Monday, 15 October 2018

'All is well that ends well "?"' (Job 42:7-17)

In a talk at Moody Bible Institute Professor Charles Cooper told of the early days of his marriage.

When he was four months married his wife had been away on a trip.  He went with his mother-in-law to collect her at the airport.  As the plane pulled up they saw ambulances and police cars closing in on the back of the aircraft.  Charles’s focus was on the front, where his wife was to disembark.

All of a sudden, his mother-in-law clasped his arm and pointed to a stretcher that was being removed from the back door of the plane.  The body was covered with a white sheet.  Hanging from the stretcher was a purse they recognised as his wife’s.  Despite having no previous history of a condition his young wife had suffered a heart attack shortly before landing.

Charles Cooper told those listening of his journey through the pain.  He said the cards, the letters, the phone calls, the embraces, and the love of friends all played a part in helping him to survive.  “But what kept me going more than anything else was my confidence in the character of God.”[1]

Before we look at the closing verses of Job let’s remind ourselves of some of the lessons that we have learned from this book.

‘Bad things do happen to faithful people.’  The book opens telling us that Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil (1:1).  He was about to endure a nightmare he had done nothing to deserve.

God remains in control.  It is only with God’s permission that Satan can torment Job (1:12; 2:6).  Job acknowledges this sovereignty when he declares, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away” (1:21a).  This truth is reaffirmed here at the end of the book, those who had known him before comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him (42:11).  While God’s responsibility for suffering may be an uncomfortable truth if he’s not fully in control then our lives are the subjects of chance, chaos or the authority of the Evil One. 

Although God is responsible for suffering we must not charge him with wrongdoing.  At the beginning of the book we read, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (1:22 see also 2:10).  Despite his suffering he knew that God’s ways are perfect.  Sadly, as we read on, bitterness gets the better of Job and he claims that God has acted unjustly (27:2).

‘The fear of the LORD—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding’ (28:28).  Wisdom is not about having the answers to all the questions of life; it is about knowing and following God.

God teaches us in our pain.  The young Elihu, whose words are a frustrating mix of truth and misunderstanding, was surly right when he declared, “. . .  those who suffer [God] delivers in their suffering, he speaks to them in their affliction” (36:15).  As one preacher explained, ‘there are dimensions of godliness and faith which righteous people learn only through suffering.’[2]

There remains mystery to suffering.  When God addresses Job he does not put him in the picture about the conversations he had with Satan.  But God does something more important than answer Job’s questions, he restores their relationship.  After God teaches Job that as creator he knows better than him, Job is humbled and can reply, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5).  Knowing God intimately is more important than receiving answers to the questions that personal suffering raises.

Finally, Jesus is God’s ultimate solution to suffering.  This fact will be reinforced as we study the closing verses of this book.

A mediator brings forgiveness (7-9)

The LORD addresses 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.”  Job’s three ‘comforters’ believed that if something bad was happening to you then you must have done something awful to deserve it.  As a result they spoke heartlessly to Job.  More seriously they misrepresented God’s rule.  Truth matters!  Wrong beliefs about God can damage others and they misrepresent him.  We are accountable for what we say. So let’s be careful, seeking to believe and speak only truth.

God is angry with them, but he also merciful.  He shows them how they are to be forgiven.  Grace is God’s unearned and undeserved favour.  This passage is full of grace.  In grace God offers forgiveness to these three who had not spoken of him what is right.  In grace he will bless Job—it was not as if Job had earned the reversal in his fortune he is going to experience!  We even see grace in Job granting an inheritance to his daughters—which was not the practice of the day.

The LORD gives Eliphaz an unusual instruction.  He is to take seven rams and seven bulls to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves.  It wasn’t those animals who have spoken wrongly about God!  Here is forgiveness based on the death of an innocent.  Where does that point us?  To Jesus of course!

I am sure it has something to do with the onset of midlife, but I recently thought about getting a tattoo.  I wasn’t contemplating being very brave, I would have had it somewhere very discrete, like on my ankle.  As I thought about what I would have inscribed I reckoned the words ‘It is finished’ would be good.  As Jesus died on the cross he cried those words showing that he had completed what he had come to do.  The death of rams and bulls could never have paid the price for sin, but they pointed ahead to the sacrifice that would.  In God’s grace he offers each one of us forgiveness because of the death of an innocent, Jesus Christ.

It’s noteworthy that four times in verses 7-8 God refers to Job as my servant.  He is affirming Job, and perhaps pointing us ahead to the one who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

The LORD tells Eliphaz that after he and his friends have made their sacrifice, my servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.  Job is to be a mediator between themselves and God.  That’s striking!

Do you remember when Job was telling those same three friends of the mediator he hoped in?  Job had declared:  ‘He [God] is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.  If only there was someone to arbitrate between us, To lay his hands upon us both’ (9:32-33) and Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friends (16:18-21).  Job is now going to be ‘a living picture’ of the mediator he had tried to tell them about.

That mediator is Jesus!  In Hebrews we read, Therefore he [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (7:25).  1 John 2:1, My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 

I can’t imagine it was easy for Job to act on behalf of his three friends.  It is difficult to forgive those who hurt us with their words.  ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words trample me into the ground.’  Yet Job knows what it is to receive grace—he had accused God of being unjust and the LORD had sought to restore their relationship.  The proper response to receiving grace is to show grace to others.  That was the case for Job and that is the proper response for us, if we have received God’s grace for ourselves.      

The end is better than the beginning (10-17)

In the end things turn out well for Job.  The LORD blessed the latter part of his life more than the first.  Those who had ostracised him now comfort him and bring him gifts.  He ends up with twice the size of herds that he had at the beginning, with new sons and daughters, and twice the three score and ten lifespan.

We might ask, ‘do these verses promise that everything will turn out well in the end for Christians?’  I suppose the answer to that question is ‘no and yes!’

It would fly in the face of the evidence to say that ‘all works out well for Christians in the end, in this life.’  Think of the Apostle Paul—the last we read of him he is in jail anticipating death.  Think of the Apostle John—he ends up in exile on Patmos.  Clearly all does not turn well for Christians in this life.  But both Paul and John looked forward beyond this life, to something better.  ‘All does work out well, in the end, for Christians, in heaven.  There our experience will not only be twice as good as before but infinitely better.

I listened to a sermon in which the preacher suggested the book of Job should remind us of the whole picture of the Bible when it comes to suffering.[3]  At the beginning we are told that Job is from Uz, which is clearly a land of plenty.  We are also told that it was in the east.  This might remind us of Eden, which Genesis 2 describes as a plentiful garden in the east (Gen 2:8).  Like Eden Satan enters the picture.  While there are differences between what takes place in Eden and in the book of Job, the result of Satan’s presence is suffering and hardship.  At the end of the Bible, in book of Revelation, we have a new garden that is better than Eden.  Likewise in this book Job ends up with more than he did at the beginning.

There are many mysteries surrounding the presence of evil and the reality of suffering.  But this we can know: what was lost at the beginning is replaced by something even better in the end.  What was lost at Eden is replaced by something better in the new creation.  All things have worked for the glory of God, and the ultimate good of those who are his in Christ.

James 5:11b, ‘You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.’   Job had not suffered perfectly.   He had even accused God of being unjust.  But he had persevered.  Satan had claimed that Job’s relationship with God was superficial, that if he was made suffer, he will surely curse you to you face (1:11).  As we finish studying the book of Job, let us persevere.  Let us cling on to God when troubles come, and trust in his compassion and mercy, as we look forward to what he will finally bring about for us.


A life-long Bible teacher found his faith troubled in his final years.  A degenerative nerve disease confined him to bed.  His thirty-nine-year-old daughter battled a severe form of diabetes.  Financial pressures mounted.  During his most severe crisis, he composed a Christmas letter and mailed it to others in the family.  Many things he had once taught he now felt uneasy about.  What could he believe with certainty?  He wrote these three things: ‘Life is difficult.  God is merciful.  Heaven is sure.’[4]  

Life is difficult.  God is merciful.  Heaven is sure.’  This morning, if we are someone who has put your trust in Jesus, we may know the reality of these truths.

Bad things do happen to good people.  Being a faithful follower of Christ will not make us immune from tragedy in life. 

Christians don’t have all the answers to the questions that arise with personal suffering.  But we can have something better than answers—we can know God our trustworthy and merciful God intimately, even as we suffer.

And for his people, because of Christ’s suffering on the cross, heaven is sure.  There is an eternal hope beyond our pain.  Something far better than we have ever experienced before.  There God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:1-4).

[1] Story taken from Ravi Zacharias (1998) Cries of the Heart, Word.
[2] David Turner, speaking at All Souls, Langham Place.
[3] Michael Reeves, preaching at All Souls, Langham Place.
[4] Taken from Philip Yancy, Disappointed with God.

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