CHAPTER FIVE: ‘PRIDE GOETH BEFORE A FALL’
The quote by Elihu which closes chapter four of this book could be ignored by the reader and attributed to the man’s own prejudices except for the fact that God Himself uses almost the identical words when He finally gets fed up with Job’s grandiose bellyaching and decides to set him straight. Before looking at that specific conversation, however, the reader needs to note one other lengthy statement by Job himself.
In chapter 13, verses 13-27, he says, “Hold your peace! Let me alone, so I may speak, and let come on me what will. Why should I … put my life in my hand [incurring the danger of God’s wrath]? nevertheless I will maintain and argue my ways before Him – even to His face. … Listen diligently to my speech, and let my declaration be in your ears. Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be justified …. Who is he who will argue against and refute me?” (Amplified)
Then he speaks directly to God: “Then [Lord] call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and You answer me. How many are my iniquities and sins [that so much sorrow should come to me]? Make me recognize and know my transgression and my sin. … For You write bitter things against me … and make me inherit and be accountable now for the iniquities of my youth.” (Amplified).
Again, it’s evident that Job did not understand a covenant relationship, nor did he have one with God. Men in covenant with God understand that there is forgiveness of sins as a result of sacrifices instituted by God (and ultimately, according to Philippians chapter 2, the destruction of all those sins and the indictments against man as a result of Jesus Christ and His final sacrifice.) But Job understands none of this. Nor does he understand his own sins, which have indeed opened the door to what he has suffered.
As noted earlier, Job’s lack of covenant, along with his fear and pride, have put him in the enemy’s territory and opened the door to Satan’s attacks. But the reader sees absolutely no repentance in Job at this point. In fact, he insists that even if it costs him his life, he is determined to “argue his ways before God” and prove that he is “justified” and that there is no one who can “argue against him and refute him.”
This attitude denotes abject arrogance on Job’s part, as well as ignorance. And the ignorance goes so far as to deny the resurrection of the dead: “For there is hope of a tree, it if be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender shoots of it will not cease. [But] … man must die and lie prostrate; yes, man breathes his last, and where is he? … man lies down and does not rise. … As waters wear away the stones, and as floods wash away the soil of the earth; so You, O Lord, destroy the hope of man.” (Job 14: 7, 10, 12, 19, Amplified). At this juncture, Job is exceedingly proud of himself: proud of how “good” he is; proud of how much he “knows.”
However, as the reader continues throughout the book and finally comes to chapter 38, he comes face-to-face with, not only the climax of the story, but with the TRUTH. In short, the reader – and Job – come face-to-face with God Himself. Surely many a Bible student has wondered why God took so long to get fed up with Job’s attitude and words. But being a gracious and merciful God allows Him to patiently withstand such foolish behavior, not only from Job, but from so many of His misguided children today as well.
But once God gets fed up, He leaves no doubt about where He stands. Beginning with verse one of chapter 38, and continuing through to the end of chapter 41, God sets the record straight. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now your loins like a man, and I will demand of you, and you declare to Me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Declare if you have and know understanding. Who determined the measures of the earth, if you know? Upon what were the foundations of it fastened, or who laid its cornerstone …?’”(Amplified).
And so goes God’s inquisition of this egotistical man, until he brings Job to a thorough understanding of the fact that he knows virtually nothing when it comes to the subject of God. In modern English, the words would read something like, “Just who do you think you are, spouting out all this ignorance? Now stand up like a man, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and let Me teach you a few things!”
The Message paraphrase comes beautifully close to the wording God would surely choose if He were writing this to the 21st century man: “And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said: ‘Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers. Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much! …” (Job 38:1-4).
Then at the beginning of chapter 40, God becomes even more direct: “Then the Lord said to Job, ‘Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.’ Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand on my mouth. Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add no more.’ Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm, and said, ‘Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me. Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn me that you may be justified? Or do you have an arm like God and can you thunder with a voice like His? Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity; and clothe yourself with honor and majesty.’” (Job 40:1-10 NAS).
And, once again, The Message paraphrase reflects these sentiments so perfectly in 21st-century language: “God then confronted Job directly: ‘Now what do you have to say for yourself? Are you going to haul me, the Mighty One, into court and press charges?’” Job answers God: “’I’m ready to shut up and listen,’ Job answered: ‘I am speechless, in awe – words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen.’”
After forty-eight more verses of God’s direct interrogation, Job is finally able to see himself as he really is, and the true nature of his boasting comes to light: “Then Job answered the Lord, and said, ‘ … I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. [You said] ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask Thee, and do Thou instruct me.’ I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.’” (Job 42:3-6, NAS).
And once more The Message allows the everyday language of modern man to make these points even more clear: “Job answered God: ‘ … You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?” I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, “Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.” I admit I once lived by rumors of You; now I have it all firsthand – from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry – forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.’”
For the very first time in forty-one chapters of this man’s story, he finally sees the truth about himself. And, most importantly, the student of the Bible now sees the truth about him and the situation he is in. Now the picture is complete and true to life.
Here is a man who, although he was a faithful servant of the Creator of the universe to the best of his knowledge, and his heart was completely devoted to that Creator, as far as he knew, yet he did not truly know that Creator at all. He says he had based his ideas about God on what he had heard from others (who were also ignorant). And, of course, some of his earlier statements make it obvious that he based some of his judgment concerning God on his own assumptions from what he saw and felt in the natural world.
By not knowing and understanding God, and by not having a covenant relationship with Him, Job was prey to spirits of fear and pride, and he had let them have places of rulership in his life to the point that he had actually left himself and his family open to the devil’s attack.
But the story does not end here, with Job’s new revelation concerning Himself and His God. And, in fact, his new ability to see himself as he is and to repent (which means to turn around 180 degrees) allows God to move Job into new acts of faith which will result in great blessing for him and his friends.
Watch for the final chapter tomorrow.