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Lessons From the Book of Job

March 13, 2020

Over the last few years I’ve looked for good sermon series in the wisdom literature, and especially on the book of Job, but had not found any until recently.  Now two such series, both from Reformed/Covenantal speakers/authors, are available:  a 9 part series from Danny Hyde (with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals), “Whom Do I Trust?” as well as a still in-progress series on SermonAudio from Dr. Michael Barrett (covenantal premillennialist, at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary), series, “Dealing with Hard Providences.”  (Note:  SermonAudio for Michael Barrett also shows a much older (1991) sermon series in the book of Job; I have not listened to that earlier series.)

Both of these series provide some interesting points, with different approaches to the book and emphasizing particular sections of the 42 chapters.  Barrett points out more of the historical context, during the time after Noah’s flood and before Abraham, and suggested authorship of Solomon.   A main idea brought out in both is that Job’s three friends had right and correct theology, as far as it went—but very wrong application to Job’s particular case.  Along the way, both note the repetition, the three full cycle pattern of speeches from Job, then Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  Hyde here makes good application from the friends’ first speeches:  the friends are actually saying the things noted by Satan in the prologue: man-centered theology, what can I get from God?, and even a version of the prosperity gospel in Bildad’s first speech:  just do the right thing, confess your sins and return to God, and you’ll be blessed.  Ironically enough, that is what happens to Job at the end, doubly blessed by God, and yet not for any reason on Job’s part.  It is not as though God can be manipulated like a slot machine by a ‘formula’ of doing particular outward acts in order to get the material blessings you want.

Another good observation (from both) is Job’s increasing faith throughout the dialogues.  As noted in the ‘Whom Do I Trust?’ series, Job’s speeches get longer and the others’ speeches shorter, showing Job dealing with his problems and increasing in faith.  The faith is often temporary, and then Job lapses back into despair, as also noted in Barrett’s series.

As sometimes happens, here I note a few areas of disagreement or questionable matters, on secondary issues:

  • Danny Hyde describes the behemoth and leviathan as modern-day animals such as water buffaloes and crocodiles.  Online resources have considered the details of these texts, to show that these animals fit with the very early time of the book of Job and do not really work as descriptions of modern-day animals; good evidence exists that these were what we know of as dinosaurs and historically were called dragons; reference this article from Creation Ministries International.
  • In the Barrett series, the dream and spirit references made by Eliphaz (Job 4:12-21; see this article) were legitimate revelations from God, in that age before the closed canon when God communicated by dreams — to unsaved biblical characters such as Joseph’s pharaoh; other examples here would include Nebuchadnezzar, Abimelech (Genesis 20), and Laban (Genesis 31) – and in visions and theophanies to His people.  (Though I would add that dream visions also came to God’s people, such as Joseph himself.)  Elsewhere I have read, regarding Job 4:12-21, that this spirit was actually not God but demonic (see, for example, this Days of Praise devotional).

I would have liked to see more treatment of the fourth, younger, friend Elihu.  Danny Hyde seems to just put him in the same category as the three friends, and completely skips over the Elihu chapters as well as the epilogue that mentions Job sacrificing for his three friends (specifically named), because the three friends had not spoken rightly about God.  Barrett briefly mentioned Elihu, noting that he didn’t quite know what to make of Elihu and had different feelings (depending on his mood) regarding Elihu.  Future messages in his series may add more teaching about Elihu.

Still, though, full treatment of everything in Job would require a commentary, rather than a survey series.  The 9 part series from Danny Hyde, as well as Michael Barrett’s series (in progress) accomplish their purposes, teaching on the major theme of the book of Job along with great application to the Christian life and how we deal with suffering when it happens.

  1. Gerry
    March 13, 2020 at 7:02 am

    Hi Lynda:

    Another excellent and informative post.

    I did not know Barret was at Puritan Reformed Seminary or that he was Historic Premillennial.

    I have studied Job carefully and extensively and have my own ideas about Elihu.

    I agree about the theology/misapplication aspect by Jobs first threee friends you point out in your post. There is so much excellent and useful material in this book to help us in our walk with God.

    What a shame that modern teachers have cast aside the mechanism of WARNING DREAMS, by which God still does help His people avoid “pride”and their “way”, because of confounding this with charismatic excess!

    There really is no need for this. 1John gives us all we need to know with respect to evaluating “the spirit of the antichrist” which is the spirit that has infected most charismatic groups, and rejecting legitimate Biblical teaching by confounding it with charismatic error I do not find there.

    Bunyan, Scott, Edwards, and many other deeply taught and God owned believers of a much more holy time did not make this error.

    I fear that today’s “Reformed” frequently “seek the honor of men, more than the honor of God” in these matters and put a spin on texts never intended by the Spirit. That is to say, because their fellow pastors or scholars have adopted a certain position they rather blindly accept it in part in order to avoid being declared a “charismatic”. Edwards also dealt with this in spades! No telling how many times he was accused of the parallel term of his day: ”enthusiasm”. This is all very unnecessary and sad, as it cuts off Gods people from the power they need to deal with “the world, the flesh and the devil” in this time of the “great apostasy”, and “doctrines of demons” which Paul so clearly earned us of.

    You are quite right to be interested in Elihu, I believe, because the text clearly presents him as God’s messenger to Job to reveal God’s take on the matter he faced, and his words are the preface to God’s own final interview and instructions to Job in this most fascinating and informative book.

    Wish I had a better format to discuss this than this comments section, but it is what it is!

    Many blessings and hope this finds you and yours,

    In Him,


    • March 13, 2020 at 10:18 am

      Hi Gerry,

      Thanks for your comment and good observations. I’ve read a few of Barrett’s books, including one on the book of Daniel, plus listened to some of his premillennial topic sermons. He actually holds to a pre-trib rapture though not of the dispensational variety, more for the consideration of the timing events – an unusual covenantal premillennial position, but one apparently held by at least a few who affirm historic/covenantal premill and are opposed to the teaching of dispensationalism. (I think it is an inconsistent view, but so it is.)

      Agree, that is a tendency at least in modern times, for Reformed pastors to sometimes just blindly go along with their fellow pastors on some positions—whether to avoid being declared charismatic, or perhaps in some cases just not studying the matter in more depth for themselves. I notice this in some book cover quotes, that the person providing the review ‘quote/endorsement’ for another scholar’s book, has not necessarily read the book they are providing an endorsement of.

      Yes, from what I understand so far of Elihu, from my own repeated readings of the book of Job over the years, I agree with your assessment. As I mentioned in an email dialogue with a friend several years ago (when the question of Elihu and the other three came up): the three friends claimed that the reason Job was suffering was because he had sinned and that Job needed to repent; Elihu never charged Job with sin as the reason for his suffering. Then at the end, God charges the three friends with speaking wrongly about God, and thus Job offers sacrifices for them – no mention of Elihu in the same category.


  2. alf cengia
    March 13, 2020 at 10:55 am

    Last year I read two commentaries on Job: Steven Lawson’s and Christopher Ash’s. They keep Elihu in a separate category from Job’s three friends and would agree with your assessment, Lynda.

    • March 13, 2020 at 11:29 am

      Thanks Alf, and that’s good info about some commentaries on the book of Job.

  3. March 14, 2020 at 8:44 am

    Good article. Derek Thomas in his Ligonier (10 part?) study on Job suggests (as I recall, it is his more or less position) that the creatures mentioned are “symbolic” of evil or chaos or the unknown or something like that. As I recall, it seems like he said they were adopted from some of the pagan beliefs of the time. ….. I could be wrong on some of these details, but the study is available on Ligonier.org .. but for $2(?) a lesson. 🙂

    • March 14, 2020 at 5:37 pm

      Interesting, and that’s disappointing if so. Most commentary I’ve seen recognizes that the chapters are describing actual, real creatures that existed in Job’s day. That is the normal, plain-language sense from reading these chapters. The whole point of it is God showing His power, His majesty as the sovereign God over everything. The creation.com article link I mentioned in this post also addresses that question, that God is clearly describing actual animals.

    • March 17, 2020 at 7:13 pm

      Interestingly enough, all of Ligonier’s teaching series are now free for viewing, as Ligonier’s response to the CoronaVirus crisis.
      The full library of many series will be available free until at least June 30. I’ve browsed through a lot of titles there, and see the Derek Thomas series that you mentioned — the book of Job, and a few other series including Pilgrim’s Progress and others.

  1. March 13, 2020 at 8:29 am
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