Repentance and Restoration (Job 42) April 17-18
In Job's encounter with God, the Lord never directly explained why He permitted Job to suffer. But He doesn't have to. Job finally realizes what God has been trying tell him for the past few chapters. He responds to God with what he has learned—with what God has taught him: "I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You" (verses 1-2). He admits that God is right to have pointed out his lack of knowledge for, he confesses, he was talking about things he didn't really understand—wonderful things beyond his comprehension (verse 3). Job at last sees that God has immense care for His creation—including him. He sees that God is in total control of His creation to accomplish His own inscrutable aims. And he realizes his complete foolishness in coming to wrong conclusions about God's justice (compare verse 3).
So Job is now ready to answer God as God has told him to (verse 4). His response? As a prelude he says that what he understood of God was based on what he had been taught by others—and that now he is at last able to really see God for himself (verse 5). What exactly did he see? He saw what God had pointed out—mostly regarding the creation. Notice what the apostle Paul said: "What may be known of God is manifest in [people], for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood [through] the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhood" (see Romans 1:19-20). The loving, caring disposition of Almighty God is powerfully illustrated by the intricacy and complexity of design in nature for the benefit of all living things—especially for man. The creation and sustenance of the universe also illustrates God's infinite mind and wisdom. Elihu, we should recall, had started onto this great theme with the words, "Remember to magnify His work" (Job 36:24). When this becomes the focus, everything else will fall into place.
With the evidence powerfully before him, Job now gives God the answer God has been preparing him for. Job abhors what he has foolishly uttered, and he repents of it in total humility (Job 42:6). He realizes that his accomplishments cannot be compared with God's accomplishments, and that what little we accomplish is enabled by God. So Job now sees that nothing in him is worthy of exaltation before God. Rather, he is absolutely dependent on the undeserved love and mercy of his Creator.
God then speaks again, this time addressing Eliphaz, saying that He is angry with him and his two friends Bildad and Zophar because they have not spoken of Him what is right as Job has and that they must go to Job with offerings lest God deal with them according to the foolishness of their words (verses 7-8). This must have stung deeply. These men had come to think that they were defending God's honor against a blaspheming hypocrite. But they had it all wrong. Still, while we can see that they were wrong about Job, why does God consider that they have spoken ill of Him? And why does God say that Job has spoken of Him what is right?
Remember that the friends had basically portrayed God as an uncaring arbiter of justice—a robotic judge who instantly doles out punishments for sin and rewards for righteousness who is unmoved as to which way things go in this regard. This picture effectively disregards God's patience, love, compassion and mercy. Recall also that Job actually warned the friends about lying against observable evidence in their defense of God—that God would not accept insincere flattery and false witness even if meant to exalt Him (13:7-12). Moreover, their accusations against Job have misrepresented God. In charging Job with being a great sinner and hopeless hypocrite who along with his slain children has received just desserts, they have claimed to stand for God's principles and so imply that God Himself is behind their charges—and thereby credit God with adding to Job's torment through their words. Yet, as these charges are really from Satan the Accuser, whose instruments they have unwittingly become, the three friends have essentially labeled the devil's lies as coming from God. So God now calls them to account.
What about Job? Despite his questioning of God's justice, Job had all along still fundamentally believed in God's justice because he had counted on it to vindicate him in the end. Indeed, in the midst of his struggle—even when he felt like God was treating him like an enemy—he still put his hope and faith ultimately in God. He had remarkably stated, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (13:15). As mentioned above, Job maintained that God would not accept someone defending Him through suppressing truth. For, though conflicted and confused, Job still attributed to God the highest standards of integrity. Unlike the almost mechanical God the three friends imagined, Job had argued that God's infinitely majestic ways were beyond human understanding. (He needed only to more diligently apply this to his own situation.) Job further argued that, contrary to his friends' contention, God does care whether people choose righteousness or wickedness. Indeed, Job had so much correct. And now at last God had come to help Job clear away the fog of faulty, emotionally charged imagination and let this buffeted man's thoughts settle on a reasoned conclusion—whereupon Job was quick to repent of his ill-thought-out words and submit to God's will for his life, whatever that might be.
For all that he had said, Job's willingness to hang in there with God to the very end spoke even louder. Indeed, it is Job's perseverance that the apostle James calls attention to in the New Testament as an example for us (see James 5:11). And through it victory is achieved over the Accuser. Yes, Job had fallen into doubt and deep confusion. But he had never cursed God and rejected Him as Satan predicted he would. Instead, he came to a new depth of understanding and faith—so that he was now a stronger servant of God than ever.
To their own credit, Job's three friends immediately follow God's order to present sacrificial offerings to Him through Job and have him pray for them (Job 42:9)—as humiliating as this must have been after all the prideful scorn they had heaped on him. Job is then shown here as a wonderful example of intercessory prayer for others. He could have borne a grudge and really stuck it to his friends at this point for what they had said about him. Instead, he appealed to God to forgive them. And we know his prayer was sincere, or else God would not have accepted it. Then, following this outward demonstration of the humility expressed in his own repentance, God at last restores Job to health and prosperity, giving him double what he had before (verse 10).
Some Bible critics see a problem in Job now being rewarded. The Expositor's Bible Commentary explains: "The restoration, it is claimed, contradicts the purpose of the book, which is to present an alternate to the counselors' orthodox view of suffering held as normative in so much of the O[ld] T[estament, wherein the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished]. When Job received again his prosperity, righteousness was rewarded and his whole case defeated. But we would remind the reader that the purpose was not to contradict normative O[ld] T[estament] theology but to provide a balance of truth. All things being equal, sin brings suffering and righteousness blessing. Since Job had successfully endured the test and proved that his righteousness was not rooted in his own selfishness, there was no reason for Job to continue to be tested; his sufferings needed to cease. God created humans so that he might bless them, not curse them. Job had been declared innocent of all those false accusations; so he could not continue to suffer as punishment. And God's higher purpose had been fulfilled; so there was no reason why Job should not be restored" (note no verse 10).
Indeed, an ending of blessing is part of what God wanted to demonstrate through all this. James tells us: "My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful" (James 5:10-11).
We should not take from this that all trials that believers face will end with rich material and family blessings in this life. The point here is to show that God's objective is ultimately to reward those who put their trust in Him and live as He directs. In the end, all believers who suffer will be richly rewarded. And even in this life, the spiritual blessings will be great. These are in fact the greatest blessings, just as they were for Job. Far more significant than his restored health and wealth and rebuilt family and circle of friends was coming to know and understand God in a deeper way with a strengthened commitment and relationship.
Finally, we might ask: Did Job ever learn of the challenge between God and Satan? Certainly whoever wrote the book came to know it—yet perhaps this was through God's later inspiration. Maybe Job himself never knew. If he did come to know it, God decided not to reveal this fact to us in the account. Perhaps that would mislead us into thinking that the purpose for all our own trials will be made known to us in this life—and that is simply not the case. Whatever happens, let us always and ever remember to maintain our trust in God even when we don't understand what He is doing in our lives. For as Romans 8:28 assures us: "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."