Job’s Final Speech
Job gives his final speech. He begins by remembering his former days, just a few months before tragedy struck. Two things stand out:
1. His relationship with God. (29:1—6)
Job began with his memories of God’s goodness, the times “when God watched over me . . . and when “by His light I walked through darkness.” He enjoyed friendship with God, which is promised only to those who fear the Lord. Almighty God was with him. His life was surrounded by God’s goodness. He enjoyed the bountiful blessings of God.
2. His relationship with others (29:7-25) He previously had enjoyed the deepest respect and admiration of people around him. He was the father of the poor, the defender of the weak. He “dwelt as a king in the army,” the chief of all wise men. But now the days of affliction have come upon him, and he has become like dust and ashes. His companions have all left him. All this gives us a better picture of Job. He is not perfect. The Book of Job is not a parable; Job is not a fictional “good man.” He is a real man who is blessed, but broken.
Job thought he would live in this way for the remainder of his life. He enjoyed a high position in society, but at the same time he showed compassion and comfort to all those in need. But he comes back to reality. The gap between Job chapter 29 – what life was like before, and chapter 30 – what life is like now, is very wide.
Job chapter 30 begins with the words “but now they laugh at me.” The Book of Job does not tell us specifically how Job was mistreated by “mere youngsters, whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock.” But it is clear that he was mocked and belittled by the very lowest people, the outcast, of his society. They were people who could not tolerate righteous people and who were waiting for some calamity to come upon Job to bring about his downfall. “And now I have become their song; I am a byword to them.” (30:9) Job has no defense against these people. He is vulnerable; his life has collapsed, and he is in chaos. He is suffering from severe attacks of satan (I prefer to not capitalize his name), misunderstanding and judgment by his friends, and ridicule by society.
Three times in chapter 30, Job begins his words with “but now.” (verses 1, 9 and 16) The last time, in verse 16, Job has nearly given up. “My soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me.” (30:16)
Job believes that the basic cause of his great suffering is that God has removed His protection from him (30:11), causing these low-life people to persecute him. God has cast him away, and he has become like dust and ashes. (30:19) It is interesting that Job uses this same expression, “dust and ashes” again after he meets God face to face. He then says that he repents in dust and ashes. After his restoration by God, Job no longer speaks of his low estate as punishment from God. Rather, he knows himself and humbles himself before God. He suffered humiliation from all those around him. But later this humiliation proves to be only a tool for God to teach him true humility.
Job makes his final appeal to God. (31:1—40) This is the climax of all of Job’s speeches. Job has spoken of his righteousness, and said that he is blameless before God.
- Job has made a covenant with his eyes. He will not gaze upon a virgin with lust. (31:1)
- He continues to maintain his innocence. Throughout this chapter, notice how Job begins his profession of innocence with the word “if.” (31:5, 7, 9, 13, 21, 24, 25, 26, 29, 31, 33, 38, 39)
- Job invites God to scrutinize his whole life. He is certain that he is innocent. He has treated all people well. Notice how Job has treated his servants, the poor, the orphan, the widow, even his enemies.
- Job has a signature! (31:35) He and Ezekiel are the only two people in the Old Testament who use this expression. This is his mark. This is who He is. And he wants Almighty God to answer him and show him if he is guilty.
- “The words of Job are ended.” (vs. 40) He has pleaded his case and declared that he is innocent.
Job’s righteousness exceeded that of all men of his time. But he did not yet know the true righteousness that comes through faith in the redeeming act of God in Jesus Christ. Notice the many times in this closing defense that Job uses the pronouns “I, me, and my.” He lived life to the fullest, in true faithfulness and obedience to God. He was indeed one of the three most righteous men who ever lived at that time, according to the prophet Ezekiel (along with Daniel and Noah).
Job was satisfied with his life up to the point of his attacks by Satan. His agonizing question, then, was “why has this calamity come upon me? I have trusted God fully; I have never denied Him and have lived a life of obedience to God. Why must I suffer?” This is the great question in the Book of Job: “Why do the righteous suffer?” And in his human righteousness, Job demands that God answer him. He can find no answer. His three friends have no answer. They have no further questions for Job, partly because they find Job to be self-righteous and partly because they do not understand what is happening.
The only one who understood what was happening was God Himself. This is because God had greater plans for Job, much greater than Job could have imagined.
We know that God was working in the midst of Satan’s attacks on Job, because God is the one who permitted Satan to attack him. God continues to work great wonders even today, in the midst of worldwide unrest, suffering and great fear and anxiety. The great work that God is doing in the world today is not new. From the beginning of history, God has been working in His people. He was searching for a people with whom He could dwell. He continues His search today. He is searching for people who will love as He loves, who will walk in His truth by doing justice, loving mercy, and walking closely with Him. He is searching for people He can use to establish and extend His Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.
When God finds a person in whom, and through whom He can reveal His glory, He seeks to strengthen that person. “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9a NASB) God found such a person in Job, who was the most righteous man of his time. God’s plan for Job, which Job could not understand, was to strengthen him greatly so that He could use Him in a greater way.
We mentioned in our introduction to the Book of Job that Jeremiah might possibly have been the author of Job. There is no evidence that Jeremiah wrote this book. But Jeremiah understood Job, probably more than Job understood himself. He understood what was happening in Job’s life, because the same thing was happening in his nation when he prophesied. Job was a broken man. Jeremiah’s nation was a broken nation. But Jeremiah understood that God had allowed His people Israel to be broken, and He had allowed Job to be a broken man. Jeremiah knew a secret that Job did not know: God is the Potter, and He was holding His people in His hands, just as He held Job in His hands.
Job thought he was dying, and at times he even wished for death. Jeremiah knew he was dying when he was thrown into a cistern filled with mud and clay. But unlike Job, Jeremiah did not wish to die, because he knew that he had a mission to perform for his people. Perhaps it was in this cistern that Jeremiah received his vision of God as the Potter. (Jeremiah 18:1-11)
In the beginning, the Lord formed Job as a righteous man. But He had a deeper work to perform in Job’s life. He was forming Job into His own image. But the only way the potter can form a vessel into a more beautiful image is to break it and remold it. Job’s brokenness was not the work of Satan, nor was it the result of his three friends condemning him, or the low-life people of his day belittling him. Job was in God’s hands, and God continued to remold Job into His desired vessel, so that he could discover the treasure hidden in His suffering.
We are not told how Job lived his life after God restored him. But we do know that God restored Job perfectly, like a Master Potter who is proud of His work. We must look to Isaiah, and ultimately to the New Testament, to see how God transforms lives to use them to extend His Kingdom on earth.
Some things to consider
1. Job mentioned that he had a “signature.” (31:35) How would you describe his signature? Job used the word “if” more than a dozen times in chapter 31. How would you describe his life before he was tested?
2. Do you agree with the definition of history as “God is creating a people with whom He can dwell?” How would you explain this? What is He wanting to change in your life so that you may dwell with God?
3. How has God used brokenness in your life? Have you experienced Him as the “Potter” who sometimes breaks and remolds His clay?