In Job 18, Bildad takes the charge. He rebukes Job for the way he is speaking to the trio of friends. “Why are we counted as cattle? Why are we stupid in your sight”? At this point, everyone is tired of hearing each other talk. The words have been flying and nothing is changing. So we begin to slip into spewing insults back and forth. There is not a lot of love or understanding left in these conversations. It’s what happens if we take our eyes off the only One who can guide us through challenging times.
Bildad tells Job that much of his problem is the guy in the mirror. He is tearing himself to pieces. Bildad challenges Job around what he believes is Job’s attempt to change God’s laws. “Shall the earth be forsaken for you” refers to what Bildad interprets as Job’s desire to change things for his sake. But God’s laws don’t change. They are unchangeable. Bildad was referring here to the laws of cause and effect that tell us Job has caused his own crisis by his sin and refusal to repent. He had that wrong, but it was his perspective on what Job was trying to do.
Bildad shares the path that the wicked go down. By association, he is including Job loosely in this group. Bildad here described the wicked man as someone with shortened steps, unable or unwilling to continue the journey of life. He felt this accurately described Job and set him among the wicked men. Ultimately, Bildad paints the picture of what happens – the light goes out. “Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out, and the flame of his fire does not shine”. Job needs to repent so he does not receive this fate.
Bildad insinuates that Job is among the wicked – those who are in conflict with God because of their actions. But as he ends his words in this chapter, he takes it further. He accuses Job of not knowing God at all. “Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous, such is the place of him who knows not God”. This was a cruel and false statement to make against a man who was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. Yet the circumstances drive the three friends to believe that Job doesn’t know God. The plan of God is not related to wickedness at all, but his faithfulness to God himself. Those watching without that understanding come away with the completely wrong perspective.
Job 17 has a man with a broken spirit. “My spirit is broken; my days are extinct; the graveyard is ready for me”. He is feeling defeated and is surrounded by friends who are really just mockers. That is often what happens when we give advice to someone and they don’t appear to listen or respond the way we expect. We become mockers and almost prideful in our thinking that their plight is because they fail to listen to the wise words we shared. That is where Job finds himself with his friends. They spoke, felt he didn’t listen, and now are mocking his situation.
Job begs for heaven to sustain and support him. “Lay down a pledge for me with yourself; who is there who will put up security for me”? Job cries out to God. He is asking for peace between himself and heaven. Job knows that only God can change the situation. He also knows that God is good, all the time, and that God will do that in due time. Job realizes that God has hidden understanding from the hearts of his friends. He knew that had God wanted them to understand, He would have made it so.
But Job doesn’t give up. As frustrated and overwhelmed as he is, he knows that God alone is his hope. “Yet the righteous holds to his way, and he who has clean hands grows stronger and stronger”. Job knows that victory comes in righteousness. He is experiencing a crisis of faith, yet he knows that he would experience victory if he endured this long and severe season of suffering. He never gives up on that. He knows there is no instant cure here, but he trusts God.
Job wrestles with hopelessness. “Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope”? He knows the reality – he is strongly confident in God, yet he faces doubts and fears like every person on the planet. Meyer gives us three reasons to hang on:
- “You shall hold on your way because Jesus holds you in his strong hand. He is your Shepherd; He has vanquished all your foes, and you shall never perish.”
- “You shall hold on your way because the Father has designed through you to glorify His Son; and there must be no gaps in his crown where jewels ought to be.”
- “You shall hold on your way because the Holy Spirit has designed to make you his residence and home; and He is within you the perennial spring of a holy life.”
God alone is our hope. We have to look to Him, knowing his design and plan, and realize that He never fails!
Job 16 has Job responding to his friends. He reminds them that “I have heard many such things” during his lifetime – their words are not new or inspired. All they gave him was the “conventional wisdom” explanation of an absolute relationship of cause and effect to make sense of his suffering. You do something bad, you suffer. If you stop doing the wrong things, life becomes good. This isn’t the explanation in Job’s situation, since the cause and effect have nothing to do with his actions, but God’s larger purpose.
We can learn a lesson here on what not to do as a friend or someone coming to the assistance of others during difficult time. These friends spoke from their place of understanding, which in Job’s case, was not accurate at all. Their too-great confidence in their own wisdom made them unable to properly sympathize with Job. We have to make sure we don’t speak truth in ways it doesn’t apply. The Bible is always true. God never changes. But that doesn’t mean that there is one way to apply God’s truth to every person or situation. We need to be Spirit led to do that well.
The bottom line here is that Job feels left alone and on his own. He says “If I speak, my pain is not assuaged, and if I forbear, how much of it leaves me”. Job feels trapped. He finds no support from his unsympathetic friends, but sitting in silence doesn’t make it better either. Nothing works and Job is feeling overwhelmed and worn out. Job is beginning to discover the adversary he is facing. It isn’t God, it is Satan. He’s starting to discover that but the reality is he is wrestling with God as his salvation and Satan as his enemy.
Job’s not sure who the enemy is here, he only knows he is losing the battle. He waxes poetically about the struggle he is facing, yet even through all the list of suffering, he returns to these words. “Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high”. He recognizes at the end of the day his vindication will come from God who is his advocate in heaven. He knows that God is on his side and will come to his defense. The same is true for us. Christ will come to our defense if we have a relationship with Him. We may come to heavens gate a sinner, but Jesus will stand beside us and take away our guilt and shame.
In Job 15, Eliphaz takes another shot at Job, and speaks harshly. He was not impressed by Job’s dependence on God as expressed in his previous speeches. He replied with a sharp rebuke of Job, accusing him of empty knowledge and unprofitable talk. “Should he argue in unprofitable talk, or in words with which he can do no good”? The interaction between Job and his friends is escalating and becoming more direct and confrontational. Both sides believe their view is right, when in reality, all parties are wrong.
Eliphaz continues going after Job. “Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; your own lips testify against you”. Eliphaz insisted that Job was condemning himself more every time he spoke. This is because in the perspective of Job’s friends, the only words Job should speak are words of humble repentance for the sin that put him in this place. They are of course wrong, but their advice was for Job to keep his mouth shut and repent and run back to God.
Eliphaz continues to press Job. “What do you know that we do not know? What do you understand that is not clear to us”? They “knew” Job was a particular and notorious sinner who needed to repent; Job knew that he was not, and that there must be some other reason for his crisis. Yet the friends continue to pursue this approach. Job claimed only to be as intelligent as his friends, not to have a corner on all of the knowledge. Yet Eliphaz pursues Job as being haughty and proud.
His reasoning is based on these questions: “What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous”? About this Eliphaz is right. No man is righteous on his own – not one. Jesus alone sets us free from sin and makes us righteous before a holy God. But that isn’t the situation here with Job, and they are not in the loop on what God is up to. What he does get right is this. “Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself, for emptiness will be his payment”. If we depend on ourselves to get to God, we’re going to come up short. We can’t do it alone. Jesus paid it all. He alone is the way, the truth and the life for you and me!
Job 14 has Job asking some tough questions. He begins by reminding all of us that life is fleeting, and filled with problems. “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not”. Our days are numbered – none of us will live forever. And they are filled with trouble – there are none of us that experience a trouble free life. That isn’t how life happens. So we need to recognize those two realities and make the most of the days we have.
The reality is that in comparison to eternity, our lives are but a breath. Job considers that the days of man on this earth are short and often filled with trouble. And he calls on God to show mercy on him. Job’s understanding of death is certainly incomplete. The understanding of immortality was at best cloudy in the Old Testament, but is much clearer in the New Testament. Jesus came and made it clear – there is life after death and that results in eternity in heaven or hell, depending on what we do with Jesus. Job obviously does not know about Jesus at this point.
“Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!” Job didn’t know much about the condition of man after death, but he supposed – even perhaps hoped – that it was better than his current misery. Yet Job’s general uncertainty is reflected in his comments. He wishes for death on the hope that his circumstances will improve. That is certainly the case for those of us today that know Christ and have heaven as our eternal destination.
Job does wonder about death. “If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come”. Job is hoping for change. Guzik reminds us that there are some things that will change for a believer, and some that won’t upon death:
We wait for change to come.
- We shall be changed into immortality at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).
- When we see Him, we will be like Him (1 John 3:2).
- Our bodies will be gloriously transformed (Philippians 3:21).
- David was confident he would be changed into God’s likeness (Psalm 17:15).
At the same time, there are some things that will not change for the believer when they go to heaven.
- A Christian’s purpose and priority of life does not change.
- A Christian’s identity does not change.
- A Christian’s companions will not change very much.
Job 13 has Job leveling the playing field with his three friends. He makes it clear that he has heard their words and knows everything they do. They aren’t privy to any information he doesn’t know, and certainly are not in a place to judge him. Job wants to take his case to God Himself. “I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God”. He has a relationship with the Almighty and wants to plead his case directly with God Himself. God doesn’t need these three friends to speak for Him.
Job warns them to be careful of what they say – they can’t speak for God and if they try they will be held accountable. And then he makes a statement that really defines just how deep his relationship with God really is. “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face”. Job still has full trust in God. His hope is in God, not in his story or his argument or pleading. Job knows that God is his best Friend, that God alone knows Him and has his best interest at heart.
That statement is something that is hard for most of us to get to – a trust in God so deep that even when everything around us is falling apart and our circumstances are out of control – we know that God loves us and we cling to our hope in Him. Job knows his salvation comes from God. There is no other source. And now that salvation still comes from God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It is still God’s gift to us. Our hope is still in Him alone.
Job knows that his situation is not a result of his sin. He wants an answer to this question: “How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy”? We tend to believe that sin is the cause of the bad things that happen in people’s lives. But as Job suspects here – it isn’t connected at all. He knows in his heart that something else is going on but can’t quite put his finger on what that is. But he knows that God has a plan, and his hope remains in Him alone!
Job 12 has the response of Job to Zophar and his two buddies. He begins with this sarcastic response: “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you”. It is easy to hear the sarcastic and bitter tone in Job’s response. That tone was appropriate, because Job’s friends really had acted as if they were the people who had all wisdom. They didn’t, and quite honestly had no clue of what God was up to. They shared what their very limited perspective was, but it was completely wrong.
Job goes on to remind his friends that he was close and connected to God. “I am a laughingstock to my friends; I, who called to God and he answered me, a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock”. Job felt mocked and persecuted. The way that the innocent man Job was mocked by his friends reminds us of what Jesus endured in His sufferings and on the cross, when He was mocked by the soldiers who beat Him, by the chief priests as He hung on the cross and how Jesus was ridiculed by others too. Job experiences much of that same kind of treatment here.
Job gives his friends the reality of how the world works – that God alone is in control. “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind”. He tells them that they can ask the animals or fish – even they know that God is in charge. And God does what He does and no one can change that. “If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open. If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land”. It’s all about God and what He chooses to do. Job knows he can’t change that outcome.
Job describes the great power of God. He makes it clear that God has power over:
God alone is in control. He owns the power over all things. Job extended his description of the power of God to the idea of God’s ability to take away the understanding of even great men. When He does this, they grope in the dark without light. They “stagger like a drunken man” if God is not guiding their path. This is what Job knows to be true, and it is true yet today!