His friends have condemned him, his wife has forsaken him, and he must now face the final barrage of enemy arrows in the solitude of his mind. Will this prove to be Job's last stand or the devil's?
The Last Stand of a Desperate Man
Heroic events by men – especially on battlefields - have always fascinated the human spirit.
There are literally hundreds of movies on World War I and II . . . The Vietnam War, the wars in Iraq and so on; which leads me to believe that if Alexander the Great had had a video camera, we would have seen those acts of bravery recorded and replayed for generations.
One of the ancient favorites would have been the last stand of the Spartans in 480 B.C. – their courage created a legend that is still talked about today.
When Xerxes led 100,000 Persians to Thermopylae in the spring of 480 B.C., they were met by 5,000 Greeks that just would not give in. One of Greek scouts reported that “Such was the number of the Persians, that when they shot their arrows the sun was darkened by their multitude.” A soldier named, Dieneces, responded by saying to all the soldiers around him, “Our friend gives us good news. If the Persians darken the sun with their arrows, we will be able to fight in the shade.” What an attitude to face a hundred thousand enemy soldiers with – which they did – and all were killed.
It became one of history’s most famous last stands.
If you spent any time in Texas, as I did in seminary, you saw a lot of the memorabilia from the Alamo. In 1836, the American settlers fought for Texan independence from Mexico. The Mexican army of some 6,000 soldiers marched to put down the rebellion. Standing in their way was a band of 188 defenders holed up in an old Spanish Mission we know as the Alamo. When given an opportunity to surrender, the Americans responded, “Our flag waves over the wall. We shall never surrender or retreat.” They held the Mexicans off for 12 days, until they were all captured and killed.
As brave as it might sound to stand against an army of soldiers or fight off warriors under the shade of a sky, blackened with arrows, or shoot it out through the windows of an old Mission, nothing compares in courage to standing alone for the holiness, or the truth of the gospel.
I have stood in the sanctuary of John Knox and gazed at length at his pulpit, elevated and attached to a massive column. From that pulpit he was the lone voice preaching against the bloody atrocities of Queen Mary. No soldiers to cheer him on.
I have stood in John Wesley’s chapel and imagined what it must have been like to preach with great courage – to be one of the lone voices against slavery and have the congregation respond by rioting and break every pew to pieces. What courage.
I have never preached a sermon where people threw chairs into the air and threatened my life.
I would have loved to visit the courtroom in Worms where Martin Luther in 1521 was placed on trial for being a heretic. And there, before the highest religious and political leaders of his day, he stood alone and said, “My conscience is bound to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do none other.”
It’s one thing to face trouble and anguish and perhaps even death surrounded by friends and admirers. It’s another thing to face death all alone.
Like John the Baptist who pointed his finger at Herod and told him he was an adulterer for marrying his brother’s wife.
Or like Jeremiah the prophet who told the disturbing truth to his nation and as a result was thrown into an abandoned well where he sank in the mud until he was rescued from certain death sometime later.
The chief example would be our dear Lord, who endured the cruelest of deaths, experiencing the hatred of the people He’d come to save and experienced even the abandonment of the Father as the sky grew dark with Divine judgment, abandoned by all who had followed Him.
No one has ever been alone as He.
There is something especially courageous and admirable, and rare about someone who stands alone for the honor and truth of God.
Perhaps you’re there even now in that dormitory . . . or on that floor of cubicles lined to the windows . . . or in that family of relatives where Jesus Christ is a curse word, but to you He is the sovereign Savior.
You know what it’s like to sand alone.
We’re about to watch the last stand of Job. The last barrage of arrows will be released that darken the sky against this suffering servant of God.
He will refuse to surrender his integrity. And he will be virtually alone.
Job will deliver his last and longest speech, following the short denunciation of Bildad.
After that Elihu will condemn Job and immediately following that, God will finally speak.
The hush of heaven is almost over.
And if there were ever any doubts about Job clinging to his integrity and character and trust in God, albeit confused and pained and challenging, these chapters will settle the score, once and for all.
Satan will lose his wager. Job will not turn away from God.
The Final Denunciation of Bildad – in chapter 25
Everything he says is right, but he ends at the wrong place and with the wrong conclusion.
He speaks of the power of God in verse 2. Dominion and awe belong to Him who establishes peace in His heights. 3. Is there any number to His troops? And upon whom does His light not rise?
He implies the perfection of God as he speaks, v. 4. How then can a man be just with God? Or how can he be clean who is born of woman?
Job, how do you or anyone think you can stand before God who is holy perfection? Job already answered that in chapter 19 and verse 25 when he declared his faith in saying, “I know that my Redeemer liveth and He will one day take His stand upon the earth.
Now that’s the last stand we’re all waiting for, right?
Bildad concludes of God’s purity in verse 5. If even the moon has no brightness and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, that maggot, and the son of man, that worm?
Job, implied here, you are a maggot and a worm.
No wonder Job responds in chapter 26 verse 2, “What a help you are to the weak . . . v. 3b. What helpful insight you have abundantly provided!
Bildad’s speech was reverent, but it was irrelevant. He revealed the depravity of man, but didn’t offer the deliverance of salvation.
Derek Thomas, The Storm Breaks (Evangelical Press, 1995), p. 198
Listen, the primary message of the Bible is not human depravity, but justifying deliverance through the cross work of Jesus Christ.
The amazing thing is that Christ died for worms like us.
The grace of God has rescued a maggot like me. You say, that’s a terrible self-image.
No it isn’t, it’s true. Paul said, “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this vile body of death – But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25)
That’s the amazing grace of the gospel of Christ who saved a wretch like me.
Listen, part of the problem of the church today is we’re running around trying to get everybody to treat us like we’re some rare butterfly.
Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die;
Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I.
At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my sin rolled away!
Revised hymnals have exchanged “for such a worm as I” with “for sinners such as I.” “Sinner” is bad enough, but at least it sounds better than “worm!”
We are a company of worms that will one day burst forth into the splendor of glorified bodies and purified spirits, but until then we are at our best when we don’t get to far away from remembering our worst.
The problem isn’t that Bildad said something wrong, the problem is that he leaves Job without hope. Job you are a maggot and a worm . . . that’s true; but what about the grace of God?
You are a worm, Job . . . and Job could have looked down at his arms and had he been like most of us he would have burst into tears and said, “You are so right . . . God is not worth following.”
But instead of beginning a diatribe against the unworthiness of God, Job instead begins to describe the greatness of God.
In fact, in Job’s long response to Bildad and the other men, Job will echo 4 questions that mankind still wonders about. Some of them he’ll provide some answers to and others will simply be carried on the words of his agony.
Question Number 1: Who can understand the greatness of God?
Job invites Bildad, in verse 5, to travel to the depths of the underworld – the place of the grave – to go down as deeply into the earth as you can – then travel northward, straight up and beyond earth’s atmosphere into the spaces of our universe – and God is sovereign over it all.
From the lowest point of imagination to the highest point, God is over-all.
And guess what, verse 14, These are the fringes of His ways. What a great thought. No matter how deeply you travel or how high you ascend, you have only reached the outer fringes – the outer edges of His ways . . . you are nowhere near the core of His hidden glory and power . . . you can only see the fringes and hear the whispers of His greatness.
Job says, “Listen Bildad. You think you have this thing figured out – you think you have God figured out. You haven’t gotten past the outer fringe of His greatness. Who can understand Him?!
Bildad, your worship of God is way too limited because your view of God is way too small!
A.W. Tozer warns us in his powerful little book I am rereading these days, entitled, “The Knowledge of the Holy”. He writes, “So necessary to the church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders it high opinion of God. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God.
A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (Harper/San Francisco, 1961), p. 6
Relief is in trusting and following and obeying a great, sovereign, unexplainable, majestic and mysterious Lord.
One author wrote, “Whenever there are sores on your body and they are running with pus and the fever won’t go down, the perspective of Job is where you need to be. “I don’t understand . . . but I have a sovereign God of the universe who does. And He does all things well. He is in charge. I am the clay; He is the Potter. I am the disciple; He is the Lord; I am the sheep, He is the Shepherd. I am the servant; He is the master.
Adapted from Charles Swindoll, Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance (W Publishing, 2004), p. 213
Let suffering return you to a high view of this majestic and mysterious God who acts without explanation and moves beyond our understanding. And all we can grasp of this majestic Lord are the fringes of His activity.
No wonder Job says in chapter 27:3. For as long as life is in me, and the breath of God is in my nostrils, my lips certainly will not speak unjustly, nor will my tongue mutter deceit.
This is the last stand of a desperate man. Job says, “I will not be moved.” I don’t understand . . . but I’m not abandoning my character, nor my trust in God.
What follows in chapter 27, is the logical question of Job as he asks, Question #2: “In light of this great and powerful God, why does mankind ignore the coming judgment of God?”
How foolish is mankind to ignore God? Verse 8 – For what is the hope of the godless when he is cut off, when God requires his life?
So why does mankind ignore their conscience and run from God? Because he thinks he can get away with it. Notice verse 21. The east wind carries him away, and he is gone, for it whirls him away from his place. For it will hurl at him without sparing; He will surely try to flee from its power.
I can beat this thing . . . God will not judge me!
What a foolish way to live.
As Job takes this last stand he wonders, as everyone who suffers wonders, where can I find wisdom to handle life?
James 1 says, in light of being surrounded by various trials, ask God for wisdom and He’ll give it to you . . . he could have added, “little bit by little bit . . . just in time!”
Well, in Job chapter 28 Job is asking a third question “Where can you find true wisdom?
And he gives a longer answer than James.
The first thing he says is that you can’t mine wisdom from the earth. Notice verse 13 of chapter 28. Man does not know its value. Nor is it found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
Not only can you not mine wisdom from the earth, secondly, you can’t buy wisdom from other people.
Verse 15. Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can silver be weighed as its price.
There is no blue light special for Wisdom. Walmart doesn’t sell it. Even Sam’s doesn’t stock it.
So where do you get it from? Job and James answer, here in verse 23, God understands its way, and He knows its place.
Look down at verse 28. And to man He said, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
Here’s the secret unfolded. Wisdom is actually a byproduct.
And you gain wisdom as you do two things:
Not after you do these two things . . . but while you practice these two things:
- First, when you worship God with total reverence – that’s what he means when he says, “to fear the Lord.”
It means you take God seriously.
- Secondly, you get wisdom, not only when you worship God with total reverence, but when you walk with God with transparent obedience.
You take life seriously. It’s to be lived for His glory.
Wisdom comes to those who worship God and walk with God.
When there is surrender and submission to God, wisdom has become your companion.
Now, most scholars believe that Job paused at the end of chapter 28 as if waiting for Zophar to speak.
Zophar has not yet spoken in this final round. And he doesn’t. He’s either walked away, or, more than likely recognized that he really has nothing more to say.
But Job does!
And Job begins again in verse 1 of chapter 29.
In this chapter he asks and answers another perceptive question.
#4: How do you define happiness?
What I find fascinating is that Job sort of leans back on his elbow and begins to talk about the good old days. Not unlike people who suffer . . . they are actually encouraged at times as they reflect on easier days and carefree moments.
They take a walk down Nostalgia Lane.
However, as we follow Job down this lane, he actually defines true happiness.
We can pull from his words, 6 ingredients of contented, happy living:
- First, there is an awareness of God’s presence and care. Notice verse 2. Oh that I were as in months gone by, as in the days when God watched over me. When His lamp shone over my head, and by His light I walked through darkness.
There are plenty of texts that inform us that Job believes God is still aware of his needs, but in the good old days it was obvious.
In fact, what made the good old days so good, was the sense that God’s was close at hand.
Notice verse 4. I was in the prime of my days, when the friendship of God was over my tent.
- Secondly, in happier times, Job experienced an appreciation for whatever God gave him.
He says in verse 5, My children were around me; my steps were bathed in butter and the rock poured out for me streams of oil.
Man, life was good.
My steps were bathed in butter – a delicious delicacy surrounds me, Job says.
This is like going to a wedding reception and discovering they have fresh strawberries at a table where there’s a chocolate fountain with chocolate pouring out all around . . . you can just live over . . . there are chunks of pineapple and banana too . . . you can stand there and dip away until your reputation is gone.
Or your wife says, “Honey there is a long line of angry people behind us.”
That was a good wedding.
Job pulls out this food item out of his culture and exaggerates it to suggest how good life was – my steps were bathed in butter.
A couple of weeks ago I had a lady in our GreenHouse class bring me 2 dozen doughnuts with chocolate icing – some teachers like apples – not me. These doughnuts were from a bakery – not Krispy Kreme – the bar has been seriously raised – they freshly made that day from a bakery in Rocky Mount. She and her husband drive an hour to get to church on Sunday and GreenHouse class on Wednesday and even bring bakery doughnuts.
She’s gonna get an A in GreenHouse. In fact, she doesn’t even have to come anymore. She’s a member already.
Happiness, obviously to me, is an abundance of fresh doughnuts. To Job it was butter.
But Job goes deeper than food!
- Happiness to him also meant having an opportunity to influence others – IN vesre 7 he talks about going to the city gate and taking his seat – verses 7-11.
- Happiness included the opportunity to be generous and compassionate toward the needy – verses 12-20.
- Finally, happiness to Job was found in a place of respect earned by giving godly counsel – verses 21-25.
This chapter is unique to everything Job has said in this Book. I believe it merely sets us up for the great grief of Job as he recounts in the next chapter how his happy circumstances turned sour and bitter.
In fact, chapter 30 does nothing more than catalogue the catastrophic changes in Job’s life – and they are meant to show us that everything he had in chapter 29 has been reversed in chapter 30.
He ends the cataloguing of his grief by writing in chapter 30 verse 27. I am seething within and cannot relax; days of affliction confront me. 28. I go about mouring without comfort; I stand up in the assembly and cry out for help. 29. I have become a brother to jackals and a companion of ostriches (in other words, only the wild animals will have anything to do with me). 30. My skin turns black on me and my bones burn with fever. (His skin is literally bruised and decaying) 31. Therefore my harp is turned to mourning, and my flute to the sound of those who weep.
Here’s the point where you expect Job to throw in the towel.
Maybe you’ve been here too . . . maybe you’re here right now.
You remember the good days. When butter was plentiful. When your children were around you. When God seemed near.
Those were the good old days.
Now, all seems lost. Days of affliction . . . pain . . . suffering . . . loss . . . disease . . . debt . . . abandonment . . . a harp that now mourns and a flute that can only weep.
It’s time to take your last stand.
A final, courageous, stand of faith.
At this moment, Job becomes for me an amazing sufferer. For in the face of this suffering, Job amazingly digs in his heels and makes new commitments to God.
“I will not give up my integrity . . . I will not throw away my character . . . I will take my stand.”
Now in chapter 31, Job defines for us the answer to this 4th and final question . . .
Job has raised these perceptive questions:
#1. Who can understand the greatness of God?
#2. Where can you find true wisdom?
#3. How do you define happiness?
Now in chapter 31: #5. How can you develop a life of integrity?
In this last section of Job’s response, there are at least 10- resolutions that create the foundation for a life of integrity.
- Determine pure boundaries (verses 1-2)
Job writes, in verse 1. I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin.
In other words, integrity is developed by determining ahead of time what you will and will not look at.
For us today, the battle for integrity will be a battle over media; the internet; television.
At the outset of these ten ways to develop integrity, know this, integrity does not happen by accident.
Are you willing to take a stand.
Integrity must be pursued . . . developed . . . desired.
- Develop honesty (verses 5-6)
Job writes in verse 5. If I have walked with falsehood, and my foot has hastened after deceit, let Him weigh me with accurate scales and let God know my integrity.
In other words, integrity and telling the truth are synonymous.
Tell the truth.
- Disallow moral compromises (verses 9-11)
Job talks candidly about resisting the enticement of a woman, in verse 9. And hanging around a neighbor’s house for the wrong reasons. In verse 1 Job deals with not pursuing or lusting after a single woman. In these verses Job is refusing to be enticed by a married woman.
He made no compromise for “hanging around her door”. That’s equivalent to giving a woman your business card, or phone number . . . opening the door for moral sin.
Job determined to steer clear!
Ladies and Gentlemen, recognize – especially in light of our culture where men and women work together every day – there is not such thing as innocent flirting . . . there is no room for moral compromises of any sort with the excuse such as, “Oh it’s nothing . . .” It might be nothing now, but nothing can become something.
I have pastored long enough to see marriages destroyed by couples who were involved in the same Bible study; couples who counseled one another destroyed when partners from both marriages left their spouses for one another.
Make no allowances for moral compromise . . . guard the gate . . . guard your heart!
- Integrity defends the disadvantaged (verses 13-15)
In verses 13-15, Job’s words can be turned into a positive definition of integrity as one who doesn’t take advantage of his power and position to mistreat an employee. He takes care to see that complaints against him are handled with kindness and fairness.
- Distribute to the needy
In the next few verses (16-23), Job describes a man of integrity who will distribute to those who are needy.
Eliphaz condemned him for not caring for the orphan or the widow and Job says, “Listen, verse 21, If I have lifted up my hand against the orphan, because I saw I had support in the gate, let my shoulder fall from the socket and my arm be broken off at the elbow.”
In other words, “If I’ve mistreated a widow or an orphan, let me be disabled.”
- A man or woman of integrity deplores materialism
Verses 24-25. There trust and confidence is not in gold.
- Number 7. Developing integrity demands that you denounce spiritual compromises.
In verses 26-28, Job refers to those who blow a kiss toward a false god – it was the custom of the ancients to blow kisses toward the temples and shrines of their gods to show affection.
Job says, “I have never acknowledged the false gods of my generation.”
- Number 8. Integrity means that you display compassion toward others (verses 29-32)
- Decline hypocrisy in all things
He writes in verse 33, “Have I covered my transgressions like Adam?”
I know about Adam! He covered up his nakedness with leaves.
A person of integrity will refuse to play the hypocrite. He’s real and genuine.
- Finally, number 10, Job effectively says in verses 38-40 that integrity demands you deny any excuse for greed.
Job is staking his verdict before his fellow man and God himself upon his integrity.
He says, in effect,
- I have determined pure boundaries;
- I have developed honesty;
- I am disallowing moral compromises;
- I have defended the disadvantaged;
- I am distributing to the needy;
- I deplored materialism and never trust in money;
- I denounced any spiritual compromise;
- I displayed compassion toward others;
- I decline hypocrisy in all things;
- I have denied any excuse for greed.
If you didn’t notice, Job has covered every area of life.
Steven Lawson pointed out that Job’s integrity has affected his:
His ethical life
His home life
His work life
His community life
His financial life
His spiritual life
His social life
And his stewardship life
Steven J. Lawson, When All Hell Breaks Loose (NavPress, 1993), p. 190
We have been fed a lie that it’s possible to be a person of integrity in public but dishonest or immoral in private.
A lack of integrity in any area is to lack integrity.
Job says, Take a good look anywhere in my life. Go through my files. Check my internet sites. Interview my employees. Look at my expense accounts. Sift through my bank records. Look at my giving record at church and other charities. Interview my wife. Talk to my neighbors. Ask my business associates. Talk to my closest friends.
And you will find the intention and direction and resolve of my heart is to be a person of integrity.
It’s not something I would like to be, it is what I must be.
Job took his stand . . . the question is, will you . . . will I?
Integrity is for those, who are willing to take a stand in desperate times and difficult days. For those who, like John Wesley, one of the pioneer leaders in the Great Awakening prayed in the late 1800’s:
I am no longer my own, but Thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by Thee or laid aside for Thee,
Exalted for Thee or brought low by Thee.
Let me be full; let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure;
O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am Thine.