Tuesday, March 14, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 10, Job Answers Eliphaz, Part 3

Today's passage concludes Job's answer to his friend Eliphaz. Of the three friends who came to mourn with Job, Eliphaz was the first to speak and his words have not been comforting. Job's answer to Eliphaz turns into an appeal to God before he is finished.

"Do not mortals have hard service on earth? Are not their days like those of hired laborers? Like a slave longing for the evening shadows, or a hired laborer waiting to be paid, so I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me. When I lie down I think, 'How long before I get up?' The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn. My body is clothed with worms and scabs, my skin is broken and festering." (Job 7:1-5) Like a slave who labors all day, Job yearns for night when he can rest, but he finds no rest. His skin illness causes him intense itching and great pain. It isn't known whether the worms he speaks of are literal or figurative. It could be that some of his wounds are infested with maggots, or he might simply be speaking of the crawling sensation of the itching that he endures day and night.

"My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and they come to an end without hope." (Job 7:6) Day after day passes by in a blur but his circumstances get no better.

"Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again. The eye that now sees me will see me no longer; you will look for me, but I will be no more. As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so one who goes down to the grave does not return. He will never come to his house again; his place will know him no more." (Job 7:7-10) Job reminds the Lord how fragile he is, that he was created from the dust and that all any person truly possesses on this earth is the breath currently in the body. This sorrow is too much and Job thinks it will kill him eventually. He plainly states that there is one life to live and he clearly does not believe in the theory of reincarnation. When he says that the one who goes down to the grave does not return, he isn't disclaiming life after death, but is saying that man is not reborn on the earth.

At this point Job is no longer speaking to Eliphaz and may even be hardly aware his friends are there. His complaints are lifted up to the Lord. "Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep, that You put me under guard? When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then You frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning." (Job 7:11-16) Job says he is trapped. He feels like the sea for which God has set boundaries. He feels he's being treated like a dreadful monster that must be imprisoned. He cannot be happy or comfortable anywhere. In the daytime he is confronted with all he has lost. In the night he tosses and turns and has terrible dreams. He wishes God would turn His back on him and be done with him if it means his misery would end.

"What is mankind that You make so much of them, that You give them so much attention, that You examine them every morning and test them every moment?" (Job 7:17) Job asks the Lord, "Why do You even concern Yourself with man? We are lowly and surely unworthy of Your attention. Why do You even take notice of us? Why does it matter how we are living and whether we endure under trial? You are too high above us to bother with us; why not just leave us alone?" In his calamity Job has come to view God as a harsh taskmaster who always finds fault. But God is not examining Job every morning and finding him lacking. We know something Job doesn't, that God has praised Job's faith above the faith of every person who was on the earth at that time. God is pleased with Job. God loves Job. His circumstances are not proof that God hates him, but in his misery Job thinks, "If this is love, then I dread to think what hate is. I'd rather God didn't love me. I'd rather He left me alone. I don't know what He intends to accomplish with my misery but I want no part of it. Even if He intends something good, I'm not interested in it."

The troubles I've experienced in this life don't even begin to compare to Job's, but I've had days when I'd just as soon God stopped working on me. Even if my circumstances were intended to build faith and character, I preferred to remain as I was rather than endure trials. I didn't know what God's purpose was and I might not have understood it if He had explained it to me, but what I really wanted was for Him to go bother someone else and leave me alone. I had no interest in growing in the faith if it was going to be painful. I was in wholehearted agreement with the anonymous quote, "I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much." Job would have agreed with that statement too. He is tired and discouraged and sick and he no longer cares about the purpose of his trials. He just wants to be done with them.

"Will You never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to You, You who see everything we do? Why have You made me Your target? Have I become a burden to You? Why do You not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins? For I will soon lie down in the dust; You will search for me, but I will be no more." (Job 7:19-21) Job is not admitting that sin is the cause of his sorrows. He's not agreeing with his friends who think he's brought this on himself by some awful deed. He simply recognizes that he is a sinner in the same way all other men and women are sinners. Job makes mistakes and Job has to repent of his mistakes just like everyone else. What he's saying is something like this, "Lord, even though I'm weak and prone to error, how does that really hurt You? You are so high above us and so untouchable. My sins can't harm You. But even so, if You are offended by me, do You not also possess the power to forgive me? Who else can make me clean? My righteousness is in You. If I am a sinner, it's Your laws I have transgressed, and that means You alone can pardon me. Please grant me the sense that You love me and are pleased with me, and do it soon, for my life is about to end."

I don't believe any trial lasts one second longer than it needs to in order to accomplish God's purpose, but we would prefer to skip the trials altogether, wouldn't we? I've tried to run from every unpleasant circumstance that has ever come against me. Even if God sat me down and patiently explained to me the purpose for my troubles and what He intended to accomplish through them, I think I'd be likely to say, "No thanks. I see what You're getting at but if these circumstances are what it takes to get me to the finish line that You have in mind, I think I'll pass." Maybe that's why God doesn't always tell us what He's doing. Even if we could understand it we'd still be likely to say no. If given the choice to remain as we are or to increase our faith through troubled times, it's human nature to choose the easy path.

I'm thankful that the Lord Jesus Christ, perfect Son of God, didn't have that attitude when it came to fulfilling His purpose. He was able to look past His suffering and see the end result. "For the joy set before Him He endured the cross." (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus wasn't concerned only with the here and now. He didn't say to the Father, "No thanks. I see what You're doing here and I understand this will save the souls of all who will trust in Me, but the price is just too high." What if Jesus had taken the easy way out? Where would we be now? What hope would we have?

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