The Book of Job-Chapter Seventeen:
"Finding a Blessing in the Pain"
Our opening verse is not what Christians have in mind when they say, have a blessed day:
Verse 1: "My breath is corrupt, my days are extinct, the graves are ready for me."
It's certainly not what I have in mind. But eventually in this chapter Job finds a small but precious pearl in the ugly oyster shell of earthy living. A real blessing, too. But as we have been seeing, the path of discovery can be lonely:
Verses 2-6: "Are there not mockers with me? and doth not mine eye continue in their provocation? Lay down now, put me in a surety with thee; who is he that will strike hands with me? For thou hast hid their heart from understanding: therefore shalt thou not exalt them. He that speaketh flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail. He hath made me also a byword of the people; and aforetime I was as a tabret."
You or I may find this when we suffer or at least it's modern equivalent. We can get isolated and easily feel persecuted or ridiculed. We become a shadow version of our blessed and happy past persona.
Verse 7: "Mine eye also is dim by reason of sorrow, and all my members are as a shadow."
In order to discover hidden blessings, beloved, especially in tough times, we may have to re-define success, happiness, or satisfaction. As Christ would later say: we need to look at the situation with new eyes.
As Job starts to speak now, I believe he is looking anew at his circumstance and seeing the possibility that his struggles may be leaving a legacy of sorts behind:
Verses 8-9: "Upright men shall be astonied at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite. The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger."
We could interpret verses 8-9 to be the equivalent of: "People will, in the future, mark my horrible life as worth noting and as a life of spiritual significance. Others could grow through my experiences and be better prepared to know and serve God." Suffering is a great opportunity to reach out and evangelize. But it takes real trust in God. You get people's attention in a whole new way when you suffer. It's not to be desired, but still it may be put to good use. Christ turned the tragedy of His Passion Week into a wonderful Love Letter to the World. Job is making a turn in his suffering, but those closest to him sure don't seem to be attracted to his message or to understand this sort of thing at all:
Verse 10: "But as for you all, do ye return, and come now: for I cannot find one wise man among you."
Now like a modern blues artist Job is about to face his fears and confront his true situation head on. (That's something to be appreciated about a good blues song, the honesty and raw courage to face life as it is or has become):
Verses 11-14: "My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart. They change the night into day: the light is short because of darkness. If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister. "
He's sung this way before, but then it was more out of resentment and fear. Now, it seems there is a certain new resignation and maturity, and a better perspective (those new eyes) brought on by his wonder of the Lord's ways.
We have recently, at a point something like this, seen Job lose all hope. He may be close to doing that again:
Verses 15-16: "And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust."
But his concern for the longevity of his hope is, to me, a sign that it still exists. That's a lot different from what we saw back in chapter 14 where he accused God of taking away all hope. Job is learning to conserve and nurture his hope. And to kindle the faith he finds in his heart regardless of circumstances. It may seem like too quiet or too small a victory, but for any believer this is actually a great blessing and a great stride forward.
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