Job 13 contains Job’s continued response to his friends. This struggle has been going on for quite a while in Job’s life and he is sick and tired of it. He tells his friends to back off and listen. They have been giving him advice from every angle and from all perspectives and none of it is helping. I love what Job tells the boys when he says “silence is your only claim to wisdom”. Sometimes the best thing we can do is shut up and listen. Sometimes our best advice is just sitting quietly and spending time. It isn’t always about what we say, in fact more often than not, it probably is less about what we say and a lot more about what we do. But Job makes it clear that he is not getting anywhere by listening to his friends so he is taking his case straight to God.
“I’m taking my case straight to God Almighty….I’m going directly to God”. Isn’t it awesome that we can approach God directly? We can come to Him with our prayers and concerns and He not only allows it, but He listens and acts. God has given us that ability – to seek Him directly and share our burdens and our heart with Him. He wants us to do that. He asks us to come to Him, to approach His throne and be in His presence. God desires us to come because He loves us. Job never forgets that, even in the midst of ongoing pain and suffering. He knows that God is in control. Yes he is tired of the battle. Yes he is tired of his friends trying to “fix” him. Yes he wants this to be past. But the most important thing he says, and the one we all need to make part of our inner core belief is this: “Just wait, this is going to work out for the best–my salvation”! Job knows that even in the pit of despair, when the chips are down, when his luck has gone – God is still in control and it will all work out for the best. Wow that is hard to remember in the midst of struggle. But it is so very true. Not on our timeline or always the way we expect. But in God’s economy and on His timeline – “all things work together for good” as it says in Romans. Job wants God to back off and talk with him about things – he is still frustrated with his circumstances. But he doesn’t lose sight, even in the midst of total disaster from the world’s perspective – that God is in control and will take care of Him. I know a number of people are struggling every day with these kind of serious life issues. God’s answer is the same to us today – it is going to work out for the best – just trust Him. Walk with Him in obedience, even when you don’t feel like it, even when you can’t even see where you are going, just walk with Him and trust and obey. God has it under control!
Job responds in chapter 12 and gives us a great picture of God. He says that we “all know and agree that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand”. We all do don’t we. Certainly I have seen and experienced that truth. God is in control, of all things. He is the Master of this universe. He created it and He is King. The animals and birds and fish all know. Why do we struggle so much as mere humans to know or more realistically accept it? Because we want to be in control. We want to be soverign, at least in our own lives. But that is not how the rule book is written and we need to make sure we get this one right. God is sovereign and Him alone. We need to not only accept that but live life lined up with that truth.
The second thing Job lets us know is really important to grasp. “True wisdom and real power belong to God; from him we learn how to live, and also what to live for….Strength and success belong to God”. This is a truth we really need to grab onto. That means God knows all and is our source for knowledge. Want to know how to live? Ask God. Want to know what to live for? Ask God. Do you spend time on your face seeking His guidance for those areas in your life? We need to because He alone has the answers. And most importantly He alone has the result – strength and success – in His hands. Want to live a life that matters then do it God’s way. He is the one who knows the secret. He created us after all. He wrote the operators manual on my life and yours. It only makes sense we go to the source to find out how then we should live!
Job 11 brings the words of the third friend – Zophar – to Job. These guys have been around for a while now and are starting to give some strong opinions on what the issues are. Zophar asks a great question that I think we all need to consider and accept as truth: “Do you think you can explain the mystery of God? Do you think you can diagram God Almighty”? As humans we tend to want to try and explain God in light of what we know and understand. We want to put Him in the box we are comfortable with. But that is not the reality of the God of the universe. Zophar gets it right when he says “God is far higher than you can imagine, far deeper than you can comprehend”. We always want to understand why things happen. We want to be able to explain the situation. Sometimes, maybe even often, that just isn’t going to be the case. We don’t see what God sees. We don’t know what God knows. Our perspective is far too short and too limited to understand or comprehend. That is where we have to fall back on the trust and obey part of our faith. That is when we have to chose to let God be God and we take our rightful place as one who follows Him.
Zophar also gives us some thoughts about the impact of life. It is the classic “if-then” scenario. If “you set your heart on God and reach out to him….scrub your hands of sin and refuse to entertain evil in your home” then some good things happen. It doesn’t talk about understanding or comprehending or explaining anything here. It is about how we live and the relationship we have with the Father. God cares about our heart, not what we know in our head. He cares about how we live in relationship with Him. And a big part of that is the choice we make in dealing with evil and the temptations that the enemy will hurl our way. We have to resist and refuse to entertain sin. We have to walk humbly with our God. When we do we can “forget our troubles…..be washed in sunshine….relax….sit back and take it easy”. Does that describe every moment – probably not. But it does tell us that how we live matters. It tells us that there is a cause and effect that is based on our relationship with God. It tells us that we need to focus on being in fellowship with Him. We need to walk with God moment by moment and stay plugged in. That is the key to avoiding a “dead end road with nothing to look forward to”.
Job 10 contains Job’s words as he wrestles with his circumstances. It is getting old, very old in fact, and he is ready to be past the trials and tribulations he is facing. As he pleads with God and makes his case, he brings up a couple important things we need to remember. First he points out that God is “not taken in by appearances”. God sees all and is not confused by the way people live or act. He sees the very heart of each of us and knows our motives and the real you and me. God is able to work with the facts because that is all He sees. He is not swayed by how things appear. He knows how things are. Secondly Job recalls the uniqueness of who he is. “You made me like a handcrafted piece of pottery”. What a statement of truth we all need to cling to. God made us unique. He created us in a very special way. And there are no mistakes. Certainly we can mess with God’s creation and make choices that cause issues, but God has a perfect plan and it is for that reason we were created.
That takes us to what I think is the real key lesson from this chapter – the reality of time. God works on a very different timeline than we do. Job calls it out like this: “Unlike us, you’re not working against a deadline. You have all eternity to work things out”. As humans we tend to look at things in the very short term. We tend to only see the immediate and will never see things from God’s perspective. We don’t have that luxury. We don’t have that ability. But God does have eternity as His perspective. And we have His promise that all things work together for good. Not on our timeline, but on His eternal timeline. That is what we need to remember and cling to.
Job responds in chapter 9 to Bildad. He makes a number of comments about God and his plight. But the overwhelming thing that jumps out at me is how he recognizes who God is and how much power He has. “We’ll never comprehend all the great things he does; his miracle-surprises can’t be counted”. What a mighty God we serve. He is the same God that was with Job during his trials, and was the One who created Adam and Eve in the garden during the creation. God is beyond our ability to understand. He “moves mountains…gives the earth a good shaking up….tells the sun, don’t shine…..pulls the blinds on the stars”. That is the God we serve. He is plenty big and has plenty of control over all. Sometimes we lose sight of that. We get caught up in trying to understand God or try to explain what is happening. He is way past anything we can understand. He is well beyond all that we can see or touch. God does more miracles we miss than we will ever experience. But that is His nature. He is God. Job makes that point like this: “Somehow, though he moves right in front of me, I don’t see him; quietly but surely he’s active, and I miss it”.
We need to realize and accept the fact that God is so far beyond our ability to see or understand that we have to relate to Him the only way we can – by trusting Him. We will never be able to see all He does. We will never understand why He does it. But we can know that He is in absolute control, has our best interest at heart, and carries us in the palm of His hand. Doesn’t mean there won’t be difficult days and tough circumstances. Job can tell us all about that fact. But it does mean that God is alive and active and we need to cling to Him, trust in Him, be obedient to Him and walk humbly with Him. It is key to living life fully with Him. Are you looking for God and what He is up to? Join Him in what He is doing!
Job 8 is the interaction with friend #2 – Bildad. He was one of the guys who came when Job’s life became a struggle. His approach is rather direct and not exactly encouraging – straight talk about why this is happening. At least from his perspective. But he does give Job some good advice. “Get down on your knees before God Almighty”. That is a great place for all of us to start. We all need to be on our knees seeking God’s direction and making that relationship key to our life. It takes time and effort and energy and work – but we need to make it a priority and spend time with God each day. Bildad shares the result of “what happens to all who forget God – all their hopes come to nothing…they hang from life from one thin thread”. I love how he says that. When we decide we can deal with life on our own, we are just kidding ourselves. We are simply fooling ourself into believing that somehow we have control. Oh how foolish that thought is. There is no way we have any control, actually of anything. We have no clue and only see dimly. God sees all and knows all and we need to be seeking Him if we don’t want to hang by a thread.
The second thing Bildad says that we need to heed is this: “why not let the ancients teach you, tell you what’s what, instruct you in what they know from experience”. Experience is a great teacher. We can learn much from those who have gone before us and lived where we are living. The reality is that what we go through in life is not new. Someone has been there before. God knows all about it too. Yet there are days that I think nobody understands my situation. That is not true. Others have endured and persevered through similar lands. I need to seek out those who are older, and there are still some out there who are, and read and learn from those who have gone before me. God’s Word teaches us over and over we need to learn from our elders – we need to learn from the experiences of others. That means we have to seek out those who can give us appropriate wisdom and advice. And it means we should be ready to step up and do that same for those who are younger and need to learn from our life experiences. We don’t live in a little bubble disconnected from the world. We are right smack dab in the middle of it for a reason – to make a difference. Bildad has it right – we need to learn from each other and the experiences we have had. And we need to be on our knees before God seeking the ultimate wisdom and direction. Are you learning? Are you seeking?
Job continues in chapter 7 to share his feelings on the plight he is in. “Human life is a struggle, isn’t it” is how he starts. And my experience says that he is absolutely right. Job is not on an island when it comes to struggling. His circumstances may be more severe than most I am aware of, but as humans we struggle with life continually and constantly, at least I do. We all have periods of time where things just seem to take a lot of effort no matter what. Everything we touch seems to go the wrong way and we wrestle with the simplest of things because they just don’t go the way we expect. At times we think life is not fair. Job certainly could have made that case. But there is no promise that life will be fair, and from my experience, it is pretty certain it won’t be at least from our perspective. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. At least that is how it seems. But someday we will see clearly what the big picture really is from God’s perspective. Then it will look differently.
Job does remember a couple of key points about life. He states “don’t forget that I’m only a puff of air”. Life is short. It won’t last long. “There’s nothing to my life – it’s nothing but smoke”. The thing we have to remember is that this life, no matter how bad it gets, is only temporary. This is not our home but a simple stop on the path to eternal life. And what we do with our life, whatever the situation, determines eternity. That is the key to focus on. This life is about preparing for the one that we will live with forever. So how we live matters, and it matters a lot. And particularly as we come upon the day that is like no other – the day of celebration of the One who gives us an eternal future through His salvation – we need to focus on how we live. We need to work at reconciliation with God and deal with the shortfall in our lives so we can spend eternity with Him. Are you living life for eternity? Are you really thinking about how the things you do today, those that you endure and persevere through, are so important as you prepare to receive your eternal future? We have to get focused on the importance of how we live. Life is short – it is a puff of air or some smoke in light of eternity. But it really matters as it is the determination of how that eternity will look. What will you do with Jesus? He is the key to your eternal future rather than the things that happen day to day in your life.
Job responds to his friends in chapter 6. I can’t really imagine the state of mind he is in here. Life has gone from being on the top to being really down in the dumps. Job’s view is that “God has dumped the whole works on me”. It is really a struggle. Things have changed for the worse and it is not a pleasant place to live. Been there? I sure have and it isn’t fun. His request is pretty simple: “All I want is an answer to one prayer”. We all go through times when that is all we really want. God to listen and answer one prayer. It may be healing for a family member, a major problem that needs attention, financial disaster – we all have those big things that just need God’s touch and we think that if God would fix this one thing all would be better. That isn’t exactly true but it sure feels like it at the time doesn’t it.
But the real lesson here is how Job responds to his friends. These guys have been with him a while now, they have tried to encourage and give him some hope. But Job isn’t really all that amused with them. He reacts the way most all of us do when things are difficult. “When desperate people give up on God Almighty, their friends, at least, should stick with them”. That is a revealing statement about how Job sees life right now. He is moving away from God, whom he doesn’t feel is doing what he needs, and depending on his friends to step up. Of course they can’t possibly do what he expects, so there is no hope of a good outcome. Expectations are often the issue in relationships. Far too many times it is even unspoken expectations that cause the rift, but almost always it revolves around some form of a disconnect on expectations. I thought you would do this. I wanted you to do that. Wow how real that is for all of us. Job also reveals another issue that happens under pressure – the feeling that nobody listens or cares. “You pretend to tell me what’s wrong with my life, but treat my words of anguish as so much hot air”. People sometimes are unreasonable. They have unrealistic expectations and demands. But we need to listen intently. We need to work hard to attempt to understand. We need to know that God is and will always be there. Being a friend is tough work. It isn’t always fun and games. But that is when we determine who our true friends are. Are you listening?
Eliphaz gives Job a load of perspective in chapter 5. He sort of set him up in the prior chapter, building some relationship and spending time in his situation. And now, he gives Job a lesson in who God is from his experience. Eliphaz shares his opinion about what Job should be thinking and feeling and doing….my experience is that when people are wrestling with a difficult situation….that may not be the best approach. But Eliphaz goes at it with these words “if I were in your shoes”. It is important that we try to put ourselves into the shoes of others, to understand and come into their situation as closely as we can. But we have to be careful to remember that even when we attempt to do that, we truly can’t get there completely. We will never totally understand where another person is in their relationship with God or with the circumstances they are in. So we can’t make concrete assumptions based on what we think – it needs to be on what God directs us to do. We can share the reality of who God is based on His Word and His nature as described in His Word. That is the one constant we have to lean on. But anything else is speculation on our part and we need to make sure we treat it as such. Giving advice and counsel is a huge responsibility that often is taken far too flippantly, and it can impact others in a significant way. Our counsel needs to be based on God’s truth, not our own opinion.
Eliphaz does state one truth that we should embrace, not because it is fun, but because it is true. He tells Job “don’t despise the discipline of Almighty God”. We are all going to have opportunity to face God’s discipline. Scripture makes it clear that when we sin, there will be correction. When we go off the tracks we will be put back on. It may not be immediate, but God is in the business of making us holy and completing the work began in us. We need to learn to embrace God’s discipline and correction, not fight it and continue to run in our own rebellious way. God loves us, and we know at least in our heads that love requires us to correct those we love. We can’t stand by idly while someone runs their life into the ground. God won’t do that with us either. He will work to bring us into maturity and create His holiness in us. God loves us that much. So we need to watch for those areas God is at work and join Him in them – learn from the correction – make life course corrections – and be grateful that He cares. Doesn’t mean it is fun but it does mean He loves us.
Job chapter 4 contains the words of Eliphaz from Teman, one of the three amigos that showed up to encourage Job in his plight. I think we can learn a bit from the way he engages Job here. First it is important to realize that he is still around. We learned earlier that they had been there seven days just sitting with Job. We are a little further down the road and he is still there. But he hadn’t said a word yet. He was with Job and observed the situation and put himself in the middle of life with him before ever opening his mouth to say word one. Sometimes we tend to jump to the open mouth and insert foot mode without ever even attempting to really understand what is going on in another person’s life. We have to get in their shoes a bit before we should tell them what we think. Check out what Eliphaz says: “Would you mind if I said something to you? Under the circumstances it’s hard to keep quiet.” He asks permission to speak before just blasting out his opinion. I am reminded of some of the tv shows where military people are involved and the question asked seems to be ‘permission to speak freely, sir?’. We should not assume that just because we breath and are in the presence of another human that they want to hear our opinion, particularly when we are going to tell them what we think of their situation and how they should live. Eliphaz gets that right.
But just as importantly is the fact that he couldn’t just sit there and continue to watch Job struggle. He was unable to sit idly and let things continue. He was compelled to get involved. How often do we see things in our friends lives that need to be dealt with and just decide to watch them quietly muddle along? We have good feedback on corrections to their course, words of encouragement for their ears, or just an understanding word that we have been there and experienced the same, yet we chose to let them go it alone. That is not God’s plan for relationships. Eliphaz says “You yourself have done this plenty of times, spoken words that clarify, encouraged those who were about to quit. Your words have put stumbling people on their feet, put fresh hope in people about to collapse”. He reminds Job that living life together is the plan and it is his turn to receive help rather than be giving it. Sometimes I struggle with the receiving part….I am quick to give it but slow to receive. We need to speak truth no matter which end of things we are on. Eliphaz shares what God has revealed to him in a way that applies to Job’s situation. He probably hasn’t done this before with Job as Job has been the guy who has always helped others. But this time it is Job who needs to be focused on God’s truth and Eliphaz reminds him by saying “shouldn’t your devout life give you confidence now? Shouldn’t your exemplary life give you hope? Think”! He had to get a bit in Job’s face to make things compute, but he shares truth and works to refocus Job on the reality of who he is and who God is. That is often where we start to fall apart – when we get completely absorbed on self and forget that God has it all in the palm of His hands and is absolutely in complete control. Read this chapter a few times and see how God wants you to engage with your friends. I know it is not by sitting quietly on the sidelines forever…..