Job 12: Lessons About God’s Holy Character, Which Answer Job’s Complaints

Introduction: After Zophar launched the most bitter attack of the three friends against Job, Job briefly responded to Zophar and then again turned his complaints directly to God. Job was, however, mistaken in his approach to his caustic friends and his feelings of hopelessness. From Job’s complaints against his friends and his statements about God, God reveals seven truths about His holy character. When you turn to Him, He can show you: (1) compassion, (2) comfort / love, (3) justice / fairness, (4) faithfulness, (5) wisdom, (6) sovereignty, and (7) deliverance.

First, Job became sarcastic with his friends when they used their worldly knowledge to condemn him instead of supporting him. When others attack you, you can turn to God. He will show you compassion when others don’t. Second, Job lamented that he had become a joke to his friends. When you turn to God in times of need, He will also show you comfort and love when others don’t. Third, as he had done previously, Job lamented what he believed to be God’s unfairness toward him. Job was mistaken. You can trust God to be just and fair in all His dealings with you. Fourth, Job acknowledged that God was all-knowing and wise. But Job failed to trust that God was using His divine wisdom for a greater good. You don’t need to make the same mistake. You can trust in God’s omnipotent greater plans for you. Fifth, Job understood that God was the source of true wisdom and guidance. But Job had given up hope instead of seeking it. In your times of sorrow, you can turn to God for His wisdom and guidance. Sixth, Job acknowledged that God was sovereign over everything in nature. But Job sadly drew a nihilistic conclusion that he had no hope because God must have allegedly turned against him. Unlike Job, God wants you to have faith that He will use His sovereignty and dominion over everything for His greater good (Ro. 8:28). Finally, Job understood that God also had control over his attackers. But he failed to ask for deliverance. You can turn to God for deliverance when you are attacked.

1. Compassion: God Will Show You Compassion When Others Don’t. Job 12:1-3.

  • Job employed sarcasm against his unsympathetic friends. After all three of Job’s friends had turned on him an attacked him during his time of need, Job responded with sarcasm: “1 Then Job responded, ‘Truly then you are the people, and with you wisdom will die! But I have intelligence as well as you; I am not inferior to you. And who does not know such things as these?”’ (Job 12:1-3). Job mocked his friends by claiming that wisdom would die with them. This was not the last time that he would take offense to their unwarranted attacks: “What you know I also know; I am not inferior to you.” (Job 13:2).

  • Spirit-led counsel only uses harsh words with proper cause and as a last resort. Job’s friends did not represent God. They improperly stirred Job with anger through false accusations: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1). “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” (Prov. 15:18). “Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.” (Prov. 26:21). “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.” (Prov. 29:21). “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.” (Prov. 18:23). Believers are also warned about the evil that can be done through harsh words: “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” (Jam. 3:8). Church leaders must also be gentle and not quarrelsome in dealing with others (1 Tim. 3:3). When others disappoint you, do you show love and control your tongue to restrain yourself from hurting them?

Job mocked his friends in anger after they falsely accused him of hidden sins1

  • Job employed the same angry tone that his friends used against him. Job’s bitter, sarcastic response to his friends also was not a model for believers to follow. When others make you angry or make unfounded accusations, you are called upon to turn away instead of employing their same tactics: “Do not answer a fool according to his foolishness, or you will also be like him.” (Prov. 26:4). “Arrogant people inflame a city, but wise people turn away anger. When a wise person has a controversy with a foolish person, the foolish person either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.” (Prov. 29:8-9). Thus, believers should not follow Job’s example here.

  • Respond to false attacks with the truth of God’s Word. Jesus is “‘the way, and the truth, and the life”’ (Jo. 14:6). He is also the Word that became flesh (Jo. 1:1, 14). His Word is sharper than a two-edged sword in the face of Satan’s lies: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). When you pray and use God’s Word out of love, Jesus will thwart Satan’s attacks against you. You must also never use mean-spirited attacks, Satan’s tools, in your walk with God. When you do, you allow Satan to use you.

  • Jesus is compassionate to those who suffer. Job was bitter because his friends had only added to his pain with unfounded accusations. As our example, Jesus showed us that a leader should always have compassion when people are suffering: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36; Mk. 6:34). “I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat.” (Matt. 8:2). When you are suffering or when people turn against you, turn to Jesus to find His compassion. When others are hurting around you, you can also show Jesus’ compassion to them.

2. Comfort / Love: God Will Show You Comfort and Love When Others Don’t. Job 12:4-5.

  • Job lamented that he had become a joke to his friends. In addition to losing all his belongings, all his children, and his health, Job had now lost the respect of his friends: “I am a joke to my friends, the one who called on God and He answered him; the just and blameless man is a joke. He who is at ease holds disaster in contempt, as prepared for those whose feet slip.” (Job 12:4-5). The only limitation that God placed on Satan was that he could not take Job’s life (Job 2:6). Satan had already turned Job’s wife against him (Job 2:9). Now, Satan had turned all of Job’s friends against him. “[N]ow he was regarded by all as one whose secret sins had found him out;” (Robert Alden, The New American Commentary, Vol. 11, Job (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 150). Regarding the hard to translate verse 12:5, commentary observes that: “The meaning is, ‘I am despised and scorned by you who sit at ease, because my foot has slipped, and I have fallen into misfortune.”’ (Pulpit Commentary on Job 12:5).2

Job lamented to God that he had lost everyone’s respect3

  • Job also lost the respect of everyone around him. Satan’s attacks were so vicious and complete that he turned every other remaining friend, acquaintance, or extended family member against him: “Mockers are certainly with me, and my eye gazes on their provocation. . . But He has made me a proverb among the people, and I am one at whom people spit.” (Job 17:2, 6). “All my associates loathe me, and those I love have turned against me. . . My relatives have failed, and my close friends have forgotten me. . . “He has removed my brothers far from me, and my acquaintances have completely turned away from me. All my associates loathe me, and those I love have turned against me.” (Job 19:9,13-14, 19). They loathe me and stand aloof from me, and they do not refrain from spitting in my face.” (Job 30:10). The psalmist also felt a similar feeling of isolation: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” (Ps. 41:9). “You have removed my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an object of loathing to them; I am shut up and cannot go out.” (Ps. 88:8). Jesus was also mocked when he stated that a girl believed to be dead was only asleep before He healed her (Matt. 9:24; Mk. 5:40). The soldiers also mocked Jesus when they beat Him (Matt. 27:29), and the chief priests mocked Him as well (Matt. 27:41).

  • Jesus is your source of love and comfort when others turn against you. Jesus promises to give you His comfort and love when you turn to Him during times of mourning: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4). “for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:17). If you are mourning, turn to Jesus for His love and comfort. If others are mourning around you, be the source of Jesus’ love and comfort in their lives.

3. Justice / Fairness: God Will Be Just and Fair in His Dealings With You. Job 12:6.

  • Job again complained that things did not seem fair to him. In a rebuke against Zophar’s worldly wisdom and as a complaint against God, Job observed that evil people prospered: “The tents of the destroyers prosper, and those who provoke God are secure, whom God brings into their power.” (Job 12:6). As one commentator observes: “Now, it seemed to Job that his life and prior understanding was upside-down. Before, everything seemed to make sense – the righteous seemed to be blessed and the wicked seemed to be afflicted. Now, it is all different. Job did not give up on God, but he had to give up on his prior understanding of God.” (David Guzik on Job 12) (italics in original).4

  • Job previously questioned God’s divine justice. Job previously questioned why he would experience such misery when sinners around him seemed to succeed and thrive: “The earth is handed over to the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, then who is it?” (Job 9:24). Job would further continue these complaints: “Why do the wicked still live, grow old, and also become very powerful? . . . Their houses are safe from fear, and the rod of God is not on them. His ox mates without fail; His cow calves and does not miscarry.” (Job 21:7, 9-10). The psalmist also made similar complaints: “For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Ps. 73:3).

  • God is just and fair with everyone. Job was wrong to question God’s fairness. God is in fact filled with compassion and divine justice: “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Is. 30:18). “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23-24). Are you praising God for His just and righteous character?

4. Faithfulness: You Can Trust in God’s Omnipotent, Greater Plans for You. Job 12:7-10.

  • Job acknowledged God’s omnipotence without trusting in it. Job professed that God is all powerful, both creating and controlling all life on Earth: “But just ask the animals, and have them teach you; and the birds of the sky, and have them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and have it teach you; and have the fish of the sea tell you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, 10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:7-10). In verse nine, God is referred to by His Hebrew Covenant name Yahweh. “This is the only place in the dialogue parts of Job in which the sacred name of Jehovah is found, and Job’s very use of the word in such a context is the clearest evidence of the superior knowledge that he claims. No one of his friends makes use of the name; but Job uses it here, and shows thereby his knowledge of the covenant name.” (Elliot’s Commentary on Job 9).5

Job acknowledge that God is omnipotent without seeing God’s love in His power6

  • The evidence of God’s creation is clearly visible in nature. Job proclaimed the evidence of God’s omnipotent power everywhere around him in nature (Job 12:7-9). Paul made a similar claim: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Ro. 1:20). David also proclaimed that God’s power is evident in nature and the stars in the night: “For the music director. A Psalm of David. The heavens tell of the glory of God; and their expanse declares the work of His hands.” (Ps. 19:1). “And the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge. Selah” (Ps. 50:6). “The heavens will praise Your wonders, LORD; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.” (Ps. 89:5).

  • God used His mighty power to create all life on Earth. Job proclaimed that God is the source of all life: “10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:10). The prophets lamented that the animals had no problem obeying their Master while God’s people refused to do so: “An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” (Is. 1:3). “Even the stork in the sky knows her seasons; and the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane Keep to the time of their migration; but My people do not know the judgment of the LORD.” (Jer. 8:7). “So that they may see and recognize, and consider and gain insight as well, that the hand of the LORD has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Is. 41:20). “Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Is. 40:5). Paul also proclaimed God as the source of all life: “for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His descendants.’” (Act 17:28).

  • You can trust that God uses His mighty power and dominion for good. The Apostle Paul proclaimed that “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). When things around you feel out of control, do you trust that God is in control?

5. Wisdom: You Can Turn To God For His Wisdom and Guidance. Job 12:11-13.

  • Job used sarcasm to acknowledge God as the source of wisdom without feeling hope. In response to Zophar’s criticisms, Job agreed that God’s wisdom can come though elders. But it must be tested like food to see if it truly comes from God: “11 Does the ear not put words to the test, as the palate tastes its food? 12 Wisdom is with the aged, and with long life comes understanding. 13 Wisdom and might are with Him; advice and understanding belong to Him.” (Job 12:11-13). Job had tested his friends’ alleged wisdom the same way a king’s confidant might test the king’s food for poison. Job found his friends’ wisdom to be like rotten or worthless food. “Job believed the mysteries [of God] was profound; and he was amazed that the ‘sages’ would be so shallow (v. 12).” (Frank Gaebelein, Elmer Smick, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 922).

Job correctly told his friends that true wisdom comes from God, not a person’s age7

  • Spirit-led elders can be a source of God’s wisdom. Job advised that: “Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.” (Job 12:12). Solomon also warned God’s people to listen to their elders’ Spirit-led counsel and not rely upon their own understanding: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Prov. 12:15). “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” (Prov. 19:20). “Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.” (Prov. 8:33). “I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom.” (Job. 32:37). Thus, it was not wrong for Job to initially consult his friends, who were apparently men of authority and believers in God. In addition to reading the Word and praying, do you seek advice from wise Spirit-led elders in your church?

  • The wisdom of elders must still be tested against God’s Word. Job’s friends, however, failed to give Godly advice to Job. Elihu later rebuked Job’s friends for using worldly wisdom instead of the wisdom that comes from God: “I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom. But it is a spirit that is in mankind, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.” (Job 32:7-8). Job understood that true wisdom ultimately rested with God: “Wise in heart and mighty in strength, who has defied Him without harm?” (Job 9:4). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). After his brother Adonijah launched a failed coup d'etat, a young Solomon faced a doubtful nation when he assumed power (1 Kgs. 1:5-53). He did not merely turn to elders. Instead, after leading the nation in repentance, he then humbly asked God for the wisdom to properly lead the people: “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kgs. 3:9).

  • When you lack wisdom, seek it out from God. Despite acknowledging that God was the source of all wisdom, Job sadly failed to ask God for it: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). Instead, He simply had given up hope in his restoration. When you need wisdom, are you reading God’s Word and praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you?

6. Sovereignty: Have Faith in God’s Dominion Over Everything. Job 12:14-15.

  • Job acknowledged that God is sovereign without feeling hope. Like his friends, Job agreed that God is sovereign and in control over everything: “14 Behold, He tears down, and it cannot be rebuilt; He imprisons a person, and there is no release. 15 Behold, He restrains the waters, and they dry up; and He sends them out, and they inundate the earth.” (Job 12:14-15). Yet, like his friends, Job incorrectly assumed that God would immediately reward the righteous and punish the wicked. They all confused the ultimate with the immediate. God’s timeline for when He will act is simply longer than ours.

God’s omnipotent power is a source of our hope, not the dread that Job alleged8

  • God’s sovereignty and strength do not compare to any other. Although many today sadly question God’s control over events on Earth, Job never wavered in his understanding that God’s power and sovereignty has no rival. Job proclaimed that God “restrained the waters” of the Earth (Job 12:15). This was in reference to waters that God used in the Flood (Gen. 7:11) and how He then dried the water to allow Noah’s family to repopulate the flooded lands (Gen. 12:15). He also controls the weather to allow either life-giving rain or drought (Job 12:15; Dt. 11:17; 1 Kgs 8:35; 17:1). Job later repeated his belief in God’s sovereignty: “Wise in heart and mighty in strength, who has defied Him without harm? . . . But He drags off the mighty by His power; He rises, but no one has assurance of life.” (Job 9:4, 19). “But He drags off the mighty by His power; He rises, but no one has assurance of life.” (Job 24:22). “Dominion and awe belong to Him who makes peace in His heights.” (Job 25:2). Eliju also proclaimed: “The Almighty—we cannot find Him; He is exalted in power and He will not violate justice and abundant righteousness.” (Job 37:23). God also wants you to trust that He is in control.

  • Job accepted God’s sovereignty but reached the wrong conclusion. Instead of accepting that God is in control and that all things would work together for good (Rom. 8:28), Job instead viewed God’s control over every detail of his life to conclude that God must be against him, resulting in a hopeless situation: “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope.” (Job 7:6). “He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone; and He has uprooted my hope like a tree.” (Job 19:10). “Where then is my hope? And who looks at my hope?” (Job 17:15). Yet, even though he saw himself as being in a hopeless situation, he would proclaim: “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.” (Job 13:15).

  • Show your trust in God’s sovereignty by praising His name. The great leaders of the faith demonstrated their faith by praising God as being in control, even when things seemed hopeless. While in captivity: “Daniel said, ‘May the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him.”’ (Dan. 2:20). David also proclaimed: “Yours, LORD, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and on the earth; Yours is the dominion, LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.” (1 Chr. 29:11). In heaven, the angels are constantly singing praise for Jesus because He is sovereign over all: “And I heard every created thing which is in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, or on the sea, and all the things in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion forever and ever.’” (Rev. 5:13). Are you praising God’s sovereignty in your prayers and in your worship?

7. Deliverance: Turn to God For Deliverance When You Are Attacked. Job 12:16-25.

  • Job acknowledged that is God’s ability to deliver him without asking for deliverance. After his friends viciously attacked him without any evidence of sin, Job professed God’s ability to humble the proud who oppress, attack, and hurt others like him: “16 Strength and sound wisdom are with Him. One who goes astray and one who leads astray belong to Him. 17 He makes advisers walk barefoot and makes fools of judges. 18 He undoes the binding of kings, and ties a loincloth around their waist. 19 He makes priests walk barefoot, and overthrows the secure ones. 20 He deprives the trusted ones of speech, and takes away the discernment of the elders. 21 He pours contempt on nobles, and loosens the belt of the strong. 22 He reveals mysteries from the darkness, and brings the deep darkness into light. 23 He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away. 24 He deprives the leaders of the earth’s people of intelligence and makes them wander in a pathless wasteland. 25 They grope in darkness with no light, and He makes them stagger like a drunken person.” (Job 12:16-25). Zophar falsely claimed that Job did not know God (Job 11:7-12). Job demonstrated that he fully understood God’s might and power over everything from nature to rulers. But he failed to turn to God for deliverance from both his attackers and his ailments.

  • God’s sovereignty includes His control over the rulers and wise on Earth. Elihu later confirmed that God is just when dealing with evil people: “He breaks in pieces the mighty without investigation, and sets others in their place.” (Job 34:24). Daniel also proclaimed in faith that God uses His divine power to remove and promote rulers as part of His greater plan for good: “It is He who changes the times and the periods; He removes kings and appoints kings; He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to people of understanding.” (Dan. 2:21). Isaiah made a similar claim: “It is He who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.” (Is. 40:23). Paul proclaimed that the people with worldly wisdom had no power against God’s might: “Where is the wise person? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20).

  • God will ultimately expose all evil. Job professed that “22 He reveals mysteries from the darkness, and brings the deep darkness into light.” (Job 12:22). Solomon also made a similar claim (Ecc. 12:14). Jesus also revealed that “For nothing is concealed that will not become evident, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.” (Lk. 8:17). Thus, you can trust that every wrong against you will be avenged, and every good deed will be brought to light. These facts should also cause every believer to repent of their hidden sins so that Jesus can both forgive and cleanse their sins (1 Jo. 1:9).

  • Pray for God to use His sovereignty for your deliverance. Like Job, David accepted God’s sovereignty. Yet, unlike Job, David prayed for God to use His power to deliver him from his attacker Saul: “A Mikhtam of David, when Saul sent men and they watched the house in order to kill him. Rescue me from my enemies, my God; set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.” (Ps. 59:1). “My times are in Your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.” (Ps. 31:15). “Save me, LORD, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.” (Ps. 143:9). When others falsely attack you, do you pray for God’s deliverance?

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