We understand what a broken bone is readily enough. We may have been through the difficulty of that kind of injury, or at least we have seen others with a cast on an arm or a leg, so we are not entirely unfamiliar with such troubles. But what is a broken spirit?
Job says here, “My spirit is broken,” and he goes on to say, “My days are extinct,” and “The graveyard is ready for me.” A person with a badly broken spirit is convinced that his life is already over, though his body is still alive. This is a very empty feeling for a man to have.
We are made to be people of hope, people who look to the future with some real sense of confident expectation. Tragedy and grief do something to us, however, where the misery of the present seems eternal, and there is no sense in our hearts of life beyond loss.
How does Job know that he is still alive? He feels the pain of his body and he knows the grief of his broken heart, but there is one other thing that occupies him. He sees the mockers who are around him, taunting him, and he dwells upon their provocation. Do they realize that they are tormenting a great man? Do they hope to cheat him out of something, or is it simply good entertainment to see the once respected man in such a low condition? They will not ultimately prosper in this kind of evil, and Job knows that.
Who is responsible for this deplorable situation? We can blame the criminals who stole this great man’s property. We can point to these three advisors who are such miserable comforters. Yet Job knows too much to end his complaint there. Job knows that God is above all, and that God rules. Therefore he speaks of God in his sorrow and confusion. He says, “He has made me a byword of the peoples.”
Job is honest about his situation. The disrespect of the jeering mob is a horrible insult. Yet he is determined to face this aspect of his trial as a righteous man. He will hold to his ways. Job knows in his mind that God can renew the strength of the righteous man. But can Job really believe that now? Apparently he holds to the righteous way under the most formidable stress, and yet he is not showy in his claims, only strangely resolute.
Job does not pretend that there is any merit in the chorus of the ungodly who find his afflictions entertaining. He admits plainly, “I shall not find a wise man among you.” How does someone ever say something that blunt? There is only one way for a man to speak this way without incurring guilt. His words must be true and just. Job knows himself to be more righteous than his three companions who are falsely accusing him. He knows himself to be more godly than the mocking crowd who abuses him.
In this true assessment, Job is a great suffering servant. As Christ spoke the truth about the Sadducees when He plainly said that they knew neither the Scriptures nor the power of God, Job spoke the truth about people in his own generation. His words were recorded for us by the Lord so that we might forever understand, avoid, and reject the ways of his presumptuous accusers.
In Job we have a man who speaks the truth, who feels his life is over, whose spirit is broken, who would like to find a reason to hope again, but who cannot yet remember where that hope can be found. He has more righteousness than all those around him, but he falls under the weight of some limitation. He cannot see hope, at least not yet. He does not seem to know that which he seeks to find. The Lord is not done with Job yet. There is more suffering and indignity for this beloved servant of God, but there will also be more knowledge and hope that he will soon discover.
He will not simply sink into the dust, but he will feel the weight of his own limitations more accurately before this trial is over. Jesus, the greatest Servant of God, was willing to suffer. He had perfect knowledge of the power of His death for us and a full measure of hope that the promises of God would be fulfilled.
Because of Jesus, Job truly has a future, even when he does not seem to have any hope left of which he is aware. Jesus has secured our future with His dying love. His hope was perfect, and His knowledge was true and complete. Therefore, we are kept safe even in our worst moments of despair.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, there are times when our suffering is so difficult that we assume that our life must be over already. Teach us to persevere even in such a day. Train us to see some glimpse of light when all appears so very dim. Even when we are covered by deep clouds of trouble, Your Son is still the light of the world. Help us to see Him in Your Word, and to remember the cross.