Job 15 & 16: The Wager
Wager is a more formal word for a bet; to gamble, to lay odds on. It is an agreement between two parties in which each party tries to guess what will happen in a certain situation. The person who guesses right wins something; the person who guesses wrong loses something.
This is exactly what is going on here in the book of Job. A wager between God and Satan. I will let you in on an inside secret- God never loses and He never guesses wrong- because He has all knowledge. Albert Einstein said, “God does not play dice.” However in this wager, Job is kept in the dark. This is part of the implied agreement of the wager. God cannot whisper in Job’s ear. For faith always exist in the unseen, the unknown, the uncertain and unrealized.
During the second round of discussions, tempers flare and discussion turns to dispute. Eliphaz takes center stage once again and launches a verbal volley at Job.
Underneath the words are the worries of these three men that if Job is not being punished for his sins then their understanding of God was all wrong. Have you ever had someone say- ‘my God would not do something like that- speaking of a tragedy- the death of a child or great calamity like a tsunami which takes the lives of thousands?
Yet what is the alternative explanation? That God is not sovereign and cannot control things. Many have invented their own God, a god (small g) who is not really the Biblical God, but a god of their own design who is somewhat like a good genie. Paul knew who His God was and said, ‘my God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Eliphaz has two warnings for Job:
- Job lacks wisdom.
- God judges the wicked.
Let’s pick up on this debate and pull out some of the charges, Eliphaz is making. First he tells Job his words are useless, he is filled with hot air. (vs.2&3) They come from an empty stomach- a man who lived by his appetites and not from a heart of wisdom.
Eliphaz gives us an insight into what he fears with this statement: “You undermine piety and hinder devotion to God.” This reveals Eliphaz’s theology: if what Job believed- that God does not always punish the wicked and reward the godly- then what motive would people have for obeying God? In other words- what’s in it for me? Isn’t this what the devil has contended all along- the devil has said the only reason Job is devoted to God, reverences, fears God and shuns evil is because God pays Job extremely well. In other words people serve God only for what they can get out of God- they are in fact serving their own best self- interest and making God their servant, their personal ‘genie.’
Children understand rewards and punishment rather than ethics and morality. Therefore when children are growing up, they learn through rewards and punishment. Funny thing is, we seem to carry some of that belief system with us into our adult life. Paul writes in I Cor. 13: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child; I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” In the great chapter on love, Paul says the most important things are to love God and dwell in His Love. When you love Him with all your heart, you can trust Him with all your heart. Paul says this love which is God’s love within us, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit is what we are to dwell in.
What term is often used to describe the nation of Israel? The’ children of Israel’. We know this refers to the descendants of Jacob, whose name, God changed to Israel. But their behavior was child-like and when we read the account of the Exodus, they often remind us of 2 year olds throwing temper tantrums or needing constant supervision. Those of us who are born again, also go through a stage of growing up in Christ. In Deuteronomy 28- Moses passes on the instructions from God telling the ‘ children’ of Israel, what behavior they will be blessed for by God and what behavior they will be cursed for by God. It is a simplistic set of rules designed to reward for obedience and punishment for disobedience. What God is also showing up all through the scriptures beginning with Adam and Eve is that no one does right – all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Our motives should always be for the love of God. Jesus said, ‘if you love me, keep my commandments.’ Jesus also gave us what some refer to as the 11th commandment. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, to love one another as I have loved you.” And how did Jesus loves us? Sacrificially. He loves us and gave Himself for us. This is completely the opposite of what Eliphaz believes. Eliphaz believes one obeys God for the rewards one receives. You obey in order to receive God’s blessing and be protected from any harm. Their motives were all self-centered. In his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren starts out with this declarative sentence. “It’s not about you.” In fact the Bible tells us in Colossians: “All things were created by Him and for Him.” If you want to know why on earth you are here, you must begin with God. For without discovering God’s purpose for you, life is meaningless. And God knows the plans He has for you.
Understand this truth: You did not create yourself, so there is no way you can tell yourself what you were created for- only your Creator can tell you. And our Creator has given us the owner’s manual to reveal the purpose for which you and I were created and how to discover how to use that which He has provided.
Eliphaz implies Job has a wicked heart and ‘his sins are telling his mouth what to say.’ He goes on to tell Job, he lacks experience and the wisdom of age. Gina’s brother, Louis, after he was saved was an excited young Christian. He witnessed to a friend’s father who was a very wealthy, successful business man- who told Louis he needed to get some education and experience before he tried to question him about his relationship with the Lord.
Often those who would refute your faith, employ sarcasm and ridicule to belittle and discourage you.
In the last portion of his 2nd speech, Eliphaz says God judges the wicked and this is what is happening to Job. He implies Job is a hypocrite and a godless man and is to be blamed for all which has happened to him and his family. On this – all three of these ‘friends of Job’ agree. Job is at fault. He is full of useless words, a hypocrite, and a liar who will not confess his sins.
The problem is their theology about judgment of the wicked is not always true in life. Many wicked people go through life apparently happy and successful while many godly people suffer and compared to the rich and famous are failures. But in Luke 16, we see this is not true of the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Abraham tells the rich man had the good life and Lazarus did not- now they were in two different places. Paradise and torment.
God will ultimately judge the wicked at the Great White Throne. In the meanwhile the sun shines on the good and the evil, and the rain falls on the just and the unjust.
The truth is God judges the wicked in this life by letting them have their own way. He says they have their reward here on earth, but will have no reward in heaven. The only heaven they will ever know is the one they enjoy on this earth. (Luke 16)
Proverbs 11:28 says: “Whoever trusts in riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”
In the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12- Jesus says to the man who had stored up great wealth: “But God said to him, you fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself, but is not rich toward God.”
Whereas for the believer, the only suffering we will experience will be in this life here on earth for our rewards are in heaven, where there will be no pain or tears. These men who confront Job do not know the whole truth. This situation with Job shakes their belief system if Job is in fact not at fault.
Job replies in Job 16: “I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all!”
Job tells them, if you were in my place, I could speak against you as you are speaking against me. But I would use my words to encourage you. Do you see what is happening in Job’s life? Having been struck down, hard pressed, perplexed and persecuted, Job is being prepared to offer comfort to those who are experiencing the same troubles. Having been touched by tragedy, great loss and poor health, Job knows what it is to feel completely abandoned by God. But I am going to tell you God has promised not to abandon you, never will He leave you or forsake you. Don’t throw away your confidence, for the One who is coming is coming in a little while. So you must have patience. And when God finally comforts you, and He will. Guess what? Job will be able, and you will be able to be a true comforter. God does not comfort you just because He loves you and you need comforting, He is equipping you in a special way to become a comforter.
Job is in such misery, says whether I speak or am silent, I am still in pain which is not relieved.
Job says to God- you are wearing me out. Ever been there? Ron Hale and Yvonne have been there for several weeks and finally the light begins to break through, the healing of Ron’s sight began to return and the pain subsided. Sometimes we cannot know the sweetness of relief, except through experiencing the pain.
Right now at this point, Job cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. He is pleading with God for relief and with his friends for some sympathy. But they have only made him more miserable.
Listen to Job’s descriptions of his conditions, his life, and his plight:
*Worn out by God
*My entire household devastated.
*Bound. Gaunt. Torn apart by my God.
*Persecuted, jeered, slapped in the face, scorned.
*All was well with me- I had everything. Then it was gone, shattered.
*I have a target on my back and God has supplied everyone with arrows to shoot me.
Job is at the point he believes God is against him- everything is against him.
Job continues in this vein throughout chapter 17 as he comes to believe his only out is death.
Do you realize Job is so broken, so miserable, so hurting and alone and God is silent so that the only hope Job has is death.
Job did not consider suicide. But his was so miserable, in so much pain- physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally he wanted to die- pleaded to die. He was at the point of losing hope. God said NO to Job’s plea for death.
Job is crying out to God and the heavens are silent. Had that experience? No answer comes. The next day seems to be worse than today and things seem to be getting worse by the minute. Your money is dwindling; your health is declining; the world is a mess and so is your life. Meanwhile (and it has been mean for a while) where in the world is God???
When you are happy and things are going well, everything is fine- are you real concerned about where is God? Be honest. Probably not that much.
But when you, or a loved one is sick, seriously sick. Or troubled, deeply troubled for a child, a loved one who has had the doors of life slammed in their face until they do not want to knock on any more doors and you are worried sick over them and their future.
Do you see the similarity? When things are going good, great things happening and life in general is a delight it easy to praise God as the One worthy of our worship. In fact the devil could make the same charge against us he has made against Job. Look God, these people of yours are worshipping you because of what’s in it for them. They’ve got it all and it just keeps coming. Let me upset their plans. Let me take away some of those nice things. Shake up their 401K and let them lose their job, get some bad news from the doctor and a child who is in trouble and let’s see what they have to say to you then.
Job needs some hope. Just a sliver of it would be nice. Just a little relief from the pain. Some words of encouragement.
Do you now understand what the contest is about? The point of the contest, the wager between God and Satan was let these bad, horrible things happen to Job and keep Job in the dark. God, by the terms of the wager, cannot whisper in Job’s ear and tell him, hang on we are almost through. God could not tell him, “Job, hang on; don’t give up because I am going to bless your socks off in just a little while. God had accepted the terms of the wager and He could not offer outside help.
Have you ever been in a desperate situation? I read a story – it was like one of those Reader’s Digest stories where a simple situation turns into a nightmare. A man was at his cabin on the lake and decided to take a swim in the late afternoon after a hot day. The sun was setting and he swam out some distance from the shore, but really not concerned about the distance. Then a freakish, heavy fog rolled in about the same time the setting sun went behind the trees. Suddenly he could see no horizon, no stars, and no landmarks and was completely unsure of where the shore was. He cried out to God to show him the way. But God was silent. He swam for several minutes and was not sure he was swimming further out into the middle of this large several hundred acres lake. He became completely confused, exhausted and was losing confidence and hope. At last he heard a voice coming from the shore and began to swim toward that voice and soon the fog lifted and he saw he was not that far from the shore.
Job is in a fog. Job was in the dark and that was the whole purpose of the wager- to see if Job’s faith would hold. Job was treading water and about to sink.
Job is getting closer than he thinks. He has already made one great statement of faith: “Though He slays me, yet will I hope in Him.”
What we are studying here is a real life case of faith being tested in the extreme. But what we are also seeing is the universal law of faith. A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted. The kind of faith God values is one which has been developed in the sudden darkness, when the fog rolls in and you are completely clueless and absolutely scared to death and God is silent.
Reading the story of that man in the lake, you could imagine his panic, his fear that something which seemed so harmless, a late afternoon swim in a lake he had swum in many times before, became a nightmare where he feared for his very life.
God is being silent for this is his part of the agreement. It is in fact where our faith is tested in His silence, in His seeming delays, or even as Martha and Mary believed his delay which had caused Lazarus to die. I look at these stories of desperate people in desperate straits, a loved one dying, or dead, diseased, blind, lepers, lame, shamed, outcasts, and realize God is trying to tell us something.
God is telling us I must stay silent sometimes. For this is where you develop patience, endurance, which builds character from which hope comes, and not the hope which lost man has, but hope from the God of all Hope.
God must let darkness come in. He must allow a fog of confusion about your direction. Until you realize like this man- I do not know where to turn. This is where patience is built. Patience is endurance. And James says it is a ‘must-have’ for faith to become mature. Now remember God has given us His Word and His promise that He would never place more on us than we can bear, but will with the test make a way to escape, so you can bear it.
I have been hopeless before. I was in a fog for 14 years. I was in darkness for 14 years. I was like the man in the lake; I was sinking in sin, never to rise again.
I wanted to die, but God would not let me. Job wanted to die, but God would not let him. God is not willing that any should perish, but all would come to repentance. Story after story in the Bible shows us in this world we will have trouble. WE need God. God wants us to need Him. He loves us. He wants us to love Him. He has plans for us. He wants us to trust Him to reveal His plans to us. I was created by Him and for Him.
How do you find the way for your life? Finding your way is not by speculation- I am going to swim in that direction… not that way- no the other way.
The way you find the purpose and direction of life is by revelation. God has not left us in dark to wonder and guess. He has clearly revealed His purpose for creating each of us in His Word. He tells us where we came from, why we are here and where we are headed. His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light upon our path. He loves to direct our steps and stops.
And what we know for sure is the best is yet to come.