The Book of Job contains a lot of Hebrew poetry. For that reason, I want to take a few moments to explain how Hebrew poetry is written.
Hebrew poetry uses repetition. A lot of repetition. It is full of never ending repetition. I almost think there is too much repetition. So I decided to tell the story contained in the Book of Job without any repetition.
In order to avoid the repetition, I am going to pick out a few points from the Book of Job, and avoid the repetition by summarizing the basic talking points. I will not be using this approach with other parts of the Bible that do not use Hebrew poetry because they avoid the kind of repetition you find in the Book of Job.
Here we go.
Job Chapter 1
I. Job’s Background
#1. Job was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1 ESV)
Becoming the kind of person Job is in this verse is the goal of making disciples. We are not told how Job became this kind of person, that task is done in other parts of the Bible.
#2. Job was wealthy. (See Job 1:3)
Why was Job allowed to be wealthy? There is a lot of confusion about the relationship between being the kind of person Job was and the pursuit of wealth.
The only thing you need to obtain wealth is integrity. God allows wicked people who possess integrity to become wealthy because 1) He wants to reward their good behavior, and 2) they are not welcome in Heaven where God is going to reward people like Job.
If God does not reward wicked people who value integrity in this world, He will not get a chance to do so later. This is why we cannot look to wealth as evidence of being righteousness in the eyes of God.
#3. Job took sin seriously. (See Job 1:4-5)
Job went out of his way to make sure his children apologized to God for things they might have done to offend Him. Do you have this kind of attitude towards the next generation?
II. Job’s Situation
#1. The Meetings of God’s Heavenly Council (Job 1:6-12)
There are spirits having meetings on a regular basis to talk about what is happening in the human world. Evil spirits are invited to attend these meetings, and in the book of Job we are given a chance to see what evil spirits can do in these meetings.
These meetings are still happening today, and there have been times when our lives are being discussed in these meetings, so we need to understand how these meetings operate.
The principles that dictate how these spirits conduct themselves in these meetings is an ancient social custom known as the Honor System.
#2. The Honor System (Job 1:9-12)
So how does the Honor System work?
During the meeting described in Job, an evil spirit spoke and hurt God’s reputation among the members of the Heavenly Council. The members of the Heavenly Council who were faithful to God were wondering how God is going to protect His reputation.
In order to defend His own reputation, God decided to remove the protection Job was under so that the spirits who are faithful to Him would stand by and watch as evil spirits came and destroyed Job’s life.
III. The Actions of Evil Spirits
When the evil spirit mentioned in the Book of Job left God’s presence, we need to recognize where he went. The evil spirit who gained permission to inflict pain and suffering on Job went to his allies to make plans on how to hurt Job.
The evil spirits sat down and make plans on how to get the most out of this opportunity, and now we can look and see what the plans they developed look like.
#1. The evil spirits picked a specific time to attack
In order to hurt Job deeply, they decided to attack when Job’s children were celebrating the life of his oldest son. In the ancient world, the life of your oldest son is evidence that the god you serve approves of you.
In order to hurt Job as much as possible, they decided to kill all of Job’s children while they were celebrating the life of his oldest son. (See Job 1:13)
#2. The evil spirits stared a riot among the Sabeans
The evil spirits active in the Book of Job started a riot among the Sabeans, and as a result the Sabeans came and stole everything of value they could find. They came and stole the 500 yoke of oxen and 500 female donkeys, killing all of the people who worked for Job who were responsible for these animals. (See Job 1:14-15)
#3. The evil spirits can start Firestorms
The evil spirits active in the Book of Job caused a firestorm to fall out of the sky and watched 7,000 sheep and the shepherds who took care of them burn to death.
In addition to that, the only survivor was a man who described what he saw happening as an act of God. The evil spirits who set this up specifically chose someone who would blame God for what happened to be the only survivor. (See Job 1:16)
#4. The evil spirits started a riot among the Chaldeans
The evil spirits active in the Book of Job started a second riot among the Chaldeans, and as a result the Chaldeans came and killed all of the people who took care of Job’s camels, and then took the camels for themselves.
Of course, the evil spirits made sure there would be one survivor so that the only survivor could be a messenger carrying the bad news to Job. (see Job 1:17)
#5. The evil spirits can control the weather
The evil spirits active in the Book of Job were able to control weather patterns. We are told “a great wind” came and destroyed the house where Job’s children were having a party, leaving only one survivor who had to carry the bad news to Job. (see Job 1:18-19)
IV. Job’s Response
When Job found out his wealth was gone, we are told that the oxen were plowing, which places the attack from the evil spirits in spring time when they were preparing to plant food for the coming year (see Job 1:14).
During the time when Job was making plans to provide food for all the people who worked for him, he found his wealth was gone, his children were dead and the only thing he had left was his wife and his responsibility to provide food for the widows and orphans of the men who had died.
In this situation, we see Job celebrating the love of God. This action on Job’s part allowed the spirits who attended the meeting to see God’s reputation being upheld. God was being honored by Job.
Job Chapter 2
I. The Second Heavenly Council
There was a second meeting, and one of the items under discussion on their agenda was to examine Job’s response to what happened in chapter 1. This meeting was God’s chance to see his reputation upheld in His own heavenly council. (see Job 2:1)
II. The Second Accusation Against Job
The evil spirit who had slandered God’s reputation came back with a second accusation about Job. While all of the spirits who were faithful to God were celebrating Job’s loyalty, the evil spirit who started this whole thing said the reason Job was faithful is because he still had his physical health. (see Job 2:2-6)
III. Job’s Health Crisis Begins
So Job’s health begins to fail. Once again the choices Job makes will decide how the Heavenly Council thinks of God. God’s reputation is being tested again with Honor System on the basis of how Job responds.
IV. Job’s Second Response
Job’s wife begins encouraging him to “Curse God and die,” but Job’s response remains unchanged. Job will not compromise, he will not slander God’s reputation to protect himself from pain and suffering.
A disciple is a person who is learning to remain faithful when pain and suffering put pressure on us to “Curse God” so we can protect ourselves from persecution in this world.
V. Job’s Friends Arrive
When Job’s friends heard about what happened, they put their lives on hold and came to visit Job so they could share his sorrow. The Bible tells us that Job’s appearance was changed by his illness so much that his friends did not even recognize him.
They came and began to express sorrow according to the social customs of their time, and they sat in silence for seven days, waiting for Job to let them know he was ready to talk about his situation.
Job Chapter 3
I. Job Finally Speaks
I wish I had never been born.
This is essence of what Job said about his situation (see Job 3:1, 11). Job was a man God thought very highly of, and in order to defend God’s reputation he has been physically, emotionally and mentally abused to the point where he wishes he had never been born.
Job wants to go to “where the weary are at rest.” (Job 3:17 ESV)
Job ends his first speech by admitting his worst nightmares have come true. Discipleship involves helping people become mentally and emotionally prepared for this moment. If you are not doing this for others, you are not doing the work of the ministry.
Job Chapters 4 and 5
I. Eliphaz Speaks
This is the point at which the poetry really begins to be confusing to people who are not Jewish, and with that in mind, I am going to skip the repetition and summarize the conversation as it unfolds.
The first thing we need to notice is what Eliphaz believed. Eliphaz was encouraging Job to believe in God’s unconditional justice: “Remember, who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.” (Job 4:7-8 ESV)
Eliphaz believed that God was always watching and waiting for people to make mistakes. In the Seven Tasks of the Teacher I mentioned that love is not an attribute of God, love is all the attributes of God.
Eliphaz believes unconditional justice is all of the attributes of God which is why he says this about God: “Even in his servants he puts no trust.” (Job 4:18 ESV) Eliphaz believed that God was good to people as long as people behaved.
Where did Eliphaz learn to think that way?
II. Why Eliphaz Believed This
Eliphaz actually tells us where his opinion on this matter came from. The idea that God is good as long as we never do anything wrong came to him in a dream.
Eliphaz had a dream, and in his dream, a spirit came and told him that was the answer to Job’s situation. Of course, Eliphaz also told us that he was not able to get a good look at the spirit who spoke in his dream.
The spirit who encouraged Eliphaz to think this way did not want to be recognized or identified. Let me show what I am talking about. Listen to Job 4:12-16 from the ESV:
“Now a word was brought to me stealthily; my ear received a whisper of it. Amid thoughts from visions of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men…a spirit glided past my face…it stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence, then I heard a voice.”
That voice encouraged Eliphaz to believe something that would make him disagree with a blameless and upright man who feared God and turned away from what God considers to be evil.
Now Job, a man who is innocent in God’s eyes, is having a disagreement with Eliphaz over who God is and how God interacts with people.
The spirit that spoke to Eliphaz about Job’s situation is still speaking to people today, and look how many disagreements this spirit has caused within the Church over who God is and how God interacts with people?
Discipleship involves learning not to listen to that spirit’s voice.
III. The Solution Eliphaz Offered
What kind of life application advice did the anonymous spirit who spoke to Eliphaz share as the solution to Job’s problem? This question is answered in Job chapter 5.
The anonymous spirit in the dream Eliphaz had encouraged him to believe that people who are loyal to God will get to have their best lives now (see Job 5:19-26) in exchange for becoming a better you.
Job Chapters 6 and 7
As you would imagine, this made Job feel worse.
Job agrees that no one can escape God’s sense of justice, and then admits that does not explain what is happening to me. (See Job 6:25) In chapter 7 Job looks up to God and asks God to remember how fragile our lives are (see Job 7:7).
At this point in the story the influence of evil spirits caused insults and name calling to begin, and I want to skip all of that and just focus on a few important things that I found hidden in the conversation Job is having with his friends.
Job Chapters 8 through 31
I. What Job Saw As His Problem
Job gained a deeper understanding of what sin is.
We have already been told that Job was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” in God’s eyes on several occasions so far (Job 1:1 ESV).
Now this blameless and upright man who fears God begins to develop a deeper understanding of what sin is: “If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me.” (Job 9:30-31 ESV)
The pain and suffering Job is enduring has changed his understanding of sin. Job no longer thinks of sin as being something we do. Job is beginning to think that sin is something we are.
When we are making disciples, we need to share this lesson – eliminating bad behavior in our lives is not enough to make us acceptable to God.
Job was a man who God approved of, and yet this idea was missing in his belief system until he began to experience pain and suffering. God will use pain and suffering in your life to teach you the same lesson.
II. What Job Saw As His Solution
Job gained a different understanding of how to become acceptable to God.
Job described his problem by admitting that he needed someone who could speak to God as an equal on his behalf. In his own words, Job says “There is no arbiter between us who might lay his hand on us both.” (Job 9:33 ESV)
In his pain and suffering, Job began to believe that the only answer to his problem was for someone who could speak to God as an equal to stand up and speak on his behalf.
In Job 10:4-5 (ESV) Job looks to God and asks “Have you eyes of flesh? Do you see as a man sees? Are your days as the days of man, or your years as a man’s years…”
And then, several centuries later, the Apostle Paul was given God’s answer to Job’s question. The New Testament says “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5 ESV)
Job did not stop there.
Job began to see the return of Jesus Christ as the solution to his pain and suffering, for it is written in Job 19:25 (ESV) we read “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.”
Job also began to see the hope of the Resurrection of the Dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 the Apostle Paul said the Resurrection was “of first importance” and now several centuries before the Resurrection of Jesus Christ took place, in Job 19:26 Job began hoping for what the New Testament promises:
“And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:26 (ESV)
These are convictions that we cannot learn without enduring pain and suffering under the influence of evil spirits just like Job. Discipleship involves learning to endure instead of searching for ways to avoid being treated this way.
III. What Job Saw At The End
I have already said that Job began suffering from evil spirits, and to make matters worse, these same evil spirits came and began encouraging Job’s friends to believe things about God that would hurt Job even more.
But at what point did this all end?
I have always been told that Job got everything back in the end, but was there anything said that provides a clue that the end of the pain and suffering was near?
The answer is yes.
Job and his friends had been taking turns arguing with each other, but there came a point where “these three men ceased to answer Job.” (Job 32:1 ESV)
Why did Job’s friends choose to stop talking at that particular point? There was a comment made by Job that revealed his situation was over. In Job’s last speech to his friends he says “with whose help have you uttered words, and whose breath has come out from you?” (Job 26:4 ESV)
The end of the suffering occurred the moment Job saw clearly who was encouraging his friends to criticize him, and with this disturbing clarity Job makes the following comment about God in Job 26:13 ESV:
“…his hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.”
Job was able to see the evil spirits who had been mistreating him this whole time when they were running away to hide after God attacked them.
Job 32 through 37
It was after God “pierced the fleeing serpent” that Job’s fourth friend, Elihu began to speak and minister to Job doing the work of a Pastor. I mention this as a warning, Pastors are only able to do their job in our lives when the serpent is fleeing.
Elihu began working to repair the damage in Job’s life by calling attention to God’s Presence in the absence of the evil spirits who had hurt Job. (see Job 37:1)
Job Chapters 38 through 41
Finally, God begins to speak, and God explains how little we really understand about the world around us to Job. Everything God says here contains one very simple lesson, and I want to tell you what that lesson is, right now.
Here it is:
There are things about God that can only be seen while we are experiencing pain and suffering. Being hurt changes our point of view. When Job was hurting, he began to learn about what God was planning to do for His New Testament Church.
Job began to see the things I described about before Jesus Christ was born to accomplish anything the Gospel says has been done on our behalf. Discipleship involves helping people understand this so well that they will remain faithful when evil spirits create pain and suffering in our lives like they did for Job.
The pain and suffering that Job experienced at the hands of evil spirits allowed Job to develop a disturbing clarity in His relationship with God that he explains this way: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees you.” (Job 42:5 ESV)
Job Chapter 42
Job’s poor health began to improve after he prayed for God to have mercy on his friends for being servants of the evil spirits who had hurt him.
Job also carried the scars for the rest of his life, and the new children he had never knew what he looked like before the evil spirits mentioned at the start of his story made him sick.
But when Job died, he was reunited with everyone who died when this all started, and they sat down together to celebrate their reunion. Several centuries has passed since their celebration began, and they are still celebrating the goodness of God today.