The Word Made Fresh
1Job responded, 2“I have heard a lot of sentiments like these, and all of you are miserable comforters. 3Is there no limit to your long-winded speeches? What makes you keep talking? 4If you were in my place I could talk, too. I could put together a string of words and shake my head at you. 5But instead I would encourage you and the words from my lips could take away your hurt.
6“But my speaking doesn’t lessen my suffering, and if I am silent my pain doesn’t leave me. 7God has worn me out and destroyed my family. 8God has let me waste away to skin and bones and that testifies against me. 9God has torn at me, hated me, growled at me, and watches me even more closely. 10People stare at me with mouths open. They punish me with scorn and gather together to attack me. 11And God surrenders me to the ungodly and pushes me into the hands of the wicked. 12Everything was going well with me, and God broke me apart – seized me by the neck and pounded me to bits as if I were nothing but a target, 13and punishers are all around me. My innards are cut open without mercy and my bile is poured on the ground. 14God attacks me over and over like an enemy soldier.
15“I stitched sackcloth together to cover my nakedness and my pride died in the dust. 16My face is flushed with crying and my eyelids are in shadow dark as death. 17But my hands are innocent of violence. My prayer is honest.
18“Dirt, don’t cover up my blood! Don’t let my cry disappear without an answer! 19Even now my witness is in heaven, and my defender is there as well. 20With friends like these all I can do is cry out to God, 21and beg my defender to judge between a man and God just as someone might do for a friend. 22I have only had a few years, and now I am going down the road of no return.”
1-5: Job responds to Eliphaz. Their words are no comfort to him, he says, and what the three of them are saying are the kinds of things he might say to them if they were in his situation. But instead, he would offer them comfort and encouragement. They are not going to take the hint, unfortunately, and will continue to harangue him.
6-17: Whether Job speaks or not, his pain is unabated. He has lost weight, we are now told, as is usually the case with a prolonged illness. Of course, there is no way to tell just how long he has suffered to this point, but we know that he became ill before his friends arrived and that they sat with him for a week before they launched into the speeches we are reading now. Job is convinced, as the chronically ill often are, that he has become God’s primary target.
18-22: When Cain killed Abel, God said to Cain, “Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) That imagery comes to Job’s mind, and he utters the wish that the same will be the case with him – that his blood will cry out from the ground and find for him a sympathetic voice in heaven. Verse 22 seems to mean that he thinks he will live a few more years, but that is not the case: he is referring to the entire span of his life as having been but only a few years.
What would you say to Job? Sometimes when we are in the company of a friend or family member who is suffering terribly, the best thing we can do is simply be there. Job’s friends are arguing with him rather than reassuring or comforting him.