Thoughts on the Book of Job

The book of Job, reputedly one of the oldest books of the Bible is fraught with meaning and relevancy to our present day. It rolls back the curtain on what happens between the physical world in which we live and the spiritual realm. Which is just as real…even more so. But it has even deeper lessons than what appear on the surface. We all know that it is the book that rolls back the curtain on the contest between Christ and Satan. And we, the people of this world, are the main players. Don’t think for a moment that it just describes the experience of a man who lived thousands of years ago. It describes the battle that goes on over every believer on this planet. All the players and situations in this book are relevant to us today. It is not just about one man’s faith being tested to its absolute limit.

One fact that is easily overlooked in this book is that it begins and ends with intercession. In the very first chapter we find a situation that is ever so familiar today. A godly man concerned about, and praying for, his children. Times haven’t changed all that much. We read it in verses four and five:  His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another’s houses in turn; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the feast days had run their course, 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 children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” This is what Job always did.’ Job 1:4,5 Offering burnt offerings for his children was the Old Testament equivalent of praying for, or interceding for them. This is the same as the prayers that ascend from concerned parents for their children today.

Why is this mentioned in the first chapter? Because we believe that, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable…… 2 Tim.3:16, we would conclude that it’s not without good reason that God included this part of the story. This will become clearer as we explore the book even further. A surface reading of Scripture is not always sufficient. Sometimes we have  to dig a little deeper for the hidden gems and read ‘between the lines’ as it where.

To add further evidence that this book is indeed about intercession we find that the very last chapter also mentions this topic. The Lord was not pleased with the three friends of Job and told Job to pray and intercede for them. Once again this was represented  by the offering of seven bullocks and seven rams as a burnt offering presented on behalf of his three friends.

There is a strong hint of this theme in an easily overlooked verse. Job 21:19 Here Job himself says,  “God layeth up his iniquity for his children: he rewardeth him, and he shall know it.” This, in the King James version doesn’t appear to say a lot at first glance. But, and this is where modern versions come into their own, some later versions give it more meaning. The Amplified Version says, “You say, God lays up [the punishment of the wicked man's] iniquity for his children. Let Him recompense it to the man himself, that he may know and feel it.”  So in this Amplified version a different shade of meaning begins to come out. Kenneth Taylor in his paraphrase, The Living Bible, recognized this original meaning, and brings it out perhaps even more clearly. ‘Well,’ you say, ‘at least God will punish their children! But I say that God should punish the man who sins, not his children! Let him feel the penalty himself. Yes, let him be destroyed for his iniquity. Let him drink deeply of the anger of the Almighty. vs.19,20    Isn’t this talking about a man interceding, standing ‘in the gap’, for his family?  Maybe God is showing us here that in standing for and praying for others we are leaving ourselves open and vulnerable to attacks from the enemy. This is precisely what happened to Job. If, in standing on behalf of others we are spiritually attacked and assaulted, we ought not question that oppression. It’s part of the process for their ultimate redemption.

If Job is standing in the gap or interceding for his children might that not be one of the main reasons that He allowed terrible things to happen to Job and to his beloved children. What happened in this case was extreme but these were foundational times and demanded primary, underlying and clear demonstrations.  Abraham is called the father of the faithful but no one would be asked today to make the sacrifice that Abraham was asked to make. Job was ultimately rewarded in this life for his faith as was Abraham. But just as the main part of Job’s reward will be in the future life so the prayers of many of God’s people today will only be fulfilled after the eternal dawn. It is indeed the book of Job that takes us forward to that beautiful time. For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Job 19:25,26

That Job’s ultimate reward lies after the future resurrection is seen in a careful reading of both the first and last chapters of this book. In verses 2 and 3 of this first chapter we read that he had seven sons and three daughters. We also read here that he owned 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 teams of oxen and 500 female donkeys. We read in this chapter that Job lost all of these – his children and his livestock. Now come down to the last chapter and we read the following. Then when Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his wealth and happiness! In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Job 42:10 TLB     This is spelt out in vs.12 as 14000 sheep, 6000 camels, 1000 teams of oxen and 1000 female donkeys. This was indeed twice the number as before. Verse 13 is interesting for it says that God gave him seven more sons and three more daughters. This was the same number as he had before. But here there is a wonderful truth. He did indeed have twice the number of children as his original ten were safe in the hands of God. This fact is recognized by Kenneth Taylor who gave us The Living Bible. In a footnote to vs.13,14 he says, “gave him seven more sons and three more daughters, making a total of twenty children, ten of whom were in heaven.”  This should give us wonderful reassurance that our prayers, though often seemingly unheard, are indeed heard by God, and will have their ultimate fruition in the day of final rewards.

What was it about Job’s 3 friends that incurred the anger of God? If you read the statements that came out of the mouth of these three people you will find that basically what they are saying is Biblical and true. Why then God’s anger towards them? These 3 friends tended to have a judgmental attitude towards their suffering friend. These three people, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar can easily represent religious people today. They knew their scripture and had the right answers. They knew about God. But they didn’t know God as did Job.

In the 32nd chapter we are introduced to a new character in the dialogue. His name, Elihu. He is described as being young and also being angry at what he had heard. He apparently is different to his older friends. Why is he different? Because in the final chapter of the book of Job, when Job is told by God to offer a burnt offering (pray for) his three friends Elihu is not included in this edict. Why was this? Why did Elihu, this young fellow, not receive the rebuke that the three older men had received. Was it because he was young and insignificant and wasn’t worthy of a mention? This is probably not the case. Elihu made some very pointed observations toward Job and his three friends. Could there have been things in what he said which did not merit the rebuke of God? Or putting it another way, was he speaking truth?

His narrative begins in Job the 32nd chapter. We’re told that he was a young man and that he was angry. He was angry at Job because he had seemed to justify himself before God. And he was angry at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer even though they had accused Job of wrongdoing.

One way in which Elihu differs from Job’s three friends is that he is the only one who makes mention of the Holy Spirit of God.

How often we overlook the work of the Holy Spirit. And yet He is so important. He is first mentioned in the second verse in the Bible. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Gen.1:2 And He is mentioned in the fourth last verse in the Bible. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come…. Rev.22:17 And it was Jesus himself who said, Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Matt.12:31

The work of the Holy Spirit is so important in the plan of salvation, in the story of this world. And Elihu, in his youthful zest and anger, seems to have comprehended this fact.

This is what Elihu, son of Barakel the Buzite, said: “I’m a young man, and you are all old and experienced. That’s why I kept quiet and held back from joining the discussion. I kept thinking, ‘Experience will tell. The longer you live, the wiser you become.’ But I see I was wrong – it’s God’s Spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty One, that makes wise human insight possible. The experts have no corner on wisdom; getting old doesn’t guarantee good sense. So I’ve decided to speak up. Listen well! I’m going to tell you exactly what I think. Job 32:6-10 MSG And he reiterates the same thought in the very next chapter. The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4 NRSV The fact that he mentions the Spirit in two consecutive chapters shows that God is trying to tell us something here. Sometimes we don’t need information flowing into our heads. We need the Holy Spirit flowing into our hearts.

If there is one thing the book of Job teaches us it is this. There is a way (as we pass through life) that is approved by God. It may not be an easy way. But if it is the way of faith guided by the Holy Spirit we can rest assured. We are entitled to claim the promises of God. Elihu did this in an open forthright way and he was not rebuked by God.

Our best intentions, our own moral compass, our Biblical knowledge, are all worthless without the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit of God. We are not capable of giving guidance or reproof without His presence in our minds and hearts. Elihu seems to have recognised this eternal truth. Just like the apostle Paul, who says centuries later in the New Testament era, ….pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. Eph.3:16.17

But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit…..For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Rom.7:6; 8:2 NRSV

Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking…..why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. Col.2:16,17,18,20-22 NRSV

God rebukes man-made religion no matter how well intentioned and Bible based it may appear. Unless it is guided by the Holy Spirit it is worthless to God.

If we learn one thing from this book it should be this. God doesn’t want us just to know about Him. He wants us to know Him. This is what religion is all about. It’s not about knowing about God. It’s about knowing God. In the words of Jesus himself, And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. Jn.17:3 And this is what the brother of Jesus said,  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27  It’s not about having a religious mind,  it’s about having a caring mind.

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One comment

  1. Howard Rees says:

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