Thursday, March 9, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 5, Job Curses The Day He Was Born

Job has been sitting in the ashes of mourning for seven days and seven nights. His three friends have been sitting silently with him, lending their support without saying a word. When we concluded Chapter Two we were told, "No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." These three friends don't know what to say. There's nothing they can say that will help. If you've ever lost someone you loved dearly, you know that there's nothing anyone can say to make you feel better. Sometimes the best thing anyone can do is just lend the support of their presence.

I think Job has been in severe shock for seven days. He's lost almost everything he had, including his children, and he's suffering from a physical illness. He hasn't been able to find the energy to speak. There have been a few times in my life when I was in so much emotional distress I couldn't think clearly enough to carry on a conversation; I couldn't even pray except to say the name of Jesus. Job is going through something much worse than anything I've ever experienced and he's been rendered speechless by his troubles. It's all he can do to just keep taking one breath after another. But finally, after seven days have passed, he finds his voice again.

"After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: 'May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, 'A boy is conceived!'" (Job 3:1-3) Job says, "I wish I had never been born! It would be better to have never existed than to suffer such tragedies."

"That day---may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine on it. May gloom and utter darkness claim it once more; may a cloud settle over it; may blackness overwhelm it. That night---may thick darkness seize it; may it not be included among the days of the year nor be entered in any of the months." (Job 3:4-6) Birthdays were joyous occasions in Job's family. We were told in Chapter One that his sons were in the habit of throwing celebratory feasts on their birthdays. It's likely that Job and his wife celebrated their own birthdays as well. But now Job hates the day of his birth so much that he wants it wiped off the calendar.

"May that night be barren; may no shout of joy be heard in it. May those who curse days curse that day, those who are ready to rouse Leviathan." (Job 3:7-8) Verses 7 and 8 have presented difficulty to interpreters. The book of Job uses some very ancient and archaic Aramaic words whose meaning are unknown, but these verses seem to indicate he is calling upon those who cast spells and curses (sorcerers and magicians) to curse the day he was born. Another rendering of verse 8 might be, "May those who curse the sea curse that day". The use of the word "sea" makes sense when Job speaks of rousing Leviathan. Seafaring men feared a serpentine sea monster called Leviathan. Leviathan may have been a literal creature or it could have been a mythical animal that was credited with maritime disasters. It was a hellish and powerful creature that no one could tame. So Job is saying something like, "May the night I was conceived and the day I was born never be celebrated again. May those who cast spells curse my birthday. I hate the day of my birth so much that, instead of throwing a joyful party, I'd rather the heathens raised hell on that day."

"May its morning stars become dark; may it wait for daylight in vain and not see the first rays of dawn, for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me to hide trouble from my eyes." (Job 3:9-10) If Job had to be conceived, then he wishes he had died in the womb. He will say later on in Chapter 14, "Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble." Moses, who may have been a contemporary of Job, said in Psalm 90, "Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." The Lord Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble." Job is pondering what he sees as the futility of life if it leads only to sorrow. Why was he born only to endure such troubles? He would rather he had never drawn his first breath.

In his intense grief Job has lost all perspective, as many of us do. I know I have certainly failed to keep the right spirit in troubled times. But when in sorrow I think the best thing we can do is "consider Jesus", as the author of Hebrews urges us. Jesus was a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3) yet He never cursed the day He was born. Jesus' sole purpose in being born was to offer Himself in place of mankind. His destiny was to suffer rejection and persecution and pain and death. Yet He considered it the highest honor and because of His obedience He has been given the name above all other names. (Philippians 2:9) Jesus was thankful for the day of His birth, thankful for His life, and thankful even for His suffering. If Job had never been born he would never have known the Lord or enjoyed the fellowship of His presence. We wouldn't be studying Job's life today. The book of Job wouldn't be ministering to us. Job wouldn't be held up as an example to us by the Lord's brother James who said that, if we persevere as Job did, we are blessed. (James 5:11)

Job is on a roll now, stuck in his mournful mood, and we can't blame him for that. Honestly, it often seems to take less energy to wallow in our sorrows than to fight against them. Sometimes our flesh tells us it's easier just to give in, and that's what we find Job doing today. Have you ever been in such a mood that you don't want anyone to try and cheer you up? Have you ever wanted to just wrap your anger and bitterness and grief around you like a blanket and remain inside of it? I've been there many times, and that's where Job is in today's passage. "Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed? For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest with kings and rulers of the earth, who built for themselves places now lying in ruins, with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver. Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?" (Job 3:11-16) Job says if he had died in the womb or if he had been born dead, he would be at rest. He clearly demonstrates a belief in life after death. He believes that babies who are lost during pregnancy or who are born dead have a soul that goes to be with the Lord. This should comfort anyone who has ever suffered a miscarriage or the stillbirth of a child. That child had a soul, even though he or she never drew a breath in this world, and that soul is with God.

Job thinks he would have been better off if he had never drawn breath in this world. He would never have had to suffer any losses. He would rather be in the presence of God where no wickedness can touch him. "There the wicked cease from turmoil, and there the weary are at rest. Captives also enjoy their ease; they no longer hear the slave driver's shout. The small and the great are there, and the slaves are freed from their owners." (Job 3:17-19) The happenings of this world seem unfair and unjust to Job; he'd rather be where unfair things don't happen.

"Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil." (Job 3:2-26) Job says, "I wish I was dead!" But he doesn't say, "I'm going to kill myself." He longs for the Lord to take him out of this world and release him from his grief, but he leaves his fate up to the Lord. He doesn't take his life into his own hands. Satan would have been delighted if he could have induced Job to commit suicide, but Job recognizes that no one but God has the right to take his life. Job has given in to despair, but he hasn't given in far enough to take his own life.

Satan believed Job would curse God, and if he's standing by Job's side waiting for that to happen, he is bitterly disappointed. Job curses the day of his birth, but he doesn't curse the Lord. Even in his sorrow he acknowledges that the Creator has all power over the creation to do with it as He pleases. God gives, God takes away. Even in his sorrow, Job believes that God is good. He believes his suffering has a purpose, even though he'd do almost anything to avoid it. He still believes God loves him. And so he endures. He waits. He remains faithful.

Our worship song link for today is below. The artist wrote this song in a time when he was experiencing intense grief but still believed in the goodness of God.
I Still Believe

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