Old Testament: Job 38:4-18 (Pentecost 11: Series A)

Reading Time: 7 mins

Job is an example of living the cruciform life as we wait for deliverance from the God who has given us His Word and also rescues us from our suffering at the second coming of Jesus.

The Old Testament text for this week is the climax of the book of Job. Job finally meets with God who is there to give a Word by which Job will have to receive and trust all the days of his life. There is a definite structure to the end of Job. You have both of God’s speeches (38:1–40:2; 40:6–41:34) which He speaks to, “Job out of the whirlwind” (38:1; 40:6), followed by a challenge to Job to “gird up his loins” and answer some rhetorical questions (38:3; 40:7). In fact, God is full of interrogation style statements not intended to require an answer (much like Genesis) which are designed to remind Job of the utter impossibility of comprehending the mind of God and force Job to abandon his quest to understand the “hiddenness of God.” God has two speeches and Job has two tiny responses (40:3–5 and 42:1–6). They all teach us the wisdom of listening to, waiting patiently for, and trusting in the Lord to declare us righteous, vindicate our sufferings, and, above all, to trust in God to save us.

This Sunday is a terrific opportunity to use the Compare and Contrast Structure:

“This structure systematically explores relevant similarities and/or differences between two topics in order to accomplish a purpose for the hearer. In this sermon, the purpose of comparing is crucial. The sermon does more than simply inform hearers of similarities and/or differences. It uses that information for a purpose, and that purpose often makes a difference in their lives.”[1]


Using this construction, we can compare Job to the hearers in the book of James, of all places. To do this and not have it be overly confusing, I suggest you “work part-to-part (in other words, offering one item from each topic and then proceeding to the next item: A1/B1, A2/B2, A3/B3). In part to part, a larger theme will be present for the hearers that slowly unfolds through the comparison.”[2]

In the season of Pentecost, we want to encourage our people to grow in faith. In this case, belief is strengthened by the faithful example of Job, who comforted the poor during his life and exemplified patient trust in the God who saves. Job is an example of living the cruciform life as we wait for deliverance from the God who has given us His Word and also rescues us from our suffering at the second coming of Jesus.

Job is an example of living the cruciform life as we wait for deliverance from the God who has given us His Word and also rescues us from our suffering at the second coming of Jesus.

The book of Job has surprising mention in an equally surprising place in the New Testament. The singular reference to the actual person of Job is found in James! He uses Job as a good example of how Christians should live amid the sufferings of this world with patient trust in God through Christ who saves. I say it is a singular reference to the person of Job because, although Paul quotes Job in 1 Corinthians 3:19, James is the only one who makes mention of his person. James 5:11 says:

“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

James is claiming that Christians should look to Job as someone to imitate and emulate. We are to live in the endurance of Job who trusted in God above all things. The situation of the church James is dealing with is the reason Job is an example. In James 5:1-6, he is giving an intense warning against the rich whose judgement is coming. This is similar to the judgement which will be coming for Job’s friends, who are wrong about God and, therefore, wrong in the way they treat the “believing poor,” Job. Just like James’ opponents are wrong about God, they are also wrong about their actions toward the “believing poor” who are God’s own people by grace in love (James 2:5). James wants the church to wait patiently as it suffers at the hands of the rich, who have oppressed the church to the point of death. If they were having trouble waiting on the Lord, using the words from our Old Testament text today would likely remind them of how God is in charge and worth waiting on. Indeed, God does all things in His good time, His own good way, at His own pleasure. Waiting on the Lord was certainly better for Job than suffering capitulation to the advice of his friends who were now wealthy compared to Job’s recent tragedy and poverty.

There is a grammatical connection between Job in the Septuagint and James as well. When James uses the verb ὑπομένω (hoop-om-en-o, which can be translated as “to stay behind, to wait, to persevere, to endure”) in 5:11, which in this case means to wait (passively) for God to act rather than acting on your own. It signifies a radical dependance on God, which is frequently mentioned in Job in the Septuagint, and its parallel is hardly mistakeable (Job 6:11; 9:4; 14:14; 15:31; 17:13; 22:21).

The rich believers in James are those who rob their workers, and yet are the believers everyone is looking up to. But James says everyone must learn to “rejoice in their humiliation” (1:10). Job is the perfect example of this, as his book opens with “this man was the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). James hopes the financially prosperous will learn from Job who serves as an example of the righteous and faithful person who trusts in God by faith alone. If you look at what Job said about himself in 29:1–17, it is easy to see why James has Job in mind when he uses him as an example for the wealthy.

The strongest connection between our assigned text for today and the text of James is that we will all have to remain silent before the Word of God as we wait for the day of His vindication for His people at the Second Coming of Christ. The silence prompted by the Lord speaking brings about the end of all speaking. In fact, if you look at speech in general in James and in Job, it is strikingly significant in each. Although the friends of Job are always upset by Job’s speaking about God, they are the ones who will be judged for having spoken falsely, while God declares Job has spoken rightly (Job 42:7). God affirms and vindicates the life of Job who He names “his servant,” a title James himself has (James 1:1).

Although the friends of Job are always upset by Job’s speaking about God, they are the ones who will be judged for having spoken falsely, while God declares Job has spoken rightly.

When James says, “Your clothes are moth-eaten,” (5:2) he seems to be quoting from Job 13:28, “Like a garment that is moth-eaten.” James sees the wealth of the unjust rich as something which consumes them. Job knows this personally. He was once prosperous, but now he observes his own wasting flesh. James 1:11b says, “It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.” James is quoting, of course, Isaiah 40:7 but does it not also sound like Job 14:2, “He comes up like a flower and withers.” So, in this case James interprets Job as an example of reversal of status. Kurt Richardson explains this saying: 

“Those who endure humiliation are exalted by God in the end. In terms of testing in suffering, James’s use of “patience,” ὑπομονή, particularly in the unique reference to Job in 5:11, indicates active endurance, steadfastness, and constancy. This endurance is a matter of one’s own faith in God, and Job’s has been tested to the limits of the mind, heart, and body. It is quite possible, then, that with the words “the patience of Job” in 5:11, James has the entire book of Job in mind.”[3]


Patience in suffering is the focus of this sermon, and James holds before us Job being the chief example of those who wait on Christ. No action of ours, though, can justify us before a righteous God as our text for the day so clearly articulates. Christ is the only source of knowing what it truly is to wait on the Lord for deliverance. Jesus waited for vindication from the Father as He suffered and endured His passion and Cross. This must be mentioned at every point of comparison in the sermon because whose suffering can compare with His suffering (cf. Isaiah 53)? Christ is the only source of hope for James, Job, and all believers. This is the “Theology of the Cross.” As Steven Mueller states:

“God is not to be sought in displays of almighty and glorious power, nor in miracles and signs. Though He does have this power and He has and does reveal Himself miraculously at times, God directs us to another place. He reveals Himself in the suffering and death of Christ alone. Where God appears most “defeated” is, in fact, the place of His victory and the location of faith’s power and certainty. To look for God’s blessing other than in the person and work of the crucified Savior is to look for life and salvation where it is not to be found. In seeking the true revelation of God, one must always remember, as the Bible reminds us, there are things which appear religious and true, but are, in fact, false and empty (Philippians 2:8; Colossians 2:23).”[4]


Suggested Structure:

Introduction: How do we treat the believing poor among us? Job is an example in the book of James for the Church. Here we set up the initial contrast between the “believing poor,” which is Job, and the “believing poor” who are members of James’ church. The key word is “ὑπομένω.” The key idea is patience.

Topic: Patiently loving those around you as God has patiently loved us in Christ.

A1: James 1:10; the rich can learn a lot from humiliation.

B1: Job 29:1–17; he was the “greatest man in the east,” yet he did not despise the poor and trusted in God to be His righteousness and Savior (Job 19:23-27).

C1: Jesus in Philippians 2:1-11 (Gospel connection); we are not saved by our humiliation but by Christ’s humiliation and exaltation so that you have all the riches of His grace (see also Ephesians 1:7).

Topic: Patiently wait for the Word of God to vindicate us and declare us righteous.

A2: James’ hearers might have been upset by what He was saying. However, James 1:1 names the apostle as God’s “servant” which means all should remain silent before the wisdom of God in this letter, since this is not a debate. It is the final word on the subject.

B2: The friends of Job are always upset by Job’s speaking, but God declares Job has spoken rightly (Job 42:7). Furthermore, He declares and vindicates the life of Job who He names “His servant.”

C2: Jesus is the servant of God, who we remain silent in front of (Isaiah 52:15) and whom the Father vindicated by raising Jesus from the dead. In Jesus we receive the good news of the Gospel (Acts 3:13-16).

Topic: Patiently enduring the wasting away of our flesh

A3: James sees the wealth of the unjust rich as something which consumes them (James 5:2).

B3: Job knows this personally; he was once rich but now observes his own wasting flesh (Job 19:20).

C3: Jesus, who left the riches of Heaven, is the One who wasted away on the Cross so all people might know the riches of God’s love in His resurrection (Isaiah 53:2; Psalm 22).

Conclusion: Patience in suffering (a teaching on the Theology of the Cross).


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on Job 38:4-18.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Job 38:4-18.


[1] https://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/thematic/comparisoncontrast/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Much of this article is indebted to Kurt Anders Richardson, who wrote an excellent essay “Job as Exemplar in the Epistle of James,” in: Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament, ed. Stanley E. Porter. McMaster New Testament Studies. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, MI, 2006. 229.

[4] Steven P. Mueller, ed. Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess: An Introduction to Doctrinal Theology, vol. 3, Called by the Gospel. Wipf & Stock Publishers: Eugene, OR, 2005. 33–34.