JOB STUDIES 12
With Chapter 42, the story of Job comes to an end. Once more the critics of Job (many of them reputable Bible commentators) are ready to condemn him. It is sad that so many have missed the point of the book. In this last lesson, we shall briefly review what has come before, in order to put the conclusion of the book in proper perspective.
1) What two things does godly Job confess about the Lord, after hearing from Him (Job 42:2)?
2) What does Job say about his own limitations (vs. 3)?
3) What is it that has changed, now (vs. 5)?
INSIGHT: It does not seem that the Lord appeared in the wind in some physical form. Job may simply mean (in vs. 5) that he “sees,” or understands, more about God than he ever did before, because of what the Lord has revealed to him.
DID JOB “REPENT” OF HIS SINS?
Chapter 42, vs. 6, is an important one to our understanding of the book. We must deal with it carefully, taking it a phrase at a time. At first glance, it may seem to support the position of Job’s critics--like one commentator who says that here “Job repents of his pride and rebellion.” But what a sad distortion of Job’s actions this is!
To begin with, Job is not saying that he hates himself. In the NKJV, Job begins by stating, “I abhor myself.” But the italics used for “myself” indicate that it is an added word, not in the original. The addition is based on the translator’s own idea of what Job means. In this case, the word “myself” is better omitted or perhaps better rendered “it.” The word “abhor” can also mean refuse or reject. Some translate it “retract.” Job is saying, “I retract it!” He is rejecting or retracting his previous insistence that God must explain what has been happening to him. He is telling God he no longer needs to know the reason why.
The “dust and ashes” may refer to the ancient symbol of humble submission, putting dust and ashes on one’s head (cf. Gen. 18:12-28). Or Job may simply be speaking of the ash heap on which he sits.
Now, what of the word “repent”? The Hebrew word nacham is actually used a couple of times in Chapter 42. In vs. 6, Job is made to say (by the NKJV) “I...repent.” But the same word is translated quite differently in vs. 11. There we are told Job’s family and friends gathered round and “comforted [same word, nacham] him after all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him.”
Nacham can mean either: a) To be sorry for; or, b) To be comforted by. (In the Bible, it is used 67 times to mean “comfort,” or related words, and fewer times (41) to mean “repent.”) Nacham is translated “comfort” in Ps. 23:4, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort [nacham] me.”
In the view of the present writer, the main reason nacham is translated “repent” in Job 42:6 is because of certain presuppositions of the translators. It may make better sense to say that Job was “comforted.” In order to see why, we need to review a few things.
4) What kind of a man was Job, according to the Lord Himself (1:8)?
5) And what was the quality of his early life (1:2-3; 29:2)?
6) What was the explanation of Job’s “friends” for the sudden change in his circumstances (4:7; 22:5)?
7) What is the true cause of Job’s sufferings (2:5-6)?
8) And, according to the Lord, is the devil’s cruelty justified by some sin in Job’s life (2:3, end of the verse)?
9) In 26:4, Job responds to the harsh condemnation of Bildad with, “Whose spirit came from you?” What seems to be the answer to this question?
INSIGHT: Consider: Though Job was imperfect, as we all are, he was a man who had dealt with his sins in the way God had prescribed. At the time calamity struck, there was no sin on his conscience that could explain his sufferings as a judgment from the Lord. God not only confirms this, He twice calls Job the most outstanding spiritual giant of his day (1:8: 2:3). Job was not suffering because he is sinful, Job was suffering because he is righteous! God was not punishing Job; He put supreme confidence in His faithful servant. Satan in his craftiness had chosen the best man he could find to make his point in the strongest way possible. He hoped to show that all love and loyalty to God is a hypocritical sham. He failed, as God was sure he would.
The question remains: Did Job sin in some significant way during his trials--so that he needed to repent of sinful “pride and rebellion” afterward? To this we must respond with a resounding “No!” If Job has rebelled against God because of his trials, then Satan won! The devil would have proven that Job was only faithful to God for what he got out of it. But that is not so. Satan is silent in the end, and for good reason. He has been utterly defeated. Those who condemn Job for what he does during his trials make two basic errors.
1) They fail to understand that, in extreme pain and suffering, a person may say radical things. But these may be more a cry for help than a settled conviction. Job himself reminds his friends of this (6:26).
2) Job’s description of his former life in Chapter 29 is not based on sinful conceit. It is a part of his defense, and what he says is absolutely true. (It is never refuted by anyone.) The Apostle Paul “boasts” in a similar manner in defense of his apostleship (II Cor. 11--12).
10) Whom was the Lord angry with (vs. 7)? (And why?)
INSIGHT: There is no explanation given for why Elihu is not included in this condemnation. Perhaps because, in his last-minute interruption, he says nothing really new about Job. Or maybe Elihu has simply withdrawn by this time.
11) What must the three friends do in order to experience God’s forgiveness (vs. 8-9)?
INSIGHT: In these days before the Levitical priesthood of the Jewish Law was established, the heads of families acted as priests, offering sacrifices as needed (cf. Gen. 12:7).
12) In addition to providing cleansing from sin for Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, what is God doing here?
INSIGHT: In his wonderful Job Suite, contemporary singer-song writer Michael Card has Job saying this about the counsel of his friends: “These friends of mine are no comfort to me, / So deafly they listen, so blindly they see; / Their words and their doctrine they all sound so true-- / The problem is, Lord, they’re all wrong about You!” (Well said!)
13) What happened after Job prayed for his friends (vs. 10)?
INSIGHT: God restores Job’s former prosperity, but not as a reward for admitting what a terrible sinner he was. Simply because the test is over. The Lord has condemned the friends and supported the position of Job. Satan’s challenge has been taken up and his twisted view of godly Job has proven to be completely false.
14) What else happened once Job was restored to his old prominence (vs. 11)? (Why did this occur?)
15) Everything Job had before is doubled. His new family (seven sons and three daughters, vs. 13) seem to be an exception to this (compare 1:2). But are they? (Explain.)
INSIGHT: The Jewish commentators say that Job was 70 years old, in Chapter 1, and thus got twice as many years added to his life, as well (140 years, vs. 16), dying “old and full of days” at the age of 210. Job’s long life would then be another indication that he likely lived back at the time of the patriarchs. Abraham died at the age of 175, Isaac at 180 (Gen. 25:7; 35:28).
16) Job’s experience provides a lovely Old Testament picture of Christ.
¤ What is one parallel (2:3; cf. I Pet. 2:22)?
¤ What is another (42:8; cf. Lk. 23:34, also Heb. 7:25)?
¤ An yet another (42:10; cf. Phil. 2:8-9)?
INSIGHT: We could also say that Job’s suffering (like Christ’s) has been of benefit to many, as it provides important lessons for us all.
17) What special gift did Job give his lovely daughters that may have been somewhat unusual for the custom of the times (vs. 15)?
18) Could God have waited till Job reached heaven to reward him? What might have happened if He had?
INSIGHT: We now return to vs. 6, to emphasize the great lesson of the book. It may be significant that vs. 7 begins not with, “...after Job had spoken these words...” but instead with “...after the Lord had spoken these words.” It thus passes quickly over Job’s statement in vs. 6, another indication that Job’s restoration is not somehow a reward for repenting of some sin.
Given what we know of Job, and of all that happened to him, here is an appropriate paraphrase of Job 42:6, “Lord, I humbly withdraw my insistence that You explain the reason for my trials. I am satisfied that You know what You are doing. Even here, in the dust and ashes, I find comfort in You alone. I need nothing and no one but You.”
There is no record that the Lord ever explained Satan’s part in Job’s sufferings. And Job came to the point where he did not need to know. His “repentance” is in essence a surrendering of the need to know. However, the account in Chapters 1 and 2 of events in the court of heaven did come from somewhere. Did God wait until the writer of the book came along, some years later, to reveal it? Or did He explain this to Job before he died? We do not know. And it really does not matter. Job finds comfort without knowing.
That is the point of the book. God is enough. We do not need to know all the answers. In the end, Job gained far more than material wealth. His confidence in God was stronger than ever. Just as we can see the stars more clearly when we get away from the lights of town, so we can more fully appreciate the glory of heaven when the glow of earth’s passing treasures is removed. The removal of temporal distractions, even for a time, sharpened Job’s vision of eternal things.
Before angels and men, Job suffers in extremis (at the point of death). And he demonstrates that it is possible to love and worship God simply for who He is, in Himself. If Job had continued to be wealthy and successful, Satan’s question (“Does Job fear God for nothing?”) would have remained unanswered. Now we know. God Himself is enough.
And Job has proven a further point. That it is not necessary for us to understand why God acts as He does for God to be enough! There is a great cosmic purpose in Job. For all time, it provides a unique validation of creation. God made man “in His image” to love and enjoy blessed fellowship with Himself.
Man’s love was to be a reflection of His own--the kind of love shared within the Trinity. Not an “I’ll love you if...” kind of love that looks for something in return. A selfless love resting solely on what the other person is in himself. Job’s steadfastness shows us that God was right in how He made us. It is totally possible to love and serve God for who He is.
Romans 8:28-39 is an important passage in this regard. It says in part, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose....[And] in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” As the Bible puts it, in Second Corinthians 12:9. “He [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Kenneth Wuest’s Expanded Translation renders the promise this way: “He has said to me, and His declaration still stands, ‘My grace is enough for you, for power is, moment by moment, coming to its full energy and complete operation in the sphere of weakness.’”
Christian missionary doctor Helen Roseveare was caught in the Congo Rebellion, in Africa, in 1964. Amid much brutality, an estimated quarter of a million people, including 27 missionaries, were killed. Dr. Roseveare was cruelly beaten and raped, over and over. She says that in that terrible time the Lord spoke the following question to her heart: “Can you thank Me--not for the suffering--but for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?” And she says that by His grace she found that she could. So did Job.