Job and his friends, and with a degree of anger (v2,3), he comments on the situation. Read 8-9 & 18-20: The indications are that Elihu was a prophet, in touch with the Spirit of God and ready to speak God’s word into the situation.
Chapter 33 In response to Job’s self-justification Elihu makes some points. Read verses 29-33: Elihu says Job should stop justifying himself and start looking at why God allows suffering. He says God is not meting out suffering as a punishment, but in his love he allows it, in order to keep us from Hell (v28 – the pit) and bring us near to himself.
Chapter 34 In this chapter Elihu is saying that God can only do what is good. And he picks out the flaws in Job’s argument. He: Accuses Job of saying that God is not just Says Job indicates that it’s not worth being righteous Says God is always righteous and just Says that if Job was innocent before, he is guilty now, because he spoke against God.
Chapter 35 Now Elihu attacks Job’s reasoning, saying it is wrong. Read verses 2-9: Elihu reproves Job for saying it’s not worth being righteous if we’re only going to suffer. He says that our pride will keep us from hearing God or seeing what he is really doing in our lives. 19
Chapters 36 & 37 Elihu proclaims Godâ€™s goodness and greatness. He says that God does not take his eyes off the righteous (36v7). He knows all. And what God wants is obedience (36v11). Read 36v22-33: God is so great a Creator, how can we accuse him of being wrong about anything? We can but trust that he always has our best interests at heart.
Study 9 – Chapters 38-41 GOD SPEAKS Read 38v1-3: This is an awesome setting. There is a storm, and out of the storm came the voice of God, “Brace yourself. I am going to question you”. God actually goes on to challenge Job about 70 times (Do you … ? Can you…?) and asks him 20 significant questions. Think about the theme as we go through them. 38v4: THE EARTH “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” God talks about the beginning of time as we understand it, when all heaven watched on as He formed the earth with its perfect dimensions. God didn’t question Job’s pain or his integrity – Job’s main problems. He questioned Job’s right to talk about God as if he knew all about him. 38v8: THE SEAS God created the seas and land so that they work in harmony, so that there are tides (moon), so that there are prevailing winds – and to give us food (fish!). What an amazing creation! 38v12: THE SUN God created sun and moon, day and night, a new dawn each morning. And as the sun comes up all of creation is revealed: mountains and vales, rivers, forests, deserts etc. Had Job ever done that? Of course not. And even though we understand more about astronomy and space now, and the laws of motion etc we still know nothing compared with God. 38v16: UNDER THE SEA To Job, God asks, “Have you ever walked in the recesses of the deep?” Even today, less is known about the bottom of the seas than we know about the planets and stars. Scientists says it’s a whole unexplored world down there. 38v19: EAST AND WEST God created the poles and magnetism and gravity and the earth to turn on its axis. But how do we measure the distance between east and west? There is no beginning and no end. God says to Job (mocking him), “Surely you know, you are so old and wise”. 38v22: SNOW, HAIL, LIGHTNING, RAIN Did Job know how these were made and why? God is still using irony. It seems a bit unfair, so why is he doing it? It would appear he is trying to “pull Job down a peg or two”. In other words, he’s chipping away at Job’s pride. 38v31: THE HEAVENS That is … the stars and planets. We can study the sky at night and be totally amazed. Some can even understand the laws underpinning astronomy. But in no way can we control them. But, using them, God controls the earth. 38v34: THE CLOUDS Again, we can understand the water cycle. But, much as we wish we could, there is no way we can control the clouds or the weather. 21
38v39: FOOD God has made provision for every single creature on earth and especially man. He not only provides but he sustains. Job thought he was provident in his behaviour to his family and servants, but he could not compare with God. God now lists some animals as an example of his providence. 39v1: GOATS AND DEER They are able to reproduce and thrive in the wild. Who looks after them, God asks. God’s eye is ever on them. 39v5: WILD DONKEYS AND OXEN They roam free and find natural pasture. They don’t want to be broken in, but God looks after them. 39v13: THE OSTRICH Describes as a silly bird (no wisdom) in verse 17 because she lays her eggs in the sand and cannot fly. That is … until she starts to run! 39v19: THE HORSE God’s next question: Could Job have designed a horse in as great a way as God has? The horse who can work for you or with you; who can assist you in battle; an animal who is strong, unafraid, quick and ready for action. 39v26: THE HAWK AND THE EAGLE Even today, there are still many mysteries surrounding the ability of birds. How is it possible for them to fly half way across the world (migration) when they have never been there before and they have no parent birds to guide them? How are they able to fend for themselves? How do they have such good eyesight? God has been making one point: He is Almighty Creator God who is in control of the earth, the weather, the wild beasts. And he can be trusted to sustain all things. God was reminding Job that he didn’t really understand, that he didn’t know God’s ways at all, that therefore he could not justify himself and speak on God’s behalf. By showing Job all creation he was telling him that he needed repentance and humility.
Chapters 40 & 41 Indeed, Job is humbled by all that God has said. Notice (40v6) that there is still a storm and God continues to speak out of the storm. (This is reminiscent of Moses on Mount Sinai where God spoke through the stormy cloud. It enabled him to meet with God and hear God without actually seeing him face to face.) God’s big question to Job is: “Would you condemn me, to justify yourself?” to which Job has no answer (40v5). God goes on to use 2 metaphors for his greatness: Behemoth and Leviathan, the largest animals on land and sea. Behemoth: The largest of land creatures. It is thought by many to be a hippopotamus or elephant. However, others believe it could be one of the dinosaurs, because the description fits so well. Whatever the case, God is using it as a metaphor for his greatness. No-one can stand against him. Leviathan: The largest of sea creatures. All the description fits a crocodile (they can get up to 20 feet long and will attack anything, even metal boats). However, it could also be a type of dinosaur. The important thing is not to specify exactly what these creatures were but to see the point that God was making. He is greater than all – even greater than Behemoth and Leviathan. Just as you cannot control these monsters, neither can you control God. He is over all. Read 41v10&11: God owes no thing anything. All things belong to him and he is over all. Nothing on earth can equal God. He looks down on all, and is king over all (41v33,34). How could Job be proud after this?!
Study 10 – Chapter 42 A summary: In his pain and sickness, Job has listened to his three friends who have constantly told him that his suffering has been a punishment from God for all his (supposed) sin. Job has replied to their accusations with a “not guilty” plea, insisting on his innocence. Job was reliant on selfjustification, and was hoping God would see it as a reason to end his suffering. After that, a fourth friend – Elihu – came and suggested that both Job and his friends were wrong to say what God thought and did. And then God had the final word, declaring his sovereignty and power and asking questions of Job such as: “Can YOU create this … are YOU greater than that … Who are YOU to say what I should do?” And in this final chapter we see Job’s reply and the consequences.
Read verses 1-3: Job concedes defeat in his case against God. He acknowledges God’s greatness (v2) and his own deficiencies. He finally accepts that because he doesn’t know enough of God’s power and wisdom, he cannot question God’s plans (v3). He agrees that there are many things he does not understand. In other words, Job has been humbled by his conversation with God. God has dealt with Job’s pride. When we indulge in self-justification, we may be right, but we may be doing it out of pride – and pride is the greatest thing that keeps people from God. Q. Why is that the case? (Think about the first commandment) Read verses 4-6: By speaking out of the storm, God made sure that Job listened. And now, Job had no doubt that he had met with God personally. He had heard of God and thought he knew all about God. He knew God’s rules and laws and the stories about God. He thought he knew God, but he only knew about God. But now he truly believed – “my eyes have seen you”. (It doesn’t necessarily mean that he saw God’s face. Rather, that when he fully grasped who he was speaking with on a personal basis, he could say, “I see, my eyes have been opened”.) And so, despite his feelings of being treated unjustly, and despite his terrible pain and suffering, he yielded to the God who he now knew personally. And he despised himself – he felt unworthy before God – and being humbled he repented in dust and ashes. Q. What happened when Job “saw” and the “light came on”? Have you ever had that experience? Read verses 7-9: In this passage, we see that God gives everyone the same chance of redemption if they will take it. He now speaks to Job’s three friends and tells them how angry he is that they had not spoken the truth. And in his grace and mercy, he offers them a way of being made right with him. They are to offer the best possible sacrifice (indicated by the number 7) for their atonement – and JOB is to be the mediator! (v8) Job was to pray for their forgiveness so that they would not be punished. This must have humbled them! Q. Why do you think God asked Job to do this? In this passage, we certainly see God’s grace at work – and the part we can play in enabling that. We read (v9) that Job did pray and his prayer was accepted; and as a result, their lives were changed. Would it have been possible without forgiveness and humility on all sides? Didn’t Jesus teach us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”? It is a basic Biblical principle that we cannot be forgiven if we do not forgive. And as Job forgave his friends so God forgave him. 23
Read verses 10-11: God didn’t have to do more, but perhaps as a proof of the fact that Job had been forgiven, God once again blessed him by restoring his health and possessions. And for the first time for a long time, everyone who had turned against him returned and had fellowship with him. The significance in their culture of eating with someone is that you are accepting them as a person. So that now (a bit late!!), they comforted him and consoled him and brought him gifts – silver money and gold rings. The sign of the ring was an acknowledgement that Job was honoured as a leader amongst men. Read verses 12-17: “And the Lord blessed …” Job knew God’s blessing in an even greater way than before. Did he feel blessed because his material blessings had doubled? I believe he felt blessed when he truly knew God (v5) and the material blessings came as an extra bonus (v12). Before tribulation After tribulation 7,000 sheep 14,000 3,000 camels 6,000
yoke of oxen
500 donkeys 1,000 7 sons, 3 daughters
7 sons, 3 daughters
There is significance in the fact that his daughters were named and were given an inheritance. God shows in this very old Book how his love and grace and mercy and blessing is for all alike. They had an inheritance, they had a future and they would never be forgotten. When we know Jesus personally, we too are blessed. We have a destiny and a future, a sense of self-esteem and know God’s blessings on our lives. And Job lived another 140 years! He was ‘full of years’ – old, but fruitful – and blessed by God.
We may not know what OUR future holds – but we know Who holds the future. Praise God.
The Estuary Elim Group of Churches are three Essex based Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea with a shared Leadership team. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim.church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil Godâ€™s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you. The Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549) 26