Job 3:11-19

Sermon preached on October 25, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

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.

My brother died of cancer in 2003. A few days before he died I was sitting with him while he was sleeping. At one point he woke up and said,

"It was all worth it, Larry. It was all worth it."

I think what he was expressing was that, although he was suffering a lot, life had been worth living. He had had many good experiences in his life and they outweighed the suffering that he was experiencing in dying. Even though he was suffering greatly—he felt that living had been worth it.

In our text, Job feels the opposite. He feels that life has not been worth it. In verse 11 and 12 he says,

"Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb?
Why were there knees to receive me
and breasts that I might be nursed?"

In this section Job's speech changes from cursing to questioning, (Anderson) but his questions are closely related to cursing the day of his birth. He is asking why there were knees to receive him, why his mother's breasts were there to nurse him. He wants to know why he was received into this world. He seems to forget about all the blessings that God gave him, all the good years that he had enjoyed. He forgets the purposes for which he was given life—the purposes of which he speaks later in the book—of helping the poor, of being a blessing to widows, of comforting the dying. As he said in Job 29:13

"The man who was dying blessed me;
I made the widow's heart sing."

In Job 30:25 Job declared,

"Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?"

Job was such a friend to those in distress, to the poor. Indeed, in Job 31:16–22 he said,

"If I have denied the desires of the poor
or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,
if I have kept my bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless—
but from my youth I reared him
as would a father, and from my birth
I guided the widow—
if I have seen anyone perishing
for lack of clothing,
or a needy man without a garment,
and his heart did not bless me
for warming him with the fleece from my sheep,
if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
knowing that I had influence in court,
then let my arm fall from the shoulder,
let it be broken off at the joint."

What would the poor around Job have done if it hadn't been for Job? They would have been so much worse off. Job was a friend to those in trouble. What would have happened to them if it had not been for Job's help?

Job also seems to forget all the good he did for his children, in instructing them in the ways of God, of interceding for them after their birthday celebrations.

Job seems to forget about what a blessing he was to all who knew him, in pointing them to God and by the example of his life pointing them to compassion and godliness. In Job 29:21–25 Job recalled how he was wise and how he imparted this wisdom to others in the public square. He said,

"Men listened to me expectantly,
waiting in silence for my counsel.
After I had spoken, they spoke no more;
my words fell gently on their ears.
They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words
as the spring rain.
When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it;
the light of my face was precious to them.
I chose the way for them and sat as their chief;
I dwelt as a king among his troops;
I was like one who comforts mourners."

Here Job seems to forget the knowledge of God that he once knew. In Job 12:13 he declared,

"To God belong wisdom and power;
counsel and understanding are his."

And in Job 27:11 Job said,

"I will teach you about the power of God;
the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal."

And in Job 28:28 he declared what God had said to man,

"The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding."

But here, in chapter 3, Job has lost sight of the big picture. The constant, unrelenting suffering has worn him down. How easily he can lost grasp of the truth.

There are important lessons for us. One of the main ones is that

we must not let our emotions cloud our thinking.

We must keep our minds strong and focused on the promises of God. John Calvin's title for his sermon on this passage is:

"The Detrimental Effect of Suffering on Believers' Thinking"

He writes,

"when we loosen the restraints on our emotions, they blind us or provide us with such thick blindfolds that we see nothing and speak without rhyme or reason, that we have no settled understanding, that we cannot temper our speech…"

Calvin suggests that if you asked Job at a normal time in his life about the afterlife, he would have given a much different view. He is quite right.

When strong emotions come upon us— it's like all reason leaves us. We have many examples of this is Scripture.

The first example is when Eve offered the forbidden fruit to Adam. Adam was in paradise. The world was his for him to rule and have dominion over. There was only one fruit he was not allowed to eat. God told him that if he obeyed Him he would live forever. God had been so good to him in every way. Yet when Eve, the one God gave him to be his wife—when she sinned and came to him with the forbidden fruit—he ate it. He turned his back on God and all his goodness and joined his wife in her sin. He plunged the whole human race into sin. Adam's love for Eve clouded his judgment.

There's a children's song by Judy Rogers, "God Made a Covenant with Adam" that has what I find to be a very poignant phrase,

"Oh, Adam…"

If only Adam had not sinned. How different this world would be. There would be no misery. But look at it now—with all the suffering, misery, death. What was Adam thinking?

Think of what anger did to David. Think of David strapping on his sword and going to kill Nabal and all the males of his household. How angry he was. He lost all perspective. God was still going to provide food for him. He didn't need to kill Nabal and his men. It was only after Abigail came and talked sense to David that he realized how wrong he was. He said to Abigail, (1 Samuel 25:32–33)

"Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
who has sent you today to meet me.
May you be blessed for your good judgment
and for keeping me from bloodshed
this day and from avenging myself with my own hands."

Or think about what fear did to Peter. Peter loved Jesus. Yet when the darkness of the night came his Lord was under arrest, Peter denied Jesus three times. Matthew tells us about the third denial, when some people insisted that his accent gave him away. We read of Peter, (Matthew 26:74)

"Then he began to call down
curses on himself and he swore to them,
'I don't know the man!' "

That's what fear did to Peter. What a different answer he gave when he was not blinded by fear. In Matthew 16:16 Peter said to Jesus,

"You are the Christ,
the Son of the living God."

How can we avoid having our emotions cloud our thinking or at least minimize their effect. I think the first thing is

to recognize that there is a problem with our emotions and that they can cloud our judgment.

You've all heard that if you're ever involved in a court case you should never represent yourself. You've all heard the saying,

"He who represents himself has a fool for a client"

Attorneys will tell you, that even if you're an attorney, you shouldn't represent yourself. As one of them put it,

"as human beings, we all have emotions—emotions that can easily cloud even the most intelligent person's thinking when a person's own financial, emotional, or mental security is at stake!"

But of course we can't hire someone else to deal with our emotions. But what we can do is this—whenever you're in a stressful situation, a situation of suffering, a situation where even a strong emotion like love comes into play—the very first thing to do is

go to God in prayer.

One of Job's mistakes is that he did not take his complaints directly to God. As we noted last week, his lament was different than the laments of the psalms in that he wasn't talking to God. As we saw last week—Job's complaints here are more like the complaints of the Israelites in the wilderness.

This means that if you have complaints, troubles, questions, you should take them directly to God. Tremper Longman III writes, (Job)

"In terms of our own prayer life, it is an important reminder to take our complaints to God. The Psalms are sufficient testimony that God welcomes our cries, but the book of Numbers attests to his disdain for complaints behind his back."

Bring your concerns directly to God. Pour out your heart to Him. He is the One that can help you, that can give you strength, perseverance.

We can go to God even when our faith is defective. Mark 9 describes how a demon possessed boy as brought to Jesus after His disciples couldn't heal him. Jesus asked the boy's father how long he had been like that. The father said to Jesus, (Mark 9:21–24)

"From childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

Jesus was incredulous at his question. He replied,

'If you can'?
Everything is possible for him who believes."

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed,

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

When doubts come to you, when unbelief rears its head, when suffering drives you toward despair—bring all such things directly to God.


we need to flood our hearts and minds with the promises of God and have them control our hearts and minds.

It's not enough to know the promises of God. John Calvin said,

"Thus we see that knowing everything is not the whole story, but we must persevere in that knowledge if we are to resist temptations when they come upon us."

By persevering in the knowledge of Scripture Calvin means that we are to be constantly be bringing these things to mind and using them. He likens it to a soldier of his day having body armor, a helmet, a sword and a shield. He said that if a soldier hung them on the wall, and didn't take care of them, but let them rust—he would find that he wouldn't be able to get the sword out of its sheath, that it would be stuck in it. Calvin says that we must not let our Scriptural knowledge become rusty. Rather we must review it regularly and have our memory refreshed with these truths again and again. So this means that

We need to meditate on the Word. We need to go over it again and again so that it becomes part of us.

We need to be like the British soldier, Private Johnson Beharry. In 2005 he was awarded the Victoria Cross by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. (BBC News, April 27, 2005) Beharry, 25, was twice injured in a battle in Iraq while saving colleagues under enemy fire. He was told by the Queen,

"You're very special."

She went on to tell him that she doesn't get to present the Victoria Cross very often. Reacting to this recognition of his heroism, Beharry said,

"When I hear what I did, I can't really believe it was me. I think it's the training that just kicks in."

His actions were almost automatic. His training kicked in.

We need to train ourselves in Scripture, not only knowing them but training ourselves in their use—learning to think biblically and apply the truths of Scripture to our hearts when difficulties. We need to be like Jesus who rebutted every one of Satan's temptations with Scripture—

"It is written…"

Thirdly this shows us that

we should always have hope but that this hope must be directed toward God and his promises.

Job has hope here, but it's a misguided hope that is not based on God's promises. It's a very low hope, indeed a very secular hope. Consider what Job says here. He said that if there weren't knees to receive him or breasts to nurse him, (Job 3:13–19)

"For now I would be lying down in peace;
I would be asleep and at rest
with kings and counselors of the earth,
who built for themselves places now lying in ruins,
with rulers who had gold,
who filled their houses with silver.
Or why was I not hidden
in the ground like a stillborn child,
like an infant who never saw the light of day?
There the wicked cease from turmoil,
and there the weary are at rest.
Captives also enjoy their ease;
they no longer hear the slave driver's shout.
The small and the great are there,
and the slave is freed from his master."

He longs for the place of the dead. He believes that there no one would be able to trouble him. Christopher Ash writes, (Job, p. 79)

"in verses 14, 15 it is not that Job particularly wants to be with the kings, counselors, and princes. After all, among them will no doubt be the Sabean and Chaldean chieftains who ravaged his property. Rather he believes that in Sheol at last they will no longer be able to cause him trouble.

"If I had been stillborn," says Job in effect, "I would have been in Sheol, the place of the dead. And that would be peace."

Francis I. Andersen tells us that Job believed that if he, (Job)

"had died, by whatever means, he would have been better off; not because death offers compensations or joys; simply because it ends life's miseries."

That's exactly what a lot of secular people today think. You see it on social media. When someone dies many people write,


Rest In Peace. They wish the person that died finds rest. They believe that death brings an end to suffering. That's why they support euthanasia, mercy killing, death with dignity.

But the place of the dead is not necessarily a place of rest. Job's thinking is clouded. Christopher Ash writes,

"In his clearer moments Job knows that is not true, that Sheol is a terrible place. In 17:14 he knows it is where decay and the worm are our father and mother. But in his desperation he thinks it's the place of rest."

We don't want to be too hard on Job because he didn't know much about the afterlife. One commentator even suggests that Job knew nothing about the afterlife. He wrote, (Tremper Longman III, Job)

"Job has no sense of the afterlife here (or, we will see, anywhere)."

But I think he goes to far in saying that. In Job 19:25–27 Job appears to have some knowledge of the afterlife—indeed, a glorious hope. He said,

"I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end
he will stand upon 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!"

But whatever the case, we now know that physical death does not bring relief to many. It's only the beginning of suffering that is far worse. We see that in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man and many other places in the New Testament. In the parable we read, (Luke 16:22ff)

"The rich man also died and was buried.
In hell, where he was in torment,
he looked up and saw Abraham far away,
with Lazarus by his side.
So he called to him, 'Father Abraham,
have pity on me and send Lazarus
to dip the tip of his finger in water
and cool my tongue,
because I am in agony in this fire."

This means that we as Christians have a duty to warn the world that physical death is not the end of suffering for those who are not in Jesus. Hell is a horrible reality. Only Jesus can save them from it. He died in our place. He suffered our punishment. They need Jesus in order to find real rest.