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Title: Job crosses the line… Well, several actually
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Job crosses the line… Well, several actually
We ended last week in chapter 6 where Job begins his reply to Eliphaz in which he digs his heels in and justifies his complaint. Here in chapter 7 Job begins to argue for there being, in the end, no real meaning to his life. He feels as if it is one big rigged experience over which he has no meaningful input or control. He believes that God is judging him guilty even if he’s done nothing wrong.
“(1) Does not humanity have hard service on earth? Are not their days also like the days of a hired man? (2) Like a servant longing for the evening shadow, and like a hired man looking for his wages, (3) thus I have been made to inherit months of futility, and nights of sorrow have been appointed to me. (4) If I lie down, I say, ‘When will I arise?’, and the night stretches on and I toss and turn restlessly until the day dawns.”
Not to start off sounding insensitive but so far as we know Job has lived a very blessed life. He is somewhere in his late 60’s or early 70’s before he encounters these horrible difficulties, where he finds something in common with the rest of humanity with slaves, civil servants and those who work to make others rich all of whom toil from sunup to sun down.
The irony of this is made even greater because Job himself had MANY young slaves and very likely some domestic and indentured servants.
As usually happens, this topic has come up at least twice in our Wednesday night meetings and just showed up in last Sunday’s message and WILL be further addressed in this NEXT Sunday’s message. In this instance the topic is servitude and slavery.
Now of course Job is mentioning this only by way of comparison. He, LIKE a hired servant, feels his life is futile, his nights are full of sorrow and sleeplessness. It is a terrible condition to be sure!
“(5) My body is clothed with worms and dirty scabs; my skin is broken and festering. (6) My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle and they come to an end without hope.
(7) Remember that my life is but a breath, that my eyes will never again see happiness. (8) The eye of him who sees me now will see me no more; your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone.
(9) As a cloud is dispersed and then disappears, so the one who goes down to the grave does not come up again. (10) He returns no more to his house, nor does his place of residence know him any more.”
“(11) “Therefore, I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
Now I want to be clear, as we go through the book of Job I am bound to point out many of the things Job does and says that were wrong. I am doing this to be thorough and so that when we witness God confronting Job at the end which leads to his repentance, you will have clearly seen that for which he was being reprimanded and for which he repented.
You cannot have a clear understanding of this book if you protect Job from his missteps.
Here Job is being unwise. It was his decision to give his mouth free expression and his willingness to speak words guided by his experience and his pain rather than his respect for God that opened the floodgate for MANY things he goes on to say later that are dead wrong.
In Proverbs 10:19 we learn that, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
Pointing this out is NOT in order to pick on this godly man. He was undergoing trials which were over the top and beyond difficult.
If anything, these trials testify to Job’s overall godly character because God will not allow us to be taken to a point beyond our ability to resist.
Though Job undoubtedly wavers, he remained unwilling to let go of God or deny Him.
Next, Job issues a direct and embittered line of derogatory questions at God. They are worded rhetorically so as to imply only negative answers in reply.
“(12) Am I the sea, or the creature of the deep, that You must put me under guard?
(13) If I say, “My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,” (14) then You scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, (15) so that I would prefer strangling, and death more than life.
(16) I loathe it; I do not want to live forever; leave me alone, for my days are a vapor!
(17) “What is mankind that You make so much of them, and that you pay attention to them? (18) And that you visit them every morning, and try them every moment?”
I like the way David took these words of Job and turned them on their ear to make it a positive statement of God’s honor and solicitous care for us.
“(3) When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, (4) What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? (5) For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. (6) You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,” (David’s way of saying it is referenced in the New Testament in Matthew 21:16; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22 & Heb. 2:6-8)
“(19) Will You never look away from me, will You not let me alone long enough to swallow my spittle?
(20) If I have sinned – what have I done to You, O Watcher of men?
Why have You set me as Your target?
Have I become a burden to You?
(21) And why do You not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity?
For now I will lie down in the dust, and You will seek me diligently, but I will be gone.”
Now Bildad takes his turn in replying to Job. He is indignant at Job’s words and directs him towards repentance for his words.
“(1) Then Bildad the Shuhite spoke up and said:
(2) “How long will you speak these things, seeing that the words of your mouth are like a great wind?
(3) Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right?
(4) If your children sinned against Him, He gave them over to the penalty of their sin. (5) But if you will look to God, and make your supplication to the Almighty, (6) if you become pure and upright, even now He will rouse Himself for you, and will restore your righteous home. (7) Your beginning will seem so small, since your future will flourish.”
These words are both right and wrong.
We have settled as well as we might that Job’s children were in fact ungodly and most likely willfully so. We concluded that even though we are not afforded the behind the scenes look at the conversation between God and the devil regarding Job’s children – it did indeed take place. As such their deaths probably played out very similar to King Ahab’s which we referenced in our fourth session in Job in the message entitled, “God, Justice & Delegated Authority”.
Bildad is correct in attributing the deaths of Job’s children to THEIR sins and NOT to Job’s trial. They only coincided most likely due to the opportunity it afforded the devil in his pursuit of Job’s heart loyalty as we addressed in our third week into Job entitled, “Job’s trials begin”
Bildad also is correct in thinking that Job has something which is making him impure and no longer upright, but he is wrong in assuming it was these things which precipitated this attack against Job.
Job had done NOTHING wrong to solicit this attack as God clearly stated in Job 2:3. However SINCE these trials have begun, Job has thought and said several things which are stout against God, accusatory of Him and only casts himself in a good light. THAT is unacceptable behavior, but it is hardly unique to Job!
Bildad is also correct in saying that at this point things are still able to be reversed through reverence and repentance so that the blessings God will give in the future will overshadow this brief interval of difficulties.
The key thing to remember at this point is the MAJOR misunderstanding of EVERYONE so far – Job AND his three friends.
THEY ALL BELIEVE THAT THIS IS GOD’S JUDGMENT AGAINST JOB.
- Job believes God has made a mistake or that God is punishing him even though he is just.
- Job’s friends believe this HAS to be for something Job has done wrong.
Both are incorrect!
What makes this difficult is the dividing line.
WHEN all this started, Job had done nothing wrong nor had he thought or said anything wrong.
This was an attack from the enemy to destabilize Job from his integrity and get him to curse God.
All the negative we hear from Job is his response TO this attack, it is NOT what caused the attack but are his responses to it!
So it would be a HUGE error in interpretation to fail to see this line of demarcation.
God WILL address Job’s attitude, irreverence and self-justification – when He steps in and ends the trial by confronting Job. NONE of these trials however, are due to Job’s actions or words subsequent to the attack!
As we continue Bildad here attributes Job’s trials to his temporal securities and devotions. This is both correct and incorrect.
“(8) For inquire now of the former generation, and pay attention to the findings of their ancestors; (9) For we were born yesterday and do not have knowledge, since our days on earth are but a shadow.
(10) Will they not instruct you and speak to you, and bring forth words from their understanding?
(11) Can the papyrus plant grow tall where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish without water? (12) While they are still beginning to flower and not ripe for cutting, they can wither away faster than any grass! (13) Such is the destiny of all who forget God; the hope of the godless perishes, (14) whose trust is in something futile, whose security is a spider’s web.
“(15) He leans against his house but it does not hold up, he takes hold of it but it does not stand. (16) He is a well-watered plant in the sun, its shoots spread over its garden. (17) It wraps its roots around a heap of stones and it looks for a place among stones.
(18) If he is uprooted from his place, then that place will disown him, saying, ‘I have never seen you!’
(19) Indeed, this is the joy of his way, and out of the earth others spring up.”
As we have and will continue to remind ourselves – this is a trial allowed by God but it came from satan.
The clear and stated intentions of it were to create disloyalty where none existed beforehand.
The devil’s accusation was that Job’s loyalty was only skin deep and that such could easily be proven true if satan were free to attack his possessions and his health. HOWEVER, Job’s statement that all he had feared had come upon him DOES seem to indicate that satan had some basis for believing Job’s allegiance was to his temporal blessings. Also, Bildad here seems to believe something similar. He says, “Such is the destiny of all who forget God; the hope of the godless perishes, whose trust is in something futile, whose security is a spider’s web.”
Now these are just accusations from satan and assumptions from a friend – they are not hard evidence. In fact that Job feared the loss of these things implies that he did not trust in them, however it DOES imply that he loved them and THAT might have been was satan saw and wondered if Job’s love for comfort and possessions outstripped his love and devotion for God,
We need to take a lesson from this.
The devil knows you academically. Every human who comes into the world is studied and examined in order to identify weaknesses. Angles of attack if you will. The devil is NOT bad at his elected occupation. He is good at assessing our weaknesses and tailoring attacks which will exploit them.
So it only seems reasonable that since what happened TO Job were things he freely admitted he had always feared WOULD happen or could happen, that the attacks of the enemy were designed to target these by design.
So, in one way Bildad was almost certainly correct. Job’s temporal desires did in fact pave the way to these specific attacks. However, it cannot be said that Job loved these things temporal blessings more than the God Who gave them – which was the REAL thing satan was attempting to prove.
All this being true, Bildad is still INCORRECT in that he was attributing this whole attack as God’s judgment against Job as a man who was NOT blameless before these events began or they never would have happened…
(20) “Surely, God does not reject a blameless man, nor does He grasp the hand of the evildoers.
(21) He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with gladness. (22) Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.”
In the end Bildad’s words are about 50% encouraging and correct and 50% wrong and misleading.
So far, it still seems to me that Job’s friends – at least the two we have heard from so far – truly do want to help Job navigate out of this difficulty back into the life of blessing he once knew.
The next two chapters are Job’s reply and ongoing complaint.
“(1) Then Job answered:
(2) “Truly, I know that this is so. But how can a human be just before God?”
Now we have it… Or at least ‘A’ part of it.
Job agrees with Bildad’s words, but in the end believes that even if he had done everything he knew to do, God would still find fault because no one can truly stand before God in their own rightness.
The thoughts and counsels of these men are so near the truth that it is painful to watch with what near misses they are avoiding the real issue.
It leaves me wondering how often WE dance around the truth of a matter – just inches away from the truth we fail to see. Bias’ are powerful things and they do more to blind the eye than to enlighten it.
Truth is – if these words we are reading were not written in the Biblical book of Job, most of those who claim Job’s friends were only filled with loathsome advice would find themselves agreeing with their words – and for the most part, rightly so! However, to see things rightly we need the whole story and so far, such has not been revealed to Job or his friends. So the scriptures are proving true which say,
“He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.” – Proverbs 18:13
Not that these men were fools, per se, but their thoughts and counsel were just a smidge off base due their not possessing all the facts.
“(3) If someone wishes to contend with Him, he cannot answer Him one time in a thousand.
(4) He is wise in heart and mighty in strength – who has resisted Him and remained safe?
(5) He Who removes mountains suddenly, Who overturns them in His anger;
(6) He Who shakes the earth out of its place so that its pillars tremble;
(7) He Who commands the sun and it does not shine and seals up the stars;
(8) He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea;
(9) He makes the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky;
(10) He does great and unsearchable things, and wonderful things without number.
(11) If He passes by me, I cannot see Him, if He goes by, I cannot perceive Him. (12) If He snatches away, who can turn Him back?
Who dares to say to Him, ‘What are you doing?’
(13) God does not restrain His anger; under Him the helpers of Rahab lie crushed.”
Oh man is this tragic! Again – Job’s not completely wrong – but the poor guy isn’t right either!
Job WAS innocent – sure enough, but his thoughts and mouth have cured that little problem! I recognize it all too well in the mirror, how about you?!
The reference here to Rahab here is NOT regarding Rahab the former harlot turned daughter of God through faith. Instead this is in reference to one of the following according to the commentators of the New English translation.
“Rahab” is identified with Tiamat of the Babylonian creation epic, or Leviathan of the Canaanite myths.
It is also used in parallelism to the sea (Job 26:12), or the Red Sea (Psalm 74:13), and so comes to symbolize Egypt (Isaiah 30:7).
In the Babylonian Creation Epic there is reference to the helpers of Tiamat.
In the Bible the reference is only to the raging sea, which the LORD controlled at creation.”
Also I want you to remember some of these arguments from Job, because God uses them back on Job when he confronts him at the end.
“(14) How much less, then, can I answer Him and choose my words to argue with Him! (15) ALTHOUGH I AM INNOCENT, I could not answer Him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.
(16) If I summoned Him, and He answered me, I would not believe that He would be listening to my voice – (17) He Who crushes me with a tempest, and multiplies my wounds for no reason.”
Here we begin to see Job’s discouragement affecting his hope and his trust in God.
It is more than understandable to become discouraged under such opposition and it is only natural that the human mind should question where God is in all of this.
He Whom we had formerly concluded was immediately near and only associated with our blessings, now seems to not only be complicit without sufferings but is appearing, within the limits of our reason, to be the actual source of our sufferings.
We HAVE to keep in mind, Job DID not have the book bearing his name nor any other book of the Bible for that matter, from which he could turn to extract wisdom. He had only the testimonies of those who had gone before as Bildad had pointed to for consideration – that and the limits of his own experience.
The more I think about this, Job’s situation is a LOT like that of Adam and Eve.
All they had known up until the encounter with the serpent was God’s goodness, thoughtfulness, provision and good intentions. They had NO IDEA how to process thoughts of God being anything other than what He had always appeared to be.
In like manner Job is repeating their mistake. He is answering a matter before he has had time to hear from God. In fact, in the midst of his miseries it was no doubt the devil himself who suggested to him that NO SUCH AUDIENCE with God would be afforded him. OR that if it were given him, it would do no good.
The devil really IS that bratty trouble maker in grade school who instigates a problem and then ducks aside to insinuate that it was someone else who was to blame.
How many of us can testify that his tactics really haven’t changed all that much!
Job continues his disgruntled belief that God is attacking him although he is completely innocent…
“(18) He does not allow me to recover my breath, for He fills me with bitterness.
(19) If it is a matter of strength, most certainly He is the strong one!
And if it is a matter of justice, He will say, ‘Who will summon Me?’
(20) Although I am innocent, my mouth would condemn me; although I am blameless, it would declare me perverse.
(21) I am blameless. I do not know myself. I despise my life. (22) “It is all one! That is why I say, ‘He destroys the blameless and the guilty.’
Here we have an interesting window into Job’s understanding of God and it reveals an awareness of God which is puzzling.
You and I, living as we do, in the privileged world of possessing both the Old and New Testaments – have a rich history to look back upon regarding God’s interactions with man from the beginning.
Under the New Covenant, being children of God and having His amazing and precious Holy Spirit within and for some of us upon us – we LIVE aware of God.
I honestly have a difficult time imagining a child of God talking like this today. Job is essentially doing what the Israelites did at the mountain. They said to Moses
“Don’t let God speak to us again, for who has heard the voice of God and lived to tell about it?” (Paraphrased portion of Exodus 20:18-25)
To which Moses could have easily replied –
“Ahem… YOU JUST DID!”
In like manner Job is saying that if he could gain an audience with God, he doesn’t believe he could defend himself. He believes his own mouth would betray him and wind up condemning himself. Yet, God was RIGHT THERE with Job as he was saying this. God JUST HEARD Job declaring himself “innocent” and “blameless”.
All being done right there in God’s presence.
Clearly Job did not see God as omnipresent in the same way we do.
This helps to illustrate how powerfully the Word of God has impacted the entire world – even among those who have never even read ANY scripture at all. The increasing knowledge of God has educated even the devout sinner with better theology than the ancient world had.
I’ve even been around ungodly people of the world who have said things they knew were contrary to God and when they did so they looked up towards the sky and said, “sorry”.
Now I know their apology is not in any way sincere, but it demonstrates an awareness of God and His being ever present – an awareness which Job throughout this book demonstrates that he lacks.
It evidently never occurs to Job to just start speaking to God, believing that God would hear him and even – in some way or another – respond. He just keeps talking about wishing he COULD get an audience with God.
As depraved and unaware as MANY are in today’s world, I think it would be a rare find indeed to come across someone who didn’t think that if they spoke to God He would not hear them. Now they probably do not believe He would respond, but if they believe in God, most also believe He hears them pray.
Tell me that is NOT a huge influence from scripture even over those who have never even read it!
“(23) If a scourge brings sudden death, He mocks at the despair of the innocent.
(24) If a land has been given into the hand of a wicked man, He covers the faces of its judges; if it is not He, then Who is it?”
Now we’ve crossed a line!
Up until now Job has simply thought God was judging him as if through some misunderstanding OR because Job’s perfections do not meet with God’s.
Now Job is claiming that God covers the sins of the wicked and takes some perverse pleasure in tormenting the innocent.
(25) “My days are swifter than a runner, they speed by without seeing happiness. (26) They glide by like reed boats, like an eagle that swoops down on its prey. (27)
If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression and be cheerful,’ (28) I dread all my sufferings, for I know that You do not hold me blameless.
(29) If I am guilty, why then weary myself in vain?
(30) If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands clean with lye, (31) then You plunge me into a slimy pit and my own clothes abhor me.
(32) For He is not a human being like I am, that I might answer Him, that we might come together in judgment.
(33) Nor is there an arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both, (34) who would take His rod away from me so that His terror would not make me afraid. (35) Then would I speak and not fear Him, but it is not so with me.”
Before addressing Job’s terrible words against God I want to capitalize on these last words of his.
Job says, “He is not a human being like I am, that I might answer Him, that we might come together in judgment.” Again this shows how little he knows of and understands God.
God is the king of God Who invites His followers to come and reason together.
“Come, let’s consider your options,” says the LORD. “Though your sins have stained you like the color red, you can become white like snow; though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet, you can become white like wool.”– Isaiah 1:18
Now granted Isaiah is Jewish man prophesying to Israel who is in covenant with God, but they have been continuously unfaithful to that covenant for some time when God says this.
In fact these are the words God spoke through Isaiah before this invitation which was so similar to what Job said he longed for.
“(1) Here is the message about Judah and Jerusalem that was revealed to Isaiah son of Amoz during the time when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah reigned over Judah.
(2) Listen, O heavens, pay attention, O earth! For the LORD speaks:
“I raised children, I brought them up, but they have rebelled against me! (3) An ox recognizes its owner, a donkey recognizes where its owner puts its food; but Israel does not recognize me, my people do not understand.”
(4) Beware sinful nation, the people weighed down by evil deeds. They are offspring who do wrong, children who do wicked things. They have abandoned the LORD, and rejected the Holy One of Israel. They are alienated from Him.” – Isaiah 1:1-4
In fact these words would have been a healing sauve for Job in his trials had they been available to him and it sounds similar to the counsel of his friends…
“(19) If you have a willing attitude and obey, then you will again eat the good crops of the land. (20) But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” Know for certain that the LORD has spoken.” – Isaiah 1:19-20
Granted, as we have affirmed time and again, it was not Job’s sins that brought this on him, but as I pointed out last week, if in the midst of these trials Job had continued with the same worship he showed after the first set of attacks – this would still have been the results. It is near to certain that God would have commanded the trial to end FAR sooner than it did.
Job also said, “Nor is there an arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both”. Yet God is listening to all of this and He will, in time, inspire a young man to fulfill just this role in Job’s life. His name is Elihu! Someone who stood in the gap and provided a covering for Job leading to the encounter Job so desired. But I’m get WAY ahead of myself here.
Let’s circle back and examine the words of Job just before this in which he descends to yet another depth of mischaracterization of God.
He now claims not only that God is judging him even though he is innocent, he is now claiming that God is actively sullying his innocence. That even if he knew what to repent of, God would only take Job in his newly cleaned state and plunge him, against his will, back into correction.
Job is at a loss to know how it could be any other way when he says,
“If it is not God then who COULD it be?”
If Job had had knowledge here – this would be VERY MUCH like what the Pharisees did with Jesus in claiming He was casting out demons by the power of the chief of demons. This WOULD be blasphemous IF Job had knowledge -which he did not. Furthermore, Job is of such a character that if he HAD possessed that knowledge, he would have sooner die than to accuse God of such indecencies as these.
We will pick back up next week with the second half of Job’s response to Bildad in Job 10.