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Doug Van Meter - 3 July 2022

Targeted but Trusting (Job 6:1–7:21)

In chapters 6–7, Job responds to the speech of Eliphaz while repeating much of theme of chapter 3, where he lamented that he is alive. In despair, Job just wanted to die. But, before he died, he wanted to know why God had targeted him with such trouble. He felt as though he was living with a target on his back that invites the arrows of the Almighty. We consider Job’s first response to Eliphaz under four broad headings: 1. A Hopeless Feeling (6:1–13) 2. Heartless Friends (6:14–30) 3. Human Frailty (7:1–10) 4. Honest Faith (7:11–21)

Scripture References: Job 6:1-30, Job 7:1-21

From Series: "Job Exposition"

A devotional exposition of the book of Job by Doug Van Meter.

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In chapters 6–7, Job responds to Eliphaz’s speech while repeating much of theme of chapter 3, where he lamented being alive. He was in despair, and it is clear that he was in a depression of the sort that would “not lift” (Welch). He just wanted to die. At the same time, he didn’t—at least, not yet. Before he died, he wanted to know why God had targeted him with so much trouble. He felt as though he was living with a target on his back that invited the arrows of the Almighty. And he was certain that the Divine Archer and Watcher would not miss.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like you cannot catch a break? Have you ever uttered those words? Have you ever uttered them to God? I have. Yet as I have uttered them, though I felt targeted, I at the same time trusted. I hope the same could be said of you. It certainly could of Job.

Sometimes, in the face of intense and inexplicable suffering, Christians find themselves feeling that God’s arrows of affliction are slamming into them and there is neither relief nor revelation of “Why?” In times like these, Christians may be tempted to anger, despair, and depression. Complaints might pour forth to others and, more significantly, to God. These two chapters record both. Job complained that his friends were helpless to him and that God had made his life hopeless. He said things he would later blush about—yet we must not miss that, in this diatribe, he began to speak to God. Though he felt hopeless, and though life seemed hopeless, we detect a glimmer of his hope yet in God. He felt targeted by God yet, by turning to God, he displayed trust in God. Let’s examine these verses and be equipped for our own trials, as well as to help our brothers and sisters in their trials.

We consider these chapters under four broad headings:

  1. A Hopeless Feeling (6:1–13)
  2. Heartless Friends (6:14–30)
  3. Human Frailty (7:1–10)
  4. Honest Faith (7:11–21)

A Hopeless Feeling

Job began by admitting his sense of hopelessness:

Then Job answered and said: “Oh that my vexation were weighed, and all my calamity laid in the balances! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea; therefore my words have been rash. For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me. Does the wild donkey bray when he has grass, or the ox low over his fodder? Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow? My appetite refuses to touch them; they are as food that is loathsome to me.

 

“Oh that I might have my request, and that God would fulfil my hope, that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off! This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One. What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? Have I any help in me, when resource is driven from me?”

(Job 6:1–13)

Job was emotionally reeling, feeling that he had been targeted by Shaddai and condemned by his friends. He felt hopeless and, while this can be seen throughout these and subsequent chapters, the first part of chapter 6, in particular, drips with his hopeless despair, which found expression in words of desolation.

Someone has described Job as hysterical with grief (“vexation” [6:2]). This is understandable when we consider that, having expressed deep sorrow (chapter 3), his friend Eliphaz, who represented the others present, responded with simplistic accusation and soul-piercing condemnation (chapters 4–5). It was no wonder that his words were “rash” (impetuous), for his grief was now heavier than the accumulated sand of the sea. He felt that God had targeted his life for an onslaught of trouble. God was at war with him. His spirit had been poisoned with sorrow from God’s arrows of trouble and his only hope was that the poison would kill him. He still didn’t know that Satan, not God, had attacked him. “Job clearly believes that his suffering is caused by God’s direct action. He imagines that God is using him as target practice or that he is the object of God’s warring activity” (Longman). His view of God was morphing. He would not curse God, though he felt cursed by God. He simply could not catch a break.

In 6:5–7, he rhetorically defended his complaint, noting that animals uncared for will “bray” or “low”—and what God was feeding him was not only unappetising but actually “loathsome.” God’s arrows had destroyed Job’s appetite for life.

In 6:8–13, Job continued his desolate digression by again wishing for death. He was so hopeless that his greatest hope was to be crushed to death (6:9). While defending his integrity, he suggested that he was happy to die protesting his innocence (6:10). He recognised that, having no inner strength or resource (support) to succeed against Almighty’s arrows, death was his only hope (6:11–13). Here was a man who was completely hopeless—but also a man who felt that his friends had left him helpless.

Heartless Friends

Job continued by complaining about his friends whose assistance was useless.

“He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed, as torrential streams that pass away, which are dark with ice, and where the snow hides itself. When they melt, they disappear; when it is hot, they vanish from their place. The caravans turn aside from their course; they go up into the waste and perish. The caravans of Tema look, the travellers of Sheba hope. They are ashamed because they were confident; they come there and are disappointed. For you have now become nothing; you see my calamity and are afraid. Have I said, ‘Make me a gift’? Or, ‘From your wealth offer a bribe for me’? Or, ‘Deliver me from the adversary’s hand’? Or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of the ruthless’?

 

“Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray. How forceful are upright words! But what does reproof from you reprove? Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind? You would even cast lots over the fatherless, and bargain over your friend.

 

“But now, be pleased to look at me, for I will not lie to your face. Please turn; let no injustice be done. Turn now; my vindication is at stake. Is there any injustice on my tongue? Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity?”

(Job 6:14–30)

We should picture Eliphaz in the previous chapters speaking with Job in the presence of the other two friends. Job lumped them together in his complaint. Perhaps the other two had all nodded vehemently as Eliphaz had uttered his pearls of wisdom.

Job suggested they had no fear of God, which had made their counsel useless (6:14). His friends were like a caravan of travellers longing for water in the desert, hoping to be nourished by what turned out to be bone-dry streams (6:15–21). As disappointed travellers blush over their false expectations, so Job blushed as he was left emotionally stranded by his friends. He felt like the person who needs a shoulder to cry on but instead receives an exposition of Romans 8:28.

Perhaps they were fearful to get become too involved in Job’s plight and so they threw words at him from a distance (6:21b). After all, if Job was guilty, would they be taking a risk? To help the suffering, we need to be willing to enter their world, which is sometimes uncomfortable. We need to be willing to get our hands dirty in the process of helping. Every Christian is called to this (Romans 12:15).

Verses 22–27 contain a good deal of difficulty, but I think the gist is that Job protested that he had not been financially unethical—an accusation that may have arisen from one of his friends. He rebuked his rebukers telling them that what he needed from them was true wisdom (6:24) not false accusations. He angrily accused them of being heartless (6:27). Anderson helpfully observes, “There is no more indication that the friends gambled for orphans than there is Job asked for bribes. Perhaps this is what Job is getting at. But their relationship has certainly deteriorated if they are already swopping insults like this.”

He passionately appealed to them, at the close of the chapter (6:28–30), to “look at” him, to consider his condition, to listen and believe his plea of “not guilty.” He was a righteous man, and they knew that. Would they not trust him when he professed innocence?

How painful it is to be misunderstood and misrepresented by one’s friends! This is always one of the challenges of counselling. We are not omniscient. But this should make us all the more careful to not point fingers and assign blame and reasons when suffering comes upon believers. Tremper Longman comments, “The sad fact, though, is that the community of God, like the three friends of Job, is often like a dried-up wadi, promising [help] but not delivering. The story of Job’s treatment at the hands of his friends is a warning of offering facile advice to those who suffer. It is not adequate to offer pat answers to people’s problems; we must approach them with compassion, thoughtfulness, and empathy.”

Human Frailty

The reality of human frailty dominates 7:1–10.

“Has not man a hard service on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired hand? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hired hand who looks for his wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle and come to their end without hope.

 

“Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good. The eye of him who sees me will behold me no more; while your eyes are on me, I shall be gone. As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up; he returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore.”

(Job 7:1–10)

Job’s complaint continues, but he moves away from speaking to Eliphaz and the other friends to speaking directly to God. Perhaps this was partly because his friends would not face him (6:28–29) and so he was compelled to speak to God. Regardless, his complaint remained much the same, though here he lamented his frailty and the futility of life. There are some parallels to Psalm 90, though, while Moses there wrote of the same frailty, he was hopeful about overcoming futility before death. Job, sadly, saw death as the most fruitful thing he might experience.

Job considered life to be hard and worthless and wearying with no respite (7:1–4). His body was diseased and decaying, leading to a dead end (7:5–6). The nights were too long and the days too short—and how miserable those nights were!

Is it not true that nights are often the most miserable for those experiencing intense suffering? That may be why so much medication is given to help people sleep. Those who have experienced the death of a loved one or are struggling financially know what it is to toss and turn at night. Helping the afflicted to get some rest is often the first step in alleviating their sorrow.

There is debate as to Job’s audience in 7:7–10. He might still be speaking to his friends and expressing to them that, sooner rather than, they would no longer see him, for death would take him. On the other hand, he might be speaking to God and saying that, though God was watching him now (see 7:20), a day was coming in which he would die and go to the pit, and that God, with everyone else, would see him no more. Regardless, it is clear is that he seems to have had no concept of resurrection. This is not to say that he did not believe in resurrection but, at this stage of lament, all he could think about was the frailty, futility, and finality of life. He was in a bad spot.

At this point, I should note that when we, God’s new covenant people, read Job, we not only have the advantage of knowing the bigger picture of Job’s sufferings (chapters 1–2) but we also have the hindsight of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Because Christ died for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, where he will be until he returns to raise the dead, we face suffering much better equipped.

The New Testament contains many examples of suffering and affliction, as well as warnings that this is part and parcel of the Christian’s life (e.g. Acts 14:22; Romans 5:1–5; 8:26ff; 2 Corinthians 4:17–5:5; 2 Timothy 3:10–12; James 1:12; 1 Peter 4:12; etc.). We have the assured hope of the resurrection, knowing that our King has risen. And though Old Testament saints progressively understood a future resurrection, it was never as clear as it is for us. That is why the reality of the resurrection—that Jesus Christ is risen indeed!—provides us with encouraging hope in the most difficult of times.

Honest Faith

In 7:11–21, there is no doubt that Job had turned from addressing his friends to directly addressing God:

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I the sea, or a sea monster, that you set a guard over me? When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment? How long will you not look away from me, nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit? If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind? Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.”

(Job 7:11–21)

Though his language here is extreme, and though he would later be ashamed for his words (42:1–6), it is clear that Job took God seriously. Further, it is evident that, even though he felt targeted by God, he nevertheless trusted God. It was a belligerent trust, to be sure, but it was trust nonetheless. Though he spoke from the bitterness of his soul, he did so because he believed that God heard him. There are important lessons for us here.

Job asked God, as it were, “Surely, I am not a threat to you am I?” (7:11–12). After all, God terrified him, not he God. In fact, God so scared him that he wished to die to escape the terror (7:13-15). He pleaded with God to leave him alone because his days were so insignificant and fleeting that he was unworthy of divine attention (7:16). This theme continues in 7:17–21.

Job asked God to leave him alone, for he was not worth God’s attention (7:17–19). “Please look away from me for a moment,” he appears to have pleaded, “so that I can at the least swallow my spittle” (7:19). There are contrasting parallels between 7:17 and Psalm 8, where David asked in wonder, love, and praise, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” Perhaps David borrowed from this verse to highlight that it is a wonderful thing that God pays attention to us, and the later writer to the Hebrews (2:6–8) would point to the wonder of the Lord Jesus, who perfectly fulfils God’s ideal man. But Job would have preferred that God stop paying so much attention to him. Job was like the suffering saint who, when told, “You must be really special to God,” responded, “Well, I wouldn’t mind being a little less special!”

Job’s first dialogue closes in 7:20–21 with more pain-fuelled words of confusion and complaint. Belcher may be right that “Job feels that God has marked him out and that he has become a burden to God. Why put Job through his suffering if he can just pardon his iniquity? God can restore the relationship if he so desired.”

Job was not being arrogant or defiant. Instead, he was acknowledging, “I am a nobody, so why do you make ‘me your mark?’” He was of no account. It would be better for God to stop watching him, for he would only disappoint. It is as if Job believed that God preferred to punish rather than to carry away his guilt. He wrongly concluded that God desired condemnation rather than salvation. How often we entertain the same erroneous view.

David Mckenna helpfully notes concerning Job’s prayer to God that God “knows that Job speaks from intolerable suffering, cries from an unshakeable faith, and tests the limits of honest doubt…. Who dares to speak to God this way? Only a man of faith who knows God personally.”

We can conclude that Job “does not know that God is watching with silent compassion and admiration until the test is fully done and it is time to state his approval publicly.”

Conclusion

So what are some take-aways from these words?

First, in trauma, Christians may feel they are being (unjustly) targeted by God. Be understanding of their emotional state. As Anderson comments, “There is no act of pastoral care more unnerving than trying to say the right thing to someone hysterical with grief.” We therefore need to be careful in our desire to be helpful.

In such trauma, Christians will sometimes say things of which they will later be ashamed. Be careful of jumping in with immediate corrections. Smick is so helpful: “His words, disturbing as they are, arose from a limited knowledge (38:2) and his determination to speak only the truth as he saw it…. That a man who had experienced such faith should speak from the depth of his being such words of anguish can only strengthen those in anguish.”

Second, when helping a suffering friend, we don’t owe them an explanation; we do owe them our loyal love (see 6:14). This will require that we fear the Lord. Our relationship with the loyal Lord empowers us to loyally love our brethren in Christ (see 1 Peter 1:22–2:3).

Third, don’t interpret God through your sufferings; rather interpret God through Jesus’ sufferings. God prefers salvation, not condemnation. Look to the Christ and his cross and the Saviour will speak louder than your suffering. Therefore when you feel you have been targeted, keep trusting.

AMEN