I have forgotten where I read this but I once read a book that had the following opening illustration. “I have a friend who has a dog named Bailey. Bailey was a two year old basset hound who had a gentle playful temper, eager to love anyone near him. But though this is true, Bailey has a bit of baggage. You see, Bailey was just a puppy when an F-5 tornado came through his backyard that he just happened to be playing in. He survived, my friend got to him in time, but it left a mark on Bailey that has never left, so deep a mark that anytime a storm comes to Bailey’s house and Bailey is in the backyard, he freaks out, runs up to the back door, and barks his tail off until someone comes to his rescue. It could just be a few rain drops and no big deal to any normal person but to Bailey, the apocalypse has come!
A few years after this incident, wildfires were roaring about my friends home and it did eventually catch on fire, and burn down. But the important thing to notice about this fire is that it came to my friends house through the backyard, where Bailey was playing. My friend saw it, ran outside just in time to see his trees light up like fireballs, grabbed Bailey and got to safety. During the time that a new house was being rebuilt for these guys they stayed in a little condo close by. As soon as they got into the condo Bailey had a moment. He walked in, sniffed around, found the bedroom, jumped onto the bed, found my friends pillow, and proceeded to pee. My friend knew what this meant. Bailey clearly felt the need to make a few things clear. First he acknowledged that my friend was the head of the family, (he chose his pillow rather than the others). Second, he was not running away, he was still happily part of the family, knowing he is loved and cared for, but he wanted to make a statement to let my friend know that his life (to him) was out of control and that he didn’t like what was currently happening to him. He had been chased by not only an F-5 tornado, but by a blazing fire and now his home had been destroyed twice! He just couldn’t hold it inside any longer, he had to let out his feelings and make it known that he was not happy.”
Now, I tell you this story, because when we go through tornadoes and blazing fires our their lives we often do the same thing that Bailey does. We don’t pee on pillows, we just act out in different ways. When times like this happen we feel displaced, confused, frustrated, angry, and eventually if we remain in this condition long enough, we reach our breaking point and we crack. I believe Job reached this point in chapter 3 and the evidence of his own cracking is woven all throughout his responses to his friends. Specifically here in chapter 10, Job has just been responding to Bildad in chapter 9 and his suffering is looming so large that he transitions away from speaking to Bildad to speaking directly to God in 10:1. As his words flow out from his mouth, we see His cracked heart coming through clearly in questions…dire questions.There are four of them, and we’ll walk through them once at a time.
Why Are You Against Me? (v1-3)
“I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?”
The matter at hand before us in v1-3 is Job’s struggle to interpret his life rightly in the midst of his current suffering. Job will no longer just talk about God to his friends, no, he’ll give no restraint to his complaints and will now speak directly to God now about the deepest questions he has and cannot answer. This first question really comes to us in v2 where we see Job’s belief that God has condemned him and is now contending against him. Because of this Job loathes his life (v1). More so, in v3, more questions come from this concerning the very nature of God. Does God find it an exercise of enjoyment to oppress and despise the work of His hands? Or does God favor, or literally ‘smile at’ the designs and plans of the wicked?
We know the answers to these questions. We are aware that God does not smile at the designs of the wicked. That God does not oppress and despise the work of His hands. And that God is not contending against or condemning Job. Why then does Job ask these things? Because he is suffering, and as far as he can tell (regardless of what his friends keep saying) he can’t seem to find a reason why he is suffering. So why can we see what Job cannot see? Because we’re not suffering as he is, we’re not in his shoes, and we’ve been given a window behind the curtain that Job hasn’t been allowed to see. All of this shows us something here that will aid us in our own suffering and aid us in speaking with those who are suffering themselves. Suffering can at times fog what is clear, such that we call into question those things that once seemed concretely clear to us. This is what’s happening to Job. His suffering is fogging his view of God and while he’s in the midst of it, it is very difficult for him to see as he ought to see. This aids us in our own suffering by reminding us that when we suffer we’ll probably experience something similar to this. We’ll feel a fog come over us and thus we’ll need to seek out others who will tell us and remind us of what is good, true, and beautiful. This also aids us in speaking to those who are suffering by reminding us to be speaking of what is good, true, and beautiful to those in suffering. Job’s friends should’ve been doing this, but by blaming Job for these things they added more weight onto his heavy burden rather than giving him some kind of relief.
Why Do You Watch Me? (v4-7)
“Have you eyes of flesh? Do you see as man sees? Are your days as the days of man, or your years as a man’s years, that you seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, although you know that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of your hand?”
Job here asks God if He has eyes like a man, and if God sees as man sees. If God were like a man and had eyes like a man Job would understand why God would have to look carefully at Job to discern what is truly going on with him.But God isn’t like man. God doesn’t have eyes like man and no, God doesn’t see as man sees. He sees all and knows all, nothing is hidden from His sight. Because of these things Job tells God in v7 that it isn’t right for God to watch him as He does. God should already know he has no sin to deserve such treatment. But in any case Job also knows he is powerless before this God and that none can deliver out of His hand. Thus, since God knows of his innocence it is unfair to be suffering as he is.
Why Did You Create Me? (v8-17)
“Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose. If I sin, you watch me and do not acquit me of my iniquity. If I am guilty, woe to me! If I am in the right, I cannot lift up my head, for I am filled with disgrace and look on my affliction. And were my head lifted up, you would hunt me like a lion and again work wonders against me. You renew your witnesses against me and increase your vexation toward me; you bring fresh troops against me.”
Back in v3 Job mentioned he was the work of God’s hands, here in v8-17 he expands on that more.These verses are beautiful and horrible all at the same time. It is mixed because Job is mixed. As God intimately created him, God now is intimately destroying him. God carefully formed him from the clay, God now is reversing the creation process and returning him to dust. What’s the point of creating him if his end was going to be this? Job speaks of God’s creative work with him being like that of slowly curdling milk to make cheese in v10, clothing him and knitting him together in v11, even granting life, steadfast love, and preservation in v12. Yet v13 reveals that Job remains vexed because God’s purpose in making him so carefully only seems only to be unmaking him so cruelly. Now God only watches him, doesn’t forgive him, fills him with disgrace, and hunts Job like a lion only to work wonders against him. Or as v17 describes it, Job believes God increases his vexation by besieging him with armies after armies, or fresh trouble after fresh trouble.
Now it all leads to this last question.
Why Don’t You Kill Me? (v18-22)
“Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave. Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer before I go—and I shall not return—to the land of darkness and deep shadow, the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick darkness.”
In a very real sense Job now comes back to the themes of his lament in chapter 3. He wishes he never lived. But because he is alive and suffering so, his wish is that God would leave him alone. If that would happen, Job shockingly concludes that he would find cheer, or literally find a smile in peaceful rest. Though his beginnings were full or order and beauty, his present life is quickly fading into nothing but disorder and chaos.
Listen to how Christopher Ash ends his thoughts on chapter 10 with a beam of hope. “And yet deep in his heart the question ‘why?’ is addressed to the God who seems such a monster. And in that question and that address there lies hope. Whatever Job says, the fact that he says it to God and says it with such vehemence suggests that he knows he has not reached the end of his quest for meaning. There is in Job the inner energy of faith, the mark of a real believer. Job may be wrong in his persuasion of God and of the reality of his situation, but he is deeply right in his heart and the direction of his turning and his yearning. Thank God for that.”