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The Experience of Bitter Trial
Job continues his answer to Eliphaz. Job 17:1 connects directly with the previous chapter. Job sees that his life is a decreasing matter (Job 16:22). His spiritual power is broken. The energy of earlier days is extinguished. The grave is waiting for him. He has nothing to look forward to except death and the grave. He sees no hope of righteousness or relief from his misery in this life. Even when he looks around him, there is nothing from which he can draw any hope for change for the better. His friends surround him with mockery, so Job experiences (Job 17:2). He observes them also in the night, and in its darkness, he feels the bitterness of mockery all the more.
Nobody wants to assist Job. That is why Job addresses himself directly to God again with the question whether He wants to be a pledge for him and that is with God (Job 17:3). A pledge is one who takes on the case of another and represents him in court. He acts as guarantor and undertakes to pay if the other defaults. Though Job may feel himself treated by God as an enemy, he does not turn away from God. On the contrary, he appeals to the God Who is crushing him. Here we see again how Job miraculously identifies God the Prosecutor with God the Defender.
1. The only place of safety for Job is with the same God who attacks him.
2. His only refuge is with the God who destroys him.
3. He puts His trust in Him Who drives him to despair.
4. He calls to God to defend him against the God Who condemns him.
5. He asks God to deliver him from the God Who makes him His prisoner.
We can say that Job trusts in God in spite of God. He has proclaimed before that he continues to hope even if God kills him (Job 13:15). He knows that in the end he can’t go to anyone but God for help. He is also deeply convinced that only God is faithful in what He promises, that He keeps His word. Job expresses this in the question who is there that will be his guarantor and then actually keep his promise. Only God can do this, not a man (cf. Pro 17:18; Pro 11:15; Pro 22:26).
He cannot expect anything from his friends. They have no heart to understand his suffering (Job 17:4). Job attributes their lack of heart to God. God has closed their hearts for understanding because they unleash their own theological ideas on Job. In it they show that they have a completely wrong view of God. They reason on the basis of their own views of God and not on the basis of fellowship with God.
It is impossible to have a good view of God without having a relationship with Him. It is not a matter of reason, but of the heart. That is why they do not deserve to be honored. In the dialogue with Job, God will not exalt them. We also see this at the end of the book, where we read that God’s wrath is kindled against the friends because they have not rightly spoken of Him (Job 42:7).
Job, following a saying, describes his friends in Job 17:5 as people who call themselves friends but do not behave like friends, because they behave without mercy. They pretend to be a benefactor who comes to distribute something. They have come to Job to give him comfort. But there is something unnatural in their performance. While the benefactor distributes, the eyes of his children languish, which means that he ignores his first responsibility. Through his performance, the children go to ruin.
The saying makes it clear how the friends deal with Job and what the consequences will be for them. What they sow – sue a friend – they will reap – harm their most precious possessions. They forget that he is their friend who needs pity and not the blows they inflict on him.
Then Job says that God humbles him and has made him a byword of the people (Job 17:6). The bystanders have made known the misery of Job far and wide. He feels he is being spat in the face by them. With this he indicates how deeply he feels despised by them. The fact that he has become a proverb among the peoples is also literally true today. In Dutch the proverb ‘as poor as Job’ is used for someone who has nothing left. In Dutch we also know the expressions ‘Jobs message’ and ‘Jobs patience’.
Behind the contempt of his friends, Job sees God’s actions. He takes everything from the hand of God and that also causes and doubles his inner struggles. In addition to the struggles caused by his suffering, there are also the struggles caused by the incomprehension and defamation of friends and acquaintances.
The Lord Jesus was literally spat in the face (Isa 50:6). He took this also from the hand of God. With Him, however, this did not cause a struggle with God, but identification with God. He could say to God: “The reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me” (Psa 69:9b). Nor was there any rebellion with Him, but submission (1Pet 2:23).
Through all the grief that tore Job apart, his eye became dull (Job 17:7; cf. Job 16:16). Someone who weeps fiercely, so that the eyes are filled with tears, sees nothing anymore. His eyes are hollow and dark surrounded by the many tears, the many griefs, the sleepless nights, and his sickness. Jobs members, his head and chest and arms and legs, are just skin and bone. He is so emaciated that his members are nothing more than a shadow. His body has become a skeleton. There’s nothing substantial about him anymore.
What has happened to Job, and of which the friends accuse him, will fill sincere people with horror when they hear of it (Job 17:8). Innocent people, people who, like Job, have nothing evil on their conscience, will turn against the hypocrite just like him. Job is accused of hypocrisy by his friends, but he is not a hypocrite. He turns against a hypocrite, just like any innocent man does.
Job defends himself against the false accusations of his friends. He is a righteous one and will hold fast to his way (Job 17:9). The way he has gone is a way on which his hands have remained clean. He has not committed any dishonest acts. The hidden sins of which his friends accuse him, are not with him. Therefore, the strength of his defense will not weaken, but rather increase.
Then he makes an urgent appeal to the friends, to “all of you”, that they will turn back anyway and come again (Job 17:10). He wants them to turn back, to repent, of the accusations they make against him. If they do, they may come to him again. All three of them have spoken, but none of them has revealed himself as a sage. Job has searched for such a person among them, but everything the friends have said has not revealed that any of them is a wise one. All three of them spoke from the same conviction: Job suffers heavily, God brings suffering as punishment for sin, so Job has sinned heavily.
Job resumes the complaint about his fate in Job 17:11. His suffering is indeed very heavy. Just as in Job 17:1 he summarizes it in three powerful sentences. His days are over; his plans are frustrated; his wishes are unfulfilled. The end station of his life, death, is fast approaching. He says strongly that his plans “are torn apart”. They have not failed, but the possibility of seeing the desires of his heart fulfilled has been violently taken away from him. His hopes are gone to achieve the goals he had for his life someday.
For a human being, one of the most difficult things of death is that by dying, he can no longer realize any of his plans. The ambitions he cherished remain unfulfilled. The work he was doing remains unfinished. He can no longer finish what he was doing and achieve nothing he was on his way to. His life feels unfinished. How many plans does death each day put on the pile of unfinished plans? That goes for both good and bad plans.
For the unconverted man, it is to be hoped that through this reality he will resort to Christ Who has accomplished a work that is truly complete. For the believer it is to hope that he makes his plans so that he can be called away by God at any moment. Making plans is good, as long as we know that they are plans that have God’s approval. Then it is His plans with us. Then He also determines when our work on His plan is done. It is up to Him to continue His plan through others.
The friends have suggested to Job that the night of misery in which he finds himself may turn into day (Job 17:12). Thus Job summarizes the “wise” message of the three friends. All he has to do, according to them, is confess his sins. The light is so near, within reach, despite the darkness. As long as he listens to them. Haven’t they told him time and again that God is punishing him and that God is doing so because he has sinned? Let him just see that. Then the day will come for him and the light will shine in his life, while the night and darkness will depart.
The friends may say so, but it is only their own assumptions that they base on their theology. Their assumptions do not match reality, that is to say, the way God sees it. This is because they have no relationship with God. That is why their theology is not correct. Without a relationship with God it is impossible to understand God’s thoughts.
The Dark View of Sheol
Contrary to the misrepresentation the friends give about a life in the light that Job could share (Job 17:12), Job speaks of what really awaits him (Job 17:13). He sees Sheol as his home and the darkness as the atmosphere where he spreads his bed to finally rest. He calls the pit “my father” (Job 17:14). He calls the worm, the maggot, who feed on dead bodies, “my mother and my sister. He also sees them as blood relatives. Job sees himself in a family relationship with death and the pit and the maggots that are there; otherwise he has nothing left.
His view of Sheol and the darkness and the close connection with it completely shut him off to anything else. There is nothing on which he could pin his hopes (Job 17:15). His plans and desires (Job 17:11), all his perspectives, will “go down with me to Sheol” (Job 17:16). Then his body and his plans will have returned to the dust (Gen 3:19).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Job 17". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19