Job 3:20-26

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!

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Job 3:11-19

Please open your Bibles to Job 3:11-19

Vs. 11-12 – In these verses, Job questions why he didn’t die at or near birth. He indicates this in several manners. First he wonders why he did not die in the womb from complications of pregnancy. Second he wonders why he didn’t die after childbirth perhaps due to complications in the delivery. Third, why was his mother (or nurse) such a good caretaker to prevent him from dying prematurely. This is the significance of the question, “Why did the knees prevent me?” Fourth, why didn’t he die from malnutrition, that is, from lack of milk as a babe. Job, in his suffering, reasons that it would have been better for him to have died in one of these ways than to have lived until the day when he would have to suffer so. Suffering can cause us to want to be dead rather than alive.

We must note, however, that Job never acted upon these desires for death nor did his friends. If such sentiments had been expressed in our day and age it wouldn’t be too long before someone obtained a court order and had Job’s food and water taken away from him so that he would starve to death. Or perhaps they would have called for the suicide doctor to come administer a deadly dose of poison so that Job’s life would expire. Even in the midst of this suffering, there was a line that Job and his friends knew not to cross. Regardless of how fragile a life may be there is no excuse for causing the death of an innocent person (Proverbs 6:16-17). Nor is there any excuse for committing suicide, which is really just self murder (Romans 1:29).

Vs. 13-16 – In these verses, Job wants to know why he couldn’t have had rest like the kings and princes of old or like a still born child. Job seemingly would prefer the rest of death rather than the anguish through which he was going at this time. Of course, Job, had he died as an infant, would have had spiritual rest, but this is not the kind of rest to which Job refers. He is referring here to the physical appearance of rest in that of a corpse.

Job reasons that the kings, counselors, and princes of the earth who have built for themselves tombs in the desolate places where their bodies could rest would indeed be the place that he desired at this time. Whether they were ornately furnished or not matter not to Job. It was simply that they had places of rest that tempted him so. Having one’s body ravaged by disease and receiving no rest during either night or day due to the intense pain in which one is suffering (Job 30:17), the grave must have looked like an appealing sight to Job.

Job even considers that he would have been better of if he was miscarried or still born. Even that would have been better than the suffering what he is now undergoing.

Vs. 17-19 – In these verses, Job posits that in death one is free from such wretched suffering as he is undergoing and can have rest. It is in death, Job reasons, that one no longer has to worry about persecution by the wicked. It is in death that those who work and toil and labor and from which their weary bodies are worn out, no longer have concern over such travail. It is in death that prisoners and slaves no longer must bend to the rod of their master’s oppression. Death offers no exceptions; both the small and great succumb to it eventually. There is no respect of persons in death.

We must note that in Job’s day and age not as much revelation had been given regarding the state of the soul at death. Perhaps Job thought of death as a place of rest for all, both righteous and wicked. From the physical appearance of death, it certainly appears that way. We know, however, that the Bible teaches that death isn’t a place of rest for the wicked (Revelation 14:11), but only for the righteous (Revelation 14:13).

The wise man declares in the book of Ecclesiastes 7:2-4, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Certainly more would do well if they would consider death seriously more often in their life than the callous and frivolous attitudes that many display toward the subject. How ought we to consider death today? It is certainly appointed for all men (Hebrews 9:27) and it is not something that we ought to desire if we haven’t lived the kind of life that God wants us to live (1 Corinthians 15:56). For such, only misery awaits after this life (Matthew 25:46). The Christian, on the other hand, has nothing to fear from death (1 Corinthians 15:57) and so does not sorrow at death as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The Christian has great hope for eternal life and so death is welcome to him and is a blessing (Psalm 116:15).

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The Parable of the Two “Waters”

Suppose that you were dying in the desert and you came upon a tent. Inside the tent were two people. One of those people appeared friendly, warm, and inviting. The other person appeared ugly, cold and repulsive. In front of both people were large baskets and inside one of those baskets was life giving water, but inside the other basket was deadly poison. The one who appeared friendly said, “Come and drink the water that is in my basket.” Then the ugly person said, “No, he is a liar. Do not drink of that bowl for it contains poison.” The friendly person replies, “I can’t believe that you are so unloving and impatient. Can’t you see this man is thirsty. Can’t you see that he needs a drink? Where is your love and compassion for this man.” So you ask this person, “Do you know if there is water in your basket” and this one replies, “I don’t claim to know everything, I’m just on a journey like everyone else.” So you ask the other one, “Do you know if there is water in your basket?” And he replies, “Yes, I know there is water in my basket.” Then the friendly person says, “I can’t believe that you would be so arrogant as to claim that you have the only water in your basket.” So this person turns to you and says, “Surely you are an educated man who understands that we are all in this journey together and that there is not really anything that we can truly know.” So the unattractive person says, “If you drink of the bowl that he offers, you will die.” Then the attractive person says, “I can’t believe that you would be so self righteous as to think that someone would die from drinking out of my bowl. Do you think that I am some kind of idiot or fool? Where is your love, your compassion, your concern for this poor soul.” So he replies, “I love this man enough to tell him the truth. I want him to live. If he will but drink of the bowl that is in my basket he will.” Then this man says, “Why don’t you test both substances with this litmus paper and see which is which.” The attractive person says, “I can’t believe you would ask him to do that. I’m offended that you would even suggest such.” Then he turns to you and says, “If you do that, then I will be offended.” So being persuaded by the words of the attractive person who obviously loves you (you know because of the words that he spoke, don’t you?), you drink of his bowl, but before the liquid reaches the back of your throat, you realize that it is poison and it is too late. As you lay dying, the unattractive person comes over and says, “you could have tested both of the substances that we had and known which was water and which was poison.” The attractive person lies dying next to you and says, “I’m so sorry. I was deceived. I just did not know,” but it is too late. Who was truly the most loving out of the two?

We each have something in our possession. Some have truth and some are deceived by lies. But there is a way to test who has truth and who has lies, by comparing the words that we speak with God’s words. The outcome of our decision is no less critical than the situation above; in fact, it is even more grave, because we are not merely speaking about our physical life, but our spiritual one and eternity hangs in the balance. When it comes to questions that affect our salvation, why would we seek to gamble with that by trusting someone who says, “Well, I don’t know all the answers, but this is what I believe, but I don’t really think that we have all the answers” yet appears warm, caring, and sensitive. On the other hand, there are others who say, “This is truth and you ought to believe it. And here is the way that you can test that what I am telling you is truth or not.” They give it to you straight, because they understand that if you do not accept it, then your soul will be in jeopardy. They warn you of the terrible consequences that await those who fail to believe the truth, and they point out the fact that others are out there, deceived and speaking lies about God’s plan for man’s salvation. Yet some criticize them and say that they are unloving, unkind, and lack communication skills. So it is in your power to test which one is speaking the truth and which one is not. Will you, fearful of offending someone, follow your emotions and make your decision based upon the appearance of love, sensitivity, and concern? Or will you, regardless of who you may offend, test the things that are said against the standard of truth that God has given to ensure that your beliefs are in harmony with reality? I hope that you would choose to test the things that have been told you by others, by comparing them to God’s word and concluding based upon truth that you can believe one and not believe the other.

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