Read for This Week’s
Study:Job 13:28, Job 28:28, Job 32:1–5, Job 34:10–15, Ezek. 28:12–17, Job 1–2:10.
Memory Text:“ ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher
than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’ ” (Isaiah 55:9,
And so it goes, the battle of words between
Job and these three men, words that at times are profound, beautiful,
deep, and true. How often people will quote from the book of Job, even
quotes from Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar.
And that’s because, as we have
seen over and over, they did have a lot of good things to say. They
just didn’t say them in the right place, at the right time, in the
What this should teach us is the powerful truth of
these texts in Proverbs 25:11–13:A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.Like the cold of snow in time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him,for he refreshes the soul of his masters (NKJV).
Unfortunately, those weren’t the words that Job was hearing
from his friends. In fact, the problem was going to get worse because,
instead of just three people telling him he’s wrong, a new one comes on
the scene.Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath,
Even after Job’s powerful expression of faith (Job 13: 15,
16), the verbal sparring continued. Over the course of many chapters,
the men go back and forth, arguing many deep and important questions
about God, sin, death, justice, the wicked, wisdom, and the transient
nature of humanity. What truths are being expressed in the following texts?
Through all these chapters the arguments continued, neither
side conceding its position. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar each in their
own way, each with their own agenda, didn’t let up in their argument
about how people get what they deserve in life; and thus, what came
upon Job had to be just punishment for his sins.
continued to lament the cruel fate that had befallen him, certain that
he did not deserve the suffering. Back and forth they sparred, each
“comforter” accusing Job of uttering empty and vain words, and Job
doing the same to them.In the end, none of them, including Job, understood all that
was going on. How could they? They were speaking from a very limited
perspective, which all humans have.
If we can get any lesson from the
book of Job (one that should be obvious by now, especially after all
the speeches of these men), it is that we as humans need humility when
we profess to talk about God and the workings of God.
We might know
some truth, maybe even a lot of truth, but sometimes—as we can see with
these three men—we might not necessarily know the best way to apply the
truths that we know.Look around at the natural world. Why does
this alone show us how limited we are in what we know about even the
simplest of things?
The Entrance of Elihu
From Job 26 to 31, the tragic hero of this story, Job, gives
his final speech to the three men.
Though eloquent and passionate, he
basically repeats the argument he has been making all along: I do not deserve what has been happening to me. Period.
Again, Job represents so much of humanity in that many people
suffer things that they don’t deserve. And the question, in many ways
the hardest question of all, is—why? In some cases, the answer to
suffering is relatively easy. People clearly bring the trouble on
But so often, and especially in the case of Job, that’s not
what happened, and so the question of suffering remains.As chapter 31 comes to a close, Job has been talking about the
kind of life he led, a life in which nothing he had done justified what
was happening to him now. Then the final verse of the chapter reads:
“The words of Job are ended” (Job 31:40). Read Job 32:1–5. What is happening here, and what is Elihu’s charge against Job and the other men?
Here is the first time that this man, Elihu, is mentioned in
the book of Job. He obviously heard some of the long discussions,
though we are not told just when he appeared on the scene. He must have
come later, because he was not mentioned as being with the other three
when they first came.
What we do know, however, is that he wasn’t
satisfied with the answers he had heard during whatever part of the
dialogue he heard. In fact, we’re told four times in these five verses
that his “wrath” had been kindled over what he had heard. For the next
six chapters, then, this man Elihu seeks to give his understanding and
explanation of the issues that all these men confronted because of the
calamity that struck Job.
Job 32:2 said that Elihu was angry with Job because
he “justified himself rather than God,” a distortion of Job’s true position.
What should this tell us about how we need to be careful in the ways that we
interpret the words of others? How can we learn to try to put the best
construction rather than the worst on what people say?
Tuesday November 29
Elihu’s Defense of God
A lot of commentary has been written over the ages about Elihu
and his speech, some seeing it a major turning point in the direction
of the dialogue. Yet, it’s really not that easy to see where Elihu adds
anything so new or so groundbreaking that it changes the dynamic of the
dialogue. Instead, he seems largely to be giving the same arguments
that the other three had done in their attempt to defend the character
of God against the charge of unfairness in regard to the sufferings of
34:10–15. What truths is Elihu expressing here? How do they parallel
what the other men have said before? And though his words were true,
why were they inappropriate for the current situationPerhaps what we can see with Elihu, as with these other men,
is fear—the fear that God is not what they think Him to be. They want
to believe in the goodness and the justice and the power of God; and
so, what does Elihu do but utter truths about the goodness, the
justice, and the power of God? ‘For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He
sees all his steps.
There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the
workers of iniquity may hide themselves’ ” (Job 34:21, 22, NKJV). “ ‘Behold, God is mighty, but despises no one; He is
mighty in strength of understanding. He does not preserve the life of
the wicked, but gives justice to the oppressed. He does not withdraw
His eyes from the righteous; but they are on the throne with kings, for
He has seated them forever, and they are exalted’ ” (Job 36:5–7, NKJV).
“ ‘As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is
excellent in power, in judgment and abundant justice; He does not
oppress. Therefore men fear Him; He shows no partiality to any who are
wise of heart’ ” (Job 37:23, 24, NKJV).If all this is true, then the only logical conclusion one
must draw is that Job is getting what he deserves.
What else could it
be? Elihu, then, was trying to protect his own understanding of God in
the face of such terrible evil befalling such a good man as Job.Have you ever faced a time when something
happened that made you fearful for your faith? How did you respond?
Looking back, what might you have done differently?
The Irrationality of Evil
All four of these men, believers in God, believers in a God of
justice, found themselves in a dilemma: how to explain Job’s situation
in a rational and logical manner that was consistent with their
understanding of the character of God. Unfortunately, they ended up
taking a position that turned out basically wrong in their attempt to
understand evil, or at least the evil that befell Job.
Ellen G. White offers a powerful comment in this regard. “It
is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for
its existence. . . . Sin is an intruder, for whose presence no reason
can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to
Though she uses the word sin, suppose we replaced that word with another word, one that has a similar meaning: evil. Then the quote could read: It
is impossible to explain the origin of evil so as to give a reason for
its existence. . . . Evil is an intruder, for whose presence no reason
can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to
defend it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its
existence, it would cease to be evil. So often when tragedy strikes, people will say or think: “I
don’t understand this.
” Or “This doesn’t make sense.” This is precisely
what Job’s complaint had been about all along. There is a good reason that Job and his friends can’t make
sense of it: evil itself doesn’t make sense. If we could understand it,
if it made sense, if it fit into some logical and rational plan, then
it wouldn’t be that evil, it wouldn’t be that tragic, because it would
serve a rational purpose.
Look at these verses about the fall of Satan and the origin of evil. How much sense does his fall make? (Ezek. 28:12–17).Here’s a perfect being, created by a perfect God, in a perfect
environment. He’s exalted, full of wisdom, perfect in beauty, covered
in precious stones, an “anointed cherub” who was in the “holy mountain
of God.” And yet, even with all that and having been given so much,
this being corrupted himself and allowed evil to take over.
have been more irrational and illogical than the evil that came to
infect the devil? What is your own experience with how irrational and inexplicable evil is?
The Challenge of Faith
Certainly the primary characters in the book of Job, as mere
mortals seeing “through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12), were working
from a very limited perspective, a very limited understanding of the
nature of the physical world, much less the spiritual one. Interesting,
too, that in all these debates about the evil that befell Job, none of
the men, Job included, discussed the role of the devil—the direct and
immediate cause of all of Job’s ills. And yet, despite their own
confidence about how right they were, especially Elihu (see Job
36:1–4), their attempts to explain Job’s suffering rationally all fell
And, of course, Job knew that their attempts failed.Even with our understanding of the story’s cosmic background,
how well are we able to rationalize and explain the evil that befell
Job? Read Job 1–2:10 again. Even with all this revealed to us, what
other questions remain?With the opening chapters of Job before us, we have a view of
things that none of these men did. Nevertheless, even now the issues
remain hard to understand.
As we saw, far from his evil bringing this
suffering to him, it was precisely Job’s goodness that caused
God to point him out to the devil. So, the man’s goodness and desire to
be faithful to God led this to happen to him? How do we understand
this? And even if Job had known what was going on, wouldn’t he have
cried out, “Please, God, use someone else.
Give me back my children, my
health, my property!” Job didn’t volunteer to be the guinea pig. Who
would? So, how fair was all this to Job and to his family? Meanwhile,
even though God won His challenge with the devil, we know the devil has
not conceded defeat (Rev. 12:12); so, what was the purpose? And also,
whatever good ultimately came out of what happened to Job, was it worth
the death of all these people and all the suffering that Job went
through? If these questions remain for us (though more answers are
coming), imagine all the questions that Job had! And yet, here’s one of the most important lessons we can take
from the book of Job: that of living by faith and not by sight; that of
trusting in God and staying faithful to Him even when, like Job, we
cannot rationalize or explain why things happen as they do. We don’t
live by faith when everything is fully and rationally explained.
live by faith when, like Job, we trust and obey God even when we cannot
make sense of what is happening around us. What are the things you have to trust God for
even though you don’t understand them? How can you continue to build
that trust even when you don’t have answers?
In a discussion concerning the question of faith and reason,
author John Hedley Brooke wrote about the German philosopher
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) and his attempt to understand the
limits of human knowledge, especially when it came to the
working of God. For Kant, “the question of justifying the ways
of God to man was one of faith, not of knowledge. As his example
of an authentic stance in the face of adversity, Kant chose Job,
who had been stripped of everything save a clear conscience.
Submitting before a divine decree, he had been right to resist
the advice of friends who had sought to rationalize his
misfortune. The strength of Job’s position consisted in his
knowing what he did not know: what God thought He was doing in
piling misfortune upon him.”—Science and Religion (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 207, 208. These men in
the book of Job, and now Elihu, thought they could explain what
happened to Job in a simple cause-and-effect relationship. The
cause was Job’s sin; the effect was his suffering. What could be
more clear-cut, theologically sound, and rational than that?
However, their reasoning was wrong, a powerful example of the
fact that reality and the God who created and sustains that
reality don’t necessarily follow our understanding of how God
and the world He created work.
As we saw, in all the long speeches about poor Job’s
situation and why it happened, the devil was not once mentioned. Why is
that so? What does it tell us about how limited thesmen were in their
understanding, despite all the truths that they had? What could their
ignorance teach us about our own, despite all the truths that we have?
“When we take into our hands the management of things with
which we have to do, and depend upon our own wisdom for success, we are
taking a burden which God has not given us, and are trying to bear it
without His aid. . . . But when we really believe that God loves us and
means to do us good we shall cease to worry about the future. We shall
trust God as a child trusts a loving parent. Then our troubles and
torments will disappear, for our will is swallowed up in the will of
God.” — Ellen G. White,
Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp.100, 101.
How can we learn this kind of trust and faith? That is, what
choices are we making now that will make our faith either stronger or
Inside Story~ Inter-European Division
Doing God's Business, Part 1
This story is not about me. It's about what God is doing
through me and what He can do through anyone who's willing to let Him
I've always loved business. I founded my first company selling
computers to schools when I was 21. From the beginning God was my
partner, and He has blessed me so much.
Later I bought a software franchise that grew fast. In five
years it grew from one employee to 50 and earned a lot of money. I gave
a lot to missions, but I felt empty. Over time I realized that although
I was supporting the church's mission, I wasn't personally involved in
mission. My wife and I agreed that we needed to be a part of God's
outreach to humanity.
Our business interests continued to grow, but I felt God
leading me to sell the biggest company. I left the sale in God's hands,
and the company sold quickly for more than I had expected.
I knew that God doesn't need my money, but I began to realize
that what God wants from me is my time. Mission isn't something we do
on Sabbath. It's something we do full-time.
I wanted to be personally
involved in mission. So I asked God what He wanted me to do for Him.
One day as I was talking with a fellow Christian businessman, a member
of Adventist-Laymen's Services and Industries (ASI), I told him about
my burden to be personally involved in an evangelistic mission project.
I didn't care where the project was, I just wanted to be God's hands. I
asked him if he had any ideas for such a project. He said that he'd
think about it.
Just then his phone rang, and he excused himself to take the call. When
he returned, he told me that the call was from a church leader who told
him about a project that's in a country that isn't open to evangelism.
As he told me about the project, I realized that God was answering my
prayer! The project was in a country I was familiar with.
I knew the
language and the culture of the people in that country, and as a
businessman I could help the church leaders make it happen. I knew that
I could travel there, a place that many others wouldn't be able to
enter. To be continued.
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