Sermon

God's Word Faithfully Preached from the Pulpit

Speeches: Job’s Lament – Part 1 (Job 3:23-26 and 1 Corinthians 1:22-25)

Before we begin, let us pray:

Father, our Father in heaven,  compel us all simply to take you at your Word.  Touch us with the Holy Spirit, we pray, and  do not let us get away from your Word  without being caught by its promises and powerful joy.  We pray this for our sake, Father, and for those whom we love,  in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Let us now deal with Job’s first speech. In order to make sense of it, we need to remind ourselves two important facts from the previous narrative.

First, Satan was able to inflict pain to Job’s body but he cannot kill him. God only allows Satan to harm Job physically but never take away his soul. We read from Job 2:6, And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”  This means Job cannot die from this ordeal. In a way, he is still protected by God and remains under His care and mercy.

Second, Job did not sin by cursing God. Even when after he loses his wealth and family, his health and dignity, Job did not curse God nor blames him for his fate. He confesses to his own wife, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”. Job did not charge God of any wrong doing (Job 2:10)

Now these two facts offers important explanations to two difficult questions: 1) When Job broke his silence, did Job sin when he cursed his birth; 2) When Job lamented his condition, why did he desire death rather than prolong his suffering and pain?

Job’s first speech becomes the baseline for all speeches that will comes after between and his friends. Job is now desparately trying to understand his condition and looking for any explanation. He bared his own soul and invites his friends to view it from his perspective as he goes through this experience we know as “the dark night of the soul.”

Soon we will found out that Job’s friends failed miserably as counsellors. They did not comfort Job instead they blamed him for misfortunes. From the first response from Eliphaz, next week we will learn how he insists on Job’s sin as the reason for his suffering. Which we know to be not true. 

As we read Job’s speech we may tend to think that Job’s friends are right. Because of Job’s bitter take against his condition, we may agree on their judgment that he sinned. Again, we need to remind ourselves that Job did not sin. Cursing the circumstances surrounding his birth and conception, and lamenting the hard conditions of his misfortrunes do not necessary mean he blasphemes God. So let us not make the same mistake Job’s friends made.

So we will focus our preaching this morning with the lament of Job and it is organized into two points: 1) Job curses his birth; 2) Job laments his condition.

Let us begin…

Job’s Curses His Birth

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said: “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. 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. Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it. Let those curse it who curse the day, who are ready to rouse up Leviathan. Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none, nor see the eyelids of the morning, because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hide trouble from my eyes.  Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?

Job curses the circumstances of his birth and conception. In a way, he is questioning the details surrounding God’s providence in his life. And he does so by using this poetrical device of reversing the events of God’s creation and then applying it to the events of his birth.

Here is quick summary table showing how Job curses his birth:

Book of Job from John Hartley (page 102)

Some comments are in order:

  1. A brief comment about the Leviathans: God created these sea monsters and they are often associated with disasters and misfortunes. Pagan sorcerers use them as curses to spell misfortunes to their victms. Of course none them is true. Job is possibly alluding to it in irony but not to endorse its practice.
  2. The natural order of creation points to God’s work of providence in our lives. God made sure to first establish the providences needed to sustain human life.
  3. God created all of life and sustains it. But created everything that nourishes not only his physical needs but also the longings of his soul. God gave man work on the first six days of creation to tend the needs of his earthly existence but also rest on the seventh to sustain the needs of his immortal soul.
  4. So when Job reverses the order of his own birth and conception and paralleled it with God’s creation, he is acknowledging God’s hand on both. God is the Creator and Sustainer of Creation. And eventhough God sovereignly chooses chooses first to bless Job with life then prosperity afterwards, but to also to experience suffering and pain now, God did not cease to be God. Instead, God sustains Job both in his prosperity and  adversity.

We neee to understand that Job is coming from his personal perspective of experiencing pain. No matter how difficult it is for us to identify with it because our circumstances are diffirent, we have to see from his eyes and then them as reads as someone who trying to make sense of it all for him. Rather we simply need to identify with him as we ourselves also often asks our own questions about the circumstances of our own lives. 

Spiritual distress, emotional despair, physical exhaustion and isolation, mental anguish magnifies as we exprience  prolonged suffering  with the passage of time. The limitation of our knowledge and the finitude of our experience takes a toll over our own grip to sanity. We also question the details of his providence as Job cursed the details of his personal circumstances. As we go through every single detail our lives and this happens when we suffer, we also tend to lose grip of God’s perspective on the matter.

The overwhelming nature of pain makes us want to simply give up life and long for death in order to find rest. The physical torture prompts our souls to leave this world and embrace the world to come. The heavenly perspective of anticipating new heaven and new earth is the one benefit we can take away from this whole ordeal of Job. It makes us weary of our earthly comforts and prepares us to leave them in exchange for the eternal glories of heaven.

This is view of leaving his earthly existence is what dominates the theme of Job’s lament.

Job Laments His Condition

For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest, with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuilt ruins for themselves, or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver. Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners are at ease together; they hear not the voice of the taskmaster. The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master. “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.”

First, let me make clear that Job was not endorsing abortion (verse 16). He is simply asking for the reversal of his conception (cf verse 10-11). This is still related to the poetrical device used by Job to emphasize his point about creation.

Job’s suffering condition drives him to think that the only relief to his pain his death itself. Let us not mistake that Job wants to take his own life. No. That is not the message he wants to imply. Rather, he is simply pointing out that when we suffer we tend to think that the only way out of it to rest from all it when death comes (verses 13-15). The gift of death comes a gift for physical rest.

Now, of course, it does not mean physical rest automatically mean our souls rest in peace. It is often understood that when someone dies we think he or she is now resting in heaven. This often translates justification not through faith alone in Christ alone but by mere physical death. It does not take into account spiritual death and even eternal death. I know it is impolite to point this our during funerals when our loved ones die but often we hear this and it is not true. Physical rest does not guarantee eternal rest. Let us not endorse universalism where everyone gets saved. Rather we simply and always profess our belief that there only two destinies for a man’s soul and it is either eternal life or eternal death.

However for an elect believer, our conversion to faith and repentace affords us an eternal perspective in the midst of our earthly existence. We know tha gains of this world is simply a loss for us and to gain Christ means to lose this world. Jesus himself exhorts us:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:24-28)

What Jesus refers to there regarding “not taste death” ultimately refers to eternal death. God the Father promises to deliver us from perishing when he gave us his Son to die for our sins and live for righteousness. The Father and the Son send the Spirit to transform us in the likeness of his Son so we can receive spiritual life and translate from death to life guaranteed of the life to come.

Psalm 62:5-8 reads: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

So Christian, let us comfort one another with these words from take God as our portion. Let us put our trust in him and set our souls to rest in him.

Conclusion

ZCRC (Imus), this Lord’s Day  let us put our trust in God and may our souls find rest in his promises. May God continue to bless us with his abiding presence both in prosperity and adversity. Amen.

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