The Tragedy of Job’s Hopelessness

Job was a broken man. The satan had taken away everything from him except his life. Job’s kids were dead, his flocks destroyed, and his wealth reduced to nothing. Additionally he’d broken out in serious boils all over his body. His wife (who had somehow survived the calamities) encouraged him to commit a type of suicide: to curse God and die.

Job also had a group of close friends come to comfort him, but for dozens of chapters they accused him of sinning against God, so the “punishments” Job had received so far were deserved in their eyes. But Job defended himself by saying he was blameless. What they and Job didn’t know was that God agreed, and it was this blamelessness that set off this whole debacle.

We read earlier in the book that a creature called the satan, a word meaning the accuser, defied God’s assessment of Job as the most blameless man on Earth. The satan argued that the only reason Job remained just was because God had always blessed him. So God allowed this blessing to be taken away and for the satan to attack Job within an inch of the man’s life.

Yet Job still hoped in God. However, as we learn in 13:20-28, soon Job is convinced God is causing these terrible things. He maintains his innocence (which we know God already affirmed) and demands to know why God is wasting time on punishing him. But again, he doesn’t know it’s the satan who’s harmed him, not God.

By now Job is a nuclear fusion dumpster fire of a man. He’s reduced to skin and bones and boils. His friends don’t comfort him but insist he’s been harboring secret sin and getting what he deserves. Why wouldn’t Job want to die? He says in chapter 14:

“How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear.” (Job‬ ‭14:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

He then compares people to trees. At least trees can grow back from stumps, he says, but when humans die, they’re gone forever. They rest forever.

“As water evaporates from a lake and a river disappears in drought, people are laid to rest and do not rise again. Until the heavens are no more, they will not wake up nor be roused from their sleep.” (Job‬ ‭14:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

It’s said that the ancient Hebrew religion had no concept of an afterlife. This verse seems to hint that if the heavens would ever end, the dead might awaken. But the heavens and the earth were seen as permanent, so perhaps the expression is more along the lines of “when pigs fly, the dead will rise.” But see this next passage where Job says:

“Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death.” (Job‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Job is toying with the idea of an afterlife and how knowledge of it would provide him some comfort. He would eagerly look forward to dying if he knew there’s something after the hellhole he’s gone through. But he realizes something even more profound:

“You would call and I would answer, and you would yearn for me, your handiwork. For then you would guard my steps, instead of watching for my sins. My sins would be sealed in a pouch, and you would cover my guilt.” (Job‬ ‭14:15-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

And here Job stumbles upon why there would be comfort: God would want us in that afterlife. He would not be holding records of our sins to keep us from Him if we, his masterpieces, could join him forever. In fact, God might do anything to “guard [our] steps” and instead seal away our sins and “cover [our] guilt.”

Didn’t God do that through the death and resurrection of his Son, the Christ?

But Job sadly did not know of the coming Christ, who from his perspective would be too far off in the future to fathom. Instead, wracked by the pain of losing his family, property, and wealth and being reduced to basically a diseased beggar with jerk-ass friends, he could not see the true character of Father God. Instead he saw this god:

“But instead, as mountains fall and crumble and as rocks fall from a cliff, as water wears away the stones and floods wash away the soil, so you destroy people’s hope.” (Job‬ ‭14:18-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

But we today have a knowledge of the hope that is Christ Jesus. We know there is an eternity with the Father after this brief flowering of an existence with its suffering, loss, and hurt. In the end, we now are aware that in the New Jerusalem:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation‬ ‭21:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

If only Job had known this. Yet we do and still act like him: distraught, accusing God, and bordering on the blasphemous toward Him. Instead, let’s rest encouraged that God gives good gifts to those who ask him (Matthew 7:11) and accept that for us who love him, he works out things for our good (Romans 8:28).

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