Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 2: Thursday
Job 3–4 is the Bible reading today. Job 3 contains Job’s absolutely gut-wrenching lament. Losses and suffering have piled upon him until his heart splits and sorrow and anguish flow out from him in words of despair. This is a difficult chapter to read as Job finally opens his mouth to give voice to his deep pain over the wreckage of his life.
Upon the loss of his wealth and then his children in Job 1, he had torn his robe and shaved his head in mourning—and worshiped God. The chapter closed by saying, Through all this Job did not sin, nor did he give offense to God.
In chapter 2, with his body stricken and physical agony added to his emotional distress, his wife spoke to him out of her own devastated heart, urging him to curse God and die. Yet Job was able to tell her, “You speak as one of the wickedly foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept calamity?” It’s recorded, In all this Job did not sin with his lips. E. S. P. Heavenor points out, “He can no longer count on her spiritual support in the stern battle his faith is fighting.”1
His friends came, wept, and stayed with him—silent for seven days, Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great. For seven days they sat in silence, then Job finally spoke.
And the night which said, ‘A man is conceived.’”
The words of Job’s lament in chapter 3 are so powerful that as you read, if your heart finds voice in his lament, know that he is later restored and these words of despair are not the end of his story. They do not have to be the end of your story either. Also remember, that Job was not alone as he spoke. His friends will not help in their counsel to him, but Job was not alone. Speak these words in the presence of a trusted friend or counselor. If you have none, remember you can speak them in the presence of God—the Holy Spirit is our Comforter.
E. S. P. Heavenor comments on this lament:
We hear a cry of anguish from a soul quivering with agony. In this and in other speeches we must not submit every statement to microscopic examination, assuming that every word has been thoroughly weighed before utterance and is an exact expression of Job’s deepest thoughts. Job was soon to complain that his friends were training their verbal armoury upon the speeches of a desperate man, which he himself readily acknowledged were as wind (cf. 6:26). As this hurricane sweeps before us, we must marvel, not at every twists it takes, but at the agony of the spirit behind it.2
Job’s lament begins three cycles of speeches between Job and his friends from 3:1–31:40. Gleason Archer calls this section: “False comfort by the three friends.” Eliphaz’ reply to Job begins in chapter 4 and continues into chapter 5. I’ll write about his speech next week. Today I want to give you Dr. Archer’s comment on the three friends:
An adequate psychological motive for their persistence in carrying on the controversy with Job over so many chapters is to be found in the dilemma into which his catastrophic disaster had placed them. If a man of such high reputation could suffer so devastating a misfortune, their own security was imperiled by the possibility that the same thing could happen to themselves. Their basic motive in attempting to elicit from Job a confession of sin was to establish their own sense of security. If in point of fact Job had been guilty of some grievous sin of which the public had no knowledge, his overwhelming disaster could be easily understood as the retribution of the righteous God. Failing to secure from him any such confession despite all their diligent efforts to compel from him an admission of guilt, they felt unable to return home relieved and reassured that calamity would be kept from their door if they only “lived a good life.”2
His friends will search for a defect in Job that will explain his suffering—not to alleviate his anguish, but, I think, to relieve their own fears. That was their mistake. If you want to help someone who is suffering, then examine yourself before you give counsel. Am I searching for a defect in this person to explain their suffering? Am I looking for sin or for lack of spiritual maturity or for stupidity to explain their circumstances, or am I listening first and in humility asking God for wisdom in my response and words? Am I acting from my own fears? Am I trying to reassure myself? Am I doing this out of love?
It takes love to be willing to face your own fears and help someone live through theirs. It takes love to be more concerned about how you can be of help to someone, than how you can reassure yourself. Anyone can listen to a lament, but it takes love to learn to speak words of solace and care.
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Job and his friends, Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Public Domain.
1E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 424.
2Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody Press, Chicago IL: 1966, 1974) 455.
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