By Jay T. Robertson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
At this point in the unfolding drama of Job, we see a man who was beginning to act as if God had died. His once resilient faith was weakening and wavering, and the emotional state of his soul was struggling as well.
He experienced a severe period of depression which led him into the depths of despair. It was at this time that Job turned to God in prayer.
Speaking from his place of deep darkness, Job declared: “Anyone born of woman is short of days and full of trouble.” This is a poetic way of saying everyone experiences trouble, not just the wicked. All of humanity is sinful and experiences the consequences of living in a fallen world.
Job compared the life of a man to that of a flower. Man blossoms like a flower but quickly withers as his life drains away with time. He is like a shadow that flees and does not last.
Seeing the brevity and trials faced in this life, Job asked: “Do you really take notice of one like this? Will you bring me into judgment against you?”
These two questions expect an affirmative answer.
Job believed that God had fixed His eye on him and would bring him to judgment. Faced with his inability to be sinless, Job acknowledged his corrupt condition, yet he was confused about why he was reaping such severe affliction.
In light of the sinfulness of humanity, he asked why his sins deserved such treatment.
Job reminded himself that a person’s days are determined, fixed in the unchanging, eternal plan of God. Submitting to the sovereignty of God, he confessed that God had set limits that no one can exceed. His life was in God’s hands.
Then Job pleaded with God to look away from him and let him rest. He thought of God as a hard-hearted taskmaster ready to whip a weary worker.
He longed for relief from God’s unrelenting gaze and piercing presence.
Job used two illustrations from nature. People are not like trees that grow back after they have been cut down. People are like water that dries up and is gone. There was more hope for a tree than for him.
If a tree is cut down, it will sprout again. Its roots may grow old, and its stump starts to die. These appearances, however, are deceitful. The tree awaits spring, and it will burst forth into new life.
The tree may appear dead, but life is still present, waiting for the right time to thrive. Job believed that a person dies and then fades away. When a person ceases to breathe, that is the end of his existence. Job expressed he had no hope that he would live after death and see himself vindicated before God.
For Job, a person’s death was final. A tree had more hope after death than he did. He then compared people to water that evaporates and is no more. People lie down in death and do not rise. He had no hope of living again beyond the grave. “Until the heavens are no more” means eternally “people will not awake.” Job thought of the journey to the grave as one of no return. Thankfully, this was not Job’s final thought on the subject.
Job wished that God would let him die and enjoy the safety of the grave until His present wrath was over. At least in the grave, Job thought he would find relief. Death was the only way to escape God’s fury. In these verses Job seemed to question what he had just stated.
Apparently, he still had hope in God. He said: “If only you would appoint a time for me and then remember me. When a person dies, will he come back to life? If so, I would wait all the days of my struggle until my relief comes.”
We see the longing of Job’s heart, the possibility of life after death.