Bible: What Does Job 29-31 Teach Us About Maintaining Hope Amid Adversity?
Maintaining Hope Amid Suffering
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Job Desires God's Blessings
Job confesses his earnest desire to return to the days of God’s blessing.
He delineates several characteristics of those days:
(1) guidance and protection (v. 3);
(2) friendship with God (vv. 4, 5a);
(3) fatherly pride (v. 5b);
(4) material prosperity (v. 6);
(5) leadership responsibilities (v. 7); and
(6) respect from young and old alike because of his righteous deeds among the unfortunate (vv. 8-17).
After having lived a life full of blessing and vigor, Job believed that he would die at home and at an advanced age (vv. 18-20).
He would maintain a prominent position as a wise counselor, whose words would be heard (vv. 21-22) and accepted (vv. 23-25).
[This chapter forms just the first part of Job's lengthy defense, highlighting his blessed past.
The first two words of the next chapter present the beginning of an altogether different scenario: his suffering].
Job: A Suffering Servant of the LORD
Now “the dregs of the earth” ridicule Job (v. 1).
Lacking strength to work (vv. 2-3a), these "sons of fools" wander in the wilderness as outcasts, eating flowers and roots and living like wild animals (vv. 3b-8).
Out of revenge and hatred, they heap insults upon him with song and symbol (vv. 9-10).
Believing that God has rejected him, they no longer fear the LORD's avenging power (v. 11).
No one helps them to do all they can to further Job's distress and even cause his destruction (vv. 12-15).
[NIV portrays this scene as an army's attack upon a city already in ruins].
Job's emotional and physical sufferings are perpetual (vv. 16-17); he feels as if he's in a straitjacket (v. 18).
God has brought him as low as he can go: stuck, worthless, and burned out (v. 19).
He prays in vain, and thinks Yahweh hardly notices his movements (v. 20).
The LORD: A Cruel God?
Do you think the LORD is a cruel God?
Is God Cruel?
Job appears to regard Him as cruel because He has used His omnipotence against him (v. 21), and has caused him to weather all the storms of life (v. 22).
He also knows that God will eventually cause his death (v. 23).
Assuming that God would be merciful and not kick a man when he is down and asking for help (v. 24), Job expects mercy in return for being merciful, but experiences only more pain (vv. 25-26).
Seeing unabated, wearying pain as his future prospect, Job pleads for help from God's people, but he receives none (vv. 27-28).
He spends plenty of time with lonely creatures (v. 29).
His physical body deteriorates, and his emotions play tunes in a minor key (vv. 30-31).
[To have colleagues criticize you unjustly is bad enough; however, when low lifers and vagabonds treat you like scum without warrant, those experiences must have sorely tried Job's patience with God].
Disobedience to God's Commandments
Sins Worthy of Severe Discipline
Knowing that God punishes the wicked, Job disciplined himself not to lust after a girl (vv. 1-4).
Verses 5-9 discuss several other sins—lying (v. 5), apostasy, covetousness and murder (v. 6), and adultery (v. 9).
Job deems himself worthy of punishment if indeed he has committed them (vv. 6, 8, 10-12).
Injustice toward wronged servants is another sin that Job would studiously avoid, knowing that he and they are all equally God's creatures (vv. 13-15).
Job continues to list unrighteous deeds for which, if he has done them, he would deserve judgment.
If he has mistreated the deprived—the poor (v. 16a), the widow (v. 16b), the orphan (vv. 17, 21), the naked (vv. 19-20)— he should receive an extremely painful torture (v. 22).
However, he could never do such a thing for fear of divine retribution (v. 23).
[Job does include a parenthetical aside, asserting that he has done the opposite (v. 18)]!
Greed and Idolatry
More examples of unrighteousness follow: love of money (vv. 24-25) and false worship (vv. 26-27).
These sins also demand penalties for their practical atheism, denying both God's providence and His role as Creator (v. 28).
Even an improper attitude toward an enemy's death (v. 29), the withholding of food from friends (v. 31), the non-confession of sin because of the fear of man (vv. 33-34) or poor land management (v. 38), stealing (v. 39a) or negligence (v. 39b) call for justice.
[Two more parenthetical points of defense appear in the text.
Verse 30 claims that Job never cursed an enemy, and verse 32 avers that he always lodged travelers].
Job purposely neglects to mention a proper punishment for the sins of verses 29-34 (by including the customary "then" clause [cf. vv. 8, 10, 22, 40]) in order to make one last fervent plea for God to provide a complete written account of his trial (v. 35).
The happy saint would then wear that scroll without shame before Him (vv. 36-37).
[The chapter is long, but its message is clear and simple:
"If I have sinned, I deserve punishment.
Since I have lived righteously, I desire a divine response for His treatment of me."]
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