Job feels as though he is dying. He is mocked, informed against wrongly, and hated to the point where even the mention of his name is shameful to many and ridiculous to others. Job has become the talk of the town – the butt of every joke and a stench to all who spoke of him. Matthew Henry says, “He wept so much he almost lost his sight.” I’m certain he meant that both physically and spiritually.
“My spirit is broken; my days are extinct;
the graveyard is ready for me.
2 Surely there are mockers about me,
and my eye dwells on their provocation.
3 “Lay down a pledge for me with you;
who is there who will put up security for me?
4 Since you have closed their hearts to understanding,
therefore you will not let them triumph.
5 He who informs against his friends to get a share of their property—
the eyes of his children will fail.
6 “He has made me a byword of the peoples,
and I am one before whom men spit.
7 My eye has grown dim from vexation,
and all my members are like a shadow.
8 The upright are appalled at this,
and the innocent stirs himself up against the godless.
9 Yet the righteous holds to his way,
and he who has clean hands grows stronger and stronger.
10 But you, come on again, all of you,
and I shall not find a wise man among you.
11 My days are past; my plans are broken off,
the desires of my heart.
12 They make night into day:
‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’
13 If I hope for Sheol as my house,
if I make my bed in darkness,
14 if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’
15 where then is my hope?
Who will see my hope?
16 Will it go down to the bars of Sheol?
Shall we descend together into the dust?” ~Job 17:1-16
What is going on here? A righteous man so wholly set on God’s ways has a good run of back luck and everyone he knows becomes an enemy?! Those who were most fit to help and encourage him stepped on him, insulted him, and condemned him as a hypocrite?! Simply because of his hard suffering?! Job, by his own observation, was abused, mocked, gossiped about, relentlessly provoked, and widely mistreated by his “friends.” What gives?!
In Job’s wisdom, he understands that it is God himself who has kept their hearts and minds from understanding and true wisdom. Little wonder why he was confused. Those so void of compassion are surely void of wisdom as well, says Job. He warns that those who have so violated the laws of friendship and trust not only err against him, but against their own children and future as well.
By the way…why would they do this to Job? What kind of motive lay behind falsely informing against their suffering friend (other than their blindness)? Verse 5 gives us the answer. These men were covetous. They wanted something Job had – which, given the current situation, could not have been material. Clearly, they were jealous of this man’s honorable reputation and godly life. They could not stand to recognize his faith and amazing obedience as more righteous than theirs. Theirs was the sin of Cain. Therefore, they sought take from him the only thing he truly had. They sought to tear him down and destroy any consensual thought of Job’s righteous life. If he was suffering and he was righteous, according to their theology, how much more they would deserve to suffer!
As a result, Job could not find one man who knew how to explain and dissect rightly the difficulties of God’s providence. He couldn’t find one who knew how to rightly apply the consolations of God’s promises in his situation. All he found was condemnation, judgement, and reproach.
Job holds God responsible as the giver and withholder of wisdom and of goodness. On one hand it frustrates him because of his sheer confusion. On the other, it comforts him as we can see that he trusts God alone as his only mediator – for he has no way to justify himself even though his friends’ accusations are grossly false.
As Job’s friends insist that his former comforts in life will be restored just as soon as he repents, Job proves their folly by stating the plain truth that he was clearly about to die. He’s like…’Hello…can you see me here? There is no future for me. My family is dead. My health is gone. Everything I had has been annihilated. I’m not getting any younger. The grave is my next stop. Perhaps we can argue there.’
Fortunately, Job was wrong, too. God did restore him in the end. But clearly, Job was not suffering for sin as his friends insisted. Job was suffering for righteousness. His only offense was his confusion. Job always held God as both existent and sovereign. And, as he states in verse 8, just as he was thoroughly confounded, any true saint, when shown his lot, would be appalled, amazed, and confounded by the remarkable suffering of such a remarkable saint.
If saints can’t stand next to saints when they suffer, how will they ever reach sinners?
Thankfully Job’s hope was not in the opinion of his so-called friends. Did you get that, Lori? Job’s hope was not in the opinion of his friends. Job’s hope was in God alone. Let the same be said of me.