In chapter 19, Job gives readers a vivid display of how he does not curse God because of his afflictions, but rather places his trust in his Redeemer, confident in the resurrection from the dead.
It is surprising that Job’s friends did not relent at this point. We already made clear in our discussion in chapter two that their intent was initially console Job. Why do they press so hard on him now?
Again, though Job obviously takes it personal, claiming he was “insulted…ten times” (Job 19:3, a bit of an exaggeration but the Bible often is not literal with numbers), Job makes a keen observation. “Even if I have truly erred, my error lodges with me,” says Job in verse four. It is as if he is crying uncle and saying, “Even if I’m wrong, just stop bothering me!
So, why do his friends “get so into it” and want to prove a dying man wrong? Obviously, as the friends have already stated, they think that Job is speaking wrongly about God’s justice. Now, there are times Job does. For example, Job says “God has wronged me and has closed His net around me” (Job 19:6) and and accuses God of injustice (Job 19:7).
While it is true that God Himself admits that He was supposedly “incited” to “ruin him without cause” (Job 2:3) far be it from God to be unjust (Rom 9:14). In reality, God was merely condescending Himself to Satan by using a figure of speech. He cannot be incited to do something that He did not already purpose since the beginning of the world to do, for all things have been “predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (emphasis added, Eph 1:11). So, while what Satan did to Job was wrong, God allowed it to occur to fulfill a righteous purpose. In this sense, God has not wronged Job at all.
Job’s friends respond with a hatred of verbal excesses such as “God has wronged me,” but in the wrong way. They argue not that God is just even when the righteous suffer and God is glorified in our suffering, but rather that the wicked only suffer and in order to end suffering, one must pick himself up from his boot straps and through good works gain God’s favor. Then, and only then, can suffering cease.
Can we see how satanic such a doctrine is? There is no reliance on Christ’s intercession and righteousness, but instead on man’s works. “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom 9:16). Further, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:7).
Job rejects such an idea, because he is a faithful man, but this likely does not motivate his responses to his friends as much as his frustration with his own suffering. It is not entirely clear why Job speaks so strongly. Is he trying to prove his friends wrong? In some sense, is he indignant about God supposedly wronging him? However, he obviously feels that both are true to some extent.
Rather then God’s hedge protecting him, he feels “walled up” (Job 19:8). Like the rulers who God has confused (Job 12:24-25), God has supposedly thrust Job into “darkness” (Job 19:8). Job appears to be accusing God of acting against His promises to the faithful, as God does not thrust us into darkness, but rather into light: “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ“ (2 Cor 4:6).
It should be no wonder that God takes offense not at Elihu, but rather Job, by saying: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge” (Job 38:2)? It is not God who leads men into error and thrusts them into darkness. Men lead themselves into their own error (1 Cor 3:18, Matt 15:14, James 1:13). Job himself in chapter three especially, but also in other chapters, yearns for the darkness as if it were light. He is in serious error and God will later call him out on it.
Job has certainly lost his honor and God has allowed Satan to utterly humiliate him (Job 19:9-10). However, he is in error in saying God has moved against Job as an enemy (Job 19:11-12). In fact, God has done nothing of the sort. It is Leviathan, the deceiving serpent, who Job himself called upon not knowing the very evil in the beast, that ravages him. The “troops” surrounding Job (Job 19:12) can very well be a legion of demons that Satan has tasked with assaulting Job for all this time.
After these words, Job makes some interesting observations about his family. Job’s brothers and other relatives, who appear later and reunite with Job (Job 42:11) have all but abandoned him (Job 19:13-14, 17, 19). This is not unheard of during great times of suffering. Those closest to us that we depend upon the most for years often turn their backs on us.
King David complained about a friend who backstabbed him saying, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). Job’s closest friends, including the three here, have done the same (Job 19:13, 14, 19).
Job’s wife still gives him heartache (Job 19:17). Local children do not pay respect to him as an elder (Job 19:18). His associates, probably a reference of those who were ruling elders at the city gate (Job 29:7), have turned their backs on him (Job 19:17). Such a position was very respected in those days (Ruth 4:1-2, Prov 31:23).
His servants have grown weary, perhaps from lack of pay, and no longer respect him (Job 19:15-16). As we spoke about earlier in chapter three, the book is showing us how the whole moral fabric of existence in Job’s life has been torn to shreds.
The Scripture teaches in several places the submission of citizens to the government (Rom 13:1-7, 1 Pet 2:13-17), wives to husbands (Eph 5:22-23, 1 Cor 11:3, Col 3:18, 1 Pet 3:1), children to adults (Eph 6:1, Col 3:20), and slaves to masters (Eph 6:5, Col 3:22, 1 Pet 2:18). The fact that Job is being disgraced by every one of these parties is the very height of social disorder and injustice against him. It is so easy to miss this being conveyed in Job, because submission to authority is not very popular anymore. However, it is very important in Scripture and it is obvious with a Scripture-centered view of the moral order of things that Job’s complaints are extremely relevant.
For a moment, Job wallows in self-pity, complaining both God and his friends are persecuting him (Job 19:20-21). He is barely hanging on for life, he feels as if all of his teeth have been knocked out and all that he has is his gums (Job 19:20, it should be noted this is where the idiom “by the skin of my teeth” to mean “by the thinnest margin” comes from). After all, Satan was permitted by God to touch everything of Job’s other than his very life.
Yet, as it seems like there is no hope, a spark flickers in Job. Will his hope go down with him to Sheol (Job 17:16)? No. He will be in the presence of God (Job 13:16). If a man dies, will he live again (Job 14:14)? Yes!
Job’s hope erupts out of his dark despair, its spark brighter and refined like gold and silver in the smith’s fire (1 Pet 1:7, Ps 66:10). “And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God’” (Zech 13:9). The Scripture is speaking of one’s faith growing as the result of suffering: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
In this way Malachi describes God:
For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord (Mal 3:2-3).
A great light truly comes out of the darkness in Job’s historic pronouncement of faith:
Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
That with an iron stylus and lead
They were engraved in the rock forever!
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me (Job 19:23-27)!
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for,” Heb 11:1 states. Job knows his Redeemer lives. Just as he wants the Earth to bare witness to his injustice (Job 16:18), he wants His hope to be never forgotten. It is to be made eternal in an eternal book, that is the Scripture. Yes, Job’s sufferings are indeed engraved forever so not a word will ever pass away (Matt 24:35).
Job knows that in the Last Day, though his body is destroyed, he will be resurrected in the flesh. He will see God, face to face, and in this beatific vision he will see no other. The greatest blessing is that “the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you” (Num 6:25). Job’s heart bursts thinking of the beauty. The beauty he knows will be his. He will be redeemed…
But, while at one time he felt as if he was close to God, now God appears as his enemy. He does not know why this has happened. Everything has not gone according to plan. Nevertheless, he will wait and hope for the Lord, years if he must, in his present condition. Hence the title to the Christian song, “I will praise you in the storm.” We must continue hoping in and having praise in our hearts for God.
Job finishes his beautiful words with a horrible warning to his friends. He knows his Redeemer will vindicate him. He also knows his friends will look to devise new charges against him in order to assert that their warped theology is true (Job 19:28). However, just as sure as Job is in the resurrection of the righteous, Job knows that there will be judgment: “Then be afraid of the sword for yourselves, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword so that you may know there is judgment” (Job 19:29).
Sadly, his friends do not take heed.