Life is warfare. At least that’s how Job looks at it in Job, Chapter 7. He’s embattled. He perceives that the forces of the Universe have arrayed against him, one small and insignificant human being. I think the Blake image below is an evocative piece. Job so clearly turns his bewildered eyes heavenward, his palms empty and outward, and seems to beseech (in the vernacular) WTF?!
No question Job’s situation is uncomfortable, certainly justifying both anger and bitterness. He feels life pressing in on him, like a slave whose monotonous lot is looking forward to another week’s ending when he receives wages for his work (verses 1-2). Job’s situation is further complicated because he suffers sleepless nights (verse 4) and the boils on his flesh are oozing maggots (verse 5). In sum, he is without hope (verse 6).
When life is at its hardest, I think it’s natural to rail at God. I know there are well-meaning people who think railing at God is sinful. I’m not one of them … and Job isn’t either. The God who created us understands exactly how we’re made. When Job rails at God, he asks legitimate questions … specifically in this chapter, If God is so great, why can’t He leave man alone?
In this chapter of Job’s continued lament, he views God as a divine inspector, always intent to find fault, an examiner (verse 18) whose penetrating gaze invariably finds the single, minuscule flaw … and then pounces on it! Further, Job wants to know – demands to know – why the Watcher of men has targeted him. What has Job done to earn the scrutiny – and the wrath – of God?!!?
It’s important to remember (as I’ve said in previous posts) that God allowed Job’s calamity, but the perpetrator of events leading to Job’s misery is Satan. The miserable situation was all set into motion because Satan wanted to prove Job was a fair-weather God-follower. The serious calamities have definitely brought Job to his knees, but Job hasn’t yet taken his wife’s advice (to curse God and die).
In this particular chapter, Job expresses a longing that foreshadows the future Christ. (Recall my previous posts, most recently here, mentioning C. S. Lewis and Sehnsucht in which Lewis proposes our longing for another world points to the reality we are made for another world.) Here, in verse 21 Job’s longing is expressed: “Why then dost Thou not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?” The Advent, Jesus Christ coming in the flesh, provided the satisfaction for Job’s sehnsucht. It is Christ’s sacrificial Gift that made Job (and me … and all who acknowledge Christ) fit for that other world, the world for which we were made.
Thankfully, I’ve never experienced sores on my skin from which maggots ooze. (I can imagine how disgusting and upsetting that would be and have no desire to go through it, I promise!) Though I’ve known people who, in the midst of their suffering, have begged to die, I’ve never endured that level of pain. I’ve been spared a first-hand experience like Job’s, but when I read about his journey, I acknowledge my own inability to endure it as he did.
The sonnet below continues my poetic progression through The Book of Job, exploring some of the emotions to which Job gave vent.