“Do not human beings have a hard service on earth?” These remarks of Job begin Job chapter 7 and come in the middle of his second monologue after Eliphaz has spoken (Job 4-5). What do we hear in Job’s words?
“Are not the days of [human beings] like the days of a laborer? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like laborers who long for their wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness” (Job 7:1b-3a). Brite Divinity School professor Leo Perdue comments on ‘ebed’ the Hebrew term which means ‘slave’ that Jobs uses in verse 2 (in the book Wisdom & Creation, p.143). He points out that after 7 years, the slave was to be freed (see Leviticus 25:40-41). Even though the slave may have owed much to his creditor, all debts were forgiven in the Jubilee year.
However, Job does not lean such a hope in his present outcry. Graphically, he describes his circumstance. “My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out again. My days … come to an end without hope” (7:5-6). Have you ever experienced such calamity that it seemed hope was impossible? Has life ever been so bad, you decided hope was too heartbreaking because it was sure to fail? That’s where we find Job.
He doesn’t ask God for relief or restoration. He doesn’t dare believe that God could be on his side. Job believes God is against Him. Mournfully, he says, “remember that my life is a breath” (7:7). And, he challenges God. “Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?” Job is sure of his own innocence and he equally sure that God against him. If God is against me, what can I possible do? Thus his lugubrious lament, “now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be” (7:21). Perdue notes that Job doesn’t seek the freedom of Jubilee; rather he just wants God to leave him alone.
As I have written previously, Job’s problems began exactly when God left him alone at Satan’s prodding. A person’s life is most forlorn when that person is far from God. Whether Job’s suffering was a caricature or an accurate historical accounting of a man who went through a living hell, the principle holds. Human beings experience pain. Sometimes they go through a lot of it. It is that much worse if the sufferer is also alienated from God. Job was not, but he thought he was. His pain created despair that submitted him to the deception that God was his enemy,
I urge you, reader, to think about Jesus’ assurance of what he desires for all who follow him. I say this knowing that Jesus’ disciples in fact go through all kinds of pain (cancer and other diseases, ridicule, persecutions, economic loss, accidents, divorce, etc). Christians get hurt just like everyone else; still we lay claim to the words of Jesus. “Whoever enters by me will be saved; … I came that they might have life and have abundantly” (John 10:9, 10).
Stubbornly, we who follow Jesus hang on to those words even though the situations we are in may make those words appear foolish. We refuse to go where Job went. We refuse to despair and give up on the Jubilee (freedom, release) that God promised. When Jesus says, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), we believe Him.
Yes, followers of Jesus get knocked down. Yes, we experience loss. We are sometimes defeated. But, we do not give up. We do not forfeit hope. Because of the cross, we will not descend to darkness of the soul that Job could not escape. We learn from his example that faithful people will go through debilitating pain. But, we learn from Jesus that faithful people will be delivered and blessed, even in times of trial. We reach out to God in the name of Jesus, and God reaches out us and pulls us through.