Job 38-42

The book of Job reads like a transcript of a forensic trial. Job and his friends carried on in a courtroom where Job was the defendant, claiming righteousness even though he was suffering like one who had committed a heinous crime. Job longed for God to arrive at court so he could call the Almighty to the witness stand and prosecute Him for allowing such difficulty to come upon one who was righteous. But Job’s wish was not granted. Instead, Job had to endure cross-examination and accusation from his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu. Job 38-42 is the conclusion of the drama. God entered the legal proceedings as Job had hoped, but Job was yet in the chair of the defendant.

The Lord spoke to Job from the whirlwind (Job 38:1), demonstrating at the outset His holiness. The Lord first addressed Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu, confronting them for their ignorant words to Job during his trial (Job 38:2). The Lord then turned straightaway toward Job, beckoning him to answer like a man. The Lord challenged Job’s thinking by asking him to consider the organization of the natural world (Job 38:4-24). In each of his speeches, Job had longed for understanding from God. Here, Job is shown that God lacked no understanding and had revealed much of His wisdom in the created order. God boasted of His rule over creation so that the ever-constant cycle of supply and demand is kept in check. Job was to understand that neither animate nor inanimate life function apart from the Lord’s Providence (Job 38:25-39:30).

Having revealed Himself to Job, the Lord asked him, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Let him who argues with God give an answer” (Job 40:2). Job confessed to the Lord, “I am so insignificant. How can I answer You? I place my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not reply; twice, but now I can add nothing” (Job 40:4-5).

In Job 40:6-41:34, the Lord continued to speak from the whirlwind. He cross-examined Job, asking, “Would you really challenge My justice? Would you declare Me guilty to justify yourself?” (Job 40:8). The Lord demonstrated His power to Job, claiming dominance over the most foreboding creatures (Job 40:15-41:34). Job was left with few words. He could only confess, “Surely I spoke about things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…I had heard rumors about You, but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I take back my words, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3b, 5-6).

But the Lord was not done. He turned toward the prosecutors’ table and condemned Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who had yet to repent and speak the truth about God—as Job had done (Job 42:7-8). Only after a burnt offering and Job’s intercession on their behalf would these men be spared God’s wrath. The epilogue of the book notes that the Lord prospered the latter part of Job’s life more than his earlier days. Job’s fortunes were restored two-fold, he was reacquainted with friends and family, he had 10 children, and he saw his children and grandchildren for four generations (Job 42:10-17).

In the storyline of Scripture, Job’s life became an example of endurance and the faithfulness of God. James employed Job’s longsuffering and God’s restoration of Job’s fortunes to encourage his audience that they should take the long view when evaluating their trials of faith. James told his audience to consider the trials they were enduring as joy, knowing that God was growing their faith (Jas 1:2-4). During times of testing, believers should count on God’s supply of wisdom and turn to God in prayer, James said (Jas 1:5-8). James’ audience, like Job, was being tested by a loss of financial resources. James countered the natural human perspective about wealth, writing that those who are impoverished enjoy the exalted status of being rich in faith (Jas 1:9). When the church gathered, they were thus to avoid favoring a wealthy benefactor who might come and assist them in their day of need (Jas 2:1-7). James charged his audience to consider God’s will and generosity before they try to meet the needs of the day by scheming (Jas 4:13-17) or taking advantage of those who might be dependent upon them (Jas 5:1-6). In James’s view, the Day of the Lord was at hand and his readers needed to hold on and wait patiently. James saw in the prophets and Job exemplars that endured and experienced the Lord’s faithfulness. “The Lord is very compassionate and merciful,” James reminded his readers (Jas 5:11). Reflecting upon Job 42:10-17, James reminded his audience that the Lord restored Job’s fortunes. James employed God’s kindness to Job to stimulate his readers to wait upon God and pray (Jas 5:13-18).