The Book of Job - Part 9
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
November 12, 2017
Nine messages ago our study in the book of Job began with…
Job 1:1–5 (ESV) — 1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
If someone had never heard of or read the Book of Job and saw only those verses, they would never have imagined the direction Job’s life took. In a cosmic wager between God and Satan, one of the finest examples of a godly servant ever to live was tested in ways we can’t imagine. He tragically lost his wealth, his family, and his health.
When Job’s friends learned of his calamity they came and did exactly what they should have (at first anyway): they ministered presence and silence for seven days.
Satan had wagered that, if suffering was allowed into Job’s life, he would curse God to his face. Job did express a curse but not against God. That’s what we’ll look at today. By the way, when we get to chapter three, the book changes from prose to poetry (some of the most beautiful and sophisticated ever written).
Job 3:1–26 (ESV) — 1 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 And Job said: 3 “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ 4 Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. 5 Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. 6 That night—let thick darkness seize it! Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months. 7 Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it. 8 Let those curse it who curse the day, who are ready to rouse up Leviathan. 9 Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none, nor see the eyelids of the morning, 10 because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hide trouble from my eyes. 11 “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? 12 Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse? 13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest,
Typically in ancient times a curse was expressed against an enemy, but Job cursed his own birth, wishing he had not survived it.
His pain was so great, his suffering so deep, his heart so broken, his plight so seemingly hopeless, he wished not only that he was dead, but that he had not lived long enough from birth to ever see the light of day.
It doesn’t get much more real or raw than that. It’s difficult to digest.
After cursing the day of his birth, Job lamented his situation. If he had died at birth, he’d still have been at rest…
14 with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuilt ruins for themselves, 15 or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver. 16 Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light? 17 There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. 18 There the prisoners are at ease together; they hear not the voice of the taskmaster. 19 The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master. 20 “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, 21 who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, 22 who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave? 23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?
Satan complained that God had hedged Job in a wall of safety, keeping out troubles and woes. Here Job admits he feels God hedged him in with troubles and woes.
24 For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.
When we think of sighing, we imagine someone with a lot on their mind. But Sighing here is much too mild a word. It translates a Hebrew word associated with "loud moans or wails that arise from those doing oppressive, slave labor or from a people devastated by a tragedy (Exod. 2:23; Lam. 1:4, 8, 11, 21, 22).”
Groanings might be too mild also. It is sometimes translated as roaring or screaming.
This reminds me of my Grandaddy Shockley’s cluster headaches. They were physical only and oh how he suffered! Job’s suffering was physical and emotional and spiritual…
25 For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.
When my girls were young I worried about something happening to them or to me. It was the stuff of nightmares. Perhaps here Job was admitting he too had worried about losing his family or health. In other words, his nightmares came true.
He ends his lament with…
26 I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.”
Or, as one fellow translated this verse:
‘I cannot relax!
And I cannot settle!
And I cannot rest!
And agitation keeps coming back!’
Often our study of God’s word is sterile. We read it so often or focus so hard on it’s inerrancy and inspiration we become desensitized to the realities of life it records. But if we try and sympathize, better yet empathize, with Job, we are left with a knot in our stomachs. Or at least we should. Truth is, though,
Some folks go hard on Job here, and some go easy.
The hard ones see this cursing and lamenting as a sinful thing, a sign he had lost, or maybe was losing, his faith. God was the one who, in His providence, had created him in the womb and brought him into the world, so cursing the day of his birth was, in a way, slamming his Creator.
Much like the guy on Facebook who cleaned my clock for expressing my agony and sense of abandonment by God, they feel Job had much to learn about his creator and should not have spoken like this.
Some even go so far as to say Job is a negative example, a failure of faith.
The easy ones see this as Job, in his humanness, simply expressing what he felt. Yes, he cursed the day of his birth, but that’s not the same as cursing God. When it says in 2:10 “in all this Job did not sin with his lips,” they see it applying to what comes after as well as before. I tend to identify with this group, just so you know.
You don’t have to be very educated to figure out Job was experiencing a chronic bout of depression brought on by intense suffering. And though I’ve heard preachers call depression a sin, I can’t justify that kind of thinking in the Bible.
Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet because he preached a message of repentance to an unrepentant and hard hearted people, and it caused him massive sorrow. Listen to what he said and see if it sounds familiar.
Jeremiah 20:14–18 (ESV) — 14 Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! 15 Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, “A son is born to you,” making him very glad. 16 Let that man be like the cities that the Lord overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, 17 because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. 18 Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?
His circumstances brought on bouts of depression so bad, he too wished he’d never been born. There’s no hint in the Scripture at all that what he did here was wrong.
Now, some might say, “I’m with you on depression brought on by difficult circumstances, but what about people who are depressed and even despairing of life when things aren’t bad or are even good. Surely that’s not right, right?”
In the OT book of Kings we find another prophet. His name was Elijah. He sparred with wicked King Ahab and his more wicked wife Jezebel. Jezebel supported an army of 450 pagan prophets who worshipped the false god Baal and led the Israelites to do the same.
One day Elijah called for a contest between his God (big “G”) and their god (little “g”). Two bulls were prepared for sacrifice, one for each contestant. The one whose god consumed the sacrifice with fire was the one true God.
Jezebel’s prophets went first, and though they called out to Baal all day, even cutting themselves as a sign of worship, nothing happened. Elijah even mused out loud, wondering if their god might have been taking a potty break and couldn’t hear them.
Then it was Elijah’s turn. He watered down the wood on his altar to make it harder. One prayer was all it took. Down came fire from heaven and consumed water, wood, bull, and all. All the false prophets were then taken out of the picture.
Now that ought to leave a fellow kicking his heels high, right? It’d be like me preaching one Sunday and everybody in the room getting saved and baptized! But look at…
1 Kings 19:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
God had just worked a miracle in his life, yet he was severely depressed and wanted to die. With that big high came a big low. And there’s no condemnation here. In fact, read on you see the Angel of the Lord actually making him a meal and encouraging him.
I’d be willing to bet that those who are hard on Job (and see depression as a sin) haven’t ever really known intense suffering or depression. And those who go easy on him have, or at least know those who have.
One of the greatest preachers ever to live was a man named Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I quote him regularly. He lived in the 1800s and was famous all over the world.
Read any of his biographies, and you’ll find he was known for his sense of humor and hearty laughter but behind the scenes suffered severe bouts of depression that left him bed-ridden for days.
I have all his sermons on my computer, and in preparing for this series I discovered he preached 88 of them from the book of Job, obviously because he identified with this book.
It was Spurgeon who preached concerning Job…
“I will warrant that, if we had suffered as he did, and been brought to poverty, and left childless, and then been tortured as he was from head to foot, and even his wife rendering him no comfort, but, on the contrary, adding to his grief and woe, we might have said even worse things than Job did. For remember, dear friends, that he said nothing against God in the time of his deepest sorrow. He cursed most vehemently the day of his birth, and wished that he had never existed, or that he might speedily pass away to sleep with the generations that are dead; and he used unwise and foolish expressions, but any of us might have used far worse words if we had been in his case, so we will not condemn him, but we will see what lessons we can learn from his experience.”
Conclusion: One thing we could definitely learn is sympathy for those who suffer and those who suffer depression as a result. The church hasn’t had the best record when it comes to dealing with this issue, but thankfully it’s getting better, I think.
It’s not just a matter of praying harder or reading more Scripture. And we have got to stop judging people for how they grieve or what they say when they suffer or even what medications they may take to cope.
Over 100 years ago Spurgeon said in a sermon…
[...if ever you and I should feel that we are forsaken of God,—if we should get into this state in any way, remember that we are only where Christ has been before us. If ever, in our direst extremity, we should be compelled to cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” we shall have gone down no deeper than Christ himself went. He knows that feeling, and that state of heart, for he has felt the same. This fact should tend greatly to cheer you. Your deep depression is not a proof of reprobation; that is evident, for Christ himself endured even more. A man may say, “I cannot be a child of God, or else I should not feel as I do.” Ah! you do not know what true children of God may feel; strange thoughts pass through their minds in times of storm and doubt.
A Puritan preacher was standing by the death-bed of one of his members who had been for thirty years in gloom of soul. The good old minister expected that the man would get peace at last, for he had been an eminent Christian, and had greatly rejoiced in his Saviour; but, for thirty years or more, he had fallen into deep gloom. The minister was trying to speak a word of comfort to him, but the man said, “Ah, sir! but what can you say to a man who is dying, and yet who feels that God has forsaken him?” The pastor replied, “But what became of that Man who died, whom God did really forsake? Where is HE now?” The dying man caught at that, and said, “He is in glory, and I shall be with him; I shall be with him where he is.” And so the light came to the dying man who had been so long in the dark; he saw that Christ had been just where he was, and that he should be where Christ was, even at the right hand of the Father.
I hope, brothers and sisters, that you will never get down so low as that; but I beseech you, if you ever meet with any others who are there, do not be rough with them. Some strong-minded people are very apt to be hard upon nervous folk, and to say, “They should not get into that state.” And we are liable to speak harshly to people who are very depressed in spirit, and to say to them, “Really, you ought to rouse yourself out of such a state.” I hope none of you will ever have such an experience of this depression of spirit as I have had; yet I have learnt from it to be very tender with all fellow-sufferers. The Lord have mercy on them, and help them out of the Slough of Despond; for, if he does not, they will sink in deep mire, where there is no standing.]
There’s a verse you’ve heard me quote before, one that has comforted me many times over when I’ve been hard on myself for struggling. It’s found in the book of Isaiah…
Isaiah 42:3 (ESV) — 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
Isaiah 42:3 (The Message) — 3 He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right.
That’s the kind of God we have and that’s the kind of savior we have. He doesn’t promise you freedom from troubles (Job shows us this) but he does promise to make us his children and never leave us, to be with us always.
Job opened his mouth, expressing how he felt to his friends. Trouble begins, though, when his friends open their mouths in response.
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