Job’s Misconceptions About God
- Chapter One: We meet Job and are told the details about his family, his influence, and his wealth. We also see “behind the scenes” and are given a glimpse of God’s Divine Council where Satan challenges God to allow him access to Job. In a way, Job is Yahweh’s champion, standing up to the works of Satan. This is one way where Job is a sort of Christ like figure. God assents and Satan “steals, kills, and destroys” (John 10:10) everything external to Job.
- Chapter Two: Satan’s first plan of attack hasn’t worked and so once again, he petitions God for permission to attack Job personal. God assents and Job is afflicted with some sort of malady that keeps him in constant pain and misery. Three of Job’s friends hear of his troubles and they come to comfort him.
- Chapter 3: Seven days after the arrival of his friends, Job breaks his silence. Chapter three expresses his deep grief. It is a lament. He believes that his would be better off dead and sees no way out of his current circumstances. Job is in the dark night of the soul.
- Chapters 4-5: The first of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, responds. Much of what Eliphaz tells Job is true; however, he makes some false assumptions based on false revelation. Eliphaz’s advice is a reminder that we must always use true discernment to distinguish what is deception from what is true.
This is Job’s response:
Job 6 (NIV)
Then Job replied:
2 “If only my anguish could be weighed
and all my misery be placed on the scales!
3 It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—
no wonder my words have been impetuous.
4 The arrows of the Almighty are in me,
my spirit drinks in their poison;
God’s terrors are marshaled against me.
5 Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass,
or an ox bellow when it has fodder?
6 Is tasteless food eaten without salt,
or is there flavor in the sap of the mallow?
7 I refuse to touch it;
such food makes me ill.
In the previous dialogue, Eliphaz chastises Job for losing hope when Job himself has given encouragement to so many other people when they were in similar circumstances. Eliphaz has told him, “it’s time for your faith to proof.”
Job begins his response by pointing out that he has reason for his despair: “God’s terrors are marshalled against [him].” His grief is natural and wholly appropriate.
And Job is right.
This is a thing to remember, that we have to acknowledge that there is a cause for grief. Job had comforted many people going through hard times when he himself was in a place of security and comfort. He had encouraged them to trust In God and his goodness, and now he was facing the same challenges as those he had comforted. Job’s first response is “I have reason to feel this way.” He does, just as the people he had comforted in the past did as well.
The second thing to notice in this section is that Job is still seeing that his afflictions are coming solely from God … and we have seen in the beginning of the book that they are not. Job is not seeing the whole picture. Just as Eliphaz misjudges Job and believes that Job did something to bring about the calamities that befell him, Job misjudges God.
Job isn’t seeing the whole picture. While in his position of wealth and influence, he was doing the right thing … comforting the downtrodden and giving to the poor … I would be willing to bet that he didn’t truly understand the position of those he was helping. How could he when he had never been in their shoes? Now he does.
8 “Oh, that I might have my request,
that God would grant what I hope for,
9 that God would be willing to crush me,
to let loose his hand and cut off my life!
10 Then I would still have this consolation—
my joy in unrelenting pain—
that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.
Job still doesn’t see any way out of his situation other than death. Eliphaz had advised that he go to God for help; at this point, Job doesn’t even know what to ask for.
11 “What strength do I have, that I should still hope?
What prospects, that I should be patient?
12 Do I have the strength of stone?
Is my flesh bronze?
13 Do I have any power to help myself,
now that success has been driven from me?
14 “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend
forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
15 But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams,
as the streams that overflow
16 when darkened by thawing ice
and swollen with melting snow,-
17 but that stop flowing in the dry season,
and in the heat vanish from their channels.
18 Caravans turn aside from their routes;
they go off into the wasteland and perish.
19 The caravans of Tema look for water,
the traveling merchants of Sheba look in hope.
20 They are distressed, because they had been confident;
they arrive there, only to be disappointed.
21 Now you too have proved to be of no help;
you see something dreadful and are afraid.
22 Have I ever said, ‘Give something on my behalf,
pay a ransom for me from your wealth,
23 deliver me from the hand of the enemy,
rescue me from the clutches of the ruthless’?
We see here that Job still has family, he has brothers, but they are no where to be found. He can’t depend on them.
And then he turns to his friends and tells them they are no help either. He recognizes their fear in that what happened to him could happen to them … so they want to find a cause, some fault of Job’s, for Job’s condition. And then he asks them, “Have I asked you to help me?” He points out that what he needs .. Provisions, to be ransomed, delivered, and rescued … he hasn’t asked it of them. And they haven’t offered.
24 “Teach me, and I will be quiet;
show me where I have been wrong.
25 How painful are honest words!
But what do your arguments prove?
26 Do you mean to correct what I say,
and treat my desperate words as wind?
27 You would even cast lots for the fatherless
and barter away your friend.
28 “But now be so kind as to look at me.
Would I lie to your face?
29 Relent, do not be unjust;
reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.
30 Is there any wickedness on my lips?
Can my mouth not discern malice?
Job’s friends are so far disregarding his words, but Job assures them that he is being open and honest with them.
“Do not mortals have hard service on earth?
Are not their days like those of hired laborers?
2 Like a slave longing for the evening shadows,
or a hired laborer waiting to be paid,
3 so I have been allotted months of futility,
and nights of misery have been assigned to me.
4 When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’
The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn.
5 My body is clothed with worms and scabs,
my skin is broken and festering.
Job acknowledges that the lot of humans on earth is labor. That there is not true rest, even his nights are not comforting to him. Here, Job is acknowledging the truth of the Genesis curse. In wanting to know both Good and Evil, Adam and Even wanted to know the absence of God’s presence, which is struggle and labor
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17b-19)
But back to Job:
6 “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,
and they come to an end without hope.
7 Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath;
my eyes will never see happiness again.
8 The eye that now sees me will see me no longer;
you will look for me, but I will be no more.
9 As a cloud vanishes and is gone,
so one who goes down to the grave does not return.
10 He will never come to his house again;
his place will know him no more.
Job points out how short life is, it is “but a breath.”
11 “Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
12 Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep,
that you put me under guard?
13 When I think my bed will comfort me
and my couch will ease my complaint,
14 even then you frighten me with dreams
and terrify me with visions,
15 so that I prefer strangling and death,
rather than this body of mine.
16 I despise my life; I would not live forever.
Let me alone; my days have no meaning.
Not only is Job in constant physical pain, but he is even being tormented in his sleep. He is having nightmares. He has no rest. His life has no purpose and he says, “I would not live forever, “ because it would be nothing but eternal misery.
17 “What is mankind that you make so much of them,
that you give them so much attention,
18 that you examine them every morning
and test them every moment?
19 Will you never look away from me,
or let me alone even for an instant?
20 If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
you who see everything we do?
Why have you made me your target?
Have I become a burden to you?
21 Why do you not pardon my offenses
and forgive my sins?
For I will soon lie down in the dust;
you will search for me, but I will be no more.”
What is man that God notices him? This is a recurring theme isn’t it? Eliphaz’s night time visitor thinks that man isn’t worth notice. Job asks the same question, but sees God’s attention as testing them and putting man through trials. However, as we saw last week in Psalm 8, David had a completely different perspective on that attention from God. David writes:
1 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Do We Believe God Wants Good For Us?
What a difference perspective makes doesn’t it? Job doesn’t have hope at this point because he doesn’t have the right perspective. Not only does he not understand all the forces that are at work in the situation, but when it comes down to it, he doesn’t understand the nature and character of God. Eliphaz has more confidence in the justice and righteousness of God, but doesn’t truly understand God’s mercy, and if we don’t understand God’s mercy … then we can’t really understand his goodness either.
And if we don’t really understand God’s goodness, then we can’t truly trust him.
Job has been obedient to God his whole life. His life has been the evidence of one who has lived in the “fear of the Lord,” a proper perspective of respect and awe.
But as odd as this sounds, God allowing Satan to put Job through the most difficult of trials was an opportunity to come into true relationship with God. As we talked about in the Bible study of Job 3 and Job’s dark night of the soul, it is at the other end of that darkness that we come into true communion with God because it is in the darkness, when we have nothing left to do other than rely on God, that we learn who he is?
The question is, “who is God to you?” Do you believe that you can trust him and that he wants good things for you. These are the words of Jeremiah to the Jews just as they were being taken into captivity:
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God didn’t cause their captivity, the Israelites brought it upon themselves because of their disobedience. But God allowed it because that trial would bring them to a better end.
Even though it doesn’t seem like it and Job doesn’t understand or even have the slightest glimpse of hope yet, God is working out his plans for Job’s life. When we are in the same place as Job, when we can’t see the purpose or the way out, proclaim the words of David.
Psalm 138:8 NLT
The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me.
This Bible study is part of A Study of Job (2021)