Before we begin, let us pray…
Blessed you are, Lord, great God, for the testimonies of the prophets we bless you. For the statutes of the law we bless you. For the gospel of Christ and the witness of the apostles we bless you, O glorious God. Grant to us the Spirit of your glory and the brightness of your presence that we might read your Word and understand. Through Jesus Christ, our gracious Lord. Amen.
Job replies to Eliphaz and pick up some parts from his speech to answer him. Particularly in our preaching this morning we will hear Job address the issue of his “vexation” and where he puts his “hope”. He explains how his lament is justified considering the amount of pain and suffering he has been receiving from the hands of God and then continues his lament before God. Job wants Eliphaz to know that his hope is in God, to meet him and receive judgement from him, and not from his apparent godliness as Eliphaz insist. Job also continues to lament his condition asks for God to finally take his life for he does not know how can he lasts without finally dishonoring God.
In the end, we will hear about Christian lament, what it means, and if we can validly grieve over our conditions before God. We will understand how our Savior also suffers and understands our frailty and lamented and grieved also over his suffering and pain. God nothing only understand our pain but more so symphatizes with us. So let us take comfort from this truth.
Our preaching is divided into two points. The first, we will cover today and the second, next Lord’s Day and they are 1) Job’s Defense of his lament, 2) Job’s Request for Sympathy.
Let us begin.
Job’s Defense of his Lament
Then Job answered and said: “Oh that my vexation were weighed, and all my calamity laid in the balances! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea; therefore my words have been rash. For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me. Does the wild donkey bray when he has grass, or the ox low over his fodder? Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow? My appetite refuses to touch them; they are as food that is loathsome to me. (verses 1-7)
The response of Job to Eliphaz contains metaphors, rhetorical questions, then in the end he applies the metaphors to himself. In sum, Job wants Eliphaz to understand the his curse-lament is justified given then great magnitude of his suffering. God himself is source of his lot and because of it, he can cannot do anything other than to respond to God in of his condition.
Verse 1 tells us how Job borrowed the term from Eliphaz’s speech and admit that while is vexated, he is not foolish. He know his condition is unimaginably disproportionate versus his response of lament. Verse 2 demonstrates this uneven relationship using a metaphor using scales. A large scale with his vexation one side and his sufferings of the other side will definitely tip off the scale towards his sufferings. His vexation is not a drama or an attempt to gain sympathy. Rather, it is simply an honest an expression of soul suffering unimaginable pain before God.
For Job in verse 3 and 4, God himself is the source of trials and it seems God has targetted him for it. Job has began to understand that it is God tested him because the way all the trials tha comes to him has only one purpose and that is inflict pain! Verse 4 uses a warrior metaphor of weapon and armies to prove his point. The arrows sent to him by God hits him right through and the army surrounding a city for attack brings terror to its people and this overwhelming feeling is what he receives.
Then in verse 5 Job uses two rhetorical questions to explain that the only proper response to it is lament before. He used agricultural metaphor of animal. And together with verse 6, it is an argument to absurdity. Job asks about two kinds of animals contrasted as extremes. The firsr is the wild donkey and second is the ox. The former is known for it wild behaviors while the latter is stable temperament and yet both animals are tame as he observed when being fed. This is why in Verse 6 Job explains how when their food become bland or even tasteless then how come we act surpised when they react negatively about it.
In conclusion Job emphasized to his friends that is what he is simply doing in his lament. He is appropriately responding to pain and suffering he is experiencing. In verse 7, Job expresses to them the kind of response his condition expects and he likens it to both food and appetite as nothing he desires. Instead, there are all repulsive for him.
Let us continue to the pericope where Job continues his lament.
Oh that I might have my request, and that God would fulfill my hope, that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off! This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One. What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? Have I any help in me, when resource is driven from me? (verses 8-13)
Now at this point, Job ultimately dismisses Eliphaz’s counsel and continues his lament. He counters Eliphaz’s plea to admit his sins and repent from it, and he continues to maintain his innocence over this matter. Rather than do admit to something he know he did not do, he simply asks God to completely crush him and do what he wants to do to him even it will lead to him losing life. For Job this is his request and hope and not what Eliiphaz imagines it to be. In the end, Job pleads for God to end his misery with death because he does not anymore how far he can go without dishonoring God.
Verse 8 and 9 Job again lays down his lament with his request and hope for God to give him death rather than prolong his suffering and pain. He is not contemplating suicide. Rather, what Job prays for is God to give life, grants his desire to take it away from him for he know his suffering is too much and has become unbearable.
All these he asks from God because God is the source of life and he alone can take it. Of couse, we know in the narrative that Satan cannot take Job life since God did not allow it but Job asks for it here. We know God will eventually restore Job’s health and wealth and in the end, he died of old age. He has become what Eliphaz’s describes when wise man who was disciplined repents before God. Yet we know Job did not sin for this case and God met him in the storm and answers Job’s questions even though it was not an answer Job expects to understand.
Verses 10 explains why Job maintains his innocents. He knows he “have not denied the words of the Holy One”. Job kept God’s Word in his heart so he is confident that God hears his prayers. He wants God to grant his request immediately because he no longer know how far he can go under pain without denying God. In the end, he is asking God for help! His lament is justified for he know this proves God’s sovereignty over the prayers of his people. Job understands that it is God who tests him then he alone can make it stop. Verses 11 to 13 honestly admit that he is now at the verge of giving up. He does not have the strength of bronzes or stones. He is human and he is frail and even weak. He urgently needs God intervene because he does not know how much longer he can contain his composure. He does not want to sin against God by cursing him for this. He rather chooses death in the Lord wills it than to dishonor God.
Hearing again Job laments over his condition makes us wonder if lamenting is allowed for Christians and the obvious answer is Yes. As we read and understand Job own lament we can say that grieving over losing our loved ones or even crying over the lost of someone important in our lives is part of our experience as pilgrim Christians here on earth. We are allowed to lament when he suffer pain and sickness.
Job’s lament teaches us the importance of acknowledging pain and suffer when we ourselves experience it or we emphatize with others when they experience it. Our church and it members are no strangers to the pains of sickness or even to the lost of loved ones. And the way Christians deal with the feelings of loss and suffering is to cry with one another in prayer and couselling.
Psalm 13 expresses a similar lament of crying to God and asking for his help. It reads:
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
This lament from David shows us the kind of longing a person feels when he grieves to God namely, he pours his heart to God and trust that he will hear his petition and eagerly waits for him to answer.
The benefit of lament when Christians do it before God is the strengthing of ones desire for God to personally attend to their needs. It means we can put our hope in God knowing he alone can answer our request. Our weakening faith is strengthened by its object which God himself.
So Christian when we face these kinds of trials and sufferings know that we can bring to them and cry and grieve to him about it. Let us remember that our mediator who suffered and died for us is also no stranger to pain and loss. Actually, the preacher of Hebrews emphasized that “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)” For Jesus Christ while he was suffering painful death laments in Mark 15:34: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This means we can take comfort from the fact that Jesus himself know what it means to lament for he himself went through it.
Knowing how our Savior experience suffering and understands what we are going through gives us much comfort when we ourselves undergo the same experience. That in our grief we know that God is with us and he continues to sustain us in the midst of pain and loss. Let us continue encouraging one another with these words. Amen.
ZCRC(Imus), God comforts those who grieve and and gives hope to those who lament. He is our strength in times of trouble and he continues to sustain us during times of need. Let us trust God and bring our petitions before him in prayer. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.