Job – The Tag Team Begins

As Job argues back, it’s almost as if he hasn’t heard a word Elipaz said.  He is so filled with his own pain; he says that same things over and over, shooting questions like a machine gun. 

Which, by the way, is not an unusual response when dealing with pain. If you are a friend trying to comfort someone, don’t be surprised if your good intentions are rebuffed. It’s as if the pain is so loud, it’s hard to hear.

Job goes back to his old arguments – that he has been blameless and yet God is not blessing. He can’t understand it. As he sums it up, 

Is there any injustice on my tongue?
Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity?

In suffering, there are more questions than answers. It’s beyond us to understand the “why?” which leaves us physically and mentally exhausted, which leaves us open to despair, even pushing away those who love us, and the God who loves us.

I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath..

So Bildad picks up where his friend Elipaz was rebuffed, taking a slightly less humble approach:

How long will you say these things, 
and the words of your mouth be a great wind?

And Bildad starts with the “ifs” of life:

If your children…If you will seek…If you are pure and upright…

Job replies, as if he hears better now the truth that is in the midst of the questions. 

Truly I know that it is so…I must appeal for mercy…
He is not a man, as I am…
You have granted me life and steadfast love, 
And your care has preserved my spirit. 

So, in light of a softening of Job’s heart, Zophar joins in the conversation – and the tag team has officially begun!

Job – His Friends Show up

Then three friends come to visit Job… 

I wonder what it would have been like to be one of those friends? You have loved and admired this man for years. He is successful in all the ways you want to be, and he even taught you skills that helped you succeed. You attended parities for his children, maybe even wanted his daughter for your son. You sat at the gate with him and heard his wisdom. There was no one more revered than Job.

And now you find him sitting among broken pottery outside the gates so no one else can catch his “disease.” He’s an outcast. The beautiful clothes are torn to threads. The wealth is gone. The children are gone. His wife is not even there. Some bring him food, I assume, maybe out of pity or compassion. And there may be some dogs around who share it with him, his only company before the friends show up.

Can you see them looking at Job in horror, trying to make sense of what happened to him, trying to make sure that it doesn’t happen to them? I doubt there were hugs, holy kisses or touching of any kind.  

When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. Getting closer, they “raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads towards heaven.” They deeply felt compassion for him and were distressed themselves. They even “sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw this his suffering was very great.”

First, let me say that their greatest gift was sitting with him, entering into his suffering without talking. When others suffer, one of the greatest gifts we can give is to enter into their suffering with our presence. Words are not necessary, and sometimes not even helpful. Our presence, our willingness to be “with them,” speaks volumes.

And they didn’t rush away. They spent seven days and nights. This was no vacation. This was away from all their own lives, their investments, their families, their social settings. This was outside of the city, maybe in the cold at night and hot by day. This was in the midst of seeing him scrape his sores, the puss and blood flowing from them. It may have included hearing him moan from the pain, trying to find comfortable positions to sit or lay. It may have been seeing the flies gather in the heat, swarming his wounds, people bring him scraps instead of the fine dining they were use to themselves. They persevered with Job, even as Job persevered.

And they gave him silence. Silence to think his own thoughts, feel his own feelings. Silence to think their own thoughts and feel their own feelings. For seven days, they were silent. 

For many of us, we can’t be silent for ten minutes, much less in an environment like this.

And then Job, acutely aware of what he is experiencing and the reality of his life his friends are seeing for themselves,  broke the silence and opened his mouth…

Job – Pain Outside and In

I hate torture. I can’t stand to see it in movies or on the news. You can ask my family…

Physical pain is considered by most the ultimate suffering. It’s one thing to lose your money or the extras in live.  I lost a son-in-law to cancer which still is hard, but I can’t imagine if I had lost him with all my other children in one delft blow. Emotionally it would be so painful.

Job had lost it all and still stayed true to his God.

But then Satan and God have another conversation, very similar to their first. God is proud of Job and how he is making it through everything Satan has thrown at him and still has his integrity, holding firm to his faith.

Satan believes his ace is in physical torture.

I wonder how God felt at that moment? He had already seen Job suffer and be faithful. Could he put him through more? Would he put him through more?

I don’t know why God gave Satan the go-ahead. To me, it seems like too much. But God knew Job. He had created and blessed Job. He saw his heart every time he brought a sacrifice, every time he prayed. He knew his character, and he knew Job’s strength, even when Job didn’t know it.

So Job received the lash of Satan’s fury, causing sores from his feet to his head. They hurt so much, the only relief he found was scraping them with broken pottery, as if the external pain was easing the internal pain. He was an oozing, bloody mess, his wife could not even stand being with him. She begged him to curse God so that he would be out of suffering and maybe her suffering would also end. His response:

Shall we receive the good from God, and shall we not receive evil?
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

As miserable as he was, he didn’t flinch. His God had a purpose in all of this. Suffering didn’t change the character of God or Job’s faith. And if he had to scrap boils for all long as he lived, he would do whatever God asked of him. 

At this point, Job is a broken man, emotionally, physically, financially, socially. He’s gone from a prince at the gate to an outcast outside the walls.

But he refuses to sin.

Job – And Then It Happened…

This book is so hard!

God allowes “all hell to break loose” in Job’s life. Foreign enemies capture his herds and servants, his wealth.  Then fire from heaven, lightening, starts a fire, burning up other herds. That would be equivalent of losing your business or job, your bank accounts and investments, all in one moment.

Other enemies capture his camels, his mode of transportation if he needs to flee, and another signs of wealth. It’s as if your car, bike, bus, boat, air travel, everything material is now gone!

Then a tornado hit the building his children are in, killing them all. There are no future generations…no future.

How did Job respond?

First, he felt the pain. Don’t let anyone brush this off as if God spares Christians pain. There are no pat answers. There is just pain, waves and waves of gut-wrenching pain. Let anyone who has known deep grief tell you about the pain that rocked them.

Secondly, he expressed the pain. He didn’t hide it. He did what people in his culture did to let the pain out of himself and on display for all to see. He couldn’t sit with the pain inside of him, so he arose. He tore the clothes covering his body, emotions and pain screaming. He shaved his head because he couldn’t bear to even have his hair cover his pain. And he fell to the ground with no personal strength to endure the overwhelming suffering.

Third, he worshipped. 

That was not what I was expecting, nor what I would see myself doing if I had gotten the news Jeb had. But he said,”

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”

 Job knew all the blessings he had been given. The ability to have children and wealth and power were not of his own. They were blessings from God he never felt he deserved in the first place. And even when they were taken away — 

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

There are no “whys?” There is no defense. There are no accusations from Job that he didn’t deserve such awful suffering. He didn’t tell God it was unfair, or that his enemy deserved it more than he did. 

Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

I think of myself, in my meager sufferings. I’m often tempted to compare myself to others, to feel I’m getting the raw end of the stick. Or I’m tempted to say, “If you don’t care, I don’t either” and push God away. 

Can I have the same response as Job?