This sermon covers an entire overview of the Book of Job and its conclusion. It details how Job’s restoration is an allegory for how we are restored by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Note: This article was written before the author’s conversion to Orthodoxy.
Before concluding the book, let’s summarize everything we learned thus far:
We initially discussed how God can be righteous even though he permits evil. We rebutted some bad attempts to answer the question (Rabbi Kushner’s “when bad things happen to good people” Open Theism, Augustine’s “evil is the lacking of good and therefore does not really exist,” and Pangloss’ “best of all possible worlds”). Some commentators gave us better answers (Sproul (“evil is bad, but to have evil is good”) and Augustine in a different book of his: “For He judged it better to bring good out of evil, than not to permit any evil to exist.”)
We learned of Job’s piety, that he was both a farmer and a judge, and that God viewed him a blameless man who did nothing specific to deserve his affliction
We spoke about how Satan asks God permission to sift Job like wheat and God permits Satan some freedom by removing hedges.
We covered how Job’s friends anticipated the reasoning of Epicurus. God is omniscient/omnipotent/omnibenevolent, but there is evil in the world. God is not lacking in knowledge/power/goodness where He cannot stop it. Therefore, evil is the just punishment for sin. In try to defend this false way of thinking, they accuse Job of evils, misapply the doctrines of God’s inscrutability and man’s total depravity.
There is a sense that Job’s friends are correct. No man can stand before God undeserving of suffering if we already concede that all men merit their own damnation. But how does this apply to Job who is not lacking in righteousness, but is clothed in Christ’s righteousness (Job 29:14)?
Job responds indignantly to his friends defending his own righteousness and questioning God’s purposes in allowing his suffering.
Yet, Job was also a man of faith. He spoke with confidence about his sins being forgiven and he placed all his faith in God: “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him. This also will be my salvation, for a godless man may not come before His presence.”
As Job finished his speech, he made a valuable comment on the nature of true wisdom. Wisdom as we know it is how an individual through much sacrifice, self-exertion, and learning achieves some sort of epiphany that radically changes her or his life. This idea really is a very old one borrowed from Book VII of Plato’s Republic where the “Cave Allegory” is given. While Plato’s cave allegory is so popular because it appeals to man’s pride and self-righteousness, Job informs us that true wisdom comes from digesting and living by God’s revelation. It comes by walking by faith and not by sight.
Then our patient friend Elihu enters the scene. The 32nd chapter, which detailed his genealogy, gives us reason to view his contentions as credible. The rest of Elihu’s response corrects Job for his impugning of God’s justice. He also points out that God disciplines those that He loves (Job 33), that man’s righteousness is like filthy rags (Job 34), the intellectual incapability of man to question God’s justice (Job 35), and he exalts the wisdom of God and prepares us for God’s speech in Job 36-37.
In Chapter 38 God begins His first speech of the book, essentially arguing that His sustaining of creation is proof of His goodness and greatness. In comparison, man is insignificant.
On the surface chapter 39 reads rather simplistically: God controls the animals. A reader may simply think to himself, “So what?” However, if the chapter is read allegorically a world of possibilities is opened up to us. Just as God is sovereign and works all in these beasts, the different attitudes and attributes they have can also be seen in men. Hence, there is a spiritual import to what is being said that we can apply from what is said about the animals to us.
Clearly, God is sovereign over the differing attitudes and attributes in men that can be gleaned from the beasts. How could one question God’s justice when we conform to instincts for reasons that God knows and controls?
In His final discourse God focuses on His creation of the demonic realm (Behemoth) and Satan specifically (Leviathan), and man’s complicity with evil. God shows how He is sovereign over these imposing beasts, portraying them as completely impotent in His hands. As Augustine observed, even man’s power to sin lays in God’s hands and not his own.
Being that man is portrayed as powerless in light of the imposing nature of Behemoth and Leviathan, but these beasts themselves are powerless in light of God’s omnipotence, their existence shows to man that he cannot rely upon his own strength. Left to himself his situation is hopeless. Hence, the existence of such wickedness is supposed to send us fleeing to God and we are not to question the wisdom of this.
Now, we are in chapter 42. Job’s repentance is complete. He not only understands his insignificance, but also God’s role for evil and His power over it.
I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted(Job 42:2).
Here, Job acknowledges that he understands God has a purpose for suffering. It is interesting to note that God does not divulge exactly what this purpose is. He simply refers to having a purpose in mind in Job 38:2 (“Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge”) and Job 41:11 (“Who has [j]given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine”).
After going into some detail about His role in making the demons and His sovereignty over them, Job was content in accepting that God is aware of suffering and has a purpose behind it. Further, the choice of wording in “no purpose of yours can be thwarted” adds another element. It is an admission of God’s complete sovereignty.
This is in contradistinction to the past where Job said, “As God lives, who has taken away my right” (Job 27:2). Now, Job has totally resigned his “right” and now acknowledges God’s.
Nebuchadnezzar, when God rescinded his reason and turned him into a beast, once his reason returned summed it up like so:
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done’ (Dan 4:35)?
Indeed God’s purposes cannot be thwarted and His hand cannot be warded off. He glorifies His own name and works out righteousness in His way, which is superior to ours, because He is the greatest of all possible beings and has devised righteousness. For this reason we cannot say, “What have You done in allowing me to suffer?”
‘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” (Job 42:3).
By quoting God in Job 38:2, Job acknowledges now he understands what He is getting at. He follows this up with a further acknowledgement of God’s hidden counsel being superior to his. It is too wonderful to understand and not something man is privy to.
‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me,’ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You (Job 42:4-5).
By quoting Job 38:3 and Job 40:7 in God’s speech, Job acknowledges that he understands that in God alone there is truth. Truth cannot be found in our own speculations. Accepting God’s revelation prevents our own deception by the hands of Satan who uses suffering to encourage us to doubt the righteousness of God. Satan tried to do this with Job. God’s revelation is what turned him around.
Job’s point is pretty simple. He heard of God and was faithful to Him, but never actually heard from God, let alone seen Him. Theophanies are not common, so we may not enjoy, as Job did, such a personal encounter with God in this world. However, in some ways, we have a much greater opportunity to hear Him today.
First, we have the same speech God gave Job. So, in that we are equally blessed. Second, in addition to this, we have the whole counsel of God in the Scripture. We can hear Him speak by reading His revelation in the Scripture.
Therefore I retract and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).
When we find ourselves believing contrary to what we know to be the true in the Scripture, then we must recant like Job in dust and ashes. This is because the Scripture speaks authoritatively on matters that our minds cannot answer using empiricism or dialectics. We must remind ourselves that we are finite, made from the dust, and destined to burn out leaving ashes as remains.
Some liberals don’t get it. According to James L. Crenshaw, “Some scholars see irony in Job’s response, a concealing of his continued defiance in the face of divine cruelty” (Harper Collins Study Bible, 1993, p. 795). However, nothing could be farther from the truth.
What comes with Job’s repentance is ultimately a concession of finitude. It leaves to God the right to determine what role there should be for evil. In the words of Gregory the Great:
All human wisdom, however powerful in acuteness, is foolishness, when compared with Divine wisdom. For all human deeds which are just and beautiful are, when compared with the justice and beauty of God, neither just nor beautiful, nor have any existence at all (The Book of Morals, Book XXXV, Chapter 3).
In translation, in our own wisdom we might not always know what good reasons there are for our experiences. God’s wisdom is far beyond even the greatest men, God’s weakness is stronger than man’s strength (1 Cor 1:25).
It is with this in mind that God’s first move after Job’s confession is to punish Job’s friends for speaking from their false, man-made philosophies and traditions. God speaks to Eliphaz directly, likely because he was the wisest of Job’s friends, and scolds him for not speaking what was right (Job 42:7). Job knew that Eliphaz was doing this all along when he said, “Will you speak what is unjust for God and speak what is deceitful for Him?” (Job 13:7)
God also mentions that Job spoke rightly. Obviously, this does not refer to when Job was accusing God of being unjust. It refers to his repentance at the beginning of the chapter.
Some liberal interpreters take issue with this exegesis, but they do so on bad grounds. For one, Elihu points out several things that Job said wrongly and being that he is not scolded with Eliphaz and his “two friends,” this shows that he spoke rightly. Second, God Himself corrected Job specifically. Third, God says in 40:8 that Job condemned Him in order to be justified. Fourth, Job himself quoting God’s assertion that he darkened the Lord’s counsel, acknowledges that he spoke wrongly. It is not a tenable position without positing that Elihu was a later redactor, that God’s speeches were his invention, and other fantasies not based upon any evidence whatsoever from the existing manuscripts.
That being said, how can Eliphaz be made right with God? It is not enough for him to merely repent like Job. He knew God before this whole episode. Job’s sins have already been paid for by Christ on the cross because he is a faithful man. Eliphaz trusted in his own works and his sins still need atoning.
For this reason God points Eliphaz to Job as his priest. We have some foreshadowing of this in the book:
Bildad: Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
And the tent of the wicked will be no longer (Job 8:22).
Eliphaz: He will deliver one who is not innocent,
And he will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands (Job 22:30).
Job, like his great high priest Jesus, has suffered on behalf of those he intercedes for. It is because his hands are clean, like Christ’s, that his sacrifice is efficacious for his friends. Further, Job is like Christ in that which by faith he is in union with Him.
Let’s untangle this a little bit. Did you ever wonder why women take their husband’s last name, or in weird situations you can say, “Noch is Mrs. Craig Truglia!” According to the English jurist Henry de Bracton, the practice ought to be used because when a woman gets married to a man, they become “a single person, because they are one flesh and one blood.” Let’s apply this to Christianity. We as the Church are “in Christ” and are the “bride of Christ.” The bride of Christ is “one flesh” with Him. As Victorinus says of the faithful, “Now, because you are one with the reception of the Spirit from Christ, you are Christ. You are therefore sons of God in Christ.” So, Job is not only a type of Christ in our interpretation. By faith he IS Christ in a non-literal, metaphysical way. Not surprisingly, he must sacrifice so Eliphaz may live.
Eliphaz brings seven bulls and seven rams for this sacrifice (Job 42:8). The number seven suggest that this was a complete sacrifice, which points us to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross which was truly complete. For “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10).
The completion of the sacrifice is crucial. Only after Job completes it are not only the friends, but also he himself accepted by God (Job 42:9-10). This may be because Job had to faithfully do as God requested, so that his faith may not be nominal and thereby void. “You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected” (James 2:22).
However, it is more likely that this chronology of the events reflects that none of us are accepted apart from the sacrifice on the cross being finished. As Christ had said before He died, “It is finished” (John 19:30). So, God waited to accept Job’s repentance until after he completed sacrificing for his friends in order to offer to his friends and to us an accurate picture of how our sins are forgiven by an even that was finished 33 AD in April, the day before the Passover on the cross. Hence, while Job look forward to a future sacrifice until it was completed for acceptance, we look backward It just depends when you were born.
Coinciding with Job’s acceptance by God is a restoring of his fortunes (Job 42:10-17). Fortunes in the Scripture are always pictures of a spiritual reality. So, God indeed literally restored Job’s fortunes, but it is meant to point us to the spiritual wealth accessible to us by faith. For the things of this world are not real wealth at all, it is the wealth in heaven that we store that has eternal value.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)
How does the wealth Job receives reflect heavenly realities? His relationship is restored with his brothers, sisters, and wife (Job 42:11). We can infer that his wife is included, because Job has several more children with her. He has the same amount of children that he had as before (Job 42:13-14, Job 1:2).
The family bring him a Qestiah of gold. The term “qestiah” is an old, Hebrew term for money. It is used once in Genesis and once in Joshua, and by the time the prophets were writing books it would have been archaic like the term “shilling” is today.
From this we may make an observation about literary criticism. According to tradition and Jesus Christ Himself, the authorship of Genesis is ascribed to Moses. The authorship of Joshua, is also ancient, and it cites an ancient document that has been lost, the Book of Jashar. The term is not found in any other book of the Bible. This points to an ancient date of authorship for the Book of Job. It is either that or its author was very accurately peering into the past.
So not only does Job’s family bring him gold and increase his wealth, now Job’s livestock are greater in number (Job 42:12) then they were initially (Job 1:3). This increase in wealth all around obviously this points to what Christ said about those giving up families and property for His sake receiving “a hundred times as much” in heaven (Mark 10:30).
This is why there is such a strong emphasis on the beauty of Job’s daughters in which “no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters” (Job 42:15). Their names also connote beauty (Job 42:14). Jemimah means “dove,” which is a beautiful, peaceful bird. Kezziah is a kind of myrrh. Keren-Happuch means “the horn of adornment,” so she is compared to jewelry. We know that the New Jerusalem descending down from heaven is adorned like a bride. Their beauty is a reflection of God’s blessings that he lavishes on the Church, just as a husband lavishes his bride with jewelry. So, jewelry is a literary type for a blessing in the Scripture.
While money itself in the Scripture is described as both a blessing and a source of anxiety, jewelry in all of its positive mentions refers to the adorning of a bride (Gen 24:30, Est 2:12, Song 1:10-11, Is 48:18, Is 61:10, and Ezek 16:8-14). Otherwise, the actual wearing of jewelry is explicitly condemned (1 Peter 3:3-4, 1 Tim 2:9-10; see also Jer 4:30, James 2:2-4, 1 John 2:16-16, Is 3:16-24, and Prov 11:22). So, Job is being adorned with wealth and beauty in preparation for his eternity with Christ. Further, they are a picture of our blessings in Christ.
Indeed, what God gives us in heaven is far greater than what we give up for the Gospel’s sake on Earth. Heavenly riches are without equal in value and beauty.
Lastly, Job lives to a ripe old age, which from this we may infer he was satisfied with its length and quality (Job 42:16-17). Its surprisingly long duration after his body being as good as dead with disease points to our eternal life after the resurrection.
He died in peace, but not believing that he would be in Sheol and have eternal sleep. Instead, he died with the confidence he would see God again in his flesh. This is true of all Christians, who through suffering and experience bouts with evil, persevere. For “the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matt 24:13).
So, many a Christian may question God in times of suffering. He may forget that God is righteous and even what man meant for evil, He means for good. The fact that He works all things for good may escape the sufferer’s notice. That God is righteous and kind in all His ways may not seem like the truth, but that is only when one measures God by His own standards found in the Scripture. We must measure God by correct standards in order to make a correct evaluation. When we do, God fulfills every perfect standard perfectly.
Indeed, the enemy will devise many crafty lies making us doubt this simple truth, all the while distracting us from the fact that it is he and the evils of our own hearts that cause our suffering. God has merely permitted it, to fulfill His righteous purpose and glorify His name.
Epicurus may argue that the mere existence of evil makes the Deity evil. Many who fall prey to this rationalization, like Job’s friends, will instead argue that every affliction that befalls us is the just desert of sin. However, the Scripture does not allow for this line of reasoning: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps 34:19).
Expect affliction, pray for deliverance from the evil one, implore God to incline your heart to Him, and have confidence that the Lord will sustain and save you. These are the promises of God and “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent.” Indeed, if He promises such things, “will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good” (Num 23:19)? May honor, praise, and glory be ascribed to Him forever. Amen.