The Book of Job is essentially about our ignorant self-righteous judgments. Job’s three friends were good friends. Remember, they had sat with Job for a week, mourning with their friend, without saying a word. However, in ignorance, they judged him guilty of having committed terrible sins, wrongly convinced that his sins had brought Job’s great misfortunes upon him.
The friends understood far less than they thought they did. Their understanding of God had been too limited, and their understanding of Job was both degrading and totally off-base.
Instead, Job had been the most righteous of men, but he too had judged God wrongly:
• Job 9:21-24 "Although I am blameless, I have no concern for myself; I despise my own life. It is all the same; that is why I say, 'He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.' When a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks the despair of the innocent. When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds its judges. If it is not he, then who is it?”
• Job 10:2-3 “I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?’”
• Job 27:2-6 "As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul.”
• Job 16:12-17 All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target; his archers surround me. Without pity, he pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground. Again and again he bursts upon me; he rushes at me like a warrior…yet my hands have been free of violence and my prayer is pure.
Had Job been judging himself correctly? Not according to the narrative:
• Job 32:1-5 These three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God.
At this point, the prophetic Elihu began to speak, and he accused Job of self-righteousness:
• Job 33:8-12 "But you have said in my hearing--I heard the very words-- 'I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt. Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy. He fastens my feet in shackles; he keeps close watch on all my paths.' But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than man.”
Preparing Job for his confrontation with the One whom Job had been accusing, Elihu charged that humankind does not have the wisdom to bring indictments against God:
• Job 37:19-21 "Tell us what we should say to him; we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness. Should he [God] be told that I want to speak? Would any man ask to be swallowed up? Now no one can look at the sun, bright as it is in the skies after the wind has swept them clean.
If we are unable to look at the sun, how can we expect to look at God accusingly? Only someone who has an inflated estimation of his understanding would attempt to do so.
In many ways, God, who then came upon Job in a whirlwind, affirmed Elihu’s denunciation of Job:
• Job 38:1-2 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
In order to make His point clear, God asked Job a series of questions, which Job could not even begin to answer. The lesson was clear – Job lacked the understanding to bring indictments against God:
• Job 40:8 "Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?
This is exactly what Job had been doing, and this is what we do when we have to experience trials. Since we lack understanding, we blame God. However, even the most righteous need God’s correcting fires, as Elihu had explained to Job:
• Job 33:13-18 Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man's words? For God does speak--now one way, now another--though man may not perceive it…. to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.
Job had been prideful and self-righteous. In love, God had been correcting him so that Job would not perish. However, Job had only blame for God and asserted his own righteousness. However, God used these afflictions to bring Job to repentance twice:
• Job 40:4-5 "I am unworthy (“vile” NKJV)--how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer--twice, but I will say no more."
• Job 42:3-6 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."
Meanwhile, The Jewish Study Bible comments that “Suffering is Incomprehensible!” Accordingly, Job had nothing to confess or repent of. They too are judging God wrongly, leaning to their own very limited understanding.
God also corrected the judgments of Job’s three friends:
• Job 42:7-8 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has."
The friends had misjudged both God and Job and needed correction. However, it seems that God contradicts Himself. Twice, He charged that the friends “have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” However, before this, He had charged Job with NOT speaking rightly about Him.
Contradiction? Not really! Why not? When we confess our sin, He forgives and cleanses us (1 John 1:9). Job had learned his lesson, and God had wiped his slate clean. “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).