The drama of the book of Job predates Moses and deals with timeless questions that remain relevant today. The familiar opening scene in heaven features a classic confrontation between God and Satan. The Accuser of the brethren claims that righteous Job, a man of considerable integrity, only serves God because he has been blessed with abundant prosperity. Strip everything away from him and he will fall away from the faith. That sets the stage for the cascading calamities that the Lord allows to afflict Job in rapid-fire succession. He ends up on the ash heap, scraping his boils, while his wife counsels him to “Curse God and die.”
As if that were not enough provocation to abandon his loyalty to God, three of his closest friends assume the role of counsellors and take turns advising him from a rigid perspective of Retribution Theology (“you reap what you sow”). With slightly different approaches, they build their arguments on the main premise that such severe suffering must be an indication that Job needs to repent of some particular sin – whether hidden or known to his conscience. But Job maintains that he is suffering unjustly – highlighting the perplexing issue of “Why do the righteous suffer?”
After a long period of perplexing silence, and a theological bridge through the intervention of another counselor Elihu, eventually the Lord engages with His servant and steers the discussion to the more foundational issues of His sovereignty in governing His creation according to His power and wisdom. The false perspectives of the counsellors are exposed and the limited perspective of Job forces him to admit his presumption and pride in challenging the ways of God in His life.
While the ultimate questions regarding “Why God allowed such suffering in this particular instance” are never really answered, the proper orientation of fearing and trusting God is reinforced so that Job is eventually vindicated and his fortunes restored.
SUBMISSION TO GOD’S INSCRUTABLE DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY FORTIFIES PERSEVERANCE IN THE MIDST OF PERPLEXING HUMAN SUFFERING
23:10 “But He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
(1:1 – 2:13) PROLOGUE – HARSH REALITY OF PERPLEXING SUFFERING
A. (1:1-5) Introduction to Job’s Character – Piety, Prosperity and Priestly Precaution –
The Hero of the Story Is Introduced as a Godly Man of Unrivaled Integrity, Wealth and Family Blessing
1 (:1) Job’s Piety and Integrity – His Wisdom
2. (:2-3) Job’s Prosperity – His Wealth
3. (:4-5) Job’s Priestly Precaution to Preserve Holiness – His Watchfulness
B. (1:6 – 2:13) Introduction of Job’s Shocking and Severe Trials
1. (1:6-12) The Challenge Initiating Job’s Trials –
The Removal of Prosperity Puts Our Devotion to God to the Test –
God Allows Satan to Test Job’s Motivation for Worship
2. (1:13-22) Passing the First Test –
Maintaining Devotion to God When Overwhelmed by Disasters –
Seemingly Undeserved Disasters Test Our Spiritual Foundation
3. (2:1-13) Passing the Second Test –
Maintaining Integrity in Times of Perplexing Suffering –
Satan’s Intensified Attacks Fail to Cause Job to Fail
I. (3:1 – 31:40) DIALOGUES OF DEBATE – 3 CYCLES
A. (3:1-26) Initial Complaint of Job – 3 Death Wishes —
When Tranquility Erupts into Unrelenting Turmoil Our Troubled Spirit Can Strenuously Complain
(:1) Prologue – Job Speaks and Curses His Birth
1. (:2-10) The Wish that He Had Not Been Born
2. (:11-19) The Wish that He Had Died at Birth
3. (:20-26) The Wish that He Could Die Now
B. (4:1 – 14:22) Cycle #1
1. (chs. 4-5) Eliphaz’s First Speech – Your Suffering is the Result of Your Sin –
Insensitive Counselors Wrongly Apply Their Limited Theology in Hurtful Ways
2. (chs. 6-7) Job’s First Reply to Eliphaz — Job Attacks His Counselors and His God –
via Lamenting and Complaining about His Undeserved Suffering
3. (ch. 8) Bildad’s First Speech – God’s Justice Demands that Sin Be the Issue –
The Rigid Traditionalist Remains Rooted in Retribution Theology
4. (chs. 9-10) Job’s First Reply to Bildad – Let Me Alone to Die in Peace –
Despair over Inability to Resolve Undeserved Suffering Raises 3 Troubling Fundamental Questions
5. (ch. 11) Zophar’s First Speech – Misapplying Good Theology –
Suffering Must Indicate Secret Sins that Demand Repentance Because God Knows All In His Secret Wisdom
6. (chs. 12-14) Job’s First Reply to Zophar
C. (15:1 – 21:34) Cycle #2
1. (ch. 15) Eliphaz’s Second Speech – Turning Up the Heat –
The Rebuke for Impiety Escalates to a Full-Scale Characterization of the Demise of the Wicked
2. (chs. 16-17) Job’s Second Reply to Eliphaz – Job’s Growing Complaint and Urgent Appeal to God for Vindication – Despondency Sets In as the Time for Vindication Evaporates
3. (ch. 18) Bildad’s Second Speech – What the Wicked Should Dread!
The Destiny of the Wicked Cannot be the Destiny of the Righteous
4. (ch. 19) Job’s Second Reply to Bildad – Judgment is Coming –
Certainty of Final Vindication Eases the Pain of Present Rejection and Puts False Accusers in Ultimate Jeopardy
5. (ch. 20) Zophar’s Second Speech – The Portion of the Wicked Man –
The Horrible Fate of the Wicked, While True, Bears No Application to the Righteous in Their Suffering
6. (ch. 21) Job’s Second Reply to Zophar – The Observable Prosperity of the Wicked Refutes the Rigid Application of the Doctrine of Retribution
D. (22:1 – 26:14) Cycle #3
1. (ch. 22) Eliphaz’s Third Speech – Turn and Be Restored –
Call to Repentance to Experience the Power of a Restored Relationship with God
2. (chs. 23-24) Job’s Third Reply to Eliphaz
3. (ch. 25) Bildad’s Third Speech – Maggot Theology = Insignificant Man Should Forget about seeking Vindication and Purity from the Majestic God Who Reigns Above
4. (ch. 26) Job’s Third Reply to Bildad – Your Counsel Is Worthless –
Worthless Counsel Fails to Draw Out Relevant Applications from the Awesome Power of the Majestic God
E. (27:1 – 31:40) Final Defense of Job
1. (27:1-23) Job’s First Monologue – Job Reaffirms His Righteous Integrity, the Vanity of Hypocrisy and the Doomed Destiny of the Wicked – 3 Reaffirmations
2. (28:1-28) Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?
Wisdom Can Only Be Found in Communion with God by Divine Revelation as We Fear Him and Turn away from Evil
3. (ch. 29-31) Job’s Second Monologue
II. (32:1 – 37:24) ELIHU’S SPEECHES – THEOLOGICAL BRIDGE – ENHANCED PERSPECTIVE ON SUFFERING
A. (32:1-22) Elihu’s Introduction: Impassioned and Impelled to Speak –
The Burden for Imparting Wisdom Falls on Those Truly Inspired by God Regardless of Age or Experience
1. (:1-5) Impassioned by Anger and Impatient to Speak
2. (:6-22) Impelled to Speak – 4 Motivations
B. (33:1-33) Elihu’s First Speech: God Does Speak – But in Unexpected Ways –
God Uses Dreams, Pain and Mediation to Communicate How One Can Avoid the Tragic Consequences of Sin and Enjoy His Grace
(:1-7) Elihu’s Pleading for a Hearing – Receive My Words and Respect My Arguments
1. (:8-12) Transcendence of God = Starting Point for Elihu
2. (:13-14) Thesis – God Communicates in a Variety of Ways that Man Might Miss
3. (:15-30) Three Methods of Divine Communication
(:31-33) Elihu’s Closing Appeal
C. (34:1-37) Elihu’s Second Speech: Defense of God’s Justice –
Both the Character and Governance of God Refute Any Charge of Injustice
(:1-4) Prologue – Elihu’s Second Speech
(:2-4) Call for Discernment
1. (:5-9) Elihu’s Mischaracterization of Job’s Attack against God’s Justice
2. (:10-30) Elihu’s Defense of God’s Justice
3. (:31-37) Personal Polemic against Job
D. (35:1-16) Elihu’s Third Speech: Waiting for God When He Is Silent –
Defending the Justice of God Involves Wrestling with Difficult Questions
(:1) Prologue – Elihu’s Third Speech
1. (:2-8) Question #1 – What Is the Point of Being Good?
2. (:9-16) Question #2 – Why Is There No Answer from God?
E. (36:1 – 37:24) Elihu’s Fourth Speech: Not WHY Do You Suffer — But WHAT Can You Learn – God’s Power and Wisdom as Displayed in Nature Reinforce His Justice and Use of Affliction for Discipline to Recover the Wayward Righteous
(36:1) Prologue – Elihu’s Fourth Speech
(36:2-4) Introduction – The Credibility of the Speaker
1. (36:5-25) The Justice of God Disciplines the Wayward Righteous via Affliction to Attempt to Recover Them
(36:26) Transition – Exaltation of the Inscrutable Eternal God of Wisdom
2. (36:27 – 37:20) God’s Greatness, Power and Wisdom Reflected in Nature for Man to Contemplate
(37:21-24) Epilogue – The Divine Splendor
III. (38:1 – 42:6) DIVINE RECKONING OF INSCRUTABLE SOVEREIGNTY
A. (38:1 – 40:2) First Interrogation of Job Regarding God’s Created Order –
God’s Awesome Design and Providential Control of the Universe and All that Is in It Should Cause Us to Humbly Submit
(38:1) Prologue – The Lord Answers Job
(38:2-3) Opening Challenge and Rebuke – Putting Job in His Place
1. (38:4-15) Interrogation Regarding Creation
2. (38:16-38) Interrogation Regarding Control over the Inanimate World
3. (38:39 – 39:30) Interrogation Regarding Control over the Animate World
(40:1-2) Closing Challenge and Rebuke – Will You Now Submit?
B. (40:3-5) Job’s First Reply – Job Humbled and Silenced –
Confronted with His Relative Smallness, Job Is Humbled and Silenced
(:3) Prologue – Job’s First Reply
1. (:4) Job Is Silenced in Light of His Relative Smallness
2. (:5) Job Offers No More Challenges to God’s Justice
C. (40:6 – 41:34) Second Interrogation of Job – Who Is Calling the Shots in God’s Moral Universe? Only the Creator and Controller of the Most Powerful and Impressive Creatures Can Determine What Is Just in Overall World Governance
(40:6) Prologue: Second Set of Questions Issued by the Lord
1. (40:7-14) Challenging Questions to Put Job in His Place
2. (40:15 – 41:34) Reflecting on God’s Creation and Control of the Ultimate Land and Sea Creatures – Behemoth and Leviathan
D. (42:1-6) Job Responds in Humble Repentance –
An Appreciation of God’s Person and Sovereign Working in Our Lives (His Power and His Wisdom) Removes All Presumption and Pride
1. (:2) Confession of Divine Sovereignty – Two Components
2. (:3) Confession of Human Presumption and Pride
3. (:4-6) Repentance that Humbles Oneself in Submission before God
(42:7-17) EPILOGUE – HAPPY RESOLUTION OF DIVINE BLESSING –
THE OUTCOME – JOB VINDICATED AND RESTORED
A. (42:7b-9) Job Vindicated – Yahweh’s Verdict
1. (:7b) God Rebukes Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar
2. (:8) Intercession of Job
3. (:9) Obedience and Divine Acceptance
B. (42:10-17) Job Restored – God Restores Job’s Fortune, Family and Fullness of Life
1. (:10-12) Restoration of Job’s Fortune
2. (:13-15) Restoration of Job’s Family
3. (:16-17) Restoration of Job’s Fullness of life
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
To help us better understand and endure suffering so we can respond appropriately and better comfort others – finding hope in the midst of pain.
To honestly grapple with some of the more difficult and perplexing issues of living in a fallen world as we grow in our intellectual humility.
To expose the tactics of Satan as the curtain is lifted to help us see the activity in the invisible realm.
To broaden our understanding of the operation of God’s sovereignty and the inscrutability of His divine plan
as we better understand God for Who He Is and How He Operates.
To caution us against accepting superficial human interpretations of our circumstances (based on limited, finite knowledge)
that fail to encompass the overall divine perspective.
To contrast the inadequacy of human friendship with the faithfulness and sufficiency of God’s commitment to His children.
To increase our fear and awe of God’s character and His outworking of His kingdom agenda.
To view our suffering against the backdrop of the ultimate righteous sufferings of Jesus Christ who brings us grace in the gospel.
David Clines: Job is the most intense book theologically and intellectually of the Old Testament.
John MacArthur: Why does suffering exist in the world? Why does God allow the righteous to endure tragedy when the wicked often seem to enjoy lives of luxury? Where is God in time of pain? These questions have puzzled people for centuries, with no easy answers at hand. Thankfully, we can wrestle with the underlying themes of those questions by exploring the story of Job.
Alfred Edersheim: We cannot understand the meaning of many trials; God does not explain them. To explain a trial would be to destroy its object, which is that of calling forth simple faith and implicit obedience. If we knew why the Lord sent us this or that trial, it would thereby cease to be a trial either of faith or of patience.
John Stott: The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation. Its distribution and degree appear to be entirely random and therefore unfair. Sensitive spirits ask if it can possibly be reconciled with God’s justice and love.
Cyril Barber: A careful consideration of the book of Job reveals a host of unexpected riches. These include insights into God’s sovereignty, and His goodness and justice; Satan is shown to be the adversary of God and the accuser of His people (cf. Zechariah 3:1; Revelation 12:9-10); and Job illustrates for us the appropriate response of a sufferer to his suffering.
Tremper Longman: Indeed, it would be wrong to hold up the Job of the canonical book as an example of a proper attitude toward God, considering that God himself speaks to him out of the whirlwind and spends four chapters putting him in his place and leading him to “repentance.” Certainly, that Job never abandoned God but kept pursuing him is a good thing, but not the best thing. Job’s attitude at the end, where he finally bows in submission in deference to God and in the face of the mystery of his suffering, is the attitude advocated by the book of Job.
Francis Andersen: Men seek an explanation of suffering in cause and effect. They look backwards for a connection between prior sin and present suffering. The Bible looks forward in hope and seeks explanations not so much in origins as in goals. [Scripture teaches us that] the purpose of suffering is seen, not in its cause, but in its result.