Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 5: Thursday
Today’s Bible reading is Job 9–10. These chapters contain Job’s rejoinder to Bildad. Rejoinder is the word used by Gleason Archer to describe Job’s speeches to his friends.1 One of Dr. Archer’s many degrees was in law, and it’s not surprising that he would use a word that means, “…a pleading made by a defendant in response to the plaintiff’s replication,”2 because as Job speaks, he is answering the accusations of his friends. It’s significant that he would have to do so. The thought or hope of any consolation from his friends has been left behind. From Job’s perspective he is at the point of finding no help from these men and believing there is none to be had from God.
We cannot know what Job might have said if his friends had refrained from their judgments, but in reading Job’s words you can see him spiraling down in despair. In chapter 7, he began to directly address God and now in these two chapters he only sees God from the perspective of his pain. In chapters 9–10, Job has lost his moorings of trust in God. E. S. P. Heavenor comments on chapter 9:
“He fastens…on a general principle accepted by all the friends and expounded by Eliphaz in 4:17—the impossibility of mortal man appearing just before God….Job accepts the truth of the principle, but goes on to deny that there can be a grain of comfort in it.”3
Chapter 10 continues his bleak understanding of God. He questions God, but gives his own despondent answer. Heavenor writes:
“In the answer which follows we see Job touching depths of doubt and despair blacker than anything found elsewhere in the book.”4
“‘If I am wicked, woe to me!
And if I am righteous,
I dare not lift up my head.
I am sated with disgrace
and conscious of my misery.
Should my head be lifted up,
You would hunt me like a lion;
And again You would show
Your power against me.
You renew Your witnesses against me
And increase Your anger toward me;
Hardship after hardship is with me.’”
The chapter closes in his despair. I want to repeat something I wrote last week: Job’s need was to believe in God’s goodness, benevolence and personal care for him in the face of God’s inscrutable sovereignty in allowing his suffering. Assuring someone that God is sovereign is not necessarily a comforting thing. The person may already believe and know that—the spiritual battle may be believing in God’s love at a time of intensely feeling abandoned. Job did not doubt God’s sovereignty, but in the face of the accusations of his friends and overwhelmed by his pain, he lost hope. When you see a fellow believer losing his moorings of trust in God, pray, love and be there as a tangible reminder of God’s mercy; be faithful in providing help as a tangible reminder of God’s mercy so that they know and remember and see there is hope to be found in God. Look out for the interests of others for you are a steward of God’s grace.
These are intense chapters in Job to read by themselves, but to read them back to back with Psalms 12–14 from Wednesday’s Bible reading takes you into the abyss of the most harrowing feelings, questions and doubts experienced by those who suffer. There is no denial here to avoid admitting fears nor is there faith that is feigned to affect protective camouflage against the judgment of others—in David and Job we see men grappling with circumstances that have overwhelmed them. You know, the Bible is so incredibly real. God deals with who we really are and how we really feel and life as it really is. He shows us who He really is, and He gives us truth upon truth so that we can know Him and trust Him.
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Seeing Job’s despair helps us understand how our perspective and understanding of God becomes distorted in our own affliction. We know Job’s backstory—we don’t know our own. We know there was a backstory to Job’s terrible afflictions; we can be assured there is a backstory to ours. Persevere and be encouraged. Through the Scriptures we come to know the living God. We have hope.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, revised ed., 1974, p. 455.
2Rejoinder: Princeton University “Rejoinder.” WordNet. Princeton University. 2010. <http://wordnet.princeton.edu>
3, 4E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds.,
A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 427–428.
Job and his friends, Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Public Domain.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter