Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?
"Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. – Job 19:21-25
This lament of Job’s comes at the end of today’s reading, after a second round of “comfort” from Eliphaz and Bildad. At this point, halfway through our story, Job is pleading for mercy from his friends.
To prepare for it, listen to the attitude that runs through the speeches of these two men: “…Your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; your own lips testify against you…” Eliphaz charges. Bildad is more direct: “Why are we counted as cattle? Why are we stupid in your sight?”
Remember that their initial conversation was cordial but accusation was implied: they believed that Job must have sinned, because, in their eyes, suffering was the result of iniquity. Job rejected this, but, of course, only he knows whether he should repent. And this rejection of his friends’ “wisdom” draws a personal rebuke.
I’ve asked you before to place yourself in Job’s position. Today I invite you to sit in the seat of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Put the first chapter out of your mind – in other words, allow yourself as much knowledge as they have – and imagine what you would say to Job. With these blinders on, how would you attempt to encourage and exhort him? Does Job’s view of God align with what you’ve seen of Him? Is he speaking righteously, or will you charge him, as Eliphaz does, with “windy knowledge and unprofitable talk”?
Our verse for this week is James 4:7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Job 15 through 19. Now let’s read it!
Job 15 - 19
15:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:
“Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge,
and fill his belly with the east wind?
Should he argue in unprofitable talk,
or in words with which he can do no good?
But you are doing away with the fear of God
and hindering meditation before God.
For your iniquity teaches your mouth,
and you choose the tongue of the crafty.
Your own mouth condemns you, and not I;
your own lips testify against you.
“Are you the first man who was born?
Or were you brought forth before the hills?
Have you listened in the council of God?
And do you limit wisdom to yourself?
What do you know that we do not know?
What do you understand that is not clear to us?
Both the gray-haired and the aged are among us,
older than your father.
Are the comforts of God too small for you,
or the word that deals gently with you?
Why does your heart carry you away,
and why do your eyes flash,
that you turn your spirit against God
and bring such words out of your mouth?
What is man, that he can be pure?
Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?
Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones,
and the heavens are not pure in his sight;
how much less one who is abominable and corrupt,
a man who drinks injustice like water!
“I will show you; hear me,
and what I have seen I will declare
(what wise men have told,
without hiding it from their fathers,
to whom alone the land was given,
and no stranger passed among them).
The wicked man writhes in pain all his days,
through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless.
Dreadful sounds are in his ears;
in prosperity the destroyer will come upon him.
He does not believe that he will return out of darkness,
and he is marked for the sword.
He wanders abroad for bread, saying, ‘Where is it?’
He knows that a day of darkness is ready at his hand;
distress and anguish terrify him;
they prevail against him, like a king ready for battle.
Because he has stretched out his hand against God
and defies the Almighty,
running stubbornly against him
with a thickly bossed shield;
because he has covered his face with his fat
and gathered fat upon his waist
and has lived in desolate cities,
in houses that none should inhabit,
which were ready to become heaps of ruins;
he will not be rich, and his wealth will not endure,
nor will his possessions spread over the earth;
he will not depart from darkness;
the flame will dry up his shoots,
and by the breath of his mouth he will depart.
Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself,
for emptiness will be his payment.
It will be paid in full before his time,
and his branch will not be green.
He will shake off his unripe grape like the vine,
and cast off his blossom like the olive tree.
For the company of the godless is barren,
and fire consumes the tents of bribery.
They conceive trouble and give birth to evil,
and their womb prepares deceit.”
16:1 Then Job answered and said:
“I have heard many such things;
miserable comforters are you all.
Shall windy words have an end?
Or what provokes you that you answer?
I also could speak as you do,
if you were in my place;
I could join words together against you
and shake my head at you.
I could strengthen you with my mouth,
and the solace of my lips would assuage your pain.
“If I speak, my pain is not assuaged,
and if I forbear, how much of it leaves me?
Surely now God has worn me out;
he has made desolate all my company.
And he has shriveled me up,
which is a witness against me,
and my leanness has risen up against me;
it testifies to my face.
He has torn me in his wrath and hated me;
he has gnashed his teeth at me;
my adversary sharpens his eyes against me.
Men have gaped at me with their mouth;
they have struck me insolently on the cheek;
they mass themselves together against me.
God gives me up to the ungodly
and casts me into the hands of the wicked.
I was at ease, and he broke me apart;
he seized me by the neck and dashed me to pieces;
he set me up as his target;
his archers surround me.
He slashes open my kidneys and does not spare;
he pours out my gall on the ground.
He breaks me with breach upon breach;
he runs upon me like a warrior.
I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin
and have laid my strength in the dust.
My face is red with weeping,
and on my eyelids is deep darkness,
although there is no violence in my hands,
and my prayer is pure.
“O earth, cover not my blood,
and let my cry find no resting place.
Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
and he who testifies for me is on high.
My friends scorn me;
my eye pours out tears to God,
that he would argue the case of a man with God,
as a son of man does with his neighbor.
For when a few years have come
I shall go the way from which I shall not return.
17:1 “My spirit is broken; my days are extinct;
the graveyard is ready for me.
Surely there are mockers about me,
and my eye dwells on their provocation.
“Lay down a pledge for me with you;
who is there who will put up security for me?
Since you have closed their hearts to understanding,
therefore you will not let them triumph.
He who informs against his friends to get a share of their property—
the eyes of his children will fail.
“He has made me a byword of the peoples,
and I am one before whom men spit.
My eye has grown dim from vexation,
and all my members are like a shadow.
The upright are appalled at this,
and the innocent stirs himself up against the godless.
Yet the righteous holds to his way,
and he who has clean hands grows stronger and stronger.
But you, come on again, all of you,
and I shall not find a wise man among you.
My days are past; my plans are broken off,
the desires of my heart.
They make night into day:
‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’
If I hope for Sheol as my house,
if I make my bed in darkness,
if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’
where then is my hope?
Who will see my hope?
Will it go down to the bars of Sheol?
Shall we descend together into the dust?”
18:1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:
“How long will you hunt for words?
Consider, and then we will speak.
Why are we counted as cattle?
Why are we stupid in your sight?
You who tear yourself in your anger,
shall the earth be forsaken for you,
or the rock be removed out of its place?
“Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out,
and the flame of his fire does not shine.
The light is dark in his tent,
and his lamp above him is put out.
His strong steps are shortened,
and his own schemes throw him down.
For he is cast into a net by his own feet,
and he walks on its mesh.
A trap seizes him by the heel;
a snare lays hold of him.
A rope is hidden for him in the ground,
a trap for him in the path.
Terrors frighten him on every side,
and chase him at his heels.
His strength is famished,
and calamity is ready for his stumbling.
It consumes the parts of his skin;
the firstborn of death consumes his limbs.
He is torn from the tent in which he trusted
and is brought to the king of terrors.
In his tent dwells that which is none of his;
sulfur is scattered over his habitation.
His roots dry up beneath,
and his branches wither above.
His memory perishes from the earth,
and he has no name in the street.
He is thrust from light into darkness,
and driven out of the world.
He has no posterity or progeny among his people,
and no survivor where he used to live.
They of the west are appalled at his day,
and horror seizes them of the east.
Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous,
such is the place of him who knows not God.”
19:1 Then Job answered and said:
“How long will you torment me
and break me in pieces with words?
These ten times you have cast reproach upon me;
are you not ashamed to wrong me?
And even if it be true that I have erred,
my error remains with myself.
If indeed you magnify yourselves against me
and make my disgrace an argument against me,
know then that God has put me in the wrong
and closed his net about me.
Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered;
I call for help, but there is no justice.
He has walled up my way, so that I cannot pass,
and he has set darkness upon my paths.
He has stripped from me my glory
and taken the crown from my head.
He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone,
and my hope has he pulled up like a tree.
He has kindled his wrath against me
and counts me as his adversary.
His troops come on together;
they have cast up their siege ramp against me
and encamp around my tent.
“He has put my brothers far from me,
and those who knew me are wholly estranged from me.
My relatives have failed me,
my close friends have forgotten me.
The guests in my house and my maidservants count me as a stranger;
I have become a foreigner in their eyes.
I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer;
I must plead with him with my mouth for mercy.
My breath is strange to my wife,
and I am a stench to the children of my own mother.
Even young children despise me;
when I rise they talk against me.
All my intimate friends abhor me,
and those whom I loved have turned against me.
My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh,
and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.
Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has touched me!
Why do you, like God, pursue me?
Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?
“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’
and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’
be afraid of the sword,
for wrath brings the punishment of the sword,
that you may know there is a judgment.”