SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON PLAN - 6-28-2021 - JOB 23:1-17 - JUSTICE WANTED
LAST WEEK: We're going to skip this because of the length of today's lesson.
THIS WEEK: In Job 23:1-17, we hear Job's reply to his "friend" Eliphaz' third argument against him, where he accused Job of great wickedness and "iniquities without end" (22:5). The Heb. word used there for iniquity, (anon [a-nawn]), literally means crooked or twisted. On the other hand, Eliphaz advised Job that if he would just repent-i.e., admit and confess-of his wicked ways, God would restore him. Job-miserable, dejected, and covered in boils-must have been sorely tempted to do something-anything-to end his suffering. But Job gathers himself up and remains steadfast: He refuses to compromise his integrity by confessing sins that he has not committed.
Read Job 23:1-2 - TODAY MY COMPLAINT IS REBELLION [BITTER]
1 Then Job responded, 2 "Even today my complaint is rebellion; His hand is heavy despite my groaning." (Note: Explain use of different words of certain Bible translations in today's text.)
v. 1: "Then Job responded" - At this point, the third round, Job is very, very tired of arguing his case with his friends. When he finally speaks, he largely ignores the subject matter of Eliphaz' argument and expresses his hunger to be able to come before God
directly. Job trusts God but not his friends.
v. 2a: "Even today my complaint is rebellion [or bitter KJV/ESV] - It's no wonder that Job feels bitter. He's been wronged in a terrible and horrific way. He' not only suffered the loss of all his wealth and his children, but is afflicted with physical misery almost beyond description.
• He likewise has cause to be bitter toward his friends who keep insisting that he must surely be guilty of some terrible sins. Job believes, rightly, that his friends are wrong, but they refuse to believe him. What job needed from them at this time was sympathy, not theology.
• Job also had cause to be bitter against God, though he did not have the right. Job has already defied his friends, and as we will see, Job will also seek to confront God so that he might argue his case and receive vindication, and to some degree, this could be viewed as a form of defiance.
v. 2b: "His hand is heavy despite my groaning" - Job is saying that all the suffering he has endured far outweighs all of the complaints and angry words which he's uttered out of his misery.
APPLICATION 1: Nothing good comes out of bitterness. In today's text, Job's suffering had broken him to the point of bitterness toward God, and as the translations reveals, there is a close connection between feelings of bitterness and outright rebellion. When Job allowed his anger and confusion to turn into bitterness toward God, it drove him further away from God rather than closer.
Read Job 23:3-5 - OH THAT I KNEW HOW TO FIND HIM
3 Oh that I knew how to find Him, That I might come to His home! 4 I would present my case before Him And fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would learn the words which He would answer, And perceive what He would tell me.
v. 3: "Oh that I knew how to find Him, That I might come to His home [or seat ESV/KJV]! - Notice Job's first concern: that he feels utterly separated from God. He had found comfort and help from God in previous times, but now, in the midst of all these catastrophes, he can't find him. When he refers to God's "home" or "seat," he means His place of judgment. What this says to us, is that despite everything that's happened to him, Job has not lost confidence either in God's justice or his own innocence. He's willing to go to any length to visit God, but simply doesn't know where to start.
v. 4: "I would present my case before Him And fill my mouth with arguments" - Job is seeking justice in the context of a legal proceeding: Job plans to present his legal case before God, with the arguments he plans to make on his behalf and with the evidence he intends to introduce in his favor. I can attest that taking your case to court-even when you are convinced that your cause is just-should be the last-ditch alternative, when all other attempts to resolve the matter have failed. Once you put the matter before a judge and a jury, you must accept the outcome, whether good, bad, or in between. But Job wants his day in court because: (1) He has nothing to lose, insofar as things are already as bad as they can be; and (2) He unfalteringly believes in both the righteousness of his cause and the fairness of his judge-God.
v. 5: "I would learn the words which He would answer, And perceive what He would tell me" - Notice that Job not only seeks to present his case but also wishes to hear what the LORD has to say. Job understands that he doesn't know everything about his state of affairs, but he has rock-solid faith that God does know everything. Moreover, Job wants to voice his case-to be heard-but he also wants to enter a dialogue with the LORD-to hear what He has to say, so that he can receive the enlightenment that can come only from God. This is true objectivity-a fair trial.
APPLICATION 2: Trusting in God's justice will result in enlightenment. The text reveals that Job not only wanted God to hear his case, but that he also wanted to hear what God had to say about it. Job desperately wanted to understand why he had been forced to endure so much suffering and most important, he was certain that only God had the right answers. This is true spiritual enlightenment.
Read Job 23:6-7 - THE UPRIGHT WOULD ARGUE WITH HIM
6 Would He contend with me by the greatness of His power? No, surely He would pay attention to me. 7 There the upright would argue with Him; And I would be free [or acquitted ESV] of my Judge forever.
v. 6: "Would He contend with me by the greatness of His power?' - The Hebrew word used for "contend" (rib [reeb]) is actually a legal term that means to plead or litigate your case before a judge. Phrased as a question, it suggests the first hint of uncertainty on Job's part: i.e., an internal dialogue f where he's asking himself if he's really prepared to engage in a debate against an opponent who can squash him like a bug if He wants to. He worries that he's in this over his head. Nerve wracking?
v. 7: "There the upright would argue with Him; And I would be free [or acquitted ESV] of my Judge forever" - No, Job finally decides: He takes the step of faith that God will trust a man who is "upright" (Heb. yashar, lit. straight) man and give him a fair hearing. And after Gods hear him out, He will acquit (= deliver) such a man "forever" (Heb. lā·ne·ṣaḥ, i.e., in perpetuity) meaning that his case will be final and cannot over be reversed or retried. In legal parlance, we call this res judicata.
APPLICATION 3: Trusting in God's justice requires a determined step of faith. We can trust God's justice because His justice is always fair. When we are faced with doubts and uncertainties about where God is taking us in life, it means we need to step out in faith and trust Him for the outcome.
Read Job 23:8-9 - HE IS NOT THERE, I CAN'T SEE HIM
8 "Behold, I go forward but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; 9 When He acts on the left, I cannot see Him; He turns to the right, but I cannot see Him.
v. 8: "...I go forward but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him" - From Job's Patriarchal timeframe and geographical perspective, "forward" would be east, out to the area past the Jordan River on one side, and "backward" would be west all the way to the Mediterranean Sea on the other side. So, within Job's known territory, he can't find God in either of these directions.
v. 9: " When He acts on the left, I cannot see Him; He turns to the right, but I cannot see Him" - The "left" would be north, in the direction of Syria and the "right" would be south, in the direction of Egypt. So, with this, Job says that he's looked in all four directions, but has been unable to find God. This forms a contrast to the assurance of the Psalmist that God is everywhere (omnipresent) all the time (Ps. 139:7-8). But it's easy to sympathize with Job's bewilderment-because most of us have endured times when we wondered if God heard our prayers. It's probably safe to say that most of us have experienced times when we felt utterly alone during troubled periods of our lives. Yes?
APPLICATION 4: God never abandons us. God is always available. When we feel separated from God, its because we've allowed something in our lives-in Job's case, anger, confusion, and doubt-to drive us away from God rather then toward Him.
Read Job 23:10-15 - BUT HE KNOWS THE WAY I TAKE
10 But He knows the way I take; When He has put me to the test, I will come out as gold. 11 My foot has held on to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. 12 I have not failed the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. 13 But He is unique, and who can make Him turn? Whatever His soul desires, He does it. 14 For He carries out what is destined for me, And many such destinies are with Him. 15 Therefore, I would be terrified at His presence; When I consider this, I am frightened of Him.
v. 10a: 'But He knows the way I take" - Job now moves from God's omnipresence (all-seeing) in vv. 8-9 to His omniscience (all-knowing). God knew the path that Job was on then and knew all the paths that he'd taken in the past and because of this, knew all of his guilt or innocence.
v. 10b: "When He has put me to the test, I will come out as gold" - Job is confident that he is not guilty, and he analogizes God's testing to the refinement of gold: A process that involves melting the Gold so that any impurities in it would separate and float (because they are lighter) to the top. This process requires a very hot fire; and Job undoubtedly feels that he has experienced the hot-fire test with the loss of his wealth, his family, and his health.
v. 11a: "My foot has held on to His path" - The picture that comes to mind from this phrase is that of a boy following his father and trying hard to keep his feet in his father's footsteps; and Job claims that he's been doing this with God, being careful to follow his footsteps along life's way.
v. 11b: "I have kept His way and not turned aside" - Job further asserts that, while doing this, he has consciously followed the way that God has led him, and has not succumbed to the temptation of turning to one side or the other. (Note, we, the audience, know this to be true, because God previously testified as to Job's faithfulness in Chapter 1, verse 8.)
v. 12: "I have not failed the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food." - Eliphaz earlier exhorted Job to "receive instruction from [God's] mouth (22:22)," and here Job declares that he's done that and goes on further to say that he has not only observed God's commandments, but has treasured them like the food he eats and incorporates into his body-his innermost self.
v. 13: "But He is unique [or unchangeable ESV], and who can make Him turn? Whatever His soul desires, He does it." - Here, Job experiences another moment of doubt: He knows that God is sovereign above everything, unchanging-and can do whatever He wants. On the one hand, Job is anxious to present his case for innocence, but who is Job to ask or expect God to change His mind?
v. 14: "For He carries out what is destined for me, And many such destinies are with Him" - Here, Job reaches the realization that he's completely and irrevocably at God's mercy. He realizes, too, that God must have given his consent, i.e., "destined," Job's suffering. Out of this, he began to understand that the reasons and wisdom of God's ways are ultimately known only to God Himself and completely unfathomable to mere men like Job or his friends.
v. 15: "Therefore, I would be terrified at His presence; When I consider this, I am frightened of Him" - Here, Job's moment of doubt in v. 13 ramps-up to a moment of terror-the kind of terror that comes from dealing with a world that makes no sense or the kind of terror that comes from dealing with overwhelming, unstoppable power, either of which impart feelings of complete powerlessness. While Job expressed confidence in his case a few verses up, now he's not so sure. He has undergone terrible suffering that he didn't deserve, so now it seems possible to him that his future might be just as bad as his present-a worst case scenario. And note, there's a huge difference in fearing God and being frightened of Him. One is reverence and respect, while the other is terror and panic.
APPLICATION 5: Doubting God can easily lead to terror. Doubt is the same thing as mistrust. If we are "frightened" of God, it means we no longer trust Him. Job allowed his doubts-i.e., lack of faith in God's justice-to cause him feelings of sheer terror. There is a big difference between "fearing" God and being frightened of Him. One is reverence and respect, while the other is terror and panic.
Read Job 23:16-17 - I AM NOT DESTROYED BY DARKNESS
16 It is God who has made my heart faint, And the Almighty who has terrified me, 17 But I am not destroyed by darkness, Nor by deep gloom which covers me.
v. 16: "It is God who has made my heart faint, And the Almighty who has terrified me" - Here, Job lays the responsibility for his terror at God's feet, and in one sense, he's right. Even if he doesn't know the whole story behind his suffering, he knows that he's suffering unjustly. This terrifies him because it means that he's living in a world he can't understand and worshipping a God whom he cannot fully comprehend. Yet, in another sense, Job was responsible for his terror: Earlier, we heard him express faith in his innocence and God's justice (v. 10). When he was thinking that way, he wasn't frightened; it was when his faith wavered that he became afraid. Thus, if Job can recover his faith, his terror will vanish. This is where God wants him to be.
v. 17: "But I am not destroyed by darkness, Nor by deep gloom which covers me" - Scholars disagree on the translations this verse: The NASB, above, and ESV depict job regaining his faith and confidence, while others KJV, NRSV indicate a deepening gloom. I like the first choice.
APPLICATION 6: Faith in God is the opposite of terror. Like Job in the text, we (not God) are responsible for allowing feelings of terror to creep into our lives. Faith is the means of escape. When we return to God with a heart of steadfast faith and unbending trust, our terror will disappear.
PRAYER: Lord, our Father in heaven, we thank you for this church and the good fellowship we have among one another. We thank that we live in nation where we are free to gather to together to learn how to apply the truth of your Word to our day-to-day lives. And the powerful lesson we learned today from Job is no exception. I pray that none of us in this class will ever allow ourselves to become bitter against You, God, for any reason. When trials happen, help us instead, to draw closer to You. We know, Lord, that it's all about faith-that whenever we're faced with doubts and fears about anything in this life-our health, our finances, our families-that you have the answers...the right answers. Help to us remember, Dear God, that whatever situation we might find ourselves in, that You never-never abandon us-You are there for us. This lesson tells us, Father, that faith in You is the opposite of terror, and that if we get on our knees and submit to you in faith, trusting You for the outcome, that the terror will go away. Please help all of us, Dear God, to remember this--always. In the name of my blessed Redeemer, Jesus Christ, I pray these things, AMEN.