Job 22 begins the final words of the three friends as they attempt to explain the reason for Job’s suffering and how God runs the world. The attacks increase but these friends are running out of things to say. They do not present any new theology but continue to rehearse the same explanation for Job’s suffering.
Eliphaz’s Attack (22:1-5)
Eliphaz begins by attacking Job again. He declares that God is not moved by human righteousness. God does not care if you are righteous or not because he does not need people, innocent or otherwise! Eliphaz tells Job in essence, “So you think you are good? So what! God does not care.” Now consider what Eliphaz has said. In an absolute sense, does God need people? No, God is able to exist without us, obviously. But is it true that God not care if we are righteous? Or to use the question of verse 3, “Does it delight God or give him pleasure if you are righteous?” The answer this is yes it does! How did all of these events in Job begin? All of this began because God in the presence of the sons of God in the spiritual realm asked Satan, “Have you considered by servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8). God delighted in the righteousness of Job. The scriptures are filled with declarations that God delights in his people.
Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” (Psalm 35:27 ESV)
He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:19 ESV)
God does care about us. God does see what we are doing. God delights in our pursuit of him and the righteous fruit in our lives that comes from that pursuit. But Eliphaz continues his attack. God does not reprove Job because Job fears the Lord (22:4). Obviously, your sins are endless (22:5). You are a gross sinner and God has entered judgment against Job.
Eliphaz Accuses Job (22:6-11)
Eliphaz now unloads all kinds of accusations against Job to show that Job deserves the suffering he is experiencing. The summary is that Job has abused his power and wealth. He took people’s clothing as collateral (22:6) which is a violation of Exodus 22:25-27. Job has rejected giving water to the thirsty and food to the hungry (22:7). He has sent away widows empty-handed and crushed the strength of the fatherless (22:9). This is why terror and darkness surrounds Job (22:10-11). Of course we know all of this is not true because God declared Job to be blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning from evil. Eliphaz is now making up sins to try to prove this theology about how God runs the world.
God Punishes Sinners (22:12-20)
Eliphaz also charges Job with thinking that God did not see all the sins he had committed. You thought God cannot see in the darkness and the clouds covered your ways (22:12-14). Job has walked with the wicked, according to Eliphaz (22:15-16). Delayed justice breeds defiance against God (22:17). God gave you (and all the wicked) blessings but the wicked are destroyed before they can enjoy those blessings. Wicked fools assume God is not watching (22:17-20). The righteous rejoice over the wicked being cut off, destroyed by the fires of God’s judgment.
Repent and Prosper (22:21-30)
Eliphaz concludes with the same message all of the friends have preached to Job. If you will repent then God will hear you and his light will shine on your ways again. God saves the lowly, so humble yourself about your sins (22:29). It is important to remind ourselves that this is also false. Repenting does not mean that you will have all of your physical blessings restored to you. God never made that promise.
Job’s Response (23:1-24:25)
Job’s despair (23:1-9)
Job returns to his cry of despair. This time Job does not really address the accusations of Eliphaz. Why should he? Eliphaz is full of lies about Job and Eliphaz has not said anything new. Job returns to his cry of desiring to be in a courtroom with God so a just verdict would be rendered to resolve his suffering. But it is not possible to do so (23:1-4). If Job could, he is ready with arguments for God to set this situation straight (23:4-5). God would listen to Job’s arguments and Job would be found in the right because God would welcome the arguments from an upright person (23:6-7). Then God would alleviate Job’s suffering. But Job cannot find God or enter his plead with him (23:8-9).
Job’s confidence (23:10-12)
Job continues to declare his innocence. He has not turned against God. He has a clear conscience before God. The commandments of the Lord have not departed his lips. Even in the face of all of this suffering, Job has not rejected God or walked away from him. He has not turned to evil but continues to treasure the words of God more than food. He speaks like David speaks about the joy of God’s word in Psalm 19. The words of God are better than food to me. He delights in the law of the Lord.
God is sovereign and terrifying (23:13-17)
Job draws another interesting conclusion about God in this paragraph. Job points out the sovereignty of God (23:13-14). God does as he pleases. Whatever his will is, he will accomplish that will. God is all powerful and exercise control. But notice this concept of God’s sovereignty frightens Job (23:15-16). The power and sovereignty of God scares Job. But even still, Job will not stop attempting to encounter God with his case (23:17). The sovereignty of God is fearful to Job because this means to Job that this trial will never stop or never change. God will not change this! God has decided to destroy me and there is nothing I can do about it. This is what Job feels.
I want us to consider that we may feel this way in trials but that this is an inaccurate feeling. First, we can approach God and change God’s mind. This is a stunning fact we see in the life of Abraham who speaks to God about Sodom and Gomorrah. God does relent. God does listen to his children. This means for us that the sovereignty of God is not fearful but comforting and amazing. This gives the people of God peace during times of suffering. God rules. God sees. God knows. God is in control. God will accomplish his will. So we can talk to God about his purposes and pray for certain outcomes by the will of God to help us through our suffering. In fact, God calls for us to pray to him and have these discussions with him, as we see God doing with Abraham. Pray to God. Ask questions to God. Look for God’s help and assurance.
Why doesn’t God do something? (24:1-17)
In chapter 24 Job moves to describing the evil acts of the wicked. The first verse of chapter 24 asks the question that is often on the minds of the righteous: Why doesn’t God do something? Why doesn’t God bring the wicked into judgment? Why do the wicked continue on in their days? Please consider that what Job is saying is a direct rebuttal of what his friends have said. His friends have said that the wicked get what they deserve. Yet Job says that he looks around and he does not see that. Look at verse 12. “From out of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries for help; yet God charges no one with wrong” (Job 24:12 ESV). Why doesn’t God bring the wicked into judgment? We ask this question and feel this pain. We often do not see the righteous judgments of God. We want God to do something now.
Now the rest of Job’s words cause problems for interpreters. Verses 18-25 is an issue in trying to understand what Job is saying because it does not sound like his words because much of it describes the justice of God coming on the wicked. So translations have a number of ways that they have tried to solve this issue. The ESV and NET add the words, “You say” to indicate that Job is quoting the words of the friends. The NASB, NRSV, NIV, NKJV, and NLT believe likewise because they put this section in quotation marks, indicating that Job is quoting the words of his friends. Only the HCSB does not make any changes and hold these words as Job’s own words about God.
If we take these as Job quoting the friends, then I personally do not see how Job is advancing the argument about how God runs the world or about his suffering. What we would understand Job doing is saying that if the friends’ view is correct then we would already see the wicked punished. But if these are the words of his friends, Job does not provide a rebuttal after quoting the friends. He does not declare how their ideas are wrong. So this does not appear to be the best way to look at these verses. Further, I do not think we have to make this addition to the text to understand it. We have seen many times that Job speaks of the disconnect between what he believes and the way the world is. We have seen Job point out that God is not just in the way he runs the world (9:23-26) yet at the same time still affirm the justice of God (13:17-19), which is why Job desires so strongly to make his appeal to God. He knows God would vindicate him because God is just and righteous. So we should not struggle with Job expressing a disconnect in his understanding of God. How often do we feel the same disconnect? We know the truth of God’s character from his word but it does not feel that way. A great example of this disconnect is how we feel that God is far from us yet God’s word says he will never leave us or forsake us. David in Psalm 22 expressed the same disconnect. He asks why God has forsaken him at the beginning of the psalm only to affirm that God had not forsaken him.
I believe Job is doing the same here. Why doesn’t God bring his judgment? Why doesn’t God do something against the wicked? Yet now Job affirms his belief that God will do something. God will judge the wicked. They will not get off without punishment because he knows deep down that God is just. Job still has faith in God and still believes in God’s justice even in the midst of all his suffering and loss.
Message For Today
We also continue to hope in God’s justice. Job wants justice on the wicked now. While this often sounds good to the righteous, the righteous must understand even they are deserving of God’s judgment. It is only because of God’s longsuffering and mercy have we been granted the time to receive the grace of God and be forgiven. Instant justice would be disastrous for all human beings. Jesus did not come to judge the world but to save it. Judgment is easy for we are all deserving of judgment. God must save us from our sins. His goal is not to destroy us for our sins.
So how can God continue to be just? The scriptures tell us how God is going to handle this problem of mercy and justice. Revelation 20 pictures the final judgment.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11–15 ESV)
The apostle Paul gives the same picture:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)
There must be a final judgment because God is just yet what happens in this world is not just. God will take care of the wicked. God will hold the wicked in account. But justice does not come now. God does not run the world by righting all of the world’s wrongs now, shortly, in our lifetimes, or ever in this physical life. Our hope is not right now. God made a promise: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Just as our vindication does not come in this life so also God’s judgment on the wicked does not come in this life. If we believe that God is just, then we must believe in a final judgment. God will deal with evil.
But we must wait for it. Jesus taught this in Matthew 13:24-30. The wheat and the weeds are allowed to grow together until the time of the harvest. Do you remember why the instruction is given to wait? “So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.’” (Matthew 13:28–29 ESV) Time is given to all to repent. We will end our study considering how Peter spoke of that time for which we wait.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (2 Peter 3:8–12 ESV)