Introduction: This chapter concludes the exchanges between Job and his wayward friends that began in chapter four. Job’s friends started off with good intentions. They gave Job seven days of silent support (Job 2:11-13). But they then proceeded to attack Job without evidence. Job had every right to be frustrated, and he did what most people would do by responding to insults with insults. But his response ended their dialogue. Although Job was a man of faith, his complaints against God and his response to his friends were not models for believers to follow. Through the whole counsel of God in the Bible, God reveals Job’s mistakes and seven lessons for responding to uncertainty and false attacks. When you face trials like Job, God wants you to respond with: (1) trust, (2) submission, (3) forgiveness, (4) patience, (5) love, (6) mentoring, and (7) hope.
First, Job blamed God for making his soul “bitter.” Job failed to trust in God’s plans when he incorrectly believed that God had acted unfairly toward him. When you encounter trials that you don’t understand, God wants you to trust Him. Second, instead of praying for wisdom or waiting for God’s plans to be revealed in His timing, Job swore his innocence before God. When you encounter trials, God wants you to submit to His will instead of seeking to vindicate yourself. Third, Job then turned his anger at his wayward friends and called for them to be cursed. Job’s conduct was again not a model to follow. When your trials include false attacks, God wants you to forgive those who attack you. Fourth, as his friends had done with him, Job accused his friends of offering empty words. Unlike Job, when your attackers frustrate you, God wants you to be patient with them. Fifth, in a mocking tone, Job quoted from his friends warnings of God’s wrath to suggest that they had God’s wrath waiting for them. Unlike Job, when others falsely attack you, God wants you to respond to their attacks with His love. Sixth, Job continued to quote from his wayward friends to suggest that all of the things that they prized on Earth would be taken from them. Unlike Job, when others lack understanding, God wants you to mentor them along the correct path. Finally, Job concluded by again quoting his friends to suggest that they faced a horrific judgment. Unlike Job, God does not want you to repay insults with insults. When others face judgment, God wants you to offer them hope and peace through Jesus.
Job again blamed God for his plight. After a pause when his friends failed to respond, Job turned again to God and complained that He had made Job’s soul bitter: “1 Job again took up his discourse and said, 2 ‘As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has embittered my soul,”’. (Job 27:1-2). The reference to Job taking up discourse again suggests that a pause happened at the end of the prior chapter. It would have been Zophar’s turn to respond in this third round of speeches. But Job’s friends had given up and ran out of things to say. Job then returned to addressing God directly. Under Job’s interpretation of God’s sovereignty, he viewed God as responsible for his plight. And he believed that God had been unfair to him. “The remainder of Job’s speech--now, for the first time, called his parable--consists of his determination not to renounce his righteousness (Job 27:2-6); his own estimate of the fate of the wicked (Job 27:7-23); his magnificent estimate of the nature of wisdom (Job 28); his comparison of his former life (Job 29) with that of his present experience (Job 30); his final declaration of his innocent and irreproachable conduct (Job 31).” (Ellicott’s commentary Job 27).1
Job cried out to God to question His fairness2
During his trial, Job questioned God’s fairness. Job previously stated that God was unfair to him: “17 For He bruises me with a storm and multiplies my wounds without cause. . . 20 Though I am righteous, my mouth will condemn me; though I am guiltless, He will declare me guilty.” (Job 9:17, 20). “Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the work of Your hands, and to look favorably on the plan of the wicked?” (Job 10:3). “Know then that God has wronged me and has surrounded me with His net.” (Job 19:6). Job had also previously accused God of making his soul “bitter”: “18 He will not allow me to get my breath, but He saturates me with bitterness.” (Job 9:18). He incorrectly concluded that God treated people who acted righteously and sinners the same. (Job 9:21-23). He even accused God of blinding the eyes of human judges, possibly in reference to his three friends (Job 9:24). He further claimed that God considered Job to be His enemy: “Why do You hide Your face and consider me Your enemy?” (Job 13:24).
You can trust that God’s wisdom is superior to yours. Job was a man of faith because he knew that God is sovereign. But his faith failed to translate into trust. When you reject the wisdom of God’s will, you commit the sin of believing that your intellect is greater than God’s. This ultimately leads to disaster. “There is a way which seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). Because God knows everything, you can put your trust in Him: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Ps. 37:5). “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Ps. 62:8). “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” (Is. 12:2). Are you trusting in God’s Word or yourself?
Elihu later rebuked Job for his statements: Although Job’s friends would never speak again, Elihu later rebuked Job for his comments: “Then Elihu continued and said, ‘Do you think this is in accordance with justice? Do you say, ‘My righteousness is more than God’s?” (Job 34:1-2). Even when bad things happen to good people, you should always trust that God has a plan for His 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 evil abounds, do you trust that God is in control?
Job swore his innocence. After enduring countless false charges of hidden sins and his own belief that God had unfairly judged him, Job swore an oath to prove his innocence: ‘“3 for as long as life is in me, and the breath of God is in my nostrils, 4 my lips certainly will not speak unjustly, nor will my tongue mutter deceit. 5 Far be it from me that I should declare you right; until I die, I will not give up my integrity. 6 I have kept hold of my righteousness and will not let it go. My heart does not rebuke any of my days.” (Job 27:3-6). Job had repeatedly asserted his innocence (e.g., Job 6:29-30; 9:15, 20-21; 10:2; 13:23; 16:17; 19:7; 23:10-12). He refused to appease his friends by confessing to a crime that he did not commit. He instead returned to his desire to prove his integrity to God.
Job’s desire to defend himself was a meaningless and empty pursuit before God3
Submit to God’s will when you are tested, not vindication. Although Job was righteous, he was not without sin. His hidden sin was presuming to know God’s will (Job 32:1-2). 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: “But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue with God . . . Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.” (Job 13:3, 5). “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). “Let Him weigh me with accurate scales, and let God know my integrity.” (Job 31:6). “Far be it from me that I should declare you right; until I die, I will not give up my integrity.” (Job 37:5). Job failed to ask if God was seeking to use these trials for spiritual growth or for some other reason. 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, God wants you to pray for His wisdom (Jam. 1:5). You are expected to submit to God’s will. If you don’t, your flesh will try to rebel against Him: “Submit therefore to God.” (Jam. 4:7a). When God allows you to be tested, will you submit to Him? Or, do you do what feels right to you?
Job cursed his friends. Having endured lies from his friends that he had engaged in hidden sins that caused his own demise, Job cursed his friends as enemies and criminals: “7 May my enemy be as the wicked, and my opponent as the criminal. 8 For what is the hope of the godless when he makes an end of life, when God requires his life? 9 Will God hear his cry when distress comes upon him? 10 Or will he take pleasure in the Almighty? Will he call on God at all times?” (Job 27:7-10). “Job’s oath is followed by this imprecation against his detractors (v. 7) . . . Legally the false accusations and the very crimes committed are called down on the perpetrator’s head. Since the counselors had falsely accused Job of being wicked, they deserved to be punished like the wicked. They knew nothing of the mercy though Job pled for it (19:21). They spoke only of God’s justice and power; yet they would become the objects of God’s mercy despite Job’s imprecation that was later changed to prayer on their behalf (42:7-9).” (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. 971-72).
Job cursed his false accusers instead of showing them forgiveness and love4
Never curse those who hurt you. While Job may have felt justified in cursing his friends, the Bible is clear that believers should never follow his example: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Rom. 12:14). When you are verbally abused like Job, you are called upon to bless your attackers: “and we labor, working with our own hands; when we are verbally abused, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;” (1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Pet. 3:9). Will you bless those who verbally abuse you?
Forgive others the way Jesus has forgiven you. Job had valid reasons to struggle with his misguided friends. For example, Job endured Bildad’s false claim that he was wicked and unjust (Job 18:5, 22; 18:21). At a time when he needed help, his friends only gave him ridicule and shook their heads at him (Job 16:4). Yet, Job 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 who have hurt you.
Job accused his friends of speaking nonsense. After listening to his friends pronounce that God would judge Job as wicked, Job accused them of offering hypocritical words: “11 I will instruct you in the power of God; what is with the Almighty I will not conceal. 12 Behold, all of you have seen it; why then do you talk of nothing?” (Job 27:11-12). Some scholars have proposed that the rest of the chapter was a final retort from one of Job’s friends. But the Bible is clear that this speech came from Job. “Since the ‘you’ is plural, Job clearly addressed all three friends in these two verses. The problem turns on whether vv. 13-23 are Job’s teaching ‘about the power of God’ or (more likely) the meaningless talk’ he quoted from them. Because the canonical shape of the book must have made sense to its first readers and there is no compelling reason to emend the text, it is best to understand these verses as Job’s. . . . Job spoke of God’s ‘power’ in response to Zophar (12:13) and most recently in response to Bildad (26:12, 14) . . . Job maintained that his side of the argument was also patently obvious, that is, that the righteous sometimes suffer and the wicked often prosper. The long quotation of the friends [vv. 13-23] is introduced and caricatured as jabbering gibberish.” (Robert Alden, The New American Commentary, Vol. 11, Job (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 265). Although Job’s comments were justified under a worldly standard, they were not a model to follow.
Job’s friends had mocked his words as being no better than the wind. When Job accused his friends of providing him with “talk of nothing” (Job 27:12), he was throwing their words back in their faces. Bildad had called Job’s statements meaningless words (Job 8:2, 18:2). Eliphaz then agreed by dismissing Job’s words of despair as being no better than the worthless wind (Job 15:2-3). But Job had already responded out of spite by alleging that it was in fact his friends who offered worthless words with their false condemnations of him (Job 16:3). Thus, Job was doubling down on his prior insults. Again, the mocking went both ways and was not a model for believers to emulate.
Job should have shown greater patience. The Bible celebrated Job for his “patience” (Jam. 5:11). But that was a title that he had not yet earned: “Job was deeply frustrated at the lack of understanding from his friends. They knew certain principles about God and His way in the world, but they misapplied those principles to Job’s situation.” (David Guzik on Job 27).5 If Job had God’s love in him at this point, he would have shown patience towards his misguided attackers: “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant.” (1 Cor. 13:4). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” (Gal. 5:22). Patience requires a willingness to explain the truth to a misinformed person without getting angry. When others make ignorant or misinformed statements about you, do you show them patience?
Job pronounced his friends as wicked and worthy of God’s judgment. Job then quoted from his friends’ attacks against him to suggest that God would judge them as wicked: “13 This is the portion of a wicked person from God, and the inheritance which tyrants receive from the Almighty: 14 Though his sons are many, they are destined for the sword; and his descendants will not be satisfied with bread. 15 His survivors will be buried because of the plague, and their widows will not be able to weep.” (Job 27:13-15). Out of anger, Job threw his friends’ attacks back at them. Job said that a wicked persons’ sons were “destined for the sword.” (Job 27:14). Each of them had previously implied that Job’s hidden sins caused the deaths of his ten children. Eliphaz was the first to imply this charge (Job 5:4). Bildad then repeated it twice more (Job 8:4; 18:19). Zophar then repeated it (Job 20:10). Job’s anger would seem justified under a worldly standard. But believers are again called to a higher standard when they are attacked and insulted.
Job repeatedly lashed out in anger. This was sadly not the first time that Job had lashed out at his friends. After being provoked, he repeatedly insulted 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 again 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 predicted that his friends’ possessions would be taken from them. Job again quoted from his friends to warn that all their worldly wealth and security would soon disappear: “16 Though he piles up silver like dust, and prepares garments as plentiful as the clay, 17 He may prepare it, but the righteous will wear it and the innocent will divide the silver. 18 He has built his house like the spider’s web, or a hut which the watchman has made. 19 He lies down rich, but never again; He opens his eyes, and it no longer exists.” (Job 27:16-19). Eliphaz had previously cited Job's destroyed wealth as proof that he was a wicked sinner under God’s judgment (Job 15:29). Zophar had also alleged that Job must have stolen from the poor and that his wealth was being redistributed to the innocent (Job 20:18-19). Bildad had also implied that Job’s wealth was illusory and that Job had been caught in his own “spider web” of deceit (Job 8:14-15). Thus, Job was mocking his friends and stating that they would suffer under their own false judgments against him.
God can remove a person’s wealth for reasons having nothing to do with sin. When his trials began, Job had the faith to know that God had the right to give and take away wealth for His own reasons: “He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”’ (Job 1:21). “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it, either.” (1 Tim. 6:7). Job’s wealth did not prove his righteousness. For the same reasons, believers should reject the “prosperity gospel.”
Mentor and teach others who lack a proper understanding about God. Every believer is bound to meet another believer with misinformed views. Believers should avoid fighting with a misinformed person. Yet, when possible, believers should mentor and teach others who hold misinformed views. Just as Jesus did for the Church, believers are called upon to develop and encourage other believers: “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11). “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:25). “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42, 46). Every believer should have the humility to know that they were likely once misinformed about God, and it is impossible to know everything about God. When you know the Word well enough to teach it, you are encouraged to use that gift to help others. Are you mentoring and teaching those with misinformed views?
Believers are called upon to know the Word well enough to teach it. Some believe that teaching the Word is a job for someone else. But knowing the Word well enough to teach it is a sign of spiritual maturity: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the actual words of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (Matt. 5:12). If Job had access to the Word, he could have taught his friends that they had confused the ultimate with the immediate in promising God’s judgment. But he had an excuse for failing to teach his friends. The Bible did not yet exist. What is your excuse?
Pray for wisdom and read God’s Word before you offer advice. If you wish to avoid making Job’s mistake, pray for wisdom and read God’s Word before counseling others: “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). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in secret You will make wisdom known to me.” (Ps. 51:6; Ecc. 2:26). Are you praying for wisdom when others need counseling?
Job warned his friends of the terror and humiliation that awaited them. In response to his friends’ conclusion that Job had no hope, Job responded that they faced a hopeless terror: “20 Terrors overtake him like a flood; a storm steals him away in the night. 21 The east wind carries him away, and he is gone; for it sweeps him away from his place. 22 For it will hurl at him without mercy; He will certainly try to flee from its power. 23 People will clap their hands at him, and will whistle at him from their places.” (Job 27:20-23). Eliphaz alleged that Job’s terror was proof that he was a sinner under God’s judgment (Job 15:21). Bildad also alleged that terror was a sign of a sinner under God’s judgment (Job 18:11). Zophar also repeated this allegation against Job (Job 20:25). Job claimed that his friends faced judgment under their own standards.
Leave vengeance to God. Job was wrong to promise God’s vengeance upon his friends. It is 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.
Warning of judgment must include the hope that Jesus offers. Warning of judgment is not wrong. Jesus in fact started off His ministry with a call to repentance (Matt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15). But Jesus gave this warning with the hope of eternal life that He offers to all who believe in His atoning death on the cross (e.g., Jo. 3:16; 10:9; 14:6). Jesus’ great commission requires that we follow in His example (Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus’ goal when He uses you to confront an alleged sinner is to restore them, not to condemn them: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Pet. 1:3). “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and reliable and one which enters within the veil,” (Heb. 6:19). “Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will make Your ear attentive to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that mankind, which is of the earth, will no longer cause terror.” (Ps. 10:17-18). “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry for help and save them.” (Ps. 145:19). When you confront a sinner, are you trying to restore them out of love or rip them down? If, like Job, you are only trying to condemn them, you are speaking for the enemy.