The Book of Job-Chapter Nineteen:
"Job Rallies Again"
It's summer right now and I pass some of the time by following baseball. It's the slowest moving of the major US sports and, especially when your favorite team is losing, a game may seem to drag from the midpoint on. It is sometimes tempting to turn the TV channel or to leave the stands and head for the car in hopes of beating the traffic. However, if you are around the game of baseball for a long time you come to realize that anything can happen right up to the final out. Some games, after hours and hours of play, have been decided at the very last second. As we start in with Job's current response to Bildad's comments from the previous chapter, it feels like Job is losing his game with less and less hope of getting back on track.
Verses 1-5: "Then Job answered and said, How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? These ten times have ye reproached me: ye are not ashamed that ye make yourselves strange to me. And be it indeed that I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself. If indeed ye will magnify yourselves against me, and plead against me my reproach:"
Bildad has had a effect. Job now gives place to the idea that he did bring all this down on himself. Instead of correcting Bildad for spewing more erroneous doctrine, Job slips into self-pity and is actually pleading for comfort from his friends. This is STRIKE ONE.
And here, immediately, comes STRIKE TWO:
Verses 6-11: "Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net. Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment. He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths. He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head. He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and mine hope hath he removed like a tree. He hath also kindled his wrath against me, and he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies."
Job has regressed yet again into seeing God as his enemy. Remember he is apparently blind to any knowledge of Satan. Look, he even mistakes the Holy Angels for demons:
Verse 12: "His troops come together, and raise up their way against me, and encamp round about my tabernacle."
By any estimation Job is not doing well here. If this WERE baseball we might be tempted to start "booing" at this point. But did you ever notice that you rarely see ball players booing each other. I think I know why (I played a bit myself, a long time ago). It's because at some point they have to go to bat themselves, and they realize how truly difficult the task can be. Well, if we really look at our spiritual record, haven't all of us slipped into self-pity at some points and blamed God and made Him out to be the enemy? Or at least been tempted? It's sobering. My own batting average is far from 1,000 in this area, and without Christ in my life I'd be batting 000 . How can this happen to a person, even a believer like Job? Here is how it happened to him:
Verses 13-19: "He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight. I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; I intreated him with my mouth. My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children's sake of mine own body. Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me."
Look at all the people who told Job (by words or deeds or both) that God had abandoned Him: siblings, relatives, close friends, employees, and yes, his own wife. This all snowballed and soon even the little neighborhood children were giving him a cold shoulder. Indeed everyone he had ever cared for deserted him in his troubles. Under these circumstances, who among us might not slip and fall into self-pity? That's exactly what is happening to Job. Just listen to this:
Verses 20-22: "My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth. Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me. Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?"
O boy, how many strikes does he get? "Everyone's against me, just as God is!" Job says. Even if it hasn't quite crossed the plate yet, I can just see the umpire starting to lift his arm to ring Job up for what is looking more and more like his final out of the day. If we freeze the frame at this instant, I'd bet all the odds makers would declare Satan the sure winner of this game. But... and thank God for it... there are still wonderful things that happen to us, even in this cursed world. Things that the odds makers have trouble predicting. And why? It's because they only know the things they can measure. But the Grace of our God, no man can measure. We can count on it, but we can't count it up or control it!
Even though he's listened to the doubters around him and turned on God again, God still loves Job very much. Think about this: all of us, at all times, have some kind of a relationship with God. He did create us after all. Even if we don't acknowledge Him, His love for us abides. Did you know that Christ's humiliation didn't end at the Cross? He's still very willing today to be part of a strange and one sided love. A stifling (for Him, I mean) relationship of unrequited feelings. A relationship where He gives and gives and entreats the unbeliever (and sometimes the believer too!) only to be rejected over and over again. Is that your relationship with the Son of God today? You don't have to be a formal atheist to humiliate the Lord. Just being "neutral" about Him is all it takes, for He can never be neutral about you, His creation. Watch now as God, even under these trying circumstances, intervenes in Job's current crisis of faith:
Verses 23-24: "Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!"
That, right there, is an amazing gift from God. It's totally of grace and undeserved. A gift from God to a man who from the beginning of this chapter has done nothing but complain and turn from the Lord. And what is that gift? It's called VISION. Job had become blinded by lies and fear yet again. But the Lord has the cure, and it's vision. A vision of hope and truth. Suddenly Job sees his real hope isn't in self-pity, or in convincing his friends to be better friends. It isn't in anything of this life that he has been clinging to so hard. His hope is in the Eternal Truth of God. And he knows, even though it's not all crystal clear at this moment, that somewhere in all that has happened to him this Truth is on display. And that Truth will reveal God as GOOD. And that Truth will finally soothe the torment and confusion of this life. And that Truth, though elusive in the here and now, will be accessible in his future and for eternity. The Lord has, quite suddenly, restored Job's vision. Job's getting a good look at the ball now and he's about to crush it. Here comes the rally. Here comes Job's homerun. Listen:
Verses 25-27: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."
We could be cynical ourselves and say, "Old Job was done for and this is all God's meddling! They cheated! This isn't real praise. Job is more like a parrot or a robot." But that's not what we're going to say. We're just going to stand up and cheer. Don't you see, Job's praise is genuine! God let this broken and exhausted man see the ball, but he's the one who swung and hit it. In an instant, his doubts are long gone and he recognizes the Lord clearly in His proper role and place. And, in that sense, all is well. O, not in Job's life or in his body here on earth. But he now lays claim to a life beyond all this, a life where you can know and love God and He you, face to face and freely. Just think for a minute about where he was as recently as in verse 22. Wow! He just knocked this thing WAY out of the park. Do you see that wonderful (and often quoted) prophesy of Christ right there in verse 25. O, God's in this game alright, but nobody's cheating.
Well, all that's left now is the post game interview. And Job gives a good one:
Verse 28: "But ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?"
There, finally, is Bildad's well-deserved reproof. That homerun has given Job some new strength. His critics are wrong, he's not suffering as an evil doer and he now asserts that THEY are the ones with the problem, not him. God was gracious in restoring Job's spiritual vision, and in his final conclusion, Job is gracious too:
Verse 29: "Be ye afraid of the sword: for wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword, that ye may know there is a judgment."
Ultimate Truth has changed Job's self-pity into true concern for his friends. THEY are to be pitied. Bildad's doctrine of works for rewards won't grant real freedom from suffering in this life and certainly won't help in the next. What a turn around, beloved. Doesn't this illustrate something Christ once said of the coming of His Kingdom when: "the last shall be first, and the first shall be last." Don't judge God based on any current circumstances. We may be, at least in our own way, as blind as Job to Satan's role in our troubles. But there is always hope in Christ. In fact, the final inning and the Final Victory belong to us.
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