Friday, August 08, 2003

Job 7: Job Responds to Eliphaz

In Job 6, Job appealed to his friends for kindness and defended his character. In this second part of his speech Job directed his words to God. 

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.

Job First Prayer

After Job appealed to his friends for kindness, understanding, and trust, he became introspective about his condition again:

Does not man have hard service on earth? Are not his days also like the days of a hired man? Like a servant longing for the evening shadow, and like a hired man looking for his wages. 

Thus I have been made to inherit months of futility, and nights of sorrow have been appointed to me. If I lie down, I say, ‘When will I arise?’, and the night stretches on and I am full of tossing to and fro unto the dawning of the day. 

My body is clothed with worms and dirty scabs; my skin is broken and festering. 

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle and they come to an end without hope. 

Remember that my life is but a breath, that my eyes will never again see happiness. The eye of him who sees me now will see me no more; your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone. As a cloud is dispersed and then disappears, so the one who goes down to the grave does not come up again. He returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him any more. (Job 7:1-10, The Net Bible)

"The evening shadow" was again a desire for death to come. "Months of futility" seems to be a reference to time already gone by. Neither day nor night brought rest or relief. The progress of his disease was disgusting and the days came and went.

"Remember that my life is but a breath" Job, perhaps, was warning his friends to show kindness while there was still time. One of the heartbreaking aspects of grieving the dead are the un-reconciled affairs which must be forever un-reconciled.

As I wrote yesterday, Job had four pressure points working against him: His grief, his health, his friends, and his God. Job now turned to address his God:

Therefore, I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. 

Am I the sea, or the creature of the deep, that you must set a watch over me? 

If I say, “My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,” then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would prefer strangling, and death more than life. I loathe it; I would not live forever; leave me alone, for my days are a vapor! 

What is man that you make so much of him, and that you pay attention to him? And that you visit him every morning, and try him every moment? Will you never look away from me, will you not let me alone long enough to swallow my spittle? 

If I have sinned—what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you set me as your target? Have I become a burden to you? And why do you not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? For now I will lie down in the dust, and you will seek me diligently, but I will be gone.” (Job 7:11-21)

"I will not refrain...I will speak...I will complain" How eager might Satan now have been to see the pressure rise in Job's soul as he turned to speak to God. Would Job now curse? No, Job sought understanding instead.

"Am I the sea, or the creature of the deep" This was another allusion to the Leviathan myths. Job said, in effect, "Do you, O God, have to watch over me in the same way that the mythic heroes controlled the sea monster." [If you would like to explore this aspect of Job more, see: Fyall, Robert S. Now my Eyes have seen You--Images of creation and evil in the book of Job (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press 2002).

"You scare me with dreams..." Even when Job could sleep, he would have nightmares. As with all his troubles, Job ascribed their origin as coming from God. Job would not have understood the popular concept of "God's permissive will" and Job is not a book to support such a notion. This is simply a tension that you have to accept with the book of Job. It is the pushing through that becomes a means of wisdom.

"What is man that you make so much of him..." The actual truth behind these words is phenomenal. Judaism and Christianity tell of a God able to attend the large scale universe and the small details with equal ease. The Creator was able to trouble Job such that he could not even swallow without interfering. As we see the pain washing over Job's life and ascribe it to God's hand, we must remind ourselves that His motivation is mercy. Concerning the Lord's ease at the large and the small in His universe, look at these words from Psalm 147:

He heals the brokenhearted, and bandages their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; he names all of them. Our sovereign Master is great and has awesome power; there is no limit to his wisdom. (Psalm 147:3-5)

The Psalmist speaks of the Lord's concern for the brokenhearted and then zooooooooooooooooooms (the number of o's correspond the power of ten that marks the known size of the universe in meters) to the farthest reaches of the universe. Modern astronomers have an estimate for the number of stars, but the Lord has a name for each one. All parts of the creation matter to Him. 

"If I have sinned..." Job put forth a proposition to God. "Assume that I have sinned, what about what I did hurt you so much that you have struck me so hard? Why not forgive instead?"

"You will seek me diligently, but I will be gone." These words were similar to those Job spoke to his friends, "your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone." In both cases, Job was saying, "Is my death something that you really want?" Because Job is about a real situation, we must not expect the characters to remain consistent. Only seconds before, Job was asking God to back off and stop watching his every move. Now it seems that Job was concerned that God might be attending to something else and Job would die and God would return and look for him. The sentiment is anthropomorphic to an extreme, but so what? By them, Job we see that Job had a sense that God still cared for Him.

Eliphaz - Job (1), a Recap

This completes the first exchange between Eliphaz and Job. Eliphaz should have shown kindness to Job, but did not. His references to the children of a fool "crushed in the place of judgment" was incredibly harsh, and so we must vote Eliphaz a dismal failure when it comes to grief counseling.

As for Job's speech. I think that he responded well. He admitted that his opening words had been rash. He asked for kindness to be shown to him. He proclaimed his moral character and invited investigation. We and his friends should account for his great pain.

The story should have ended here. Unfortunately, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are stuck in logic that says, "You get what you deserved." There was no need to investigate Job's contention of innocence when the proof of character was there in the worm encrusted scabs over Job's body.

It was time to make Job face facts.

Monday: Bildad's Wisdom from the Ancients

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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