Job 28-37: The End of Job’s Words

Few experiences test the limits of one’s physical endurance like a cross country race. Spectators see both fast and slow runners giving their all on the final stretch.

Job’s words in chapters 28-31 are his final stretch. Throughout this book, we’ve seen him worship, cry out, lament, and pray. His final words to his friends are arguably as powerful as almost anything in the Old Testament. Chapter 28 is a meditation on the seemingly impossible nature of wisdom. It lies within the power of human nature to retrieve the most beautiful materials on earth, yet people can’t find the far more precious possession of wisdom. Fearing the Lord, Job says, is true wisdom (Job 28:28). Despite all his misfortunes, Job still affirms the path that he had taken earlier in life (Job 1:1).

Job returns to his pain in chapters 29 and 30. He reflects on his life before his suffering and then contrasts that earlier situation with his current pain. He had the presence of God, gift of his children, and respect of his community. Now scoundrels mock him as if he were a desert-dwelling jackal or ostrich.

In chapter 31, Job names and describes a long list of the sins that did not characterize his life: lust, lying, adultery, greed, and idolatry. Job was good to his servants since the One who made them made him. Job took care of the needy and treated his enemies well.

Scripture then states, “The words of Job are concluded” (Job 31:40, CSB). Job no longer tries to defend himself. He has said all that he can say. Nor do his friends try to speak further since they’ve run out of points to make.

Job 32 introduces us to a character who has been listening to the conversation the entire time. Elihu calls himself one who is “full of words” (32:18), a fact that six chapters of speeches confirm. He speaks with a confidence that is sometimes staggering (see 36:4 for one example), and although he makes unique and important contributions to the discussion, his major point is like that of his three friends: Job is wrong.

Job is either unwilling or unable to respond to Elihu. After all the words, the pain, the prayers, and the confusion, Job ends where he began. He is still in his ashes. He still affirms his integrity. And he still doesn’t know why God has done what He has done.

We could draw numerous conclusions from the words of Job (and even Elihu) in these chapters. Job’s words in chapters 28 and 31 clarify the nature of true wisdom and true integrity. The key takeaway, however, is that we should not, like Job’s friends, relate pain in this life to wickedness. Job, foreshadowing the Lord Jesus Christ, is an example of how one who has integrity can undergo unimaginable pain. Christians should not assume that a layoff, a devastating diagnosis, or a lost loved one is a sign of a negative verdict from God.

As Job defends his integrity for the last time, we readers know that Job is right, even if his friends remain unconvinced. But sometimes steadfastness looks like a sick, despondent man clinging to the truth as he gives his all on the final stretch. Like Job, we live our lives in the middle of the book. Like Job, our words will one day end. Like Job, our story will not end with our words.

— Russell Freeman is dean of Curriculum and Instruction and Bible teacher at Greenville Classical Academy, a Christian school in Simpsonville.

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