Wednesday, Dec 08th

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Job 3

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As you read this chapter (and others) keep in mind that Job lived at a time and in an age very different from our own (though the anguish and grief are the same as ours). Words and expressions are not the same as in our modern language, hence a need for accurate interpretation. We can reasonably deduce when Job lived, because Uz was a grandson of Shem, Noah’s son, and Uz was still known by that name.

Was Uz actually alive when Job lived? Or, had he died beforehand and the land retained its name? Some suggest the name of Uz was actually Aram. Whatever the case, we cannot fix a date for Job because, if the land of Uz/Haram retained its name well after the death of Uz, it does not really help in giving dates for Job’s life. We only know he lived at a time referred to in early Genesis, apparently before the rise of the Babylonian empire.

Verses 1-4

  1. After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.

  2. And Job spake, and said,

  3. Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.

  4. Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.

When the days of silence were finished Job ‘broke forth’ and “cursed his day”. This should not be thought of using today’s meaning of the term. “Cursed” here is qālal, and it means Job thought nothing of his own life, but thought it despicable… even though he was the most righteous person on earth at that time. His was a rightful assessment of a personal life. Even when we are the most righteous, we are STILL unworthy before God.

God praised Job, but, at the same time, no human life is completely worthy, even when that life is lived in complete harmony with God’s will. This applied to Job and still applies to all Christians today. Our worth is in Christ not in our own selves. Which is why I genuinely see myself as ‘nothing’. All Christian lives are worthy ONLY ‘in Christ’ and not in our own selves.

Thus, Job condemned his own birth, though he had no control over being conceived! Saying he wished he had never been born, he miserably added that though a male child was an agreed ‘prize’ in those days, he wished his birth was kept in darkness. In our day I suggest this was an erroneous statement, for it is God Who brings a new life into the world, even though it is conceived in sin. Therefore, it cannot be condemned or thought nothing of. But, this is my modern view… we have no real idea of how Job thought of the matter; he was speaking from a heart filled with grief. Note that he did not blame God nor speak against Him.

Verses 5-10

  1. Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.

  2. As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months.

  3. Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein.

  4. Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning.

  5. Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day:

  6. Because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.

In effect Job rued the day he was born, because if he had not been born he would not suffer as he now was. This kind of response is not uncommon. We still exist, so nothing changes. It is why suicide is such a feeble and irrelevant act – the person swaps his current woes for future ones, as his soul continues into eternity… only once he commits the awful act he cannot change the future, but has fixed himself into a final state… it seems in scripture suicide is a punishment from God. (I would want to expand on this for several reasons).

Job loathes his birth and life, wanting it all to be covered with a dark cloud, day and night. Is this not how many feel at a time of intense grief? It is caused by the fallibility of human rationality, no matter how righteous a person is. Job wished his life could stand still in a black vacuum, unable to move or speak or think. He wants his grief to remain as a penalty on his soul, with no joy at all for any reason.

This is a very common invalid view in people who resort to depression today. He commends condemning life by others, too, when they encounter their human frailties and troubles (verse 8). When suffering grief, a person does not want any kind of joy or light to enter the dark place, because it seems like a mockery of the grief. But, it also rocks the person out of the perceived ‘comfort’ of being depressed. (See my series on neuroses).

Let the stars lose their light and life, let not the morning arise to allow the sun to shine upon the darkness (verse 9)… but nothing can hide the fact that Job was born. Having been born Job came to know great sorrow… and this was, at the moment, unwelcome. In his deep response Job was showing no regard for his life and does not wish to continue. So, righteous as he was, Job sank below reason.

Many today live like this, even though they have no genuine sorrows or grief to display. It is all in their minds, as they sink under false troubles into a mess of anxiety and depression, none of which has come to pass. By contrast, Job’s sorrow was real, based in actual troubles, whereas modern neurotic behaviour is not.

Grief and sorrow because of an actual event (or, in Job’s life, four events all at once plus physical suffering) is a sad part of human life, but when someone is righteous and wishes only to serve the Lord, such grief will diminish over time. The false grief of a neurotic does not diminish, because God is left out of the matter and the person prefers anguish over non-existent woes than the responsibility of obeying God

Verses 11-13

  1. Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?

  2. Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?

  3. For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest,

Job, speaking from a heavy heart, asked why he did not just die at birth, to save him from what happened. How many today would utter this kind of lament? Many! He continues this reflection, but it is hampered by his emotions and grief – why did not my mother prevent me from leaving the womb, and why did she provide me with milk at the breast! If all had failed, then I would not be suffering as I now do. If only my life ended before it began – I would now be at rest. These are words of a heart so hurt that Job cannot possibly ‘think straight’. He looks at the woes and forgets everything he has received to that point from God. Only the hurt and disaster fills his mind.

It does not take very long for us to forget God’s grace and mercy (as the history of Israel proves)! One day we will be highly motivated to praise Almighty God, and within days a snag or woe will seem to cause all previous helps to evaporate into the clouds, as if we had never been given joy or good in the first place. Yes, by avoiding all woes, we would be ‘at rest’, but at what price?

How many of his servants would have had gainful and, no doubt, well-remunerated work? How would his children have fared without his holy mind and heart before God? We must never denounce our own existence, for it is given by God for a purpose. In Job’s case, his life meant he was a figurehead throughout the East, a great man who influenced so many. Sadly, intense lamentation will often cause us to not see what is plainly before us.

Verses 14-19

  1. With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves;

  2. Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver:

  3. Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.

  4. There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.

  5. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor.

  6. The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.

In these verses we see Job’s utter despair. Do not think that fullest obedience or trust will always bring joy and peace from troubling thoughts. Satan will not let anyone of faith rest in their beliefs. He must insert nagging fear into them so they do not live as they should. Here Job is simply saying that the wicked will always bring their evils upon the world, but if they are stopped at birth they will not trouble others any longer. Of course, this is fanciful for when one evil man dies or is not born, others take his place.

Whatever Job thinks of as bringing bad circumstances to mankind, he says mankind is better off without them. If they died or, better, were never born, the world would be a nicer place. Sadly, it is only a dream for evil people will continue to be born and make havoc until the end of time. This is observable in our modern days!

Yet, we must remember Job was in the depths of grief and was tortured by painful physical ailments. It can be very hard to maintain joy in this kind of situation. BUT, we must try, for behind the smoke and fiery furnace the Lord is holding out His hand to us and we must not let go; His ‘arm is stretched out still”. Even as we cry bitter tears we must continue to trust and follow. Without this we can indeed give in… but will suffer all the more.

The 17th century poet, Richard Lovelace, said,  “Stone walls do not a prison make. Nor iron bars a cage”. (‘To Anthea from Prison’). Once we prostrate ourselves meekly, or with pain or sadness, to a circumstance, we make our own prison. If we do not let our souls fly to freedom in Christ, we will crush our own aspirations and the salvation given by the Lord.

Again, I recommend reading Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, especially where the hero was imprisoned by the Giant Despair. It took a while for Christian to see the light, so to speak, and chose to seek freedom from his plight. He was, in effect, in the same position as Job. It was only when he threw aside the despair that his mind was given clarity, and he was able to escape the dungeon he almost decided to stay in.

Job had only just entered that dark place we can all experience when under a bad attack by our enemy (which can include our own minds), so we have no right to condemn him for his thoughts. God did not do so, therefore we should not, either. See Philippians 1, where we see how ‘circumstances’ are allowed or sent by God for our heavenly wellbeing, and for the furtherance of God’s work.

Verses 20-22

  1. Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul;

  2. Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;

  3. Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?

Why is light given to those in misery? Why does life continue for those whose souls are drenched in bitterness? This is the condition of countless souls today as they exist in lives of anxiety, fear and depression. But, it is a condition that is self-imposed. Though the saved soul has joy the soul hides it in a corner so it cannot operate to give life and vigour.

Some long to die rather than suffer, and others prefer suffering to obeying God, even though the life they still have is a gift from God. They cannot yet see that the prison walls do not imprison them, but their own minds and low understanding of joy and peace. So, they dig in the dirt of their misery to find a way out, not recognising that the way out only leads to more prison cells. It is only when they submit to the Lord and accept their condition that peace and freedom will come. So, they keep on digging, ignoring the treasures of the Lord and only wanting rest from their emotional turmoil. Thus, the grave is their final resting place, not God’s open arms and mercy. In effect they give away their godly heritage for a few moments of rest.

Verses 23-26

  1. Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?

  2. For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.

  3. For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.

26 I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.

Why, asks Job, is a man given light and is protected, when he knows not his future? ‘My mind is being ravaged even before I get up each morning. My words pour out in grief like the sound of torrents of waters. I cry out because my worst nightmares have come to pass. I lived in peace and did not see what was to come. Now I have no rest and no peace; I lived by Jehovah’s law and still the trouble came!’

Note something here? Job says he had thoughts in his mind before Satan came to torment him. Is this significant? Look forward 2000 years to what James said – that each man is tempted by his own inward desires and thoughts. Could it be that Satan tapped into Job’s innermost fears and used them to drag him bodily and mentally over hot coals? Job, though kept for many years by Jehovah, did not feel secure in his great wealth, status and family. He has already hinted that none of it was deserved. Now he is voicing it openly: he feared losing everything and that is exactly what Satan has brought him down to – nothing.

How many Christians believe they have wealth or status or achievements because of their own work and struggles? Too many. How many believe, against obvious sins, that they deserve their wealth? And how many live for their wealth and achievements? If we have anything at all, it is because God has given it. And, as Job said, He gives and He can take away!

What we receive in life is not down to our own work and struggles, or even our holiness and goodness; everything, good or bad, is what God determines in eternity for our wellbeing. But, above all that, God does what praises Himself… our earthly wellbeing comes second.

Indeed, as I think about it, my own life has known many struggles; money has eluded me in the main; I have lost much, but gained spiritually. I now see it all as a passing thing. I must hold lightly to what I have been given, for it does not belong to me. To put it bluntly, I am a nobody who has nothing! If I struggle to maintain wealth (that is rhetorical, for I never seem to gain or retain money!) then I struggle for nothing. I almost lost my home a few years ago… but, the home is not mine, it is God’s. So, are we wiser than Job? Do we understand that his dilemma is also ours?

The book of Job is not just about Job; it has great relevance in every saved person’s life today. His response to the worst of woes is just like ours*. So, reading how he progressed in his thoughts is of immense help. (* Though he began from a position of utter obedience and trust in Jehovah… most today have little of this evidenced in their lives… and that includes me at times!).

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