Job Sees God

JAMES wrote, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (James 5:10,11) “Take, my brethren the prophets. … Ye have heard of the patience of Job.” We understand from this couplet of expressions that the Lord considered Job to be one of his holy prophets, and in his experiences there is encouragement for all the Lord’s people as, like Job, they find themselves passing through fiery trials.

We do not know very much about the historical background of Job. From Genesis 46:13 it appears that he was a grandson of Jacob, and among the seventy souls who went to Egypt to be near Joseph and to be assured of a plentiful supply of food. If the Job of Genesis 46:13 is indeed the same one whom James identifies as a prophet, it means that his ministry was performed prior to the giving of the Law, and that he was a descendant of Abraham. There are those, however, who hold that Job was in reality a Gentile, although all agree that he lived long before the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt.

However, the important things concerning Job are not his exact identity and the time he lived, but the manner in which the Lord dealt with him, and how he reacted to the providences of God in his experiences. The first verse of the book which bears his name, reads, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil.”—RSV

Job had a large family—seven sons and three daughters. He was wealthy; “he had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and chink with them. And when the days of the feast 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 sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts’. Thus Job did continually.”—vss. 1-5, RSV

This bit of information concerning Job’s children, and his great concern that they would continue to enjoy the blessings of God, are a clear indication of his own reverence for the Lord and desire to please him. He was indeed a man of God. The time came when Satan set his heart upon destroying Job’s faith and integrity. There was a meeting of the sons of God “and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence cometh thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.”—vs. 7

Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Satan replied, “Does Job fear God for naught: hast thou not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse thee to thy face.”—vss. 6-11, RSV

The faith and loyalty of many of the Lord’s professed people throughout the centuries have been based upon the material good things with which the Lord blessed them. So many people lack faith, and depend upon the things which can be seen and felt as evidences that the Lord is blessing them with his love and care. Satan, with his corrupt heart, could not conceive of anyone serving God unless he was being well-rewarded for it by material advantages of one sort or another.

But God could read Job’s heart, and he knew that he would maintain his integrity regardless of any material blessings which he might possess, so he said to Satan, “Behold all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.” (vs. 12) With the Lord’s restraining hand removed, Satan worked quickly against Job. The account of this reads:

“Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; and there came a messenger to Job, and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them; and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you’. While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you’. While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three companies, and made a raid upon the camels and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you’. While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you’.”—vss. 13-19

Job Remained Faithful

Seldom, if ever, has such a series of calamities come into the life of one individual. These calamitous events came without warning, yet Job was not turned away from the Lord because of the reports. He was shocked and saddened, but instead of blaming the Lord and bemoaning his lot, he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”—vs. 21, RSV

But Satan was not satisfied, and he informed the Lord that if he would permit him to inflict harm upon Job personally “he will curse thee to thy face.” God granted this permission, but with the stipulation that Job’s life would be spared; so again Satan acted quickly and he “afflicted Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.”—Job 2:1-8, RSV

Then a further trial came to Job. His wife lost her confidence in him, and said, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But Job said to his wife, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?” We are told that in all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Three of Job’s friends, hearing about his trying experiences, arranged to visit and comfort him. The account states, “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes from afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spoke a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.”—Job 2:11-13

Job’s Comforters in Error

While these ‘comforters’ said nothing at all to Job during the first seven days of their visit—which must have been a trying experience for Job under the circumstances—when they did begin speaking with him they revealed a general viewpoint which was not true. God was displeased with what they had said, and told them so. We read, “The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends; for ye have not spoken of the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.”—Job 42:7

The central concept these comforters had, and which they communicated to Job, was wrong. They insisted his sufferings were due to sin he had committed, and which he had not confessed to God nor to his fellows. In other words, they as much as accused Job of being a hypocrite, and of course this greatly added to his sorrow. In this respect Job’s experiences were somewhat like those endured by Jesus, who, while born to be a king, and truly the Son of God, had these great realities concerning him contradicted, and was finally put to death as a result of this “contradiction of sinners.”

This does not imply that everything Job’s comforters said concerning him was untrue. Eliphaz said to him, “Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees. But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it touchest thee and thou art troubled.”—Job 4:3-5

This statement by Eliphaz indicates that Job was rather an important man in the land of Uz, a religious teacher and comforter. But human weakness is much the same wherever we find it. It is true that while we do what we can to comfort others in their trials, when troubles come upon ourselves we often lose sight of the viewpoint we expressed to them, and we wonder why the Lord is permitting us to experience so much suffering.

The Wicked Flourish

In pressing the accusation that Job was suffering because of some gross but secret sin, Eliphaz said, “Who ever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.”—Job 4:7-9

Job was not disturbed by this accusation, because he knew that it was not true. He knew that often the most wicked of the earth flourish. Malachi stated the matter correctly, saying, “Now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” (Mal. 3:15) This was true in Job’s day. It is still true today, and will continue to be true until Satan is bound and the “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” are functioning. Job’s way of stating this fact was, “The tabernacles of the robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure.”—Job 12:6

Pressing the charge of hypocrisy still further against Job, Eliphaz said, “Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.” (Job 22:21) This is a well-known text, but its setting in the Book of Job is usually overlooked. Here Job’s comforter is saying to Job that the reason he is not enjoying peace is because he is alienated from God through his sin; and he urges Job to go to the Lord and correct the situation.

It is not true that all who are acquainted with the Lord are assured of enjoying peace. Many, in their severe times of trial, are often troubled of soul. They do not lose faith in God, necessarily, even as Job did not lose faith, but they do wonder why the Lord permits such bitter experiences to come to them, and in their perplexity they are unsettled and disturbed.

Following up this argument, Eliphaz continues: “Receive I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart. If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles. Then thou shalt lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks. Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defense, and thou shalt have plenty of silver. For then thou shalt have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God. Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows. Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee; and the light shall shine upon thy ways. When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person. He shall deliver the island of the innocent: and it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands.”—Job 22:21-30

Job’s Reply

Job knew he could not return to the Almighty, for he had never turned away from his fidelity to his God. He realized clearly that his comforter did not have the right viewpoint, for he knew he had not lost his wealth because he had disobeyed God. Job’s difficulty was in understanding why God had permitted such severe calamities to come upon him, so he had lost his contact with his God, and cried out, “Oh that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!”—Job 23:3

Job explained how desperately he was trying to find the Lord. He said, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.” (vss. 8,9) Here Job is using figurative language, and how well he pictures the experiences of many of the Lord’s people, who in their deep sorrows seek to know the meaning of the Low’s providences in their lives. In these experiences we reflect on our own attitudes as we face up to the various aspects of life, and carefully examine our motives to discern if we may have erred.

But Job did not lose his faith, for in the next verse we find him saying, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold.” Job could not find God, but God was watching over Job. Job realized that his bitter experiences were not evidences of the Lord’s displeasure, but merely that he was being tried; and he was confident also that in due time the trial would be over, and that by the Lord’s grace he would triumph in it, and would come forth as gold; that is, he would stand the test.

God Speaks to Job

There was much discussion between Job and his comforters, and finally a fourth person joined his comforters—namely, Elihu. He did not condemn Job as directly as did the others, nevertheless he was of no special help to him. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who bath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the cornerstone thereof?”—Job 38:1-6

These questions continue almost uninterruptedly throughout chapters thirty-eight through forty-one. Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.” (Job 42:2) This was the lesson which the Lord was teaching Job by means of the many questions which he propounded to him. Job knew he had not committed gross sin which would justify the suffering that had come upon him; but he had failed to understand the greatness, the power, the wisdom of the Creator in trying to discover the meaning of his experiences. Now he realized that a God so wise and so great could, and did, have reasons far beyond his ability to understand, and that he should accept this fact, and upon the basis of faith continue to serve him and to rejoice in him.

And how wonderfully Job learned this lesson! He said, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” (Job 42:5) Earlier in his experience, after lamenting the fact that his friends, his wife, and the servants in his household despised him, Job said, “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; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”—Job 19:25-27

Here Job seemingly expressed his hope in the “better resurrection,” and believed that when he is restored to life in the flesh (or as a human, is the thought) he will then see God. This, however, will not be literal sight, but an understanding of God such as he expressed as having come to him even before he died, when he said, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee.” What a wonderful experience that must have been for Job, and how he must have rejoiced that he had again found the Lord, and could understand the meaning of his providences!

It will be in this sense that all mankind during the thousand-year reign of Christ will “see” the Lord. In Isaiah 25:6-9, where the messianic kingdom is symbolized as a mountain, we are informed that in this mountain the Lord will “destroy … the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.”

Job said that the Redeemer would stand in the latter day upon the earth, and this is true. He is the great king and Mediator who will rule and bless the people. In one of the symbols applying to him he is referred to as the Arm of the Lord, and concerning him we read, “The Lord hath made bare his Holy Arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”—Isa. 52:10

Then all mankind, having passed through the long nighttime experience of suffering and of death, mostly without benefit of any clear knowledge of the Lord, will be able to see him in the rich experiences of blessing which will come to all flesh at that time. Yes, Job finally saw and appreciated God more clearly than ever before, and this will be the lot of all mankind; those, that is, who accept the provisions of God’s grace through the Redeemer, and who obey the righteous laws of the kingdom.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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