Job begins to discover the hidden treasure in his suffering.
(Second Cycle of Arguments Part B)
Second cycle of arguments (A)
Job replies to Bildad 19:1—29
- Job begins to mourn the fact that God has fenced him in and removed his brothers far from him. Vs. 8 “He has walled up my way, so that I cannot pass, and He has set darkness upon my paths.”
- Job is estranged from everyone.
- His brothers and others who knew him are now estranged from him.
- His relatives and close friends have forgotten him.
- His servants think of him as a stranger.
- His wife does not want to be with him.
- Even children despise him.
- All those whom he loved have turned against him. He is a stranger on earth. He begs his friends to have pity on him, because the hand of God has struck him.
- But in the midst of despair, Job is beginning to discover the treasure hidden in his suffering. Job gives one of the greatest pronouncements of faith that we find in the Old Testament: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth. And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (19:25-27) This passage is one of the high points of the Book of Job.
George Friederic Handel was deeply moved by these few verses, and they form one of the high moments of praise in his famous oratorio “The Messiah.” This is another example of the great contributions the Book of Job has made in giving hope to millions of people. Of course, Job was not aware of the magnitude of his confession; but later, when God restored him, he experienced the new life in his Redeemer. God was clearly revealing to him that injustice is not the final answer. Later, Isaiah, then Paul, will reveal the Redeemer who brings justice to an unjust world.
Job may not be aware of all this means, but it is clear that God is revealing to him that injustice is not the final answer. Later, Isaiah, then Paul, will reveal the Redeemer who brings justice to an unjust world.
Notice that it is when Job is in the greatest despair that God gives him visions of God’s glory. This is true throughout the Bible. Jeremiah was in prison, actually a dungeon, in great suffering and despair; but the Lord spoke to him and said, “Call unto Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3) The same was true of the apostle Paul. He suffered greatly for the Lord, and God even gave him a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble. But he saw his weakness as the stage for God to act. God spoke to him and said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore Paul said, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Job’s three friends knew that they were very strong in their spirits. But God is looking for those who are poor in spirit. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) The poor in spirit are not weak by nature. They are strong, but relinquish their human power so that God can work through them in the power of His Holy Spirit.
Job’s three friends would have many friends today, including Christians who are comfortable with the limited knowledge they have about God, but who are unwilling to count all things as rubbish for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ – the power of His resurrection and the joy of participating in His sufferings.
Job is not a victim, neither of circumstances nor satanic attack. God is in control, and He grants these special ideas, or visions, to Job when Job is least able to imagine them or even understand them fully. Job is beginning to discover jewels which later will lead him to discover the hidden treasure in his suffering. God is giving Job a glimpse of “the deep things of God.” Job’s three friends did not understand what Job was saying. This was deeper than their own rational theology that left no room for the supernatural intervention of God.
The fact that God is in control helps us in two ways:
- To understand why God allows the righteous to suffer,
- To understand what God does when He allows His righteous, beloved people to suffer.
In Job’s darkest moments, God gave new revelation to him. Read again Job 19:25-27. Notice how Job speaks of the Redeemer. God is revealing Himself to Job in his total weakness. Job, even in his despair, speaks of him as My Redeemer. I know that He lives. I shall see Him.
Job has not abandoned his faith in the midst of his great tragedy and suffering. He complains to God, but he does not turn away from God, nor does he say that God is unjust. Job dares to speak out and say that injustice is not the last word.
Do we Christians not have something greater – or someone greater whom we can believe in? When Job speaks of God as his Redeemer, he is foreshadowing the confession found in Isaiah chapters 40-66, throughout the Book of Psalms, and the New Testament. The Redeemer is Jesus Christ.
Job does not fully understand what a redeemer does, but his anticipation echoes many of the prophecies given throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Book of Psalms and the prophecies of Isaiah. Job will actually “see God.” He later confesses in Job 42:5, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You!”
Zophar speaks. 20:1-29
- This is Zophar’s last speech. He does not speak a third time, as do the other two friends.
- In this second cycle of speeches, none of the 3 friends end with a promise of hope for Job. Zophar goes further and says that Job is one of the wicked people on earth – a hypocrite who does not know God. He claims that Job has dishonored him and brought reproach upon him.
- Zophar condemns Job by not speaking to him directly, but by including him among the wicked, in a very impersonal way. His theme is the same: the wicked will perish forever.
- Even though he is not speaking to Job directly, he is including Job among the wicked, who crush and abandon the poor.
- Zophar says, in 20:27, that “the heavens will reveal the wicked person’s iniquity, and the earth will rise up against him.” (This may be the reason God does not allow him to give his third speech, unlike the other two friends.)
- Job had already exposed the shallow theology of Zophar, after his first argument, saying that it is rigid, superficial, and cold, lacking in mercy. Zophar chooses to respond by placing Job among the wicked of the earth, who will disappear, never to be seen again.
Job responds. 21:1—34
Job does not respond directly to Zophar. He basically ignores the argument of his three friends. He begins to speak about the wicked. His three friends said that the wicked would be punished, and Job would be punished with them. But Job says that is not always the case. He is struggling with the same problem that the psalmist expressed in Psalm 73.
“Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?” (Job 21:7) He is echoing the cry of the psalmist in Psalm 73, who could not understand that the wicked reject God and yet enjoy wealth and comfort, while the righteous suffer. Job contradicts Zophar, who said that the wicked will all perish and be forgotten. On the contrary, Job says, they continue to prosper while the righteous suffer. The wicked ignore God. “I could not understand this,” cried the psalmist, “until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.” (Psalm 73:16-17) Job does not know it yet, but he also, very soon, will enter into the sanctuary of God, and his questions will cease. Job will find his Sabbath Rest in God. (see Hebrews chs. 4 and 5).
Job concludes his response by telling his friends that their answers are empty words, full of deceit, and that they are merely speaking empty words of false doctrines to justify themselves. They bring no comfort to Job.
Some things to consider
1. Are you beginning to discover that God gives “visions of glory” to Job in his darkest hours? What do you think is God’s purpose in allowing Job to begin to imagine the glories of a redeemed life?
2. In what ways does Job’s discovery of these “pearls” lead him to understand the greater treasure that awaits him? How does this help Job understand why God allows the righteous to suffer? How does it help Job understand what God is doing when He allows His righteous, beloved people to suffer?
3. Read Psalm 73 again. The psalmist raises the same question as Job: why do the righteous suffer while the wicked continue to prosper. The psalmist did not understand “until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.” (Psalm 73:16-17) What did the psalmist mean by the “sanctuary of God?” What did he discover? Are you living now in the sanctuary of God?