Look to God for Wisdom

Explore the Bible Series

June 25, 2006

 

Background Passage: Job 22:1-28:28

Lesson Passage: Job 28:1-4, 12-13, 15-16, 20-23, 26-28

 

Introduction: Some years ago, an elderly pastor friend of mine went through a terrible experience.  He had long tenure at a church in Texas, almost three decades, and, as he approached retirement, a small group of deacons made a horrible charge against this faithful man.  Oddly, he had already announced his intension to retire, but these cruel men determined that they would harm him as he left the church.  My friend was completely innocent of the charges leveled against him, and it took months for him to clear himself of the legal implications of the sinister accusations. 

 

I stayed in touch with my mentor during the months of this ordeal, and I marveled at his composure and grace “under fire.”  This man lived impeccably, and the charges wounded him deeply.  Nevertheless, he remained steadfast and prayerful.  Occasionally, I would visit his home for lunch, and we always enjoyed warm fellowship.  On one of these visits I asked him how he had managed to cope with the attacks on his character.  It seemed particularly amazing to me that the false accusations did not crush this man of unimpeachable integrity and great wisdom.  In the midst of our conversation he told me, “Sam, you can always live down a lie.”  My youthful inexperience prevented me from appreciating the full import of his words, but now, several years later, I value the wise observation of my old friend. 

 

Job, as we have seen, experienced severe trials in the loss of his children, livelihood, social standing, and health.  The calamities, one coming on the heels of another, nearly crushed this remarkable man.  Readers of this profound Old Testament book have greater insight into the ground of this suffering than Job ever knew.  He groped in inarticulate anguish for days; then, he finally lifted his gaze to receive some consolation from sympathetic friends.  Clearly, Job anticipated some cordial words of empathy; instead, his friends added insult to injury.  Satan inflicted the initial catastrophic blows, but Job’s companions seemed intent on finishing the devilish scheme.  Again and again, they lied about poor Job, and, despite his best efforts, his defenses fell lifeless from his lips. No one took his case or showed the slightest mercy.

 

Now, our study leads us to the nadir of Job’s saga.  The savagery of these companions reaches its worst and the poor man seems to lose himself.  Indeed, his answers to the pitiless accusations are not even addressed to the friends; rather, the writhing sufferer turned, in desperation, to plead his case to God alone.  The words, for instance, of Chapter Twenty-three are among the most profound and heartrending I have ever read.  Nonetheless, in the midst of this great distress described in this chapter, this section of Job marks something of a turning point in the story.  Like never before, Job seemed to realize that no man could help him.  He stood in writhing nakedness before his God, and found himself bereft of any human consolation.  God must help, or Job was hopeless.  The darkness enveloped Job, but God did not leave his servant in this condition.  Help was on the way!

 

 

Background Passage Outline:

 

I.                   The Third Discourse of Eliphaz (22:1-30):  The previous accusations of Eliphaz had already, no doubt, left emotions welts on Job’s soul; nevertheless, this merciless counselor, in this third speech, threw off all restraint.  The chapter begins with sharp sarcasm; then, Eliphaz strung together a series of scurrilous indictments against Job: usury, cruelty to the poor and suffering, insensitivity to widows and orphans, and, above all, spiritual darkness.  He categorically claimed that Job’s catastrophes evidenced God’s displeasure and judgment.  Of course, Job knew that all of these accusations were entirely false, but his friends would not hear his defense.  Finally, in the last verses of the chapter (vv. 21-30), Eliphaz gave good general counsel; however, he offered this advise to the wrong man at the wrong time. 

 

II.                Job’s Third Response to Eliphaz (23:1-24:25): Two great issues puzzled Job.

A.    God’s apparent absence from the spectacle of Job’s suffering (23:1-17):  Poor Job made a pitiful observation (See vv. 1-9).  God had apparently deserted Job.  The Lord’s servant could not find Jehovah anywhere in all of this, and, in graphic, poignant language, Job described his efforts to find God.  He searched forward and backward, left and right; nevertheless, he found God nowhere present.  If only he could have laid his case before the Jehovah, he could have pleaded his case before the divine tribunal, but Job found himself, as it were, alone in the courtroom with no one to hear his case.  Thankfully, some refrain of comfort sounds in the silent courtroom (See vv. 10-17).  Job recalled that even though he did not know where God was, God knew where Job was and had some great purpose in all of this suffering (See v. 10).  The ancient saint came face to face with the utter sovereignty of God (See vv. 13-17).  Jehovah does as he pleases, and no man can turn God from his appointed purpose.  Indeed, Job realized, in this epiphanal moment, that all of his life was a series of divine appointments (See v. 14).  The chapter ends with Job’s shutter of fear before God (See vv. 15-17).

B.     God’s apparent unconcern with the wicked (24:1-25): Job was not the first or last to struggle with God’s longsuffering with the wicked.  This chapter gives vent to a chronic puzzlement of thoughtful, godly people.  Why do the righteous suffer, often at the hand of the wicked?  The problem multiplies when it appears that the wicked, far from experiencing the displeasure of the Lord, seem to live in power, comfort, and security.  Job cataloged a host of offenses that God seemed to let go unchallenged and uncorrected.  All of this baffled Job.  Perhaps, in days of happiness, these things occasionally crossed his mind; but now, the incongruity of his own suffering caused Job to reel in dizzied confusion.  Some people, perplexed by circumstances like this, are reduced to inarticulate prayer (Perhaps Paul had this in mind in writing Romans 8:26).  In these times, the suffering saint can only utter the stammering supplication, “Why?”  

 

I don’t want to pass these questions too lightly.  The Book of Job, in these chapters, raises some of the most troubling questions of life.  Flippant clichés won’t meet this need; so, contemplate these things with fear and trembling. 

 

 

III.             The Third Discourse of Bildad (25:1-6):  Apparently, the flagellant’s arms finally grew weary!  His friends had beaten poor Job to a pulp, and now, they seem to tire of the thrashing.  Bildad gave, by far, his shortest speech, and Zophar offered no third discourse at all (Never fear, re-enforcements are on the way!).  Bildad seemed spent.  All he could muster was a brief rehearsal of his previous arguments.  If nothing else, Job exhausted his opponents.  Again, Bildad made some generally good points, but he made them at the wrong time and to the wrong person.

 

IV.             Job’s Third Response to Bildad (26:1-27:23): These two chapters restate materials from previous statements by Job.  Again he asserted the creative power and sovereign governance of the universe by God.  In Chapter Twenty-seven, Job recalled he plight of the wicked before the Lord.

 

V.                The Chapter of Wisdom (28:1-28):  This chapter, like Chapter Three, serves as a transitional section in the development of the Book of Job.  The three-fold cycle of discourses has come to an end, and the author prepares the readers for the statements of Elihu, a newcomer to the conversation.  Chapter Twenty-Eight bears all the hallmarks of Old Testament Wisdom Literature, and it falls into three distinct sections. 

A.    (vv. 1-11): Wisdom, like silver and gold, must be sought and is rare and precious.

B.     (vv. 12-19): Wisdom has greater value than silver and gold, and man must seek this treasure more than the riches of the earth.

C.     (vv. 20-28): Only God can give men wisdom.  It does not come by human agency or design; rather, it comes as a treasure from the storehouse of the Lord, a great and rare gift of mercy.

 

 

Discussion Questions for the Lesson Passage:

 

  1. Why did the author of Job place this Wisdom Chapter at this point in the book?  What had Job learned about wisdom?  In your judgment, did he value wisdom more highly, in the wake of his sufferings, than he did before the calamities struck?
  2. In verse twelve, Job asked where a person can find wisdom.  How did he answer this important question?