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The Book of Job

The Book of Job, Chapters 28-42, Biblical study by J. I. Packer

Week 7 | Job 28-31

Job 28 is really good! Incredible and so interesting! Job said that wisdom cannot be found no matter how much we look for it on this earth. Wisdom is only available through God. Wisdom is fearing God. Job 28:1-11 describes all of the places that man searches for it, ranging from caves deep within the earth to the sky. If Job knew about outer space, I think he would have concluded that wisdom cannot be found there either. We can search as far and as deep and as much as we want, but wisdom cannot be found on this earth. Job 28:12-19 says that wisdom is worth more than anything we can comprehend. It cannot be compared to gold, silver, onyx, sapphire, crystals, or rubies. Job 28:20-28 says that only God understands wisdom – only God knows where she can be found and how much she is worth. Only God knows. The greatest wisdom for man is fearing God; fear God and shun evil.

We cannot find wisdom in God’s creation. Anything that God created is not the source of wisdom. It is simply creation. Job said that he feared God, and later that his greatest fears were realized. Therefore, Job faced God’s enmity, which was his greatest fear. Since Job fears God, and since he is in the process of experiencing fear, does this also mean that he is gaining wisdom? Yes! I think that is correct! I think that Job learned to fear God more, and in the process of fearing Him gained wisdom about Him. What about the friends? Did they fear God also? Did they gain wisdom also?

Jab lamented about his losses and previous public position. But before he mentioned anything about wealth or reputation, Job first lamented about losing God's blessings. He missed God’s light, then he missed God’s intimate friendship, and then he missed his children. God before children before wealth and reputation. Job’s first commitment was to God.

Job reflected on what he did with his wealth, power, and reputation. He rescued the poor, helped the helpless and fatherless, helped the widow and the dying, provided justice, provided help to the lame and the blind, and punished the wicked. It is possible that Job was a judge. But regardless of his formal position, he used his gifts and blessings to help the needy. He helped those less fortunate than himself and he missed that he could do not do those things in the midst of his suffering. Check out Job’s heart posture! Obviously he cared for people. He wanted to be restored so that he could help more people. That’s what I want my attitude to be like. I want to be willing to give my skills and resources to help. I want to invite other people to live life with me and share my abilities. Sometimes, I need a heart adjustment.

Lord, work in my heart for a greater desire to love and care for the helpless and needy, just like Job did. Change my heart Lord to be more like Job’s and to be more like yours. Amen.

Job cared about his earthly position because he cared about the people that he was able to help. He wept for the poor and the broken. Job cared for the hurting, but it seemed like only a few friends cared for Job during his time of suffering. Ultimately, Job seemed to care more about others than he cared about himself.

Job argued that he did not look lustfully at other women, and that God would be just to punish him if he had sinned in this area. Similarly, he acted rightly towards his servants, shared his food, provided clothing for the needy, acted justly in court, did not put his trust in gold, did not worship the sun or the moon, did not curse God, opened his door to strangers, and did not try to conceal any of his sins. Job maintained his innocence and blamelessness. Are there any items on Job’s list that I cannot do? No. I can do everything that Job did, and there is no reason that I should not strive to emulate Job.

At the end of this section, Job still wanted to take God to court. Job felt like he was not being sentenced fairly, and he wanted to know why.

Week 8 | Job 32-37

Elihu waits to speak, because the other 3 men – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – were older than him. Typically, old age is associated with wisdom. Elihu listened to all the augments of the friends in addition to Job’s rebuttals, and from listening, he formulated an alternate viewpoint. Elihu said that God gives wisdom. Although age is typically associated with wisdom, wisdom and understanding ultimately comes from God.

Elihu is intelligent and well-spoken. He is also patient and wise. Is there any sin or hubris in Elihu’s words that are spoken in chapter 32? I don’t think so. Elihu listens and waits, and then after considering his position, he speaks. I can relate to Elihu. This is often what I do. I sit back, I listen to what other people have to say, I contest my own ideas against those ideas already presented, and then if I feel like I have something valuable to add then I speak up. This sounds like what Elihu is doing. Is there anything wrong that? In most situations, I do not think so.

In chapter 33, Elihu summarizes Job’s protest against God. Job’s protest is essentially that God does not answer any of Job’s words. Elihu argues that Job is incorrect and that God speaks in many different ways. Does Elihu accurately summarize Job’s complaint? Yes, I think so. I think that Elihu listened closely and provided an accurate and concise summary of Job’s argument.

Elihu lists 3 ways that God speaks:

  1. In dreams and visions – the purpose is to offer warnings, turn men away from wrong-doing, and to prevent pride

  2. Through suffering – the purpose is to rebuke with the goal of correction, that is, the purpose is to chasten

  3. Through mediating angels – the purpose is to mediate with God on behalf of sinful men, prevent men from being punished, which is exactly what they deserve, and restore men to righteousness

God did not speak to Job in a dream or vision (option 1). Job is in the process of suffering, so it seems that option 2 is relevant, but as readers we know that Job is not suffering as a form of punishment. Therefore, God is not speaking to Job via suffering (option 2). Similarly, option 3 is not applicable to Job, because he is clearly not being rescued from suffering.

In chapter 34, Elihu addresses Job’s claim of divine injustice. God cannot do evil and God is never wrong. God would never pervert justice, which means that a man gets what he deserves. Elihu argues that God created the entire earth, and therefore God has the right to govern the whole earth. God appoints kings and tears down kings. God knows the deeds of every man, and not even a king can escape God’s justice; therefore, evil will be punished. According to Elihu, God exalts the righteous and afflicts the wicked. God gives prosperity to the obedient and death to the wicked. In these terms, Elihu’s words and conclusions are the same as the other friends.

Elihu accuses Job of responding like a wicked man. Elihu maintains that Job had past sin which is the cause for his suffering, and furthermore that the Job’s suffering continues to increase because Job continues to sin by proclaiming his innocence. Therefore, Job’s suffering is increasing because his responses are wicked and rebellious.

In chapter 35, Elihu does not accurately summarize Job’s argument. Job questions God, but Job never asks God, “what do I gain?” Job wants to be cleansed from his sin, if sin is indeed what caused his suffering. It is clear that Job does not think that forgiveness is pointless. There is value in God’s forgiveness and grace.

Elihu says that your actions do not affect God. Wicked acts and righteous acts alike only affect men. Elihu then claims that God does not answer the pleas of wicked men because they are arrogant. By saying this, Elihu implies that God only answers the pleas of the righteous and that God does not hear the wicked. This implies that since there is sin in Job’s life, God will not listen to Job’s requests, and consequently Job’s words are empty. Job complains that God does not listen and respond, and Elihu claims that God does not listen to the wicked. Therefore, God’s lack of a response should not be a surprise.

Elihu, Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar all agree that Job is suffering because of sin. Similarly, all of Job’s friends agree that God is powerful beyond our comprehension. God can do whatever He wants, and our breadth of understanding compared to His is nothing. Because we know so little compared to our God, the friends argue that we have no right to question God. Job should recognize that he is nothing before the Lord, humble himself, and not question God’s actions. I think that Job’s friends are partially correct in their argument but also partially incorrect. They are correct that we cannot compare to God on any account. However, I think that they are incorrect with their implication that we mean nothing to God. God loves every single person, and God cares deeply about our actions and decisions. He basks in His majesty when we praise Him, and He thunders his anger when we act wickedly. Furthermore, I think that God does not mind when we question Him. For these reasons, I think that Job’s words are not empty, God hears our prayers, and Elihu’s argument is not sound.

Elihu asks Job to stop and consider God’s power. God directs all aspects of nature – surely, Job knows this fact. Similarly, Job should recognize that his own power is substantially less than that of God’s. Elihu asserts that Job should not be questioning God. Instead, Job should recognize God’s power and worship His perfection and completeness. Concisely, Elihu is asserting that Job is arrogant and needs to humble himself. Like all the speeches prior, Elihu’s speech is full of false assumptions about God. The primary fault is that sin produces suffering and righteousness yields prosperity.

Week 9 | Job 38-40:5

God answers Job out of the storm. Does the storm suggest that God offers protection and rules over all evil? Is this the message that God was trying to send Job by appearing out of a storm? That is what Packer seems to imply.

God tells Job to brace himself “like a man.” God questions Job but does not accuse Job of any sins. Job wanted to summon and confront God, and here God is directly in front of Job. When Job considered his confrontation with God, he imagined that God would overwhelm him, torment him, and increase his suffering. God does none of those things. God simply questions Job and asserts His divine authority. God does not belittle Job in any way or increase Job’s misery in any way. This makes sense since God did not directly impose Job’s suffering.

In chapter 3, Job cursed the day that he was born. He saw everything as darkness, and he spoke of the darkness overwhelming the light. Job also said that no shouts of joy could be heard. In chapter 38, the Lord counters Job’s weeping by implying that during creation all of the star sang together, there was light, and the angels shouted for joy. In chapter 9, Job lamented that he could not see God, perceive God, dispute with God, or plead with God. Yet, in chapter 38, God spoke directly to Job. Therefore, God challenged both of Job’s major arguments – that darkness overwhelms the light and that God cannot be confronted. By describing creation, God’s words should help re-orient Job’s perspectives. Job agrees that we cannot fathom God’s power; we cannot create the earth, move mountains, direct lightning, or dry up oceans like God can.

Typically, we think of the ocean as something so vast and powerful that we cannot control it. Similarly, due to the ocean’s depth and magnitude, much of the ocean is unknown to us. The ocean is intimidating, but God says that he places bonds on the ocean and that the sea is trapped by God’s chains. The ocean’s border, which is incomprehensibly vast to humanity, is well-within God’s comprehension. This is a reminder that God is capable of so much more than me or Job. The ocean is a great example to visualize God’s power, because the ocean feels like something that we can almost understand. We see it clearly at the beach, we swim in it, we sail boats across it, and we explore its depths with our submarines. Because we interact directly with the ocean, we can sometimes feel like we understand it’s depths. But at other times, during times of clarity, we realize that the ocean is more vast and powerful than we can understand. We consider the innumerable lives that it supports, the vast number of habitats that it nourishes, the uncountable miles of shoreline, the power of waves, the dangers of boating, and the deaths caused by oceanic catastrophes. In reality, the ocean is far beyond our ability to comprehend, despite our small pieces of understanding about it. To God, the ocean is nothing. The waters are fully under his control and dominion. He understands all of the ocean’s depths and its power. I do not. We, as a collective humanity, over thousands of years of existence, do not fully understand the ocean. Compared to our Father, I know nothing. Like Job, I have no power compared to God.

The wicked do not experience the light. Dawn and the rising sun, do not reach the wicked. This means that the day only comes to the righteous. The wicked do not experience the dawn; therefore, they do not experience the day, and they do not live.

God describes lions and ravens. Lions are powerful, mighty, and majestic predators. On the other hand, ravens are unclean and frightful scavengers. Lions assert their dominance in the daylight; lions are not scared of the light. Ravens, on the other hand, cower in the darkness and eat only the scraps left by the lions. Lions and ravens are two drastically different types of animals, yet God’s knowledge and care for both types of creatures is equal. He provides for and cares for lions and ravens with discrimination. God knows all types. Why do these two animals exist as universal symbols? We all understand what it means to be a lion or a raven. How is that possible? How is possible that we all understand the symbolic nature of a lion? Job 38 and 39 are full of symbolism. Why are animals so symbolic? Chinese calendars, children books, pendants, school mascots – in all of these things, animals are used to symbolize something profound and important. I think it is amazing that we all understand the symbolism implied by different types of animals; that is why we can use them in children books and movies, and our children understand. Animals are universal and we all understand.

In chapter 40, God gives Job the opportunity to respond. Job submits himself to God’s authority and chooses to remain silent. When wisdom speaks, shut up. Job thought that God would overwhelm him; God did not. Job thought that he would be aware enough to question God; Job was not.

Week 10 | Job 40:6-41

In a way, God mocked Job. God said that it is unreasonable to think that God does not serve justice. Job tried to discredit God’s justice, and God responded with a list of rhetorical questions. Does Job have the power to bring proud men low? Can Job crush the wicked and humble the proud? Does Job have the power to save himself? No, no, and no. Only God can do these things. God describes himself as a “divine warrior” that battles injustice, humbles the proud, and crushes the wicked.

In the first part of the Lord’s speech in Job 38 and 39, God talks about animals such as lions, ravens, mountain goats, oxen, ostriches, and horses. The previous chapters were full of powerful imagery about common animals. I loved the symbolism and the poetry. In the second part of God’s speech, which is contained in chapters 40 and 41, God expands his authority to the divine realm and asserts His power over the supernatural. The description of the Leviathan in these verses reminds me immediately of a dragon. The dragon is an ancient mythological creature that epitomizes terror, destruction, and wicked power. God’s use of poetry to describe the Leviathan, which is sort of like an aquatic dragon, is beautiful!

God points out that men are incapable of subduing and controlling the Leviathan and Behemoth. The might of these mythological creatures is so great that men are helpless before them. I think it is interesting that in the Dark Ages, the stories from this time period focused on knights defeating dragons and performing acts of chivalry. During the Dark Ages, man rose to a position where he felt powerful and capable enough to defeat the epitome of mythological evil, the dragon; hence, we have numerous stories and depictions about knights killing these beasts. Men became proud and confident in their own abilities, to the extent that they believed that hey could defeat the greatest mythological creatures in the supernatural world. Because of mankind’s hubris, we generated stories about our great deeds and ability to slay the dragon, the Leviathan, and the Behemoth. Is this also the time period when humanity began to move away from God, believing that they did not need God’s help? When knights defeated the dragon, did humanity also defeat God in their minds? Did mankind place themselves above God? I think that is one interpretation. It seems evident to me that nowadays, men disregard God. We do not see God as all-powerful. Instead, we see ourselves as all-powerful. We understand the depths of the ocean and we know how to tame the Leviathan. We can subdue any known creature, mythological or earthly. We place lions, crocodiles, hippos, and eagles in zoos. These animals, despite their might, have no power over humanity. They are submissive to humanity. So, when God asks if Job can defeat the Leviathan, although Job responds with “no,” I feel like many people today, due to man’s pride and lack of faith in God, would respond with “yes, I can defeat the Leviathan.” We can subdue all creatures with our technology. We are capable of selling and trading any animal on the market. We can pierce the skin of a crocodile and reel in the shark. No animal can overcome man’s power. I think that our response of “yes” shows how far we’ve fallen and how little we recognize God’s authority. In general, man relies on “his own right hand” to subdue the world around him. We don’t need God. Our hands can do anything that God can do. I think that COVID can be seen as an example that demonstrates how powerful nature can be. We are not able to control the virus’s spread and harm. But on the other hand, we have developed vaccines against the virus and are coming close to defeating it. It can be easy for us to look at the COVID situation, bask in our own intelligence and resilience, and assert that we can defeat nature. If we can conquer COVID, then surely we can conquer anything that nature produces. This sort of reasoning leads us to reject God’s sovereignty. It is easy to see how men might think of themselves as gods. By responding “yes” to God’s rhetorical questions, man elevates himself to the position of god. I think that the right answer is “no” and that the correct posture is to humble ourselves before God.

God’s intention is to comfort Job by implying that He can defeat any evil, earthly or supernatural. Not only can god defeat all supernatural and spiritual evils, but he will. There is comfort in God’s power.

Week 11 | Job 42

Job understood that no plan of God’s could be thwarted. I think it was comforting to Job, who lost so much, to know that God is omnipotent, in total control, has power over everything on this earth, and can win all spiritual battles. Job repented. What did he repent of? I think that he repented of his pride, which said that he could challenge God. I also think that he repented of his poor attitude that prompted him to rue his birth and long for death. Job was also comforted. He recognized his own inadequacies and gained comfort knowing that God would care for him no matter what. Part of humility is comfort. Are humility and comfort linked? I think so. When I humble myself, I also recognize that I can do nothing, and it forces me to trust in the Lord. I’m comforted to know that as long as I trust in Him, then He will not abandon me. I think that I do this all the time with work. I recognize that I am unqualified to lead and manage. I recognize that I know so little about the various subsystems and intricacies within the jet engine. I realize that I do not know how to lead other engineers or manage a project. When I humble myself like this, it forces me to ask God for help. Humility also compels me to read more, ask questions, and seek wisdom. For me, there is immense comfort in knowing that I am doing all that I can do and that the rest is up to God. There is comfort knowing that I am limited but God is not. I have limitations but God does not. I will strive to maximize my potential, but beyond daily striving for improvement, I can do nothing. I think that is exactly what Job did. He strived to help the people around him, and he strived to be blameless before God, but he also humbled himself before God’s greatness. When I realize that I am nothing more than ashes compared to God, then I humble myself before the Lord and recognize my limitations, but at the same time I am also comforted that God holds me in His hand.

What new insights did Job gain about God? What knowledge did Job gain? From last week, I think that Job realized that God governs not just the physical realm, but He also governs the spiritual realm. Did Job also learn that God is just? Did Job learn anything about questioning God? Did Job learn anything about contesting God? I think that Job learned humility. There was a certain level of pride that comes with wanting to contest God and take Him to court. Pride compelled Job to think that he might be better than God. And at the end of the book, Job realized that he was in no way superior to God. God governs the spiritual realm and the physical realm. Therefore, Job was humbled. He learned humility and increased his knowledge about God. He increased his confidence in God. I like that! His confidence in God increased. Questioning God comes from a lack of confidence. When God answer, it increases confidence! I also think that there is a difference between questioning God and challenging God. To question is to inquire with humility, and to seek an answer, coming from a heart posture of humility. On the other hand, to challenge is to seek an answer with a heart posture of superiority and pride. When I challenge, I approach the situation assuming that I’m right, but when I question, I recognize that I am limited and that the other party knows more than me. Question God, but we wary of challenging the Creator.

I think it is interesting that Job first heard God, and then he saw God. When we see things, it makes them truer. Thus, Job is saying that God became more true to him than ever before, that is, he gained a deeper understanding of God. An example that comes to my mind is the killer whale. I knew from pictures and hearsay that the whale was large and powerful, but I did not realize the truth of that power, or what it meant until I saw it with my own eyes. The power in the killer whale became more real, or more true, when I saw it with my own eyes, compared to hearing about it. Same with the Grand Canyon or with mountains. We hear about the beauty of these scenes, but they become more true when we actually see them, and we gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of them. In prosperity, God is heard; in adversity, God is seen.

God said that Job spoke rightly, unlike his 3 friends. How did Job act rightly? And how did his friends act not rightly? Job never sinned or made false conclusions about God. The friends assumed that they were right and that Job committed some great sin. Job, on the other hand, admitted that he did not understand God’s plans; Job admitted his inferiority to God. Job’s foolishness drew him closer to the Lord. Let your own foolishness lead you closer to the Lord; do not let it push you away.

God told Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that they were wrong, and that they should offer sacrifices to atone for their sins. God said that He “will not deal with them according to their folly.” Although they deserved punishment, (1) sacrifice and (2) prayer were used as substitutes for God’s wrath. Here, God showed that He is just. Although He is just, this passage also demonstrates that sin is not always punished. The friends originally believed that God rewarded pious actions and punished wicked actions. This is true, to the extent that God is just; however, being just does not mean that bad things cannot happen, and it does not mean that wrongs must be punished. Rather, justness allows for uncontrollable and harsh events to befall righteous people, that is, righteous people may suffer because of events beyond their control, just like Job suffered because of Satan’s ploy, and additionally justness allows sins to be forgiven, just like the friends’ sins were forgiven without punishment as a result of their sacrifices and Job’s intercession. Thus, sins can be forgiven, and wrongs not punished, if you are willing to humble yourself, repent before God, admit your faults, and pray for forgiveness. Furthermore, it is possible for friends to intercede on your behalf. Job offered an intercessory prayer on behalf of his friends. It is encouraging to know that the prayers of righteous friends are not wasted; the prayers of righteous friends are effective. This encourages me to pray for my friends and similarly ask for prayer. If it takes (1) sacrifice and (2) prayer to appease God’s wrath, then it is encouraging to know that Christ already (1) sacrificed on my behalf and that (2) I have righteous friends praying for me. Yes, Christ was sacrificed for my sins, so that I only need to pray in order to avoid judgement for my sins. Job’s prayer, which interceded for his friends, pre-figures Christ, who intercedes for all of us. Through Jesus Christ, we are restored to God’s favor despite our faults and imperfections. Since God is just, He will punish the wicked. However, the combination of Christ’s sacrifice and our prayers for forgiveness can be a substitute for God’s judgement. On the other hand, events that we cannot control, such as those occurring in the spiritual realm, may cause pain to be inflicted on blameless and righteous lives. God remains just and sovereign through everything.

At the end of the book, all of Job’s possessions are literally doubled.

  • 7,000 sheep -> 14,00 sheep

  • 3,000 camels -> 6,000 camels

  • 500 yoke oxen -> 1,000 yoke oxen

  • 500 donkeys -> 1,000 donkeys

  • 7sons + 7sons

  • 3 daughters + 3 daughters

All of Job’s family and friends came to comfort Job after all of his hardship. Each person gave Job a piece of silver and a gold ring. Were the actions of his friends and family in chapter 42 more comforting than the speeches of his friends? At least these friends and family members did not condemn Job like the other friends did. But at the same time, the friends and family in chapter 42 only came to console Job after his affliction. Job’s truest friends came in the midst of his affliction, which I think is more valuable, and although the friends did not speak rightly, God forgave them, and they were not punished. They received a verbal reprimand from God but suffered no further judgement.

Why are the names of Job’s daughters listed? Why are the names of the sons not listed? And why is it important to mention the beauty of the daughters? Also, why doesn’t God address Elihu? Why isn’t Elihu mentioned in chapter 42? I do not know the answers to these questions.

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