Job 3:20-26

You've all heard the old saying,

"Be careful what you wish for—you may just get it."

For a Christian, we could put it a little bit differently,

"Be careful what you pray for, you may just get it."

In our text we see Job seeking something that is very bad. He wishes to die and he wonders why those in misery were brought into this world. He says,

"Why is light given to those in misery,
and life to the bitter of soul,
to those who long for death
that does not come, who search for it
more than for hidden treasure,
who are filled with gladness and
rejoice when they reach the grave?
Why is life given to a man whose way
is hidden, whom God has hedged in?
For sighing comes to me instead of food;
my groans pour out like water.
What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil."

One of the main things that we see in our text is that

Job has lost all perspective.

His suffering has blinded him so that he is not seeing the big picture. He's missing so many things. He's like a horse with blinders on.

One weekend when I attended Gordon College I visited one of my dad's cousins just south of Boston. He owned a small plane and that weekend he offered to fly me back to Gordon, to a small airport near it. He had another friend who was a pilot and the three of us got into the plane. What he didn't tell me until we got into the plane was that they were going to be practicing blind flying—just using the plane's instruments and not looking out the window of the plane. I can't remember all the details, whether they took turns or whether they both put on helmets that had blinders on them, where they could only see straight ahead. Not only could they only see straight ahead, but they kept their heads down so that they could only see the instruments. I had a great time because the view was absolutely spectacular. We weren't flying that high and it was a clear day. Boston was just to our left and the view of the city was magnificent. You could see the tall buildings and the parks and the Charles River. We went near Logan Airport and I could see some planes landing and others taking off. The Atlantic Ocean was to our right stretching off into the distance and I remember how surprised I was to see all the little islands just off the entrance to Boson Harbor. Until that moment I never even knew they were there. It was amazing.

But my uncle and his friend weren't seeing any of it. They were only looking at the plane's instruments. Of course they had seen the vistas lots of times before. But then they only had tunnel vision.

It would have been unusual if they forgot about the great views and believed that they didn't exist. But that's what Job is like here. He forgets all about the great purpose in living—living for God's glory. He has tunnel vision. His suffering has blinded him.

To see how Job has lost all perspective, let's consider some of the things he said.

First, he refers to those who are 'bitter in soul'.

He wants to know why all who are miserable have been given light, why those bitter in soul have been given life.

The phrase 'bitter in soul' is used to describe childless Hannah after he rival provoked her. We read that Hannah went to the house of the Lord and, (1 Samuel 1:10)

"In bitterness of soul Hannah
wept much and prayed to the LORD."

A similar phrase is used in 1 Samuel 30:6. Before David became king, just before King Saul died in battle with the Philistines—David and his men were under the protection of the Philistines. But the Philistines sent them away because they thought they might turn against them in the upcoming battle with Saul. When David and his men returned to Ziklag, they found that it had been destroyed by fire by the Amalekites and that their wives and children had been taken captive. We are told that David and his men wept until they had no strength left to weep. Then David's men talked about stoning him because,

"each one was bitter in spirit
because of his sons and daughters."

Bitter is soul expresses deep, heart rendering disappointment. It is the misery of those who are crushed, who have no hope.

But what's interesting about the Hebrew phrase 'bitter in soul', as it's used in Scripture is that

in every instance where it's used of believers—there's a great deliverance.

Against all hope—Hannah gave birth, not only to a son—but her son was the great prophet Samuel. After Samuel's birth, this woman, the one whose womb the Lord had closed, (1 Samuel 1:5) —gave birth to three sons and two daughters. She who was 'bitter in spirit' was delivered.

It was the same with David and his men. David led them in pursuit of the Amalekites and they rescued everyone. In 1 Samuel 30:18–20 we read,

"David recovered everything
the Amalekites had taken,
including his two wives.
Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl,
plunder or anything else they had taken.
David brought everything back.
He took all the flocks and herds,
and his men drove them
ahead of the other livestock, saying,
'This is David's plunder. '"

It was the same with Job. Besides the reference in our text, three other times Job complains about the bitterness of his soul—yet how God changed that. At the end of the book we read, (Job 42:10–17)

"After Job had prayed for his friends,
the Lord made him prosperous again
and gave him twice as much as he had before.
All his brothers and sisters and everyone
who had known him before came
and ate with him in his house.
They comforted and consoled him
over all the trouble
the Lord had brought upon him,
and each one gave him
a piece of silver and a gold ring.
The Lord blessed the latter part
of Job's life more than the first.
He had fourteen thousand sheep,
six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen
and a thousand donkeys.
And he also had seven sons and three daughters…
Nowhere in all the land were there found
women as beautiful as Job's daughters,
and their father granted them
an inheritance along with their brothers.
After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years;
he saw his children and their children
to the fourth generation.
And so he died, old and full of years."

In every case—God removed the bitterness of soul. What seemed so bad was only temporary. Don't let suffering blind you to the fact that it is temporary. We may go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but it is only part of our journey. The Bible often reminds us that our sufferings are temporary. Psalm 30:5 says,

"For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning."

In Revelation 2:10 Jesus said to the church in Smyrna,

"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.
I tell you, the devil will put
some of you in prison to test you,
and you will suffer persecution for ten days.
Be faithful, even to the point of death,
and I will give you the crown of life."

In 2 Corinthians 4:17 the apostle Paul put it this way,

"For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all."

The lesson for us is that you need to ensure that in times of trouble

you don't let sorrow blind your mind to God's love for you, to God's power for you, to God's great compassion and mercy.

Don't let Satan blind you to the Lord's unchanging character. His is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11) There is no one like Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows what He is doing. In Him are hid at the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3) He loves you with an undying love. He is preparing a place for you and will come back for you. (John 14)

Indeed, even in the darkest of times, you should be like David. What did David do when his men talked about stoning him? We read, (1 Samuel 30:6)

"But David found strength
in the Lord his God."

No matter how black things are—go to God. John Calvin says,

"Now because of what happened to Job, we must be all the more careful to pray to God that sadness will not overpower us and completely oppress us."

There is no bitterness of soul that our great Physician can't cure.

The second thing we see in our text about Job losing all perspective is that

his desire for death is so powerful, he seeks it like a treasurer hunter seeks great treasure.

The words of Job in verses 21 and 22 are very strange. Christopher Ash writes,

"Verses 21, 22 speak with biting irony. These miserable people, of whom Job is one, long for death with the passionate desire of the treasure hunter, rushing out to the wild west in the gold rush, dreaming of death as the gold-hunter dreams of the yellow stuff. And when they die, their exuberance can only be understood when you think of the treasure hunter striking a rich vein of gold."

And in verse 23 Job describes the lives of those who suffer as,

"whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?"

Christopher Ash says that Job,

"describes himself and others like him as walking on a way or path that is 'hidden' from God's blessing and grace, a God-forsaken walk, and a path that is 'hedged in' by God. To be 'hidden' suggests it has no purpose or meaning. To be 'hedged in' is an ironic twist to what the Satan had said. In 1:10 the Satan said that Job's happy prosperous life was hedged in by God's gracious protection. Now he experiences a different kind of hedge, a hedge of razor wire, not to keep the marauder out, but to keep Job imprisoned in a miserable life he longs to leave but cannot, a life that is locked in to trouble, with the key thrown away."

Job is so wrong here. He seeks death with a passion. He feels that his life has no meaning anymore.

There are people today that express the same seeking death that Job spoke about. You'll see articles about them in the newspaper. They have something wrong with them and they are seeking the 'right to die'. They want the government to pass laws so that it will be legal for them to take their lives at the time of their choosing with the help of the medical community. They are passionate about it. They think it's a lofty goal and that they are helping people and society.

But just like Job was wrong, they are seeking the wrong thing.

One of the things we must remember is that we are to seek the best things. Indeed, God tells you that

you are to be passionate about pursing the very best things.

After dealing with many of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul wrote, (verse 31)

"But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And now I will show you
the most excellent way."

Paul then spoke about the most excellent gift, love and how it was superior to all the other spiritual gifts.

Over and over again in the Scripture we see that seeking death is not the best thing—but is often one of the most foolish things to seek.

Job wanted death. Yet God had better plans for him. As we noted the end of his life was better than the beginning. He had twice the possessions. Those numbers are used to indicate that Job's life was much richer after his sufferings than it was before them.

"The Lord blessed the latter part
of Job's life more than the first."

It was the same with Elijah. Elijah wanted God to end his life on earth. After he fled from Jezebel, he, (1 Kings 19:4)

"went a day's journey into the desert.
He came to a broom tree, sat down under it
and prayed that he might die.
'I have had enough, LORD,'
he said. 'Take my life;
I am no better than my ancestors.' "

How foolish of him. God had such great plans for him. He, along with Enoch, were the only two human that never experienced death. Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Through Elijah's departure God showed the world how completely He would one day vanquish death through the work of Jesus.

Our attitude toward death should always be like that of the apostle Paul. In Philippians 1:20–26 he wrote,

"I eagerly expect and hope
that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always
Christ will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
If I am to go on living in the body,
this will mean fruitful labor for me.
Yet what shall I choose?
I do not know! I am torn between the two:
I desire to depart and be with Christ,
which is better by far;
but it is more necessary for you
that I remain in the body.
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain,
and I will continue with all of you
for your progress and joy in the faith,
so that through my being with you again
your joy in Christ Jesus
will overflow on account of me."

We are not to seek death—but God's glory. No matter what we suffer, while we have breath we must seek to honor Him. How dare we question our great Shepherd's handling of our lives and want to thwart His will by wishing for death. Rather we are to live and bring Him glory!

We must not give up or lose hold of this passion for God's glory. Can you work for the Lord, can you bring glory to the Lord when you are suffering horribly? Yes. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8–12,

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.
We always carry around in our body
the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus
may also be revealed in our body.
For we who are alive are always being
given over to death for Jesus' sake,
so that his life may be revealed
in our mortal body.
So then, death is at work in us,
but life is at work in you."

When Jesus was nailed to the cross—His work wasn't over. Besides the suffering that remained, He interceded for the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross. He said, (Luke 23:34)

"Father, forgive them, for they
do not know what they are doing."

But, later, even in the midst of His most horrible agony—He still had work to do. When the criminal on the cross asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom, Jesus replied, (Luke 23:43)

"I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise."

When Stephen was being stoned to death, was his work over? No. In Acts 7:59–60 we read,

"While they were stoning him,
Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'
Then he fell on his knees
and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' "

Job thought that His life was hidden from God, that it had no meaning, that He was somehow outside of God's providence. He was completely wrong. Romans 8:28 says,

"And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose."

John Calvin says of Job's thoughts here,

"Now the proper medication for that disease is to place ourselves in God's providence so that he can see clearly for us and so that, if we are blind and in darkness, he can lead us, for he knows what is good for us, and can guide us in all our undertakings."

In 1 Corinthians 15:58 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.
Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that
your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

For those of you who are not Christians, know that outside of Christ there is no cure for bitterness of soul. Unless you go to Jesus, in hell you will long for the end of your existence—and it will not come. Only in Jesus is there deliverance. Go to Him now.