Job 17-20
(How Long Will You Torment Me?)
May 29th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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lease refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

How long will you afflict my spirit,

grind me down with words?

- Job 19:2 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

The theological tennis match tarries on, with Job matched up against his three friends in a series of verbal volleys. The friends continue to insist that Job wake up and smell the refuse of his past that has caused his downfall, but Job persists in declaring his innocence.

In chapter 17, Job continues his reply, daring his friends to try again to explain his dilemma. He laments his fading hope. Bildad replies again in chapter 18. He starts off by saying something that some of us are thinking regarding the whole group, “When will you end these speeches (Job 18:2 - NIV)?” He then demands that Job be sensible, and he describes some of the suffering that the wicked shall experience (with the implication that Job is among them).

Job counters with exasperation, “How long will you torment me and crush me with your words (Job 19:1 - NIV).” He continues with his lament and describes his feelings of loneliness caused by his estrangement from the community and his assumed estrangement from God. He begins his conclusion with a profession of faith, proclaiming

    I know that my redeemer lives,
       and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
    And after my skin has been destroyed,
       yet in my flesh I will see God;
    I myself will see him
       with my own eyes —I, and not another.
       How my heart yearns within me!

    - Job 19:25-27 (NIV)

Then Job warns his friends of the judgment that they will receive.

Zophar answers with indignation, saying, “I hear a rebuke that dishonors me” (Job 20:3 - NIV). He then proceeds to recount in vivid and earthy terms that the lives of the evil are short-lived. The evil man “will perish forever, like his own dung (Job 20:7 - NIV).” He lists the many ways that the evil will suffer, including the vision of “a fire un-fanned (that) will consume him (Job 20:26 - NIV).”

Reflection and Application

    “Men have found God by going through hell, and it is the ones who have been face to face with these things who can understand what Job went through.”

    - Oswald Chambers (24 July 1874 – 15 November 1917)

Perhaps some of you have gone through some type of personal tragedy that allows you to relate to Job in ways that his friends and others could not. It’s likely that we know a friend or family member who has had their own heartbreak or catastrophe, such as the untimely loss of a loved one, a devastating economic setback, a traumatic period of service in a foreign war, an unwarranted arrest or incarceration, a broken relationship, the loss of a home in a natural disaster, or other experiences. Heartbreak and adversity are a natural part of our world and have been captured in stories and song since the time of Job, including this one from our own era:

    All my troubles seemed so far away,
    Now it looks as though they're here to stay,
    Oh, I believe in yesterday.

    I'm not half the man I used to be,
    There's a shadow hanging over me,
    Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

    - Excerpt from the song, ‘Yesterday,’
    by John Lennon (9 October 40 – 8 December 1980) and Sir Paul McCartney (18 June 1942-Current)

These first two set of verses could have applied to Job’s situation as well as the fictional broken-hearted character in this Lennon and McCartney song. Job’s friends had never had a dark shadow overhanging them, so they had no empathy for Job, and were too proud to back down and admit they might be making false assumptions. We can learn from their mistake and be willing to admit we are wrong. If our friend says that we are “crushing him or her with our words.” then we should recognize that we are not providing the needed comfort and change our approach.

Job felt crushed under the weight of his experience and the nagging of his friends. He was a pawn in a cosmic contest between Satan and God and could not fathom why he had been left to suffer. Job had nearly given up, but he knew there was a Redeemer who was the only one left in whom he can trust.

Bildad and Zophar are on track in describing the consequences of wickedness, but wrong in assuming that Job is in this category, and are wrong to rebuke him without evidence. There may be times when we need to rebuke or intercede with family members or friends, but we should use wisdom and prayer to discern whether those approaches are warranted and if we are the appropriate ones to carry it out. Otherwise, we should seek to comfort and console.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your favorite song or story about a tragedy?
    2. How can we relate to people who are suffering when we have not had first-hand experience in their specific situation?
    3. How can we discern when to rebuke and when to comfort?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you always there for us, even when the odds are against us. Help us to draw from your strength when our family and friends need comforting.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    People suffering from depression

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Job 21-24 (Mock On!)

    Comments and Questions
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