Job 4:19-21

Sermon preached on June 12, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. 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.

On Halloween night in 1973 I was at university and Marg, me, Marg's best friend and her boyfriend decided to wander around campus dressed up as hobos. We were way too old for trick or treating but we put some masks on and went around campus and had some fun. One of the buildings we entered that night was the music building. They called it the barn but at the time it was a beautiful new building with classrooms, practice rooms, offices for the music professors, and a theater for performances. We entered the building by the back door we went up the stairs in the stairwell and at the top of the stairs we ran into Dr. K, the head of the music department. He was a wonderful old gentleman. Marg and her girlfriend knew him very well, because they were both music majors. One of the things he tried to do was guess who we were. He didn't know us boys, but I knew if either of our girlfriends spoke he would know them immediately. I don't remember if they gave themselves away or not, but we all had some fun at that moment.

Little did I know that I would be attending Dr. K's funeral about a week later. He had a heart attack and died. I went to the funeral with Marg's best friend. Marg was sick and in the infirmary so when he died I went to the university chapel for the funeral. L, Marg's best friend was 20 years old at the time and we went together and sat next to each other. Little did I know that two weeks later I would be sitting in a church attending her funeral. She was killed in a tragic car accident. That whole time is like a nightmare. But it shows that life is so fragile, so uncertain. In verses 19-21 Eliphaz gives expression to this. He referred to human beings as,

"those who live in houses of clay,
whose foundations are in the dust,
who are crushed
more readily than a moth!
Between dawn and dusk
they are broken to pieces;
they perish forever.
Are not the cords
of their tent pulled up,
so that they die without wisdom?"

How true his words are. He said that

human beings are mortal and their continued life here on earth is very tenuous.

If you want to apply this to yourself you could say that your continued life on this earth is hanging on by a straw. Eliphaz mentions four things here to drive home our mortality. All of them are true. He says that we live in houses of clay, our foundations are in the dust, that we are easily crushed, like a moth, and that between dawn and dusk we are being broken down. Let's look at some of them.


our foundations are in the dust.

Adam was made from dust and all of us share that origin. Genesis 2:7 tells us,

"the LORD God formed the man
from the dust of the ground…"

How good a foundation is dust? If Adam had not sinned it would have been a great foundation. But because of sin it's now a curse. After Adam sinned, God said to him, (Genesis 3:19)

"By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."

Now that sin has come into the picture, our foundation of dust is a curse to us. We see this in Isaiah 64:6. The prophet wrote,

"All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts
are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away."

We become like dust and are swept away. This picture reminds me of the story Jesus told about the man whose built his house on sand. (Matthew 7:27) He said when the,

"rain came down,
the streams rose,
and the winds blew and
beat against that house,
and it fell with a great crash."

Because of sin our existence is now like that. Some bad things come our way and we return to dust. Christopher Ash puts it this way, (Job, p. 107)

"We have our foundation from the dust; we are created from dissolved, incoherent material, fashioned temporarily into a system that is wonderful but has no inherent stability (Genesis 2:7)."

One of the things that having our foundations in the dust should teach us is that,

we do not have life in ourselves.

Even after God formed Adam from dust, Adam was not alive. He was not breathing. He was not a living being. It wasn't until a few moments later that he became a living being. We read that God,

"breathed into his nostrils
the breath of life,
and the man became
a living being."

Having our foundation in dust shows us that we do not have life in ourselves. We do not have breath in ourselves. Without God's power, without God moment by moment giving us breath, we would quickly return to dust. We come from dust. For life, we need God's upholding power every moment. In Acts 17:25 Paul said of God,

"he himself gives all men
life and breath and everything else."

This is a reoccurring theme in Job. In Job 12:10 Job said,

"In his hand is the life
of every creature
and the breath of all mankind."

In Job 27:3 Job equated the breath he had with the breath of God, in the sense that the breath of God gave him life.

"as long as I have life within me,
the breath of God in my nostrils,"

In Job 33:4 Elihu said,

"The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty
gives me life."

And in Job 34:14–15 he said of God,

"If it were his intention and
he withdrew his spirit and breath,
all mankind would perish together
and man would return to the dust."

Psalm 104:29 also has this theme. He says of God and men,

"When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust."

In Isaiah 42:5 the prophet said,

"This is what God the LORD says—
he who created the heavens
and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth
and all that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:"

In ourselves we are dust. We only live because moment by moment God's breath is in us, giving us life.

One of the implications of having our foundation in dust is what Eliphaz says next.

We are crushed more easily than a moth.

How easily we are destroyed. Christopher Ash says, (Job, p 107-108)

"It takes so little to crush us back to dust. We may be crushed as easily as you or I squash a moth (v. 19b).17"

How easily we can die.

When I was much younger I thought that people were indestructible. I never thought about anyone dying. But then when I was 10 or 11 one of my friends drowned. Shortly after than another friend from school got cancer and died. Those two things kind of woke me up to the fact that human beings are mortal. The older I get the more I realize how many things you can die from. People have strokes and die. Even fairly young people can have heart attacks and die. People die from brain aneurysms. People choke to death. People can have a little fall that doesn't seem serious and you can die from it. A few years ago the actress, Natasha Richardson, was taking a skiing lesson on a gentle beginner's slope at Mount Tremblant, north of Montreal. She had a little fall. She seemed to be fine after the fall. She could talk and walk and she refused medical attention. She died from it. One doctor called it a 'talk-and-die' accident. She didn't appear to be hurt very much. It was a slight fall. But she died shortly afterwards. This week a scuba diver died in the St. Lawrence off Ogdensburg. A few years ago I remember praying for a teenage girl in our denomination. She was mowing her lawn and some insect bit her—after a few days she died. All the modern medical technology could do nothing to save her.

John Calvin is probably not exaggerating when he says, (Sermons on Job 1-14, sermon 17)

"there are a hundred thousand deaths which threaten us when we are at the peak of our vigour here below."

The third thing that Eliphaz say that shows us our frailty is the fact that

between morning and evening we are beaten to pieces.

The thought here is that every day we die a little. There is not one moment in our lives that we do not spend moving nearer to death. John Calvin says,

"We are always moving toward death; it is always moving toward us, and we must eventually meet it.""If we think about it, when a person gets up in the morning, he cannot take a single step, he cannot have a meal, he cannot turn his hand over, without growing older. His life is growing shorter. Consequently, we must realise that our lives are slipping away from us and flowing away before our eyes. That is what it means to be consumed from morning till evening."

What this means for you is that you should

realize that your life is in God's hands.

You are not your own. You belong to God. You owe your existence, moment by moment, to His good pleasure. He gives you every breath you take. Moment by moment He sustains your life. Colossians 1:17 says of Jesus,

"He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together."

Hebrews 1:3 says of Jesus,

"The Son is the radiance
of God's glory and
the exact representation of his being,
sustaining all things
by his powerful word."

Thank God for every breath that you take, for the pleasure and joy of life. Thank Him for every day you live.

Thank Him that He is the Good Shepherd and that every day He is leading you, sustaining you, protecting you, leading you toward glory.

Secondly, this means that

you need to make good use of your time here on earth.

Serve your Savior with all that is in you. Don't waste your life.

Your hold on life is tenuous. Realize this great truth and live by it. Be prepared for death. John Calvin says,

"Moreover, seeing that it is our condition to be decaying from morning till evening, we ought to be putting more of the time God gives us to good use, seeing it is so short. God has put us in this world to use us in his service"

John Calvin,

"Does not Scripture, pointing out that this life is only a race, counsel us that we must not live lackadaisically, but that we must each spur ourselves on, prod and goad ourselves into action?"

Don't waste your time here. Life is so short and uncertain. Live for Jesus.


how thankful we ought to be that God is going to deliver us from this body of death.

What glory is ahead for Christians because of Jesus and His work. We are going to be given new spiritual bodies. In 1 Corinthians 15:42–44,

"So will it be with
the resurrection of the dead.
The body that is sown is perishable,
it is raised imperishable;
it is sown in dishonor,
it is raised in glory;
it is sown in weakness,
it is raised in power;
it is sown a natural body,
it is raised a spiritual body."

And in verses 50–54 he wrote,

"I declare to you, brothers,
that flesh and blood
cannot inherit the kingdom of God,
nor does the perishable
inherit the imperishable.
Listen, I tell you a mystery:
We will not all sleep,
but we will all be changed—
in a flash,
in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound,
the dead will be raised imperishable,
and we will be changed.
For the perishable must clothe itself
with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality.
When the perishable has been clothed
with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality,
then the saying that is written
will come true:
'Death has been swallowed up
in victory."

Or as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 3:18,

"And we, who with
unveiled faces all reflect
the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

What a future we have because of Jesus and His work. Live for Him.