Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Job, chapter 3: Job breaks the silence

1 ¶  After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. 2  And Job spake, and said, 3  Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. 4  Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. 5  Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. 6  As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months. 7  Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein. 8  Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning. 9  Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day: 10  Because it shut not up the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.

Job has done what others have done, cursed the day he was born. It is an old lament, “I wish I’d never been born.” This is the cry of George Bailey, in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life based on the short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern. But, the typical twentieth century humanistic response to Bailey’s existential crisis is how important and wonderful he is and not how great and powerful and sovereign God is. In addition, in the story and the movie, life, not a relationship with one’s Creator and eternal life with Him, is the greatest gift.

Job’s response is classic from someone who cannot or will not curse God. He curses himself and the very fact that he is alive. Is this not a back door to cursing God?  When we hate our very existence we are saying, “God, you made a mistake.”

You may have been an abject failure in life. Nothing may be right at this time. Your sin may have consumed you, or like Job, your calamity came out of left field, as the saying goes. However, we are to not be looking backwards as Christians, but always forward.

Philippians 3:13  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

14  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Renewal and revival lie ahead of you, not behind you. There is no rewind button on life and we can only look ahead of us for the crooked way to be made straight and the hills to be leveled out, depending at all times on God to do that very thing for us. You should not be looking back at that special time you had with the Lord years ago but looking forward to what He is going to do with you now and in the next few minutes or few hours.

In the same way, your loved ones who have passed on in the Lord do not lie at some place in your past, frozen in time, with your memory of them slowly dimming and the sharp edges of pain and grief becoming dulled. They have gone on ahead of you and are waiting for you to catch up.

We do cling so hard to the ones we love as we fear in our hearts that they might go ahead. It is a strange thing for Christians who believe in the Resurrection to experience.

The prophet, Jeremiah, who didn’t seem to gain a single convert to the instructions God had given him, expressed a similar sentiment to Job’s.

Jeremiah 20:14 ¶  Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. 15  Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad.

Job’s cry in verse 10 says that one reason for despairing of life is that if we had not lived we could not have known great sorrow. Solomon made a similar claim about the peril of seeking knowledge and wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 1:17  And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. 18  For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

    11 ¶  Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? 12  Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck? 13  For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest, 14  With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves; 15  Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver: 16  Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. 17  There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. 18  There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. 19  The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.

Job wishes he had been a miscarriage, a child who never saw the light. A sorrowful Christian today might wish he or she had been aborted by their mother and never had the chance to experience the pain and agony they are experiencing now. He wishes he was in the grave where everyone from the greatest to the lowest in life are at rest, free from their burdens and free from their oppression, a wish made in grief without depth of thought.

It is in verses like these where the fundamentalist’s view of the Bible being God-breathed, as if that actually meant anything, rather than as it says, given by inspiration, falls apart. Job is expressing his grief and his feelings, and God has preserved it, as Paul said, for our learning. The statements of a man viewing life from the center of his grief and misery cannot be doctrine for us to follow but only heartfelt sorrow for us to acknowledge and be aware of in our own lives. This is not evidence that Job didn’t believe in a resurrection of the dead, Heaven, or Hell. It is evidence that Job is distraught, although he makes several true statements.

Job makes an important point here in that, in death, social distinctions are eliminated. “The servant is free from his master.” This is true in spite of the feelings of the rich man in Hell in Luke 16 who pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus, who was his social inferior in life, to serve him. As well, although throughout history Christianity did its best to serve the social status quo and was hijacked by the wealthy and powerful, social distinctions as well as distinctions of gender and ethnicity are not to be regarded within the body of Christ.

Galatians 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:11  Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

No king or queen or man of wealth and influence will have any greater part in the life after physical death than the soul who was the poorest beggar in this life. Nor are they supposed to have any greater part in the assembly of the saints on earth in spite of their ability to fund buildings and buy pews.

Job’s great wealth is gone. But even if he had it still he couldn’t buy his children’s lives back.

    20 ¶  Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; 21  Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; 22  Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave? 23  Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in? 24  For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters. 25  For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. 26  I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.

Job expresses that life is a bitter thing and for the person in his misery death is something to be hoped for, to be sought. People who have suffered long with a painful and eventually mortal disease might get to a point where they just want it to be over, where they want their pain to end. It is reported that people who suffer from the mental illness called Bipolar Disorder have a high death rate from suicide and physical disease caused by their choices compared to the death rate for cancer and heart disease for the rest of us. (11) Truthfully, when a person’s life becomes such a burden and consumed with so much pain it is not hard to see how they can view death as an escape, preferable to the suffering that they feel.

If you think this can’t happen to you, remember, the thing you fear and dread the most hasn’t happened. If, and when it does, you may feel differently. Job wasn’t sitting back taking it easy and ignoring God, cluelessly thinking things would go on as they always had. He offered sacrifices and was careful to be faithful to his religious practice. He can’t understand that, in spite of that faithfulness, he has been crushed.

(11) Rick Nauert, “Mortality Among Bipolar,” PsychCentral, http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/02/03/mortality-among-bipolar/3876.html. (accessed 8.4.2014).

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