by Mike Ratliff
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. (Job 6:1-3)
We left Job and his three friends in the last study with Eliphaz delivering a diatribe proclaiming that Job’s suffering was due to sin that Job had committed. In that diatribe Eliphaz gave an accurate portrayal of the utter depravity of man outside of God’s grace, but he erred in proclaiming that all suffering was due to unrepentant sin. His understanding is it that to guarantee one to be free of suffering a person must be sinless. Why did Eliphaz believe this so vehemently?
The first three verses of Job 6 are at the top of this post. In these three verses Job explains why his complaint is so harsh. What is it? Not only is he suffering far beyond anything we can imagine, he has three friends who have come to him specifically to tell him it’s all his fault. The weight of his suffering is multiplied by the untrue indictments from his friends. Job feels crushed.
For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me. (Job 6:4)
We can almost hear Job sob out this lament. This passage is very similar to Psalm 38:2 where David was writing about the tribulation he was going through. This is recognition that God is ultimately responsible for our suffering. Our pain and torment are allowed by God to accomplish His will. We may recognize that, but that does not mean we do not also wail and mourn. Many have portrayed Job’s suffering as simply a bad skin condition, but in fact Job’s body was taking on a close resemblance to a corpse. The problem was that he was not dead and away from the pain, but right in the middle of it with no relief in sight. He had painful boils from head to toe (2:7,13;30:17), severe itching (2:7,8), great grief (2:13), lost appetite (3:24;6:6,7), agonizing discomfort (3:24), insomnia (7:4), worm and dust infested flesh (7:5), continual oozing of boils (7:5), hallucinations (7:14), decaying skin (13:28), shriveled up (16:8; 17:7; 19:20), severe halitosis (19:20), relentless pain (30:17), skin turned black (30:30), and dramatic weight loss (33:21).
Job’s friends were aghast that Job would complain about his suffering to God. In their eyes, Job should be repenting of his horrible sin that they thought he had committed so God would heal him. Instead out of a pain we can barely imagine, Job says that he is complaining and his complaining is just.
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. (Job 6:5-7)
This complaint by Job is that he has reason to complain. When we try to minister to those in the fire we should not tell them they have no reason to complain. They do and so do we when we suffer. Complaining while in the fire is natural. God does not expect us to be stoic and expressionless while suffering. On the other hand, we should not reach the point of despair where we become unreasonable. Job is complaining and telling all who will listen that his complaint is just.
“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! (Job 6:8-9)
Job is requesting that God end his suffering by killing him. As we have seen, Job’s physical condition was one of walking death. However, death fled from him. His suffering was being constantly magnified. The words of his friends were also being used by Satan to torment him and multiply the weight of his suffering. I have often asked God to just put me out of my misery and take me home. My little bit of suffering is nothing compared to Job’s and I have wished for death.
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? (Job 6:10-13)
Job was a very devout man. He was righteous in God’s eyes. He was a believer who had not been avoiding the revelation of God that had been given him. He saw the Word of God as precious and obeyed God’s commands. This, in light of his suffering, confused him. He says that he would rejoice in his suffering if he know it would soon lead to death. However, with the suffering coming upon him for absolutely no apparent reason, brought him to the point of despair.
“He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed, as torrential streams that pass away, which are dark with ice, and where the snow hides itself. When they melt, they disappear; when it is hot, they vanish from their place. The caravans turn aside from their course; they go up into the waste and perish. The caravans of Tema look, the travelers of Sheba hope. They are ashamed because they were confident; they come there and are disappointed. For you have now become nothing; you see my calamity and are afraid. Have I said, ‘Make me a gift’? Or, ‘From your wealth offer a bribe for me’? Or, ‘Deliver me from the adversary’s hand’? Or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of the ruthless’? (Job 6:14-23)
Job rebuked his friends from his sage wisdom. Job had already told them that he had not sinned as he was being accused. However, even if that were true, shouldn’t these men have shown kindness to him instead of pouring hot coals of accusations on his head? In fact, their “help” was about as useful as a dried up river bed. He compares their “comfort” as the “water” in the desert that is not really there. Their “help” is not useful, but, in fact, harms. This should tell us that when dealing the with suffering of others, we must not come off as being judgmental or self-righteous.
“Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray. How forceful are upright words! But what does reproof from you reprove? Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind? You would even cast lots over the fatherless, and bargain over your friend. “But now, be pleased to look at me, for I will not lie to your face. Please turn; let no injustice be done. Turn now; my vindication is at stake. Is there any injustice on my tongue? Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity? (Job 6:24-30)
Job needed kindness and support from his friends. Instead, they accused him of being a sinful hypocrite. Now, Job tells them to show him where he has sinned. It is one thing to accuse, but where is the proof? Job maintains that there is no particular sin that has brought this calamity upon him. He knows he isn’t perfect. He was very devout and offered sacrifices to God continually, because he knew he was a sinner. He is not self-righteous. He is telling his friends that if they can prove that he has fallen into gross sin then he would be willing to repent. We leave this scene of suffering Job and his friends as he throws down the challenge to prove his has done something to deserve becoming walking death.
What should we learn from this? When others around us suffer we should never go to them with proclamations of God’s judgment. That is God’s job. Our part is to comfort them and shine the light of truth into their lives as God directs. I pray that others will do that with me when I fall into the fires of tribulation.