Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the May 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Application: “If Only I Knew Where to Find Him,” by David Faust
Lesson Aim: Don’t be silenced by the darkness.
By Mark Scott
When we were young, we were taught about the patience of Job. Then as we matured and read the book of Job, many of us may have felt a disconnect. Job did not sound very patient. To be honest, he seemed pretty cranky. But we can hardly blame him. He lost family, houses, livelihood, and health all in quick succession. Worse was that Satan was behind it, and God had suggested it.
Our title comes directly from the text (23:9). Job would be the first to admit that his vision of God often was obscured. But he still gave us a good example to follow. Continue to trust God when you do not understand and when life does not make sense. And do not be afraid to ask God your hardest questions. Do not let the dark nights of your soul silence your desires for answers. God will not crawl off of his throne just because someone asked him a tough question.
Friends’ Best Efforts | Job 2:11-13
A man of Job’s wealth and clout was bound to have friends. When Job lost it all (1:1–2:10), three of his friends showed up to offer their sympathy and comfort. [There was a fourth friend named Elihu. He was the young man in the group and perhaps Job’s best friend. His advice came later in the book—32:2.] Job called these men miserable comforters (16:2), and God said they had not spoken what was right (42:7).
But . . . they meant well and started well. Eliphaz (translated “my god is gold,” cf. Genesis 36:4, 10) was a Temanite (area east of Idumea). Bildad (“confusing love”) was a Shuhite (an ethnic designation, Genesis 25:2). Zophar (“sparrow”) was a Naamathite (“pleasantness”). They heard about Job’s troubles (evil). They came, they sympathized (bemoaned, pitied, wagged their heads), and they attempted to comfort. To their credit, they initially did not say a word. They wept, tore their robes, and sprinkled dust on their heads. For one week they just observed his suffering. Sometimes presence matters more than words.
Job’s Shortsighted Argument | Job 23:1, 2, 4-7, 11, 12, 16, 17
When Job began to speak back to his friends in Job 23, it was his seventh response to them. His friends had leaned heavily into Job. From a human standpoint, they offered typical answers (i.e., Job had sinned, Job was trying to justify himself, Job was impatient with God, etc.). Job overextended himself and was speaking about things he did not understand. But he did seek his day in court with God. We cannot blame his heart for this desire.
His complaint was bitter. His groaning was real. He wanted to state his case (his sense of justice) and give liberty to his arguments (rebukes). He knew what he knew: he had tried to live for God. Would God be able to find anything against Job? Not from Job’s perspective. He knew if the evidence was brought in that he would be delivered (acquitted). He admitted to following God’s steps without turning aside. He kept the commands (mitzvah) and viewed them as his daily bread. He knew he was existing in darkness, but he remained blameless in his integrity.
God’s Elusive Sovereignty | Job 23:3, 8-10, 13-15
Why does God sometimes seem so far away when in reality he is always near? It must have something to do with mankind living in a sin-stained world. But this does not mean God is not in control. God may have seemed elusive to Job, but he was more present in Job’s trials than Job could possibly know. Because God is spirit (John 4:24) and because we are sinners, God will more often than not be elusive. Job longed to find him and go to his dwelling.
But all of Job’s effort to find God (east, west, north, or south) would not provide even a glimpse for him. Job might not have been able to find God, but God could find Job. God even knew the way Job would take. God’s sovereignty gave Job confidence that he would emerge from this experience as gold. Job understood that God stood alone (was unchangeable) as God and no one could oppose him (turn him back). Job recognized God could carry out his decree whether Job understood it or not.
Michael W. Smith and other artists sing a song about God entitled “Waymaker.” The lyrics include, “Even when I don’t see it, you’re working,” and “Even when I can’t feel it, you’re working.” Job knew that at the end of the day, that would be true.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.