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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 13

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Job Challenges His Critics

A. Job's challenge to his critics.

1. (Job 13:1-12) Job's strong rebuke to his friends.

"Behold, my eye has seen all this,
My ear has heard and understood it.
What you know, I also know;
I am not inferior to you.
But I would speak to the Almighty,
And I desire to reason with God.
But you forgers of lies,
You are all worthless physicians.
Oh, that you would be silent,
And it would be your wisdom!
Now hear my reasoning,
And heed the pleadings of my lips.
Will you speak wickedly for God,
And talk deceitfully for Him?
Will you show partiality for Him?
Will you contend for God?
Will it be well when He searches you out?
Or can you mock Him as one mocks a man?
He will surely rebuke you
If you secretly show partiality.
Will not His excellence make you afraid,
And the dread of Him fall upon you?
Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes,
Your defenses are defenses of clay."

a. Behold, my eye has seen all this … What you know, I also know: Job here complained against the claim of superior knowledge on the part of his friends. To them - especially perhaps to Zophar - the situation seemed so simple; therefore Job must be somewhat ignorant to see what they believed was so easy to see.

b. I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God: Job here developed a theme that would end with a virtual demand that God make sense of his suffering. God's response to Job's demand (and Job's response to God's response) makes up the last few chapters of the book.

i. We sense the deep frustration in Job that prompted this plea, "I desire to reason with God." It was bad enough when he could make no sense of his situation; but it was worse when his friends persistently insisted on their own wrong answer to Job's crisis. As much as anything, it was their insistence that prompted Job to demand an answer (and vindication with it) from God.

c. You forgers of lies, you are all worthless physicians: The same devastating frustration that led Job to wish he were dead now leads him in bitter response to his friends' accusations.

i. We can sympathize with Job's situation and turmoil, all the while recognizing that we are called to a better standard than Job: Repay no one evil for evil (Romans 12:17; see also 1 Peter 2:21-23).

d. Will you speak wickedly for God … Will you contend for God? Job's friends were very confident in their ability to speak for God; but since what they said was not true, they actually misrepresented them. They acted like lawyers on God's behalf; but since they did not truly represent Him, Job could rightly ask: "Will it be well when He searches you out?"

i. "Job warned them about lying even while they uttered beautiful words in defense of God. If they were going to plead God's case, they had better do it honestly. God would judge them for their deceit even if they used it in his behalf (Job 13:8-9)." (Smick)

e. He will surely rebuke you if you secretly show partiality: The partiality Job's friends showed was toward themselves. Job knew they would never want to be treated the way they were treating Job.

f. Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes: The friends of Job claimed to know wisdom and speak wisely; Job dismissed their supposed guidance as mere platitudes. Their wisdom had no substance, no use, and left Job feeling burned-over - truly, proverbs of ashes.

i. "The idea is that men may argue in defence of God upon false lines, through limited knowledge. That is exactly what these men had been doing. The result was that they were unjust to Job. They did not know it: they did not intend that it should be so. But it was so." (Morgan)

2. (Job 13:13-19) Job's confidence in God and his own integrity.

"Hold your peace with me, and let me speak,
Then let come on me what may!
Why do I take my flesh in my teeth,
And put my life in my hands?
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.
Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.
He also shall be my salvation,
For a hypocrite could not come before Him.
Listen carefully to my speech,
And to my declaration with your ears.
See now, I have prepared my case,
I know that I shall be vindicated.
Who is he who will contend with me?
If now I hold my tongue, I perish."

a. Hold your peace with me, and let me speak: Perhaps at this point Job's friends tried to interrupt him, or said their own words of protest. Job demanded the right to finish his statement.

b. Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him: This is the attitude that will see Job through his past and present crises. He did not understand any of his situation and felt that God was against him, not for him (as in Job 9:28 and 10:16-17). At the same time, he could still exclaim: yet I will trust Him.

i. "I have no dependence but God; I trust him alone. Should he even destroy my life by this affliction, yet will I hope that when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." (Clarke)

ii. Writing fictionally in the voice of a senior demon instructing a junior demon in his popular book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis stated - from a demon's perspective - this dynamic of trial in the life of the believer: "He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

iii. "It is well worthy of observation that in these words Job answered both the accusations of Satan and the charges of his friends. Though I do not know that Job was aware that the devil had said, 'Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not set a hedge about him and all that he hath?' Yet he answered that base suggestion in the ablest possible manner, for he did in effect say, 'Though God should pull down my hedge, and lay me bare as the wilderness itself, yet will I cling to him in firmest faith.'" (Spurgeon)

iv. "There are three things in the text: a terrible supposition - "though he slay me"; a noble resolution, "yet will I trust in him"; and, thirdly, a secret appropriateness. This last will require a little looking into, but I hope to make it clear that there is a great appropriateness in our trusting while God is slaying us - the two things go well together, though it may not so appear." (Spurgeon)

v. Charles Spurgeon listed several reasons why he thought that "slaying times" were good times.

- Such times show us that we are really His sons and daughters, because He only chastens His children.
- Such times - slaying times - are when real faith is created.
- Such times are when God tests and affirms our faith.
- Such times are when we can grow in faith.
- Such times allow the child of God to prove that they are not a mercenary professor of faith.

vi. "Once more, the grim supposition of the text, if ever it was realized by anybody it was realized by our Lord Jesus. Our great covenant Head knows to the full what his members suffer. God did slay him, and glory be to his blessed name, he trusted God while he was being slain." (Spurgeon)

c. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. . . . I know that I shall be vindicated: Before his crisis, Job believed himself to be a blameless and upright man, as indeed he was (Job 1:1 and 1:8). He steadfastly clung to this believe throughout all his experience of calamity, and through all the protests and arguments of his friends. Even before God, he would defend his own ways - not in arrogance, but in determined connection with reality.

i. In this Job is a remarkable example of a man who will not forfeit what he knows to be true in the midst of the storm. This is actually an area of great difficulty; because such storms are undeniably helpful in shaking us from wrong beliefs. Some who have felt they had Job's determination to hold on to the truth actually merely were sinfully stubborn. Yet Job did not question the concept of truth or his ability to know it; he knew that God himself would agree that Job's disaster did not come upon him because of special or severe sin; he knew God himself would agree that Job was a blameless and upright man (Job 1:1 and 1:8).

d. If now I hold my tongue, I perish: In one sense, it seems that Job felt that this determined connection to truth and reality was all he had. He had lost everything, including his sense of spiritual well-being. All he had was the truth, and he felt that if he let go of that to simply stop the argument or to please his friends, he would perish.

B. Job's appeal to God.

1. (Job 13:20-27) Job asks God to tell him if sin is indeed the cause of his suffering.

"Only two things do not do to me,
Then I will not hide myself from You:
Withdraw Your hand far from me,
And let not the dread of You make me afraid.
Then call, and I will answer;
Or let me speak, then You respond to me.
How many are my iniquities and sins?
Make me know my transgression and my sin.
Why do You hide Your face,
And regard me as Your enemy?
Will You frighten a leaf driven to and fro?
And will You pursue dry stubble?
For You write bitter things against me,
And make me inherit the iniquities of my youth.
You put my feet in the stocks,
And watch closely all my paths.
You set a limit for the soles of my feet."

a. Do not … Withdraw Your hand far from me: Earlier, Job had told God that he just wanted to be left alone (Job 7:16). Now he shows that this previous feeling was just a feeling, and that really he did not want God to withdraw His hand far from him.

i. This shows that at least in a small sense, Job understood that God's hand was sustaining him in the midst of this great trial. We understand his feeling of abandonment; yet Job can grudgingly admit that God's hand has been with him in the fire of affliction.

ii. Then I will not hide myself from You: "Job has never hidden from God and has no intention of doing so. On the contrary, it is the hiddenness of God that is horrifying him. Cain's identical words in Genesis 4:14 describe his expulsion by God from His company. This is what Job things has happened to him (Job 13:24 - clearly God's act), and he can neither understand nor endure it." (Andersen)

b. Let not the dread of You make me afraid: Here we sense the value that Job placed upon his personal connection with God, and worried that this present season would destroy it. Job wanted restored communication with God (Then call, and I will answer).

i. The fear Job was concerned about was not the good and proper fear of God; instead, this was prompted by dread. The wrong kind of fear of God is afraid that God will hurt us; the right kind is afraid that we will hurt God.

c. Make me know my transgression and my sin: Job has steadfastly held to his own innocence, in the sense that there was no special or severe sin that prompted his recent cataclysm of suffering, and despite the eloquent pleas of his friends. At the same time, he will allow for the possibility that he is wrong. Therefore, he prayed this wonderful prayer, asking God to show him his iniquities and sins.

i. Job's words here catch the attitude of the later Psalmist: Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

d. Why do You hide Your face, and regard me as Your enemy: Again, we sense Job's agony. He longed for restored communication and communion with God, but felt as though God was hiding from him and regarded him as an enemy.

i. "If God would only stop tormenting him and communicate, Job felt all would end well." (Smick)

e. Will You frighten a leaf driven to and fro? "It is a common figure he uses, that of a leaf driven to and fro. Strong gusts of wind, it may be in the autumn when the leaves hang but lightly upon the trees, send them falling in showers around us; quite helpless to stay their own course, fluttering in the air to and fro, like winged birds that cannot steer themselves, but are guided by every fitful blast that blows upon them, at last they sink into the mire, to be trodden down and forgotten. To them Job likens himself-a helpless, hopeless, worthless, weak, despised, perishing thing." (Spurgeon)

i. O my brethren, what a great blessing it is to be made to know our own weakness. To empty the sinner of his folly, his vanity and conceit is no easy matter. Christ can easily fill him with wisdom and prudence, but to get him empty-this is the work; this is the difficulty. (Spurgeon)

f. You write bitter things against me, and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth: This is another example of the truth that Job did not believe himself to be without sin. Instead, he recognized the iniquities of my youth and feared that God was now charging these sins against him.

i. For You write bitter things against me: "The suggestion has been made that God is a doctor, writing a prescription for bitter medicine; or a judge, prescribing bitter punishment; or recording Job's bitter crimes. . . . The writing is the decree allocating bitter things to Job."

g. You put my feet in the stocks: Because he felt that God was against him, Job felt completely hindered and fenced-in by God. He felt as if his feet were limited and his paths were closely watched.

h. You set a limit for the soles of my feet: This is literally, You inscribe a print on my feet. Bullinger translates, "Making Thy mark upon my very feet, and comments: "As owners of cattle and camels, etc., put their mark upon the hoof, so that it may be known and traced."

2. (Job 13:28) Job laments the frailty of man.

"Man decays like a rotten thing,
Like a garment that is moth-eaten.

a. Man decays like a rotten thing: Job's eloquent meditation on the greatness of God (especially in Job 12, earlier in this same speech) certainly elevated God. But it also made man, by comparison, seem like a rotten thing.

i. Job essentially agreed with Zophar's understanding of the depravity of man (Job 11:5-6); his disagreement was with Zophar's application of that doctrine to Job's circumstance.

b. Like a garment that is moth-eaten: Job's statement was more than a poetic description of the depravity of man in general; it was a discouraged sigh over his own condition. Job was the one decaying like a rotten thing; Job was like a garment that is moth-eaten. Zophar could talk about it; Job was living it.

© 2007 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Study Guide for Esther 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Psalm 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Job 12 ← Prior Chapter
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