We sometimes make fun of people who turn to the back of a novel to find out the end of the story before reading the book. Though that may spoil the suspense for some books, the book of Job is one that knowing the end of the story is essential for the book to make sense and for you to apply its truths correctly.
Here is the primary ending verse that is important:
Job 42:7 After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.
According to God’s last assessment of the situation, Jobs friends did not speak the truth about God. In addition, God summarizes their words as “folly.”
It is essential that you keep God’s conclusion in mind as you read this book.
Job’s friends say many things that, on the surface sound good. For example, here is some of the advice from Eliphaz on how Job could get over his problems:
Job 22: 21 “Submit to God and be at peace with him;
in this way prosperity will come to you.
22 Accept instruction from his mouth
and lay up his words in your heart.
23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored.
That sounds so good—but it is not true. Job was submitted to God and it was because of his faithful service that God allowed Satan to afflict him. Submitting to God is no guarantee of prosperity in this life.
Our human nature would love to have guarantees from God that if we do this or that we are guaranteed prosperity and an easy life. There are many television health and wealth preachers who will quote from Job to “prove” that the Bible says if we do certain things we are guaranteed certain results and if we don’t do certain things we are guaranteed problems. Whenever you hear that sort of thing, always check out who said it.
Even though we may not listen to health and wealth teachers we all fall into this line of thinking that I should be healthy, happy, and financially secure.
If you doubt the truth of that statement–look at your prayers when a difficulty comes. When you get sick or are in a challenging place financially or emotionally, is your first prayer, “Lord, what can I learn from this? How can I glorify you in it?”
If you are like most of us, probably not. Our first prayer is almost always: “Lord heal me!” “Lord, get me out of this mess!”
If those are our prayers, we may want to read Job carefully.
We are often Job’s friends in our hearts
When you read through the advice Job’s friends give to him, ask the Lord to help you see how often you may have believed the same things or said the same things. Most of all remember as you do that, that God condemned those ways of thinking.
Read carefully, pray for insight and understanding so that you don’t make the same mistakes. These incorrect ways of thinking are not only dangerous to your own soul, but if you don’t truly (not superficially, not falsely) understand what the book of Job is teaching you will give incorrect advice and false comfort to those around you who are suffering.
If you do that people will have a false view of God and instead of humbly bowing before his sovereign will may rebel, get angry, or silently lose their faith thinking that God is not fulfilling a promise he never made in the first place.
The book of Job is a difficult book, but the first step in understanding it, is to keep clear as you read who said what. There are many thoughts expressed in Job that on first reading make sense, sound good, and are thoughts that are commonly accepted, BUT when you read them in context, when you note they are said by Job’s friends and that ultimately God condemned their words as “untrue, ” you will develop discernment and be able to recognize similar messages as untrue when you hear them today.
Foundational to understanding the rest of the Bible
You must settle the issue of the sovereignty of God in your heart for the rest of the Bible and for your life and eternity to make sense.
We sometimes flippantly use the phrase, “God is God and you are not,” but flippant or not, there is total truth in that phrase and in the context that we say it because like Satan we sometimes want to be God, to take his place in the control of our lives. Like Job we need to hear God’s question:
Job 38: 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
Job 40: 8 “Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
When we hear God speak in the book of Job, like him we should humble ourselves before him.
When we don’t understand or question many of the difficult stories and actions of God in the rest of the Bible, we need to search for answers with humility, knowing that our vision of the big picture of eternity and God’s ultimate plans are limited. Because of that, where we fit in, how God chooses to use us is limited also.
In response, we can question in humility, but we must be content and trust no matter what the answers or if no clear answers come.
But no matter what our circumstances, rejoice!
As wise as Job finally became when he realized who God was and how his will was sovereign, we are in a far more wonderful place than Job in our understanding because not only do we know the sovereign power of God, but we are living in the time when we have seen the supreme love of God demonstrated in Jesus.
The God of thundering power in Job, also is the God who planned from eternity past salvation in Jesus and an ultimately secure, eternal home for his children, no matter how difficult, confusing, or challenging the journey.
Remember not only his sovereignty, but his love as you journey through the Bible and the challenges of life.