Job 13:15

Sermon preached on July 02, 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.

One of the favorite expressions is,

"What's the worst that could happen?"

The reason I like it so much is because it sometimes shows the lack of imagination that many human beings have into what can go wrong. In many situations where you hear that expression you'll find a story where what actually happened was far worse than they imagined.

A few years ago we decided to go camping in what I would guess is the most remote place in Nova Scotia. I had gone there with my father and two uncles when I was a teenager. At the time there was nothing there except a few houses. There were no stores, no restaurants—just a couple of houses at the end of the road. The only attraction was the beauty of the scenery along the road there. The road wasn't paved (and mostly still isn't), and it seemed a bit dangerous as there were few guard rails on the many turns on the cliffs above the ocean. Three or four years ago we heard that there was a campground there so we decided to go and spend a night camping. What's the worst that could happen? We envisioned a horrible night of wind and rain with no sleep. We did get the wind and no sleep bit and in the morning we headed out and never looked back. A week later we were home from vacation thankful to be home safe. It was then we read a story in the Nova Scotia paper how there had a downpour and one of the bridges on the only road leading to that campground had washed out. And I mean really washed out, as in completely destroyed. That mean that the people beyond that bridge were trapped there. There was no other way out. There was no ferry service. Everyone that was in there was stuck there. It took several days for them to get the people out—by small boat. I think it was something like 6 or 10 days before they were able to build a temporary bridge to start getting the cars out. Can you imagine? In all my scenarios of what's the worst that could happen when we went camping there I never imagined the bridge washing out. I was so glad that didn't happen when we were there. I felt so sorry for all the tourists that were trapped there for days. But of course, that's not even the worst that could happen—there are lots of other scenarios that I can think of since I heard that. What about a medical emergency while you were stuck there?

Many of us underestimate just how bad things can get. In the book of Job we see disaster after disaster strike Job. First, he loses his possessions. Then his children are all killed. He then loses his health and suffers immensely. At that point his wife tells him to curse God and die. Job is bewildered and puzzled by what is happening to him. At that point Job probably believed that things couldn't get any worse. But they did. That reminds me of another saying,

"Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did."

Job's friends come for the purpose of helping Job but in reality they added to his misery by telling him he was a great sinner and that he needs to repent. They tell Job that God is not pleased with him. Zophar ended his speech in chapter 11 with the words, (Job 11:20)

"But the eyes of the wicked will fail,
and escape will elude them;
their hope will become a dying gasp."

Zophar is telling Job that because he refuses to admit to his sin, there is no hope for him. Tremper Longman III summarizes Zophar's words this way, (Job, p. 190)

"the wicked have a horrible end. They will be lost, with no possibility of escape. Their expectations end in death."

Job is not wicked. But Job does believe that his sufferings are going to end in death. Job has no illusions left. He is going to die by all appearances abandoned by God. Yet, at that point, he makes a great declaration of faith. He said, (Job 13:15)

"Though he slay me,
yet will I hope in him;
I will surely defend my ways
to his face."

Job is a great example for us here.

Job here shows us what our faith should be like—how enduring it should be.

Satan has many ways to test Christians. With Job here we see the effect of Satan's conversation with God in Job 2. After his failure to get Job to curse God by taking away his possession and children, Satan comes to God in chapter 2 with another challenge. He said, (Job 2:4–5)

"Skin for skin!
A man will give all he has
for his own life.
But stretch out your hand
and strike his flesh and bones,
and he will surely
curse you to your face."

We know from chapter 2 that God told Satan that he was not allowed to take Job's life. But Job didn't know that. To him, it was clear God was going to slay him. The word that is translated as 'slay' here is a simple word for kill. It's not a common word and is used only three times in the Old Testament. One of the noteworthy things about it is that it is never used (in the Bible) metaphorically, it always refers to the literal act of taking someone's life. I think that makes it a darker word. Job believes that God is actually going to take his life. Yet he does not give up hope.

This shows us two things about Job's faith, about what our faith should be like.

First of all, Job was willing to risk death at God's hand.

Faith should be willing to risk death. In this dark world, no matter what happens to you, God wants you to be strong in the faith and for your faith to persevere, to endure. As Jesus said to the Christians at Smyrna, (Revelation 2:10)

"Do not be afraid of what
you are about to suffer.
I tell you,
the devil will put some of you
in prison to test you,
and you will suffer persecution for ten days.
Be faithful,
even to the point of death,
and I will give you the crown of life."

We are to be faithful to death. Our hope is to extend even beyond death.

One of the interesting things about our text is that there are two completely opposite ways of understanding it. We see this in some of the English translations. As we have already seen, the NIV has it,

"Though he slay me,
yet will I hope in him…"

The NRSV has the opposite. It says,

"See, he will kill me;
I have no hope…"

The reason for those competing translations is that there's a textual problem. The original Hebrew didn't have vowels and that version has the Hebrew word, 'lo' before the verb 'hope'—so that Job means,

"I have no hope."

But when the vowels were added it rendered it, 'to him', so that it would mean,

"I will hope in him."

So which one is correct? It's hard to say for sure. But the context helps us. The context shows us that Job does have hope—even if he says he doesn't have any. Right after this, in verse 16, Job says,

"Indeed, this will turn out
for my deliverance,
for no godless man
would dare come before him!"

And in verse 18 Job says,

"Now that I have prepared my case,
I know I will be vindicated."

So it shows that Job does have hope. So even if Job said, "I have no hope…" the following context shows he does have some hope.

Job's faith is not irrational. It is based on His past dealings with God. He knows something of the character of God. John E. Hartley writes, (Job, NICOT; p. 223)

"Job's faith is bold, not blind. It is searching for the justice behind the display of God's power."

Job is looking for vindication. He knows that God is just.

Job doesn't see God's justice—but He knows it's there.

The picture here seems similar to Esther approaching the king at the urging of her uncle Mordecai. It was a dangerous thing to do. Unless the king held out his scepter to Esther, she would lose her life. But she goes forth, to possible death, with faith, not faith in her husband, the king, but faith in God.

Job is doing the same here. In verse 14 Job says that he is taking a risk by pressing His case against God. He is taking his life in his hands. He said,

"Why do I put myself in jeopardy
and take my life in my hands?"

John E. Hartley says that Job, (Job, NICOT; p. 223)

"admits that if he should dare to present his case before the divine court, God might slay him and that would put an end to his hope of vindication. It was inconceivable that a mortal might presume to enter God's presence, let alone challenge him in court. The Hebrews believed that the awesome splendor of the divine presence would so overpower a human being that he would die. But in the urgency of gaining a hearing with God before this illness takes away his life, Job dares to take this brazen step. Aware of the grave risks, he is confident that he can defend… his ways before God. his ways means the way he has conducted his life… Therefore, he will take a chance, no matter the cost, to prove that he is truly a righteous man who fears God."

What this means for you is that

you are to have such faith that you hope in God, you trust in God, even when it seems hopeless.

God is true. His character is true. His Word is true.

In this world, your faith is not to fail even if your situation seems hopeless. God did not slay Job. God vindicated him. Job's faith in God proved right.

That's the way it will be with anyone who trusts in God. He will find that no matter how impossible it seems, God will be true. God will keep His promises. One day, perhaps not in this present life, but one day, God will vindicate His people. Our faith is to stretch beyond death, to endure in spite of what seems certain death.

So even if we understand Job to say, "I have no hope…" in the context it's like Job is expressing what the apostle Paul said about Abraham's faith in Romans 4:18,

"Against all hope,
Abraham in hope believed and so
became the father of many nations,"

The second thing we see about faith here is something that may at first surprise us. It is this—

Job's faith was based, in part, on his previous conduct.

The hope that Job has here is based on his own righteousness. Consider his words that follow, in the second half of verse 15 through verse 19.

"I will surely defend my ways
to his face.
Indeed, this will turn out
for my deliverance,
for no godless man would dare
come before him! …
Now that I have prepared my case,
I know I will be vindicated.
Can anyone bring charges against me?"

Why does this surprising? It is strange because the Bible tells us that our hope is to be in Jesus, not in our own works. As a Christian your hope is to be in Jesus, in His work. You are saved not by your own works, but by the work of Jesus. Nor are you saved by a combination of the two. We are saved only be the work of Jesus. He died for our sins. He rose triumphantly from the dead. Those things saved us. We are justified on the basis of Jesus work. We receive this justification by faith. As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:28,

"For we maintain that a man
is justified by faith
apart from observing the law."

And in Galatians 2:16 he said,

"know that a man is not justified
by observing the law,
but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we, too, have put our faith
in Christ Jesus that we may be justified
by faith in Christ and not
by observing the law,
because by observing the law
no one will be justified."

As Paul wrote in Romans 9:30–32,

"What then shall we say?
That the Gentiles,
who did not pursue righteousness,
have obtained it,
a righteousness that is by faith;
but Israel,
who pursued a law of righteousness,
has not attained it.
Why not?
Because they pursued it not by faith
but as if it were by works."

Our works, as Paul wrote in Philippians 3, are like manure. (Philippians 3:8–9)

"I consider them rubbish,
that I may gain Christ
and be found in him,
not having a righteousness
of my own that comes
from the law,
but that which is through
faith in Christ—
the righteousness that comes
from God and is by faith."

So why does Job place his hope in his righteousness?

The first thing to say is that Job didn't have the revelation we have. Christ was veiled to Job. Job knew that His Redeemer lived, (Job 19:25) but he didn't have much knowledge about Him.

But having said that, living a life consistent with God's commands should indeed give us hope. We certainly shouldn't trust in our works for salvation. Not at all. Our faith should be directed to Jesus, not our works. But our works do show us that we are indeed Christians. In 1 John 2:5-6 the apostle John wrote,

"But if anyone obeys his word,
God's love is truly made complete in him.
This is how we know we are in him:
Whoever claims to live in him
must walk as Jesus did."

We can know we are in Christ if we obey His commands. 1 John 3:10 adds,

"This is how we know who
the children of God are and
who the children of the devil are:
Anyone who does not do what is right
is not a child of God; nor is anyone
who does not love his brother."

We see expressions similar to Job's in the Psalms. For example in Psalm 7:8 David said,

"Judge me, O LORD,
according to my righteousness,
according to my integrity,
O Most High."

And in Psalm 18:20 he wrote,

"The LORD has dealt with me
according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness
of my hands he has rewarded me."

In Psalm 26:1 David pleaded with God and said,

"Vindicate me, O LORD,
for I have led a blameless life;"

But that did not mean that the Old Testament saints were trusting in their own righteousness for salvation. No. We see this from Psalm 26:11. David wrote,

"But I lead a blameless life;
redeem me and be merciful to me."

Even though he was blameless he realized that he needed to be redeemed, he needed mercy.

But the point is, in spite of everything that Job experienced, his sufferings, his friends telling him he was wicked and had no hope —Job held on to hope. He knew he was a follower of God. His life proved it.

The lesson we should learn from this is:

trust God, trust His Word— rather than what others are saying about you.

You Christians today find yourselves in a similar situation to Job. We are basically told that we are not close to God. Quite the contrary, we are told that we're people of hate. We don't believe in gay marriage because the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong. We don't believe in abortion because God tells us that life is sacred. But today, our society tell us that a woman has certain rights. They tell us that she should have complete control over her own body, even to go so far as to kill her baby in her womb. Because of that we're told that we're anti-women. Because a woman kills one of the most wonderful gifts she could ever be given, because she violates the most sacred trust given to her—to care and nurture the baby in her womb—we're told that we're misogynists. That's what the world tells us. They tell us that we need to change, that we need to repent, that we need to change from people who hate to people who love.

What nonsense. In Romans 12:2 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Do not conform any longer
to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve
what God's will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will."

The world, our society is corrupt. It calls evil good, and good evil. (Isaiah 5:20) We dare not follow the world. As Paul wrote in Romans 6:16,

"Don't you know that when
you offer yourselves to someone
to obey him as slaves,
you are slaves to the one whom you obey—
whether you are slaves to sin,
which leads to death,
or to obedience,
which leads to righteousness?"

Hebrews 12:14 tells us,

"without holiness
no one will see the Lord."

Why did Jesus come to this earth? Did He come merely to save us from the consequences of our sin? No. He also came to save us from the power of sin, to deliver us from it. In Titus 2:11–14 the apostle Paul wrote,

"For the grace of God that brings
salvation has appeared to all men.
It teaches us to say 'No'
to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled,
upright and godly lives
in this present age,
while we wait for the blessed hope—
the glorious appearing
of our great God and Savior,
Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us
to redeem us from all wickedness
and to purify for himself
a people that are his very own,
eager to do what is good."

Christians, just like Job didn't listen to his mistaken friends, so you should not listen to what our sinful society tells us. Hold fast, like Job did. Trust God, like Job did. Follow God like Job did. Know that you belong to God, because of His work in your life.