We continue with the story of Job and his friends. Struggling to find the right perspective, Job, his wife, and his friends are all doing their best to make sense of the world around them. With confusion and uncertainty at its highest, God speaks to Job’s friends and then to Job himself. We also get to see Job’s response, which invites us into an incredible perspective on our lives and suffering. It shows us what it looks like to be faithful everyday.
What God says to Eliphaz and friends
This is what God ends up saying to Eliphaz and his two friends.
42:7 “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.
Job will get quite a tongue-lashing in a minute, but right now, let’s look at God’s dealing with Eliphaz. “My wrath is aroused.”
Now was his wrath aroused because of what they said about Job? You know, they were saying all through their soliloquies here that Job had missed the opportunity to repent, and Job must have done something wrong, which we know is incorrect because Job—in all of this, Job never sinned with his mouth.
But that’s not what God was upset about. God’s upset and blasts them for what they said about God.
Now, if you go back and look at what Eliphaz and his two friends say about God in all of this, it actually sounds pretty good. You could preach a lot of sermons from what they say there. But remember the main pitch that they made the Job? Repent and God will restore you. Does that sound familiar?
See, what Eliphaz and his two friends are accusing God of is pay-to-play, just like Satan did. We do what God wants, and we get what we want from God. They’re accusing God of being, basically, a cosmic vending machine.
Well, no wonder God’s ticked off. What Satan accused him of is what Eliphaz and his two friends accuse him of, all wrapped in very god-honoring type language; but at the core, they’re accusing God of basically being required to do what we ask him to do.
So what would God do for somebody like this? Somebody who’s basically taken Satan’s side using righteous-type wording. What would he do?
What he does it’s just totally let them off the hook. He just says go have Job intercede for you, and I’ll completely let you off.
So now we have righteous Job who did nothing to sin with his lips, spoke rightly of God, and he’s smashed to pieces; and Eliphaz and his two friends speak wrongly of God and deserve his wrath, and are totally let off the hook. You feeling better?
What God says to Job
Well, it gets worse. You would think that since Job spoke directly about God, God might now give Job a hug and tell him how much he appreciates his long suffering; but not yet. No, we’ve got to have a day in court. That’s what Job asked for.
So we go to 38:1-3.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
“Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
In other words, Job, I’ll be glad to sit before your board of inquiry and answer your demands for satisfactory reasons, but before I answer them, I’ve got a few pre-trial questions for you. And my first one, in 38:4,
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
No answer? Okay, well, verse 12.
“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
And caused the dawn to know its place,
No answer again. Really? Verse 16.
“Have you entered the springs of the sea?
Or have you walked in search of the depths?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.
For the next four chapters, Job questions him about very various intricacies of the universe and particularly about the animal world. Has these two animals, behemoth and Leviathan, and he says, have you ever messed with these animals? If you do, you won’t do it again.
And so, these dumb creatures that I made that you can’t deal with—you can’t deal with them, but yet you think you can tell me what to do? Does that make a lot of sense?
Philip Yancey in his book Disappointment with God writes this:
When God speaks to Job, he doesn’t explain, he explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to explain the kind of things Job wants explained would be like trying to explain Einstein to a little neck clam. God doesn’t reveal his grand design. He reveals himself.
The message behind the splendor is until you know a little about running the physical universe, Job, don’t tell me how to run the moral universe.
Along these same lines, Fredrich Buechner writes this:
Throughout the book of Job, Job whined, why are you treating me so unfairly, God? Put yourself in my place! No, God thunders in reply, you put yourself in my place! Until you can offer lessons on how to make the sun come up each day or where to scatter lightning bolts or how to design a hippopotamus, don’t judge how I run the world.
But, remember, Job is a godly man, the most godly in all the earth, God’s favorite guy! But he still has this struggle to understand life.
Job responds to God
Look at 42:1-6. This is where Job ends up because God doesn’t want Job to miss out on anything; and this is where the trial ends, after Job comes to this point. Then God restores everything double. So this must be it.
Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Listen, please, and let me speak;
You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You. And here’s what I do.
Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.”
See, now he sees God as he had not seen him before. Before God was this righteous, omniscient, omnipresent God who had the right to do whatever he wanted to do, but didn’t have the perspective that Job had. And there was distance between Job and God. But now he has a different view. It was a long, bloody road; but he’s brought Job into a far wealthier place because now he sees God as God really is.
I went through one of these experiences, and it was in the midst of this experience that this lesson of Job came alive to me. And I saw that the benefit of my suffering was to know God is God, and I am not. That is a really difficult thing to grasp.
We all start with the notion that as a two-year-old, we are the parent and should be able to get everything we want, right? And it never stops, really. We learned that God can do whatever he wants to, but we, fundamentally, like a two-year-old think we should be able to tell God what to do, and he ought to do it.
But it was through this pain that I realized, really the important thing to do is to know that God is God.
But then, of course, I said, I understand this lesson. I understand when Job says I’m vile, another way to interpret that is I’m small. And I can understand that, I’m really not as big as I thought I was. I need to trust that God has my best interests at heart, and that’s really how I come to know God. I came to understand that knowing God is the ultimate of life.
But then there was a harder question: Why do I have to go through all this pain? Why not just go to heaven and go to knowing God 101 and take the online course? Because after all, when we get to heaven won’t we know everything then? Why go through all this pain?
No, when we get to heaven we won’t know everything. That would make us God.
And, then I kind of saw it. My real breakthrough came—God showed me that the angels are stooping down like archaeologists watching me to know God; and then it dawned on me: They can’t know God by faith. This is my only chance to ever know God by faith, and if I opt out, it’s gone forever.
You know, the weeping and gnashing of teeth, those things we see, those pictures; and it’s clear in the passage that we’re talking about servants of God that are experiencing this? Of course, people who are not servants of God will experience it too; they don’t have their tears wiped away, though. That seems to be an ongoing circumstance. For us, it seems to be temporary because all our tears are wiped away.
But I think one of the major things we’ll be shedding tears over is lost opportunity to know God by faith because this is it! We will never get another chance. It will be gone forever.
Band of brothers
There was a book and film series called Band of Brothers. It captured a lot of people’s imagination. It’s a little bit gory. But here’s the basic premise:
Some World War II guys, GIs, American GIs, developed a bond among themselves because they trusted each other with their lives. Even their wives had to come to understand that there was a bond between them that superseded even what they could have with their wives.
And that is a bit of a portrait of what it is available to us in our epic adventure, our quest, because as we walk by faith, as we come to know God, we are creating a band-of-brothers type relationship with one another and with God himself.
You know, we know that Jesus said in John 17:3, And this is eternal life, that they may know You—and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. This is life at its fullest, to do life and connections with others, persevering through difficulty.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable of the four servants. Three faithfully invest his money, and one buries it in the ground. And one of the rewards given to the faithful servants might have come in a great surprise to the wicked and lazy servant, and it’s this: Enter into the joy of your master.
See there’s this bond that we’re developing today as we walk through life by faith that will be here forever, and this particular bond, this by-faith bond, this is the only time we have to do it.
I really got it. The suffering made sense to me.
Not opting out
You know, the suffering I went through in my original Job experience was something that came to me. I did not seek it. A lot of the trials and the valleys I’ve had since actually were opportunities God offered to me and said I want you to do this, but you don’t have to. And having this perspective, I looked at it and said I think that this is my righteousness.
Remember in Romans, we talked about righteousness is like a body, each part of the body doing what it does best for the rest of the body? Well, sometimes, that involves trouble. It involves responsibility that’s a big headache. And, at this point in my life, I can opt out and just go to the beach. I have enough money to last for the rest of my life unless currency collapses or I get cancer or something.
But, instead, I look at this and say, you know, I would be missing out on what life’s really about. I would be missing out on my two-minute adventure ride! I would be getting off halfway through. Why would I want to do that?
Job had to see he didn’t really have all the answers. So did I.
As a billionaire, Job was always asked for his opinion. He was looked to as the wisest of sages. Why wouldn’t he think he had all the answers? His experiences showed him that. If you have a lot of prestige in this world, even today, you’re deferred to. You’re made to think you’re a lot smarter than you really are.
I deal in politics quite a bit. One of the things that makes my stomach sour is to be around people in positions of power in groups and see how they’re catered to and sucked up to. They work for us! They’re our representatives. Why are you treating them like monarchy, for heaven sakes! It’s because they have power; they have prestige. People want something from them.
But you know what? It just isn’t true. We all are needy, vile people who have this amazing opportunity; and we have the Spirit that gives us the power to pull off the opportunity, to walk by faith. Because God’s God, not me.
Whatever circumstances I encounter in this life, whatever they are, they’re just what I needed. Boy, that’s true! It’s not easy to embrace.
So, it’s really not that surprising why God would choose to make Job his first written communique to man because this is life for all of us, and nothing matters more than knowing God. But Job reveals to us that while knowing God’s the ultimate experience of life, it’s often really tricky business, very hazardous even.
If we really want to know God, we most likely will experience heartaches we never thought we can endure. We’ll be betrayed by people we thought were our closest friends. We’ll experience losses that seem unbearable and other trials and tribulations; but it’s through these trials and tribulations we enter into a wealthier place, seeing and knowing God as never before.
I’ve learned that coming to know God by faith has a real important current aspect of happiness too. If we can see what’s happening and say this is in my best interest, then it turns what seems unbearable into something that’s just training, just like an Olympic athlete with the grueling agony of training looking forward to a better day.
James 1 teaches us this overtly. Really, every circumstance is a trial. Our inner I-know-best is always tempted either to complain because circumstances are inadequate by our definition; or, alternatively, when things are peachy, we’re tempted to say, “I did this! I control this! Look how wonderful I am!” But really, in reality, like Job, I need a constant reminder of, who formed me, who controls it, and who knows what’s best for me?
So the angels are craning their necks to learn of God through our walk of faith. They understand the cosmic importance of our two-minute ride; but do we? It’s hard to do because this walk of faith’s really all we know. It’s the only experience we have.
When this life is over, we will be like two angels in this respect: We will never be able to know God by faith again.
So let’s grab all that’s available to us. Whatever remaining time we have left, let’s grasp it.
This is reality. Reality is humility. When we have the willingness to see reality as it is, that is humility; and that’s the fundamental foundation of our walk with God. The one who holds our breath in his hands and prepares the paths of our footsteps is also the sustainer, the sunrise and the sunset.
Now, the routine things of life are where most of our existence rests. These valleys they come, and making it through the valley is one of our greatest opportunities in life to know God. But when we come out of the valley, we go into the routines of daily life; and it’s actually there where most of our opportunity to know God rests. And being faithful in the everyday routines is often more challenging than facing these very, very difficult trials.
And next week that’s what we’re going to talk about is the opportunity to know God in everyday routine.