When the curtain came down on the dramatic narrative of the life of Job in chapter 3, he was in the midst of a monologue cursing the day of his birth. “For the thing that I fear came upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest; but trouble comes” (Job 3:26). Job feared what all people fear to one degree or another and that is loss of loved ones, loss of income, and loss of health. The troubles of life came to Job, not in stages, but in crashing waves of overwhelming disorder.
Even his friends turned against him in their language if not in their love. Believing Job to be guilty of secret sins, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, set out to expose the inward corruption of the suffering saint. They would argue passionately and at times persuasively for their point of view.
However, the main problem in the debate to follow was that the pre-suppositional thinking of Job’s friends was wrong. The friends of Job argued from the concept that, “prosperity was the result and reward of god-fearing goodness, and disaster and suffering of wrong-doing” (H. L. Ellison).
But what happens when the truth is that Job was a perfect man before the Lord? “All sides of his life and character were harmoniously developed” (Ellison). What is to be done with a theology that has not considered the angelic conflict or the attack of Satan upon the soul?
One irony of this situation is that there was a time when Job would have agreed with his friends and the adversarial judgment they held. But now, since he is the victim of his own theology, what is he to do? Job realizes that he does not deserve the suffering he is forced to endure. Job understands that prosperity is not the result and reward of god-fearing goodness, and disaster and suffering of wrong-doing for bad things do happen to good people. Job realizes that an adjustment has to be made in his religious thinking.
In this matter, Job is not alone. There are modern day parallels. Consider, for example, the person who has grown up in a church that teaches salvation by good works. Then, they come under the sound of the gospel which teaches that good works actually condemns man if used as a means of salvation, for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God.
On a Wednesday morning, a small group of ladies met for prayer and Bible study. Though they all come from different denominational backgrounds there is a common element: they have all been taught many things contrary to sound doctrine and contrary to the historic faith of the Church. What can be done?
There is only one thing for all people to do when confronted with the reality that present doctrinal thinking is unacceptable in the presence of spiritual truth. There must be a return to God. Most people do not need another book, another seminar, another sermon or another counseling session. But they do need God. They need to go to God. That is what Job had to do and it what his three companions will have to do as well before the situation is concluded. “[Meanwhile] Though they have no understanding for the plight of their friend, it is the three [Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar] who really help Job back to peace. [They do this in a negative way] for they so increase his anguish that they drive him back to God” (H.L. Ellison).
Ah, to go back to God! That is the ultimate solution to all of life’s problems. Job will have to return to the Lord. He will have to speak of God and search for Him until Elohim is pleased to reveal Himself to His servant. And, according to chapter 38 that is what happened.
The curtain now rises for the last time on the closing narrative. The audience is introduced to something sensational. God has come to speak to His suffering servant. He has come to end the religious debate. He has come to set the record straight. He has come to vindicate Job.
The means the Lord used to manifest His presence was a whirlwind. It was while Elihu was speaking that storm clouds had covered the sky and blotted out the sun. The sound of thunder roared in the background (Job 36:29-37:5). Now he full thunder roll was heard overhead. The gloom of the darkened day was illuminated by flashes of lightening.
Four men couched in fear as they turned their faces towards the sky. Three of the men started to flee into the city until they noticed the look on the face of Job. He was not afraid anymore. There was a joyous and humble calmness about his composure. The Almighty God of the Universe came to him. Clothed in the dread of Divine majesty of nature, God had come to speak to Job, and Job was speaking back to….Someone?
It is possible that Job’s friends found themselves in the same position as Paul’s traveling companions on the Damascus Road in that they heard the sound of something but saw no man (Acts 9:7). For Job, the storm became the voice of God speaking directly to him, though his friends could make out no distinguishing sound. It did not matter. What God had to say to Job was something very personal and very simple. “Job, I want you to hush. And I want your friends to be silent as well. There has been a lot of debate about the subject of suffering. I want the discussion to end and the affirmation of faith to begin again.”
In order to facilitate this, the Lord began to ask Job a series of question. “[Job] Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me“(Job 38:3). Here is the heart of the whole problem. Since chapter 3 man has put God In The Dock, to use the words of the English writer C.S. Lewis. Man has put God on the witness stand while assuming the position of Judge and Jury. The Creation had in essence been asking all the questions of the Creator.
“God, why do the righteous suffer? “
“Lord, what is the cause of pain?”
“Father-God, how can you be good in the presence of evil?”
“Lord of Heaven, if you are a God of love, why won’t you do something about the plight of man?”
In the search for answers, Job and his friends argued about these theological issues in poetic language. They have talked about God, now the time had come to talk to God directly, or better, to listen to Him intently. Divine Sovereignty stepped forward to reverse the roles. The creature would become subordinate once more to the Creator, as the Sovereign has some questions to ask of His subject. “[Job] where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding.
Who laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof; [And Job], when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy [where were you]? “
The truth of the matter is that Job knows nothing of how the earth was established (Job 38:4-7). He knows nothing of how the seas stay within their boundaries without spilling over all the land (38:8-11). Job has no understanding of the morning light (38:12-15). He has nothing to say about the dark recesses of the depths of the sea and caves of the earth (38:16-21). Job cannot comment on the water carried by the clouds (38:22-27), nor the secret counsels to which they are directed.
Job has nothing to offer in the production of the rain, or frost, or lightning (38:28-30, 34, 35, 37, 38). Job cannot direct the stars and their influence (Job 38: 36, 31-33). Job cannot even provide for the lions of the field nor the ravens of the air (Job 38:39-41), which led Matthew Henry to offer this comment. “If, in these ordinary works of nature, Job was puzzled, how durst [dare] he pretend to dive into the counsels of God’s government and to judge of them? “
Overwhelmed by the weight of the questions and the majesty of the Almighty, Job bows, and then breaks under the penetrating power of omnipotence. He has no right to question God on anything. “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct Him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it’ (Job 40:2).
“And Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.”
Here is the appropriate posture to take before the Lord when faced with the great mysteries of life. Man should lay a hand upon his mouth. He should not curse God and die. Nor should he curse the day of his birth. Man should not think harsh thoughts about the Lord, nor should he pretend to understand all the complexities of creation. What man can and should do is to remember the majesty of the Almighty and praise Him, all the while desiring to know the Lord better. In the end, Job did this.
First, he praised the Lord. “I know, [said Job], that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee” (Job 42:1).
Second, Job expressed his longing to know the Lord more intimately, all the while realizing his unworthiness to behold God. “I have heard of thee, [he whispered] by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
The book of Job began with sacrifices being offered for sin; it concludes with repentance for the same. And yet, the suffering saint cast out of the city, has found that God still loved him. God drew near, first to correct and then to comfort His faithful servant which leads to this thought.
If you are in need of Divine comfort, then let me suggest the experience of Job. If you want to be found in the presence of God, then pray this simple prayer: “Lord, I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: now let mine eye see thee.” If the Lord is gracious, He will give you spiritual eyes to see His majesty. He is in the whirlwind. Nature shouts, and shouts again, that God has clothed Himself with majesty and excellence and arrayed Himself with glory and beauty (Job 40:10). His voice is the voice of thunder.
But that is not enough, is it? God in nature is too abstract and mysterious for most people. We need something else to tell us about God. But what could it be? The scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer noted that, “The best way to send an idea, is to wrap it up in a person.” The theological word for all of that is incarnation, meaning, “in the flesh.” Jesus was the incarnation of God. The Bible says that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh (John 1:1; 1:14). If the Lord is gracious, He will give spiritual eyes to see the incarnate Christ on the Cross of Calvary in all of its splendor and gore.
Calvary is gory because it is bloody. The Son of God was sacrificed there and sacrifices are messy. But Calvary is also full of splendor because it was there that Christ bore the sins of the elect in His own body.
“Oh, that old, rugged Cross,
so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God
left His glory above,
To bear it to dark Calvary.
So I’ll cherish the old, rugged Cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down.
I will cling to the old, rugged Cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown”.
When we suffer, let us go to Calvary and stand in the presence of God who suffers with man. It is a great mystery, but there it is. And while the death of deaths in the death of Christ cannot be understood any more than our own pain, at least we know afresh, we are not alone. The heart of God hurts with us. In the end, we can say that the Almighty God has done all things well. We stand in His presence. We wonder. We watch. We wait for Divine relief for time and for eternity.
“Come, thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s unchanging love.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be.
Let that grace now, like a fetter,
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.”