10 Profound Lessons to Learn from the Long Term Suffering of Job
We are going to take a slightly different direction today. We have covered a lot up to this point. So what I want to do today is to take some time and look at 10 additional profound lessons for you to learn from the long-term suffering that Job was wrestling with. So we are going to slow down a little bit and just contemplate on some of the things we have so far looked at in the book of Job.
In a very real way, the book of Job is a lived out example of Psalm 23. We have not quite yet reached the section in the book of Job where Job looks back and reflects on God's good shepherding but we will come to it. As he is wrestling with this long-term suffering, Job is no doubt in the midst of the valley and he is learning much.
So let me just pray and ask that God would open our eyes and hearts to understand the truth that we are going to look at today.
Father, we just pray now as we think of Job together today that you might get the honour and the glory and that our hearts will be lifted to Christ and that you would take our weak ears and our weak hands and feet that are so often prone to walk away from you and to not apply and be doers of the word. We pray that you would minister to us that your Spirit will come. We recognise again that apart from you, we can do nothing; Apart from the Spirit of God, we have no power, we have no wisdom, we have no holiness so I pray that you would use a weak preacher and weak listeners today that we might meet with our great God in the hearing and reading and thinking and meditating on your word. We pray in Christ's name, Amen.
So the first lesson for you to learn from the long-term suffering that Job was wrestling is this:
1. BEWARE OF THEOLOGICAL STATEMENTS THAT ARE SUPERFICIAL AND WRONGLY APPLIED
It is difficult to read through the counsel of Job's three friends. Much of what they say is true; so you just can't read through the counsel of these three friends of Job and say, "Well it's all bad, it's all junk; forget it". You can't quite do that. Again, Job is a book about reality. We have a saying in the United States that even a broken clock is right twice a day. The application of this saying is that you can listen to many people who are wrong on very many things but that doesn't mean that they are wrong in everything.
Job's friends have a lot to say that is true but there is much that is superficial and half-truth. And you know the old saying that states that, "A half-truth treated as a whole truth becomes an untruth." So that is the heart of the problem of Job's friends. There are several things that they say are true but everything that they say is wrongly applied. They are just not getting it in terms of applying truth to Job and it takes work to sort out the legitimate things they say from the distortions of truth in their utterances.
Now here is part of the problem, Job's friends are not perverse. They are neither cruel nor flippant. They are serious, sincere and well-intentioned friends. But they are wrong in their counsel. In spite of some understanding of truth that they have, they misapplied it. And in the end, they are not the heroes of the book.
Now if they would have come with godly counsel, properly applied, maybe they would have been the heroes. Maybe they would have been the ones who would have pulled their dear friend Job out of the ditch as it were and planted his feet firmly and confirmed and strengthened his faith. But in this case, they are not the heroes as we saw at the end of the book of Job in our previous message. I just want to read that passage again because I think it is good to keep hearing the truth therein. You know the book of Job is the kind of book with things that you just need to keep on hearing over and over.
Let us begin by reading Job 42:7-8: "After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: "My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has."
Gob says it twice to Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.
The three friends of Job illustrate a proverb.
Proverbs 26:9 says, "Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools."
And this is just a way of saying that a fool injures himself and others with truth. Or a foolish use of truth doesn't help. It hurts. And so, a true proverb, "a true theological statement in the mouth of a fool or foolishly used or improperly applied can kill a person." Just like Job's friends are killing Job with their poor theology and their poor counsel.
Now one of the things that is true about this institution [African Bible University] and the institution I represent [Westminster Theological Seminary] we are concerned about good theology. We are concerned about the truth. We want to speak the truth (of course we want to speak it in love) but we ought to always be aware that even good theology can be wrongly or insensitively applied.
And so just because you have the truth, that is not all that is necessary to think about. You also need to think about how that truth should be applied. Otherwise, you can hurt people; and hurt them greatly.
So let us just think of a couple of examples. Think, for example, about the doctrine of God's sovereignty in salvation. What a wonderful truth! It is God who chooses us. My faith is not my gift to God. It is God's gift to me that enables me to embrace Him. So before the foundation of the world, the scripture teaches over and over that God chose us. Not because there was goodness in us, but because of His grace. And His eternal purpose is to display His glorious grace in saving undeserving sinners like us.
So how can you distort that truth of God's sovereignty in salvation? Well, you can say God has His people He intends to save. He is going to elect them and choose them. I don't have to preach, I don't have to pray and I don't have to evangelize. Let us just sit back and watch God as he does his work. That is what we would call a misapplication of this wonderful doctrine!
I remember when I was young and wrestling with these doctrines and trying to figure out what exactly the Bible taught; I read a statement by A. W. Pink who was a wonderful writer worth reading. I mean almost anything he writes is worth reading. In his statement, A.W. Pink said, "God has not revealed His sovereignty to us in order to give us an excuse to disobey His commands." That's about the quickest way you can say it.
And so, any time anybody will take a doctrine and use it as an excuse to disobey God's commands: Ahah, you have misapplied it, you have distorted it in such a way that you are killing people with it.
This is is exactly what Job's friends are doing and judging from the effects of what they say, there is no doubt that misapplied or wrongly applied truth can do great harm.
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