This heart-rending passage is the protest of a man in the grip of dreadful suffering to a silent, but omnipresent, almighty God.
30 15Terrors overwhelm me;
my dignity is driven away as by the wind,
my safety vanishes like a cloud.
The disasters that took Job’s children, possessions, health, community standing – everything of value – descended out of nowhere. How could he but feel terror of the unknown power that was conspiring against him?
And what was left of his dignity? His closest friends were convinced that he was deserving of this ruin. What of those who had envied his success and good fortune? All that had seemed so firm had evaporated beneath him.
16“And now my life ebbs away;
days of suffering grip me.
17Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
There is no escape; day and night both hold their own distinctive manner of misery.
18In his great power God becomes like clothing to me;
he binds me like the neck of my garment.
19He throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.
In our discussion of the Creation story we noted the loving intimacy between God and humans, with God bowing low to form “the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:6). We then witnessed the horrifying events that shattered this relationship.
Here we see clear evidence of the extent of that brokenness in Job’s response to his suffering. God’s intimacy has been debased in Job’s mind to that of a brutal assailant. The same man who was capable of saying at the news that his livestock, servants and children had been lost:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)
was now so broken down by suffering that all confidence in the goodness of God appears to have vanished. This is the suffering that God sentenced to humankind in general after the fall, and that he specifically allowed Satan to inflict upon Job. What answer could we possibly give to Job that would restore his faith in God’s goodness?
20“I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.
The theme of this exposition has been the counter-intuitive potential for suffering to foster good, the greatest of which is the ability to acknowledge one’s need for God’s salvation. But this theme is counter-intuitive because it explores the exception, not the rule. This passage ushers us into the black night of suffering, the very negative of where we have been exploring.
This is the tragic destination for the sufferer or witness to suffering who has known God, but comes to believe that God must be evil, or at the very least totally uncaring, to let such events occur. What follows is a terrible bitterness, anger and hatred of God that is impervious to the most eloquent words of faith. They are in a place of desolation that can be reached only by the most powerful spiritual resources.
May we who have never faced such trials be preserved from passing judgment.
24“Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
It is as if Job is comparing his sense of pity and justice to God’s; and finding God’s to be the poorer.
27The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31My harp is tuned to mourning,
and my flute to the sound of wailing.
A final torrent of pain ends one of the most harrowing, confounding chapters in the Bible. Has ever an atheist or skeptic set up a more convincing scenario to shatter our faith in God’s goodness? Add here it is, right in the middle of God’s very WORD! What in the world is God up to? … He is up to lessons more profound than we could ever imagine.