The ESV gives this chapter a title: God’s majesty is unsearchable. With such a lofty recognition, Job, nonetheless, rails at what his friends have offered him – no help at all (C-26)! Job maintains his righteousness, and that he has done nothing to warrant this affliction that is severely against him. In fact, those who are wicked will suffer, and Job details this. What Job said his friends also said; their application, however, of making this apply to Job was a mistaken notion, a misjudgment (C-27). Man has had much in the way of accomplishments, but with all that he has achieved, he cannot locate wisdom by turning the spade over on this earth; in fact, wisdom comes only from the Lord (C-28).
Application. An appropriate place to make application is with regard to what Job had come to know – even though he can’t explain why he was experiencing what he was. He had come to know that wisdom is not gained from labor on earth, and neither is it gained in what man has accomplished. It is gained and maintained when man comes to know the Lord. Not just know Him, but also turn away from those things that are opposed to Him. In a world that looks upon life as a perspective of secularism or not, does not one wonder how things would be different if humanity saw things the way the Lord desired?
Bildad gives his third reply. He speaks of God’s glory and asks rhetorical questions to be answered in the negative. He brings his small reply to a close; “The brevity of Bildad’s final speech and the absence of a third speech by Zophar are indications that the friends have run out of fuel” (Andersen, p. 214).
Application. Job was not done making a substantive reply to his friends, however. It seems that as Job was “taking a breath” Bildad interjected, and his interjection was nothing of substance. People don’t like losing arguments or being on the short end of something they are convinced is right. Neither do others like accusation flying in their faces when they know those accusations are flatly false. Job and his friends were communicating, but their communication wasn’t being heard (in fact, it was heard, but the other side rejected what was offered). We might illustrate it like missiles flying from one side then another never really hitting the target. **** Bildad asked what I think is a good question: How can man be right before God? Of himself he can’t. He can, however, be right before God if the Lord has given him an avenue to walk, and that man walks it. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus is our way. For some he is not adequate; for the Lord he is the only way.
Job declares that he seeks an audience before God, for then he would reason with God, making his case. Job’s use of the personal pronoun “I” in this chapter is significant (nearly 20 times); it suggests a different temperament than we have read previously. Job notes the injustices rendered to people every day, and that the Lord does not charge them with wrong (24:1-17). In fact, justice should come to those who are wicked much quicker than it does – but it does not (24:18-21). As for those who are righteous (innocent), those who are wicked live old and/or die young – just like it can be said for those who live righteously (24:22-24). “Job had now attacked their main position, and had appealed to facts in defense of what he held. He maintained that, as a matter of fact, the wicked were prospered, that they often lived to old age, and that they then died a peaceful death, without any direct demonstration of the divine displeasure. He boldly appeals, now, to anyone to deny this, or to prove the contrary” (Barnes on 24:25).
Application. It is so often asked “Why do evil people prosper?” It was a question for Job in his day and it is the same question in our day. The question has been answered, however. They don’t prosper; in fact, what they think they have built for themselves is seen one day and then they are gone the next (24:24). It is a challenge to us to trust the Lord to tend to things as He thinks is best. If He thought our thinking was the right course of action it is like that He would have asked us for our opinion. Has He asked any one of us?
Eliphaz speaks for the third time. He begins by acknowledging that Job regards his actions before the Lord innocent of particular wrongs, and then asked if that is something the Lord should consider profitable to him (22:1-3). He then turns around and denounces Job and particularizes his faults (22:4-11). “Job challenged to rethink his position” (22:12-20, Hailey). God will even redeem one not innocent if that one turns to the Lord (22:21-30).
Application. Don Shackelford has some useful points to consider when dealing with false accusation (Commentary on Job, Resource Publications, pp. 264-265). First, do not return evil for evil. This is much easier said than done, but paramount if we are to bring glory to the Lord, and not have to deal with a conscience of guilt. Second, continue to live righteously. Didn’t Paul say this (Romans 12:17)? Surely he did, and he even gave reasons why we should pursue this course (Romans 12:18-21). Third, attempt to set the record straight. The importance of this is easily understood, but it will be the manner and the substance connected with the manner of delivery that will get noticed. Fourth, not only does one want to live righteously (#2), but even more important, entrust your soul to the living God. This is what Jesus did (1 Peter 2:21-25).
Job replies to all his friends, not just Zophar’s last speech. He calls upon them to listen to him while he dismantles their prejudices toward those who suffer (21:1-21). The wicked will meet their doom when they face God; for Job, this knowledge is comforting (21:22-34).
Application. Job brings to the forefront of these series of arguments between him and his friends why their predispositions are wrong. If God brings judgment against the wicked, then why do they prosper and live a full life. Life’s experiences teach Job – and it should teach his friends as well – that their theological underpinning is built on a foundation of sand. It is not unlikely that many people in the world have the same theological underpinning; isn’t it sad when the underpinning stays in place when evidence to the contrary is so….well, evident?
Zophar speaks for the second time. His words are a continuation of those which Bildad spoke. He takes exception to Job’s words (20-1-3). The triumph of the wicked is short (20:4-11). The wicked will not even enjoy the blessings of savored food; it will but come up and out violently (20:12-19). Those who are wicked have nothing to look forward to (20:20-29).
Application. The essence of Zophar’s speech is that one can be sure that sin, though hidden, will manifest itself (cf. Numbers 32:23). This is a truth that thoughtful people clearly understand (cf. Galatians 6:7). When a man sows discord toward others, it is a bit naïve to think it will not be sown toward him. People can’t possibly keep all the tracks that that lain down covered up for others not to follow. Though Zophar’s word are true (in hyperbolic form), they were wrongly applied to Job. We can learn (and should learn) that when we sow discord in our heart we separate ourselves from the Lord by secret sins – and those things are not hidden from Him who sees all.
As Hailey said, Job did not address Bildad’s words, but expresses his grief at his current situation in a way that it is probably the lowest point of Job’s expressed words. God had afflicted me and my friends (who came to comfort) have also wronged me (19:1-6, 21-22). God had hedged Job in, and though he wants to pass he can’t; thus, those intimate relationships he has are now gone (19:7-20). Job suddenly takes a more positive view; his grief was at seriously low ebb, now his words change direction and speak of great hope (19:23-29).
Application. The words of a despondent man can surely bring others down. Job’s friends continued with their pounding: Job was suffering because of his own sin that he refused to address and, much more, confess to God! While Job’s friends were terribly misguided in their thinking, it appears that their thinking was not exclusive to them. Why would others leave Job’s company when he needed them most, but that they had the same sort of thinking (19:13-19)? With Job we learn the value of being sure our thinking is firmly placed on something greater that one’s own thinking. The bedrock of a solid foundation is crucial to security and assurance (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11). False thinking and the expressing of those words can send a person spiraling downward.