In this chapter Job explores the implications of why God holds men accountable for sin, when they are born in it.
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Years ago the following question was posed in a McDonald’s restaurant: “Why didn’t God make us perfect so He wouldn’t have to punish us?”
The idea behind the question gets at the heart of what many of us contemplate when we realize our total depravity and hence the real possibility God can just crush us as at any moment (Job 4:17-19). “God,” we may ask ourselves, “You make the rules and I know you’re good. ‘His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He’ (Deut 32:4). But, why do You seem like such a sadist? Can’t You, who can punish us so harshly, just as easily make us without sin so that there would be no reason for punishment?”
Now, this question has already been answered in chapter one. We know God “according to His purpose…works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11). Further, God’s chief purpose is to glorify His own Self. “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act…My glory I will not give to another” (Is 48:11).
It is with the preceding in view we need to understand this chapter of Job. Job understands why man deserves to suffer, but does not understand why man has to suffer.
The first three verses of the chapter reflect on the vanity of worldly pursuits. Man works like a slave to sustain himself for a short time, only to expire soon thereafter (see Ecc 1:3-4). He asks, “Is not man forced to labor on earth and are not his days like the days of a hired man” (Job 7:1)? In this way, Job compares the ordeal of slaving away at work to life as a whole.
In his exasperation he says, “So am I allotted months of vanity, and nights of trouble are appointed me” (Job 7:3). It is likely that Job is giving an indication of the time which elapsed between the time in which Satan destroyed his family and property to the present. So, he is focusing more on his recent trials than truly making an overall reflection of what every man’s day-to-day life is like.
The reason we can say this is because he complains about his anxiety and physical pain (Job 7:4-5). Nonetheless, there is a great similarity between how Job views his life at this moment and Solomon’s own observations. As Solomon observes, “It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with” (Ecc 1:13). He again observes, “Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity” (Ecc 2:23). In the former, Solomon is reflecting on life itself while in the latter he speaks specifically of work.
It is interesting that just as a man loses sleep being anxious about how he will feed himself tomorrow, Job complains of a similar anxiety: “When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night continues and I am continually tossing until dawn” (Job 7:4).
Because of this, we should see a necessary connection between how Solomon viewed life as difficult and its work burdensome, and Job’s own observations. This is true even if Job was focusing particularly on slavery as a metaphor for struggling merely to live the last few months. The point is simple: life is tough, too tough.
In Job 7:6-10 he asserts that his death is assured and coming quickly. This serves as a pretext to speak his mind about God (Job 7:11), which we know from the last time he said that he was not going to hold any punches (Job 3:26).
The thrust of Job’s complaints pertain to God being overly scrupulous in punishing man for sin: “What is man that you magnify him and that You are concerned about him, that You examine him every morning and try him every moment” (Job 7:17, 18)? If we remember Eliphaz’s assertions, it appears Job is responding to the idea that God punishes man for every minor infraction. According to Eliphaz, man causes nothing but trouble all the time and God would be right to punish man accordingly.
In response, Job wonders what hope can man have then? He asks God, “Will You never turn Your gaze away from me” (Job 7:19)? If God constantly seeks to crush man and does not forgive sins, even when one has faith in Him the way Job did throughout His life, then why would we want God to look upon us?
In this, Job is of course wrong. God did not gaze down upon Job hatefully, but rather approvingly when speaking to Satan. God is not looking to crush all men all the time. Escaping His notice would ever afford any sort of benefit. In fact, when evil befalls God’s people, we shouldn’t necessarily fear Him, even if it is reproof for sin. We have everything to gain from God taking interest in our lives and intervening in the way He knows is best, even if it really does not feel like it.
Nonetheless, this is not Job’s understanding due to the extremity of his suffering. For example, Job asks, “Am I the sea, or the Sea Monster, that You set a guard over me” (Job 7:12)? We cannot help but read such a rhetorical question as cosmic hyperbole. God’s restraining of the sea, personified in Leviathan, was necessary for the very foundation of existence to be set. Is little old Job so important that God has to crush him just as He had to crush the Sea Monster? For what high purpose?
Obviously, the answer to Job’s rhetorical question is “no,” so if that be the case why does God set Satan against Job then? What makes Job so important?
In his gut, Job does not think it is in response to sin because he feels that God would not punish minor sins so harshly and that God, after all, would forgive him. We may infer this from Job 7:20-21 where he says, “Have I sinned? What have I done to You…? Why then do You not pardon my transgression…?” One would not expect forgiveness for a transgression if forgiveness was not consistent with the nature of the One in whom forgiveness is desired from.
Job does not yet get an answer so neither do we.
One final note before we conclude this chapter. Job 7:14-15 cryptically states, “You frighten me with dreams and terrify me by visions so that my soul would choose suffocation, death rather than my pains.” What is he talking about?
He may be criticizing Eliphaz for telling him of a vision. However, translators believe from the context that the “You” is God, and being that the only Person being addressed here is God there is good reason for this.
Then, what are these frightening visions that Job prefers death? Being that God commanded Satan to touch everything in his life and we already know Satan came to Eliphaz in a vision, we may rightfully interpret these as something Satanic. Satan is whispering lies to Job in nightmares, voices or delusions in his mind, or something of the sort. Perhaps, he is just trying to terrify him.
However, it is important to keep in mind that God is the one permitting these things, so even if Satan has the power to assault Job even in his own thoughts, it is only with God’s permission. Job has not cursed God and refuses to do so, so even in extreme circumstances where it seems that God has totally and completely withdrawn His grace from our lives, if we maintain the faith we may be confident that God has not done so completely and utterly. He has given us new hearts and we have been “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:13).
This should give us great confidence, even when every thought and material circumstance appears set against us:
Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:34-39).
No created thing, including our trials and Satan himself, can undo what Christ has done for us and what He continues to do in us by His Holy Spirit. Satan cannot take the Holy Spirit from the believer. He cannot undo what Christ has done for us. So, the demonic angels and principalities are disarmed (Col 2:15). They are ultimately powerless. We may suffer and experience pain, but Satan will not triumph because it is God Himself who works within us.