In this section of the book of Job we now look at the final words of Job’s friends and Job’s final response to them. Up to this point it has been an endless circle of arguments between Job and his friends which has left them in a stalemate. The friends contend that suffering only comes from sinful actions. Job knows that he has been righteous, as the scriptures confirm, and his suffering has not come from his actions. Rather, God’s justice seems to have wavered. If Job could make his appeal before God and have his chance to present his case before God’s throne, then God would correct this mistake and vindicate Job’s life. So what will be the final words of the friends and the final words of Job concerning suffering and how God runs the world?
Bildad’s Attack (25:1-6)
Bildad’s final words are only six verses long, indicating that the arguments of these friends are petering out. In fact, you will notice that Zophar does not even speak, which is notable because in every cycle we have seen each friend in turn speak. But not this time. The friends’ defense has run out of steam and Job remains unconvinced by their arguments. Bildad’s final point is that humans cannot be right before God nor found pure. Nothing is pure before God and Job is nothing more than a maggot and a worm.
We may read this final attack and here some truth from Bildad’s words, as we have seen truth from their lips in all of their speeches. From our perspective, we are to consider ourselves nothing before God. He is lofty, exalted, and mighty. Who are we to stand before God? But we must also understand that this is not God’s perspective of us. While we must maintain a humble view of ourselves before God, God does not come to us and tell us that we are worms and maggots. We are his sheep. We are his creation. We are his children whom he loves. This is why we speak about not having self-esteem but God-esteem. We do not promote ourselves but look to our identity that is given to us in our Lord. Further, God is not tyrannical in which nothing is pure before him. God recognizes purity in our lives and calls for us to be pure (Psalm 24:4; 73:1; 119:9; Matthew 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:3). Bildad’s final words are another false representation of Job, of God, and how God runs the world.
Job’s Response (26:1-14)
In the first four verses of chapter 26 Job responds that these friends have been no help at all. Instead of helping him, they have kicked him when he was down. The rest of the chapter is Job’s description of the power and majesty of God. The universe reveals the might of God (26:5-14). No one escapes from God, not even the dead. All that you are able to see in the universe is the fringe of the mighty works of God. Job describes the infinite, incomprehensible sovereignty of God. The full range of God’s power defies comprehension. His power in infinitely greater than what anyone can imagine! Job restates that the friends’ declaration about God is insufficient because God is far greater and more complex than the friends understand.
Job Demands Justice (27:1-23)
The first verse of chapter 27 reads, “And Job again took up his discourse, and said.” As we have seen in most of these discussion cycles, Job first addresses the words of the friends and then speaks about God in general. This final discourse is his lengthiest discourse. Notice how Job begins in verse 2. “As God lives, who has taken away my right….” Job charges God with denying him justice. “Who has denied me justice” (NIV, CSB, NKJV, NET). God has denied him justice by afflicting him, making his soul bitter. Job restates his righteousness in these first six verses and denies what the friends have said about him. Job strongly declares that God is in wrong and that he himself in the right.
Further, Job calls for judgment upon all his enemies (27:7-12). Job calls for God to judge these three friends as his enemies. Treat them as opponents. Job calls them godless and that God will deal with them. The friends had come to teach Job (in their minds) but now Job is going to teach these friends (27:11-12). The rest of the chapter is a description of the outcome of the wicked. Job confirms that the wicked are cursed by God. The wicked will be punished. In the context of this section it would seem that Job is therefore asking for this certain judgment against the wicked to happen now. God’s justice has been withheld from Job and it needs to come now.
Elusive Wisdom (28:1-28)
In chapter 28 Job speaks about wisdom. You will notice that there are many similarities about what Job says about wisdom in this chapter to what Solomon says about wisdom in the Proverbs. In the first 11 verses Job notes that there is a mine for silver and gold but where is the mine for wisdom. The point is that wisdom is elusive. You cannot just go to the store and buy wisdom (28:12-22). God’s wisdom is so valuable that it cannot be purchased and humans do not understand its value. Job recognizes that wisdom only comes from the Lord. It cannot be found any other place. Job ends with familiar words about wisdom.
And he said to man, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28 ESV)
The fear of the Lord is wisdom which is exactly what the writer of Proverbs says (Proverbs 1:7) and the writer of Ecclesiastes concludes (Ecclesiastes 12:13). How we would spend much more time in God’s word if we recognized the immense value of wisdom and understood that this wisdom only came from God!
Remembering Prior Blessings (29:1-25)
Chapter 29 represents what every person goes through in the midst of trials: recalling the good times before the trial struck. Job remembers his prior blessings. It is important to observe that Job’s greatest pain is his belief that he has lost his relationship with God (29:1-6). He remembers when God was with him through the darkness (29:3), when he was friends with God (29:4), when God was with him (29:5) and when he enjoyed the blessings of God (29:6).
Job goes on to remember when he was respected by others and blessed by others (29:7-17). People respected him because he helped the poor and the fatherless (29:12), helped the dying (29:13-14), helped the handicapped (29:15-16), and helped victims of oppression (29:17). His future was bright at that time (29:18-20) and he was respected for his godly wisdom (29:21-25).
Job’s Present Misery (30:1-31)
Job recalls his prior blessings and joy to contrast it with the present misery he experiences. Job is disdained and laughed at (30:1-15). Even the worthless and the lowest of the lows are mocking Job (30:9). They spit at the sight of him (30:10) and promote his calamity (30:13). Job’s body devastates him (30:16-19) and he feels that God has deserted him (30:20-23). This chapter ends with Job’s expressing his hopelessness (30:24-31). Listen to the pain he is in as recorded in verse 30:
My skin turns black and falls from me, and my bones burn with heat. (Job 30:30 ESV)
Job Is Righteous (31:1-40)
Job’s final words is Job’s appeal to his own righteousness. He is moral pure (31:1-4), has lived in integrity (31:5-8), has been faithful in his marriage (31:9-12), and shown no partiality (31:13-15). He has been charitable (31:16-23), has remained humble (31:24-28), and shown hospitality (31:29-34). Verses 35-40 record his final cry to God. He calls for God to answer him by declaring what charges he has against Job. With this, the words of Job are ended (31:40). So what are we to learn from all that Job says? What should we do when life falls apart? I believe these chapters give us help for our times of trials.
When Life Explodes
Since this is the end of the speeches of Job and the three friends, it is important for us to consider what we have learned from these speeches. Particularly, in this final speech of Job, he states the many lessons that we have considered throughout our study so far. So here are nine facts as a foundation for us in our times of trial.
1. You can be righteous and suffer immensely. We have noted this point many times throughout the study of this book. Job is righteous and is suffering intensely. Jesus is the ultimate example of righteousness being made to suffer.
2. We are to continue glorifying God in the midst of suffering (Job 26). The apostle Paul said the same:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5 ESV)
3. The righteous hope in God to deal with those who wrong us and falsely malign us. Justice is not immediate but we hope in God for future justice (Job 27).
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:19–23 ESV)
4. The wisdom needed for suffering and the wisdom needed for life continues to be in fearing the Lord (Job 28). Even when it seems like the fate of the righteous and the wicked are the same we must know that wisdom still belongs with God. In suffering we need more of God, not less of him. We need to draw closer to him, not move further from him.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:2–5 ESV)
5. Suffering is not a loss of relationship with God (Job 29). Job has repeatedly felt like his suffering meant he was God’s enemy and that God had left him. But we are given wonderful promises from God that this is not the case.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5–6 ESV)
6. Enjoy what you have now because it can be gone tomorrow (Job 30). We must never assume that the way things are today are how they will be tomorrow. Job, a righteous man, woke up one day and it was all taken from him. Everything he had was gone. All he was left with was God. The writer of Ecclesiastes repeatedly notes that life is just a vapor and circumstances are one way at one moment and then change the next. Appreciate what you have enjoyed today.
7. Remain pure and holy in suffering (Job 31; 27:3-5). Nothing proves Satan’s assessment more than turning to sin and forsaking God. Imagine if Job, after receiving all of this suffering, turned to sin and rebelled against God’s laws. Such a response would prove that he only served God for the good he received. Will we only serve God when life is good? Or will we serve God and love God no matter what we experience in life?
8. We will not have answers for why we are suffering. This is one of the big messages of the book. You might think you have an answer. Your friends might think they have an answer. But all of your guesses are nothing more than guesses. We do not know why we are suffering. When Jesus’ disciples encountered the blind man in John 9, they thought there were only two options: his parents sinned or he sinned. Jesus said that neither of those options are correct. To say that we know why is to presume the mind and knowledge of God. We do not know God’s intention and we do not know the reason why.
9. Faith can grow through the trial (Job 3-31). We have seen Job increase in his faith from his early cries in Job 3. We have seen him accurately defend God on many occasions and change his theology as we have moved through this book. But at the same time, inappropriate words can also be multiplied through the trial. Consider the growing of your faith and keep control of your tongue through your suffering.
This is what we have learned in the book of Job so far in terms of how to handle suffering. But we have yet to hear from one more person and we have yet to hear from God. These will provide more answers and information we need to understand suffering and how God runs the world.