JOB STUDIES 3

For seven days, Job’s three friends sit with him on the ash heap, sharing his grief. Finally, according to custom, Job himself breaks the silence with the lament recorded in the third chapter. And Job, the suffering saint, asks a question we have all pondered when dark times come: “Why?” If Job had believed that luck or random chance ruled the universe, such a question would have been nonsense. But he knew better. He sees the hand of God at work everywhere (1:21).

Job is like a man lost in a cave whose lamp has just flickered and died. How will he find the way out? What he might do is take the rope he has with him and tie it in a secure place. Then, he can explore the cave in one direction and another, carefully feeling his way. If he fails to reach the entrance, he can always go back along the rope and try another direction.

Job is about to explore some possible answers to his dilemma. But he always has an anchor to come back to. He believes there is an answer. Though he says some troubling and questionable things along the way, it is not because he is rebelling against God, but because he is struggling to find Him. Yet, for a time, God seems further away at every step he takes. So he shouts his frustration into the darkness...and keeps on searching.

1) On what does Job wish to pronounce a curse in the first section of the chapter (3:1-2, 9-10)?

INSIGHT: Vs. 8. The old King James Version has “Let them curse it [the day of my birth] who are ready to raise up their mourning.” A better translation of “their mourning” is possibly “leviathan.” This giant creature may have been a remnant of the age of the dinosaurs, before the Flood--a huge sea-going reptile like the plesiosaurus. Job’s point is that if someone has strong enough powers to arouse this creature, that’s the one he would want to put a curse on the day of his birth.

2) In this first part of his lament, Job is actually saying: “I wish I’d never been ______________.”

3) The unending grief and torment that Job is enduring, hour after hour, have led him to wish for what, now (3:20-22)?

INSIGHT: The grave was seen by these early saints as the place where earthly struggles and strivings cease, and the departed is at peace. They did not have much understanding of the afterlife. The details are revealed later, particularly in the New Testament. Here, Job sees the grave as the great “leveler.” All come to it in the end, good men and bad.

INSIGHT: It is significant that, in spite of his desire to die, Job never raises the possibility of abortion (at his birth), though infanticide was common in the ancient world. Nor does he suggest euthanasia, or suicide. Yet surely, weak and terribly sick as he was, it wouldn’t have taken much to end it all.

4) From what you know of Job, why didn’t he contemplate suicide?

5) What is the puzzle Job introduces in vs. 20?

6) Another part of this “why” is expressed in 3:23. What is it?

INSIGHT: Job’s experience could be summarized as: Godly and prosperous one day; godly and destitute the next.

INSIGHT: Job accepts that God is sovereign, and that He has a perfect right to take from us what He has given--since these things still belong to Him (1:21). But knowing God intimately as he does, Job also believes God must have a good reason for what He does. It is that reason that he seeks.

INSIGHT: Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, endured much pain and persecution in his service for the Lord. He too expresses the wish that he’d never seen the light of day (Jer. 20:14-18).

7) What is Jeremiah asking his “Why?” about (Jer. 20:2, 18)?

8) What is the “theologically correct” answer to Job’s question (see verses such as: Rom. 11:36; Eph. 1:12; I Tim. 1:17)?

9) Will a theology lesson like this help a person who is in excruciating and unending pain? (Why? Or why not?)

INSIGHT: Chapter 6, vs. 26 is an important verse. It helps us understand the words of Job. He says wistfully to his friends, “Do you intend to rebuke my words, and the speeches of a desperate one, which are as wind?” Job is reminding the others that in desperation a sufferer may say words that are not meant as a reasoned theological creed, but are simply an anguished cry of pain. If we simply try to debate such words on an intellectual level we have missed the point. The real message beneath the words (whatever they may be) is likely, “I’m hurting! I don’t know if I can make it through this! Help me!”

10) If that is the real message beneath the words, what answer would you give?

INSIGHT: Job has led an godly and productive life. When the Lord gave him a large family, he prayed for them, and tried to lead them in the right way. When He gave him great wealth, Job used in for a good and constructive purpose (cf. 29:12). When God gave him a position of influence in the city, he worked to make things better in the community (29:14-17).

11) Was Job not bringing glory to God in all of this?

12) Does this suggest another possible motive of Satan, one he does not state openly?

13) Human nature being what it is, not many will ask “Why?” in times of prosperity and health--though that is just as great a mystery. Why?

14) Think of this in reverse. Many are willing to praise and thank God for great blessings. Far fewer are ready to do the same for great trials. Why is that?

15) What does Satan mean by there being a “hedge” around Job (1:10)? And what does Job mean by a “hedge” (3:23)?

16) Are these two different “hedges” at work? Or is the same hedge, viewed from different perspectives?

17) What does the hedge represent, in each case?

18) We have already discussed 3:25 and the thing Job “greatly feared” as possibly being related to his children (1:5). What are some other fears that might have troubled wealthy and successful Job?

¤ The context itself gives one possibility (vs. 26--note: various Bible versions give the verse a somewhat different slant.)

¤ Possible clue: Ps. 51:11

¤ Possible clue: Jn. 21:18

19) Some say a believer should never ask “Why?” Yet even the Lord Jesus did, at one point (Matt. 27:46)? Is it ever a sin to ask why? (If so, when?)

INSIGHT: There is an answer to the “Why?” question, given later in the book, but it may not be the answer we (or Job) expect. It is given in five words, and in the end Job finds it a completely satisfying answer. Stay tuned! Meanwhile...

INSIGHT: Since Satan does not win this contest, we know what we are hearing in Chapter 3 is not Job “cursing God to His face.” Rather, what we are witnessing is an expression of human weakness in an overwhelming struggle. Be assured that God looked down with compassion and mercy on His suffering servant (Jas. 5:11). He does not jump on rash words with angry condemnation. “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him [as Job does, 2:3]. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:13-14).

This is something we should keep in mind when comforting the suffering. Rather than reacting harshly to a cry of pain, we should seek to be sensitive to the message beneath the words, and learn to help at that level. It may not be the right time for theological deliberations!