Job: Facing the Tests of Life

Time Before a Holy God

Book of Job 38 - 42:9 – The Bible Teaching Commentary


1. Thoughts on Life's Goals (1:1-5)
2. Endurance for Serious Troubles (1:6-2:13)
3. Search for Right Perspectives (3-37)
4. Time before a Holy God (38-42:9)
5. Satisfaction with Life's Reward (42:10-17)

The Tests of Life Help us Gain Perspective

I can easily remember waiting for test results. In college the marks were posted on a certain wall. As I walked up to the results, I was wondering with all the other students, “How did I do?” Each of us cannot be too sure how we have done in our lives until we have heard from God. We can think we know. And hopefully we are not far off from a true assessment of our lives. But only God fully knows our true heart and can rightly evaluate us from the perspective of His demands for our lives. Most people think they should live by their feelings. They will horribly dismayed on Judgment Day to find out that the standard of judgment is not their feelings but God's law. Jeremiah appropriately reminds us of God’s assessment of our hearts, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Testings are for our good that we might get a true glimpse of ourselves before meeting God on Judgment Day. We now can make changes that affect eternity. Changes during or after Judgment Day will be too late. God’s grace is such that He works with us now while there is time. Fortunately through His grace, if we rightly approach Him through Jesus Christ we can find forgiveness for our sins. Encounters with God on earth are special times where He alerts us to our true-life situation. This gives us time to change our lives according to His expectations. This was true for Job and it is true with us. Only it is not easy. Job's encounter with God was anything but 'easy.'

The closer the encounter, the more difficult it is for us. As we see more of His glory, the sin and frailty of our lives becomes more apparent.

The Similarity and Contrast between the Lord's and Elihu's Comments

God interestingly picked up where Elihu left off. There was no rebuking of Elihu as of Job’s ‘three friends’ (Job 42:7). We assume from this that Elihu was unlike his three friends and did have something to contribute to helping Job. Elihu’s argument and God’s is similar in that they rebuke Job for thinking too much of his own thoughts and for insufficiently and inaccurately talking about God’s works. God significantly did not point out any past hidden flaws in Job's life as his three friends alleged him of. God only brings up his recent self-righteousness which will be further discussed in a moment.

God’s words to Job, however, were quite different from Elihu’s. Elihu merely mentioned how Job ought to pay closer attention and give greater honor to God. "Listen to this, O Job, Stand and consider the wonders of God.” (Job 37:14). God in a virtual monologue enlisted the power of a great list of questions to humble and correct Job’s perspective. Notice how God begins His reproof.

"Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? "Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding," (Job 38:1-4).

The incessant bombarding of impossible questions humbled Job even as it would shake the brightest scientists today. "Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that an abundance of water may cover you?” (Job 38:34). With all our imaging data we still can’t predict the weather let alone make it rain.

As I mentioned, this was largely a monologue. God was speaking. He was not giving time for Job to respond. Twice, however, Job is able to squeak out a meek response. The first time in Job 40:3-5 Job answers by stating that he has already said too much.

Then Job answered the LORD and said, "Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand on my mouth. Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add no more" (Job 40:3-5).

The Self-Righteousness of Job

After Job's first response, God narrows His focus down to Job's acute problem. The verse Job 40:8 seems to be the closest we get to understanding Job’s sin of arrogance. “Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?” Righteousness can easily slide over into self-righteousness. We live righteous lives when we live by God’s ways. But when we look down upon others for not living up to our set of standards, then we have become self-righteous. We judge ourselves to be right and others wrong. God in 40:8 revealed Job's sin by identifying how he condemned God. Job thought himself to be right and God wrong. Job's self-righteousness depended upon God's error. Although we might think bad of Job for doing this, this slide into self-righteousness is very common and produces a deadness of the soul absent from any grace and full of legalism.

Righteousness easily becomes self-righteousness.

God was basically showing Job that he should not make any statements about God which ‘insist’ Him to be a certain way or 'demand' Him to do such and such. God is God. We adjust not Him. After more than a chapter depicting Job's poor arrogance and God's rich wisdom, Job is desperate to state his humble apology.

Then Job answered the LORD, and said, "I know that Thou canst do all things, And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask Thee, and do Thou instruct me.’ "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees Thee; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:1-6).

God's assessment of Job gives us a new perspective of His judgment of mankind. We all have fallen from the mark of God's glory. Romans 3:23 states, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Perhaps the apostle even had this encounter in mind when he spoke about the missed glory of God. Job failed this test and so does each one of us.

God's Word enabled Job and helps us to get a close up view of what God thinks about man even at his top performance. God humbled Job so that he could rightly understand God and interpret the world around him. This section deepens our appreciation for the importance of men to hear God's voice so that they can gain a right perspective of life. The 'fear of God' comes from meeting Him. It is from this closer perspective that our lives are changed.

Reflections on Our Lives

What can we say about counseling after this? Counseling is said to have as many books and methods as the number of actual counselors. These professional counselors assert their knowledge when in fact the large majority of them totally disdain God’s perspective. Pastors need to be a whole lot more careful in turning their sheep to visit some wolf. That many Christians trust secular counselors shows their total lack of appreciation of God’s wisdom and ways and their trust in the cleverness of man.

We also need to be careful not to become self-righteous. We feel free to condemn God and others by making ourselves a standard unto itself. Self-righteousness really is pride disguised often in religious garb. When wearing these wonderful garments that we can walk around looking down at others including God Himself. If we start seeing a condemning attitude or one which easily accuses the another, we should know that we have entered the unholy arena of self-righteousness. In order to find healing we need to reexamine ourselves in light of God and His holy ways by looking at our life as a whole and noticing the great ways we have sinned against God. 

Job 38-42:9

Real change doesn't come easily and starts with correcting our ways.


Bible Study Questions

1.       What is the general tenor of God's message to Job in this passage?

2.       How does the LORD get across His point?

3.       How many responses does Job have in this passage and where are they located?

4.       What is different about Job’s two responses here?

5.       How does Job's responses compare to his former responses to his friends?

6.       Who did God ask Job to receive and give forgiveness? Why might God have asked him to do this?

Life Applications

  • What close encounters have you had with God? What was the result of those times together? What was on your mind? Were you conscious of your sin and deficiencies? What new thoughts did you think of God? Were they similar to the scripture's teachings?

  • Have you gone through periods of self-righteousness? If so, what were the surrounding circumstances? What was your attitude like? Are you self-righteous right now? Do you find yourself favorably comparing yourself with others or even with God? If so admit your sin and repent.

Biblical Foundations for Freedom

Rev. Paul J. Bucknell