Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 4: Thursday
Nor let me alone until I swallow my spit?
Have I sinned? What have I done to You,
O watcher of men?
Why have You set me as Your target,
So that I am a burden to myself?”
In his rejoinder to Eliphaz, Job is weighed down by God’s sovereignty. Francis Andersen writes,
“Job believes that God, as Sovereign, may give or retrieve his gifts at his pleasure (1:22b); he may send good or bad (2:10b). He is not accountable to any man for such actions. Eliphaz thinks he knows how to get along with a predictable (and that means, to some extent, manageable) God. Job, who has no such pretensions, faces the agony of getting along with a God over whom he has absolutely no control or even influence…
“Job is being tested. It is essential that he does not know why. He must ask why. He must test and reject all the answers attempted by men. In the end he will find satisfaction in what God himself tells him.”1
Chapter 7 opens with Job’s reflecting on the emptiness of life as he speaks of his grinding miseries. He recounts his nights of trouble without sleep, his loathsome, agonizing disease, and views his life without hope. In Job 7:7, Job begins to speak to God.2 His words of anguish burst forth:
I will speak in the distress of my spirit;
I will muse on the bitterness of my soul.”
As I read his words I thought of David. Psalm 39 contains his similar complaint. Both see their adversity as God bearing down on them.
O watcher of men?
Why have You set me as Your target,
So that I am a burden to myself?
Why then do You not forgive my transgression
And take away my iniquity?
For now I will lie down in the dust;
And You will seek me earnestly, but I will not be.”
Because of the opposition of Your hand I am wasting away.
With reproofs You chasten a man for iniquity;
You consume as a moth what is precious to him;
Surely every man is vanity. Selah.
Job’s plaintive cry indicates he knows of no specific sin he has committed, but if there is one, he wants to know why God doesn’t pardon him. Because of Job 1–2, we know Job’s adversity is not a consequence of his sin. although, we don’t know what preceded David’s complaint. Both are feeling the smallness and futility of their lives as they both acknow–ledge God’s sovereignty over their circumstances. Job feels targeted. Both entreat God to leave them alone.
Nor let me alone until I swallow my spittle?”
Before I go and am no more.”
E. S. P. Heavenor writes that Job’s phrase about spittle means, ‘for a single moment,’ and is still used.3
Job expresses no hope, but David does say:
My hope is in You.
I think I’ve come to understand why Job and the Psalms were written in poetic form. The concise form and precise use of words in poetry gives expression to intense emotions in the same way a narrow channel intensifies the flow of water. I don’t think prose could have conveyed the intensity of emotions as well as poetry.
In Job 8, Bildad begins to lecture Job. Here is an excerpt:
Then He sent them into the power of their transgression.
If you would seek God earnestly
And plead for the grace of the Almighty,
If you are pure and upright,
Indeed now He would rouse Himself for you
And make your righteous abode at peace.”
“We find two grave deficiencies in Bildad which make his words worse than useless from Job’s standpoint. First, he was tragically lacking in the sympathy for which Job craved. His assumption that the sudden death of Job’s family was the divine punishment for their sinfulness was a sword thrust into an agonized heart. Job knew that it was untrue. In the second place, he was totally hidebound by tradition. He was so busily engaged in looking into the past that he quite failed to realize that Job was feeling out for a richer and more intelligent experience of God than anything he himself had known.”4
Have you ever been on the receiving end of lectures in the midst of suffering? I have. I’ve not been accused of sin, but have been told a pat Christian Living 101 on handling adversity from people who had not entered my valley to get to know me or what I thought or felt. Instead, they stood at the edge and tossed words down to me when I needed their presence next to me in my low places.
Have you ever lectured someone who was in the midst of suffering? Examine your own heart and motivation. You may have been clumsy and trying to help or there may have been pride mixed with your presumption or fear. Only God knows. Repent and work to restore the relationship and do not add to the burden of a sufferer who may not only be struggling with adversity, but also struggling with forgiving you.
Job’s need was to believe in God’s personal care and love for him in the face of God’s inscrutable sovereignty in allowing his suffering. The spiritual battle may be believing in God’s love at a time of intensely feeling abandoned. This feeling can even be heightened if the person has had previous continuous fellowship with God and worshiped Him as Job and David did, but now only feels blow after blow. In Job 6:14, Job said:
Lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty.”
Hesed is the Hebrew word translated as kindness in this verse, and in the King James Version of the Bible it is frequently translated as lovingkindness. R. Laird Harris writes,
“The word “lovingkindness” of the KJV is archaic, but not far from the fulness of the meaning of the word.”5
When circumstances overwhelm you and Satan whispers in your ear that you are abandoned by God, the lovingkindness of friends who are with you in your valley gives the lie to Satan’s words. Fellow believers are God’s tangible reminder that He loves you and has not, and will not, abandon you in your agony.
I’ve suffered with friends alongside me, and I’ve suffered alone. It was far easier for me to trust God and find joy in Him when friends stood with me. Struggling alone to believe and trust God is so difficult. The spiritual agony of feeling alone is excruciating. Our Lord knew abandonment by God when He suffered for our sins on the cross for He bore the full wrath of God for our sins. Those who are God’s children are not abandoned by God nor will they be. We do need, however, to love those who suffer and to provide comfort and consolation.
Years ago, my husband showed me a Wall Street Journal article on expressing sympathy to a grieving friend. The author, Elizabeth Bernstein, quoted someone who stated, “…we often avoid people who are vulnerable or in need because we feel uncomfortable with their emotions.”5 For Christians, love should drive us to face our discomfort and have the courage to withstand the storm of feelings of those in need. It’s only by entering their valley and getting to know them that you will actually be able to know what someone needs: a cup of coffee, a movie, a time of tears even mingled with laughter, comfort, exhortation.
Telling people you are praying for them is helpful, but it can quickly become remote and impersonal if that’s all you ever do for them. It underscores the feeling that God has become remote and impersonal; doubt creeps in as you begin to believe that while God has forgiven your sins, He has no benevolent eye on your current pain. Now I realize that’s not true, and the Bible affirms God is always with us and cares for us, but I’m talking about the fight and struggle to keep feelings in check and believe God. The discipline called for is immense. I’m not talking about some type of mystic spiritual discipline. I’m talking about the discipline of the soldier who has trained hard and fought battles, who still endures and perseveres by putting one more foot in front of another and doing the next task. That’s certainly easier for some of us than it is for others.–
There are times when no person is there; you will always have God and His Word. Then you must cling to His promises that He will not leave you or forsake you. You must dig deep into His Word and know Him.
My friend, Lisa, endured alone for numerous months as God ministered to her through memorization of the Psalms. God did not leave her; He used His Word to strengthen and sustain her. She, in turn, is one of the most comforting and compassionate persons I have ever met.
God is sovereign, and God is love. There may be times we do not understand His dealings, and then we need each other to affirm who He is when doubt enters. Love one another. The world becomes increasingly impersonal: become a part of someone’s life and invite that person to become a part of your life. Do not stand above and throw words into someone’s valley; we are all at level ground, and we all need each other.
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Hiob [Job], Gerhard Marcks: Martinus KE. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
The First Grief, Daniel Ridgway Knight: Public Domain.
1Francis Andersen, Job (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1976) 134–135.
2Francis Andersen states that in Job 6:7—8, Job is praying. “The fact that Job speaks about God in the third person should not be permitted to give the wrong impression. He is actually praying, not talking to Eliphaz. Such a convention is common in the respectful address to a superior.” Ibid., 139.
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., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 427.
5R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press: Chicago: 1980) vol. 1, 307.
6Elizabeth Bernstein, “When a Friend Grieves, How to Get Sympathy Right,” The Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2011. Retrieved January 2011.
I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.
Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter