Please open your Bibles to Job 3:20-26.
In this section, we find the key question to the entire book of Job. Rephrased into today’s vernacular we would ask, “Why do good men suffer bad things?” or “Why is there suffering in the world?” The burden of the book of Job is to answer this question and we don’t get the answer in a short simple statement, because it’s not that kind of answer. There are many things that go through an individual’s mind when he is suffering. Is God mad at me? Is God punishing me? Why doesn’t God explain what He is doing? What will be the results of all of this? Why haven’t I died? Why shouldn’t I kill myself? What role does sin have in my suffering? These are all questions that are answered in the book of Job, but one must take the time to look at the book as a whole. The question of “Why do good men suffer bad things?” is a question that can’t be answered in just one sitting. It can only be answered through reasoning and contemplation, prayer and meditation of God and His word. This, and all the other attendant questions, will be answered in this book.
One thing we should note here. Neither Job nor his friends ever question God existence in regard to this problem. This is, of course, one of the great arguments today levied by those who do not believe in God. But the fact of the matter is that if there is true “evil” in the world, then God must exist. How so? In order for their to be something that one can objectively categorize as evil, then there must be a standard by which one may categorize such as evil – a standard of right and wrong. But if there is a standard of right and wrong, then there must be someone that has a right to levy that standard and require justice of those who violate it. No mere men or group of men contain the authority within themselves to establish such a standard. The only place from which such a standard can come is from Someone who is over and above the provincial and transient standards of men. God is really the only one who satisfies these requirements. The problem of evil doesn’t disprove God; it proves God. Job nor his friends ever question the existence of God because it would be a self-defeating proposition.
Vs. 20 – Job wonders why God is still keeping him alive when he desires death so much. Why allow him to suffer like he has? Wouldn’t it be better for Job to be “put out of his misery” so to speak? This is a suffering man talking. Many who suffer reason this way. But the fact of the matter is that this is the pain talking, not the reasoning part of man. This is the emotion of suffering speaking and not the clear intellect of intelligence reasoning.
As we’ve mentioned, there is a more fundamental question here. Why is there suffering in the world at all? The book will examine various answers to this question and we can actually come to some conclusions about it in the end.
“Light” is symbolic of being able to “see.” If one can see, then one is alive. The one who is in misery is the one who is suffering. The one who is “bitter in soul” is also the one who is suffering. Hence, why do living people suffer?
Vs. 21 – Job describes the depth of the suffering. They are suffering so much that they would rather die. The symbolism that Job uses is that they desire death so much that they would mine it out of the earth as gold, silver, or other treasures in the earth. But we ought not to think from this that Job meant that if they had the opportunity to take their life, then they OUGHT to do it, merely that they would do anything to have it happen to them. There is a difference between actively pursuing death and passively pursuing it. This is intense and deep suffering.
Vs. 22 – Job describes those who desire death to rejoice when they find the grave. Well, one can’t literally and physically rejoice when one dies. This is again, figurative language describing the depth of suffering that Job is experiencing. It would be, in Job’s mind, a relief and a joy to be dead because that would mean that he wouldn’t be undergoing this intense suffering any longer. Of course, Job didn’t have the benefit of the revelation on this subject that we have today. We know that death is NO relief for the wicked, but that punishment awaits them (Matthew 25:30, 46). For the righteous, of course, there is a rest that is awaiting (Hebrews 4:9-11).
Vs. 23 – The same question is again repeated as was asked in verse 20; it is really an extension of the question asked in verse 20. Again, this question is the central theme of the book of Job. Why is there suffering in the world? The expression “whose way is hidden” here indicates someone who has an uncertain future. In Job’s particular case, it means this as a result of the great loss that he has experienced in losing his wealth and family. “Whom God has hedged in” in this context isn’t referring to great blessings (as we found in Job 1:10) but rather, to limitations. Job had a great hedge of limitations around him now. He couldn’t move due to his disease (Job 7:4); he couldn’t eat (Job 6:7, 33:20); he had no wealth; he was in great pain (Job 33:19); he had no friends or family to comfort him. He was now hedged with suffering instead of blessing, just the opposite of the condition in which he was in previously.
Vs. 24 – Job emphasizes that he does not have the ability to eat here. A better reading of this passage is in the ESV which says that Job’s sighing comes instead of his bread as opposed to the KJV, his sighings come before his bread. The idea is that Job hasn’t the strength to eat. It is a monumental effort to simply get bread, chew it, swallow it, and repeat the process. Job also would later say that he can’t even taste the food that he is given (Job 6:6,7).
Job’s “roarings” or “groanings” are “poured out like water.” The idea is that they come out fluidly and easily. There is no interference with them. They are freely given voice. Man normally suppresses his little aches and pains, but in Job’s condition he could not so suppress the voice to his sufferings. If one has ever visited a nursing home or hospital, then one can understand what Job means here. Frequenting the halls of such places one oft hears the sighs and groans of those who are in pain.
Vs. 25 – What is the thing that Job fears and dreads? The word “fear” isn’t used here as a verb, but as a noun. Hence, this must be referring to his current physical condition and sufferings. We shouldn’t take this statement to mean something that Job fears in the future, but rather something that he currently is experiencing. The thing that he fears is the condition that he is currently in. It is his intense suffering. He fears that it will continue moment after moment and that he will get no relief. Eliphaz expresses the same sentiment in Job 22:10 “Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee.” The calamities that Job had experienced were his “sudden fear.”
Vs. 26 – Job describes his physical state, which we have already alluded to above. He isn’t “at ease” because of the great pain that he is in. He isn’t “quiet” because of the moanings that flow out of him like water. He doesn’t have “rest” because his pain won’t allow him to sleep. The best that can be said of his situation is “trouble comes.” He’s had plenty of it and for the foreseeable future, that is all that he can expect; he sees no light at the end of the tunnel.
When we suffer, our situation may seem similar to Job’s. We may not see that light at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, with God, there is always hope. Psalm 71:5 says, “For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.” Jeremiah penned these words, “Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil” (Jeremiah 17:17). God is our only hope in this life; let us trust in Him always!