We have some sense that Job’s calamities took place sequentially, one right after the other, almost instantaneously. When Job’s friends heard of it, they traveled to be with him and stayed with him in silence for seven days. Then Job spoke out of his grief, his friends replied, and this very challenging trial of false insinuations from miserable comforters began. We are not told if all of this happened at once. Could it be that these conversations took place over some lengthier period of time? Job’s words at the start of Chapter 23 begin by marking the passage of time. “Today also my complaint is bitter.”
Those who have faced profound loss tell us that there can be some period of spiritual anesthesia during which a person has not yet taken in the full gravity of what has happened to him. After all of the comforters have come and gone, some people report that it is only then that they begin to more fully feel the weight of tragedy. The pain of loss may continue for many months and years and it may seem to them that joy will never again return. For such a person sadness can seem to be all that is left in life.
Grief may often come with physical pain, but in Job’s case his grief has been compounded by additional extreme physical maladies that make his life very low. Sorrow alone can make a person feel like he has no energy for living. What if disease is added to that grief? Job says, “My hand is heavy on account of my groaning.” He is like a man who cannot find the strength to move.
With the last speech of Eliphaz insinuation has moved toward direct accusation. Much offense is given, yet Job is not consumed with hatred for his friends. He wants to talk to God. But where can he find the Lord? He would like to enter the throne-room of the Almighty to present his case before God. He would have much to say, he supposes, and he imagines that he might even anticipate what God would answer. Job’s first desire is not to contradict Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar; he wants an audience with God.
What would God do? Job muses: “He would pay attention to me.” He says, “There an upright man could argue with Him.” He does not speak of himself as someone vile before the King of kings, but as one who has been righteous. This may sound like a horrible presumption, and yet it is God who started this book with a similar assessment of Job, spoken in that heavenly court where Job wishes to be. Job has not said that he has attained righteousness apart from the grace of God. That would be presumption. Could it be that this suffering servant is telling the truth, that by the grace of the Almighty, Job is who he is? And he is not what his accusers suggest him to be. Job says that God would acquit him. He does not say how, just that God would acquit him, and that He would acquit him forever. Do you want to be acquitted by God forever?
Yet Job returns to his great problem. Where can he find the living God? He sees His works everywhere, but where is He? Job cannot have a conversation with the works of God. The answers that he needs will not come to him by contemplation. He needs to hear God, and he wants to do this in person, where God could actually be seen.
If this problem of finding God could be solved, Job is confident that when tried by the Almighty, he would come through that test as gold from the furnace. He has kept the commandments of the Lord. Yet this line of thought does not ultimately give Job peace. He contemplates again the great wisdom and sovereignty of God, and he is strangely troubled. There cannot be any mistake in God’s ways, can there be? No one can actually change God’s mind on a matter like this. He does what He wants to do, and His decree can never be stopped. He is left in dread of the God to whom he must talk face to face, the God he cannot find. Through all of his troubles Job is not yet ready to stop thinking, and he is not finished speaking about the mystery of what has taken place in his life.
When Jesus came, He obeyed the law of God fully. Here was the beloved Son of the Father living perfectly in the fullest pleasure of the Almighty. This Jesus died for us. We hear of His righteousness and His love. His Word is a tremendous aid to those who suffer in His name today. But one day, we shall see Him face to face in a world of eternal light.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Our Father, we want to talk with You. The troubles in our lives seem to overwhelm us. We cannot see behind the veil of this creation. We sincerely desire to keep Your ways. We know that You do what You desire. We have questions for You, O Lord, and we do not know where we will find answers. Thank You for the answer of Your Word. Thank You for the answer of Your Son. Thank You for the answer of the cross.