Job’s Friends Speak – Part 2.

These next two cycles of debate can be read in Job 15-33.

Are we trying to get the infinite things of God into our small finite minds? This is the reality of Job as he struggles through his horrific ordeal. As his friends wield accusations, Job seeks to press his mind and heart to know the wonders of the sovereignty of God. He believes it, yet it seems too wonderful for him to fully know. As he struggles through the months of his God-ordained calamity, God’s grace presses him to know and rest in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

As we continue with debate cycles two and three, we find Job in affliction with his own mind. He has a complaint against God (Job 23, 24). He feels God has fled from him (Job 23:1-12), and God frightens him (Job 23:13-17). Job feels frustrated by God (Job 24:1-17), and he also believes God has failed him. As he strives to understand all of God’s ways (Job 24:18-25), Job believes God has left him alone.

Wrestling with the justice and fairness of God while God is silent and not giving him a reason for his agony, Job persists in understanding the sovereignty of God.

In Job 25:2-3, Bildad says no one can measure God, calculate His forces, resist Him, nor escape the reach of His dominion. He states that God’s righteousness is unequaled. Though he is correct in stating that God is sovereign, Bildad misapplies God’s righteousness to Job’s situation by telling Job that God is all light and Job is all darkness. In other words, Job, who do you think you are that you feel you can stand righteous before a holy God?

Job responds (Job 26) with a clear statement on God’s authority: God is over all the realm of the dead, over all of heaven, over all of earth, over the water and its routines. We see Job by God’s grace continuing to know and submit to God’s sovereignty. In Job 27, Job defends his innocence again by stating that God’s justice is universally comprehensive when dealing with the wickedness of mankind. However, God is not dealing treacherously with Job because of his own wickedness.

As Job continues his search for peace under God’s sovereign hand, he speaks one of the most classic passages on the wisdom of God in all the Bible (Job 28). Where can wisdom be found? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living (Job 28:12-13). Job knows ultimate wisdom belongs only to God, and he is now beginning to learn something even from the silence of God. Job rightly concludes that the fear of the Lord is wisdom and to turn from evil is understanding (Job 28:28).

Job concludes cycle three of the debate with his friends, and they have nothing left to say to each other. His words about the infinite wisdom of God have left his three friends speechless. Job continues to understand and to trust the sovereignty of God.

In Job 29, the tapestry of Job’s life is considered: his glorious past relationship with God (Job 29:2-4), his rich family life (Job 29:5-6), the respect of his friends (Job 29:7-11), the care of the helpless ones in his life (Job 29:12-17), his secure future (Job 29:18-20), his notoriety in the region of the east (Job 29:21-25).

In Job 30, Job focuses on his present state of humiliation. Now his place in everything and among everyone has vanished. He is physically sick with no relief, and the security of his future has disappeared (Job 30:24-31).

Job states twelve virtues of his life which the Lord knows in Job 31. From his marital fidelity (Job 31:1) to every facet of community, Job has behaved with integrity. The three cycles of communication between Job and his friends have concluded. After a time of silence, another speaks.

Elihu Speaks

Apparently, Elihu has been listening to the debate since Job began to speak in Job 3. This man is the youngest among the five people present, and out of respect, he speaks last (Job 32:6). He speaks with a lot of youthful passion, and some believe he speaks with youthful arrogance. He is not just unsettled by all he has heard but angry (Job 32). In his passion, he addresses Job multiple times by his first name (Job 33:1, 31; 34:5, 7, 35, 36), which would have been considered disrespectful during this time period.

Elihu reflects the character of the one true hero of the book of Job, and that is God. He states some wonderful things about God, leaving Job silent with nothing to say. Elihu’s message was different than that of Job’s friends, who thought he was suffering because of his sin. Elihu felt Job was incorrectly handling his suffering and did not believe Job should question God or doubt God’s justice and fairness in relationship to how God had handled Job.

Elihu felt Job had not done the best job of fully entrusting himself to his faithful Creator. He has some things to say about God, begging Job to listen. In Job 33, Elihu arrogantly gives his defense as to why he is just in having the right to speak into Job’s life. Assuring Job that he speaks with a good heart (Job 33:3-4), Elihu gives allusion to something Job never said (Job 33:8-11), that Job claimed to have never sinned and was sinless. We know that Job never called himself sinless. At least five times in Job’s speeches, he has referred to himself as a sinner.

Elihu begins to rebuke Job for questioning God, reminding him that God does speak when He seems to be silent. This is good for all of us to remember: when we are deeply grieving, God does speak when He seems silent. God speaks, Elihu says, through that which is supernatural (Job 33:15-16). He goes on to say that God does speak even in a time of silent suffering (Job 33:19-22). Elihu is attempting to get Job to listen to God in his time of affliction, even if God is not speaking audibly to Job.

Sometimes, God speaks through pain. Often, the deepest lessons we learn are learned through affliction. Elihu continues to say that God has spoken through His condescension. God has reached down to man in so many wonderful ways, and if Job would just lift his eyes and look around, he would know that God is speaking in silence through his condescension.

Job 34 and 35 are all about God’s justice. Job has questioned the justice of God, and Elihu is setting the record straight, that God’s justice is immutable, unchanging, and always right even though unknown fully by man (Job 34:5). Elihu teaches that if God is not just, then He cannot be good; He cannot be God! Elihu reminds Job that God can see everything (Job 34:21-22). God knows, judges, and controls everything (Job 34:31-33). Job 35 teaches how God’s justice can never be affected, influenced, nor changed by any effort of man in any way. It is final and complete in a universal way.

Job 36 and 37 are entirely about the greatness of God. In the silence, merciful and mighty God is speaking. Elihu reminds Job of God’s majesty (Job 37:4, 14-24). Everything Elihu speaks about God is true and right. When he finishes, the only one left to speak is God.

Theological Truths for Every Believer

True theological statements can be false if misapplied. We can do great harm to another believer if we say a right thing about God but apply it wrongly to a circumstance. Let God be God according to the context of who He is and what He says at the time He says it.

Pastors and teachers are warned in James 3 not to strive to be a teacher. Take great caution when speaking on the behalf of God or speaking God’s words. Job’s friends said a lot of right things but caused Job great distress and harm because the truths about God were misapplied. Doing the right thing the wrong way is still wrong. Be careful!

Theological correctness is essential in our teaching, preaching, and our discipling. Though Job’s friends had theological correctitude, they were missing love, sounding only like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13). Love assumes faith, assumes growth, and has relationships with people to help them grow in Christ-likeness.

Prosperity is not given out by God according to whether we are good or bad. All the good things we have are not because we are good or godly. God in His sovereign choice rains goodness down on the wicked and the righteous. James 1 tells us that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights. No matter what our circumstances, God is just, sovereign, good, and always right. James 2 reminds us that God is not pleased with favoritism. God is impartial. Salvation is offered to all. He is impartial in His justice, bringing judgement on the ungodly and discipline on the disobedient believer.

God reigns completely over the affairs of men. Not one person in the book of Job ever questions the sovereignty of God. All of them submit to it, finding their way to peace as they live under it. 1 Peter 5 reminds us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, and He will exalt us in due time.

Sovereign wisdom needs to be feared by each of us. That fear is demonstrated in living righteously and obediently in our time. We need to hold fast to God. We need to entrust ourselves to a faithful creator while we continue to do good things (1 Peter 4:19).

What can we learn from Job’s growth from agony to peace as he strives to understand the sovereignty of God? In Job 3, he is in utter dismay. We see him worsen by wanting death to become his immediate reality in Job 7-9. His response to Bildad (Job 10:20-22) points to despair. His response to Zophar (Job 14:14) shows encouragement as he debates over the reality of who God is, how God speaks even through silence, and life after death. Job concludes that he will wait until his relief comes.

God is doing something in the heart of Job during the cycles of debate. He goes from agony and yearning for death to believing there is life after death. This is resurrection language from one of the earliest writers of Scripture. God gives Job understanding by way of hope which begins leading him out of the despair he has been enduring for months. As Job continues to battle the poor theology applied by his friends, his strength grows. Job announces that his Redeemer lives and will take His stand on the earth (Job 19:25-27). Job declares that he will see God after death.

Believer, ponder this: in all of Job’s realizations and growth in understanding of the sovereignty of God, his circumstances remain unchanged.

How encouraging for us that God gives us the slack to struggle quite intensely, even to want to die, yet never leaves us alone. There is one who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24), who will weep with us, mourn with us, be patient with us, and allow us to see all the ways that He speaks even in silence. God knows the work of grace that He has done in our hearts will compel us to pursue His great and precious promises and to own them! It could take months or years, but God is overseeing the journey and supplying the energy along the way.

Practical Truths for Every Believer

Yes, sometimes God does seem silent. But sometimes He seems silent because we are not listening to what He has already said. If we are struggling, we have the Bible, which Job did not have. Study it! If we are in agony, the best place to go is before the Lord and His Word, rather than our spouses, children, and church members first. As he grows from agony to peaceful understanding even though his circumstances remain unchanged, Job says he has not departed from the commands of the Lord and has treasured the words from His mouth more than his necessary food (Job 23:12).

Study the Bible! If we seek God, we will find Him, if we seek with all our heart (Deut. 4:29). As we struggle and do not feel we hear God speaking, let us make certain we are listening to what He has already said. God’s Word is sufficient. We need to be more than faithful hearers but also faithful doers, blessed in our deeds (James 1:25).

When God is silent, Job knows that God knows. In Job 23:10, Job says that after God has tried him, he will come forth as gold. This verse has been often taken out of context. The truth of this text is not about what James 1 says about counting it all joy. Job is not referring to God being the great refiner. Job is saying that when God tests me, He knows I am righteous. Job’s friends are attacking him with good theology misapplied to destroy him. They are telling Job that he is suffering because of his sin, while Job declares he is not! Job says God can test him and will find, as sure as the testing is certain, the righteousness that Job has in Him is certain. Job is a child of God! Job is going to come out of this calamity with his faith, testifying to everyone that he is God’s child. Job knows that God knows the condition of his heart, as He knows the condition of each of our hearts, our salvation experience, and our status as a child of God and a part of His family.

Satan loves to target our assurance when we are in agony. Satan tries to undo our feelings of safety in Christ when we are enduring life’s most horrible calamities. Satan aims to make us feel like we are untethered from the dock of security in a horrific storm, yet Job says he has never been untethered. No matter what God sends Job’s way, he is gold because of whose he is.

By faith, God knows believers are gold in Christ Jesus. By His grace, He will grow us through each agony. He will bring continual, gradual restoration from our brokenness to a stronger confidence in Him and how He righteously and justly oversees the ordeal of our calamity.

Application Points

  • Does God seem to be silent in your life? Are you spending time studying His Word and seeking Him in prayer? Often, we fail to hear what God has already spoken. God’s Word is sufficient!
  • Do you rightly fear the truth of God’s sovereign wisdom? Is this evidenced in righteous and obedient living unto Christ-likeness?
  • Do circumstances have you agonizing, struggling, or feeling insecure? It is understandable! Remember that by faith God knows you are gold, and by His grace, He is going to grow you from agony to future victory.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Daniel 4:25, 35, Romans 9:15-23, 1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 4:11 – the Sovereignty of God
  • Job 33:17-18, 24-26, 29-30; 34:24-26, 28; 36:15, 28, 31; 37:12-13; 38:25-27, 39-41; 39:1-4 – Elihu preaches to Job on how God condescends to speak in silence.
A Quote to Ponder

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. – C. S. Lewis

A Hymn to Encourage: "If You Will Only Let God Guide You"

If you will only let God guide you,
And hope in Him through all your ways,
Whatever comes, He’ll stand beside you,
To bear you through the evil days;
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that cannot move.