|Series Theme: The Anguish of Job|
|Meditation No. 9|
|Meditation Title: Job's Lament|
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
Job 3:1 After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.
Having sat for a week in silence, in agony, Job eventually speaks out. Perhaps if his friends had never come, he would never have spoken. Chapter 3 is Job's lament, a cry for escape that starts with him cursing the day of his birth, wishing it had never happened. Read it and see the number of times he uses the word ‘may' as if to say, “if only…”
My paraphrase of verses 3 to 10 would be as follows: “If only the day when I was born and they said, “It's a boy!” could be blotted out from history (v.3), if only it disappeared and be hidden from even God's sight (v.4), if only it entirely disappeared (v.5), that night when I was born, if only it could be wiped off the calendar (v.6), if only the record of the shout of joy of that night could be wiped clean away (v.7), if only the soothsayers who curse, would curse that day, even those who seek to bring mystical beasts to destroy their enemies, would use them to wipe out this day! (v.8). If you look back on it, if only the night would go black and daylight never come to that day (v.9), for it didn't stop me being born into a life of trouble (v.10). None of these things happened, so I was born!”
Yes, those verses rue the very day he was born. As we move into verses 11 to 19 we find him asking the question about that day, using the word ‘why' again and again, why was I preserved then, what was the point of all that happened then to bring me to this point today? It starts with a question, “Why did I not die at birth? (v.11), why did the midwife and my mother bother with me? (v.12)” Then he gives what might be called today an alternate reality, what might have been: “because if they had left me to die, I would be at rest, free from trouble (v.13), just like those great people of the earth who are now nothing (v.14), those who accumulated much for nothing.” (v.15)
His next question is an alternative he wonders about: “or why couldn't I have been stillborn and just buried?” (v.16) and this is followed by ponderings on the easier path of death: “for in death the wicked and the weary are just the same (v.17), and slaves are freed from the anguish caused by their slave driver (v.18); in death the great and the small are all the same, and the slave is no longer controlled by his master (v.19).” Yes, in these verses he ponders on the fact that if only he had died at birth he would have avoided all the present pain.
In the remaining verses of the chapter, v.20-26, he asks the question, Why am I being preserved now? That is what his third main question is about: “why are we allowed to live on in misery and remain aware, why is ongoing life given to us so we have to continue in bitterness of soul (v.20), which is given to those who really wish death would come, but doesn't, who wish for it more than hidden treasure (v.21), and who really rejoice when they face death? (v.22)”
He concludes with a final question: “So why is ongoing life given when God hedges me in?” (v.23) and then the expressions of that life: “for my life is full of sighs and groans (v.24), my worst nightmares have happened (v.25), and peace has left me and I'm left with only turmoil (v.26).”
So let's recap these difficult verses. In verses 3 to 10 he wishes he had never been born. In verses 11 to 19 he expands on that and wishes that he had either died at birth or been born dead. In verses 20 to 26 he anguishes why his life is being preserved now, when a much easier path would be to be allowed to die. In all of these verses we catch something of the anguish of Job. Note, however, he says nothing negative about God; he doesn't curse God. He certainly wonders why God has allowed him to come to this point and he certainly wonders why he is being preserved in this state.
We have here, as seen nowhere else in the Bible, a confrontation with the anguish that comes when life seems to fall on me. When all hell seems to fall on us, these are two primary questions we all face. First, why does it all have to come down to this? Second, why does this have to continue; why can't it be ended, in death if necessary? If we have lived a protected and blessed life, we may wonder how anyone can reach such a point. Be grateful for this insight, and ask the Lord to help you understand some of the anguish that others go through.
If you are going through such a time and you find these questions arising in you, may we venture, tentatively and gently, to suggest some things to consider?
If we look back and rue the life we have lived and question the experience we have had, as many do, know that God trusted you with that life and trusted that you would handle the misfortunes and come through. But I haven't come through, you might scream, I'm still in it! It keeps on and on. I have no easy answer to the child who is being abused, to the wife who is being battered (apart from find someone to share it with), I have no easy answer to the person who struggles with ill-health and whose life is often on the verge of death.
I know of a young lady who has literally been on the edge of death a number of times and whose life is not easy to say the least. Why these things? Well all I can say is that sometimes when I have watched her struggle with life and death, I have heard her speak words of testimony of how – in the midst of it – she found God's help coming. She is a walking miracle. Paul describes all of us as “jars of clay” (2 Cor 4:7) and this lass is a real jar of clay and yet as Paul says in that verse she contains a ‘treasure', the glory of God that so often shines through her, often without her being aware of it. One day she will be applauded in heaven for the way she carried this life of anguish and God will be praised – and pleased!
That letter of Paul's (2 Cor) is an insight into the anguish that Paul suffered. Look at some of the words from it: “we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor 4:16) and “we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Cor 5:1), and “We…. would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” (2 Cor 5:8,9) and “dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Cor 6:9,10). At the beginning of the letter he speaks of, “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Cor 1:3,4). Somewhere in the midst of all this, there is a source of help – it is God Himself. Let's learn together as we travel through these difficult chapters.