Job’s Friends

One of the perennial problems of Old Testament preaching is how to preach Job’s friends. God’s evaluation of them at the end of the book is not exactly complimentary. He says (speaking to Eliphaz), “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7). So does this mean that we have to throw out all the speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar? This, of course, is quite a distinct question from what to do about Elihu’s speeches. I believe that Joseph Caryl has got this one pegged. By the way, it would be sheer arrogance (and I am only slightly exaggerating here for rhetorical effect) for anyone to preach on Job without reading Joseph Caryl’s commentary. Every pastor ought to own it and read it. Here is what he says on the subject:

The counsels of Eliphaz, are to be considered, either in the doctrine, or in the use. His counsels, in the doctrine of them, were good and savoury, he spake wholesome food; but as to Job’s case, he was quite mistaken in their use, and so instead of easing, troubled him. A physician may give his sick patient that which is good in itself, very cordial and sovereign, and yet it may kill him instead of curing him, if it be not proper for his body, and his disease…That which is good counsel to a man at one time, may be, or might have been, ill, to the same man at another…his (Eliphaz’s, LK) was good searching physic for the soule stomach, and gross spirit of a hypocrite: but it is enough to kill the heart of an upright heart…That not only words untrue, but words misapplied, are unsavoury, and may be dangerous. They are no food, and they may be poison. Prudence in applying, is the salt and seasoning of what is spoken…Speech must be seasoned, not only with the salt of truth, but with the salt of wisdom and discretion…This shows the holy skill of managing the word of God, when we make a difference of our patients, by our different medicines, and not serve all out of the same box (volume 2, pp. 448-449).

So a preacher can and should preach all the wisdom of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu, but must be careful to create exceptions for the Jobs of this world. I found Caryl to be enormously helpful here in understanding how to preach Job.

More of Joseph Caryl

Here are some profound thoughts from that master on the Book of Job, Joseph Caryl.

From volume 1, pg. 470: “When a wise man falleth into trouble, he falleth forward, that is, he falleth into those troubles, which he did fore-see; but when an ungodly man, a wicked man falleth into trouble, he falleth backward, he falleth into those evils, which he never thought of, much less feared.” Caryl is commenting on Job 3:25.

Page 456: “Every truth is beautiful, but the truths of God are beauty.”

Page 451: “As the first death doth part soul and body unwillingly, so the second death keepeth soul and body together unwillingly.”

And finally, from page 475-476, commenting on Luke 12:19: “I am safe in Him, I am quiet and at rest; he saith to his soul, ‘Soul, doest thou see That Christ, and doest thou take notice of those promises? Thou hast goods layed up in him, in them for many years, yea for eternity; soul, take thine ease, take it fully, thou hast riches, thou hast an estate that can never be spent; soul, eat, drink, and be merry; his blood is drink indeed, and his flesh is meat indeed, joy in Christ is joy indeed, unspeakable joy here, and fulness of joy hereafter.'”

My Redeemer Lives

I recently did my fifth funeral in a year since I started my ministry here in ND. People responded very well to this sermon on Job 19, so I will post it all.

You feel like your world has been torn apart. And indeed, it has. The death of a loved one tears your world apart. All the security you thought you had vanishes. Everything is up in the air, and is vague and shadowy. You don’t know about the future. You don’t know whether there is a God, and if He does, why did He allow this to happen? Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? That question is so often asked, that Rabbi Kushner wrote a book of that title. However, that last question is fundamentally wrong. It assumes that people are good. The question that we should be asking ourselves is, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” That is a much more fruitful question in the end, and will change our perspective. But in Job’s case, the issues are more complicated.

Job was, as you will remember, a man of good standing in his community, and before God. Satan came along in God’s courtroom, and said that Job was only righteous because God had protected him, and given job all these blessings. Satan said that if God took those blessings away, then Job would curse God to His face. God allowed Satan to test Job for two reasons: one was to test Job’s faith, and put in the crucible of suffering, that it might be found to be pure gold. The other reason was to put Satan to shame. And that is indeed what happened. Job did not curse God, even after Satan had taken away all ten of Job’s children, all his livestock, all his servants except the ones who came to tell Job all this bad news all at the same time. The only person left in Job’s family was his wife, and Satan even turned her against him. She was the one who told Job to curse God and die. But Job worshipped God and said, “Naked I came into this world, naked I shall return; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Then Satan said to God, “Ah, but his life was not threatened in all this. If I threatened his life, then he would curse you to your face.” God allowed Satan to go to round number two, although in both cases, Satan was only allowed to go so far. In the first round, Satan could not touch Job’s person. In the second round, Satan had to spare Job’s life. From that we learn that evil is controlled by the absolutely sovereign God. Thus far can evil go, and no farther. God keeps a very tight leash on evil. But Satan did afflict Job with painful boils.

And then his “friends” come to “support” him. A great job they did! They thought they were wise. They thought they knew why Job was going through all this pain. The reason obviously must be a specific sin on Job’s part. The book of Deuteronomy said that sin will always bring consequences. Since there were rather obvious consequences in Job’s life, the three friends assumed that there must be some obvious sin in Job’s life. The real question is, “Who is wise, and who knows the real situation of Job’s suffering?” Job doesn’t know about what happened in the courtroom of God. He doesn’t know about Satan. All he knows is that he believed in his God. He knows that it isn’t because of some great sin in his life that these trials have come upon him. He knows that he is a sinner. But he is in a good relationship with God, and he repents of his sin. The three friends obviously have it wrong as well, since they don’t know about Satan either. They thought that there was a one-to-one correspondence between sin and consequence, and that the relationship between sin and consequence was reversible. You see, sin always brings consequences. But just because there are consequences, doesn’t mean that sin was the thing that caused the consequences. It could have been something else. And it was in Job’s case. The reason for all these calamities coming upon Job was that Satan wanted to show God how smart he was, and God wanted to test Job’s faith in order that Job might grow. That is the situation of the book of Job.

The three friends and Job then get into this huge long debate. And it is important to know that Job doesn’t always say the right thing in these debates. He wishes he had never been born, or that he would die. That’s in chapter three. He accuses God of going too far in chapter 6.

Ultimately, what Job wants is to come face to face with God Himself. Job wants to be justified. That’s in chapter 14. He wants God to know that Job is in the right. Job is extremely honest with God, and lets God know exactly what he is feeling. You know, there is this attitude among Christians today that God should never know what I am thinking. If He did, then I would be ashamed. People who think like that need to read Job, and they need to read the Psalms. If you are angry at God, then you need to tell Him. If you are scared, then you need to tell God. Whatever you are feeling right now at the death of your loved one, you need to tell God honestly. Here’s a secret: God can handle it. God isn’t going to feel threatened. And, God knows already what you’re really thinking, so it’s useless to hide it from God.

In that context, we have this marvelous statement of faith from Job in chapter 19. In verse 23, he wants his words etched in stone for posterity. He wants to be justified in the eyes of those around him. He wants to be in the right. Notice the increasing endurance of the writing materials: first a scroll, then on lead, and finally on rock itself. What words would be recorded? These words: I know that my Redeemer lives.

What is a Redeemer? Well, say that you had to sell your property because you went bankrupt. Someone in your family would redeem it for you: that is, they would pay off the debt so that you could have the land back again. Say you had to sell yourself into slavery. Someone related to you would buy you back, and then you would be free. That person is a redeemer. In our day, if you have to pawn something at a pawn shop, you have a certain amount of time to redeem it, after which it becomes available for sale. Well, why does Job need Redeemer? He has spent a lot of time saying that he was innocent, and that he was not suffering these terrible trials for the reason that the three friends gave, but because of some unknown reason. The fact is that he sees himself as sold into God’s hand, and he needs someone to redeem him from God. Who will do that? God’s Son.

This passage is really about Resurrection. Look at the second part of verse 25: “And that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” That last word “earth” is literally the word for dust. The Redeemer will stand upon the dust. That is, the Redeemer will stand exactly where Job is sitting right now. Remember that he is sitting on the ash heap, the dust heap. Job is saying that the Redeemer will take his place. That is how he will be redeemed. Job knows that he needs to escape the wrath of God that is justly due to sinners. At this point, you might be wondering, “Wait a minute. Job has been saying that he’s innocent, but now he says he’s guilty. What’s going on here?” Job knows two things. First he knows that no one is righteous before God. In chapter 7:21, Job says, “Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?” He knows that he has sinned. He asks the question, in case all these trials really had come upon him because of his sin. But Job had made sacrifices all his life to God in repentance for sins committed. But Job knew that they were not enough, and that he needed more. At the same time, Job knew that he had not sinned himself out of a relationship with God. So in that way, he was both innocent and guilty at the same time. He was innocent of the sin that the three friends said he was guilty of, and yet Job was guilty of being a sinner. And so, he needs a Redeemer. Job needs a Redeemer! He was the one described in the very first verse of this book as a man who was blameless and upright! Just think about that for a minute. Here was a man blameless an upright, who still needed a Redeemer! that should give us all reason to pause and reflect on our own lives.

In verse 26, Job says that he himself will see his Redeemer, even after his skin has been destroyed. That is quite a strong statement of faith. He believes not only that his Redeemer lives, and will continue to live, but also that he himself will live to see his Redeemer! In verse 27, he is even more emphatic that it will be he himself who sees God. His identity will be restored to him in the resurrection from the dead.

What Job really believes in here is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came to redeem sinners. That means that all sinners are in need of redemption. We are all sinners. All you need to do is to read the first three chapters of Romans. This is vitally important to understand, since it is because we are sinners that there is death in the world. That gets to one of the questions that plagues us, “Why did God allow this to happen to our loved one: why did God allow him to die?” The reason is that humanity sinned. Adam sinned. Death came into the world. That is the punishment for sin that God told Adam would come into the world if he disobeyed God’s command. Adam was acting as our representative. And so we all sinned in Adam. That means that we have a sin nature inherited from Adam. G.K. Chesterton was once asked to write an essay on what was wrong with the world. He got the prize for the shortest answer when he wrote, “I am.” But that is really true. If we looked long and hard at ourselves, comparing what we are to what we should be, which is perfection, we would have to say that we fall far short. The punishment for sin is death. There is no way to avoid that consequence, even if we do believe in Jesus Christ. Here, my friends, right before your very eyes, is the consequence of sin in the world.

The question is, “Is there a solution?” The answer is a resounding, Resurrection “Yes.” Jesus Christ came to die for sinners. That means that His death was for our redemption. We were sold as slaves under the wrath of God, which we justly deserve. We owed what we could not possibly pay. And so, Jesus Christ came to pay that price. He paid the ultimate price. He suffered the complete wrath of God poured out on sinners, so that we would not have to pay that price, if we trust in Jesus. Do you know that your Redeemer lives? Do you know that you will see Jesus stand in your place on that great judgment day? Do you know that He will be your lawyer, and say, “This person is not guilty, because I gave him my righteousness?” That is what our beloved deceased believed. He still has to undergo death. But he has not one, but two resurrections. His soul was resurrected from the dead when he believed in Jesus Christ. His body will be resurrected on that last Great Day of judgment. Oh, we’ll all be there. But the great Difference will be between those who are redeemed by the blood of the lamb, and those who have not been redeemed. Which will you be? I counsel you today that if you do not believe that your Redeemer lives, then you have only a judgment of doom to which you can look forward. That is what Job says about his friends in verse 29: “You should fear the sword yourselves; for wrath will bring punishment by the sword, and then you will know that there is judgment.” There is judgment coming. The question is, “Will you be judged as a redeemed person, or as a non-redeemed person. Now is the time to surrender to Christ. You may not have another chance. Death came suddenly to him, and it could come anytime to you. How do you know whether you will even reach your home alive? But if you are redeemed by the great Redeemer, it doesn’t matter when you die. You will go to be with Jesus, your Redeemer, and await the resurrection of your body. He is in no pain. He is in the bosom of Abraham, a metaphor for heaven. He awaits the resurrection of his body. As we saw, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Will your death be precious in God’s sight? Then trust in Jesus, your Great Redeemer, for He lives.