Today: [Job Nineteen] Job Deeply Misunderstands God. In this chapter Job cries out in his pain for his friends to have pity on him. He declares that God has overthrown him and captured him in a net of suffering. He believes that God has fenced him in to a place of torment and cast him into darkness. He asserts that God is persecuting him and using him for cruel sport. Is this true? To what degree does Christian theology see God the same way that Job does? In understanding Job’s wrong idea about God we can correct our own thinking and strengthen our faith in times of difficulty.
[Job 19:1-29 KJV] 1 Then Job answered and said, 2 How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? 3 These ten times have ye reproached me: ye are not ashamed [that] ye make yourselves strange to me. 4 And be it indeed [that] I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself. 5 If indeed ye will magnify [yourselves] against me, and plead against me my reproach: 6 Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net. 7 Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but [there is] no judgment. 8 He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths. 9 He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown [from] my head. 10 He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and mine hope hath he removed like a tree.
In this chapter Job answers Bildad and the other two comforters, lamenting that they have only vexed and tormented him with their false words of encouragement. He rebukes them for making themselves strange to him and alienating themselves from him in his brutal sufferings. King David wrote of this as well in the Psalms:
[Psalm 38:11 KJV] 11 My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off.
In life it is true that many will fellowship with your strength but very few will fellowship you in your liabilities. When the cost of being your friend or brother becomes too inconvenient at times those close to you will withdraw and cut you off from their kindness and their loving support. It is very natural for people to look at you in your suffering and try to find something wrong. They can’t accept a situation where difficulty is not connected with transgression of some kind because then they feel they have no defense against it themselves. Self-justification is the false bastion of religious thinking against suffering and trials. A person who justifies himself in his good works will see themselves as insulated from suffering because of their righteousness.
It is easy to see how wrong Job’s friends are to attack him and seek to find an occasion to criticize him in his fierce trial. The book of Romans tells us when we accuse others it is because we ourselves are guilty. However Job’s error is a little more difficult to expose. Job’s friends tell him he is suffering because he is a sinner. Job believes he is suffering because God has unfairly chosen to allow it to happen. Both Job and his comforters are justifying themselves – the only difference is that Job’s friends blame him because of sin while Job on the other hand blames God of unfairness and arbitrary cruelty.
In verse 6 Job describes God as having overthrown him and captured him in a net of torment and suffering. Is this true? David again spoke of this in the Psalms:
[Psalm 25:15 KJV] 15 Mine eyes [are] ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
God does not cast a net for your feet – rather He delivers you from the net. When you don’t understand what is going on in your life let the scripture discern the situation as Hebrews instructs:
[Hebrews 4:12 KJV] 12 For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Your emotions in time of trial are very unreliable. The way things look can be deceiving. Friends will give unwise counsel. God’s word will never fail you. Go to the word. In this case whatever is happening in Job’s life it isn’t God doing it because God doesn’t cast you into a net, He delivers you from the snare of the enemy. Therefore you may not have the answers but you can exercise the wisdom not to accuse God of what human reasoning might hold Him responsible for.
11 He hath also kindled his wrath against me, and he counteth me unto him as [one of] his enemies. 12 His troops come together, and raise up their way against me, and encamp round about my tabernacle. 13 He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. 14 My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. 15 They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight. 16 I called my servant, and he gave [me] no answer; I intreated him with my mouth. 17 My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children’s [sake] of mine own body. 18 Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. 19 All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me. 20 My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.
Job accuses God of being mad at him and bringing all of this trial and temptation against him. Is this true? Does Job have an accurate picture of what is going on in his life? Job 1:8 tells us that God is not angry with Job, in fact far from it:
[Job 1:8 KJV] 8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that [there is] none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
If God isn’t mad at Job and if God isn’t bringing this upon Job then what is the problem? The attack on Job can arise from many different factors.
1. In Job 1:6 we see that Satan (the voice of the adversary) came before God WITH the sons of God. So there was an attack of accusation against Job in the mouths of his friends which becomes plain when we hear the words of Elipaz, Bildad and Zophar. Gal. 5:20 tells us that one of the works of the flesh is witchcraft. Witcraft is a source of human oppression that doesn’t necessarily involve a demonic source. When people speak against you it can open you up to attack and oppression.
2. In Job 3:25 Job said that the thing he feared the most came upon him. While Job was a righteous man he struggled with an unreasoning fear and that fear took shape and manifested in his life.
3. In Job 1:11,12 Satan tempted God to destroy Job and God pointed out that all Job had was in Satan’s hand – not God’s. Why? Because of Job’s fear in spite of the fact that he was an upright person.
4. In Luke 13:1-5 Jesus commented on two notable calamities that took place in Jerusalem (a building collapse, and an act of terrorism). He rebuked the crowd for presuming the victims had been struck with divine justice. He pointed out that this kind of thinking PRODUCED random calamity and if they would change their minds they would be protected from such things.
Psalm 91 is the classic passage of scripture that promises you and I that we do not have to suffer Job’s fate or any other fate of those who do not see themselves as shielded by God’s hand from such things:
[Psalm 91:7 KJV] 7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; [but] it shall not come nigh thee.
The tedious and drawn out debates and arguments in Job are given to us to immunize us from such thinking. God is telling us in the Job narrative what we must withdraw ourselves from in time of trial. From an outward perspective we must not look on the suffering of others and think they are suffering because they are evil and we are just. From an inside perspective we must avoid at all costs the false assumption that it is God Himself for some capricious motive or murky religious agenda is exposing us to the enemy.
Among the various reasons why Job suffered, God using him for target practice is not one of them. We live in a fallen environment full of threats and potential problems. We have far more authority than we realize (like Job) to inadvertently open the door to an attack of the enemy because of worry and fear. Our friends if we are not careful will set us up for the attack of the enemy when they despise us in their heart and secretly expect that we will suffer because of what they construe as our faulty relationship with God.
21 Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me. 22 Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh? 23 Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! 24 That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! 25 For I know [that] my redeemer liveth, and [that] he shall stand at the latter [day] upon the earth: 26 And [though] after my skin [worms] destroy this [body], yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; [though] my reins be consumed within me. 28 But ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me? 29 Be ye afraid of the sword: for wrath [bringeth] the punishments of the sword, that ye may know [there is] a judgment.
Job begs his friends to have pity upon them. He asks them to quit acting like God who is being so brutal and cruel (in Job’s view) to him in his suffering. Can you imagine this? Here we see the depth of Job’s misunderstanding of God. When he looks at Bildad, Elipaz and Zophar he recognizes in them that which he identifies and mirrors his estimation of God’s character. Job is deeply flawed in his understanding of God and the love of God. He has God ALL WRONG and we do as well when we think in the midst of suffering that it is God’s doing or that our trials originate with God.
Again we go to the writer of Hebrews for our understanding of God and the filter through which we must strain our concepts of what God will and won’t do:
[Hebrews 1:1-2 KJV] 1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
In times past God spoke through various means such as the law and the prophets. Now He speaks to us through his Son Jesus. What this means is that the life of Jesus becomes an interpretive guide through which we filter our whole understanding of God and what God will and won’t do. Did Jesus ever conduct Himself toward men the way Job and his friends think He would? Jesus never used His authority to smite anyone with sickness. He never did, as Paul turn anyone over to the destruction. He never took anyone’s children by death – in fact on several occasions raise dead children back to life. In short when you are tempted to think that God is doing something in a situation or circumstance (yours or someone elses’) simply look for a precendent for the same action in the life of Jesus. If your idea of God contradicts the life and character of Jesus then you will know you have erred and must change your thinking whatever the implications are of doing so.
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