Carefully Evaluate Explanations

Explore the Bible Series

June 11, 2006

 

Background Passage: Job 3:1-14:22

Lesson Passage: Job 4:6-7; 6:2-3,24; 8:4-8; 11;6b, 13-15; 13:4, 15, 18, 23-24

 

Introduction: Job’s three friends gave good counsel to the wrong man, at the wrong time.  John Calvin observed that these men argued well a poor case.  Job, on the other hand, argued a good case ineffectively.  It seems obvious that the friends really cared about their unfortunately, suffering companion.  Furthermore, these men possessed some impressive understanding of the principles of godliness; however, their made grave errors in applying these truths to Job’s life.  It is not enough to have an impressive mastery of theology; believers need to learn how to wisely use their understanding.  These men did much damage by applying truth in an unwise manner.

 

Find yourself in the Book of Job!  This man suffered from severe depression brought on by a series of overwhelming calamities.  He evidenced classic signals of a depressed state:

  1. Sleeplessness
  2. Hopelessness
  3. A sense of abandonment 
  4. Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  5. Recurrent thoughts of death
  6. Agitation at his friends
  7. Questions about the justice and love of God

 

His depression, of course, was episodic; that is, terrible events triggered this depressive period.  Sometimes, God’s people suffer from a type of depression that has no immediate, evident cause.  The text does not indicate that Job struggled with this second form of depression, but the principles taught in Job’s life apply to the full spectrum of despair that God’s people may experience. Friends may not understand your suffering, and in the midst of your grief, may say and do terrible things.  Family may abandon you, and calamity may follow upon calamity; nevertheless, God sustains and, in his time and way, will bring you great help, comfort, and victory.  Find your supply in the Lord of Heaven and Earth.  He may seem silent in the face of your suffering, but he will soon replace his silence with sweet words of help and consolation.  Sometimes you must close your ears to the misuse of God’s word (that may come from unsympathetic and unwise Christians), and wait on the Lord to speak and vindicate you. His word and presence, in time, will come to you with great certainty and grace.

 

The Background Passage covers so much material that this lesson outline will only provide a general summery of the first cycle of major discourses.

 

 

 

 

Background Passage Outline:

 

I.                   Job’s First Discourse (3:1-26): Job finally, after seven days, broke the silence of suffering.  This first discourse gave vent to the horrible grief of this dear man.  The lament poured out of him like a torrent, and he wished his mother had never given birth to him.  Note that Job never expressed an impulse toward suicide, but, like Jeremiah (See Jeremiah 20:14-15), he wished he had never been born.  Job concluded his remarks with a heartrending account of his anguish (See vv. 25-26).  He had experienced the very things he feared most in life, and great dread shrouded his thoughts.  He writhed in agony, and he could find no relief for his sorrow.

 

II.                The First Discourse of Eliphaz (4:1-5:27):  Eliphaz showed some compassion to Job, but his discourse quickly took a sharp, painful turn.  He began his comments with an affirmation of Job’s ministry to other suffering people. Perhaps Job had helped Eliphaz at some point, but, at least this friend knew of Job’s reputation as a comforting and able counselor.  Sadly, Job’s acquaintances did not treat him in the same manner this man of God had treated other suffers. Eliphaz entertained a simplistic, “cause and effect” view of God’s dealings with his creatures.   In his mind, God rewarded the righteous and punished sinners.  God had “punished” Job; therefore, Job must have grievously sinned against the Lord (See 4:7-8).  He saw Job’s trouble as the reproof of the Lord and encouraged Job to seek relief from the Lord’s discipline (See 5:17-18). 

 

III.             Job’s First Response to Eliphaz (6:1-7:21):  Job, of course, took exception to his friend’s dismal assessment of his character.  The suffering saint acknowledged his weakness (See 6: 11-13), and he expressed amazement at the cruelty of his friend (6:14-18).   He expected kindness from his friends, but they were like waterless wadis.  The ancient Middle East was pock marked with dry ravines.  These wadis, at certain times of the year, flooded with water; however, the arid conditions often rendered these ravines dry.  Herdsmen hoped to find life-giving waters, but the wadis yielded no refreshment.  Job’s friends were like that: great promise of help, but, in the end, empty ravines.  Instead of comfort, Job received recrimination and rebuke from his companions; furthermore, he could find no escape from his suffering.  Chapter Seven describes Job’s efforts to find respite in sleep, but he could find no rest, even on his bed.  Even as he tried to sleep, the Lord seemed to pursue him relentlessly (See 7:13-16).  He also confessed his confusion about the Lord’s apparent displeasure.  Job knew of his own sinfulness, but he could not understand why God had not forgiven him (See 20-21). 

 

IV.             The First Discourse of Bildad (8:1-22): Bildad assailed Job more harshly than Eliphaz.  This cruel man charged that Job’s children had died justly, and Job had simply reaped the bitter harvest of a sinful life.  He called Job “godless” and accused the poor man of lying about his innocence before God.  Finally, he implied that Job hated God (See v. 22).

 

V.                Job’s First Response to Bildad (9:1-10:22): Job realized that he was a sinner, and he knew he could offer no valid defense before the Lord.  The Lord’s knowledge and power overwhelmed Job.  Furthermore, God, unlike man, is invisible, and Job could not determine the Lord’s ways with him (See 9:11-12).  These sufferings, Job reasoned, came from God’s hand, and the relentless troubles would not allow Job to catch his breath (See v. 18).  He longed for a mediator who would represent him in the court of heaven (See vv. 32-35).  Thankfully, God has provided just such a mediator in the person of Christ.  In Chapter Ten, Job offers a kind of prayer.  He addressed the entire chapter to God.  Above all, Job wanted to understand why God had brought these calamities upon him. 

 

VI.             The First Discourse of Zophar (11:1-20):  The three discourses escalate the attacks these friends aimed at Job.  Clearly, Zophar believed Job had sinned and brought this suffering upon himself.  He boldly called upon God to bring an indictment on poor Job (See 5-6).  Furthermore, he asserted that if Job would acknowledge his sin, God would quickly forgive and restore him.

 

VII.          Job’s First Response to Zophar (12:1-14:22):  This section concludes the first cycle of discourses in the Book of Job.  These chapters address the cruel accusations of Zophar, but the arguments have a broader application.  Job summarized his frustration with the false accusations of all three of his friends.  They had lied about Job, and he told them that they were worthless physicians (See 13:4).  Beginning in 13:20, Job addressed God. He pleaded with the Lord to remove the hand of affliction and reveal his sins so he can repent.  Like a leaf driven by the wind, Job acknowledged his helplessness and weakness (See 13:25).  God has, according to Job, overpowered him, and he cannot resist the Lord.  The first cycle of discourses ends with the same despair with which it began.

 

 

Discussion Questions for the Lesson Passage:

 

  1. How did Job’s friends mishandle this opportunity to minister to this suffering man?  Discuss the content and application of their theology.
  2. The Bible tells us that Satan afflicted Job; however, throughout the book, Job saw his suffering as a result of the activity of God. Discuss the accuracy of Job’s perception that God’s hand brought this grief.  In your discussion, consider why God would allow Satan to afflict this righteous man.
  3. Is there always a simple “cause and effect” relationship between suffering and sin?  What purposes may God have for allowing the affliction of his children?
  4. Analyze Job’s efforts to defend himself against the accusations of his companions.  What strengths to do see in his arguments?  Weaknesses?