Job 17–18: Past Days & Shattered Plans

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 9: Thursday

“My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished,
The grave is
ready for me.
Surely mockers are with me,
And my eye gazes on their provocation.”
Job 17:1–2 LSB

In today’s Bible reading of Job 17–18, Job’s very first words in chapter 17 reflect a man who is listless and numb in his despondency—he realizes there is no help to be had from his friends. David Atkinson translates Job 17:2 as:

Surely mockers surround me;
my eyes must dwell on their hostility.
Job 17:2 DA1

E. S. P. Heavenor writes that Job, “has become the butt of moralizing and insult.”2

The fascinating thing is that even after hearing from these three men, even as Job speaks in hopeless resignation, he expresses confidence in how those who are righteous will react to his desolation, and his conviction that his circum­stances will not deter them from perseverance in godliness, with their character becoming stronger and more secure.

“My eye has also grown dim because of grief,
And all my members are as a shadow.
The upright will be appalled at this,
And the innocent will stir up himself against the godless.
Nevertheless the righteous will hold to his way,
And he who has clean hands will grow mightier and mightier.”
Job 17:7–9 LSB

E. S. P. Heavenor writes:

“Delitzsch speaks of the passage [vv. 8–9] as ‘a rocket which shoots above the tragic darkness of the book lighting it up suddenly although only for a short time’. In a similar strain A. B. Davidson describes it as ‘perhaps the most surprising and lofty in the book’.”3

Then Job speaks the saddest of words, for he knows he’s not dealing with those who are wise, and that he will not hear a word of comfort from them. David Atkinson translates Job 17:10–12 as:4

“But come on, all of you, try again!
I will not find a wise man among you.
My days have past,
my plans are shattered,
And so are the desires of my heart.
These men turn night into day:
in the face of darkness they say,
“Light is near.”
Job 17:10–12 DA

When I read of his plans and the wishes of his heart torn apart and shattered, I know Job has stood where I have stood. Only words of poetry could have expressed the requisite intensity of his circumstances, and by their poignancy I know that I am not alone in my experience. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, a former pastor, Mike Braun, writes:

“Poetry, contrary to popular prejudice, is the art of saying the most with as few words as possible. Far from gilding lilies with unnecessary encum­bering words, poetry, at least good poetry, encompasses truth with a sharp and swift observation…profound truth is best expressed in elegant brevity.”5

Have you had comforters who have thought they made night into day by merely saying light is near when the reality is darkness? Sometimes when truths are said without understanding of their foundation and with bland superficiality, they become mere mockery of man and God. Upon asking for prayer in a crushing situation, I was told that God would answer prayer, but it might not be what I wanted. Or what about hearing in the midst of anguish that the way to have peace and joy is to take your eyes off yourself and put them on God? Yes, those statements are true, but that is not all that needed to be said, nor are the bald words enough without love and kindness, humility and understanding in their expression. To borrow Calvin’s words I quoted yesterday, what a cold character this advice gives to God, utterly removing the notion of the com­passion He has for us as He remembers our frame of dust (cf. Psalm 103).

And that brings us to Bildad.

In Job 18, Bildad speaks a second time to Job. He pontificates on a topic that has no application to who Job is or for his distress. It’s as if Bildad has in mind exactly what he wants to say and he’s going to say it whether or not his words have any relevance for Job. His words indicate contempt for Job as he firmly gives exactly the wisdom he believes is needed. As Bildad begins his speech, Francis Andersen bluntly comments about 18:4, “A speaker who has run out of ideas can always resort to satire.”6 Heavenor writes:

“Bildad has nothing new to say and certainly nothing that can have any significance for Job. A portrayal of the doom of the wicked can speak only to a man with a guilty conscience.”7

It’s shocking to see the way in which Bildad doesn’t even take the time before he speaks to think about who Job is and what he knows about Job from the past. He has no empathy for Job and doesn’t bother to understand Job and to consider whether or not his words are even appropriate. Job is the invisible man to Bildad. Sometimes people don’t listen to you or see you as who you are. Whether from thoughtlessness, conceit or discomfort in dealing with a situation beyond their ken, they tell you the answer they think they know and that they think you need to hear whether or not it fits who you are and your circumstances.

When Paul wrote this to the Corinthians,

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light affliction is working out for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16–18 LSB

Paul wasn’t speaking glibly about the experience of suffering. These words are in the context of his love for God and his love for them. When he calls afflic­tion momentary and light, he is speaking from his own considerable knowledge of suffering weighed against eternity. Paul had been mobbed, beaten, stoned, and imprisoned. He’s not handing out platitudes, he’s giving encouragement from his knowledge of God.

Like apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances.
Proverbs 25:11 LSB

Follow Paul’s example. Speak from the context of your love for someone and your love for God. Use the Bible to encourage, but ask God for wisdom to use the right verses at the right time for the one you love.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Time Dead: Haplo. (CC BY-SA 3.0).
1,4David Atkinson, The Message of Job: Suffering and grace (Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England; Downers Grove IL: 1991) 89, 89.
2,3,7E. 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) 431, 431, 431.
5Mike Braun, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,”  retrieved 03 March 2011.
6Francis Andersen, Job (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1976) 203.

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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