One of the best principles we can learn from Job’s experience is to be careful about bad advice (30:26-31). As my wife’s father, Glen Hargrave, used to say, “Many a lie has been spoken between false teeth.” In other words, just because people are old does not mean all their advice is sound. Take a look at Job’s advisors. The Bible calls them his friends. It so designates them as it identifies where they lived (2:11). Eliphaz the Temanite came from Teman in Uz (Edom), famous for its wise men (Jer. 49:7). Bildad came from Shuah, a decendant of Abraham by Keturah (Gen. 25:1-2). Zophar, the Naamathite, came from a village about 22 miles west of Jerusalem. All of the men likely were community leaders responding when they learned of Job’s calamities.
With slight variations among the three men, their words reflected an understanding about suffering which was common in their times. They argued that Job was suffering either (1) because of unconfessed sins against God, or (2) sins of omission for acts of goodness he had failed to carry out. The passage we now study comes in the middle of Job’s defense of his conduct following Zothpar’s last speech. Job’s defense is a general refutation of accusations his friends raised against him. For example, as recorded in 20:19, Zophar accused Job of violently taken the lands of the poor and oppressing them. In his third speech Eliphaz charges Job with withholding bread and water from the weary and hungry (22:7-9).
In the midst of his suffering, Job utters a sublime insight about the end time: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (19:25-26). We readily see an allusion to the Messiah.
At this point we could do well to survey briefly the role of suffering in the New Testament. Jesus taught it is inevitable for these professing loyalty to Him (Matt. 5:11-12). They will suffer tribulation as the Gospel is preached. Nevertheless, God works things together in believers to bring about His purpose (Rom. 8:28-29).
Some suffering results from a person’s poor choices, such as cancer caused by use of tobacco and other drugs. Yet, suffering cannot be compared to glories believers will experience in the life to come in heaven (Rom. 8:17-18).
This belief provides the key to the way we handle suffering, namely our relationship with God (42:1-6). C. S. Lewis wrote in his book A Grief Observed (p. 61) that God did not try him by suffering to find out the quality of his faith, God already knew that, but Lewis did not. God knew his temple was a house of cards. For Lewis to realize that, God had to knock it down. This was the sentiment admitted by Job. He confessed to speaking about things which were too wonderful to be understood by him (v. 3). As he looked deeply into himself, he began to abhor what he learned. His only recourse was to “repent in dust and ashes” (v. 6).
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