Acknowledge That Life Seems Unfair

Explore the Bible Series

June 18, 2006


Background Passage: Job 15:1-21:34

Lesson Passage: Job 15:5-6, 9-10; 16:1921; 19:5-6, 25-27; 21:7-9


Introduction: Americans have a keen sense of fairness; indeed, a sharp awareness of equality comes quite naturally, it seems, to human beings.  When our children were small, they quickly pointed out any parental “favoritism” by crying, “That’s not fair.”  One cannot read the Book of Job without some of this tendency rising in the heart.  In the end, we want the “good guy” to win.  Like Job, we wonder, “Where is God in all of this?” 


I don’t have easy answers for this.  All of us, at one time or another, have cried out to God for understanding concerning some inexplicable occurrence that seems so unfair to us.  Often, our most troubling questions center on undeserved suffering.  As we have seen in the Book of Job, an apparently decent, innocent man gets overwhelmed by a “senseless” flood of adversity.  The initial blast of hardship was made worse by the cruel, heartless judgments of “friends”, and, above all, it seemed that heaven went silent.  The aggrieved person cried out to God for help and vindication, and it seemed as if God either does not care or does not hear.  God’s apparent silence made the situation seem much worse. 


The three-fold cycle of discourses in the Book of Job highlight several features of this terrible suffering. Two, in particular, seem to stand out above the rest.  First, the cruelty of Job’s friends, in the face of his unbearable suffering, multiplied the poor man’s pain.  One marvels at the overbearing arrogance and insensitivity of these men.  The Book of Proverbs reminds us,


            “A friend loves at all times, and brother is born for adversity.”


Another wise man once said, “The test of friendship is loyalty.  Be true to your friend in the hour when he needs your friendship.  Stand back of him when everybody is going back on him. Then he needs you most. Do not forsake him.” Clearly, Job’s companions knew nothing of true friendship.  In this section, the three unwise counselors twist the knives they have already used on Job.


The second problem that troubles honest readers is the silence of God.  Satan blistered this poor man, his wife gave him no support, and his friends assault him with their unfounded accusations against Job’s character.  Some may comfort themselves in the restoration of Job’s possessions and status, but, let’s be honest; many of us find all of this a bit unnerving. 


My dear readers, some of you may find yourselves, right now, in some terrible, inexplicable circumstance.  Perhaps you turned to some friend for solace and found only rejection and condemnation.  The way out of the predicament seems unclear, and, above all, you have no sensible awareness of the presence of God in the situation.  Some may find these studies in Job quite difficult because you identify with this poor man’s suffering, the thought of “plowing” through this second round of discourses seems almost impossible to you. You can hardly bear the thought of reading the pitiless denunciations these friends mercilessly aim at Job.  If you find yourself in such a place as this, please consider these things.


  1. Nothing came Job’s way that God did not control and restrain.
  2. A clear conscience served Job well in the midst of a barrage of false accusations.
  3. Job did, by God’s grace, make it through this ordeal.
  4. Millions of Christians have found help for their souls by reading the testimony of this poor, suffering man.
  5. In the end, Job possessed a more profound awareness of the presence and character of God than he ever had before.


Background Passage Outline:


I.                   The Second Discourse of Eliphaz (15:1-35): As readers will recall, the first discourse of Eliphaz did not seem as sharp as the statements of the other friends; however, Eliphaz “pulled off the gloves” in this round of remarks.  He mercilessly accused Job of deception and pride.  The wicked, Eliphaz surmised, always experience the displeasure of the Lord; therefore, Job, suffering as he was, must obviously have been a wicked man. 


II.                Job’s Second Defense Against Eliphaz (16:1-17:16): By this point, Job had concluded that these friends” were, after all, his enemies.  They tore at him in their wrath and gnashed at him with their teeth.  Like ravenous predators, they wanted to rend him to pieces. Also, they attacked him like fierce warriors.  Their aggression broke Job’s spirit (See 17:1), and he became intensely aware that his neighbors and acquaintances regarded his with distain and reproach (See 17:3-9). 


III.             The Second Discourse of Bildad (18:1-21): The Book of Job reaches its lowest point in this rejoinder by Bildad and Job’s mournful response to the callous remarks of his accuser.  To this point, the accusations of job’s friends seem unspecific in nature; however, Bildad’s remarks, at this juncture, strike directly at Job’s situation.  He accused Job of foolishness, and he faults the poor man for the death of his children.  One cannot imagine more inhumane comments.


IV.             Job’s Second Response to Bildad (19:1-29):  Job cratered in this chapter.  At first, he aimed his response at Bildad; but soon, he turned his attention to the Lord.  He accused God of treating him cruelly and unfairly.  God, in Job’s mind, had stuck the poor man with a mortal blow.  Everyone had abandoned Job, even God.  Nevertheless, even in his despair, Job retained some hope that God would reveal himself (See v. 25). 


V.                The Second Discourse of Zophar 920:1-29): This address reviews the same accusations brought by the other friends.  Zophar simply rehearsed the folly and eventual judgment of the wicked.  Of course, he clearly implied that Job was a wicked man, and judgment had come in the form of the calamities that befell Job.


VI.             Job’s Second Response to Zophar (21:1-34): Job expressed his amazement that the wicked, in this world, seem to prosper, and the righteous seem to suffer.  This chapter summarizes Job’s quandary.  How can the wicked prosper and the righteous experience loss and hardship?  Sadly, at this point in the Book of Job, this suffering man had no answers to his questions.



Questions for Discussion:


  1. How did Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar contribute to the suffering of Job?  Why would their accusations particularly sting a man of Job’s character?
  2. Identify he reasons these men proved poor counselors to Job? What flaws to you see in the spirit and content of their counsel?
  3. What factors contributed to Job’s apparent bitterness toward God (See 19:6-22)? 
  4. In your judgment, what purpose did God have in allowing these verbal attacks on Job?