|Series Theme: The Anguish of Job|
1-10 roughly cover Ch.1-4
11-20 roughly cover Ch.4-7
21-30 roughly cover Ch.8-11
31-40 roughly cover Ch.12-15
41-50 roughly cover Ch.16-21
51-60 cover Ch.22-33
61-68 cover Ch.34-42
Meditation No. 47
Meditation Title: Have pity on me
Job 19:21 Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me.
How easy it is to condemn people without thought. So often I hear people say negative things about other people, and indeed catch myself doing the same thing, but how often do we pause to think why that person is like they are, and what they are going through. As we start working into chapter 19 we find Job first defending himself against these men who simply don't understand what he's going through, and then expressing what he feels, culminating in our verse above, a plea for them to have pity on him.
First his riposte about how they have been speaking of him: “Then Job replied: How long will you torment me and crush me with words?” (v.1,2) Do we realize that sometimes our words can have a crushing effect? “Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me.” (v.3) ‘Ten times' is just a cultural way of saying ‘many times' and is not literal. He feels that, rather than coming alongside him to “ sympathize with him and comfort him,” (2:11), their reproach has been more of an attack on him, and anyway it's none of their business: “ If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone.” (v.4) At the end of the day, if our sin is against God, then it is to God that we are answerable. This is different from sin against another person, but sin against God is God's business, not ours (most of the time). “If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me,” (v.5). In coming against him with their arguments, they take the ‘moral high ground' and look down on him and keep on pointing out what has happened to him.
Now we need to be careful with what follows: “then know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me.” (v.6). Note the ‘if indeed' at the beginning of verse 5. He is saying, “ If you continue to make out that I am being punished for my sin, then you are saying God is doing this and that makes God unjust. What follows is how he would respond if they continue to pursue the course they have followed so far, i.e. it is the logical outcome of what they say. “Though I cry, `I've been wronged!' I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice.” (v.7) It's an unjust and unfair situation if he hasn't sinned but is being punished for sin, and gets no answer when he cries out.
How does it appear to him, if what they say is true? “He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; he has shrouded my paths in darkness. He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head. He tears me down on every side till I am gone; he uproots my hope like a tree. His anger burns against me; he counts me among his enemies. His troops advance in force; they build a siege ramp against me and encamp around my tent.” (v.8-12) It feels like God has become his enemy, His anger burning against him. That is the only wrong bit of these verses because actually God hadn't been angry with Job. Yes, it does appear that, through Satan God has done all the other things, although Job isn't aware of the heavenly interaction that led to this.
He goes on to speak of how what has happened affects him practically and socially: “He has alienated my brothers from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from me. My kinsmen have gone away; my friends have forgotten me. My guests and my maidservants count me a stranger; they look upon me as an alien. I summon my servant, but he does not answer, though I beg him with my own mouth.” (v.13-16) His whole family life has been wrecked, but because of his physical state it affects his very closest relationship: “My breath is offensive to my wife.” (v.17a) How terrible when the one closest to us rejects us! But it's other people as well: “I am loathsome to my own brothers. Even the little boys scorn me; when I appear, they ridicule me. All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me.” (v.17b-19). What has happened to him has affected every relationship in his life! “I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped with only the skin of my teeth.” (v.20) At the end of all this, I am just a wreck!
Let's recap what he has said in this chapter so far. In verses 1 to 5 he comes back against his three critics. In verse 6 he hinges all that follows on their logic. In verses 7 to 12 he speaks about how God seems to have been against him and in verses 13 to 20 about the practical outworking of that. He has spelled out in detail his anguish which, note, is hardly focusing on the physical side. It is mostly the spiritual and social. Having poured this out, he comes to our verse for today, a plea for them to pity him: “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me.” (v.21) How can they look on his plight without feeling pity? That is the crucial question that emerges here and should come as a challenge to us. Instead of pity being given, he is left asking, “Why do you pursue me as God does? Will you never get enough of my flesh?” (v.22)
Now here is the challenge of these verses: can we look on the plight of others, understand what they are going through and still not have pity for them? If we continue to speak badly of them, it looks like we are out to get them. Is that how we want to be revealed? Sometimes, when speaking about spirituality, we talk about reading the Bible, prayer and worship and, yes, these are all important, but isn't one of the crucial things to be able to see people as God sees them, as those to be redeemed, and not rebuked, saved and not slain with our words, built up and not beaten down? These are important issues and ones for which we will be held accountable if we are casual about them.