Job goes from a strong declaration that he knows that his redeemer lives to once again getting ganged up on by his friends. This time it is the turn of Zophar who answers Job’s statements in chapter 19. His answer is more of the same as he states in the final verse that all the calamities which he describes in the previous 28 verses: possession of their house carried away, they will perish forever like their own dung (that is my personal favorite), are a result of Job’s wickedness.
But it does seem that the rhetoric is being ratcheted up higher and higher each time Job speaks and then there is an answer from his friend. Zophar is the one who seems to take special insult to the words that Job uses which in his eyes are words which exculpate Job from wrong and lay it at the feet of God. For him this is wickedness.
There is a sense that this is a sort of rap-off or a dance-off where one statement after another is supposed to be better than the last.
Before we get into the meat of this passage I can’t escape this verse: “My breath is repulsive to my wife.” (vs.17) I think when we get to that stage we have some pretty big problems. Job is in that boat right about now.
If you look at vs.25 you will see one of the most powerful and enduring Scriptures. “For I know that my redeemer lives.” I need to insert this song here. Amazing! Powerful! Can you hear Job saying this now?
I can say with confidence that Job’s words were indeed written down and will last forever. This song is proof of that. Not sure I can add much more than this song. I’m ready to take on the world knowing that God lives and will never leave or abandon us even if we get to a place in our lives where we are like Job.
Okay, things are starting to get a bit personal. Job this past chapter really lambasted his friends and called them some pretty not nice things. Now the friend of Job, Bildad, launches out and begins to replay all the calamities that Job experienced but couches it in the terms what happens to the “wicked”. Vs. 13 is a direct reference to what Job is experiencing with his body. It almost seems as if Bildad goes backwards over Job’s calamities. So, vs. 13 refers to the last of the calamities which is that boils and sores afflict his body. We then read in vs.14 that a tent is torn and scattered as Job’s children’s tent was torn and scattered while they were celebrating. He goes on to press on that point and states that the wicked has “no survivor where they used to live.”
He ends all of this by saying that this is what happens to the wicked and to those who do not know God. The direct and pointed application has to be at Job who must be wicked and must not know the Lord or else this would not have happened to him. Don’t worry, Job will answer, but we have to know what he is being accused of by his friend and why this is such a personal attack. Bildad is not speaking in generalities, he is speaking specifically about Job.
This seems like nothing less than Job speaking out against his friends. He calls his friends: “mockers” in vs. 2, they have “closed minds” vs. 4, he says if they come back to him he will not find a “sensible person” (vs.10) among them.
Job realizes that while he is not literally at death’s door as he states in vs. 1, that he is not in the presence of friends or relatives who will vouch for him, so it will be completely up to him to vouch for himself. Notice, though, that while Job falls into despair, it is not a despair of belief or of faith, it is a sense of despair for his present state that does not in any way overrule the relationship that he has with his God and Creator. Job’s faithfulness and righteousness has not wavered, in fact it has been strengthened.
He trusts that God is going to act and that God is going to in due time. He asks the rhetorical question of “where is my hope”. I think we can answer him with the verses from Psalm 39:7: “And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.”
The key to this response by Job to his friend is vs.17 where he states: “though there is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure.” He once again states his innocence even while his friends are telling him to admit his fault and God would remove His wrath. No, Job says, that is not the case. He tells his friends that he could say the words that he wants them to say, but they would not produce the result that they would want, except for providing them some instant gratification that they got Job to do what they wanted him to do.
It is interesting in vs.7 that one of his complaints is that God has made his company one of the worst aspects of this whole living thing right now. He goes on and states that God has given Job up to the ungodly and was cast into the hands of the wicked. I am pretty sure that Job is speaking about his friends here. What a group of “friends”. He continues to complain about them. Probably time to switch them out at this point.
Job’s friend, Eliphaz, comes back at him again to make sure that he doesn’t forget that it is God who has created him. He wants to make sure that Job doesn’t think that he was somehow created in a special way and that God may have broken the mold once he was created. No, Job, he says, you are just like the rest of us so why do you think you are special in a way that none of us might be?
The accusation that is laid at Job’s feet is that he is doing away with the fear of God. The reason that God has punished him, according to Eliphaz, is because of his pride and his thinking that he was the firstborn of creation. Job is told that his day has come and he is basically getting what he deserves…but is he really? Yes, in a way he is getting what we all deserve, but he is not getting it because of his pride or because he thinks he is any more special than the rest of us.
This is fairly clearly an Old Testament perspective that Job pushes. Did you notice his line of questioning with God when he makes the statement: “so mortals lie down and do not rise again; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep.” That perspective is one where if a person dies that ends their story, there is nothing beyond life here on this earth.
Obviously this is not our perspective since we know that the resurrection is a primary part of our faith. Without the resurrection then our faith is useless. This is not because life on this earth does not matter, but rather because we know the end of the story, and the end of the story is that God has won. As a result of the victory of Jesus we can live our life with confidence and the assurance that all things work together for those who trust in the Lord.
But this is not Job’s primary point in this chapter. Once again he establishes the complete otherness of God. God has created us and so as a result God will prevail against all things. That is very, very reassuring.
There is a bit of a back and forth between Job speaking with his friends and what I think may also be Job speaking to God and asking for a reckoning so that he can be justified before his friends. When I was in seminary we teamed up with the Princeton law school and held a mock trial of Job vs. God. I actually was not involved in it, but was aware that it was happening. Here we read that Job is “preparing his case.” (vs.18) I’m wondering if he is not speaking about a case against his friends who are simply wrong in the nature and actions of God.
There are some, and this trial between God and Job was an example, who see that if God were put on trial, something that Job would not have objected to, then Job just may have won. But we are brought back to what we saw last chapter. It is God who created and so it is God who can decide and use whatever system of decision making that He would want.
It seems like there might be a break between vs.12 and vs.13 where the switch comes from Job talking to his friends to talking to God…, maybe. I do like vs.22-23 where Job asks God that He would just call out to him and since Job is always listening, he would respond. Job also asks God to reply to him when Job speaks to Him.
We are going to find Job transition from having an okay view of what is happening around him, to a very hardened cynic. It is difficult not to be cynical when we have successive and constant and seemingly never ending tragedy befall us. That is, for now at least, Job’s lot.
Job once again answers one of his friends, this time it is an answer to Zophar. Job’s answer reflects a fairly common human tendency to think that we are able to manipulate and control God in order to obtain what we want. There are some who think that in prayer, in a good life, in staying out of trouble, in helping the needy they are somehow controlling God because he would then have no opportunity to punish us or to take away from us His favor. Our motivations are often reflected in a desire to keep God at bay and so our actions are such that we would try to do things so that no one could accuse us of wrongdoing.
Job’s answer to this is no. What motivates us is very, very important. If we live our lives doing good and being a disciple of God for the purpose of not being punished or for being safe within the folds of decency, we are going to be rudely awakened. He appeals to the animals who live and die without any sense of order or understanding. They don’t have good or bad lives, they just have lives which are directed wholly and completely by the will of God. We are not immune to that, in fact, that is our fate. God is in complete control of our lives and what we do or don’t do is not going to change that.
Think about that for a second. This is one of the strongest arguments for predestination that we have. I like to use the word Providence instead of Predestination. Providence simply means that God is in control. Yes, we all say that, but we don’t really all mean it. When we say that God is in control it means that when a child dies it is not a matter of things being fair or unfair, it is a matter of God being in control, even in death. Now, is that different from saying that God wants or God causes children to die? Yes, that is vastly different, but not understandably so. How can God be gracious and kind and abounding in steadfast love when bad things happen to good and even innocent people? There is no answer to that question, and it is that exact question which Job is addressing. He calls himself righteous in the sense that he is righteous as any human could be righteous. But it does not put him in a place of honor before God. He is still a human created by God, as we all are.
Another friend of Job’s responds. He calls him a babbler and accuses Job of telling the others: “my conduct is pure and I am clean in God’s sight.” To Zophar, the friend, that is not really the case. He makes the general statement that we are all imperfect, but also makes a very direct accusation that God has required of him much less than he should or than he deserves.
The interesting thing is that I believe both Job and his friend are saying the same thing. Job says no one is righteous, but he is also stating that there is no single sin which is creating the situation in which he finds himself. I am repeating myself here again. He recommends that Job straighten up his life and this will all go away. Well, clean living really doesn’t provide favor in God’s sight and does not guarantee what vs.17 states: “your life will be brighter than the noonday.” Good people don’t get all the sunshine, sorry.
There is a stylistic note that I wanted to put in here. If you look in your Bibles, for example at vs.12 where it speaks about a wild ass being born as a person. The Hebrew for this verse is uncertain, which means that there could have been a chunk of manuscript missing that we simply do not have. I hope this does not create a problem for you.
Our Bible has been put together through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit, but with human hands. We do not have an original copy of any letter from the Bible. We don’t have the documents on which Moses wrote, simply because he didn’t really write, we have his stories passed down orally. We don’t have the Gospel of John as it was written by John. What we have is a compilation of material mostly from the Middle Ages that have been passed down over time. That is where our source for Scripture comes. But I still believe it is the inspired Word of God. But it also means that there will be words and even sections that we do not completely understand what is being said.
My take on Scripture is that it is an authority like no other and it contains God’s inerrant truths.