Exercise: Read chs 23-.24 then try to answer the following;
1. To what extent or detail was God aware of Job’s journey through life? 2. To which of the following is the “testing of faith” likened Earth, Rain, Wind or Fire? 3. What affect has fire upon gold? 4. To what extent was Job accustomed to give priority to God’s word or commandments. 5. Job intimates that he is terrified of what “God might do ……..”? 6. Why did Job think that God’s punishment of the wicked was not always as appropriate as it could or should be. 7. What does Job mention that reminds us of a verse in John which says “men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil”
Study Notes on ch. 23 - 24.
His Complaint: When we speak of Job’s complaint we are not referring to his illness. We refer to his own testimony of his complaint against God. In the first speech he complained that He was suffering for no purpose, and he could not see any reason why God should not take his life and so end his suffering. God’s silence throughout this time of testing was a mystery to Job, and it is generally this, that he is complaining about here. Despite his much groaning and crying to God, he cannot get any form of answer from God. Later on, Elihu speaks of the heavens being “as hard as a mirror of cast bronze”. (ch.37:18.) No doubt Job felt that as far as his praying was concerned, such was indeed the case. There is a great deal of frustration in Job’s complaint. The following verses show this quite clearly. Previously he has admitted to being impatient and justified it because he was dealing with God. In this chapter he wishes that God was like a man and lived in a house. Then of course he could track him down quite easily and even call upon him in order to state his case. But this personification of the Almighty is only wishful thinking. But Job does not need to be told that.
God the Instigator: Although in all his speeches, Job maintains that God is the instigator of his suffering. In this speech, for the first time we catch a hint that there might be a purpose in it all. The heavy hand of God, (v.2.) which was upon him, and the deliberate refusal to answer Job’s prayers, was a severe test of Job’s faith. In the earlier speech in ch.6:12, he confesses that he does not feel too strong. He felt that his ability to hold on, without losing faith, was very limited. But now we see him drawing strength from somewhere. However, we have seen that he has known as much a growing in the spirit as he has known a deterioration in the flesh. Thus he again makes a wonderful statement of faith. He is so convinced of the faithful character of God that he knows this trial must come to an end. He now is able to look to the mighty hand of God as a constructive creative hand rather than a destructive hand; even though he has not been able to have any communication with God. Yet he knew that God would be well aware of his problem, without him having any answers to his prayers. For the same God who had observed his righteous living (verses 11-12) over many previous years, would certainly know what was happening to him now. Ch.23:10. “He knows the way that I take and when he has tested me I shall come forth as gold.” Job’s reference to how he walked in his ways and obeyed his commandments, shows us that there was a clear moral revelation from God to man, long before Moses ever brought the law to Israel. In considering how God was dealing with him, Job reminds himself of how heat is used to purify Gold. Gold is the most valuable of metals, because it is the only substance that remains exactly the same, after it has been subjected to fire or heat. Every other substance changes in some way or another. Thus we can speak of real faith in the same way, for if we have real genuine faith, it stands the test. Many a person can be heard to say, “I used to believe and have faith but when my child died, or my husband died then I lost my faith.” However, scripture tells us that faith is an eternal thing, and such people, understandable as their testimony might be, never really had any true faith. They thought they had faith but when the test came it was not the real thing. Real faith like real gold remains constant throughout trials and tests. That is easier said than proved, obviously, but it is no doubt what the scripture is telling us here in Job’s case. Just as when gold is heated in the crucible, the dross comes to the surface and be it little or much, what is left after the dross is skimmed off, is pure gold. Our faith is really only as much as would be left after it has been tried and tested. It is easy to believe, when God is doing all the things you might expect him to do, but when prayers are not answered and you seem to receive the very opposite of what you would expect a loving heavenly father to send to his children, then to continue unchanged in one’s attitude of thanks and praise to God, is a very difficult thing indeed. Even to continue to believe the promises of God without reservations. becomes a 72problem to most. Sadly many react with such resentfulness that they turn deliberately back to their old ways. Chapter 23:13, speaks very clearly concerning the sovereignty of God. “He does whatever He pleases”. Job acknowledges this, and amusingly, in retrospect, says that he is afraid of what God might do next. Such fear, only added to his list of sufferings. He confesses to heart trouble, for “God has made my heart faint.” In ch.29:3 later on, Job speaks of his earlier lifestyle, before this great trial. His relationship with God was such that in the normal routine of life’s misfortunes and dark patches he says that God was as a light unto him. Many can testify to such an experience. The Hymn-writer says;
“Days of darkness still come over me, Sorrows paths I often tread, But the Saviour still is with me, By His hand I’m safely led.”
But, Job was aware that this experience was different, for now there was no such light. It could only be described as a “God-forsaken” experience. Elsewhere there are notes upon the last few verses of Romans ch.8, and its link with Ps 44. There is a definite equation here in Job with those chapters. It was indeed the test of all tests. Very few of God’s children come into this category of spiritual testing through suffering. We might be tempted to add “thankfully” to that statement, but God looks for those whom he describes as “worthy” to suffer, for such suffering is the entrance to great eternal glory. The latter verses in Romans ch.8 are often preached in general terms to vast crowds, and sadly it is applied to the minor and trivial problems of life. It hardly has to do with not being able to find a parking space.
Christ-likeness; In Job, we often see a picture of the Lord Himself. Not only did his friends leave him or betray him, but God forsook him and left him in thick darkness.
Notes on Ch. 24.
His Argument. Although from time to time, Job pours out great spiritual truths under the influence of the Spirit, he still has his natural mind, and he still argues his case from it. In this chapter Job expresses one of the many questions that make up his Argument. He did not question that the wicked eventually were punished, but he did think that God could have been more timely with his judgements upon men. Although it might be argued that the wicked did eventually perish, the punishment seemed too far distant from the crime to be effective. For example if every time a man robbed the poor he fell into poverty himself, then after a few years of such histories being recorded, men would not do such things, for the consequences would be obviously certain. Similarly with any other wicked act, but in life it was difficult very often to associate misfortune with sinfulness. In most cases those who rob the poor or act wickedly seem to have many years of prosperity, where it would seem that such evil acts reaped many benefits. However, although in verse one he prompts the question, yet in verse 22-24, he answers it in part. He suggests that God allows the wicked to become established and so lulls them into a false sense of security. Their end and demise is certain, non-the-less. Today we might call it “days of grace” However, this like many other answers in Job, is only a part answer, limited by the light of the revelation so far received. We see things a little clearer today. David suffered the same problem in life and the Psalms record his dilemma. Psalm 73 is the classic chapter . “I had almost slipped...when I saw the prosperity of the wicked .. ........ until I went into the sanctuary...... then I understood.”.
The Poor: Jesus once said, “The poor you will always have”. It seems there have always been such unfortunates, and man’s inhumanity to man, has always been one of the great evidences of the presence of sin. If you read what John the Baptist called his followers to do, to show their repentance, you might wonder why such codes of conduct are not accepted universally for the good of all. But though many people mouth all sorts of niceties about charity and such like, the amount given back to the poor is nothing like the amount taken from them in the first place. Universities educate men in the legal ways by which one can accrue unto oneself as many chips off the table as one can, at the expense of the poverty of others. Unfortunately exploitation is not always as obvious as one might wish. It appears at times that society condones such wickedness, and to the extent that some would venture to say that knighthoods have been awarded for it in Britain. In 1995 a National Lottery was introduced and the nation became addicted to the idea of a quick once and for all end, of all their problems. Such dreamers will never be convinced, even if they examined the lives of those who already have such millions, yet lack any true happiness. As for helping the poor, or good causes, such defences are truly of clay as the whole lottery is nothing less a seduction of the poor, exploiting their poverty through covetousness, merely to make the already rich, richer. The Bible describes the love of money as the root of all evil. Jesus called it “the mammon of UNrighteousness”. Yet we hear every justification for having lots of it. The devil tells us that “Money gives us choices” but a good knowledge of the bible might persuade one that money gives you temptations. Relatively speaking this chapter outlines the lot of the poor wherever they are found. They even have to work for those who have robbed them. In working for them they don’t eat the corn they grow, or drink the wine they tread. They spend nights in cold and nakedness. Their lovely children are taken from them in payment of debt. These people have always been on the earth. They have cried continually from the beginning of time, to the God who made them. However although He is Almighty, and has the power to change the situation, it is only surely because of his greater wisdom that he has chosen to allow the wicked to continue in their evil deeds and the poor to continue to suffer unjustly. Job is not the only one in this book who in adversity finds that God does not seem to be willing to help. While Job was rejoicing in his ease and prosperity during the earlier years, there were still thousands of impoverished people who lived in dire circumstances. However much of a saviour he was to the poor when he was in his position of privilege and power, he failed to eradicate the problem. Job’s argument in verse 12 of chapter 24 is that, in spite of all that is going on, God does not charge anyone with wrong doing, in all of this unjust wickedness. Job was not accusing God of wrong doing, merely stating a fact, as he saw it.
His Conclusion; Though he may not know the answers to the problem he is not afraid to state the problem. These are the facts of life. Facts of which God is well aware, and which He allows to continue. He challenges his friends to prove that such as he has said, is not the case concerning the poor, the wicked and their respective “rewards” in this life.
The Wicked: It seems fitting that in the same chapter that we have an account of the ever present poor in the world, we also have a summary of the attitude and activities of the ever present wicked people in the world. Their affinity with the darkness and their hatred of the light is a marked attribute. Verse 17 succinctly puts it in that the darkness is their morning. The rest of scripture endorses this. The New Testament states that men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. However Job sees fit to make his statement of faith in the certainty of their bad end. Unfortunately, the punishment is a bit too far away from the crime to seem appropriate to the human mind. We have to look into Psalm 73 and the rest of scripture to see the real answer to this problem concerning the wicked and their just rewards.