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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 9

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Job's Reply to Bildad

A. Job's frustration with the power and majesty of God.

1. (Job 9:1-13) Job praises the wisdom and strength of God, though it means that God is beyond his ability to know.

Then Job answered and said:
"Truly I know it is so,
But how can a man be righteous before God?
If one wished to contend with Him,
He could not answer Him one time out of a thousand.
God is wise in heart and mighty in strength.
Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?
He removes the mountains, and they do not know
When He overturns them in His anger;
He shakes the earth out of its place,
And its pillars tremble;
He commands the sun, and it does not rise;
He seals off the stars;
He alone spreads out the heavens,
And treads on the waves of the sea;
He made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades,
And the chambers of the south;
He does great things past finding out,
Yes, wonders without number.
If He goes by me, I do not see Him;
If He moves past, I do not perceive Him;
If He takes away, who can hinder Him?
Who can say to Him, 'What are You doing?'
God will not withdraw His anger,
The allies of the proud lie prostrate beneath Him."

a. Truly I know it is so: Job's answer to Bildad seems so much more gracious than the hard words Bildad had for Job in the previous chapter. He began by agreeing with Bildad's general premise: that God rewards the righteous and corrects (or judges) sinners.

b. But how can a man be righteous before God? Job's response to Bildad was wisely stated. Job obviously suffered more than normal; yet no one could rightly accuse him of sinning more than normal. If Job was not righteous before God, then how could any man be?

i. It is important for us to understand that the Bible speaks of human righteousness in two senses.

- A man can be righteous in a relative sense, where one can properly be considered as righteous among men as both Noah (Genesis 7:1) and Job (Job 1:1) were so considered.
- A man can be righteous in a forensic (legal) sense, declared and considered righteous by God through faith (Romans 5:19)

ii. Job's question here concerns the first aspect of righteousness, though it is also relevant to the other aspect of righteousness. Job primarily wanted to know, "If I have not been righteous enough to escape the judgment of God, then who can be?"

iii. Yet in the ultimate sense, Job's question is the most important question in the world. How can a man find God's approval? How can a man be considered righteous and not guilty before God?

c. If one wished to contend with Him, he could not answer Him one time out of a thousand: Job understood that man could not debate with God or demand answers from him. Sadly, this will become the basic sin of Job in the story, the sin he repented of in Job 42:1-6.

i. "Here the word contend is the technical term for conducting a law-suit." (Andersen)

d. He made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south: Job praised the great might of God, who created the worlds and put the sun and stars in the sky. Yet the might of God was no comfort to Job; it just made him feel that God was more distant than ever.

i. Chambers of the south: "The most remote, hidden, and secret parts of the south; so called, because the stars which are under the southern pole are hidden from us, and are enclosed and lodged as in a chamber." (Trapp)

ii. "G. Schiaparelli … notes that as a result of precession many stars that were visible on the southern horizon in Palestine are no longer visible there." (Smick)

e. Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered? Job agreed with the basic premise of Bildad, that one is never blessed by hardening one's self against God. Yet Job did not think that this principle applied to himself in this situation, because he knew in his heart that he had not hardened himself against God.

f. He does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number: Job considered the great works of God in the universe, and how they displayed the majesty and power of God. Yet this understanding of the greatness and might of God did not comfort Job; it made him feel that God was too great to either notice (If He goes by me, I do not see Him) or care and help Job (God will not withdraw His anger).

i. It was as if Job cried out, "Why is God so hard to figure out?" His friends did not think that God was hard to figure out; the problem was simple to them. Job had sinned in some bad an unusual way, therefore all this disaster came upon him. Yet Job, knowing not all the truth (as revealed in Job 1-2), but at least knowing his own heart and integrity, knew that God was not so simple to figure out.

g. The allies of the proud lie prostrate beneath Him: As Mason demonstrates, there are many thoughts in this passage that connect with Jesus.

- We read that God treads on the waves of the sea; Jesus walks on the water.
- We read that God made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and star was made to announce the birth of Jesus.
- We read that God does great things past finding out, yes wonders without number and Jesus did uncountable miracles and great things.
- We read that God moves past, and I do not perceive Him, and Jesus could pass through an angry crowd as if He were invisible (John 8:59).
- We read that no one can say to God, "What are You doing?" and in the life of Jesus it would come to pass that no one dared ask Him any more questions (Mark 12:34).
- We read that God will not withdraw His anger, so we are not surprised that sometimes Jesus showed anger.
- We read it is said of God, the allies of the proud lie prostrate beneath him, and so also evil spirits fell prostrate at the feet of Jesus (Mark 3:11).

i. "What wonderful irony there is in seeing Job set out to describe the immortal and invisible God, and in the process paint a stunningly accurate portrayal of the earthly Jesus!" (Mason)

ii. In the very chapter where Job seems to beg for Jesus to come in all His offices (Job 9:32-33), he also powerfully and accurately anticipated Jesus coming. (Mason)

2. (Job 9:14-20) Job wonders how to answer such a mighty God.

"How then can I answer Him,
And choose my words to reason with Him?
For though I were righteous, I could not answer Him;
I would beg mercy of my Judge.
If I called and He answered me,
I would not believe that He was listening to my voice.
For He crushes me with a tempest,
And multiplies my wounds without cause.
He will not allow me to catch my breath,
But fills me with bitterness.
If it is a matter of strength, indeed He is strong;
And if of justice, who will appoint my day in court?
Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me;
Though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse."

a. How then can I answer Him: Job's problem is clear; he understood that God is righteous and mighty; what he can't understand is how God will use that righteousness or might to help Job. God seemed distant and impersonal to Job, and to many who suffer.

b. He crushes me with a tempest, and multiplies my wounds without cause: Job felt that God's might was against him, not for him. In this sense it did no good for Job to consider the awesome power of God, because that power seemed to be set against him.

i. "When Job says he is guiltless, he is not claiming to be sinless. He's not espousing moral perfection. Just relative innocence. He doesn't believe he's done anything to deserve this kind of treatment." (Lawson)

ii. "Job saw God's power as if it were amoral, a sovereign freedom, an uncontrollable power that works mysteriously to do whatever he wills so that no one can stop him and ask, 'What are you doing?'" (Smick)

c. Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me: If Job were to proclaim his own righteousness it would not be true. If he were to proclaim his own righteousness, the words themselves would be evidence of enough pride and arrogance to condemn him. If he were to proclaim his own righteousness, he would say that God is wrong about man.

i. "Years ago, there was, as old man, in Wiltshire, who according to his own statement, was a hundred and three years of age, he had never neglected his parish church, he had brought up eleven children, and had no help from the parish, and he expected that, by-and-by, he should go home to God, for 'he had never done anything wrong in his life that he knowed about.' 'But,' said someone to him, 'you are a sinner, you know.' 'I know I ain't,' he said. 'Well, but God says that you are.' And what, think you, did that old man reply? He said, 'God may say what he likes, but I know I ain't.' So, you see, he even contradicted God himself, and is not that a great sin for anybody to commit?" (Spurgeon)

ii. Job 9:20 says that if a man justifies himself, his own mouth will condemn him. Romans 8:33-34 tells us that if God justifies a man, then none can condemn him.

d. Though I were righteous … Though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse: Job gave eloquent voice to his exasperation. He felt as though there was nothing he could do to please God or come into His favor again.

i. "Indeed, the only accusation he will listen to will be one from God Himself. But if God does enter into litigation, then Job is worried that he will not be able to carry out his defence triumphantly." (Andersen)

B. Job longs for a mediator between himself and God

1. (Job 9:21-24) He explains his own inability to defend himself before God

"I am blameless, yet I do not know myself;
I despise my life.
It is all one thing;
Therefore I say, 'He destroys the blameless and the wicked.'
If the scourge slays suddenly,
He laughs at the plight of the innocent.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked.
He covers the faces of its judges.
If it is not He, who else could it be?"

a. I am blameless, yet I do not know myself: Job gave vent to his tortured feelings. He genuinely believed that he was blameless, yet at the same time he admitted that he did not know himself well enough to have a completely clear conscience.

i. "So the sense is, Though God should give sentence for me, yet I should be so overwhelmed with the dread and terror of the Divine Majesty, that I should be weary of my life." (Poole)

b. He laughs at the plight of the innocent: Job felt that not only was God distant and silent, but He was also having sport at the expense of godly sufferers like Job.

i. "As one is startled by a shriek, or saddened by a groan, so these sharp utterances of Job astonish us at first, and then awake our pity. . . . Physical sufferings had produced a strain on Job's mind, and he sought relief by expressing his anguish. Like some solitary prisoner in the gloomy keep of an old castle, he carves on the walls pictures of the abject despondencies which haunt him. His afflictions are aggravated by vain efforts to alleviate them: he wounds his hand with the rough hammer and nail with which he is engraving his griefs. Of such tortures many of us have had a taste." (Spurgeon)

ii. We must remember that all we know so well about Job's situation from chapters 1 and 2 was completely unknown to Job at this time. He describes the world as how it looks to him. From what Job can see of God, "His outward carriage is the same to both; he neglects the innocent, and seems not to answer their prayers, and suffers them to perish with others, as if he took pleasure in their ruin also." (Poole)

iii. The developing spiritual crisis in Job has to do with his misapprehension of God. Tozer wrote, "The most important thing about you is what comes into your mind when you think of God." Job's conception of God was becoming - quite understandably - twisted by his own experience and imagination. "This God of Job's imagination was worse than morally indifferent; he even mocked the despair of the innocent and blocked the administering of justice." (Smick)

c. If it is not He, who else could it be? Job's logic was solid. He understood that his situation could be traced back to God.

i. Clarke on the earth is given into the hands of the wicked: "Is it not most evident that the worst men possess most of this world's goods, and that the righteous are scarcely ever in power or affluence? This was the case in Job's time; it is the case still. Therefore prosperity and adversity in this life are no marks either of God's approbation or disapprobation."

2. (Job 9:25-31) Job's strong sense of condemnation.

"Now my days are swifter than a runner;
They flee away, they see no good.
They pass by like swift ships,
Like an eagle swooping on its prey.
If I say, 'I will forget my complaint,
I will put off my sad face and wear a smile,'
I am afraid of all my sufferings;
I know that You will not hold me innocent.
If I am condemned,
Why then do I labor in vain?
If I wash myself with snow water,
And cleanse my hands with soap,
Yet You will plunge me into the pit,
And my own clothes will abhor me."

a. Now my days are swifter than a runner: Job felt that his life was spinning and running completely out of control. Time moved fast and was like a hostile predator against him (like an eagle swooping on its prey).

i. Job felt that his life was passing by so quickly that his days would be over and God would leave this whole matter unresolved.

ii. "So transitory is our time: redeem it, therefore. It is reported of Ignatius, that when he heard a clock strike, he would say, Here is one hour more now past that I have to answer for." (Trapp)

b. I know that You will not hold me innocent: Job felt that he had already been tried and condemned by God, and that it would even do him no good to cleanse himself before God. If he did, he believed that God would just plunge him into the pit again.

i. "Job's experience told him that sometimes God crushes the innocent for no reason at all. We who are privileged to see the drama from the divine perspective know that Job was innocent and that God did have a cause, a cause beyond the purview of Job, a cause that could not be revealed to Job at the moment." (Smick)

c. If I wash myself with snow water: Spurgeon saw the washing with snow water as a description of the vain things that sinners do to justify themselves and cleanse themselves of their sin.

- Snow water is hard to get, and therefore considered more precious.
- Snow water has a reputation for purity, and is thought therefore to be more able to cleanse.
- Snow water comes down from the heavens and not up from the earth, and is thought to be more "spiritual."

i. Snow water and soap each speak of great effort to be pure. One can use purest water and the strongest soap, but it is still impossible to cleanse one's sin by one's self.

d. Yet You will plunge me into the pit: The more Job considered the greatness of God, the more he felt plunged into a pit of depravity.

i. God may plunge a man into the pit to see his true sinfulness in many different ways.

- He may bring the memory of old sins to remembrance.
- He may allow the man to be greatly tempted and thus to know his weakness.
- He may reveal to the man how imperfect all his works are.
- He may make the man to understand the spiritual character of the law.
- He may display His great holiness to the man.

ii. "When the Lord, the Holy Spirit, convinces a man of sin, the words of Job are none too strong: 'Mine own clothes shall abhor me.' You may sometimes have abhorred your clothes because they were so dirty that. you were ashamed to be seen in them.: but, you must be dirty indeed when your very clothes seem ashamed to hang upon you. This is what the convinced sinner feels, - that he is so foul that his very clothes seem to be ashamed of him, as if they would rather have been on anybody else's back than on, the back of such a filthy sinner as he is." (Spurgeon)

3. (Job 9:32-35) Job longs for a mediator to help.

"For He is not a man, as I am,
That I may answer Him,
And that we should go to court together.
Nor is there any mediator between us,
Who may lay his hand on us both.
Let Him take His rod away from me,
And do not let dread of Him terrify me.
Then I would speak and not fear Him,
But it is not so with me."

a. He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him: Job here keenly felt the distance between himself and God. He felt unjustly treated by God, yet felt there was no way to address the problem. God could not be confronted with Job's unexplained circumstances, so Job despaired of every finding a satisfactory answer to his problem.

b. Nor is there any mediator between us, Who may lay his hand on us both: Understanding the distance between himself and God, Job longed for someone to bridge the gap between him and God.

i. Job needed someone to sort out the differences between him and God. His prior belief system did not do that; his experience did not do that; neither did the counsel of his friends. Recognizing this need, Job cried out for a mediator between himself and God. "Here, then, was Job crying out for some one who could stand authoritatively between God and himself, and so create a way of meeting, a possibility of contact." (Morgan)

ii. This cry was a good thing. It showed Job looking outside of himself for answers. Yet, "It was grief that brought Job to this place, and grief is the only thing that will; joy does not, neither does prosperity, but grief does." (Chambers)

iii. We have a great promise of a Mediator that Job did not yet know of: For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). What Job longed for is fulfilled in Jesus. He fulfills all the qualifications for a mediator, someone to stand between two parties in disagreement:

- The mediator must be accepted by both parties.
- The mediator must be allowed to fully settle the case.
- The mediator must be someone able to relate to both parties.
- The mediator must have the desire to see a happy settlement.

iv. Job began this chapter with the language of the law-court (If one wished to contend with Him, Job 9:3), and here he ends with the picture of a mediator to end a dispute. The end of Job's dispute will not come until later, but the end of our dispute with God is available now in Jesus Christ. "But, what is more and more wonderful still, both parties have gained in the suit. Did you ever hear of such a law-suit as this before? No, never in the courts of man." (Spurgeon)

v. Let Him take His rod away from me: "As shebet signifies, not only rod, but also scepter or the ensign of royalty, Job might here refer to God sitting in his majesty upon the judgment-seat; and this sight so appalled him, that, filled with terror, he was unable to speak." (Clarke)

c. Then I would speak and not fear Him, but it is not so with me: Because he lacked a mediator, Job felt that he could not speak with God.

i. "I am not free from his terror, and therefore cannot and dare not plead my case boldly with him; and so having nothing else to do but to ease myself by renewing my complaints." (Poole)

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

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