The Spiritual Crisis
This would be a good time to review our outline in order to better understand the change that will take place in Job's experience. Our overall theme is faithful living in times of crisis and what we've witnessed so far is Job's continued faithfulness (not perfection) as he undergoes two types of crisis,
- Faithfulness through physical crisis. Through the devil's interventions (permitted and limited by God) Job loses his wealth, family, health, wife and position within society. He claims that this treatment is unfair, he is innocent and God is making a righteous man suffer; however, despite all of this he does not deny God or abandon his faith.
- Next, we observe Job remaining faithful through a theological crisis that at first emanates from within but is soon exacerbated by outside forces in the form of negative attacks from his three friends.
Simply put, Job's inward crisis consists of the terrible fact that his theology no longer matches his reality. Briefly stated, one of Job's key theological principles, that he lived by, was the common belief that God blessed the righteous and punished sinners and did so in real-time here on earth. This was referred to as 'The Doctrine of Retribution.' Job's theological dilemma (his crisis) was that he was aware that he was a righteous man (he knew that he was not guilty of sin and he recognized that he was tremendously blessed by God as proof thereby confirming the wisdom of what was commonly held), but God was now punishing him as if he were a sinner. The question that arose as a consequence of this situation and one that he could not answer was simply, "Did God cause the innocent to suffer?"
Added to this inner crisis were the reasoned arguments of his three friends, who at other times he would have heartily agreed with, that what had happened to him was simply the working out of what the doctrine of retribution demanded: repentance had to come before re-establishment. He was guilty of some kind of sin and the calamities he had suffered were the proof that this was so.
All three of his friends, plus a fourth man who was present and speaks at the end, make various forms of this same argument to convince Job of his guilt. In his responses, Job holds fast to two things that he both knows and believes.
- He is a righteous man and there is no hidden sin in his life.
- God is present and His ways are above man's ways.
Throughout this second crisis, he continues to believe and trust God, but he also expands his mind to consider that perhaps God has other ways (other than the law of retribution) to deal with man. Perhaps the way he has dealt with Job is one of these different ways. Perhaps some innocent suffer now for a time to fulfill God's purpose. Perhaps he is a righteous man, but nevertheless may not understand all of God's ways.
This line of thinking prepares him to experience the greatest of his many crises and that is facing God in person.
Job's Spiritual Crisis: Facing God - 38:1-42:6
We've seen it many times in stories and movies where the main character bravely talks about what he'd do if the boss, chief, leader, enemy or bully were actually in the room, and he turns around and what he thought would never take place actually happens: he is face to face with his nemesis.
We've watched Job demand an audience, hearing or trial before God so he can make his case (I'm innocent, I don't deserve to suffer). In effect, challenging God to appear and defend Himself or His decisions in some way.
In chapter 38, God does appear to Job as a theophany (in this case a whirlwind/wind storm, as opposed to a burning bush for Moses or other forms for various prophets). Perhaps the whirlwind best reflected Job's life which was left in tatters, much like what you see is left behind after a tornado.
In this section, it is God's turn to speak and He makes two main speeches each followed by Job's response of submission and repentance. The spiritual crisis that Job finds himself in is surviving God's presence as a sinner.
God's First Speech and its Effects – 38:1-40:5
1. Job's ignorance of inanimate creation (38:1-38)
God begins by pointing out the fact that as a man, Job has no power to produce or sustain any part of the creation. He points out Job's ignorance in general, not as an insult, but simply as a fact that needs to be recognized. In his desire to debate with God, Job immediately realizes that he is inadequate. God begins his first speech by challenging Job.
1Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind and said,
2"Who is this who darkens the divine plan
By words without knowledge?
3Now tighten the belt on your waist like a man,
And I shall ask you, and you inform Me!
- Job 38:1-3
God informs Job that He is the creative force behind:
- The earth - vs. 4-7
- The sea - vs. 8-11
- Time - vs. 12-15
- The deep - vs. 16-18
- Light and darkness - vs. 19-20
- Snow, hail, fog - vs. 22-24
- Thunderstorms, dew, ice - vs. 25-30
- Constellations - vs. 31-33
- Clouds and mists - vs. 34-38
2. Job's ignorance of animate creation
God continues His first speech by pointing out Job's ignorance of the animate creation. First the inanimate, now the animate creation is listed; not a complete list but a representative list of creatures God has created. God is the creator and the protector of:
- The lion - vs. 39-40,
- The raven - vs. 41
- Mountain goats and hinds - vs. 39:1-4
- Wild donkey - vs. 5-8
- Wild ox - vs. 9-12
- Ostrich - vs. 13-18
- Horse - vs. 19-25
- Hawk and eagle - vs. 26-30
3. Job's response to God - 40:1-5
1Then the Lord said to Job,
2"Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who rebukes God give an answer."
3Then Job answered the Lord and said,
4"Behold, I am insignificant; what can I say in response to You?
I put my hand on my mouth.
5I have spoken once, and I will not reply;
Or twice, and I will add nothing more."
- Job 40:1-5
God pauses in his description of the creation He has brought into existence from what is not seen (Hebrews 11:3) in order to question Job directly. "You who question how you've been treated, you who question God's method, intention and justice, can you answer God now that He questions you?" In other words, "If you are wise enough to contend (debate) with God about what has happened to you, surely you are wise enough to answer these basic questions that divine beings know."
Job realizes how insignificant he really is in the grand scheme of things and covers his mouth signifying that he has already said too much, however, he has not yet repented and this leads to God's second speech.
God's Second Speech and it's Effect – 40:6-42:6
God begins His second speech by challenging Job to take over the operating of the universe. "If you are ready to challenge My judgments and methods, like in your own life, then you should be able to do My job."
6Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind and said,
7"Now tighten the belt on your waist like a man;
I will ask you, and you instruct Me.
8Will you really nullify My judgment?
Will you condemn Me so that you may be justified?
9Or do you have an arm like God,
And can you thunder with a voice like His?
10"Adorn yourself with pride and dignity,
And clothe yourself with honor and majesty.
11Let out your outbursts of anger,
And look at everyone who is arrogant, and humble him.
12Look at everyone who is arrogant, and humble him,
And trample down the wicked where they stand.
13Hide them together in the dust;
Imprison them in the hidden place.
14Then I will also confess to you,
That your own right hand can save you.
- Job 40:6-14
God then uses two examples from the animal kingdom to demonstrate Job's weakness and inability to manage, let alone rule the creation (Job 40:15-41:24).
- Job can't control the behemoth (hippopotamus) or the leviathan (crocodile), two large, powerful and dangerous animals.
- If he can't dominate these creatures, what makes him think he can operate the creation consisting of both human beings as well as the animals living in it?
Job's confession and repentance - 42:1-6
1Then Job answered the Lord and said,
2"I know that You can do all things,
And that no plan is impossible for You.
3'Who is this who conceals advice without knowledge?'
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I do not know.
4'Please listen, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.'
5I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
6Therefore I retract,
And I repent, sitting on dust and ashes."
- Job 42:1-6
Job's error was that he judged God's actions and intentions without having God's vantage point. Certainly a mistake with God, but also a mistake when doing this to other people as well. His repentance is in three stages:
- He declares what is right: that God's knowledge and wisdom are complete (vs. 1-2).
- He acknowledges his own sin in speaking and judging things that he lacked knowledge of (God's ways and intentions).
- He takes back what he said folding in the attitude that went with it and repents (will respond differently in the future).
Note that Job does this before there is any change in his situation. He repents because he is wrong, not simply in order to have his health back or his wealth restored.
Epilogue – 42:7-17
After God's direct speeches to Job and Job's response, two more events take place to bring this episode in Job's life to a close.
1. Job's friends are condemned
7It came about after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is trustworthy, as My servant Job has. 8Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so as not to do with you as your foolishness deserves, because you have not spoken of Me what is trustworthy, as My servant Job has." 9So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job.
- Job 42:7-9
God corrects their false notion concerning the 'Law of Retribution' upon which they based their judgments and their condemnations of Job. Job had been partially correct in the end supposing that God may have reasons why the innocent suffer which were not known to man. The friends claimed they knew the mind and manner of God and sat in His judgment seat, and for this they were condemned.
Note that Job's forgiveness from God included his participation in the process of forgiveness and reconciliation of his friends with God as well. The teachings of Jesus (forgive our enemies, pray for them) are seen working right here with Job and his friends (Matthew 5:44).
2. Job is restored
10The Lord also restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased double all that Job had. 11Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they sympathized with him and comforted him for all the adversities that the Lord had brought on him. And each one gave him a piece of money, and each a ring of gold. 12The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand female donkeys. 13He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15In all the land no women were found as beautiful as Job's daughters; and their father gave them inheritances among their brothers. 16After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. 17And Job died, an old man and full of days.
- Job 42:10-17
The epilogue surely satisfies most people's desire for a happy ending, but not everyone feels this way. Some do not like the blessings that Job receives in the end because these take away from his status as a long-suffering "hero of faith" personae.
We need to consider, however, that this was not done as a reward (since Job was, perhaps, not guilty of losing faith, but rather presuming on God and challenging His ways). In this case, no reward was actually due to him for this failure. This ending, therefore, demonstrated God's continued attention to his servants before, during and after the crises in their lives.
Remember, Job is still called upon to have faith because even though he has survived the crisis of being in the presence of God, the Lord still hasn't revealed to Job the reason for all of his suffering (i.e. the devil's challenge that Job would lose his faith if he lost family and material wealth, etc.).
Despite the renewal of family, wealth, health and honor, Job must still trust God since his life is now to be based on faith and not wisdom or understanding.