Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 10: Thursday
Today’s Bible reading of Job 19–20, begins with Job’s reply to Bildad. Remember, in Job 18, Bildad lectured Job on the “doom of the wicked,”1 a topic with no application or relevance to who Job is and that gave no help for his distress. In chapter 19, Job understandably begins his response by saying:
“How long will you torment me
And crush me with words?
These ten times you have insulted me;
You are not ashamed to wrong me.”
Job feels God considers him an enemy, and he tells of his abandonment by relatives and friends and being despised by all whom he knows. In his anguish he cries out:
“Pity me, pity me, O you my friends,
For the hand of God has struck me.
Why do you persecute me as God does,
And are not satisfied with my flesh?”
His appeal to them is heart-rending. He has been rebuked and lectured without consolation or mercy from his friends, and the solitude of his suffering was breaking Job. E. S. P. Heavenor writes:
“The tragic relationship between Job and his friends appears in a clear light. Surely, says Job, the realization that the hand of God is afflicting him ought to move them to pity. Yet it was for that very reason that they could not pity him. Their inflexible creed would not allow them to do so….Job’s complaint against his friends [in v. 22] was that they were too godlike. In their attitude to his suffering, which was gradually becoming more unsympathetic, he imagined he saw a reflection of the attitude of God who seemed so callous about the weight of sorrow with which He was crushing him down to despair.”2
The New Testament depicts our lives as Christians living together through affliction and suffering. In Romans 15:15, Paul said to weep with those who weep. In Paul’s opening words in 2 Corinthians, he wrote about the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort who had comforted him, so that he in turn would be able to comfort the afflicted with the comfort he had received from God. Those who suffer need prayer that God will console them with His Holy Spirit, and they need consolation from their brothers and sisters in Christ. There may be truths that need to be spoken, but they need to be applied or reassured with love, comfort and understanding.
Part of the U.S. Rangers’ creed is, “I will never leave a fallen comrade behind to fall into the hands of the enemy.” I see that in Paul as he writes and instructs and encourages and exhorts and pours out his life into other believers from a heart full of love for Christ and for His people. I am convinced that the New Testament gives a portrait of Christians going through affliction together, and instructs and commands us on the rescue and recovery operations God has called his children to do for each other. We can’t leave one another to fall into the hands of the Enemy.
The providence of God at many times is inscrutable to us. We are called to trust Him and persevere—but at the same time in His compassion He knows we hurt. As God works out His sovereign will there are many things going that only He understands and that we cannot grasp. In this life we walk in eternity and in the temporal. We are to be companions and through the love we show for one another we are a flesh and blood witness to His goodness even when our circumstances would tell us otherwise and tempt us to doubt Him.
Job turns to God once more as he gives us these magnificent words:
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;”
Zophar’s speech to Job in chapter 20, is similar to Bildad’s in chapter 18. He tells Job of the terrible end of the wicked; again, words without application to the man Job is. It’s absolutely stunning that he feels insulted and speaks without any mercy or love whatsoever after he has just heard Job’s distressing plea for pity.
I want to go back to Job’s words in 19:23–24, where he says:
“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
That with an iron stylus and lead
They were engraved in the rock forever!”
Although as Heavenor writes, the thought of any accolades of the future do not assuage the agony of Job’s present3, as I read this I thought that Job’s words have been inscribed in a book. The rock they are engraved in is God’s Word, which will last forever, and God has brought immeasurable comfort through Job to those who suffer. We identify with Job’s pain and his struggles with doubt and trust in God. We even identify with the words he hears from the three who reprimand him, for the ideas expressed in their words are still spoken to those who suffer today, and Job’s ability to pierce the miasma of their accusations brings clarity and solace.
As Christians we can find comfort in the book of Job in our affliction, but we must also learn from the examples of his three friends—some words don’t alleviate pain, but only add to the suffering of the afflicted. Pray and think about the impact of your words before you speak them. People need consolation. Don’t hear the heart cry of someone begging for pity and turn away; pity them, comfort them, love them. Don’t leave the fallen behind.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Job and his friends, Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Public Domain.
1, 2, 3E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds.,
A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 431–432.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter