Job Lesson 2
Central Theme: Hope for life is found only in God.
FIRST THOUGHTS: Many people enjoy an athletic competition between teams or individuals who are at the top of their sport. But when a subpar team or player is matched against a juggernaut, we may not tune in, especially if that subpar team is our favorite team. Even the subpar team’s players may appear listless because they have lost hope in the contest. Losing hope in the future saps strength in the present. Job 14 highlights that believers will find strength in the present when they look to God and hope only in Him.
Share about a time when your favorite team or player was outmatched going into the contest. What emotions did you observe as the contest unfolded?
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT: Job 2:11–14:22
Between the Book of Job’s introduction (1:2–2:13) and conclusion (42:7-17), we are taken on a journey of poetic dialogue that allows us to wrestle with some of the greatest questions of life, suffering, and death. In this week’s passage, we find ourselves in the middle of the narrative. In this narrative, the main characters grapple with suffering as it relates to what it reveals about the sufferer and how it squares with God’s providential governance of the world.
One of the key questions of the book is this: What is the nature of wisdom and where can it be found? In Job, we understand that the order of the universe is not fully revealed and we must learn to trust in the God who presides over the universe. For this reason, one might argue that the Book of Job is an exploration of the way God works in the world and the appropriate human response to Him.
Each one of Job’s friends showed compassion and attempted to comfort Job (2:11), but in the end their words failed. Job’s friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—all fell back to the principle of retribution, namely, that whatever people receive in life is a direct result of their behavior. The Book of Job does not contradict this teaching (42:10) but does nuance our understanding of retribution.
In this case, God allowed Job to suffer the way we might expect in the life of someone openly defiant of God. Therefore, it is perfectly understandable that Job’s friends believed that he had done something to deserve such harsh treatment from God. For this reason, they continually urged Job to repent of whatever sin caused this divine anger.
As we know from the text, and Job himself knew, he had done nothing to merit this suffering. In fact, the text for this session begins to unveil Job’s wisdom in this matter. Job understood that his situation was unique because of his innocence.
As Job wrestled with despair in chapter 14, we are given a glimpse into the thoughts of a man who endured immense suffering.
We must remember where we are in this passage as it relates to the entirety of redemptive history. God has chosen to progressively reveal Himself from Genesis to Revelation. Though Job could not fully see the hope that lies ahead, we will come to see how his story ends. More importantly, we know as believers how the whole story of redemption ends in Jesus Christ. The gospel does not leave us in despair but gives us a sure and steady hope in the face of suffering and death. Let’s Explore The Text and see three thoughts that leads us to understand that in this life, our hope is found only in God.
I. SUFFERING BRNGS QUESTIONS (Job 14:1-6)
As we all know, suffering in the world leads the believer to consider the greater questions of life.
Verses 1-2 1 Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. 2 He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
Job maintained that he had done nothing to deserve his suffering. Even still, God providentially allowed him to walk through unimaginable circumstances. While Job maintained his innocence, he also proclaimed that suffering and adversity should be expected in every life. The word translated “trouble” in v1 carries with it connotations of anxiety, stress, and fear. All of us live a somewhat brief life, and suffering is a common experience. Often our desires for the duration of life fluctuate based on our circumstances, and this is true even of Job. In different parts of the book he declared that life is too short (9:25-26), and that life is too long (7:1-5).
In v2, Job focused on the brevity of life. He compared life to a flower or shadow. It seems here that Job was espousing the idea that the brevity of life is not such a bad thing. Flowers are admired for their beauty and the pleasure they bring. Even still, the vibrant colors and life of a flower are fragile and quickly dry out and fade away. Flowers are a common imagery in the Old Testament for the fragility of human life. (See Ps. 103:15-16; Isa. 40:6-8.) The imagery of a shadow is even more austere, seeing that shadows have no substance and quickly disappear. Job’s friend Bildad utilized this imagery in Job 8:1-10. Because of the fragility of human life, Job wondered why God even bothered to focus His attention on him (14:3).
Verses 3-6 And dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? 4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. 5 Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; 6 Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.
With all this in mind, Job felt affirmed in his belief that God is absolutely sovereign over us and in control of every moment of our lives. Our days are determined by the wisdom of God and no human can cross the limits set by God. Instead of bargaining with God about the duration of his life, Job pleaded with God about the quality of his life. Like he did in 7:19, Job appealed to God for rest. He illustrates using a hireling in v6. A hired worker labors in difficulty for his pay. Job believed he had earned enough for one lifetime. For Job it seemed that payday would be the day of his death, the day when his difficult suffering would come to an end.
Job had begun to reflect on the brevity of life and the reality of judgment awaiting all people. This judgment is deserved since all humans are impure. Job pleaded for God to leave him alone so he could gain some type of relief from his pain during this short lifetime.
From other passages, we are reminded of God’s patience and care for His people. So Job’s request was certainly not at odds with the grace of God. However, we also understand that God doesn’t always deliver us out of suffering, but intends to deliver us through suffering. The effect of such trials often leads the faithful to cling to God even more tightly. As it has been often said, sometimes we don’t realize God is all we need until God is all we have. In this way, we can learn to trust God and see His comfort in times of affliction. These things can be a means God uses to turn our hearts and focus our hopes on Him.
How does the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and belief in His providential rule over the world shape your perspective on suffering and death?
II. SUFFERING CAN LEAD TO DESPAIR (Job 14:7-12)
Verses 7-12 For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. 8 Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; 9 Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. 10 But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? 11 As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: 12 So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
In v5, Job began examining the theme of human mortality and continued it here by contrasting it with nature. The first image Job utilized was that of a tree in v7-8. We all know that trees can be cut down to a stump yet continue to live and grow with the right nutrients and water. The stump and its roots can persist in sprouting new vegetation after the body of the tree is gone. Job uses the picture of a sapling to illustrate that even old roots can bring forth new life. However, it is not this way with humans. When people die, they fade away. Unlike a tree that can utilize water as a source of life, when a person breathes their last breath, no amount of air can bring them back to life.
The second contrast Job used was a body of water. As water dries up from the sea and a flood dries up, it is unlikely they will come to life again. It does not seem that Job was allowing for rainfall or other forms of precipitation in his analogy. The same is true of humans. Humanly speaking, once they lie down and die, they will not rise up again. Furthermore, humans will not awake from their sleep till the heavens be no more. This ancient expression, “till the heavens be no more.” Job was speaking of death as finality. For Job, death has the last word. Death is the final sleep.
We have a strong will to live. Don’t let Job’s fatalistic language bring you to despair. His circumstances created the context for his words. His words paint a stark reminder of the last enemy, death.
But, near the end of the Old Testament, God revealed the concept of a resurrection from the dead. (See Isa. 26:19.)The concept of resurrection is more fully developed in the New Testament. The language after the resurrection of Christ is full of hope for believers. In First Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul reminded us that since Christ has been raised, Christians will also experience their own Easter morning.
Like Job, the New Testament writers often used metaphors from nature and sleep to describe both death and resurrection. Where Job seems to have focused on the natural finality of death, the writers of the New Testament speak to the supernatural victory over death (1 Cor. 15:50-58). Death does not have the last word. Even though death is an unwelcome enemy, believers don’t weep over death as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13).
Scripture teaches that all people will be raised physically from the dead on the last day. The difference is that Christians will be raised to everlasting glory; those who do not trust in Christ will be raised to judgment (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15).
In many ways, the thought of death can be a means God uses to bring people to ask the larger questions of eternity. Implicit in this warning is a certain grace. Every warning before the final judgment is an act of mercy.
Job’s reflections in this passage likely mirror the thoughts of those around us who despair over their circumstances. Learning to come alongside of someone who is suffering and to weep with those who weep can be a powerful aid in ministering to them with the hope of the gospel. Think of how many people in your life have come to faith or returned to faith in the midst of or following a season of suffering.
How does the gospel of Christ drive out despair and comfort us in our grief? How does this reality distinguish our response to suffering and death from the response of unbelievers?
III. SUFFERING LEADS BELIEVERS TO HOPE IN CHRIST (Job 14:13-14)
Verses 13-14 O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! 14 If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
In the previous section, Job portrayed death as the final word in the natural world. Unlike a tree that draws water to sprout new life, a dead person cannot draw breath and return to life. Like a dried up body of water with no natural resources for replenishment, a dead person cannot awake from the sleep of death.
Therefore, in reply to Job’s question— “If a man die, shall he live again?” —we would expect his answer to be no. (See Job 10:20-22.) However, verses 13-14 seem to hold out hope; namely, Job wished that death did not have the last word. At the very least, Job wished that death would hide him in the grave from the anger of God that could have possibly led to all of his suffering.
The word translated “grave” in verse 13 is “Sheol.” In the Old Testament, the concept of Sheol depicted the grave or the abode of the dead. Sheol was also considered to be located in the depths of the earth, thus illustrating Job’s desire to be hidden until God’s anger passed. Being the place of the dead, Sheol was considered an inescapable abode, a final destination.
The focus of the present section reveals that Job had reached a new level of despair in his suffering. If we were to isolate Job’s thoughts in their scriptural context, it is understandable why he was wallowing in despair. However, these verses also reveal that Job pondered the possibility that he had angered God, even though he did not see himself as deserving of his afflictions. His thought at this point was focused on a desire for his suffering to end, even if it meant his death. Job assumed that if God had time to calm down, he might be shown relief. Job’s hope was that if he were gone, God would miss him (14:15b). In essence, Job characterized death as a place to escape suffering. He expressed a longing for life after death, realizing that this future life would come only through God’s action.
Keep in mind that this passage is a glimpse into the thoughts of a man who had been driven to despair by his suffering. It is descriptive of Job’s current state of mind, not prescriptive for how we are to deal with suffering. It is possible that many believers long for death as relief. But life is a gift from God. Because life is given by God, only God has the right to choose when to take it.
As believers, we find hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As believers in Christ, we are hidden from the anger of God against sin. Scripture teaches that Jesus descended to the dead and on the third day rose again. This truth is articulated in passages such as Matthew 12:40 and Ephesians 4:8-10. In these passages, Jesus is depicted as truly dead after His crucifixion, that is, in the grave or in the realm of the dead. The good news of the gospel brings us a clarity of hope that had not yet been fully revealed in the time of Job.
Now that the Bible is complete, we as believers have the advantage of seeing the whole picture. The Bible teaches us that Jesus actually died but rose again and therefore achieved victory over death (2 Tim. 1:10). The Bible also teaches us that Jesus defeated death. If we are in Him, we have nothing to fear or no reason to despair (Heb. 2:14).
Finally, we know that Jesus is the firstfruits, the hope of what’s to come after death (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Christ leads us through no darker rooms than He went through before. Having tasted death Himself, He can support us while we taste it and take our hands, reminding us: “I’ve been there before.” In Christ, death does not have the last word. Jesus holds the keys of death (Rev. 1:17-19). Furthermore, the only way to be hidden from the just wrath of God against sin is to be hidden in Christ (Col. 3:3). Because of Christ, believers can find hope in God’s promise of resurrection life in the presence of God. In fact, the promise of heaven is the sure and solid hope we have in Christ Jesus.
CONCLUSIONS/APPLICATIONS: Job faith in God during his suffering ultimately led him to this resurrection hope. Listen to his words in Job 19:25-27 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: (26) And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: (27) Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
Today we have seen that in this life, our hope is found only in God.
I. SUFFERING BRNGS QUESTIONS
II. SUFFERING CAN LEAD TO DESPAIR
III. SUFFERING LEADS BELIEVERS TO HOPE IN CHRIST
How does the hope of the resurrection fortify your faith and sustain you in difficult times?