Introduction: After enduring meritless attacks from all three of his friends, Job unleashed his anger on them. He also renewed his complaints to God. His frustrations were understandable. If anyone were to endure his tragedies, a typical person would react the same way. But God calls us to a higher standard. Through Job’s mistakes, God reveals seven lessons on how to respond to attacks and tragedies. When others attack you or when you face trials, He wants you to seek: (1) forgiveness, (2) love, (3) humility, (4) faith, (5) spiritual growth, (6) trust, and (7) hope.
First, Job became angry with his friends and rebuked them for speaking down to him. When others hurt you, Jesus wants you to forgive them just as He forgives you. Second, Job responded to his friends’ attacks by accusing them of stating “lies” and being “worthless physicians.” When you are attacked, Jesus wants you to respond by showing His love to those who attack you. Third, Job further responded to his friends’ attacks by claiming that God would punish them for misrepresenting God. His friends had misrepresented God. But it was not Job’s place to speak for God and promise that God would judge them. God wants you to be humble and cautious when claiming to speak for Him. Fourth, Job professed that he would trust God even if God killed him. But Job still felt that God had been unfair in allowing Job’s many trials. God wants you to have faith that He uses your trials for His greater good. Fifth, Job demanded to present his case to God, where he believed that he could vindicate his innocence. When you face trials, God wants you to seek spiritual growth from the trials instead of trying to vindicate yourself. Sixth, Job assumed that God saw him as God’s enemy and then pleaded with God to show him the hidden sin that allegedly estranged him from God. Job failed to consider that his trials might have had a different reason. When you experience trials, God wants you to trust that He loves you and is molding you with love. Finally, Job believed that he had no hope and would soon rot away in a painful death under God’s punishment. Job lacked the hope that comes from the New Testament. Because of Jesus, you no longer need to fear death or a lack of His joy.
Job rebuked his friends for speaking down to him. After enduring unfounded attacks from his friends, Job lashed out against them for acting as if they were superior to him: “1 ‘Behold, my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. 2 What you know I also know; I am not inferior to you. 3 ‘But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue with God.” (Job 13:1-3). This repeated a complaint that Job had just made: “3 But I have intelligence as well as you; I am not inferior to you.”’ (Job 12:3a). He had also previously said that he would rather state his plea directly with God instead of wasting his time with his friends: “But as for me, I would seek God, and I would make my plea before God,” (Job 5:8). Job deeply resented his friends’ hurtful attacks.
Forgive others the way Jesus has forgiven you. Here, Job struggled with his misguided friends. Yet, he later forgave them. Jesus also warns that you must forgive others to be able to receive God the Father’s forgiveness: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15). “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mk. 11:26). Thus, if you are looking for God’s forgiveness, don’t delay in forgiving others.
Job rebuked his friends with an unforgiving heart1
Job rebuked his friends’ worthless counsel and urged them to be silent. In addition to rejecting their claims of alleged moral superiority, Job rejected their advice as worthless: “4 But you smear me with lies; you are all worthless physicians. 5 Oh that you would be completely silent, and that it would become your wisdom!” (Job 13:4-5). Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar originally came to “comfort” and “sympathize” with Job (Job 2:11). They all initially did this by sitting silently with him for seven days (Job 2:13). Yet, each eventually attacked him. Here, Job wished that they would return to their state of silence.
Job continued to lash out in anger. This was not Job’s last angry attack on his friends. After being further provoked, he would continue to repeat his insults against them: “I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! “Is there no end to windy words? Or what provokes you that you answer?” (Job 16:2-3). “But come again all of you now, for I do not find a wise man among you.” (Job 17:10). “So how dare you give me empty comfort? For your answers remain nothing but falsehood!” (Job 21:34). Although understandable, his angry rants were not a model for believers to follow.
Never speak out of anger. Solomon warned that there is a time for silence, and a time to speak (Ecc. 3:1,7). He also warned that “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” (Prov. 17:28). This was a lesson that Job believed applied to his friends. But he failed to apply it to himself.
Don’t repay insults with insults. Although Job was unfairly attacked, he was wrong to lash out at his friends with insults: “But I say to you, do not show opposition against an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other toward him also.” (Matt. 5:39; Lk. 6:29). “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.” (Prov. 20:22). “Do not say, ‘I shall do the same to him as he has done to me; I will repay the person according to his work.”’ (Prov. 24:29). “Never repay evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all people.” (Ro. 2:17).
Show love to those who hurt you. If Job had followed the law written on his heart (Ro. 2:15), he would have dispensed God’s justice with love and compassion: “Thus has the LORD of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother;”’ (Zech. 7:9). Jesus repeated that believers are required to show His love to others: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jo. 13:34). This includes your enemies: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44). When you show kindness and love to your enemy or attacker, the Apostle Paul reveals that you “heap burning coals on his heads.” (Ro. 12:20). When others attack you, do you respond with Jesus’ love? Or, like Job, do you feel the need to defend yourself by responding to another person’s mean insults with your own ugly insults?
Job warned that God will punish his friends for their false claims of speaking for God. After insulting his friends, Job escalated further and warned that God would punish them: “6 Please hear my argument, and give your attention to the contentions of my lips. 7 Will you speak what is unjust for God, and speak what is deceitful for Him? 8 Will you show partiality for Him? Will you contend for God? 9 Will it go well when He examines you? Or will you deceive Him as one deceives a man? 10 He will certainly punish you if you secretly show partiality. 11 Will His majesty not terrify you, and the dread of Him fall upon you? 12 Your memorable sayings are proverbs of ashes, your defenses are defenses of clay.” (Job 13:6-12). Job accused his friends of using lies to misrepresent God. He accused them of falsely claiming to speak on God’s behalf. But Job then claimed to speak on God’s behalf when he warned them that God would judge them for their words.
Leave vengeance to God. Job was wrong to promise God’s vengeance upon his friends. It for God alone to decide who deserves to be punished: “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution; In due time their foot will slip. For the day of their disaster is near, and the impending things are hurrying to them.’” (Dt. 32:35). “You shall not take vengeance, nor hold any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:18). “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Ro. 12:19). Job should have instead shown love to his wayward friends.
Don’t misrepresent God’s Word when counseling others. Both Job’s friends and Job failed to accurately represent God. God warns believers not to be a source of injustice or misrepresent Him when judging others: “You shall not do injustice in judgment;” (Lev. 19:15a) “You have plowed wickedness, you have harvested injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies.” (Hos. 10:13a). “One who sows injustice will reap disaster, and the rod of his fury will perish.” (Prov. 22:8). “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7). When a person is ready to hear God’s Word, you should be prepared to give a Biblically accurate explanation for the hope that Jesus offers (1 Pet. 3:15). To do this you need to study God’s Word. Are you regularly studying the Word so that you can accurately use it to help others in need?
You will find Jesus in your humility. Job felt the need to defend himself. This came from a feeling of pride. You can humble yourself to find Jesus by letting go of your worldly pride: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” (Jo. 12:25). “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39). “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25). “So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” (Heb. 13:13). Do you feel the need to defend your worldly reputation when you are attacked?
Job’s answer to Satan’s charges against him. At a point when his friends were ready to launch new attacks, Job interjected that he would have faith even if God killed him: “13 ‘Be silent before me so that I may speak; then let come upon me what may. 14 Why should I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hands? 15a Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” (Job 13:13-15a). Although Job was unaware of the challenge that Satan made against him, he proved that Satan was wrong to allege to God that his faith was based solely upon the many blessings of wealth, family, and health that God had given him: “9 Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But reach out with Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will certainly curse You to Your face.”’ (Job 1:9-11). “4 Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has, he will give for his life. 5 However, reach out with Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face!”’ (Job 2:4-5).
Have faith in God’s plans for you, even when you experience pain2
Job had faith in God, but he still gave up hope in his restoration. Although Job had the faith to believe that God controlled over every detail of his life, he incorrectly used this truth to conclude that God must have been seeking to “slay” or destroy him. Thus, while Job professed his “hope in Him” (Job 13:15), this hope did not translate into Job’s belief that God would restore him: “And should my head be high, You would hunt me like a lion; and You would show Your power against me again.” (Job 10:16). “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).
God has many reasons to test believers through trials. Job and his friends shared the same mistake in believing that a person’s suffering could only come from sin. While sin is frequently the source of a person’s suffering, it is not the only reason for suffering. The famous English preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834 – 1892) offered many responses to Job’s feeling that because God is omnipotent, God must have been planning to “slay” or eventually kill Job. As translated into modern language by the commentator David Guzik: “Charles Spurgeon listed several reasons why he thought that ‘slaying times’ were good times. - Such times show us that we are really His sons and daughters, because He only chastens His children. - Such times - slaying times - are when real faith is created. - Such times are when God tests and affirms our faith. - Such times are when we can grow in faith. - Such times allow the child of God to prove that they are not a mercenary professor of faith. ‘Once more, the grim supposition of the text, if ever it was realized by anybody it was realized by our Lord Jesus.’ Our great covenant Head knows to the full what his members suffer. God did slay him, and glory be to his blessed name, he trusted God while he was being slain.” (David Guzik on Job 13).3
Have faith that God uses your trials for His greater good. God tested Job so that he would have a deeper understanding and trust in Him. Your trials should also produce perseverance and endurance (Ro. 5:3; Jam. 1:2-3; 2 Cor. 1:8-10). Whenever you encounter a trial that you and others around you don’t understand, God wants you to have faith that He always uses trials or tragedies for a greater good: “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 others around you are suffering, are you offering them the hope that only Jesus can provide to find peace? “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jo. 16:33).
Job’s demand to present his case to God. After professing his faith in God unto death, Job returned to his demand (Job 13:3) that he be allowed to argue his innocence to God: “15b Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him. 16 This also will be my salvation, for a godless person cannot come before His presence. 17 Listen carefully to my speech, and let my declaration fill your ears. 18 Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I will be vindicated. 19 Who could contend with me? For then I would be silent and die.” (Job 13:15b-19). Job was confident that God had used His power to unfairly punish him for an alleged sin. He was also confident that God would save him from further attacks after he presented his case to God and proved his innocence.
Fra Bartolommero (1472-1517) Job holding a scroll with the Latin text “ipse erit salvator menus”, translated “He also shall be my salvation.” (1516 AD) (Job 13:16).4
Seek spiritual growth when you are tested, not vindication. Throughout his trials, Job sought to vindicate himself before God against the charges of hidden sins that his friends (acting on Satan’s behalf) had leveled against him: “But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue with God.” (Job 13:3). “Even today my complaint is rebellion; His hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh that I knew how to find Him, that I might come to His home! I would present my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments.” (Job 23:2-4). “I have kept hold of my righteousness and will not let it go. My heart does not rebuke any of my days.” (Job 27:6). “Far be it from me that I should declare you right; until I die, I will not give up my integrity.” (Job 37:5). One commentator observes that Job never did present his case that he practiced in his head when he finally faced God: “He was silent when God spoke out of a whirlwind . . .” (Robert Alden, The New American Commentary, Vol. 11, Job (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 161). Job failed to ask if God was seeking to use these trials for spiritual growth or for some other reason. His hidden sin was presuming to know God’s will: “Then these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned against Job; his anger burned because he justified himself before God.” (Job 32:1-2). After seeing his sins, Job finally repented: “Therefore I retract, and I repent, sitting on dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6). When you face a trial for an unknown reason, pray to God for His wisdom (Jam. 1:5).
Job pleaded with God not to view him as an enemy and to show Job any hidden sin. As part of his desire to present his case to God, Job asked that God remove His hand of dread and show Job the hidden sin that had allegedly caused him to receive punishment: “20 Only two things I ask that You do not do to me, then I will not hide from Your face: 21 Remove Your hand from me, and may the dread of You not terrify me. 22 Then call and I will answer; or let me speak, then reply to me. 23 How many are my guilty deeds and sins? Make known to me my wrongdoing and my sin. 24 Why do You hide Your face and consider me Your enemy? 25 Will You scare away a scattered leaf? Or will You pursue the dry chaff? 26 For You write bitter things against me and make me inherit the guilty deeds of my youth.” (Job 13:20-26). Job sadly believed that God viewed him as an “enemy” (Job 13:24). Because Job could not think of a specific sin to trigger this punishment, he questioned if God was angry because of a sin from his youth (Job 13:23).
Job was incorrect to view God’s watchful eyes as a curse. Although Job correctly understood that God is omnipresent, he sadly saw God’s watchful eyes as a curse: “17 What is man that You exalt him, and that You are concerned about him, 18 that You examine him every morning and put him to the test every moment?” (Job 7:17-18). Job believed that if only God would look away for a moment, he could rest: “He will not allow me to get my breath, but He saturates me with bitterness.” (Job 9:8). The psalmists later quoted Job’s statements to reach an entirely different and correct conclusion about God’s love: “What is man that You think of him, and a son of man that You are concerned about him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!” (Ps. 8:4-5). “LORD, what is man, that You look after him? Or a son of man, that You think of him?” (Ps. 144:3). We should celebrate what Job lamented. You are blessed to have God watching over everything you do.
God disciplines believers out of love, not as a purported enemy. This was the second time that Job pleaded with God to remove His “dread” from Job: “Let Him remove His rod from me, and let not the dread of Him terrify me.” (Job 9:34). He also previously blamed God for all his torment: “He will not allow me to get my breath, but He saturates me with bitterness.” (Job 9:18). He further repeated this charge at a later time while responding to his friends: “Why do you persecute me as God does, and are not satisfied with my flesh?” (Job 19:22). Many other Old Testament writers also lamented their fear that God had turned against them and turned His wrath on them: “I am the man who has seen misery because of the rod of His wrath.” (Lam. 3:1). “Remove Your plague from me; because of the opposition of Your hand I am perishing.” (Ps. 39:10). “Your wrath has rested upon me, and You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah” (Ps. 88:7).
Invite God to show your hidden sins, but don’t assume that any trial is caused by sin. Job pleaded with God to show the sin that allegedly triggered his torment “How many are my guilty deeds and sins? Make known to me my wrongdoing and my sin.” (Job 13:23). He had previously pleaded with God to forgive his hidden sins: “Why then do You not forgive my wrongdoing and take away my guilt? For now I will lie down in the dust; and You will search for me, but I will no longer exist.” (Job 7:21). Because of some hidden sin, Job lamented the perceived loss of fellowship with God. He believed that God no longer listened to his prayers: “let me speak, then reply to me.” (Job 13:22). “If I called and He answered me, I could not believe that He was listening to my voice.” (Job 9:16). Asking for God to reveal hidden sins is something everyone should do. This was something that the Psalmist did: “Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:23-24). Are you inviting God to expose and cleanse your hidden sins?
Jesus will forgive your sins when you confess them. While Job lived in uncertainty, Jesus promises to forgive your sins if you confess them: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). He not only forgives sins, He will remember the sins no more: “I, I alone, am the one who wipes out your wrongdoings for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Is. 43:25). God forgave and forgot Job’s sinful words.
Job believed that life was hopeless, and that he would soon die from his illnesses. Because he believed that God saw him as an “enemy”, Job believed that he had no hope and would die a slow, painful death: “27 You put my feet in the stocks and watch all my paths; you set a limit for the soles of my feet, 28 while I am decaying like a rotten thing, like a garment that is moth-eaten.” (Job 13:27-28). Job further believed that God had effectively put him in “stocks”, like a prisoner. In Job’s case, God had allegedly used severe illnesses to immobilize Job as part of a purported punishment. Thus, Job had no hope. Many other Old Testament writers believed as well that God allowed the bodies of sinners to waste away as a form of punishment: “With rebukes You punish a person for wrongdoing; You consume like a moth what is precious to him; certainly all mankind is mere breath! Selah” (Ps. 39:11). “Behold, the Lord GOD helps me; who is he who condemns me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; a moth will eat them.” (Is. 50:9). In the New Testament, James warns that trust in riches will rot away like a corpse: “Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.” (Jam. 5:2).
In a moment of weakness, Job blamed God for his suffering5
Jesus offers you eternal joy in heaven. While Job did not know Jesus, believers today no longer have a reason to fear death. Jesus promises to resurrect believers and give them eternal joy in heaven: “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as indeed the rest of mankind do, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead, so also God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. 15 For we say this to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who remain, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:13-17; Rev. 20:4-6). “And the redeemed of the LORD will return and come to Zion with joyful shouting, and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Is. 35:10). “Your sun will no longer set, nor will your moon wane; for you will have the LORD as an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be over.” (Is. 60:2). Paul described the joy of heaven as something beyond what humans have seen or experienced (1 Cor. 2:9). Are you sharing the good news with the broken-hearted?
The Holy Spirit is Jesus’ down-payment on your eternal joy. In addition to eternal joy, Jesus offers you an abundant life on Earth: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jo. 10:10). The abundant life that He offers includes the peace and joy that only the Holy Spirit can provide: “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Ro. 14:17). “[I]n Your presence is fullness of joy;” (Ps. 16:11; 21:6). Joy is also a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Ro. 14:17; 15:13; Phil. 2:2,17). When you suffer pain from some unexplained trial or tragedy, do you seek out the joy of the Spirit?