By Sam E. Stone
Today we consider the closing section of the book of Job. Last week we studied Job 24. In the chapters in between, Job’s friends continued to pass judgment on the suffering patriarch. Job continued to defend his actions. After the many words of Job’s friends and the lengthy responses by Job, the Lord spoke for the first time with two messages (38:1–40:2 and 40:6–41:34).
God’s awesome power was evident as he spoke “out of the storm” (38:1). God turned the tables on Job. This time he would ask the questions. He did not answer all that Job had asked. Instead he showed Job just how little Job really knew. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (38:4). The world God made testifies to his sovereignty over everything else that has been made.
Later God told Job, “I will question you, and you shall answer me” (40:7). Prove how wise you are! God challenged Job as he had challenged God earlier (38:3). Job had declared that God had wronged him (19:6). “Is that really true?” God asked. Job was properly humbled by the Lord’s questions (40:3-5 and 42:1-6). His attempts at self-justification were doomed to failure.
In verse 2 we read the last recorded words of Job. Gone was his pride. The combatant had become the worshiper. I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. Although we can’t understand or explain everything that happens in life, we can trust that our God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving.
Job went on to confess his mistake. I spoke of things I did not understand, he admitted. Even though many of his questions about suffering remained unanswered, Job confessed his weakness and inadequacy. No longer would he demand “Why?” as he suffered life’s injustices. He would leave such decisions to the perfect, powerful ruler of the universe.
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you, he explained. With eyes of faith and new understanding, Job saw God. Because of his personal experience with the Lord God, Job no longer had to rely on what others had said about him. He knew firsthand. In light of this, Job concluded, Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. No longer did he have an overly high opinion of his own knowledge and judgment. Dust and ashes represent humility and contrition.
God then turned to Eliphaz, and his two friends, Bildad and Zophar. The Lord was angry with them because they had misrepresented him even more than Job did. Job was vindicated for saying that they had lied about his condition (13:4). Their lies were spoken deceitfully, as if on God’s behalf (13:7). As sure as they were of their knowledge and understanding, all three of Job’s friends were wrong in presuming they could speak on behalf of God (33:14-16).
The Lord then commanded the friends to offer animals as a sacrifice for their sins. Interestingly, they were to take them to the very man they had been running down—their friend Job! God promised, My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. By their actions they would be admitting to Job that he was right and they were wrong.
God did not condemn Job, as his critics had. He noted Job had not sinned in what he said (42:8). God still did not answer all the questions that had been raised. What he did, however, was establish the fact that he is God.
After the sacrifices made by the friends, God poured out his blessings on Job. The Lord restored his fortunes again and gave him twice as much as he had before. The book concludes, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” (42:12).
James Burton Coffman wrote, “As we come to the end of Job, we are amazed that no answer whatever has been provided for the overriding question regarding the reason behind human suffering. ‘God is not so much concerned with strengthening man’s faith by giving him answers to his questions, as he is with encouraging the kind of faith that does not demand answers.’”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.