RESTORED BLESSINGS Job 38–42
“The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first” (Job 42:12).The New Testament invites us to consider Job’s experience, and realize that “the Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11).
God challenged Job to consider His wisdom (38:1–39:30) and His power (40:1–41:34). Job repented (42:1–6). God restored and multiplied Job’s blessings (vv. 7–16).
Understanding the Text
“On what were its footings set?” Job 38:1–39:30 God challenged Job to consider His wisdom, and realize how limited man’s understanding is. On the surface God’s theme seems to be His lordship over nature. He is Creator (38:4–15). He rules the inanimate universe (vv. 16–38). He rules the animate as well (38:39–39:30). In the passage God raised questions about the universe that puzzle even modern science! What is the foundation of matter, space, and time? (38:6) What patterns earth’s climate? (vv. 22–30) How are instincts built into living creatures? (39:1–18) These and a myriad of other questions cannot be answered by human beings. We need to realize the limits of our understanding and appreciate God’s wisdom. It is futile to raise questions of “why?” when suffering comes. We must remember that God knows what He is doing, and put our trust in Him. “Would you discredit My justice?” Job 40:6–41:34 God’s next monologue is more than an affirmation of His raw power. In the ancient world both “Behemoth” and “Leviathan” represented forces of evil in the world. Job was challenged to “look at every proud man and bring him low” (40:5–14). Job could not deal with wicked human beings! But God controls the very forces of evil represented by the two beasts (40:15–24; 41:1–34). In powerful symbolism God affirmed that He is moral Ruler of the universe. He can and does punish the wicked. “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” Job 42:1–6. Before this revelation of God’s wisdom and His rule of the moral order, Job could do nothing but repent. True, he had lived a blameless life. But he had been wrong to even think of God as unjust. Repentance is not a negative in the Bible, even though people tend to think of it as somewhat shameful. To repent is to change one’s mind or direction. Job now admitted that he had been wrong about God. God is not upset when we are wrong about Him. This is why He is so careful to instruct us, so that we might know Him better. Through suffering Job had gained, not an answer to “why?” but a better understanding of God. Who can say that knowing God better isn’t worth all the suffering Job—or you and I—may have to bear? “As My servant Job has” Job 42:7–9. Job was commended by God for speaking “what is right.” How could this be, when Job had been shown to be wrong, and repented? The answer is found in Job’s determination to face reality. Job’s friends sounded pious, but they did not trust God enough to honestly examine evidence that He does not punish every wicked person here and now. They had not spoken of God “what is right,” and were forgiven only through the agency of Job’s prayers. Job did trust God enough to be honest with the facts as he knew them, even though these facts seemed to cast doubt on God’s justice. We needn’t be afraid to struggle with hard questions in life, or in the Bible. God does have answers, whether or not we know what these answers are. “Seven sons and three daughters” Job 42:10–17. God blessed Job throughout many added years of life. Every symbol of that blessing mentioned here is doubled—except the number of his children. Ten had died, and he was given 10 more. Why? Because Job’s first 10 children had not been lost, but would be with him in eternity. Along with such verses as 19:26, “After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God,” this clearly implies an early belief in resurrection. It reminds us too that the blessings Job received are symbolic of the blessing we will surely know, if not here, when we are with Christ.
Not an Answer, a Friend (Job 42)
When God finally spoke to Job, He did not explain why He permitted Job to suffer. This has left many puzzled, for the book seems to hold no answer to the questions it raises. Why do the innocent suffer? Why does tragedy strike the good man? There is no answer here. But perhaps this is the point. The Book of Job portrays a God who is wise beyond our comprehension; a God who can and does judge wickedness. It also portrays a God who permitted Satan to torment Job, and who, after Satan’s defeat, caused Job’s suffering to continue. And it emphasizes the fact that Job was a righteous and blameless man. How does all this fit together? As we read Job’s words, we realize that he was a tormented man. Job was not only tormented by his losses and his pain, but an inner, gnawing uncertainty. We see it even in his very first speech, where Job said, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (3:25). Despite his personal commitment to the Lord, Job was uncertain about God’s attitude toward him. When Job thought of God, it was with deep appreciation and respect, but also with an element of fear. By the end of the book Job had suffered far more than he could have feared or even imagined. Yet Job had also met God. He had been rebuked, but he had also been commended. Job had even been told that his prayers for his three friends would be accepted. Suddenly Job realized something he had never quite accepted before. God was for him. God had observed his actions, and approved. Even when his pain was the greatest, his doubts almost overwhelming, and his words the most foolish, God cared. Through the experience of suffering Job had at last come to know that God was his Friend. This, the certainty that despite our suffering God is our Friend, is perhaps the true message of Job. Christianity can offer no satisfactory intellectual answer to the mystery of innocent suffering. But, through Christ, God offers us the assurance that He is our Friend. With that assurance, we can face and be victorious in our pain.
When suffering comes, hold tight to the truth that God is your Friend.