Job 3:1-10


Sermon preached on October 18, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

This life can sometimes be incredibly difficult. One of the most tragic examples of depression in a believer is William Cowper, the great poet and hymn writer. In his book on Job, Christopher Ash tells us that Cowper's mother died when he was six years old. Shortly after that his father sent him off to boarding school. He was bullied there and some aspects of the school were very cruel. When he grew older he got engaged to a beautiful young woman. But after two years of engagement his fiancée's father withdrew his blessing and forbade his daughter to marry Cowper. All of these things had a devastating impact on Cowper. He had repeated episodes of deep depression. He wrote,

"I was struck with such a dejection of spirits, as none but they who have felt the same, can have the least conception of. Day and night I was upon the rack, lying down in horror, and rising up in despair."



At age 31 he suffered a psychotic breakdown and tried, three times, to take his own life. He was committed to a asylum and there, remarkably, he was converted and became a Christian. Yet his illness persisted and during the rest of his life he had four more episodes of deep depression. Shortly before he died in 1800, one of the last things he said was,

"I feel unutterable despair."



Yet his closest friends, among them John Newton, believed he was a true believer.

The great Reformer, Martin Luther, also suffered from periods of depression. He was, (Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent and Barbara Hughes, p. 143-144)

"subject to such fits of darkness that he would secret himself away for days, and his family would remove all dangerous implements from the house for fear he would harm himself. In the midst of one of these times, his wife, Katherine, entered his room dressed in mourning [clothes]. Startled, Luther asked who had died. She replied that no one had, but from the way he was acting she thought God had died!"



Great servants of God sometimes are attacked by Satan and are shaken by it. Job is the prime example of this. His suffering is so great that after his friends sat with him for 7 days he has reached the end of his rope. We read, (Job 3:1–10)

"After this, Job opened his mouth
and cursed the day of his birth.
He said:
'May the day of my birth perish,
and the night it was said,
'A boy is born!' That day—
may it turn to darkness;
may God above not care about it;
may no light shine upon it.
May darkness and deep shadow
claim it once more;
may a cloud settle over it;
may blackness overwhelm its light.
That night—
may thick darkness seize it;
may it not be included among
the days of the year nor be entered
in any of the months.
May that night be barren;
may no shout of joy be heard in it.
May those who curse days curse that day,
those who are ready to rouse Leviathan.
May its morning stars become dark;
may it wait for daylight in vain
and not see the first rays of dawn,
for it did not shut the doors
of the womb on me
to hide trouble from my eyes."

One should pause after reading that. Job finds his suffering unbearable. It's like the darkness has shut out all hope. His faith is at a low point. It's still there, but one has to search to find traces of it. Job is filled with horror. He is crushed by the great weight of sorrow. Job despairs of life so much that

he wishes he had never been born.

Indeed he curses the day of his birth. He wishes that the date itself be erased from the calendar. In verse 3 he wishes for that day to be dark, that blackness overwhelm it. One commentator (Janzen) has suggested that Job is here asking for a reversal of the divine command at creation,

"Let there be light."

Job instead asks,

"Let there be darkness."



Christopher Ash writes, (Job p. 72)

"Life is so painful that Job wishes the roots of his existence had been recaptured by death and darkness, that he had never existed in the presence of God. He wishes God would rewind the tape of creation and undo the part that led to his existence."


Indeed, in verse 5 Job piles up words for darkness—'darkness' deep shadow, cloud, blackness'. Job wants the day of his birth hidden from sight. In verse 6 he talks about the night he was born and he asks gloom to settle on it.

In verse 7 he wishes that those who had announced his birth with joy had not done so. In verse 8 he asks that those who curse days curse that day, that those who can rouse Leviathan bring him up. Christopher Ash writes, (Job p. 73)

"Leviathan… was the storybook sea monster of chaos, the great enemy of the Creator whose mission it was to undo the order and beauty God had made."



In verse 9 he wishes that the morning stars did not appear the day of his birth, that the first rays of dawn never came. In verse 10 he wishes that the doors of the womb were shut on him.

What shall we say to that? How shall we respond? Job experienced such grief and darkness. He had done nothing wrong—yet he, in a way, experienced some of the worst horrors that this life could bring. We must have sympathy with him but also recognize that in his grief he went too far. His words here are defective. He said things he shouldn't have said.

Job loses hope. His faith, though it is still there, wavers.

His words are sinful. He didn't sin as much as he could have. He didn't do what his wife told him to do—curse God. Yet Job did sin in what he said here. He cursed the day he was born. He asked that it be blotted out.

Tremper Longman says that on a first reading, Job's words might seem to resemble one of the psalms of lament. He writes,

"Laments are prayers that are spoken to God when life is falling apart. Laments include complaints about life, other people, oneself, and even God."



But he says that Job's words aren't like the laments of the psalms.

"Looking more closely at Job 3, we see that Job's words are far from this type of lament. First, Job does not even address his words to God. He is speaking to thin air in his exasperation, which in and of itself distances him from the psalmist. Therefore, there is no invocation or plea for help. Second, there is neither a confession of sin nor a protest of innocence. Third, clearly there is no turning toward God in confidence or praise at the end."



Longman continues,

"Job's words are more like the grumbling of the Israelites in the wilderness than like the laments in Psalms. In Num. 11 we see Israel complaining about God but not to God. They speak as those who have no hope. While God invites the laments of the psalmists, he despises the complaints of the wilderness generation, opening up the earth under their feet and sending poisonous snakes to bite them (Num. 16:31–35; 21:6–7).



Job is a hero of the faith—but he falters here in chapter 3. There is some restraint on Job's part but he does go too far. Tremper Longman III writes,

"By so cursing his day, he is implicitly criticizing God, a criticism that grows increasingly explicit as the lament develops."



John Calvin sees the same thing. He said, (Sermon on 11)

"the weakness of his flesh inclines him to grumble against God, but he does not intend to become God's enemy. Yet he utters unfortunate words which proceed from a sinful sentiment that could not be pardoned."



Job falters here. In chapter 3 his words are far different than they were at the end of chapter 1 where he fell to the ground in worship and said, (Job 1:21)

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and
the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised."

According to the New Testament we are to give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Many of the psalms tell us that we are to praise God always. Psalm 145 is typical. It says, (verses 1–7)

"I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you and
extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord
and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend
your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor
of your majesty,
and I will meditate
on your wonderful works.
They will tell of the power
of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They will celebrate
your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness."

Job fell far short of that. As Calvin says,

"God gave us the gift of speech so that we may confess him as being good, just, and equitable at all times and in all things, and so that we may use all our words to speak of him with sombre reverence."



How should we react to all this? This part of Job's journey is exceedingly sad. We dare not be too harsh with Job. His friends did that in abundance. We should have great sympathy for Job because as Christopher Ash writes, (Job p. 69)

"Job is not being punished for his sin. Exactly the reverse: Job suffers precisely because he is conspicuously godly. And he suffers deep deprivation—physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual loss."



Yet Job did falter and there are great lessons for us here.

First, if you haven't suffered like this, if you haven't known, like Job, such horror, such darkness, such despair—

you should be exceedingly thankful to God for His great goodness to you.

Job was the best man on the face of the earth when he lived—and yet consider how he suffered. Job experienced such blackness, such despair.

So you should to ask yourself—do you deserve any better? Why haven't you felt experienced such horror in even greater amounts?

It's because of God's goodness to you. Without God's grace this world would be a living hell. It would be filled with nothing but horror and disappointment.

What light the gospel brings. What a difference the work of Jesus makes. Because of Him there is hope, light, a glorious future.

Jesus went through such darkness for us.

In the Garden of Gethsemane He felt the horrible burden of sin. He said to Peter, James and John, (Matthew 26:38)

"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow
to the point of death.
Stay here and keep watch with me."

Luke's gospel describes Him as (Luke 22:44

"being in anguish,
he prayed more earnestly,
and his sweat was like drops of blood
falling to the ground."

While He was on the cross, about the ninth hour he cried out in a loud voice, (Matthew 27:46

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"
—which means,
'My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?' "

Some of you may have to go through the valley of the Shadow of Death. But know this—because Jesus was forsaken for your sin, you will never be forsaken. Jesus took the darkness, the horror, the shame, the hopelessness of our sin—and made it His own.

Because of Jesus this life is not a living hell for us. Indeed, although it can be dark, so very dark—yet we have such a light, such a Savior—that we can rejoice and be joyful. Whatever comes our way is but the 'shadow' of death. Death has truly lost its sting. In Jesus we have hope and sure victory.

How can we be spared such horror? How can we not know the darkness that sin can bring? Only because of Jesus. So when you enjoy such good days—praise Him. Be exceedingly thankful.

Secondly,

this means that we should prepare ourselves for difficult times.

Christopher Ash writes, (Job p. 66)

"A true Christian believer may be taken by God through times of deep and dark despair."



Christopher Ash, (Job p. 68)

"Job 3 is a very important chapter for contemporary Christianity. There is a version of Christianity around that is shallow, trite, superficial, "happy clappy" (as some put it). It is a kind of Christianity that, as has been said, 'would have had Jesus singing a chorus at the grave of Lazarus.' We have all met it—easy triumphalism. We sing of God in one song that 'in his presence our problems disappear,' in another that 'my love just keeps on growing.' Neither was true for Job in chapter 3, and yet he was a real and blameless believer."



In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said,

"If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and
take up his cross and follow me."

John Calvin writes,

"Job struggles with the angel of God. Why? Not because he is God's enemy, but because the Lord, who proves his own, wishes to test his children this way, as we saw in the first chapter. It is said that the holy patriarch Jacob strives with the angel of God and wrestles with him. It is clear that God wishes to put him to the test and get him ready to withstand the battles he will face. He then elevates him and gives him the name Israel, which means 'powerful with God.' But is his victory such that he remains intact? Not at all. His thigh is bruised, and as a consequence he is lame and limps the rest of his life. The victory is his, but he must be humbled."



Thirdly, this means that as we prepare to do battle,

we should not have any confidence or pride in our own abilities but we need to rely solely on God and His strength.

Job was the greatest servant of God on earth. In 1:8 the Lord said to Satan,

"Have you considered my servant Job?
There is no one on earth like him;
he is blameless and upright,
a man who fears God and shuns evil."

Yet when all these troubles came his way—Job sinned. He sinned by uttering these words.

If this great saint fell—it shows that we cannot depend on our own strength but must flee to God for strength. John Calvin says,

"We have here a very useful bit of advice. In the first place, we see that men can do only what is granted them from on high. So let us learn not to take pride in our abilities as we see most people do, deceiving themselves. They think that with their free will they can move mountains and work wonders. We must not fool ourselves with such fantasies, but let us know that because we are sustained by God, we will be able to stand firm, but as soon as God lets go of our hand, we will be brought low and humbled."



Fourthly, this shows

how much sympathy we should have and how we should pray for those who undergo darkness.

How deep and dark human anguish can be. How can we be unsympathetic knowing that we ourselves deserve to be overwhelmed by the same darkness? Truly we ought to mourn with those who mourn.

Fifthly, for those who are not Christians, Job's suffering shows you

what the consequences of sin work toward—blackness, hopelessness, despair.

The wages of sin is death—death in all its horror, all it's fullness, all its misery.

The only One that can save you is Jesus—the One who died in our place. Go to Him today.