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1. Job was righteous and rich. But Satan asked God’s permission to torment him, claiming that if he did, Job would curse God to His face, and God granted him permission.
2. So, Job suffered greatly. His ten children were killed, his wealth was lost, he was struck with painful, itchy sores from the top of his head to the sole of his foot.
3. And the news of Job’s calamity reached several of his friends, who lived a long way away.
4. And they came to Job, and when they saw how very great his suffering was, they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him.
5. But, though they came originally with deep compassion, things changed when Job began to talk.
6. Job 3:1-11 Job cursed the day of his birth, saying, “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night someone announced my birth...11 Why did I not die at birth? Why did I not come out from the womb and expire?”
7. Job’s friends seem to have been put off by this kind of thing coming out of Job’s mouth.
8. The rebukes begin mildly and respectfully. But they are shocked at Job’s negativity.
9. And when they begin to confront him about this, then they’re provoked by his defensiveness and concluded that Job must have brought these sufferings on himself, that he was reaping what he had sown.
10. Now we are looking at the arguments between Job and his friends today in light of the fact that in the end (Job 42:7-9) God vindicated Job and rebuked his three friends. The fact is, Job was not reaping what he had sown.
11. But the more Job rebuffed their arguments, the more they concluded that he was being prideful and obstinate, and the more pointed and severe their rebukes became.
12. By the end, having lost all confidence in Job’s integrity and sincerity, they are outraged at their former friend.
B. Most of the book of Job is a record of the argument between Job and his three friends. Job is 42 chapters long. 29 of those 42 chapters (about 70%) is devoted to the back and forth argument between these four men.
1. It’s complicated; there are many difficulties in figuring out what they’re saying. But the overall theme of the argument is pretty clear. And there’s a lot of repetition.
C. Job 11 Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said: 2 “Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and a man full of talk be judged right? 3 Should your babble silence men, and when you mock, shall no one shame you? 4 For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’ 5 But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, 6 and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves. 7 “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? 8 It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? 9 Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. 10 If he passes through and imprisons and summons the court, who can turn him back? 11 For he knows worthless men; when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it? 12 But a stupid man will get understanding when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man! 13 “If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. 14 If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. 15 Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. 16 You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. 17 And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. 18 And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. 19 You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor. 20 But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.”
D. Job 19:1–4, 21-22 Then Job answered and said: 2 “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? 3 These ten times you have cast reproach upon me; are you not ashamed to wrong me? 4 And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself...21 Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! 22 Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?
II. Next week we will talk about the theological error made by the three friends, but today we need to talk a little bit about their thinking.
A. One of the things which is so strange about reading Job is that you know that the three friends are wrong, but so much of what they say is so true.
1. The problem is not with what they’re saying, the problem is that they are misapplying it to Job.
2. They say many true things about life and about God. But what they say has nothing to do with Job’s suffering. They misjudged Job, and that’s one of the ways they’re wrong.
B. The three friends concluded that there must be a moral reason for Job’s affliction and kept trying to persuade him of that.
1. They believed that when a person submits his life to the Lord, there are only happy consequences.
a. It was almost an early version of the prosperity gospel.
C. And we need to understand what Job is saying. He is not claiming perfect righteousness. He knows he’s a sinner (Job 7:20–21).
1. This debate is not over whether Job is a sinner. The friends aren’t arguing that Job is just as bad as they are. They think they are righteous and Job is not, and that this is what explains why they are prospering and Job is suffering.
A. Long suffering is one of Satan’s most effective weapons against those who believe in the Lord.
1. Often people can take suffering for a little while. It is when it goes on and on that they lose grip.
2. This is why it was significant that Satan tempted Jesus after the Lord had fasted in the wilderness for 40 days.
3. Job’s suffering wasn’t just that he lost his children and his wealth. It wasn’t just that he got loathsome sores over all his body. It was also that it went on and on.
4. This is Satan’s last ditch effort to get Job to deny the Lord. The length of the argument was part of the temptation, part of the pressure, part of Job’s suffering.
5. It’s important that we are alert to this, for, over time, our human strength fails, and we grow weary of well-doing (Gal.6:9).
6. And the ability to remain steadfast exposes whose faith is from God, and whose is merely human.
7. In order to be saved, we must finish the race, we must persevere to the end.
8. In order to persevere, we need to be “strengthened with [God’s] power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” (Colossians 1:11)
9. “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29–31)
10. This is why Satan’s attempt to overcome Job failed.
B. God’s word can be proclaimed in a harmful and hurtful way.
1. Not only did Job’s friends not give him the encouragement/support he so desperately needed, but they gave him the opposite.
2. Now these weren’t evil men. They didn’t come to Job’s side to taunt him or gloat over him.
3. They thought they were speaking the truth to him, but, unwittingly, they became Satan’s tools and tore Job to shreds – unrelentingly.
4. “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? These ten times you have cast reproach upon me; are you not ashamed to wrong me?” Job said in Job 19:2-3.
5. And being torn to shreds verbally, being the victim of cruelty & disdain affects us very deeply. It was the third wave of Job’s suffering.
6. And it shows us that God’s word can be proclaimed in a harmful way.
7. Sometimes arguments are productive; sometimes they’re anything but.
a. Paul argued with the Jewish leaders (Acts 18:28).
b. The Christian leaders argued with each other at the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:7).
8. But the conversation between Job and his friends seems counterproductive.
a. Neither side seems to benefit from it.
b. Both sides are aghast at the other side. (18:3 Why are we stupid in your sight?)
c. The two sides can’t do anything but restate their perspective.
9. The problem is, there are deep & unconscious assumptions which block the way to understanding.
10. And when you continue to press in circumstances like this, you can do more harm than good. Sometimes we try to convince too much and fail in being kind and showing love. And I say that as someone who has learned the hard way.
11. Let the HS do the work of convincing.
12. Also, remain open to the possibility that you are the one with the blindness.
13. In addition to many other things, Job is a case study in human conflict.
a. It shows us how quickly conversation can devolve into something destructive.
b. It shows us how easily people can think the worst of others.
c. It shows us how often folks are absolutely convinced that they’re right, but in the end they will find out they’re wrong.
d. It even shows us how in many intense arguments, both parties are wrong.
C. But let’s talk more about compassion.
1. In addition to many other things, the story of Job is a story about the failure of compassion, and how destructive that can be.
2. It is so easy to do. We can easily be quick to speak and slow to listen (see James 1:19).
3. And often we have no idea what this other person has been through.
4. We are called to love the people around us in the name of Christ. The fact is that many of them are in pain in one way or another. And one of the primary reasons we don’t do our job well is because we are oblivious to their pain.
5. Remember Jesus’ reaction: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
6. Jesus didn’t scowl at our condition, He entered into our woe. Jesus wept.
7. Some Christians don’t have a lot of patience with groaning.
a. They haven’t read Job enough. Like Job’s friends, they think, “If you live right, you’ll be blessed and happy.” There’s no room for Job, or a lot of other places in Scripture.
8. A person who thinks that it’s possible to bear all of life’s griefs without a whimper is the person who hasn’t experienced much grief, or, as in my case, has suppressed his grief.
a. Jeremiah wept so much he is known as the weeping prophet, and we call the book he wrote, “Lamentations.”
b. Micah 1:8 For this I will lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make lamentation like the jackals, and mourning like the ostriches.
c. Esther 4:1 When Mordecai found out about the decree to slaughter all the Jews, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and cried out with a loud and bitter cry.
d. Paul despaired of life itself!
e. It is simply stupid, as well as cruel, to think that a mourning person must be being unfaithful to the Lord, who Himself said, blessed are those who mourn (Matt.5:4), and blessed are you who weep (Luke 6:21).
9. One of the most precious things about the story of Job is that he wails and mourns and weeps and moans, and then God rebukes those who criticized him for it.
a. God doesn’t scold us for our groaning in pain.
10. Don’t tell your little ones not to cry, unless it’s fake, of course.
11. Where in the Bible does God tell us not to cry?
a. Jesus did tell the widow of Nain not to weep in Luke 7:13, but she was crying because her son had died and Jesus was telling her not to cry because He was going to raise her son from the dead. He wasn’t saying she shouldn’t have been crying, but that her reason for crying was now removed.
12. “Jesus wept.” One of the most amazing and powerful verses in the Bible.
a. And at Gethsemane He was sorrowful and troubled. He said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” Matthew 26:37–38 The Son of God groaned in pain!
13. When we are in pain, it soothes us just to know that someone else gets it.
14. That’s why it’s so helpful to speak with someone who has gone through a similar thing.
15. Well, God gets it. He understands our pain.
16. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26)
a. Groaning too deep for words.
17. The happy news of Job’s suffering is that God isn’t surprised by our misery. He knows it well. He has a purpose for it. He even has a purpose for allowing us to feel like He is not with us.
18. God gives us permission to cry out in our pain. Ever since the curse, life hurts.
a. Pain is not all there is, of course. There is joy, fun, pleasure, relief. But there is also pain.
19. Push it down, deny it. Or cry out.
20. It’s OK to say ouch! It’s OK to say, “I’m hurting, God.”
21. It is better to get angry with God than to ignore Him.
a. Every conversation with God is a sign of hope.
D. God even gives us templates to give voice to our suffering.
1. God wrote psalms like this for us. “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” (Psalm 6:6)
2. “My tears have been my food day and night.” (Psalm 42:3) Read Psalm 88!
E. We have a place to go with our pain. “Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden.” (Matt.11:28-30)
1. Misery is not necessarily an ungodly or unhealthy emotion. It’s what you do with it that matters.
F. Job has a major part to play in the Bible’s explanation of pain.
1. It helps us to see that there are sometimes reasons for our pain that we can’t presently understand.
2. It helps us to see that not understanding our pain is designed to humble us and teach us to trust.
a. “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)
G. And there is nowhere the truth of that verse is made more vivid than the cross of our Lord Jesus.
1. Aren’t you glad that He chose to leave the house of feasting in order to come down to the house of mourning? Aren’t you thankful that He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows (Is.53:4)?
2. “He had to be made like us in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (Heb.2:17-18)
3. “You see, we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need... He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” (Hebrews 4:14-5:2)
4. When you are exhausted from carrying heavy burdens, remember that He was so exhausted that He fell on His face in the street, without the strength to carry His burden.
5. When you are in intense physical pain, remember His lashes, His nails, His crown of thorns.
6. When you feel betrayed by a friend, remember His betrayal.
7. When you feel abandoned by God, remember the One who cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
8. When you are ridiculed and scorned, remember how they mocked Jesus.
9. When everyone abandons you and you are left all alone, remember Jesus, who was left to suffer alone even by His closest friends.
H. One of the great lessons of Job is that the perception that God had abandoned him, the perception that God had turned against him, the perception that God was mistreating him were all lies.
1. Through it all, God was Job’s true Friend. And He is our true Friend, the One who will never leave us or forsake us.