God Rebukes Job’s Friends

May 11, 2014 / No. 3723

Dear Radio Friends,
In our studies in the life of Job we have come to the last section of the book, the conclusion, beginning in chapter 38. We looked at the first two parts to that conclusion in the previous two messages. First, we looked at God’s answer to Job from the whirlwind, in which God displayed to Job His eternity and His power. Last message, we looked at Job’s repentance in dust and ashes in the first verses of Job chapter 42.
Today we come to the third part of this concluding session in which God turns to the three friends of Job: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. By this time, these friends of Job are probably quite smug hearing God rebuke Job and thinking to themselves, “Didn’t we tell you, Job?” And so God rebukes them for the way that they had dealt with Job, and Job is vindicated in this passage.
But there is much more in these verses than just the rebuke of Job’s friends and the vindication of Job. Perhaps this passage, Job 42:7-9, is the most important in the entire book of Job. We preach Christ from every page of Scripture, and here, in these verses, we see Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation through sacrifice and reconciliation in Jesus Christ our High Priest.
It is important that we see this in the book of Job. It is not true that Old Testament saints were saved by works and that we, in the New Testament, are saved by grace. No, here we see that these Old Testament saints believed the same gospel that we do and put their hope in the same Savior that we do.
The book of Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible. And here, before the priesthood of Aaron is instituted and all the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, here God speaks to these men of a way of forgiveness and reconciliation not through their works, but through the blood of a substitutionary sacrifice and through the intercession of a priest. And that is the gospel. Our salvation is not by any work or merit of our own, but only through the perfect obedience of Christ, His blood sacrifice in our place, and His intercession as our High Priest.
Now we have already seen and preached Christ in the gospel from the book of Job. In chapter 1, Job sent and sanctified his children and made sacrifice for them, very similar to this passage. In chapter 9:2, Job asked the question: “How should a man be just with God?” implying that there is no way in himself. And at the end of that same chapter, Job asks for a daysman, or a mediator. And then, in chapter 19, Job made this beautiful confession concerning Christ: “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.”
And now, at the end of the book, God Himself comes and speaks of the way for sinners to be forgiven and accepted. And it is my prayer as we go through this message not only that you see that the Old Testament saints also trusted in Christ and believed the gospel, but also that you who hear the message today will do the same.
In these verses, we have, first, God’s rebuke of Job’s friends in verse 7. In this they see their need not only of forgiveness, but of sacrifice and a mediator.
And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath (42:7).
We should see, first, why or for what God rebukes them. It was for their words. God says, “You have not spoken of me the thing that is right.” They were rebuked by God largely for their incorrect theology.
Now Job himself had complained to them about this in chapter 13. He says in verse 4: “Ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value.” He says that they had spoken wickedly concerning God and that their words were empty and vain. And now God comes and says to the friends of Job, “I agree with what Job has said.” Now, it is not that all their theology was bad. They said some right things. They had a high view of the justice and even of the sovereignty of God. But the problem is especially that they misapply the truth concerning God to Job’s situation. Rather than comforting Job with the truth of God, they wound Job in his heart. And God’s wrath is kindled against them for this. It is not for anything that they had done in their deeds, but only for their words, for what they thought about God. Their sin is a theological problem.
There is an important warning here for us, that we should take seriously what we think and say about God, especially when we use God’s Word to teach or to comfort others. Our theology must be governed by God’s own revelation of Himself in Scripture. The many false teachers today who claim to be teachers and counselors, but misrepresent God, ought to think of God’s burning wrath here against Job’s friends for their bad theology.
The second thing we see in this rebuke is that God is sometimes angry with His own people. Job’s friends were God’s children. Their subsequent repentance and forgiveness here show that they were God’s children. But the strongest biblical language is used here against them. God says, “My wrath is kindled against thee and thy two friends.” That is the same language that is used to describe God’s burning wrath against rebellious Israel in the wilderness. God burns in anger against them.
This teaches us that we must never get the idea that because we are saved or because we are God’s people, God will simply overlook our sins, that we have a license to sin. No, God is terribly displeased with all sin, with our sin as well. So David writes in Psalm 32:3, 4 after his sin with Bathsheba and after he has been brought to repentance: “When I kept silence, thy hand was heavy on me.” If we go on in sin, even as God’s people, we should expect His wrath and His chastening, His severe hand to be against us. God will do that to bring us to repentance.
Then, third, we see here, in God’s rebuke, that in wrath, God remembers mercy. The fact that after answering Job God turns to his three friends is an act of mercy. He does not let them continue in their proud thoughts. Probably at this point they were quite pleased with themselves. They had rebuked Job, and now God has answered Job in a whirlwind, too, and Job is humbled and repentant. They probably looked at each other and said to each other (or thought with each other), “We told you so, Job.” Maybe they even expected some praise from God for their theology. But God does not let them go on in their pride. Instead, in His mercy, He confronts them. He rebukes them. He does this not only for the honor of His own name, but also because He loves them as His children.
We should remember that when we are rebuked from God’s Word. This is something for us to be thankful for, thankful for the confrontation of our sin. The prayer of the child of God is always, “Lord, make me to know my sins.” So, when we are made aware of our sins, we should be grateful and show that in repentance.
The second main thing you have in these verses is that God shows to Job’s friends the way of reconciliation. You see that in the way He lays out for them their way of forgiveness in verse 8. He says:
“Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.”
The first thing to see here is the substitutionary blood atonement sacrifice. God tells Eliphaz and his two friends to bring seven bullocks and seven rams as a burnt offering. Now, there are different kinds of offerings in the Bible. But the burnt offering symbolizes a sacrificial replacement or substitute for a sinner. Job’s friends would lay their hands on the head of each of these animals as a sign of laying their sin on it and while their hands were on the head, they would kill the animal and then burn it completely. This kind of offering and sacrifice shows that man needs someone else to take his place and to make the payment for his sins. It shows man that his sins deserve death. In the Old Testament, this type of sacrifice was a part of worship all the way back to the sacrifice that Abel made in Genesis 4.
The meaning of it is this, that when the Messiah comes to save His people, this is what He would have to do. He would have to become the sin-bearer of His people and He would have to die in their place. And so Job and his friends, in the instruction to bring a burnt offering, are pointed ahead in type and shadow to Jesus Christ, who would come as the sacrifice in their place to bear God’s wrath.
Now the fact that they brought seven of each animal is significant as well. Seven, in the Bible, is the number of completion and the number of covenant. It reminds us that God and man are reconciled and brought into covenant communion through the complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And so God puts before them the way of substitutionary blood atonement.
Then God also showed them the way of reconciliation through priestly intercession. Job’s friends are not told by God to come themselves to Him and confess their sins. But God says this: “Go to my servant Job, and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept.” Here we see God appointing Job as the priest who will intercede in behalf of his friends. Now, it is not that Job himself is sinless, but this, that Job has already confessed his sin, and been restored and accepted, and now he will act as mediator and priest between his friends, who need pardon, and God, who is holy and just and the one who forgives. They must come to God through Job.
Job, we believe, was a contemporary of Abraham. So, all this happened long before God had ordained the priesthood of Aaron in Israel. At this time it was not unusual for a man to act as a priest for others, especially a father for his children, as Job had done earlier in the book. Here God appoints Job as the priest for his friends. His priestly role here also reminds us of Christ, and it tells Job’s friends that they, and we all, need a mediator. Not only do we need forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but we also need to come to God through Jesus Christ. He makes intercession for us because God will not and cannot accept us ourselves. He accepts us only through the perfect obedience and righteousness of Jesus Christ, whom He has accepted.
So that is the gospel here in these verses for Job and for his friends. It is a beautiful picture for them of Christ, who is to come. In New Testament times, we see its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
It is beautiful also to see here that Job’s friends obeyed God and believed in Jesus Christ for their forgiveness. When God spoke to them, they did not justify themselves. But in verse 9 we read: “So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them: the Lord also accepted Job.” Here these men humbled themselves, they repent of their sins, they take and make the sacrifice, and they come to Job and ask him to pray for them. What a beautiful response to the gospel worked in their hearts by the grace of God.
Now, maybe we look at this and we say, “Well, of course, of course, they would do this. Who wouldn’t? How foolish not to, for then they would come under the wrath of God.” Here we must be humbled and realize two things ourselves. First, that it is only of grace that any one of us obeys the gospel and repents and comes to God through Jesus Christ. There are many who hear the gospel and are hardened in their sin and reject the gospel. What is it that explains this? Well, it is simply this, that God has not chosen them and not chosen to reveal and apply the gospel to them internally by the work of the Holy Spirit. It is only of grace that we believe the gospel. I Corinthians 2:14: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” And humbly, we thank God for a believing response to the gospel.
Then the other thing we should see here is that we must remember ourselves to receive God’s Word with humility, regardless of the instrument who brings it to us. God’s Word will sometimes offend us, and it will call us to see ourselves in our sin and repent. We must never let the person who brings that word to us stand in the way of our receiving it. So, we must pray that God, by His Spirit, will continually give us a humble heart to bow before His Word in repentance.
Job’s friends are reconciled to God through obedience to God’s Word. Then, along with that, they are reconciled in their relationship to Job. We should note here the graciousness of Job in receiving them and praying for them. These men had made themselves the enemies of Job. With their words they had tormented him and persecuted him and tempted him. They were the mouthpieces of Satan, who was attempting to bring Job to the point where he would curse God. And now, what does Job do when they come to him? He shows them the grace of forgiveness, which he had experienced. God had forgiven and received him. And, humbled in the knowledge and experience of God’s grace himself, he received and he prayed for his friends.
There is an important lesson there for us on forgiveness. Perhaps there is someone in your life who has sinned against you and you find it difficult to forgive him. Then you must remember what God has forgiven you in Jesus Christ and show that same grace to others. At the foot of the cross we find pardon and reconciliation with God and also with one another as believers. And, like Job, we must forgive and pray for others.
We have also in these verses the vindication of Job. In the rebuke of Job’s friends, God vindicates Job. This has been a part of Job’s request to God. And we should see that, even though God does not explain to Job the reason for his suffering, He does answer this part of Job’s request, that he be vindicated.
As God’s people, we should live before God with such a pure conscience ourselves that we are not afraid to have our lives opened up before others, so that we may be vindicated. That is what Job wanted. He is not saying, “I’m sinless.” But he is saying, “I do live uprightly before God.” And God vindicated him. You see that here in two things.
First, this. Four times Job is called in these few verses “my servant, Job.” We recognize this language from chapter 1 and 2, where God spoke to Satan and said, “Hast thou considered my servant, Job?” Now, there is a sense in which all of God’s people are servants of God. But in the Old Testament, we find that this is a special title used for just a handful of God’s people. When Moses’ authority was challenged, God said, “He’s my servant.” This is a name that is used in the book of Isaiah to speak prophetically of Jesus who is to come: “The servant of Jehovah.” And when God says this about Job, He exonerates him. He says to his friends, “Job is not a hypocrite, as you say. He is not guilty of some transgression. He does love Me and fear Me and hate and turn from evil.” God lifts Job up as an example, as one for others to look to and to respect and to listen to.
That is the way James refers to Job as well in chapter 5:11 in the New Testament. He says, “We count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job.” Job is an example.
Then the second thing here that vindicates Job is that God says of him that, in contrast to his friends, Job spoke what was right about God. Now, perhaps that seems puzzling if you are familiar with what Job had said. Job had complained that God was unfair in His treatments. Job had said that he wanted to challenge God, put God to questioning. But we must understand these few things. Job, in his theology, all the way through, was concerned about the name and the honor of God. Yes, he was confused. But through all his confusion, Job retained his faith in God and his confession and he never cursed God for what God brought into his life. And in the end, Job did repent of his hard words against God. But we should also see this, that, despite Job’s sin, God viewed him as upright, and so vindicated him.
There is a wonderful promise for God’s people here, and for God’s church in the world today. Someday God will vindicate His people. Today, they may be questioned, persecuted, and mocked. Their intentions and their name may be maligned. But there is coming a day in the future for God’s people that will be a great day of vindication. That will be the Judgment Day. The Judgment Day will not be a day for God to figure out whom to send to heaven and whom to send to hell. No, God already knows that. But the Judgment Day will be a day of vindication. God will be vindicated before all as just and right in His dealings with sinful man. And in that day Jesus Christ, who was mocked and put to death, will be vindicated. In that day all wrongs will be righted, and God’s people will hear the beautiful words from Him to them: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord.” There will not be any more questions about right and wrong in the history of this world.
That is our future as God’s people. We should keep that in mind while we live here in the present. This is what Job and his three friends had forgotten. They took their eyes off God the Judge, and they tried to figure it all out themselves here on the earth. They tried to answer what God was doing and who was right and who was wrong and what Job had done or not done. But the Bible tells us that vengeance belongs to God. We have to give place to wrath. We have to be ready in this world to be reproached unjustly for the name of Jesus Christ. And we have to do this remembering and believing that God will someday vindicate His own cause and His own people. For now, then, we must live as God’s servants. We must confess Him as sovereign. We must humbly come to Him through the blood and the intercession of His Son Jesus Christ. And we must be willing to bear reproach for His name.
May God give us, as His people, the grace to do that.
Let us pray.
Father, we give thanks for the gift of Thy Son Jesus Christ, who has come in our place as the sacrifice for our sins. We come to Thee through His blood and intercession, asking that Thou wilt give us to know that we are accepted in the Beloved. And then give us the grace to be forgiving and to leave outcomes and vindication and vengeance in Thy hand, trusting Thy sovereignty and goodness. For Jesus’ sake we pray, Amen.