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Most of you know, some of you don’t, that we’re going to be dealing with the book of Job this evening and if God wills and we live, tomorrow evening. Never assume that tomorrow evening will come because for some it may never come. I’ve learned to live one day at a time and never take anything for granted, that, if God wills it and we live, as James tells us we have to say, and then tomorrow we’ll continue.
When I saw the parking lot and it was not so full I said tonight we’ve got the men and not the boys because this is not food for babies, this is solid food. It takes chewing, it takes digestion. If you don’t have your digestive system in order you’ll probably end up with indigestion.
I want to tell you how I came to make this study. Ruth and I read the Bible every day, twice a day normally at least, once in the morning and once in the evening. Usually in the morning we read something from the Old Testament and in the evening something from the New Testament. We found ourselves in the book of Job in the morning and we read it through and, frankly, we didn’t get much from it. I said let’s try again, let’s read it through again. We read it through the second time and still I really didn’t feel I got much from it. So I thought what do I do now? But them something came to my mind which was the Lord’s comment on the book which is found in Job 42:7–8. And when I read this comment it opened a door of approach for me to the book. I have to assume that you are in some measure familiar with the story of Job, otherwise you’re going to find it difficult to keep up. I have warned the people that I could warn that we’re going to deal with Job and I suggested they read the book through. I’m sure some of you have found that a bit tough but you’re probably cutting your teeth.
Very simply, the outline of the book is there was a man of outstanding righteousness. He was the most righteous man on earth in his day and his name was Job. He was also very wealthy, very prosperous. That encourages me to know it is possible to be righteous and rich, a lot of people think it isn’t. But, Job was.
And then there was a dialogue in heaven between God and Satan. We’ll read a little part about it later. God pointed Job out to Satan and said, “Have you considered my servant Job? A perfect and an upright man, there is no one like him in the earth.” And Satan was very cynical, he said, “No wonder, you do everything for him. You protect him, you provide for him, he prospers. You just take away everything he has and see how he’ll react.” And amazingly God said, “Okay, you can take away everything he has but don’t take his life.” And a series of absolutely unnatural disasters hit Job and his family. All his children, seven sons and three daughters, were killed in a single accident and all his wealth was taken from him, fire fell from heaven and consumed his camels. I mean, it was an amazing series of disasters. Behind that was who? Satan, that’s right. We’ll go into that in a little bit.
So Job has this series of disasters and Satan turns up again in heaven and God says to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? You moved me to smite him without cause, for no reason, and he hasn’t turned against me. He’s submitted himself to me.” Satan, that old cynic, said, “Well, no wonder. If you just touch his body, he’ll give anything for the sake of health. If you just touch his body and see what happens to him.” So the Lord said to Satan, “You can touch him but don’t take his life.”
And Satan went out and the Bible says “he smote Job with boils from head to foot.” So that’s another indication of what Satan can do. Some people don’t like this truth but it’s there.
So there is Job sitting on the ash heap, having lost everything, with a pot chard scraping the pus off his boils, and his three “friends”—and I think sometimes what people say, “With friends like that you don’t need enemies.” They turn up and they’re going to “comfort” him. For seven days they just sit around, nobody says anything. And then they start in on Job and we’ll go through the outline of what they say and the outline of Job’s response.
Let me just for a moment go back and go to chapter 42, verses 7 and 8, which is the door that God opened for me to try to find the meaning of this book. I want to tell you very clearly that there are lots of things in Job I still don’t understand but I think it gave me a way to begin to unravel some of the mystery. So, here at the end of the book Job has said his peace, his three friends have said their peace, a young man named Elihu has said his peace. Then God moved in and spoke directly to Job for three or four chapters. We’ll see how Job responded a little later.
Now, this is what I want to come to:
“It was so after the Lord had spoken these words to Job that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite [he was number one of the three friends], `My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends [that’s Bildad and Zophar], for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
You three men have said the wrong thing, Job has said the right thing. And in the next verse it’s repeated:
“Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
Now, the question that came to me is so what did the friends say that God didn’t accept and why did God accept what Job said? Because, Job said a lot of negative things about God. He actually said God has taken away my justice, He’s not treating me right—and God didn’t complain. He said Job has said the right thing.
But of these other friends who came out with a long list of religious platitudes, He said, “They have not spoken of me what is right.”
So, this is the way I approached the book, to find out why God took exception to the words of the friends and why God accepted the words of Job. Because, the normal religious person such as you or me would have reacted in the opposite. We would have said what the friends said was right and what Job said was awful. God didn’t react that way so that’s how we’re going to look at it.
The first thing I want to deal with, which is kind of incidental in a way but very important, is what does the book of Job reveal about Satan? And it reveals a lot of things that are important for us to know. Number one, it reveals that Satan can take his place amongst the angels of God. This is stated twice in chapter 1, verse 6 and in chapter 2, verse 1. We’ll turn there, chapter 1, verse 6:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God [that’s the angels, I can’t take time to go into that but I can show it to you from the text] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’ So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.’“
So if you want to know what Satan is doing, he’s going to and fro in the earth and walking back and forth on it and making all the trouble he can for everybody. 1Peter says:
“Our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
You need to know that. Satan has been turned loose. But, he came into the presence of God with the angels.
And then in chapter 2, verse 1 it says:
“There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them [to present himself before the Lord].”
Now, a little comment on that which I’ll offer you is in 2 Corinthians 11:14. Speaking about false apostles Paul says in verse 13:
“Certain kinds of people are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.”
That’s important to know, it’s still happening today. And, no wonder. For Satan himself transformed himself into an angel of light. Now this is my opinion. My opinion is that Satan came amongst the other angels looking just like them and I think very probably the other angels didn’t identify him. After all, there are a hundred million angels at least because it says ten thousand times ten thousand which is a hundred million. That’s not the ultimate figure. But amongst these hundred million here was this beautiful, shining figure. It doesn’t seem that the other angels discerned anything about him. God said, “What are you doing here, Satan? How did you get in amongst this crowd?”
So, that’s one important thing to remember. I don’t know whether it’s still true today, I don’t know of any scriptural reason why it’s changed. To some extent, Satan still has access to God. Revelation 12:10 says he accuses us, the people of God, before the throne of God day and night. So, he has to have some kind of access to do that. One of the important things we’re not going to deal with is how to handle Satan’s accusations. Let me give you the answer but I’m not going to go into it. It’s Revelation 12:11:
“They [the believers on earth] overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
It takes a certain kind of person to overcome Satan. Only committed people, those who do not love their lives to the death. My definition of that is people for whom to do the will of God is more important than to stay alive. If you have to have the choice, you’ll do the will of God and die for it rather than compromise and stay alive. Satan has no trouble with uncommitted Christians. The only kind of Christians that can trouble him are committed Christians, those who do not love their live to the death.
Lenin, I don’t usually quote him, but he once said in the days when people listened to him, “Communists are dead men on furlough.” In other words, he meant when you become a member of the Communist party, that’s your death sentence. You’re going to die, maybe in a jail, maybe on a gallows, maybe at a roadblock, you’re going to die. Until you die you’re a dead man on furlough. I believe that, in a certain sense, should be true of Christians. Christians are dead men on furlough. We haven’t died yet but we can anticipate a sentence of death.
I personally believe that in the next few years this is going to become very relevant here in the United States. So, you better gird up the loins of your mind and be ready. I hope that this study will help you to be ready.
That’s point number one, Satan has some kind of access to the presence of God. He can disguise himself as an angel of light. There have been a number of examples in recent decades of people being deceived by beings who appeared as angels of light but were actually messengers of error.
Point number two is that God took the initiative and pointed Job out. If you look in chapter 1, verse 8:
“Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?’”
You might feel honored if God would say that about you but bear in mind that a lot goes with it. Because, when the Lord pointed Job out to Satan He made him Satan’s number one target. So, don’t be in a hurry to apply. Be sure you can take what goes with it.
As many of you know, my first wife and I had a children’s home. We raised a number of children. Like other missionaries we would send newsletters—occasionally, not very often. And every now and then we’d give a glowing report of some particular girl and we noticed without fail that created special spiritual problems for that child. It exposed them to something that they wouldn’t have been exposed to if we hadn’t praised them. God has spoken to me personally, be very careful about praising people because you create problems for them in two ways: number one, you tend to get them with an inflated ego and, number two, you, as it were, make them lightning conductors for Satan’s lightning.
What I want to point out to you now is God took the initiative. It wasn’t Satan who said that man Job, it was God who said, “Have you considered my servant Job?” I think I have to say reverently God was proud of Job. Is that acceptable? So, why don’t we ask ourselves, is God proud of you and me? Is there anything in our lives to make God proud?
The third point about Satan is in relationship to God’s people Satan can only go as far as God permits. So, let’s look at some example of that. Chapter 1, verse 12:
“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that Job has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.’”
You can take all his property but don’t touch him. And Satan could not go one inch further than God permitted.
Well then, Satan came back with this answer, “Well, that’s all right, he’s still got his body intact.” So in chapter 2, verse 6 the Lord said to Satan:
“Behold, he is in your hands but spare his life.”
You can do anything to his body but you can’t kill him. And in a few days Job came out with boils all over him from the crown of his head to the souls of his feet. And boils are very painful, they’re also very humiliating. Who caused the boils? Satan. So he has power but he can go no further than God permits.
This has got an application and it’s this, if we are in some kind of spiritual struggle and we feel that Satan is oppressing us—and I frankly find myself in that situation pretty often—it’s legitimate to resist Satan. The Bible says resist him and he will flee from you. But if you go on resisting him and he doesn’t flee, then the wise thing to do is stop and say, “God, what are you trying to teach me?” Because until you learn the lesson God won’t call Satan off. That’s very, very important. Don’t go on bombarding God with prayers that get you nowhere. Stop praying and ask God to teach you what He has for you to learn. Remember, Satan couldn’t do it if God didn’t permit it.
Now, within those limits this passage reveals Satan has certain areas of power which are important. He has power to some extent over human agents. He stirred up the Sabeans and he stirred up the Chaldeans to raid all Job’s flocks. They came because Satan stirred them up. I think it’s not difficult for most of us to believe Satan still can stir people up, make them enemies.
Secondly, and this is more perhaps surprising, Satan has a measure of power over the elements. Listen to what he can do. In chapter 1, verse 16 it says:
“The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them...”
Who was responsible for that fire that fell from heaven? Tell me. Satan, that’s right.
And remember, in the book of Revelation it affirms again that there will be a false prophet, a servant of Satan, who will be able to call down fire from heaven. You better adjust your thinking. See, one problem with many Charismatics is we automatically assume that if somebody can do something supernatural he represents God. That is not necessarily true. You are a candidate for deception if you accept any supernatural manifestation as automatically coming from God. That’s very, very important.
Also with regard to the elements in verse 19 it says:
“...suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young men, and they are dead...”
All Job’s children perished in one abnormal climatic experience. A wind came and struck the four corners of the house. I tell people whenever a wind strikes all four corners of your house at once you may know it’s from Satan. And they were all killed. Satan had that power. He could control the fire from heaven, he could control the wind up to a point that God said.
He also had power to inflict sickness because in the next chapter it says when God gave him permission to attack Job’s body he went out and smote him with boils from the crown of his head to the souls of his feet. Not all sickness is from Satan but some sickness is directly from Satan. And sometimes if you can deal with the satanic element in a sickness there will be immediate healing.
I’m going to tell a story, Ruth says I’m always hanging out her dirty linen in public. She says also I wouldn’t have any material to teach if I didn’t have her! This is so remarkable. I don’t think either Mahesh or Jim Croft are here but they were both present. Just shortly after we were married Ruth and I went on a tour to Israel. Now this is the kind of thing you don’t talk about from a pulpit. The problem is if you don’t talk about it from the pulpit people who need this information don’t get it in church so they go to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist says, “Madam, your problem is your religion. Give that up and you’ll be all right.” Anyhow, on this tour that we were leading there was a group of maybe 40 of 50 people. There was one lady, a Christian lady, who was very intent on impressing me with the level of her education and she took every opportunity to tell me just how intellectual she was. I’m naive. When we got back Ruth got this terrible condition in her intestines so we went to three doctors here in Fort Lauderdale and, interestingly enough, not one of them asked her what she was eating. They all had very sophisticated drugs or remedies that they were prepared to recommend.
Well, we were with Jim and Mahesh in our old home on Sunrise Key and we were talking about this and somebody said, “You know, I think that woman thought she’d make a better wife for you than Ruth would. I think she’s put some kind of a curse on Ruth because she sees you as a prospect.” Now I didn’t see it that way. So, we said that’s witchcraft. And, as I say, I have witnesses, Jim and Mahesh were both there, we dealt with witchcraft, we broke its power and Ruth was instantly healed, there was no further physical problem.
Now that’s not always true, it’s only sometimes true and what you need is discernment to know what it is that you’re dealing with. But bear in mind some sicknesses are directly caused by Satan. You probably will not achieve healing until you identify the cause and deal with it the right way.
The final fact that I want to point out about Satan is that he attacks the character of God’s servants. He is a cynic. He can always find some way to question the integrity of God’s servants. And so you find him saying in chapter 1, verses 9 to 11:
“Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him...”
In other words, he gets all the good. Why shouldn’t he fear you, imputing Job’s motive.
And then in chapter 2, verses 4 and 5:
“Satan answered the Lord, ‘Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse you to his face!’”
You understand? Satan always has a way to impute the worst motives to God’s servants. And this contends a warning because there’s a lot of that being said about the servants of God in America today. And some of it unfortunately is true. But let’s not help Satan do his job, he’s the accuser of the brethren, we don’t have to do it. Is that right? Some of you need to repent because you’ve become accusers. And remember when you’re doing that you’re doing Satan’s job. He doesn’t need your help. Discontinue.
Along come Job’s friends and, as I’ve said, they sit for seven days speechless. Perhaps it’s difficult for you to imagine that but having been in the Middle East I can easily picture Middle Easterners acting like that today. They’re different. And in many ways if you know them you understand the Bible better because the Bible basically is a Middle Eastern book, is that right? And all its authors but one were Jewish, don’t forget that.
I lived in “Palestine” around about 1940-something in an Arab town which is now a big town called Ramallah. I became familiar with the Arab culture. In many ways it was almost the same as it had been in the days of Abraham, there was not much difference. If you wanted to buy a sheep you didn’t go and say, “Is that sheep for sale? What’s the price?” You’d go and talk with the man and talk about his family and ask him about the health of his children. And after a little while you’d just begin to refer to the sheep, you see? You wouldn’t say what’s the price but, you know, well, how much is it worth? And here’s how the man that sold Sarah’s burial place to Abraham, he said, “What’s that between you and me?” It is a typically Middle Eastern response. I don’t put a price on it but he knows exactly what he wants! But he doesn’t come out and say it. You have to plow your way through a lot of social formalities before you discover the answer.
So all I’m saying is you could think the behavior of the people in the book of Job is incredible but in actual fact it’s Middle Eastern. I mean, there’s been great changes in the last 40 years because Western culture has corrupted almost everybody everywhere. I don’t say the Arab culture was altogether in line with the Bible but much of it was. I’m grateful for having been exposed to it for at least a little while because it gave me an understanding of the Middle Eastern way of thinking which is very, very different from contemporary Western thinking, especially American thinking.
I wince when I read or hear about American diplomats negotiating with Arabs because they don’t think on the same terms. My first wife who lived amongst the Arabs for 20 years said when an Arab says something to you—now this may not be totally true and, I mean, real Christianity changes people, but basically his question is not what is the truth, his question is if I say this, what will he say? In other words, what can I say to get him to say what I want him to say? And that is precisely the way negotiations have been carried on in the Middle East. And the poor American diplomats have ended up the muse.
And let me tell you basically the Arab rulers haven’t changed one thing as a result of all the negotiations. They still have the same purpose and they’ll stick to it. I’m not going to go into that because it’s political but the Bible is very illuminating on things like that.
Now, along come Job’s friends and they are men of words. I think in Ramallah we had an Arab maid who’s name was Jameela. She was basically a faithful person. She was a little difficult to deal with, she never learned to read or write. She was in some ways—she knew how to manipulate, let me say that! She had her own way of getting what she wanted. But bless her heart, she’s with the Lord now, she was very, very faithful in the basics. She would lay down her life for the little children absolutely. At that time Lydia and the children were living in a house that was rented from Jameela’s father. So, they were living on the ground floor and the family was living on the top floor. Lydia heard Jameela go out and really lay into her father, say all sorts of disrespectful things which was very, very uncharacteristic. Normally a daughter wouldn’t dare to say such things. So Lydia said to the Father, “Why do you let her say that?” He answered, “If she doesn’t say it she’ll burst!”
I think that many times about these comforters, if they didn’t say it they’d burst. They had to let themselves out. So now I want to give you a little summation of what they said because then you’ll understand Job’s reaction.
First of all they said in a very roundabout way to Job, “You have sinned and that’s why all this has happened to you.” They didn’t come right out and say it that way straight-away but Job knew well enough what they were saying and they knew what they wanted to say. The implication was this wouldn’t have happened to you if you hadn’t sinned. So you’ll find all the way through Job is maintaining, “But I haven’t sinned.” And you know, he was right, he hadn’t sinned. You’ll find right from beginning to end God never charges Job with sin. He was righteous at the beginning and was righteous at the end. That’s what makes the book puzzling. And a lot of religious people just don’t make room for that, they think like Job’s friends, “Well, this happened to him so he must have sinned.” It’s not so.
Let’s just look at one passage, Job 22:5–11. Now as I say, they don’t come right out and say that immediately but that’s what they mean. In the end Eliphaz comes out and accuses Job of all sorts of things he never did. So Eliphaz says in Job 22:5 and following:
“Is not your wickedness great,
and your iniquity without end?
For you have taken pledges from your
brother for no reason,
And stripped the naked of their clothing.”
That was not true, Job had never done that.
“You’ve not given the weary water to drink,
and you withheld bread from the hungry.
You have sent widows away empty,
and the strength of the fatherless was crushed. Therefore, snares are all around you,
and sudden fear troubles you.”
In other words, you’ve been wicked and that’s why all this is happening. The Lord said they said the wrong thing, Job said the right thing.
Then they said:
“God never lets the wicked prosper.”
Is that true? Some people will imply that it is. I was interested about Jim Bakker. All of you know who Jim Bakker was, or is. Recently he published the statement that he’d been entirely wrong in his doctrine, you read that? He said prosperity doesn’t necessarily indicate righteousness. He said criminals prosper, movie stars prosper. He said, “I had a totally wrong sense of values.” It’s wonderful that God brought him to that place.
Chapter 4, verses 7 through 9:
“Remember now, whoever perished being innocent?
Or where were the upright ever cut off?
Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of His anger they are consumed.”
In other words, if you’ve sown evil you’ll be cut off. But that isn’t true. Job is very careful to point that out emphatically. But it’s really an issue that you and I have to face today. Does God always judge the wicked? Job says no. I notice a kind of silence comes. I think some of you probably never really faced that issue, does God let the wicked get away with it? The answer is yes, He does. Not always but sometimes.
And then they said to Job
“If you would acknowledge and repent, everything would go right with you.”
Now it’s easy for religious people to say that. You see, what they gave Job was a lot of religious talk and God didn’t accept it. Job 8:3–7:
“Does God subvert judgment?
Or does the Almighty pervert justice?
If your sons have sinned against Him, He has cast them away for their transgressions?”
There’s no record that Job’s sons had sinned.
“If you would earnestly seek God
and make your supplication to the Almighty,
If you were pure and upright,
surely now He would awake for you,
And prosper your rightful habitation.
Though your beginning was small,
yet your later end would increase abundantly.”
In other words, if you were really right with God you’d be prospering. The fact that you’re not prospering shows you’re not right with God. Have you ever heard that teaching? Well, the Lord says it’s wrong. You see, this is why it’s very important, the issues of Job are all current, they concern us today.
Then Eliphaz who was the sort of leader preached what I call the prosperity gospel. You see how relevant this is? I mean, how concerned we have to be to find out what God really thinks. In Job 5:17–26:
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects. Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.”
In other words, you’re being chastened by the Almighty. It wasn’t true.
“For He bruises, but He binds up;
He wounds, but His hands make whole.
He shall deliver you in six troubles,
yes, in seven no evil shall touch you.”
Is that true? No, unfortunately. I can see you looking. At least I’ve got your attention. What I want you to see, the issues of Job are right up to date, they face things that we face today.
“In famine He shall redeem you from death,
and in war from the power of the sword.”
In other words, us Christians never get killed in war. True or false? All right.
“You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,
and you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes.
You shall laugh at destruction and famine,
and you shall not be afraid of the beasts of the earth.”
Much of Africa is racked by famine. Are Christians exempt? That’s what Eliphaz was saying. I won’t go any further but it comes out again, it’s difficult to find just one place where it’s all said.
I’m saying, this is my version, the friends preached the prosperity gospel to Job. They said, “If you hadn’t sinned you wouldn’t be sick.” Have you ever heard that? It’s very, very cruel because to the problem of sickness it adds the problem of guilt. And a lot of Christians today begin to feel guilty when they get sick because they’ve been fed an incomplete doctrine. It’s not altogether wrong but it’s not altogether right. And the thing about that teaching is it works often enough that people can go on teaching it. If it never worked they couldn’t but it certainly does not always work. Amen? All right.
And then they come up with a fearful catalog of all the terrors that await the wicked. And what are they saying? “Job, this is what you could expect.” Job 20:20–29, this is about the wicked, I can’t get to the whole context:
“Because he knows no quietness in his heart,
he will not save anything he desires.
Nothing is left for him to eat;
therefore his well being will not last.
In his self sufficiency he will be in distress;
Every hand of misery will come against him.
When he is about to fill his stomach,
God will cast on him the fury of His wrath,
and will rain it on him while he is eating.
He will flee from the iron weapon;
a bronze bow will pierce him through.
It is drawn, and comes out of the body;
Yes, the glittering point comes out of his gall.
Terrors come upon him;
Total darkness is reserved for his treasure.
An unfanned fire will consume him;
it shall go ill with him who is left in his tent.
The heavens will reveal his iniquity,
and the earth will rise up against him.”
In other words, “Job, that’s what happens to the wicked and it’s going to happen to you.”
Job’s response is really quite interesting.
Something very interesting that you probably never noticed, Eliphaz reveals one of the sources of his teaching and it’s an evil spirit. Turn to Job 4:12–16.
“Now a word was secretly brought to me,
and my ear received a whisper of it.
In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night,
When deep sleep falls on men,
fear came upon me, and trembling,
Which made all my bones shake.
Then a spirit passed before my face;
the hair on my body stood up.
It stood still,
but I could not discern its appearance.
A form was before my eyes;
There was silence;
then I heard a voice saying...”
That is a visitation of a spirit and it brought great fear with it. This is what the spirit said and this is really the crux of the whole issue:
“Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can a man be more pure than his maker?
If he puts no trust in his servants,
If he charges his angels with error,
how much more those who dwell in houses of clay, Whose foundation is in the dust,
who are crushed before a moth...”
So, what is the message? It’s ridiculous and presumptuous for a man to claim to be right with God. No man can claim righteousness in the presence of God.
And Bildad comes up with the same thing in Job 25:1–6:
“Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said, ‘Dominion and fear belong to him [that’s the Lord]; He makes peace in his high places.
Is there any number to his armies?
Upon who does his light not shine?
How then can man be righteous before God?
Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman?
If even the moon does not shine,
and the stars are not pure in his sight,
How much less man who is a maggot,
and a son of man who is a worm?’”
In other words, it is a ridiculous presumption for any man to claim to be right with God. And that’s really, I believe, the basic issue that Satan is resisting. He ridicules any claim to be right with God. And it came from a spirit but not a Spirit of God. I would call it a religious spirit.
I wonder if you’ve ever had to deal with a religious spirit. There are so many of them in the Pentecostal and the Charismatic movement, not to go further afield. They use wonderful language. The problem is it’s too good to be true. And, they use it to beat down other people. And that’s really precisely the way Job’s friends operated.
I’ll tell you about religious spirits, they’re too good to be true. And they use their goodness to make you feel guilty. Right? If you haven’t encountered it I have an idea you will pretty soon. It’s very deceptive because like Job’s friends they use all the right language, they’re more religious than God Himself, and they cause no end of trouble.
Let me ask you a question. What is the scripture’s answer to can a man be right with God? Where would you look in the Bible for the answer? What book? Romans, that’s right. That is the theme of Romans. The whole issue of Romans is righteous. Is it possible to achieve righteousness with God? And God says yes it is. Satan says not it is not. He uses religious arguments to make you feel guilty. Does that seem up to date to you? I’m impressed that the book of Job which is probably 4,000 years old, at least possibly, is so totally up to date, so exactly relevant to the situation that we find ourselves in today. I mean, you have to get behind the language but I want to say I believe that people in those days really spoke like that. They used poetic language. Somebody said how was the book of Job preserved? I imagine it was preserved by memory. A lot of people had memorized the whole book, that’s how it came down before it was put in writing. That’s my guess.
You see, we in our Western culture in some ways are very primitive. We lack much of the refinement of older generations. You compare contemporary English with the English of Shakespeare, our language is much less flexible, it’s much less expressive and there are lots of things we can’t say. When it comes to technology we’ve got all the language we need but when it comes to expressing finer emotions and really significant concepts, we are very short today. One of the things that troubles me, well, there are two or three words that have dropped out. For instance, most of the Bible translations today don’t use the word “beget”, but there’s no substitute. Became the father of is not by any means the same. I personally think it’s women’s lib that has changed that. They don’t want to acknowledge that there’s a unique function of the man.
Let me say something about the NIV. I use it often and I like it. It’s a wonderful attempt to put the Bible in contemporary English but it’s very hard to use contemporary English and preserve the thinking of the Bible because thought and language are so intimately related.
Let me give you one example. I use the NIV especially in my radio teaching, it’s the version I use first and foremost. But where the old versions says “the Lord of hosts,” what does the NIV say? Who can tell me? It says “the Lord Almighty.” Now the problem is there is a Hebrew word for almighty which is different but the word that’s translated host in Hebrew is the word for army. It was in those days in the time of Moses and still is in modern Hebrew. It’s exactly the same word and it means an army.
Now, if you don’t want to say host because it’s Old English, what should you say? Army. But they don’t say “the Lord of armies.” Why not? Because I think a lot of people don’t like the idea that God is a man of war. There’s a kind of pacifist idea of God that has crept into our thinking. You see, it finds expression in the language we use. But God is a man of war, He is a commander and He has weapons of war. He’s prepared to declare all out war. I believe He’s going to do it.
So, you can say almighty, that sounds religious. It’s nice. But the Lord of armies gets down to the nitty-gritty. Okay, there’s no extra charge for that.
Now let’s come to Job’s response and I’ve got—dear Lord, I’ve got sixteen items. I’ll try and go fairly quickly.
Number one, Job’s first response was reverent submission. He said the Lord gave, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
The second time his wife said, “Go on, curse God and die. Why should you want to live?” He said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we receive good and not receive evil from the Lord’s hand?” And it says in all this Job did not sin nor charge God foolishly. His initial reaction was totally right.
Now, I learned something from that because when my first wife died it was the hardest experience that I’d been through. But, I saw that Job gave me the answer. The Lord gavel, the Lord has taken away. If we can trust God to give we have to trust Him to take away. And that for me resolved the doctrinal problem. There was still a personal problem but I wasn’t troubled by what had happened.
Secondly, in Job 3, Job goes into a long lament and he says things I don’t understand because he says, “I wish the day I was born would be blotted out of the number of months.” I don’t understand how that could happen. How a past day can be blotted out of the calendar, I don’t understand but I’m sure there’s something about it. But, he really lets go his feelings and I want to say that is the right reaction. We are not stoics, that’s an alien, un-Christian doctrine, Stoicism. We never let anything affect us, we never get so involved in anything that it’s going to hurt us. I’ve met Christians like that and I’ve always seen there’s a reason. They got hurt once and their inner attitude is I’m never going to let anybody get close enough to me to hurt me again. Brothers and sisters, I can understand that but I want to say it’s the wrong reaction. You cannot afford to shut up your feelings. You study the Bible, especially the book of Psalms, especially David. A great man, a man of action, a man of war, a man God loved. He poured out his feelings in tremendous language. And if we don’t do that, if we bottle it up we suffer. Something inside us goes sour.
It’s appropriate to mourn. When Moses died the children of Israel mourned forty days for him, they didn’t move. That’s a right way to respond. Let it out. Tell God how you feel. Don’t hold it in. That’s one thing I’ve noticed about Jewish people. I’ve spent a lot of my time with Jewish people, I’m not Jewish. But basically they let their feelings out. That’s partly why they’re such good actors. I don’t say that cynically.
Also, I know there are quite a number of Jewish people here tonight, I don’t know whether you’ve noticed Jewish musicians, singers, they let everything go, they don’t hold anything back. That’s right.
Living amongst Jewish people as a Britisher I was upset because they really said what they felt. You see, the British don’t do that. My first wife was Danish and as I’ve said many times, the Danes used to be the most outspoken people in Europe and my wife was the most outspoken Dane! And those of you that knew her will remember. A friend of mine, Erik Kreiger, said, “I waited for two years to talk to Lydia and the first time I did she told me off.” But she said to me a little while after we were married, “The problem with the British is they’re a nation of politicians, you never know when they really mean what they say.” There’s a great deal of truth in that. Now, I don’t mean that Jews can’t say things they don’t mean but basically they’ll come out and say what they feel. And that is a biblical characteristic. And, in the church we need a lot more confrontation. Don’t evade issues, don’t be too polite. You’ve got to do it graciously but you can say, “I think you’re wrong. You shouldn’t have said that, you hurt my feelings.” Don’t bottle it up.
I read an interesting article by a medical man, I think he was a doctor, on the theme of lamentations. His theme was lamentation is a necessary part of the healing process, don’t stifle it. Let it out. And that’s certainly biblical. You read the psalms one time and see how many times David let it all hang out. Amazing.
So that’s number two, Job lamented.
Number three, he wanted to die. I won’t turn to the passage but there’s various places he says, “What’s the good of living, I’ve got nothing to live for, let me get out of it. Let me get to a place where I have peace.” I think that’s deception because I don’t think the wicked or the unconverted do have peace after they’ve died.
Then Job affirmed his righteousness, he would not back down in the face of all his critics and accusations. I think we need to read that in Job 13:15, talking about God he says:
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust him.
Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.”
And apparently God liked that. He does want religious hypocrisy. He doesn’t want religious platitudes, he wants people to be honest. Job said, “I’ve done nothing wrong and nobody is going to make me say I’ve done something wrong when I haven’t, not even God.”
And then in chapter 27, verses 3 through 6:
“As long as my breath is in me,
and the breath of God in my nostrils,
My lips will not speak wickedness,
or my tongue utter deceit.
Far be it from me that I should say you are right; Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let go; My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live.”
He said you can go on accusing me but I don’t accept it. I have not done wrong, this has not happened because I’ve sinned. Was he right?
Do you know why it happened to him? I’ll shock you with the answer. Because he was righteous. See, that overthrows a whole lot theories, doesn’t it? And you’ll find, as we’ll see, God never did anything but uphold Job’s righteousness. From the beginning to the end of the book he said, “My servant Job is right.” Now that really staggers you, doesn’t it? I’m going to say it again. Job’s problems didn’t come because he’d sinned, they came because he was righteous. How many of you still want to be righteous? Amen. I do, too.
The next thing that Job says is God has not treated me justly. Job 27:2–4. This is really astonishing because remember God said at the end Job said what is right.
“As God lives, who has taken away my justice,
And the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,
As long as my breath is in me,
and the breath of God is in my nostrils,
My lips will not speak wickedness,
nor my tongue utter deceit.
Far be it from me that I should say you are right; Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.”
Job knew he was righteous and he was not going to change. He said God hasn’t treated me justly. Was that true? It was true. This is going to shock you but it was true.
Turn to Job 2:3 for a moment:
“Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you [Satan] incited me against him, to destroy him without cause.’”
That’s unjust. Yes or no? So you see there’s a problem. But at least I’ve got you thinking. There used to be the attitude amongst Pentecostals at least that when you went to church and parked your car in the parking lot you could safely leave your mind in the car because you wouldn’t need it in the church! That is no longer true. Jesus said you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. You need your mind. Christianity is not a mindless euphoria, it’s a challenge to intelligent thinking.
The next thing, Job longed for a mediator. Job 9:32–35:
“He [God] is not a man as I am,
that I may answer Him,
And that we should go to court together.
Nor is there any mediator between us,
who may lay his hand on us both.
Let Him take away His rod from me,
and do not let dread of Him terrify me.
Then I would speak and not fear Him,
but it is not so with me.”
One of Job’s frustrations was he could not get into the presence of God. He couldn’t have a direct interview with God. He said if only we had a mediator.
Do you know the difference between Job and us? We have a mediator. I wonder if we appreciate that.
Job viewed God as vindictive and unconcerned. Job 9:14–20:
“How then can I answer Him,
and choose my words to reason with Him?
For though I were righteous, I could not answer Him.
I would beg mercy of my judge.
If I called and He answered me,
I would not believe that He was
listening to my voice.
For He crushes me with a tempest,
and multiplies my wounds without cause.
He will not allow me to catch my breath,
but fills me with bitterness.”
And then at the end of that chapter, verses 30–31:
“If I wash myself with snow water,
and cleanse my hands with soap,
Yet you [that’s God] will plunge me into the pit, and my own clothes will abhor me.”
That’s strong language, isn’t it?
He complains that God used him for target practice. That’s remarkable but you see it there in Job 7:20:
“Have I sinned?
What have I done to you, O watcher of men?
Why have you set me as your target,
so that I am a burden to myself?”
“God, you’re using me as target practice. All your arrows are sticking in me. Now, if you talk to God like that you better be pretty careful what kind of a person you are.
And then a scripture which has absolutely changed our attitude for Ruth and me, something we had never seen, Job 7:17–18. Job is speaking:
“What is man that you should magnify him?”
In other words, why do you look at us with a magnifying glass? You magnify everything in our lives.
“What is man that you should magnify him,
that you should set your heart on him,
That you should visit him every morning,
and test him every moment?”
And it came as a startling revelation to Ruth and me that God visits us every morning. Let me ask you, will you be ready for His visit tomorrow morning? Because, He’ll be there. You may not be aware of it but He checks on you every morning and it says He tests us every moment. There’s not a moment that God is not testing you. Everything that we do is undergoing a test. Now you could say that’s awful but I think what the Bible reveals is God tests us because He’s proud of us. He wants to bring the best out of us. He has a much higher goal for us than we have for ourselves and He will not lower His standards.
Many time we could say to God, “God, please lift, take the pressure off.” God won’t do it because He says in essence, “I’ve got a purpose in your life and I am going to work it out.” You can absolutely turn your back on God and cancel the process but I trust most of us would not wish to do that. But if you want God’s purpose fulfilled in your life then you’ve got to be prepared to be visited every morning and tested every moment. I can see that you’re somewhat shocked. We were shocked when we realized it. But, it’s true. So, when you wake up tomorrow morning, be prepared for God’s visit because He’ll visit you anyhow but you may not even know He visited you—which is impolite!
Years ago at Cambridge I had a fellow student in philosophy who was a kind of nihilist, he didn’t believe in authority, he didn’t believe in anything. But in those days you were kind of encouraged to be a free thinker so he got away with a lot of things. His name was Smithes and he had a black beard which was unusual in those days, that was 1936. Well, one day the tutor of King’s College, Cambridge, who is a very important person, went to see Smithes to offer him finance for his next year’s studies. We don’t know what passed but we said to Smithes afterwards, “What happened when the tutor came to see you?” He said, “I just tried to act as if he wasn’t there.” Do you treat God that way? Maybe you did and you didn’t even know it. There was God visiting you and you behaved as if He wasn’t there.
Job says there’s no justice on earth, Job 9:24.
“The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. He covers the faces of its judges [He is God].
If it is not he, who else could it be?”
Now, is that true? Is there a lot of unjust judgment here in the United States today in our courts? There certainly is. Generally speaking, today the law courts tend to have mercy on the criminal and no mercy on the victim. Again and again and again, dealing with drunk drivers, they get mercy time and time again but the poor victims are not considered. Who’s responsible? Job says if it isn’t God, who is it? It must be God. I hope you can see how relevant this is.
In the midst of it all Job had the most glorious flashes of prophetic revelation. This is so characteristic of people like you and me. We’re right down, we’re depressed, we’re moaning, we’re complaining, we’ve lost the victory. And suddenly for no reason on our part we get this glorious revelation which changes our whole outlook in a moment. There’s one that’s very familiar, it’s not the only one, but we’ll look at it in Job 19. As you know, it was turned into an aria in Handel’s Messiah, one of the most beautiful arias ever written. Job 19:25 and following:
“For I know that my redeemer lives,
and he shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
that in my flesh I shall see God...”
In other words, no matter what happens to my body it’s going to be resurrected. I’m going to come back with a body.
Then he says:
“...whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!”
I’m sure that stirs something with many of us. We’ll die unless the Lord comes. Our bodies will decompose but one day they’ll be raised up and we shall see the Lord with these same physical eyes that we now use. In fact, I have a belief, a theory, that the coming of the Lord is as near for each one of us as the day we die. Because when we die we pass out of time, there’s no more time there. We close our eyes in death, we’re in a timeless world and when we are resurrected we’ll have different eyes, they’ll be incorruptible eyes, they’ll be eyes that don’t need glasses. What will be the first thing that we’ll see with those eyes? The Lord. So the New Testament saints like Paul and Peter who believed the coming of the Lord was imminent, they were right. It’s as imminent as the day you die if the Lord doesn’t come before.
Job, perhaps the oldest book in the Bible, has this clear absolutely unmistakable affirmation of the resurrection of his body in connection with somebody he calls “my redeemer”. You can’t tell me that’s not by inspiration. How could it be that any other way that a man in Job’s situation at that time would have such a revelation?
So, when you’re in the midst of your mourning and your problems and your pressures, maybe God will suddenly give you a flash of prophetic revelation. That will change everything, not permanently but for a moment. And, as it were, you’d be transported out of time into an eternal situation and you’ll be able to see yourself face to face with your redeemer.
The next thing Job said to his friends is “you have failed me”. I think we’d have to agree. He said it in a lot of different ways but we’ll look in Job 6:14–17.
“To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend,
Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers have dealt deceitfully like a brook, Like the streams of the brooks that pass away,
which are dark because of the ice,
And to which the snow vanishes.
When it is warm, they cease to flow;
When it is hot, they vanish from their place.”
He’s talking in terms of a Middle Eastern wadi, a dry river bed which is filled with water in the winter season from the rain and the melting snow but when it gets really hot and you really need water there’s none there, it’s dried up. And he says you’re like that. When I really need water you’re all dried up, you have nothing to give me. Pretty frank language.
“I have heard many such things;
miserable comforters are you all!
Shall words of wind have an end?
What provokes you that you answer?
I also could speak as you do,
if your soul were in my soul’s place.
I could heap up words against you,
and shake my head at you;
But I would strengthen you with my mouth,
And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.”
He says you’re not giving me what I need, you’re just adding to my problems. I could do without all that. He said the function of a friend is to comfort, not to accuse.
I think some of us need to learn that. Perhaps I do.
Then Job, this is Brother Prince’s language, rejects the prosperity gospel as unrealistic for two reasons. Number one, there are many examples of innocent people who suffer. Job 21:23–25:
“One dies in his full strength,
being wholly at east and secure;
His pails are full of milk,
and the marrow of his bones is moist.
Another man dies in the bitterness of his soul, never having eaten with pleasure.
They lie down alike in the dust,
and worms cover them.”
Two people both die. One never had a day’s problems, the other never had a day’s happiness. But who can say that one was more righteous than the other? That’s a fact of life. In the ministry we’re continually meeting people who never seem to have known a day’s happiness in their lives. And we don’t say you’re wicked sinners worse than all the rest, we have to say we can’t tell you the reason, we don’t have the answer. We can tell you about God’s love. But why this has come in your life sometimes we can see. My book that I spoke about, Blessing or Cursegives a lot of reasons but it doesn’t give all the reasons by no means. One of the things I have to guard against is thinking that I can explain everything. Whenever I have that attitude I discover very quickly I’m wrong.
Let’s look at Job 24:1–12. Remember, he’s dealing with the suggestion that the wicked are always punished and the righteous always prosper. He says it just isn’t true. Thank God for somebody who tells it like it is. I mean, it’s bad enough to suffer but then to be told you oughtn’t to be suffering just makes it worse. Job 24:1–12:
“Since times are not hidden from the Almighty,
why do those who know Him not see His days?
Some remove landmarks; they seize flocks violently and feed on them;
They drive away the donkey of the fatherless;
They take the widow’s ox as a pledge.
They push the needy off the road, so that the poor of the land are forced to hide.
Indeed, like wild donkeys in the desert,
They go out to their work,
seeking diligently for food.”
This is the poor, the oppressed, the people that don’t get a fair deal from society. Are there people like that in modern America? There certainly are.
“They go out to their work,
seeking diligently for food.
The wilderness yields food for them and for their children.
They gather their fodder in the field and glean in the vineyard of the wicked.”
They just get what’s left over after the wicked have had all that they want.
“They spend the night naked, without clothing,
and have no covering in the cold.
They are wet with the showers of the mountains,
And huddle against the rock for want of shelter.”
A lot of people are very busy with what’s going on with what was formerly Yugoslavia. I would like you to consider this is a pretty good description.
“They are wet with the showers of the mountain,
And huddle around the rock for want of shelter. Some snatch the fatherless from the breast,
and take a pledge from the poor.
They cause the poor to go naked,
And they take away the sheaves from the hungry. They [the poor] press out oil within their walls, And tread winepresses, yet suffer thirst.
The dying groan in the city,
and the souls of the wounded cry out;
Yet God does not charge them with wrong.”
Somebody said to me the other day why doesn’t God intervene in Yugoslavia? Because that’s the situation that’s very vividly described. My answer would be—I didn’t give it—what would you expect God to do? To blot out the whole company of people? To drop some kind of nuclear weapon on one side? Apparently God doesn’t do anything. I think this is a serious problem for a lot, especially younger people. They see the suffering and the misery and say where’s God? Well, Job said that 4,000 years earlier and it’s not out of date. But he said don’t tell me that the righteous always prosper or that the wicked are always punished. He said I’ve got eyes in my head, I can see it.
I hope I’m not shocking you but maybe I hope I am.
I want to go for a moment, this is the only time I’ll do it, away from Job to Psalm 73. You see, I think this is one oft he great questions that humanity struggles with: Where’s the justice of God? Why do the wicked prosper? And, we know they do. And sometimes they’re applauded for it.
Psalm 73:2 and following:
“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
my steps have nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful,
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pangs in their death,
but their strength is firm.
They [that’s the wicked] are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.
Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
and violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes bulge with abundance;
they have more than heart could wish.
They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;
They speak loftily.
They set their mouth against the heavens,
and their tongue walks through the earth.”
And, the psalmist says, they are getting away with it. Why? He nearly lost his faith. But then he says this in verse 15:
“If I had said, I will speak thus,
Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of your children.
When I thought how to understand this,
it was too painful for me—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their end.”
The only one who can explain things like that to you is God.
Now listen, this is their end:
“Surely you set them in slippery places;
you cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation,
as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.”
As I see that, these people who are wicked and prosperous, live out their whole lives flourishing in their wickedness. And you say doesn’t God care? God says the moment they step out of time into eternity they’ll be plunged into everlasting darkness. But it doesn’t happen in this life. I’m going to read those words again:
“Surely you set them in slippery places;
you cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolations,
in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.”
But the judgment is not in time, it’s in eternity.
Now we’re getting near the end of this, be patient.
Job recalls his former prosperity and glory, and the whole of chapter 29 is a description of how he flourished and how he prospered.
“O that I were as in times past...”
And then he goes into all the details of how he was respected, honored, prospered, was able to help all sorts of people, minister to all sorts of needs.
You see, it’s bad enough to suffer but it’s worse still when you’ve prospered. The psalmist said in Psalm 102:
“The Lord has lifted me up and cast me away.”
That’s when it really hurts, when you know the Lord lifted you up and suddenly He dumps you. That’s a test.
Now let me say God will not test you above what you’re able to bear. You’re not Job and God won’t put you through the same tests as Job. Job was a very unusual character. But God will put you through the tests that are needed to make you what He wants you to be.
Let’s go on. Job then described how he’s despised and mistreated in his own community. We’ll look at Job 30 for a moment, verses 1–5. He’s just described all his prosperity and now he says:
“But now they mock at me, men younger than I am...”
And in the Middle East that is terrible for the younger to mock the older. And then he describes the lowest of the people in the community and says in verse 9:
“Now I am their taunting song;
Yes, I am their byword.”
They’re all speaking about me.
“They abhor me, they keep far from me;
they do not hesitate to spit in my face.”
That’s another feature of the Middle East, that people who are regarded as failures, it’s made very clear to them that they are. People don’t use tact, they let them have it.
“Because He [God] has loosed my bowstring and afflicted me,
They have cast off restraint before me.
At my right hand the rabble arises;
They push away my feet, and they raise against me the ways of destruction.
They break up my path,
they promote my calamity;
They have no helper.”
I’m treated like the lowest of the low in my own community where I was honored and esteemed and where I blessed many, many people. The very same people that I used to help are the ones that are now treating me with contempt. Don’t tell me that isn’t hard.