Job Challenges the Advice of His Friends
Open Your Bible
Job 13:1-28, Job 14:1-22, Psalm 71:19-21, John 5:24-25
BY Guest Writer
Where does Job’s hope lie, and where does our own?
Pause for a moment to reflect back on one of your darkest times. Perhaps you tossed and turned for sleepless nights, futilely attempting to unravel the tangled web created by bad decisions. Perhaps you agonized over a bitter and angry child. Perhaps physical pain incessantly pierced and jabbed at you. Perhaps… Perhaps. No matter what our individual calamities, each one of us has been (or will someday be) there with Job, drained of strength and courage to face even the next hour. Where can we turn? Where can we place our hope? And how?
We may have to venture outside Job chapters 13 and 14 to knit together those slender strands that constitute hope, especially in the midst of the unrelenting pain that chews away at every part of our lives. At this point in his terrible journey, Job contrasted human hope (quite unfavorably) to a chopped down tree. Even though the tree had been destroyed, it sprouted again when watered—not so, with those who sleep in death (14:7–12). With great courage, Job had previously declared that he was prepared to defend himself before God, knowing full well that no godless person could stand in His presence (13:15–16). But like most of our courageous statements, Job’s expectations faded almost as quickly as he spoke them. He was back in the gloom of his torment and suffering. For Job, the steady and irreversible disintegration of mountains and rock in the natural world were a fitting metaphor for the erosion of his hope (14:18–19).
Of course, that is not the end of Job’s story—or ours. We affirm with saints through the ages that our faithful God does restore our lives and comfort us in our pain (Psalm 71:20–21). We believe we will be carried through the deep waters and the ravaging fire (Isaiah 43:1–2). We hold fast to the hope that Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25–26). And we believe God has the power to do all He’s promised to do (Romans 4:20–24). This means that if we are in Christ Jesus, we have crossed over from death to life—even now! (John 5:24–25). Did you catch that? It’s a truth worth repeating, this time with the apostle Paul’s words, who tells us that right now, this very moment, we are seated in the heavenly realms with Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).
How do we respond? I confess I’m tempted to be a bit skeptical from time to time. You too? Thankfully, there is another path on which to set out at this point. Even from the crucible of our suffering and discouragement, we can take up the mantle of the psalmist. We have the privilege of declaring God’s goodness, of proclaiming the richness of God’s immeasurable and precious grace, and of being increasingly thankful (Psalm 71:14–18). Gratitude trumps grumpiness—every time, in all circumstances. The Apostle Paul affirmed that as well, saying, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Elaine A. Phillips received a BA in social psychology from Cornell University, an MDiv from Biblical Theological Seminary, and an MA in Hebrew from the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, where she and her husband, Perry, studied and taught from 1976–79. She holds a PhD in rabbinic literature, and teaches Biblical Studies at Gordon College. She also serves as a historical geography field instructor for Jerusalem University College. She has published a commentary on Esther in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary; a devotional book, With God, Nothing Is Impossible; and, most recently, An Introduction to Reading Biblical Wisdom Texts.