Job 9–10: Despair & Hope

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 5: Thursday

“Were He to sweep by me, I would not see Him;
Were He to move past
me, I would not perceive Him.
Were He to snatch away, who could turn Him back?
Who could say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’”
Job 9:11–12 LSB

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…What is the point in attempting to establish one’s innocence before a God of infinite wisdom, who can ask a thousand unanswerable questions?”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 [Job 10:13ff] we see Job touching depths of doubt and despair blacker than anything found elsewhere in the book.”4

“Yet these things You have concealed in Your heart;
I know that this is within You:
If I sin, then You would take note of me
And would not acquit me of my guilt.
If I am wicked, woe to me!
And if I am righteous, I dare not lift up my head.
I am sated with disgrace⁠—so see my misery!
my head be set on high, You would hunt me like a lion;
And again You would show Your wonders against me.
You renew Your witnesses against me
And increase Your vexation toward me;
Hardship after hardship is with me.”
Job 10:13–17 LSB

Job goes on to say he would that he had died had birth and asks God to leave him alone that he might have a little cheer before he dies. 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. It is quite obvious that Job believed God is sovereign:

God is the One who removes the mountains, they know not how,
When He overturns them in His anger;
The One who shakes the earth out of its place,
And its pillars tremble;
The One who says for the sun not to shine,
And sets a seal upon the stars;
Who alone stretches out the heavens,
And tramples down the waves of the sea;

Who makes the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades,
And the chambers of the south;
Who does great things, unsearchable,
And wondrous works, innumerable.
Were He to sweep by me, I would not see Him;
Were He to move past
me, I would not perceive Him.
Were He to snatch away, who could turn Him back?
Who could say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’”
Job 9:5-12 LSB

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.

This has been the spiritual battle of my life. Because of a family background of heavy-handed authority, physical abuse, and emotional neglect, when I became a Christian I had no problem believing God was sovereign, but in the face of hardshp and affliction, the battle has been to trust in God’s love and care for me, and His good purpose for my life. In His grace, God has brought friends into my life who by their love and compassion have been a witness that God loves me. In His grace God has given me His Word, taking away the rotten timbers and crumbling stones of my understanding, and rebuilding me on the foundation of the Scripture, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.

I’ve often thought that God gave me the spiritual gift of teaching not only as a ministry to other women, but to ensure that I stayed in His Word. The storms of my life that have broken over me have left me at times like a crippled ship with broken masts and shredded sails—or the house Jesus described assaulted by wind and wave. Those storms would have dashed me to pieces a thousand times without the Scriptures. Through His Word, God kept me lashed tight to Him so that I would not drown. Through His Word, the Holy Spirit comforted my heart and in the midst of my storms has strengthened me to trust God.

When I write Psalms 9–11: Sovereign & Faithful, the Holy Spirit through the Word teaches and reassures my heart that God is not only sovereign, but a faithful Father to me. When I write Job 7–8: Sovereign & Love, the Holy Spirit through the Word teaches and reassures my heart that God is not only sovereign, but a Father who loves me. When I write Romans 9–10: God & His Mercy, the Holy Spirit through the Word teaches and reassures my heart that God is not only sovereign, but a Father who has had and has mercy on me. I have been redeemed from the futile conduct inherited from my forefathers with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

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 and care. Be faithful in providing help 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. Learn how to take God’s Word and use it for help and encouragement. This takes prayer, because you need God’s help to do so.

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.
Romans 15:4 LSB

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. In Him we have hope.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Ursa Minor and Ursa Major (the Little Bear and Great Bear): Panda~thwiki. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
1Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody Press, Chicago IL: 1966, 1974) 455.
2Rejoinder: Princeton University “Rejoinder.” WordNet. Princeton University. 2010. <;
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) 427–428.

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

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