The prepared text of this morning’s sermon at First Baptist Church of Niagara Falls is below. The video of the service is above. The story of Job is often a favorite of Christians who suffer but the ending (“the latter days of Job” as they’re called in Job 42:12) isn’t always well-received. My commentary on Job is available on this site. Click here for one such post. In Sunday School we have been exploring Genesis 1. Here’s the handout that I mentioned sharing with the class.
A lot of people don’t like the end of Job. It sounds too good to be true. It defies personal experiences of lifelong suffering. It doesn’t answer our questions about suffering or even many of the questions raised by the book itself. For some it proves Satan’s charge is true that Job fears God for no reason. Most overlook that God restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends. The Lectionary even skips the verses where Job serves as their priest. But God didn’t restore Job’s fortunes before this priestly work. God didn’t restore Job’s fortunes when Job saw God and stopped wallowing in dust and ashes. This is why Satan’s charge is false. Of course, if the story ended when Job saw God then we wouldn’t see Job intercede as a priest for his friends like Israel was supposed to do in exile for the nations. And we wouldn’t hear how Job received double what he had before in the latter days. Indeed, the story of Job parallels other Bible stories and thus is relevant to our story too. So listen to the whole end of the story:
story of Job parallels Isaiah’s story of Israel as the suffering
- Job is described as God’s suffering servant. In the beginning of the book, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you” (Job 1:14-15). The Sabeans refers to people from a distant land to the east. They are also mentioned in Isaiah 45:14 and Joel 3:8. Another messenger came a short time later saying, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you” (Job 1:17). These nations had sinned in attacking Job. God called Job “my servant” twice in the beginning two chapters (Job 1:8 and 2:3) saying to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” And he suffered greatly as a result—including these two attacks. The second time God asked Satan that He added, “He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then we see in the latter days of Job that God restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. Job received twice as much as he had before—including these brothers and sisters who each brought him money and a gold ring. The doubling of the sheep, camels, yoke of oxen, and donkeys, are all examples of the restitution owed to Job by the Sabeans and Chaldeans for what they took from him. Exodus 22 describes restitution as paying double the value of the things stolen. And in the latter days God calls Job “my servant” four times. (Job is described these ways to make him sound like Israel. Job is a type of Israel. For,…)
- Israel is also the suffering servant of God. Israel was carried off into exile by the Assyrians and the Babylonians and continued in exile under the Medes and Persians who came from far to the east. The Babylonians are also known as Chaldeans. You may remember that Abram was called out of Ur of the Chaldeans (Gen 11:31). While God in His holiness had sent these nations to afflict Israel, the Assyrians and Babylonians sinned by attacking God’s people and carrying them off into exile. Nevertheless, the prophets encouraged the faithful in Israel who were living in exile to pray for the people ruling over them. They were like priests for the nations among whom they lived. The phrase “restored the fortunes of” in Job 42:10 is the language throughout Scripture for return from exile in the latter days. Isaiah also spoke of Israel receiving double at that time: Isaiah 61 says Israel would receive a double portion (Isa 61:7, cf. Zech 9:12). The gold rings and money that Job received sounds like the kind of spoil that the Egyptians voluntarily gave the people of Israel when they left captivity in Exodus. And God uses the phrase “my servant” multiple times from Isaiah 41-53 when speaking of His suffering servant. (Thus the story of Job parallels the prophesied story of Israel as the suffering servant. But even though God’s suffering servant in Isaiah is often spoken of as Israel, it also clearly speaks of the suffering servant as an individual person like Job and ultimately like Jesus.)
story of Job parallels the story of Jesus.
- Job suffered unjustly from Satan’s attacks but endured to the end and was vindicated by God. Job wasn’t sinless—that’s why he offered sacrifices for himself—but he was blameless and innocent before God. His suffering wasn’t due to any sin he had committed. His friends were wrong in assuming that he had to be suffering because he had sinned. They had not spoken of God what is right. Job doesn’t repent of sin in this passage, he repents of wallowing in dust and ashes and decides not to do so anymore. Job does admit that he has been speaking about things that he couldn’t understand—he says, “things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3). This sounds a lot like Psalm 131:1 and 139:6. Psalm 131, a song of ascents, of David, begins, “O YHWH, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” Psalm 139, another psalm of David, says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.” And Job says that he sees God with his eye. He becomes a priest for his friends and intercedes in prayer for them before God restores his fortunes in the latter days. But the story ends with the death of Job. He lived 140 more years, which some interpreted as meaning that he was already 70 years old at the time since he received double of everything else. He saw four generations and thus met a whole lot of his descendants. But even so, the story ends with his death. He died an old man and full of days—much the same language that’s used for Isaac in Genesis 35:29 and for David and Solomon in Chronicles. (Job is described these ways to make him sound like Jesus—and yet to fall short of Jesus. Job is a type of Jesus.)
- Jesus suffered unjustly from Satan’s attacks but endured to the end and was vindicated by God. He fulfilled Isaiah 61 and all the rest of Isaiah’s prophecies about the suffering servant. He Himself didn’t sin but He suffered. He asked that the cup might pass from Him but submitted to the will of the Father (cf. Matt 26:39). Job’s friends were not much different from the people who scoffed at Jesus during His crucifixion. Jesus is a priest. Jesus interceded for those people who scoffed at Him during His crucifixion. He asked God to forgive them while dying on the cross. And Jesus experienced the exile personally when dying on the cross. He suffered the “evil” or disaster that the Father had brought upon Him. But His resurrection was His vindication. God pronounced a verdict of innocent of all charges when raising Jesus from the dead. And that was only the beginning of His restoration of fortunes in the latter days. God gave Him authority over everything in heaven and on earth (cf. Matt 28:18). The blessings of the true return from exile—the true restoration of fortunes—made the restitution that Job received pale in comparison. Indeed, the story doesn’t end with the death of Jesus. Praise God—even those like His daughters get to share in the inheritance. (So Job sounds like Israel and Jesus, but Job was a Gentile. And although Jesus is one individual, as King of Israel and Son of God, He represents His people—Jews and Gentiles. So it is unsurprising that…)
story of Job parallels the story of the church.
- Usually the wife of a patriarch is the type of the church in Genesis and Exodus, but in this book it is not Job’s wife but Job himself who is the type of the church. That’s probably why his wife is not even mentioned in this chapter. Her absence in the chapter has been pointed out by many for a long time because people wonder whatever happened to her. You may remember that Job’s wife told him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” And Job rebuked her saying, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” And we’re told, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9-10). It is unclear whether this wife who spoke “as one of the foolish women would speak” is the mother of the seven sons and three daughters at the end of the story. There is at least one ancient story that isn’t in the Bible that says he remarried Jacob’s daughter Dinah. But the fact that the book of Job is silent about his wife makes it more likely that he himself is the type of the church in the book. The form of the word seven for the number of his sons is odd too—it is different than the time Job was said to have seven sons at the beginning of the book. Here it may be a combination of the words seven and two—so it could mean fourteen and some have taken it that way even though that’s not the normal way to write fourteen or I’m inclined to think that it means a second seven, especially because there are only three daughters both times. Lest you object because everything else is double, ten more children is double when you consider that the first ten children will also rise from the dead at the final resurrection. Thus Job had a full number of ten children at the beginning of the book and now he again has ten living children at the end of the book—a perfect number of sons and three special daughters. Like in the census in Numbers, restoration includes a return to the number of people who were living before an exile. Given the fact that Job’s beautiful daughters are named and get to inherit, they must have been women of great faith like the five daughters who inherited in Numbers. And their great beauty suggests that they are types of new churches that he has planted. (But one detail that makes Job an even better type of the church is that he’s a Gentile and the church includes Jews and Gentiles.)
- Like Job, the church suffers injustice, exercises the priesthood of all believers by interceding for others, lives in exile and in the latter days, and enjoys the blessings of God and looks forward to the blessings to come. One way that things are a little different is that the latter days have already begun since Jesus rose from the dead. Indeed, our restoration of fortunes began with His resurrection from the dead. Nevertheless, we recognize that we also live in exile and we are still waiting for vindication on the last day. Job is a type of the church today for we forgive others as we have been forgiven. Job is a type of the church today for we who believe in Jesus are all priests. We are God’s suffering servant and share Christ’s sufferings (cf. Rom 8:17, 2 Cor 1:5, Phil 1:29, 3:10, 1 Pet 2:21, 4:13), which is one reason that the book of Job resonates with many Christians. The blessings we have received are even better than double restitution but the ones to come will make these also pale in comparison. And like Job, many of us are Gentiles who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin and death. That’s one of the reasons that the brides of the patriarchs and Joseph and Moses are Gentiles. We, Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus, are the bride of Christ. As the apostle Peter tells us, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Pet 4:16). Thanks be to God. Amen.