Twice in the final chapter of Job God makes this statement about Job:
For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Job 42:7-8
This is surprising, perhaps, in light of Job’s reaction in chapter 3 to the tragic events that had befallen him. He is obviously speaking in agony after his overwhelming loss. Job curses the day he was born. He questions why was he born. He laments the calamities of his life. He ends his first rejoinder to his friends with these words:
For my sighing comes instead of my bread,
and my groanings are poured out like water.
For the thing that I fear comes upon me,
and what I dread befalls me.
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, but trouble comes.” Job 3:24-26 ESV
We would probably not have expected the praise that God gave when he said that what Job had spoken about him was right. However, since God is the One who is offered this praise, we know it is true; Job did not speak was what wrong in his assessment of the things that had happened to him.
This is the last post in response to Jeffrey Adams’ comment about cursing in response to difficult things that happen in life. We noted that Job’s initial responses to the loss of his property, his animals, and then his children were responses that acknowledged the control and power of God in his life: the Lord gives and the Lord takes away – blessed by the name of the Lord. This response is the result of looking at God and his faithfulness, even in such extreme difficulties as Job faced. But it is also important to consider the human perspective. It is appropriate to realize that Job was devastated by what had happened to him. To realize this is not wrong. As a matter of fact, it would be unwise not to acknowledge the depth of pain that Job experienced.
Thus, we come to this startling intersection. It is important to discuss this because it is clearly part of the human experience. There are events in life when appreciation for the sovereignty of God appears to collide with our difficult experiences in the cursed creation that we inhabit. This certainly was the case with Job. Therefore, he begins his human assessment of the terrible events that
transpired by cursing the day he was born. When we read this, we must not read back into the text the modern idea of cursing. Job does not utter a one-word invective that attacks the actions of God. Nor does Job assume the place of God and call for damnation upon others. His “curse” is detailed and reflects the profoundly terrible things that have happened to him. In our day we might say that he has taken Satan’s best shot and survived. But now, as he faces the rubble of a life that was almost idyllic only few days ago, Job is overcome by sadness. Everything material that he once valued in life is gone. And he now sits in unbearable, physical pain and affliction. So, as he looks back upon his life, he begins to deconstruct those things there were formerly seen as blessings–such as his birth–and wonders why he was even born. This is Job’s cursing. This is not a stream of foul language that, at it’s core, challenges the will and character of God in bitter rebellion. His lament is full, yet he retains his integrity with God. The words of Psalm 73:26 come to mind:
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
As Christians we do not have to run from the overwhelming grief that all too often flows from the sin-cursed world (Romans 8:22). We can respond with grief as Job does. However, we must never lose sight of God and his covenant faithfulness, the God who is our strength and portion. As the rest of the book of Job teaches, God finally replies to Job’s plea with an awesome display of power and compassion. These are valuable lessons for parents to teach to children. Desperate grief need not lead to cynicism and despondency. All things are resolved in God, the Judge of all the earth, who does what is right and true. He alone is worthy of praise.
I want to thank Jeffrey Adams again for his comment. I trust that these words will be an encouragement to him and to you.
2 thoughts on “Job’s Curse”
John and I have been distressed about the scenario with Professor Gates, primarily because both the professor and the president so embodied the characterizations of the fool from the Proverbs. And then they resolved it all with a beer. 🙂
My husband said that if Professor Gates had simply chosen to thank the police officer for coming to protect his property, there would never have been a story to report. A gentle answer turns away wrath.
Jay, I just came across this series of 3 posts. Wow! My sense is that this is a direct answer to prayer as I had asked for wisdom in this area about 6 weeks ago. I found your exposition of Job extremely helpful. I must confess that one of my first thoughts (after the humbling effect of 3 posts correcting my error!) was frustration that there is not a 4 letter, 1 syllable English word that could summarize the arising, the tearing of the robe, the shaving of the head, & the falling to the ground. I quickly saw that it would be more fruitful to examine the self-righteousness underlying my demand to have such a word. In short, I do think your post has led/is leading me into a deeper experience of God’s sovereignty in suffering, and a richer appreciation for the paradoxical timeliness of Job. Thanks for being the sharpening iron I needed! Blessings, Jeff. p.s. I love the books that ya’ll publish & can’t imagine marriage or parenting without these edifying “lenses!”