Job 12(2)

Sermon preached on June 18, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Some years ago I heard about a financial advisor who cheated people out of their money. He was like a Bernie Madoff, only on a smaller scale. He operated a pyramid scheme. Before he was caught he had a very good reputation. He claimed to be a Christian and was heavily involved in his church. But it was all an act. He cheated people out of their money. What was really sad was that he swindled some retired people out of their life savings. Their whole nest egg was gone.

How can you keep yourself from being deceived and cheated when you're old and retired? I've heard of people phoning grandparents and pretending that they're their grandchild and getting the old couple to wire them money.

What can you do to ensure that something like that won't happen to you? Well, you could find someone you trust, like a son or daughter, and give them control of all your money, take the risk from you entirely. But that doesn't guarantee anything. I've heard of children in such a situation misusing their parents money and cheating them out of it. You can't do anything to guarantee a good outcome in this life.

It's like that in life. Apart from God's promises there are no guarantees. Even what some people think are guarantees aren't. Some Christians, like Job's friends, will tell you to believe in Jesus and lead a godly life by following God's commands. If you do that, they tell you, you'll have it made. But the problem is that that's not true. But the reality is quite different for many Christians. Bad things happen to them. They happened to Job. Job's friends believed that God did it because Job was a great sinner. They told Job that he needed to do was repent and if he did that God would make everything right again. He would prosper once more. But we know from the first chapter of Job that these bad things didn't happen to Job because he was a great sinner. Quite the contrary, they happened to him precisely because he was so righteous.

In chapter 12 Job lists many terrible things that happen on this earth. Last week we looked at verse 6 and where Job said that the tents of marauders are undisturbed, those who provoke God are secure.

Job goes on and speaks of cities being torn down, people being imprisoned, drought, floods. Job mentions people who deceive and those who are deceived. He speaks of counselors being led away stripped, judges becoming fools, priests being lead away stripped, elders losing their discernment, the mighty being disarmed, nations being made great and then being destroyed. He speaks of leaders of the earth losing their reason and groping in darkness.

What Job tells us in chapter 12 about all these things is that

it is God who does these things.

I once had some Christians tell me that only good things come from God. They said that all the bad things that happen in the world come from Satan. God wants only good things for you.

But one of the things that Job stresses in this chapter is that God is in control of everything. Indeed, in the middle of mentioning these things, including the tents of marauders being secure, Job says, (verse 9)

"Which of all these does not know that
the hand of the Lord has done this?"

Job knew that all his troubles came from God. In chapter 1 when he lost his possession and his children Job said, (Job 1:21)

"The LORD gave and
the LORD has taken away;"

Joseph had terrible things happen to him. His brothers sold him into slavery. Later he was falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar's wife and was thrown into prison. Psalm 105:18 says of Joseph,

"They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,"

Joseph suffered greatly. Yet Psalm 105:17 says that God did it to Joseph. Joseph even testified to this later when he said to his brothers, (Genesis 45:5, 7)

"And now, do not be distressed and
do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here,
because it was to save lives
that God sent me ahead of you."

Genesis 45:7

"But God sent me ahead of you
to preserve for you a remnant
on earth and to save your lives
by a great deliverance."

We can understand that God had a good purpose in it—yet Joseph suffered so greatly. It had to be so hard on him. It's interesting that verse 14 of Job 12 says of God,

"the man he imprisons
cannot be released."

Do you remember how Reuben wanted to release his brother Joseph and restore him to his father? (Genesis 37:21) He probably planned to do it when he was on watch. But when he went to rescue Joseph from the cistern, Joseph was not there. While he was gone his brothers sold Joseph into slavery.

Consider what God did to Saul of Tarsus. When God converted Saul, he also struck him with blindness. When God told Ananias to find Paul and lay his hands on him, Ananias hesitated. He told God that he had heard many bad things about Saul. God said to Ananias, (Acts 9:15–16)

"Go! This man is my chosen
instrument to carry my name
before the Gentiles and their kings
and before the people of Israel.
I will show him how much
he must suffer for my name."

In 1 Thessalonians 3:3 the apostle Paul told the Christians in Thessalonica not to be unsettled by the persecutions they were suffering. He wrote,

"You know quite well that
we were destined for them."

Those persecutions were appointed for the Thessalonian Christians. One of the nuances of the word that is translated 'destined' is 'to be there for'. In other words, the reason these Christians were there in Thessalonica was to be there for those persecutions. God destined them for the persecutions.

But it's not just Christians who are in God's hands— Job includes everyone, every creature. In verse 10 Job says,

"In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind."

Job tells us that God holds the life of every creature in His hand, that He gives breath to them all. Evil men, as well as good men, and upheld by God. As we read in Proverbs 16:4,

"The Lord works out everything
for his own ends—
even the wicked for a day of disaster."

Some of the things mentioned here are very dark. In verse 16 Job says,

"both deceived and deceiver are his."

God allows deceivers to around deceiving. Sometimes we can see that it's for a good purpose. When Absalom rebelled against King David, David's best counselor, Ahithophel went with Absalom. In 2 Samuel 15:12 we read,

"While Absalom was offering sacrifices,
he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite,
David's counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown.
And so the conspiracy gained strength,
and Absalom's following kept on increasing."

When he went to Absalom, Ahithophel still had very wise counsel for Absalom. But God arranged for Ahithophel's advice to be thwarted by David's other counselor, Hushai. Ahithophel gave good advice. He told Absalom to chase after David immediately. If Absalom had done that he would have been able to defeat David. But God didn't allow that. Hushai told Absalom that Ahithophel's advice wasn't good. He told Absalom to wait, to gather strength, which allowed David to regroup. So what happened to Ahithophel? We read, (2 Samuel 17:23)

"When Ahithophel saw
that his advice had not been followed,
he saddled his donkey and
set out for his house in his hometown.
He put his house in order
and then hanged himself.
So he died and was buried in his father's tomb."

As Job said about God in verse 17,

"He leads counselors away stripped
and makes fools of judges."

God did that to Ahithophel.

We can understand why God allowed Absalom to be deceived. But in other cases we don't understand it. Eve was deceived by Satan in the Garden of Eden. Why did God allow that? It seems to us that it would have been so much better not to allow it. Why did God allow sin into the world.

It's that way with other deceptions as well. Remember the prophet from Judah that God called to curse King Jeroboam's altar? God told him not to eat or drink on his mission to do that. When he curse the altar Jeroboam he stretched out his hand and ordered his men to seize the prophet. When he did that his hand shriveled up. Jeroboam asked the prophet to pray for him and God healed his hand. Then the king invited the prophet to eat with him but the prophet refused because of God's orders. So he started for home following God's orders to return by a separate way. But when a old prophet from Bethel heard what had happened he went after the prophet from Judah and deceived him. He told him that an angel from God had spoken to him as well and told him to bring him back to his place to eat and drink. He lied to him. When the prophet went back with him and they were eating the word of the Lord came to the old prophet, the one who had lied, and he rebuked the prophet from Judah and told him that he would not be buried with his fathers. When he left a lion met him on the road and killed him. Why would God do that? Job says,

"both deceived and deceiver are his."

Why would God allow Job's friends to be deceived and give Job bad advice? They thought that Job was a great sinner. God allowed that. They were very hurtful to Job in all his sufferings. Job said of them, (Job 13:4, Job 16:2)

" you are worthless physicians,
all of you!"

"miserable comforters are you all!"

Many other things God does puzzle us. Mary, the mother of Jesus, became a widow. Jesus didn't stop his father Joseph from dying. He didn't raise him from the dead.

Why did God allow Stephen to be stoned to death?

Why did he bring all these disasters on Job—the best man on the face of the earth? In Isaiah 45:7 God said,

"I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things."

From history we see things we Christians cannot understand. In our own time we see it. James Montgomery Boice died at age 61, in his prime. We know of people who died leaving young children. William Borden, was the son of a wealthy American family. He graduated from Yale and decided to go to China as a missionary. He died en-route, in Egypt, I believe. He died before he reached the mission field. Why? When I was growing up I remember hearing about a nearby church calling a church planter to start a church in a small town. Just after he started work he was killed in a car crash? Why? Christians with young children get terrible diseases and die. They don't get to see their children get graduate from high school, get married, have children. Why?

In Isaiah 29:14 God said,

"Therefore once more
I will astound these people
with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent
will vanish."

These things are mysteries to us. They seem counter-productive.

Why would God allow His people to suffer under the Babylonians? By 'His people' I mean the faithful ones. We know that Judah as a whole sinned, but there were still some righteous people among them. Habakkuk 1:1–6 reads,

"The oracle that Habakkuk
the prophet received.
How long, O LORD,
must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you,
Violence! but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something
in your days that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own."

We see the same thing in the New Testament. Revelation 13:7 tells about the beast from the sea.

"He was given power
to make war against the saints and to conquer them.
And he was given authority
over every tribe, people, language and nation."

Why would God allow that?

From one perspective, apart from faith,

this is very disturbing.

Christopher Ash writes, (Job: The Wisdom of the Cross, Preaching the Word; ed. R. Kent Hughes; p. 163)

"As Job understands it, 'the God he has encountered is no placid governor of a universe of order' but is 'inapprehensible and untameable.' In fact, he is positively dangerous. 'From what I have seen of God's activity,' says Job, 'there can be no tame, systematic (as in your system) assurance that moral order will be upheld. Far from it.'"

In one way Job's position is similar to that of the modern day atheist Richard Dawkins. In his book, The Blind Watchmaker Dawkins describes the universe, from the perspective of an atheist.

"In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."

Job's description seems to align with some of what Dawkins says—but Job's premise is that there is a God in control. It is God who does these things. His ways sometimes make no sense to us.

Yet Job does not despair. Indeed, in the midst of it all, Job tells us is that

wisdom and power belong to God.

In verse 13 Job says,

"To God belong wisdom and power;
counsel and understanding are his."

Wisdom, counsel and understanding lie with God. John Calvin says, Sermons on Job,

"there is a secret wisdom in God which surpasses all human understanding and which we cannot attain."

As we read in Isaiah 55:8–9

" 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,'
declares the LORD.
'As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.' "

Calvin continues about God,

"for his wisdom is indivisible and cannot be separated. But from our perspective, God is wise in two ways. We can say there are two types of divine wisdom. There is the wisdom contained in his word, which he communicates to us so that we are wise when we receive the instruction he gives us. That is the wisdom of God which he shares with his creatures. And then there is that wisdom which he keeps within himself. And what is that? It is the wondrous counsel above and beyond anything we can conceive by which he governs the world.""When tyrants hold sway, which we will talk about later, there are those who are wicked, who deceive unfortunate people and lead souls to hell while others are saved. All of that is done by God's wondrous counsel. Now, if we ask the reason behind it all, we will necessarily find ourselves in such a deep hole that all our senses will be swallowed up. That, then, is the wisdom that God keeps within himself and does not share with men, for it is also impossible for us to grasp it."

What does all this mean for us?

First of all, it means that this life is not about your happiness.

Your life about you serving God in whatever situation He places you.

God has placed you here to serve Him. That may be by suffering, by persecution, by death. In John 15:20 Jesus said,

"No servant is greater than his master.
If they persecuted me,
they will persecute you also."

And in Matthew 10:24–25 He added,

"A student is not above his teacher,
nor a servant above his master.
It is enough for the student to be like his teacher,
and the servant like his master.
If the head of the house
has been called Beelzebub,
how much more the members
of his household!"

You are here to be lights to the world. Lights shine brightest when it's darkest. Let your light shine no matter what your situation. When things go good for you—live for Him and praise Him. When things go bad for you—live for Him and praise Him.

Secondly, since God's ways are inscrutable

you must not go by what you see, what you experience— but you must go by His promises.

At times everything shouted out to Job that God didn't care for him. Job didn't feel God's presence. He said, (Job 23:8–9)

"if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north,
I do not see him;
when he turns to the south,
I catch no glimpse of him."

But Job knew that God was with him. He continued, (23:10)

"But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me,
I will come forth as gold."

God has given us great promises. God loves us, God cares for us. God is absolutely committed to us. Like Job, at times all your experiences seem to speak against that. But you shouldn't go by your experiences. Job's friends thought that God was pleased with them because things were going good for them. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. God was pleased with Job, who was suffering. He was not pleased with them.

This means that your hope needs to be in God. No matter what happens to you—trust Him. Your faith ought to be like the psalmist in Psalm 46:1–3,

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth give way
and the mountains fall
into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging."

Thirdly, how thankful we ought to be for Jesus.

Yes, this life can be difficult. Yes, we can go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. But because of Jesus and His work—your future is secure. In John 14:1–3 Jesus said,

"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God; trust also in me.
In my Father's house are many rooms;
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you
to be with me that you also
may be where I am."

In Romans 8:35–39 the apostle Paul asks,

"Who shall separate us
from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution
or famine or nakedness
or danger or sword?
As it is written:
'For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered
as sheep to be slaughtered.'
No, in all these things
we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that
neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God that is
in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Christians, God is in control. He loves you with a love that will never let you go. You may not understand God's ways, His providences toward you. But you don't have to understand them to get through them. You just have to trust Him. Trust Him. Trust His Word. Romans 8:28 says,

"And we know that in all things
God works for the good
of those who love him,
who have been called
according to his purpose."

Believe it and serve Jesus in this dark world. Rejoice in Him.