Job29to31: JOB SUMS UP HIS CASE

(A) Introduction. Read Job29to31

Job concludes his case with great eloquence as he ignores his friends and addresses himself to God alone. He regrets his loss, rues his condition and rehearses his defence.

(B) Job regrets his loss. See ch29.

Job commences his closing remarks by looking back at what he has lost:

(a) God's goodwill and providential blessing.

It was Job's lament: "Oh for the days when I was in my prime when God's intimate friendship blessed my house." See 29v4. What a terrible loss - to lose God's friendship.

(b) Man's respect.

Job had formerly been respected for the position he held in society as a successful and prosperous business man. He said, "When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square, the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet. See29v7and8.

He was also respected for his good works. Job helped the poor, the fatherless, the widow, the blind, the lame and refugees. The patriarch rescued men and women from those intent on exploiting them. See29v11to13.

(c) His expectations.

When things were going so well with him Job expected his good fortune to continue until the end of his days. "I shall die in my own house, my days as numerous as the grains of the sand." 29v18.

(d) His influence.

Prior to the calamities that befell him Job was a man whose opinion was sought and acted upon. He was a veritable sage amongst his acquaintances. Something he vividly expresses: "Men listened to me expectantly .... and drank in my words as spring rain ..... I dwelt as a king among his troops; I was like one who comforts mourners." vs21, 23 and 25.

COMMENT:

(1) Job's losses were not his fault. Many of our losses are inevitable. We can identify with Job when he sighed: "Oh for the days when I was in my prime." I feel like this every Saturday during the summer. If I was still in my prime I would be playing cricket instead of watching it. I would still have some influence in the club as a valued opening batsman and wicket keeper.

(2) People's perception of Job changed unreasonably. He was still capable of sound judgment and imparting good advice. His losses did not impair his discernment or affect his trustworthy character. The fact that his business failed and his health deteriorated had no bearing on his moral integrity - but it changed people's perception of him. He was no longer worth anything!

There are instances where this happened in the Bible. Aaron and Miriam began to think they were on a par with Moses. "Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us?" Nu12v2. God was very displeased and spoke up for his servant Moses.

It seems the perception some of the Christians at Corinth had of Paul changed with the arrival of "super apostles" from Jerusalem. He compared unfavourably with them. Some said: "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." 2Cor10v10.

When I began preaching I was something of a phenomenon - a second Spurgeon. Today, I am scarcely invited out to preach anywhere. This is not because my preaching has deteriorated - far from it - but because of a change in perception. Perhaps, I am not considered sound!

People's perception of us changes as we get old. I like this story I found in, 'Wrinklies Joke Book':

An old man is a witness in a burglary case. The defence lawyer asks him, "Did you see my client commit this burglary?" "Oh yes," says the old man. "But this crime took place at night," says the lawyer. "Are you sure you saw my client commit the crime?" "Yes," says the old man, "I saw him do it." So the lawyer says to the old man, "Sir, you are an elderly man now over 80 years of age. Are you really going to tell this court that your eyesight was good enough to see my client from several feet away? Just how far do you think you are able to see at night? "Well," said the old man, "I can see the moon. How far is that?"

It is a mistake for anyone to underestimate the elderly!

(3) Unlike Job we should look back with gratitude to what we had rather than regret what we have lost. I am grateful for: My many happy years playing both cricket and hockey, God's protection during my career as a teacher, good health, numerous walking holidays, twenty years serving God at a Christian camp and the opportunities I had to talk about Jesus in school assemblies.

I have known several old Christians whose consistent testimony was: "I have a lot to be thankful for." Perhaps they have lost a wife or a husband or even a child but they can rejoice in what they had for many years rather in what they have had taken away.

(4) Job was wrong to think the Almighty no longer watched over him or cared for him. He never understood that God had a purpose in his suffering.

There may be no beneficial purpose in some suffering but such was not the case for Job. God was still in control and all would be well in the end.

(C) Job rues his present condition. See ch30.

There are three things Job rues:

(a) Being abused by the dregs of society - Men younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to put with my sheep dogs. 30v1. Job in his humiliation and wretchedness becomes a target for disreputable and lawless gangs of ferrel teenagers who taunt him with ribald songs and spit in his face. See30v10.

Job sees himself as a city under attack: They advance as through a gaping breach; amid the ruins they come rolling in. 30v14.

As I read Job's complaint I am reminded of men and women's reaction to the humiliation of Jesus. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself." Mk15v29and30.

(b) Being racked with pain: "Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest. 30v17. Days of suffering confront me. I go about blackened but not by the sun. v23. My skin grows black and peels, my body burns with a fever." v30.

There is no doubt Job was in constant pain and horribly disfigured by his illness. He looked and felt ghastly. Psoriasis is a terrible affliction with profound psychological as well as physical effects.

(c) God's lack of help in spite of his entreaties: "I cry out to you oh God, but you do not answer." v20. "Surely no one lays a hand upon a broken man when he cries for help in his distress." v24.

Job cries out to God but receives no help. He says: "When I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness." v26.

Instead of consolation and comfort Job felt as if God had humiliated him: "He throws me into the mud and I am reduced to dust and ashes." v19. The man of Uz felt as helpless as a piece of straw blown hither and thither by the wind.

COMMENT.

(1) It is a sad reflection on humanity that many will kick a dog when it is down. Too many seem to need a dog to kick. Poor whites in the southern states of the U.S.A. opposed the abolition of slavery and then desegregation because as long as there were slaves or segregation there were those beneath them - they had dogs to kick.

It is much the same in India. The persistence of the caste system with the untouchables or dalits at the bottom of the pile owes much to the desire to have a dog to kick.

In Britain there are awful cases of mentally handicapped people being persecuted by unfeeling teenagers. There was a case recently where a mother and son were mocked and tormented by a gang of ferrel youths to such a degree they committed suicide. The authorities signally failed to protect them.

(2) We have to accept that there is little comfort for some people who suffer from painful, disfiguring and humiliating diseases. A life of unrelieved, acute discomfit is a terrible state for anyone to be in. If it persists year after year it is very difficult to see how the benefits are anyway proportional to the pain. I can understand why Job said: "My harp is tuned to mourning, and my flute to the sound of wailing." v31. He had nothing to be happy about! Eventually Job's suffering ended - but for some in this life pain and misery only ends with death.

I have no answers to this problem!

(3) It is also hard for us to understand God's silence when we cry out to him. Job complained: "I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer." 30v29.

The fact is God did answer! He answered when Job had nothing further to say! He began his answer through Elihu and continued by speaking himself.

Job did not like waiting for an answer - a characteristic illustrated by this story:

Three women arrived at the Pearly Gates at the same time. St. Peter came along but said he had some pressing business and would they please wait. He was gone for a long time, but finally he came back and called one of the women in and asked her if she minded waiting.

"No," she said, "Iíve looked forward to this for so long. I love God and canít wait to meet Jesus. I donít mind at all."

St. Peter then said, "Well I have one more question. How do you spell `God?í"

She said, "Capital-G-o-d."

St. Peter said, "Welcome, Go right on in."

He went out and got one of the other women, told her to come on inside, and said, "Did you mind waiting?"

She said, "Oh, no. I have been a Christian for fifty years, and Iíll spend eternity here. I didnít mind at all."

So St. Peter said, "Just one more thing. How do you spell `God?í"

She said, "g-o-d. No, I mean capital-G."

St. Peter said that was good and sent her on in to Heaven.

He went back out and invited the third woman in and asked her if she minded waiting. "Yes, I did," she said huffily. "Iíve had to stand in line all my life ó at the supermarket, when I went to school, when I registered my children for school, when I went to the movies - everywhere - and I resent having to wait in line for Heaven!"

St. Peter said, "Well itís all right for you to feel that way. It wonít be held against you, but there is just one more question you need to answer before I let you into heaven. How do you spell `Czechoslovakia?í"

Very few of us like waiting - although some women who were recently interviewed on TV after queueing all night for a store to open for it's Boxing Day Sale said it was fun! I suppose it depends on whether, in the end, the wait is worth it.

Christians are waiting - I am waiting:

          I am waiting for the coming
          Of the Lord who died for me;
          O! His words have thrilled my spirit:
          I will come again for thee.
          I can almost hear his footfall
          On the threshold of the door:
          And my heart! My heart is longing
          To be His for evermore.

When Jesus returns again all our questions will be answered - we shall know even as also we are known.

(C) Job rehearses his defence. See ch31.

Job puts forward a defence in chapter 31 of his moral probity - of his blameless and upright life. See Job1v1.

Now Job was able to present a very impressive testimony to his righteous behaviour:

  • He did not lust after young women. v1.

  • He wasn't deceitful. v5.

  • He never made advances to another man's wife. v9.

  • He was a fair employer. v13.

  • He was not hard hearted but compassionate to the poor and needy - the widow and the fatherless. v16to21.

  • He put no trust in idols whether gold, the sun or the moon. v24to28. Job made no concessions to superstition.

  • He did not revel in the misfortunes of his enemies. v29.

  • He was hospitable to strangers. v32.

  • He didn't pretend to be better than he was. v33and34.

  • He conserved the fertility of his soil. v38

Job considered that if he had been other than he claimed he would have deserved to suffer. But, he was certain of his moral integrity and invited God to say otherwise: "Let the Almighty answer me, let my accuser put his indictment in writing." 31v35.

Job was trying to provoke God into pronouncing upon his case; to vindicate him: to declare him righteous, undeserving of his suffering AND to put it in writing for everyone to see. If Job only had it in writing he could pin it on his shoulder or wear it like a crown.

COMMENT:

(1) Job's list of virtues may well make us feel uncomfortable. I know Christians who exhibit very few of Job's virtues: they pay their employees as little as they can get away with; they have no sympathy with the poor and needy; they are not hospitable to their fellow Christians let alone strangers; they are secretive and lack frankness. What is even sadder, I cannot compare with Job. I lust; I delight in the discomfiture of my opponents; I enjoy a healthy bank balance. Job was indeed a very worthy man - one beyond compare.

(2) Job failed to comprehend that God may have a purpose in suffering other than punishing the unrighteous. He did earlier have a flash of insight where he hopes to emerge from his trials refined like gold from the furnace but this is not a truth from which he derived much comfort.

(3) Job justified himself but this resulted in no peace. He needed God to justify him; to declare him not guilty of unrighteousness.

This is where Christians have a huge advantage over Job. We make no attempt to justify ourselves. Rather we repent of our sins, put our trust in the saving work of Jesus and rely on God to justify us - to pronounce us not guilty.

          Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
          My beauty are, my glorious dress;
          Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
          With joy shall I lift up my head.

(4) I think there are circumstances when we, like Job, long for God to vindicate us and that is in our ministry. We can recite to God in prayer all the effort we have made, the different initiatives we have undertaken and ask, with something like the indignation of Job, why he has not seen fit to bless us.

(5) Job's great failing - a failing his suffering exposed - was that he underestimated God. He did not have to list his many virtues for God's benefit. God knew about them! Job almost addresses God as an equal - someone who is obliged to answer Job and explain his treatment of him. This is something God will soon take Job to task about. The patriarch was not without sin. He lacked humility!

Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Mt5v3. This quality - so little valued by the world - is an essential qualification for God's kingdom. See exposition on Mt5v3.

ANY COMMENTS FOR JOHN REED: E-mail jfmreed@talktalk.net

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