In these three chapters (29-31), Job continues his desperate discourse on the ways of God as he understands Him. Job has endured numerous sessions with his friends who have provoked more pain than promise.
Chapter 29: Job first of all laments his days gone by when “God watched over me” (v. 2). He reflects on “his prime” when the friendship of the Lord blessed his house, his children were around him, and his public presence was respected by all (vv. 7-10). Those were the days when Job rescued the poor, assisted the fatherless, made the widow’s heart sink (vv. 12-13).
He matter-of-factly states that he “was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame . . . a father to the needy.” And he was one who stood up to the wicked, snatching victims from their teeth (v. 17).
He had believed that he would die in his own house (not on an ash heap) and that his glory would not fade (vv. 18-20). People sought his wisdom and were overwhelmed when he smiled at them (v. 24). Perhaps as a criticism of his friends, Job says he was “like one who comforts mourners” (v. 25).
Chapter 30: But now young men mock him, avoid him, and spit in his face (vv. 1-10). They join the God who has “unstrung my bow and afflicted me” in attacking Job (vv. 11-14).
Job has lost all sense of safety and security; his life “ebbs away” (v. 16). God has reduced Job to dust and ashes (v. 19). And God answers Job only with ruthless silence, tossing him into the storm (vv. 20-22).
God shows no mercy in laying His hand on this broken man who has wept for those in trouble and grieved for the poor (vv. 24-25). Hoping for good, evil came; looking for light he received only darkness (v. 26). His suffering has blackened him; his body burns with fever. His singing has been turned to wailing (vv. 28-31).
Chapter 31: Continuing his defense of his life, Job declares that he has remained sexually pure in his marriage: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (v 1).
Job’s expectation is that God’s judgment will bring ruin on the wicked (v. 3). He challenges the Lord to “weigh” him and see that he is blameless and not guilty of lust, or of denying justice to others, or of not sharing his food with the poor and the orphans (vv. 6-17). Job makes a wonderful pro-life statement when he asks, “Did not he who made me in the womb make them [his servants]? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?” (v. 15).
In fact, Job asks for God’s swift judgment upon himself if he has been guilty of sinning against the fatherless or the widow (vv. 16-23).
He grants that he would have been unfaithful to God on high if he had trusted in his wealth (vv. 24-25) or engaged in worshiping the sun or the moon (v. 26), or rejoiced at his enemy’s misfortune (v. 29). He states bluntly: “I have not allowed my mouth to sin” (v. 30); “I have [not] concealed my sin as people do” (v. 33).
Lastly, Job pleads with the Lord to answer him, to allow him to give an account of his every step (vv. 35-37). And then we read, “The words of Job are ended” (v. 40).
So, the debates between Job and his friends appear to be over. They aren’t. Shortly we will hear from a fourth friend, Elihu. But before he begins his theological rebuke of Job, we have Job’s speech on where wisdom is found.
Job’s speech begins by referring to the superhuman efforts men exert to mine for silver and gold and copper. “Mortals put an end to darkness” as they search for ore (v. 3). They cut shafts and “dangle and sway” as they transform the earth below.
The animal world — birds and beasts — have nothing to do with such an underground quest. People assault the flinty rock as their eyes see all the mountains’ treasures. They search the rivers and “bring hidden things to light” (v. 11).
But what about wisdom? Its worth is beyond understanding. Wisdom cannot be found in the land of the living, Job says (v. 13). Creation testifies that wisdom “is not with me” (v. 14). The precious treasures of gold and silver can’t buy wisdom (vv. 15-16), nor can they compare with it, for “the price of wisdom is beyond rubies” (v. 18).
Where does wisdom come from? It is “hidden from the eyes of every living thing” (v. 21). God alone knows where wisdom dwells (v. 23). He sees everything under the heavens (v. 24). As He established the wind, measured out the waters, decreed the rain, made a path for the thunderstorm, He “looked at wisdom and appraised it” (v. 27). And, Job says, “he said to the human race, ‘The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'” (v. 28).
It is interesting that Job does not say that wisdom is found in his friends, for the Lord Himself later describes their words of counsel as “folly” (42:8). He sarcastically says that wisdom will die with them (12:2). They have not made his life better. Their words have wounded, not healed. Their counsel has been “of no help” (6:21). They are “worthless physicians, all of you!” (13:4). Their maxims are “proverbs of ashes” (13:12). “You are miserable comforters, all of you!” Job says in 16:2. “How long will you torment me and crush me with words?”, Job asks (19:2). He describes their words as mocking (21:3). The friends need to “get out more” and see the reality of the wicked prospering (21:30). Their counsel is nonsense and nothing but falsehood (21:34).
But wisdom, true wisdom, is found with the Lord. As Job will soon learn.
Bildad’s third round asked the question, “Can a mortal be righteous before God?” (25:4). He not only extols the greatness of God, but he then demeans the human person as a maggot, a worm (25:6).
XVII. Job’s Response to Bildad – Ch. 26)
Job’s sarcastic response mocks the three friends’ unhelpfulness. Their advice has been void of wisdom. It has been so poor, in Job’s estimation, that they must have had some kind of spirit assist them in their counsel! (vv. 1-4).
Job then refers to the dead being “in deep anguish” (v. 5). What does he mean by his statement that “the realm of the dead is naked before God” (v. 6)? Perhaps Job’s point is that his friends have referred quite a bit to the death of the wicked, and Job knows that he does not deserve their fate.
He then speaks about “the outer fringe of [God’s] works” in which he mentions God’s power over the realm of the dead (v. 6), over the northern skies and the very suspension of the earth (v. 7), and over the clouds and the horizon (vv. 8-10). He speaks of God’s power over the sea (v. 12) and His judgment on Rahab (!) (v. 12). Then Job says, “And these are but the outer fringe of his works” (v. 14).
But, in light of God’s magnificent works in His world, Job laments, “how faint the whisper we hear of him!” (v. 14). In contrast to such acts of God’s power, Job is grieved at His silence. And he certainly isn’t buying the premise that God is speaking to him through his “friends”!
XVII. Job’s Response to Bildad – Ch. 27)
In his second chapter of responding to Bildad’s round three, we notice that the NIV translation has the inscription “Job’s Final Word to His Friends.” Whether this chapter is a specific response to Bildad or a general address to the three friends, we don’t know. Here’s what we do know:
We know of Job’s conviction that God has denied him justice and has made his life bitter (v. 2). We know that Job is determined to say nothing wicked as long as the breath of God is in his nostrils (v. 4). And we know that he is resolute in maintaining his innocence and will never admit that his friends are right (vv. 5-6). His conscience simply won’t allow it (v. 6).
What has Bildad said to Job in his first two rounds? He claimed to know why Job’s children were crushed to death (they had sinned). He challenges Job to seek God and repent and promises that restoration will then come to Job. Arguing from the aged, Bildad says that former generations would agree with him that Job might well perish with the godless. God, of course, does not reject the blameless.
In his second round, Bildad goes to great length to describe the fate of the wicked man. He concludes by saying, “Surely such is the dwelling of the one who does not know God.” In effect, he is challenging Job’s relationship with God.
XVI. The Badgering of Bildad Round Three – (Ch. 25)
Bildad jumps in with his third round of rebuking Job. He begins with his doctrine of God (that dominion and awe belong to God and that His forces cannot be numbered) (vv. 2-3). This brings Bildad to the point which is obvious to him: “How then can a mortal be righteous before God?” (v. 4). This is almost exactly the same message that Eliphaz says he got from a vision in the night (“Can a mortal be more righteous than God?”, 4:17).
In a unique application of the greater to the lesser argument, Bildad says that only God is pure. Man is but a maggot! This “worm theology,” which was popular during the Reformation among some of its leaders, especially Luther, argues for the greatness of God and the puniness of man.
One contemporary writer says, “Many people have suffered spiritual abuse at the hands of what is sometimes called ‘worm theology.’ In this theology, God’s holiness is set against our sinfulness to such a degree that the only appropriate response seems to be self-loathing. The name may come from a line in the Issac Watts hymn ‘Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed,’ which says ‘Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?’ The idea seems to be that only by abasing ourselves are we able to grasp and receive God’s mercy. Churches taken with this view think it their job to induce guilt and shame, working people up into a state of such remorse and self-revulsion that they are compelled to repent and seek God’s mercy.” https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/aprilweb-only/23-51.0.html
Job has endured two rounds of lectures from Eliphaz. He now responds to the final third round in chapters 23-24. Eliphaz has become quite specific in detailing Job’s social sins (sending widows away empty-handed, stripping people of their clothing, etc.). There is no evidence whatsoever in the book of Job’s committing such egregious acts!
Eliphaz challenged Job to no longer tread the old path of the wicked, but to submit to the Lord and prosperity will be restored to him. Job needs to make the Lord his choicest gold and silver!
XV. Job’s Response to Eliphaz Round Three – (Ch. 23)
Job’s response to Eliphaz’s round three is to reiterate his plea to appear before the Lord. He wants to “state his case” before the Lord, confident that the Lord “would not press charges against me” (vv. 4-6).
Job’s complaint, however, is that He can’t find the Lord, whether he looks north, south, east, or west (vv. 8-9).
In light of all his pain Job could declare, “when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (v. 10). He declares that he has kept God’s way without turning aside, that he has not departed from the commands of his lips, and that he “treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (vv. 11-12).
However, God does what He pleases and this terrifies Job (vv. 13-15). But such fear does not silence Job in his protest (v. 17).
XII. Job’s Response to Eliphaz Round Three – (Ch. 24)
Job then launches into a diatribe against the unfairness of life. The offenses range from moving boundary stones, to pasturing stolen fields, to pushing the needy off the path, to forcing the poor into hiding (vv. 2-4). These are the evil acts of wicked men who are not judged by God in this life.
Then there are the cruelties of God’s creation: the wasteland failing to provide food for the poor (v. 5), the poor lacking clothes and having to spend the night naked (v. 7), the fatherless child is snatched from the breast (v. 9), the groans of the dying rise from the city, and the souls of the wounded cry out for help (v. 12). And Job’s conclusion? “But God charges no one with wrongdoing.” (v. 12).
Specific criminals are singled out by Job: the murderer who kills the poor and needy, (v. 14), the adulterer who thinks no one sees his sin (v. 15), thieves who break into houses (v. 16). All of these rebel against the light and “make friends with the terrors of darkness” (v. 17).
But there will be judgment for the wicked. “The womb forgets them, the worm feasts on them” (v. 20). God will drag away the mighty by His power; “his eyes are on their ways” (v. 23). And who, Job asks, can prove me wrong?
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