In Job 29, the great patriarch details his former condition. He speaks much about "the good old days" prior to his intense suffering and loss. This chapter gives us a closer look at his character, as we get a better understanding of the protection, guidance, friendship, and blessings Job formerly enjoyed from the Lord.
"Job further continued his discourse, and said: 'Oh, that I were as in months past, as in the days when God watched over me; when His lamp shone upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness; just as I was in the days of my prime, when the friendly counsel of God was over my tent; when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were around me; when my steps were bathed with cream, and the rock poured out rivers of oil for me!'" (Job 29:1-6).
Job proceeds to discuss the influential position he once held in the community. The basis for this treatment was simple: he was a kind and considerate man.
"When I went out to the gate by the city, when I took my seat in the open square, the young men saw me and hid, and the aged arose and stood; the princes refrained from talking, and put their hand on their mouth; the voice of nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth. When the ear heard, then it blessed me, and when the eye saw, then it approved me; because I delivered the poor who cried out, the fatherless and the one who had no helper. The blessing of a perishing man came upon me, and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, and I was feet to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the case that I did not know. I broke the fangs of the wicked, and plucked the victim from his teeth" (Job 29:7-17).
Clearly, people used to treat Job with the utmost respect and honor. He had a good reputation for being wise and benevolent. Job's words here may be a direct response to Eliphaz's fabricated list of Job's sins (cf. 22:5-11).
"Then I said, 'I shall die in my nest, and multiply my days as the sand. My root is spread out to the waters, and the dew lies all night on my branch. My glory is fresh within me, and my bow is renewed in my hand. Men listened to me and waited, and kept silence for my counsel. After my words they did not speak again, and my speech settled on them as dew. They waited for me as for the rain, and they opened their mouth wide as for the spring rain. If I mocked at them, they did not believe it, and the light of my countenance they did not cast down. I chose the way for them, and sat as chief; so I dwelt as a king in the army, as one who comforts mourners" (Job 29:18-25).
Job is not being arrogant or puffed up. He had been living a life that he knew pleased God. Consequently, he felt confident and secure.
As chapter 30 begins, Job details his circumstances now as opposed to how it used to be back then.
"But now they mock at me, men younger than I, whose fathers I disdained to put with the dogs of my flock" (Job 30:1). [Now that's quite a way to describe worthless men! -SRB] "And now I am their taunting song; yes, I am their byword. They abhor me, they keep far from me; they do not hesitate to spit in my face. Because He has loosed my bowstring and afflicted me, they have cast off restraint before me. At my right hand the rabble arises; they push away my feet, and they raise against me their ways of destruction. They break up my path, they promote my calamity; they have no helper. They come as broad breakers; under the ruinous storm they roll along. Terrors are turned upon me; they pursue my honor as the wind, and my prosperity has passed like a cloud" (Job 30:9-15).
Job is certainly showing a marked contrast to the way things used to be. The ones who formerly benefited from his benevolence are now the very ones who mock and taunt him. Perhaps some would feel a need to treat Job this way since God was, in their minds, punishing him for his "wickedness."
Job's physical condition is the clearest indication, in his opinion, of God's rejection of him. Consider his descriptive words on this subject:
"And now my soul is poured out because of my plight; the days of affliction take hold of me. My bones are pierced in me at night, and my gnawing pains take no rest. By great force my garment is disfigured; it binds me about as the collar of my coat. He has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry out to You, but you do not answer me; I stand up, and You [only stare at me - ESV]. But You have become cruel to me; with the strength of Your hand You oppose me. You lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride on it; you spoil my success. For I know that You will bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living" (Job 30:16-23).
Job feels that God has "roughed him up," so to speak ("cruel" is not the best word choice in verse 21).
"Surely He [God] would not stretch out His hand against a heap of ruins, if they cry out when He destroys it. Have I not wept for him who was in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor? But when I looked for good, evil came to me; and when I waited for light, then came darkness. My heart is in turmoil and cannot rest; days of affliction confront me. I go about mourning, but not in the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry out for help. I am a brother of jackals, and a companion of ostriches. My skin grows black and falls from me; my bones burn with fever. My harp is turned to mourning, and my flute to the voice of those who weep" (Job 30:24-31).Job has wept for others in their time of need, but no one weeps for him. Job's happy days have been turned to grief! His flesh rots on his bones as his days now are filled with tremendous sorrow and immense physical pain.
But, despite his anguish, Job is still determined not to sin, and he maintains that he has been living a life of integrity. In chapter 31, Job tells us what a man of integrity does and doesn't do. Job knows that it is wrong to violate God's laws, and he also knows that failing to do good when one has an opportunity is also sin (cf. Gal. 6:10; James 4:17). Through much of this chapter Job uses an "if-then" format. Job is disavowing himself from these sins others have claimed him to be guilty of. If he is guilty of these sins, then let punishment come down upon him.
First, Job will affirm his mental purity. He would not lust after young women for he knows that God sees all his ways and that such behavior is wrong and worthy of punishment (cf. Matt. 5:28; II Pet. 2:14).
"I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman? For what is the allotment of God from above, and the inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is it not destruction for the wicked, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does He not see my ways, and count all my steps?" (Job 31:1-4).
Second, Job's friends have claimed that he is a hypocrite, but he argues otherwise.
"If I have walked with falsehood, or if my foot has hastened to deceit, let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity. If my step has turned from the way, or my heart walked after my eyes, or if any spot adheres to my hands, then let me sow, and another eat; yes, let my harvest be rooted out" (Job 31:5-8).
Third, Job denies that he has been guilty of adulterous conduct. He has not been seduced, nor has he sought his neighbor's wife.
"If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door, then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down over her. For that would be wickednes; yes, it would be iniquity deserving of judgment. For that would be a fire that consumes to destruction, and would root out all my increase" (Job 31:9-12).
If Job has been unfaithful to his wife, then let her be sexually active with someone else! Job claims that adultery is a serious crime worthy of judicial censure (cf. Gal. 5:19ff; Rev. 21:8).
Fourth, Job also denies that he had abused those under his control. His servants were given a fair hearing if they had complaints. Job anticipates giving an account to God (cf. Rom. 14:12). He has not mistreated the poor or neglected to help them.
"If I have despised the cause of my male or female servant when they complained against me, what then shall I do when God rises up? When He punishes, how shall I answer Him? Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb? If I have kept the poor from their desire, or caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or eaten my morsel by myself, so that the fatherless could not eat of it (but from my youth I reared him as a father, and from my mother's womb I guided the widow); if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or any poor man without covering; if his heart has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, when I saw I had help in the gate; then let my arm fall from my shoulder, let my arm be torn from the socket. For destruction from God is a terror to me, and because of His magnificence I cannot endure" (Job 31:13-23).
Job wants punishment to come to him if he has done any of the above things. As a side bar, Job's words here clearly convey what his convictions about abortion would be. He rightly believes that God makes life in the womb.
Fifth, Job asserts his religious fidelity.
"If I have made gold my hope, or said to fine gold, 'You are my confidence'; if I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because my hand had gained much; if I have observed the sun when it shines, or the moon moving in brightness, so that my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand; this also would be an iniquity deserving of judgment, for I would have denied God who is above" (Job 31:24-28).
Materialism (i.e., gold) was never Job's god (cf. Luke 16:13; Col. 3:5; I Tim. 6:6ff) and neither was the sin of astrology (cf. II Kings 23:5).
Sixth, Job states that he has even treated his enemies with charity (cf. Matt. 5:43ff). Job was generous to his servants, friends, and strangers.
"If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, or lifted myself up when evil found him (indeed I have not allowed my mouth to sin by asking for a curse on his soul); if the men of my tent have not said, 'Who is there that has not been satisfied with meat?' (But no sojourner had to lodge in the street, for I have opened my doors to the traveler); if I have covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom, because I feared the great multitude, and dreaded the contempt of families, so that I kept silence and did not go out of the door--oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book! Surely I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown; I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him" (Job 31:29-37).
The mark Job speaks of would be his signature or promise of truth. Job again argues for his spiritual piety by claiming that he has not tried to hide his sins like Adam did in the garden (cf. Gen. 3:10). Ironically, Job utters his desire for a book from God! Job's wish is our reality today. Do we esteem the Holy Bible as Job would?
Seventh, Job's chief witness is the land. His land could not claim that he had torn it from others, or abused it. If he had, then let his property be cursed. "If my land cries out against me, and its furrows weep together; if I have eaten its fruit without money, or caused its owners to lose their lives; then let thistles grow instead of wheat, and weeds instead of barley (Job 31:38-40).
Friends, we should be impressed with Job's consistent claim of innocence even in spite of strong opposition. This chapter really shows the high moral caliber of Job. Although Job lived before the Christian age, he is a wonderful example in so many ways of how a Christian should live!
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.