Like Job, we long for relief and answers in times of suffering. But when friends have no answers and God’s Word offers no specific explanations, we can still cling to the wonderful assurance that our Redeemer lives, we will see God, and in Him we will find comfort and ultimate answers.
By the time we arrive here at chapter 15, Job’s spirit is completely crushed. These friends who showed up only made things worse.
Job chapters 15 through 21 record the second round of speeches between Job and his counselors. Job will answer each of his friends. Their arguments use different vocabulary this time, but they are saying the same thing: “Job, you’re a sinner, and God is judging you.”
Eliphaz speaks first again in this second round of speeches. He is actually angry that Job has refused to confess his secret sins. So now in chapter 15, Eliphaz lashes out, saying:
“Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge? . . . Should he argue in unprofitable talk, or in words with which he can do no good?” (verses 2-3)
Again, Eliphaz accuses Job of being full of hot air. But we know who the windbag is here, and it’s not Job.
In verse 4 Eliphaz accuses Job of “hindering meditation before God.” Job evidently has messed up Eliphaz’s devotional life.
But let me tell you, here is why Eliphaz is so angry. He and his two friends are convinced that a righteous person is not going to suffer. If Job is suffering, and he is walking with God, they are terrified, because that means they have no special protection against personal suffering themselves. If obedience to God does not guarantee health and wealth, then what is happening to Job could happen to them.
These counselors are the original prosperity preachers. If you walk with God, God will bless your socks off.
Well, Job doesn’t fit their little, self-centered theology. So, these men are digging their heels in for their own sense of protection. Eliphaz says in verse 20, “The wicked man writhes in pain all his days.” Why? “Because he has stretched out his hand against God and defies the Almighty” (verse 25). Eliphaz is convinced that Job is wicked because he is writhing in pain.
Job responds in chapters 16 and 17. His comments are basically summarized in verse 2 of chapter 16: “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all.” In this second round of speeches, these men have said nothing new. They are no closer to the truth than they were before.
But then Job straightens out their theology here. He dares to say that the source of his suffering is not his sin, but God. He says in verse 7, “God has worn me out,” and in verse 12, “I was at ease, and [God] broke me apart.”
Bildad the Bulldozer then speaks again in chapter 18, and he creates more devastation in Job’s heart. He describes the horrifying future of a wicked person here in verse 5, saying, “Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out.” Only darkness awaits a sinner like Job.
Job begins his reply in chapter 19 by asking Bildad, “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? . . . are you not ashamed to wrong me?” (verses 2-3).
Now in this chapter, we begin to hear something from Job that is important to highlight. Job agrees that God is punishing him, but he doesn’t believe God is being fair. Job says, “[God] counts me as his adversary” (verse 11) and “[God] has put my brothers far from me . . . My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me” (verses 13-14).
Yet, in the middle of questioning God’s actions, Job delivers this amazing statement of faith:
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” (verses 25-26).
This is a remarkable statement. Even with limited revelation, Job has assurance that his “Redeemer lives” and that he will “see God.” And I love that Job didn’t say, “I know that my Redeemer will live someday” or, “I know that my Redeemer used to be alive.” Oh, no. This is the foundation of Job’s persevering faith: “I don’t see Him; I don’t hear His voice, but I know that my Redeemer is alive.”
Charles Spurgeon wrote on this text:
Spring up on this rock—if you are struggling in the sea just now, and waves of doubt beat over you, rest upon this rock—Jesus is alive.
Zophar now speaks in chapter 20, repeating the same tired argument that wicked people are punished and godly people prosper. By the way, that will be true finally, in God’s final judgment; but it is not true presently in our sinful world.
Job responds in chapter 21 by pointing out in verse 7 that here and now the “wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power.” It should be obvious, Job says in verse 9, that often “their houses are safe from fear, and no rod [judgment] of God is upon them.” In fact, Job declares, “They spend their days in prosperity” (verse 13).
All Zophar and his friends have to do is look around. They have built this comfortable little theology that ignores reality—a shallow theology that insists that godly people always prosper and ungodly people always suffer produces shallow Christians. How wrong they are. Job concludes in verse 34, “There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.”
Job’s counselors have only deepened his wounds. They are graceless men with shallow minds, offering no comfort at all to a grieving man. Beloved, let’s not be like them.
Let’s remember that life is complicated, and answers aren’t always obvious. And if God’s purposes for suffering are not clear, we had better think twice before telling someone what His purposes are.
Let’s be alert to opportunities to encourage others. The universal language of our fallen world is the language of suffering. We are surrounded by people who desperately need an encouraging word.
For several months before my godly mother-in-law passed away, she went through weekly dialysis treatments. It was a world of which I knew nothing. I picked her up from the clinic one afternoon, and she began telling me about all the people who came to be hooked up to those machines three days a week—several hours each day. The patients came in all sizes, ages, and ethnicities. There was an eighty-five-year-old who waved at everybody when she arrived. There was a middle-aged couple who had just begun taking treatments together. There was a sixteen-year-old with a pleasant attitude toward everyone around him. This young man especially impressed my mother-in-law. Hooked up to the dialysis machine, he patiently endured the treatment.
I couldn’t help but wonder who knew about his condition at school. Did the students know why he rarely stayed after school for activities? Did teachers know why his classes were arranged for early dismissal three days a week? Did anybody know he suffered? My sweet mother-in-law was always ready to provide a word of encouragement to him.
Beloved, we would be surprised by the number of suffering people we pass every day in the hallway, in the classroom, in the grocery store. Grace should always be on the alert. Comfort should always be on call. It might be a kind word, a handshake, a hello, or a few words of comfort and grace.
Have you ever thought about the fact that God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)? (end) In fact, God’s comfort is never given to us—it is loaned. God wants us to turn around and distribute it to others.