Job 20-23: Get A Grip!
Job cannot change these men’s minds and they will not change the subject. So we continue with more of the same.
Zophar is telling Job the following:
- Wicked do not live long.
- Pleasures of the wicked are temporal.
- God’s judgment falls hard on the wicked.
This is the whole of what Zophar is saying in Job 20. He even implies Job got wealthy by oppressing the poor.
In Job’s reply in chapter 21, Job requests three things from his three visitors:
- Listen to me carefully.
- Be patient with me while I speak.
- Look at me.
Job is saying, will you be quiet and listen to what I have to say. Job says your statements are not accurate. The wicked do not always suffer in this world. In fact they may prosper, passing on fortunes from one generation to the next. We can look around America today and know certain family names stand for money and they have no reputation for godliness. We find these people in the political arena in positions of power and influence in high society. Mostly wealthy people gain these positions of power and prestige and sometimes make us wonder- why do the wicked prosper? In America we hate the rich almost as much as we worship them. They live like kings and queens. They go where they want when they want.
Have you ever noticed how long our ex-Presidents live? They have 24 hour-on-call medical help. They have everything they need and receive all they want without hesitation. Money and power which go together in our society and provides the elite with a different health care system, a different system of justice, and seemingly the best of everything. All we can do is fret because it seems so unfair, and God cautions us to “fret not because of evil doers, or be envious of those who do wrong.” David said, “I have seen the wicked in great power, spreading himself like a green bay tree.” (Psalm 37)
Job goes on to say; “They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace. Yet they say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him? “Does this not capture the attitude of many of the rich and powerful? As far as they are concerned why do they need God? What would they gain by praying to Him?
Imagine pulling up to such a person’s home as Chuck Swindoll describes in this story: A pastor and his young deacon were visiting prospects and stopped in front of a beautiful, stately mansion with landscaped, manicured lawns. Two expensive cars were parked in the circle drive. They heard the sounds of children splashing in backyard swimming pool. They saw through a large picture window a man and his friends watching a football game on a large screen TV while snacking on food set on trays before them. The place reeked of affluence. The house alone was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The young deacon turned to his pastor and said, “What kind of good news do we have for this fellow?”
They have their own god. This is why they reply- ‘we have no desire to know your ways. What would we gain by praying to him?’
Now Job is in the fiery furnace of affliction. But God has told us before Job entered this time of affliction he was a man of integrity, blameless and upright, who feared God and shunned evil. God wanted us to know Job was not in this furnace for any sin he had committed. God has allowed this time in the furnace of affliction in Job’s life to show the devil, plus all his demons and all the good angels of heaven and the world the power of His preserving grace to strengthen and keep His children. And individually God is testing and trying Job to strengthen his faith and teach him and us to look up to Him to find strength and confidence in God alone. Jesus told us, “…no one can snatch you out of my hand. No one can snatch you out of my Father’s hand; I and the Father are one.” (John 10) Lift up your hands, God has a grip on you, both He and His Son. Get a Grip on this truth!!!
All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all subject, including those of us strong in faith, to the elements of a fallen world. We have all been conformed to some degree and shaped by our culture. God chastens and disciplines His children for their sins. God also restores us when the repent, although there might be consequences for our sins. God also allows us to be tested and endure seasons of suffering and affliction on some occasions not because of our sins, but for our good and for His Glory. Trials and tests come from God; temptations come from the enemy which colludes with the world and our flesh to drive a wedge between God’s children and Himself.
I do not know where you are today in your personal trial, but God knows. And this is why He tells us we have need of patience. We must not try to get out of the trial, until we have gotten out of the trial what God desires for us to gain from it. In other words, do not give up. Do not leave the game early. Do not say- that’s it, I quit. This is too hard and I am completely exhausted. Paul pleaded three times to have the thorn removed. The Lord told Paul, His grace was sufficient. He also told Paul, one of the greatest truths we can comprehend: “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” God longs for us to be dependent upon Him.
Eliphaz sounds like an attorney making his final summary of guilt of the accused to the jury. Here is what he says in Job 22:
- Job is a sinner and this is why he is suffering. God is judging his sins. Job has been making the point: if God is punishing me, why will He not tell me what sins I am accused of committing?
- Job is hiding his sins. In other words Job was a hypocrite.
- Job must repent of his sins. He must submit to God. (Not all which Eliphaz says is inaccurate; much of what he says is true, although misguided. Submitting to God means to stop fighting against God and accept His ways.)
Job replies in this chapter 23 and we find a great truth here in these verses. What would God have us learn from this story? For in the Bible we learn about: God, about people, about life and about ourselves. We also learn from experience the truth about sin. Sin will always take you further than you wanted to go; keep you longer than you intended to stay; and costs you more than you wanted to pay. I, like the prodigal, learned those things and came to my senses.
Job is fighting his feelings with his faith. And what he wants more than anything is to find God in all of this tragedy and run to Him and come to His seat. His throne.
Job is not looking for a way out per se; he is looking for the One who is the Way. He is looking for God. Job is not running away from God, he is running about trying to find God.
Listen to these verses:
“If only I knew where to find Him: If only I could go to His dwelling. I would state my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what He would answer me and consider what He would say. Would He oppose me with great power? No, He would not press charges against me. There an upright man could present his case before Him, and I would be delivered forever from my judge. But if I go to the east, He is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find Him. When He is at work in the north, I do not see Him; when He turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of Him. But He knows the way I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold. “ “I have not departed from His commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread.” God’s word was not only Job’s guide, it was also his nourishment.
This reply of Job’s is really in response to Eliphaz’s advice who said ‘submit to God and be at peace with Him.’ (Job 22:21)
Job references as is often the case in the OT and NT to the furnace and fire used to burn off the dross from gold.
Have you ever burned anything while cooking? Left it on the hot eye too long, having forgotten about it? Thought you turned the timer on, but did not? These things happen to all of us.
When God puts His own people into the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and the thermometer. He, God, knows how long and how much. You and I may question the length of time it is taking or how hot it is. We will even question why is this necessary? And we may plead with Him to turn it off or even find a way to get out of it. But all our questions come out of doubt, wavering and even unbelief. “Jesus said to him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9) This is why the man in Mark 9, admitted he believed, but he needed help with his unbelief. We can pray to the Lord in these difficult times-, Lord I believe, help my unbelief.’
Let us be honest with ourselves. We would rather not have tests and trials. When the Lord Jesus taught us to pray, He taught us to petition our heavenly Father to “lead us not into temptation.” Do you realize the petition is not a request to NOT BE TEMPTED. It is a request to not be LED INTO TEMPTATION. We are praying to be led by God, His Spirit and His Word, not our old nature, the flesh. The flesh lust against the spirit.
We will be tried and tested in this life. This is inevitable. Jesus told us we would be tested, we would have trouble in this world. Peter said you should not consider it strange. It is normal.
We enter into temptation when we entertain and consider giving in to sin. Jesus said to ‘watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) James writes: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no man say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desired has conceived it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown brings forth death.”
WE do not want to be led by our old nature, our flesh into temptation. So these verses tell us: Temptation will always be present. Paul said whenever he wanted to do good he found evil is always present. When we are in a trial and test, and we are tempted to curse God, become angry with Him or try and manipulate our way out of what we perceive as unfair, we must realize this is the test. The test is to trust God in difficult times. Be LED BY GOD AND NOT BY TEMPTATION WHICH COME FROM OUR OLD NATURE. Each time we overcome temptation, we grow stronger in the Lord. Each time we give into temptation, we find ourselves out of fellowship with God and often with loved ones until we confess our sins and are cleansed and restored to fellowship. Guess what, if we are blessed when we endure temptation, and if we will receive a crown of life for doing so, we should realize temptations are necessary for building endurance. I had to learn how to deal with the desire to take a drink of alcohol. I had to build a defense system and an accountability group. I was given a promise in I Cor 10:13 that God promised me He would not allow me to be tested or tempted more than I could bear, for He would make a way to escape so I could bear it. You know what I had to do? I had to watch and pray. Be on guard, lest I entered into temptation. My prayers were based on the Word of God and basically were a prayer to be led by God and not by temptation.
Jesus is not teaching us something or asking us to do something He Himself has not already done. He submitted His will to His Father in Gethsemane under the most crushing circumstances any of us will ever face. His desire was to not have to take this bitter cup. His desire was to find another way to do this. But Jesus did not follow his own desires; He followed the desires of His Father. His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
We try to impose our will on others, on circumstances and events in attempt to control them. You realize you are trying to take the place of God, for only God can control the circumstances. This is why the wisest thing to pray- is ‘thy will be done, Father, not mine.’
Some people go into the furnace of affliction and it burns them; others go in and the experience purifies them. What makes the difference? Their attitude toward the Word of God and the will of God. If we obey His words and if we are nourished daily with the Word of God and submit to His will, the furnace will still be painful, but we are assured it will makes us better, more pure.
If we neglect God’s Word, we will become malnourished. Then when the furnace of affliction comes into our lives, we burn and become bitter.
God knows the way I take. God knows the way which is in me. God knows and understands me, better than even I understand and know myself. I do not know His ways, for they are higher than mine. I must trust the words of Jesus who says Our Father is always at work. God is my guide. God knows the way Job takes and He has approved it by telling us Job is upright and blameless.
Job is in a dark place. He is looking for God. He is searching for Him. Again His Word is both a lamp and a light. Keep your lamp clean and filled with oil, the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said you should not even worry, take thought about what shall we eat, or what shall we drink or what about clothes??? He then tells us, “Your Heavenly Father knows you have need of all these things. Don’t worry- it is counterproductive. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6) Job is right to be seeking God, for where God is, nothing is lacking. All needs are met.
Job then comforts himself by saying, “When He has tried me I shall come forth as gold.” Job believes God is in charge of the furnace. He has His eye on the clock and the thermometer. He will not place more heat on him than he can bear, He will not take any longer than is required.
Here is what we are learning. We do not profess to be perfect. Our position is perfect in God’s eye, but our practice is woefully lagging behind our position. Thus the sanctification process is a process of burning off dross. So when I see Jesus I will be like Him. I will also have been trained and equipped to do what God has for me here and now and also in eternity.
God looks at the heart. And since we are at times prone to backslide, God is looking for sincerity. Are you missing God today? Are you wondering where He is? Realize this is part of the test- to withdraw His presence for a time. But He is not absent; He is watching you, that is exactly where He is. He is aware of your situation. He may have you in the dark, but He will not leave you there any longer than necessary. Gold is very valuable in this present world. It is called a ‘precious metal.’ We not only shine as refined gold when we have been through the fire and thus reflect the glory of God. We have also become precious to God. “These things have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which though refined by fire- may be proved genuine and may result in the praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (I Peter 1)
When we sin as God’s children, He disciplines us. For whom He loves He disciplines. It is not pleasant but painful, yet afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness by those who have been trained by it. Did you notice the condition for the peaceable fruit of righteousness? You had to be trained by the discipline. You had to learn from the experience. Your response to the trial and testing determines your attitude. Wouldn’t you hate to know you would have to go through something again because you had not been trained by it? Because you had a bitter, unteachable spirit?
So we know when we are disciplined for our sins, we should expect it and learn from it and remember it the next time we are tempted to enter into temptation. In Job’s story, we are seeing how to handle difficult trials not of our own doing. And we see the pattern; there are times of wavering, anger and bitterness. But Job clings to the Word of God, not only as a guide but for his nourishment. Your hope is directly linked to what your faith in is in. If your faith is in Jesus, the Living Word, there is where your hope will be. Then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word. For remember the One who is the Word told us “If you can believe, all things are possible to those who believe.”
God gives us the gift of faith. Each person receives a measure. This faith grows with practice by walking by faith in God and His promises and believing the One who promised is faithful. GET A GRIP ON THESE TRUTHS!