I’m so glad to finally reach Job 42, the final chapter of this book. It is not that I haven’t enjoyed this study. I have. I have gleaned wonderful insights about suffering and how to support those who are experiencing suffering, but I long for justice. Finally, there is justice for Job and he is restored. I like happy endings!
FULL OF YEARS
I’ve been intrigued by the last sentence of this book which says of Job that “he died, old and full of years” (42:17). This phrase “full of years”, describes “a life that was long, successful, satisfying, and rich in God’s blessings.” (Out of the Storm and Into God’s Arms, Jill Briscoe, p.363)
This doesn’t sound like Job’s life, does it? Can a full life also be a life that has experienced great suffering?
Three other men in the Old Testament are described as old and “full of years” – Abraham (Genesis 25:8), Isaac (Genesis 35:29) and David (1 Chronicles 23:1). None of them had easy lives. Obeying God was costly for them. They also had dysfunctional families where favoritism, conflict, lying and deception caused great personal suffering.
After thinking about the lives of these men and Job, I don’t believe it is possible to have a full life without suffering.
JOB IS RESTORED
Chapter 42 records four ways Job’s life was restored:
- His relationships were restored.
All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. (42:11)
How delightful this must have been for Job! This is quite the contrast to the isolation and loneliness he experienced in the midst of his suffering which he described in 19:13-19:
- My relatives have gone away.
- My closest friends have forgotten me.
- I summon my servant, but he does not answer.
- My breath is offensive to my wife.
- I am loathsome to my own family.
- All my intimate friends detest me.
- Those I love have turned against me.
2. His wealth was restored.
In verse 12, Job’s wealth is described as “fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.”
Compare this with the number of animals he owned in 1:3 and you will see that the number has exactly doubled in chapter 42.
3. His family was restored.
Job had buried ten children. He was able to raise a second family of seven sons and three daughters, the same number of sons and daughters as he had before tragedy struck (1:2).
4. His health was restored.
Remember how Job’s health had failed? His friends who came to see him hardly recognized him (2:12). Not only did Job recover, he lived to be a 140 years old. Many scholars believe that Job was 70 when his troubles began, partly because 140 is double that and fits in with the double blessings Job experienced. Also, in Psalm 90:10, seventy years was viewed as a full life. Job’s long life was evidence of God’s blessings upon him.
It would be easy to conclude from this story that if we just persevere through our suffering that we, like Job, will experience great blessings in the end. This is not the complete equation. There is one missing factor that is found in Job 42:1-6. This is not just the bridge between Job’s life of suffering and his life of blessing. It is the turning point in Job’s life.
JOB’S TURNING POINT
Job 42:1-6 reveals that Job’s suffering has changed him, not because of what he has lost but because of what he has gained (this is before the years of blessing). He is a changed man because of his personal and profound encounter with the living God. I believe that without this inward change, there would have been no epilogue filled with blessing.
In this deeply spiritual experience,
- Job recognized God’s sovereignty:
I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (42:2)
He now submitted to God’s sovereign will even if he didn’t understand it.
- Job realized that he had been wrong.
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (42:.3)
He has been humbled by this encounter with God.
- Job’s relationship with God had deepened.
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (42:5)
Job had known about God through worship and conversations but he had just experienced God, personally and profoundly. Not only was he humbled by this experience but he also repented of his attitude (42:6). Job had accused God of being unfair and uncaring and he had been wrong.
Once Job humbled himself and recognized that God knew what he was doing even if Job did not, God restored him as His servant. Twice in chapter one and two of this book, God referred to Job as “my servant Job” (1:8;2:3). In 42:7-9, God refers to Job as His servant four times.
His suffering and new insight increased his capacity to serve God and minister to others. Whereas in chapter 1:5, Job ministered to his family by offering sacrifices on behalf of his children, he now was called upon to receive the sacrifices of his repentant friends and intercede for them.
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 the truth about me, 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 the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what theLord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. (42:7-9)
This was when Job’s future changed.
After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. (42:10)
Both Job and his friends were guilty of saying wrong things about God. They accused God of doing wrong. They put God in a box and could not understand when He did not behave as they had expected Him to. I find it intriguing that even though all four were guilty, it was only upon Job that God poured out His blessings. That was because it had cost Job so much more.
God does not promise to repay us in kind for all that we lose in our suffering, as He did with Job. However, He does promise to bless abundantly those who experience losses as they serve Him. These blessings may be experienced in this life or in the life to come (Mark 10:29-30).
SEEING THE BIG PICTURE
Perhaps you are not seeing blessings coming from your pain and suffering. Remember that for Job it was not instant restoration. It took years. Job saw it in his lifetime but not everyone does. Robert Jermain Thomas didn’t.
Thomas, a Welsh man who loved the Lord, offered himself for missionary service in 1861. When he heard that Bibles were needed in Korea he decided to take Chinese Bibles to the Koreans. (The Bible was translated into Chinese in 1819. There was no Korean translation at the time.). In 1866 Thomas boarded the American trade/warship the SS General Sherman and reached Pyongyang which today is in North Korea. The Koreans attacked the foreign warship. Thomas, fearing losing all the Bibles scooped up as many as he could, climbed into a boat and reached the shore. Shortly after landing he was killed. He was 27 years old.
If you take this as a snapshot of the life of Thomas you would conclude that his efforts and his life were wasted, but the story does not end there. One of the Bibles Thomas brought to shore ended up in the hands of one of the governing officials, Pak Yong-Sik. He did not know what the book was but put it to practical use by using its pages to wallpaper his home.
Another Bible was taken by Choe Chi Rang, an 11-year-old boy who had come with his uncle to see the ship and the foreigners. Years later, Choe bought the home of the official. When the first American Presbyterian missionary arrived in Korea in 1891, he was surprised to find the Bible literally on the walls of this home. He was able to explain the gospel using these very words and a church was formed. Today, the largest Christian churches in the world are found in South Korea.
God’s ways indeed are mysterious and marvelous, beyond our understanding. If we in the midst of suffering can remember that we are part of God’s bigger plan and trust Him with our lives, then we will be able to say that both these statements are true – “The Lord took away. My life became full.”