Job - Epilogue
Job - Epilogue
INTRO: Good morning church. I suspect many of us are familiar with the Book of Job and the story told there. I find the answers that are provided in Job to be challenging because the things that God explains are often not the cliché Christian answers of how we want to explain suffering. I believe that God's answer in this book is really full of comfort. This morning I want to concentrate on what is often called the Epilogue of Job, chapter 42:7-17.
First though, I want to take a step back and then look at the final text of Job 42. To appreciate that epilog, we need to bring to memory how we got there.
In Job 1:1 we read, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” If you remember in the first two chapters, we see that Job was put into a trial, because Satan asserted that God was not just in how He blessed people. Satan said the reason people served God is for what they could get out of it. In other words, they served for selfish reasons.
Satan alleges that if “you take away everything Job has; he will curse you to your face.” Thus proving that people are basically mercenaries for God and only serve for what they receive, not for whom He is and not for how glorious He is. This becomes the basis of the trial that Job must go through. God allowed Satan to take away from Job his wealth, his family, and his health. After losing his children, his wealth, and his health, Job does not curse God, as Satan said that he would.
Job feels, though, that he has lost his relationship with God and maintained his righteousness even after all that he had lost. His three friends then arrive to, quote, “comfort him” and give explanations for why these things have happened.
As we continue reading we find that those three friends keep repeating the refrain that Job needed to repent. If he would only repent, then all of the blessings would return… The problem with that is… it would have proved Satan correct. It would show that Job's just in it for the blessings he receives and that's all he's concerned about.
Job shows that that's not what he's concerned about. He is concerned about justice and righteousness, and he maintains his integrity throughout. Job's stance, you might say, is that God has not treated him fairly. The thing that confronted Job was that, despite his integrity toward God and the absence of any gross wickedness that could have deserved the terrible misfortunes that had overtaken him, he was judged by his friends, and everyone else, as a wicked sinner who was getting exactly what his conduct deserved.
Then Elihu starts to speak, who we did not know was there through this whole scene, and gives his explanation about what is going on and his understanding of how God runs the world. There is much to be said about Elihu who is the worst of the lot, but that is a whole study in itself. As he is giving his answer, God answers from the whirlwind interrupting and terminating Elihu’s remarks with a question addressed to Job, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”
God at this point speaks repeatedly to Job, asking many questions about many different things. The great truth that shines here is not so much related to the particular things about which God questioned Job, as it is to the incredible and glorious truth that Almighty God Himself was carrying on a conversation with a mortal man! Through this God shows His power and His wisdom, and that is what is to be trusted, for God is running the world.
Who are we to challenge or question the power of God or the wisdom of God in the slightest? This brought the final words of Job in Job 42:6, “Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Of what did Job repent? Certainly, he did not repent of such sins as his friends had alleged against him; and neither is it enough to say that Job repented of his pride. Repentance here is of a man who realizes his creaturehood and that God is eternally God. 1st Corinthians 3:19 reminds us, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”
When we reach this point we find that no answer has been provided for the overriding question about the reason behind human suffering. One commentator wrote "God is not so much concerned with strengthening man's faith by giving him answers to his questions, as he is with encouraging the kind of faith that does not demand answers." (Coffman)
EPILOGUE - Now the epilog… What are we to understand from this book? Look with me now at Job 42:7-17. “7. And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. 8. "Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.''
9. So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the Lord commanded them; for the Lord had accepted Job. 10. And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.
11. Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him. Each one gave him a piece of silver and each a ring of gold. 12. Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys.
13. He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14. And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch. 15. In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. 16. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. 17. So Job died, old and full of days.”
The Friends - The first scene is given in verses seven through nine. The Lord turns His attention to the three friends. Verse seven just flat out declares “… you have not spoken of Me what is right…” Step back and think about what have they said about God that isn't right? The point that they have continually made was that suffering means you're being punished by God for your sins.
Over and over they indicate the only explanation for your suffering is that you're being punished for your sins. You are getting less than you deserve. You should just be grateful for what you're going through because you're an awful sinner.
God is very clear in this verse in declaring that what the three friends said was wrong. He indicates that's not right, that's not the way that I operate. In fact at the end of verse seven “…you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. ”
The three friends had adopted the false theory, which many still hold, that you can measure the righteousness of a person by the degree of their prosperity. Essentially the proposition espoused by Satan, with the variation that the only reason prosperous people served God was as a way of assuring the continuation of their prosperity. Based on that false view, the three friends insisted that Job was a reprobate sinner. Job vehemently denied this, pointing out that the wicked often prospered; and it is primarily of that basic truth that God spoke in this verse.
In reading Job we learn that God had not sent affliction upon Job to punish him, nor to discipline him; all of his sorrowful experiences were due to Satan and to no one else.
With lying persuasion Elihu, pretending to be inspired of God, promises mercy, prosperity and pleasure if Job will admit his sins, and he lays down the proposition that Elihu himself, as God's representative, is present to help Job remember those sins he has surely committed, but which he may have forgotten. This was Satan's trump card; and when Job refused to believe it, ignored and rejected it, God's judgment of Job was gloriously vindicated.
What then do we know of the suffering we face? It is not as punishment, we learn that from Job. It does have a corrective nature, but a corrective nature is not the same as saying God is going to barbecue you every time you've done something wrong.
These things are permitted to correct us and move us in the right direction. What does scripture say? We've observed many times how the New Testament uses this concept. James, Peter, and Paul tell us this. See Romans eight, 1st Peter one, and James one.
We look at suffering and understand it to be the refining of faith, the molding of our character, the changing of who we are, to draw us closer to God, to make us what we ought to be. Would we like to believe that we would change ourselves during prosperity and good times? Yes. Yet it is often through adversity, trials, and suffering that change occurs.
Paul, Peter, and James all say that same thing, these things are given to us, to be used by us, to refine us—again a corrective.
God allows these things so that we would become more and more of what God has called us to be and to refine those edges, to strengthen that faith, to change that character.
The idea that suffering is punishment is firmly ingrained in human thought though, isn’t it? Look at John 9:1-2 “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?''” The scriptures reflect how often that was a common idea. Here's this man who's been born blind. Who sinned? The first thought is somebody sinned. God must be punishing. Is he punishing the man or punishing the parents? Who sinned?
Here is what happened. Jesus answered; “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” It’s not how things operate. “ but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” I love that answer… to display the glory of God.
If there is nothing else you take away when you study Job, it’s that you will understand the function of suffering in life. If you study it and say, God must be punishing me for something I did yesterday and He's now zapping me today. That's not what the Book of Job shows.
The friends set forward that theology, and God has knocked it down very strongly and said that's not what I'm doing. These things are intended to help us, to correct us, to move us in the right way.
I find it astounding to read the reaction of these friends to Job’s situation. Look at the picture painted. They have said of Job; you are a terrible, awful sinner. I mean, you're the worst of the worst. You trampled the poor. You reject the widows. The list of things these friends have charged Job with is staggering, especially in light of all that he has lost. Yet, we remember Job 1:1, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.”
Notice what God says in the Epilogue that the three friends must do. He doesn't just simply say you need to pray to me and repent. No, we find that God sets up Job as a priest of sorts. They must find intercession, through Job, to God. You bring your offerings and Job will pray for you to Me and I will hear Job. He is My servant.
My Servant - Job is set up as this priest figure which we find interesting because remember the book started that way. Job 1:5, “So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.'' Thus Job did regularly.” He is My servant.
Especially strong are those words. In verses seven and eight of the Epilogue, we see a repetition. God says four times “My servant” when speaking of Job. The unavoidable implication is the vindication of Job before these friends.
All of these friends are saying; you're a miserable wretch and God is punishing you. God addresses three of these men and says; actually, that's My servant Job and if you want to have any relationship with Me, any restoration whatsoever, you better bring your sacrifices to him and he'll pray for you. What a reversal! Who has been shown to be righteous? It is not the three friends, but Job.
Here is a beautiful picture of who Job is and the relationship that Job is able to have with God. We recall that Job had thought his relationship with God was destroyed and God was far from him. God shows that's not the case.
I’m thinking now of Isaiah 53. Isaiah prophesied that people would not esteem the Christ, but would consider Him stricken by God, verse 4. In fact, He's the servant of God, as Isaiah called Him in verse 11, and this righteous servant of God would come and take away the sins of the world.
When you study the Book of Job, you will find Job said some things that were not right. After God spoke, what did Job do? Job 42:6 Job says, “… I repent in dust and ashes.” We see repentance and immediately Job is back in a wonderful condition before God because he repents before Him.
Consider the three friends. They have said some awful things about Job. They've outright lied about Job and also said things that are wrong about God. Yet God says, if you will have an intercessor come before me, I'll accept that prayer and you will be restored too. The beauty of forgiveness! Here is this picture of God who restores when we repent.
At the end of this whole event, they will be able to stand before God whole. God will receive them if they repent. One of the great parts in this book is just how amazing it is that after all that has transpired, God is making this offer, and restoring Job, and restoring the three friends.
Job Comforted - The final part of the epilogue gives us a picture of Job being comforted. Some folks jump to the wrong conclusion here so we need to look at it and understand this ending in its proper light.
One of the things that we can not help but notice is that in terms of Job’s possessions, everything doubles. In Job 42:10 it says, “And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” As we read on in verse 12 we find all of those numbers are doubled from what we see in chapter one.
I suspect there is also an increase in terms of his lifespan. In verse 16 we read Job lived 140 years, which corresponded to that of the patriarchs, such as Abraham (175), Isaac (180), and Jacob (147). This fact alone lifts him out of the category of ordinary persons.
Wait a minute though… but there are not 20 children now! After all, Job started with 10, 7 sons and 3 daughters (Job 1:2) and now he has the same number, “10”. Bible scholars tell us the number “10” has special significance as indeed numbers tend to do in those times. The number “10” occurs 242 times in scripture and indicates completeness. Ten…that was the number of children he had, a complete family, remember? What we have now is the complete family that's been put back together again.
God - What are we supposed to take away from this restoration Job receives? Are we supposed to read this book and say, okay, so at the end of the trial you're going to be fully restored and everything will be fine if you just hang on? God will put all the pieces on the checkerboard back into place right where they were before.
Anybody who's been through trials in life knows that's just simply not true. I think we ought to recognize that's not what's happening with Job either. God will bless who He will bless and our actions do not obligate God. That thinking is what Satan alleges.
What Job points out and the writer of Ecclesiastes does too, is that being righteous doesn't mean you're going to be prosperous or successful or that you will have good times. One of the things that God has made very clear, God is not under any obligation to Job.
Folks, how often do people have a trial that they will have for the rest of their days? Remember what Christ told Paul when Paul prayed to have the “thorn in his side” removed? There's nothing that says that God must come in and put the brakes on what you are facing.
If we come to the end of the Book of Job and we believe that that's what God does, then Satan is right. We're only serving God to get the goodies in this life.
What we learn from the Book of Job is that God does not have to act out of any obligation of Job's righteousness.
Why then do you suppose God blesses us? Why does He comfort? Not because we are righteous, but because of who He is. God, in His wisdom and His power, chooses who He will bless, and what He will give, and He does it from His own will and to His purpose. I think that is a critical message that we should get from the Book of Job.
When we suffer trials not only do we have suffering and pain, but sometimes we feel so hopeless. Like there is nothing good in the future, I can not survive this. We need to remember that God is faithful, God is still with us, God will still bless us, God still cares for us, and that there can still be blessings to come.
God's generosity is only tied to His prerogative and His character. Satan had said God cannot do this. God is not able to bless people because if you bless them, they will serve for selfish reasons. God's answer is, that I can bless my people because it's not tied to their activity. This is not a quid pro quo kind of thing.
Let’s continue in the epilogue at verse 11. “Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him. Each one gave him a piece of silver and each a ring of gold.” You'll notice in verse eleven, right in the middle, it says, they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the “adversity”. That word can also be translated “evil” that the Lord had brought upon him.
We see that God declares He is ultimately responsible for everything that has happened. One thing made very clear in the Book of Job is that it was Satan, not God, who slaughtered Job's children, impoverished him, and reduced him to suffering and disease; yet here, it is stated that, "the Lord had brought" all these things upon him. Here we have enunciated the Biblical premise that God indeed "does" that which He “allows” to happen.
It is something that we struggle with. The idea is that God says, at the end of the day, the buck does stop with Him.
That doesn't mean that Satan isn't the one doing the evil, he is the active participant. Are we recognizing God did allow it? God could have stopped it. Everything that Satan does is within the knowledge and the power and the control and the sovereignty of God. God is in control. There is nothing that is outside of His knowledge, nothing that is outside of His realm, outside of His rule, outside of any of those things.
That's the great comfort of chapters one and two. Before Satan can do one thing, what does he do? He talks to God and God permits Satan… with limits. God constantly places boundaries upon what Satan can do and has knowledge of what he is doing, and awareness of those things, and God is pointing that out here.
I’m thinking of 1st Corinthians 10:13 where it says, “No temptation (some translations say testing) has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” We can believe that text by understanding that God is ultimately in control and responsible for the things that are going on and puts boundaries on them.
God does rule over evil. He rules over suffering, He rules over Satan, and He decrees the limits of temptations and trials. His message is; trust My power, trust My knowledge, trust My wisdom…trust…Me.
When we look at our suffering and look at our trials, we understand it is not God trying to hurt us or punish us. How then can this be used to refine our faith? How can this be used to draw us closer to God and to make us more like who God has called us to be?
Now I would like us to turn to James 5. In James, chapter five, he speaks of Job. What James says about Job, I think is a great final summary of the message of the book.
James 5:7-11 – “7. Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. 8. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! 10. My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” I find how James puts that description of Job very poignant.
James starts and says “Be patient until the Lord returns”. He uses the image of farming. Wait for the Lord's return and be patient. He uses some examples.
The first example is to look at the prophets. We can do that by studying Jeremiah. Look at their example of suffering and patience. He says you see in them their faith, their endurance. See their steadfastness through suffering, through difficulties, and their patience through all things.
Then you'll notice he turns his attention to Job and says, I want you to consider the steadfastness of Job. The marvelous endurance of Job’s faith in God is inherently visible in his reaction to one disaster after another. When death overtook his family, he said, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). When even his wife suggested that he curse God and die, he said, "What, shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10). When his philosophical friends accused him of sin, citing the calamities which had overwhelmed him as proof of it, he said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust him" (Job 13:15).
In James 5:11 he says “You have heard of the perseverance of Job (Watch what he puts with that) and seen the end intended by the Lord that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” When we come to the end of the Book of Job, the epilogue, that's what we're to see, the compassion and mercy of God.
One of the things that I hope we take away is that God has a greater purpose when He allows evil and suffering in this world. I suppose we want God to give us the manual and say; explain to me how this, this, and this is accomplishing Your purposes. Please tell me. Kind of what Job was saying. You need to explain to me why I, as a righteous person, am enduring this. God's answer is; trust me. Put your faith in Me, and believe in My wisdom, in My knowledge, and My power. I am a compassionate and merciful God and I desire to bless My people.
Of course, we don't have all the information that we would like to have. Folks, if we had all the information, then why would God call us for faith? We turn our hearts to God and believe that He is acting for our good and that these things will be, so that ultimately we will be able to be with Him.
You see in the lives of so many people in the Scriptures from Joseph down through the prophets and the apostles—this is how God operates.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Based on Sermon by: Brent Kercheville
Where and when we meet
Chardon, Ohio 44024