HOPE DEFINED – Believers find hope for life only in God.
JOB 14:1 – 14
MEMORY VERSE: JOB 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.
Many people enjoy a contest between teams or individuals who are at the top of their game. But when a sub par team is matched against an overpowering superior one, we may not want to watch, especially if the weak team is ours. Losing hope in the future saps strength in the present. Job 14 highlights that believers will find strength in the present when they look to God and hope in Him alone.
The creator God spoke the universe into existence. He allows the next breath and beat of our hearts. He makes a difference in our lives. Our number one priority is to know Him and to trust Him.
THE CONTEXT (JOB 2:11-14:22)
Between the first and last chapters of Job, we are taken on a journey that allows us to wrestle with some of the greatest questions of life, suffering, and death. In this narrative, the main characters wrestle with suffering as it relates to what it reveals about the sufferer and how it squares with God’s providential governance of the world.
One of the key questions of the book is this: What is the nature of wisdom and where can it be found? In Job, we understand that the order of the universe is not fully revealed and we must learn to trust in the God who presides over the universe. For this reason, one might argue that the Book of Job is an exploration of the way God works in the world and the appropriate human response to Him.
Job 2: 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.
13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
Each one of Job’s friends showed compassion and attempted to comfort Job (2:11), but in the end their works failed. Job’s friends – Eliphas, Bildad, and Zophar – all fell back to the principle of retribution, namely, that whatever people receive in life is a direct result of their behavior. In this case, God did allow Job to suffer the fate that we might expect to fall on someone openly defiant of God. Job’s friends believed Job had done something to deserve such harsh treatment from God. Rather than comfort Job, they continually accused him and told him to “fess up” to something he was hiding. They continually urged Job to repent of whatever sin caused this divine anger. As we know from the text, and Job himself knew, he had done nothing to merit this suffering. Job understood that his situation was unique because of his innocence.
As Job wrestled with despair in chapter 14, we are given a glimpse into the thoughts of a man who endured immense suffering. We must remember where we are in this passage as it relates to redemptive history. God has chosen to progressively reveal Himself from Genesis o Revelation. Though Job could not fully see the hope that lies ahead, we will come to see how this story ends. More importantly, we know as believers how the whole story of redemption ends in Jesus Christ. The gospel does not leave us in despair, but gives us a sure and steady hope in the face of suffering and death. As we all know, suffering in the world leads the believer to consider the greater questions of life. Suffering pulls and stretches our faith and trust to know God our creator in a greater way.
JOBS QUESTIONS (JOB 14:1-6)
14:1 "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.
2 He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.
Job maintained that he had done nothing to deserve his suffering. Even still, God providentially allowed him to walk through unimaginable circumstances. While Job maintained his innocence, he also proclaimed that suffering and adversity should be expected of all humans. The word translated “trouble” carries with it connotations of anxiety, stress, and fear. All men and women live a somewhat brief life, and during this time suffering is a common experience. Even still, our desires for the duration of life often fluctuate based on our circumstances. Even Job seemed to fluctuate on this matter. In different parts of the book he declared that life is too short (9:26-26), and on the other hand that life is too long (7:1-5).
In verse 2, Job focused on the brevity of life and utilized common metaphors to explain this phenomenon. He compared the brevity of life to a flower or shadow. Job seems to mean that the brevity of life is not such a bad thing. Flowers are admired for their beauty and pleasure they bring. Even still, the vibrant colors and life of a flower are fragile and quickly dry out and fade away. Flowers are a common imagery in the Old Testament for the fragility of human life. Job’s friend Bildad utilized this imager in Job 8:1-10. Because of the fragility of human life, Job wondered why God even bothered to focus His attention on him (14:3).
3 Do you fix your eye on such a one? Will you bring him before you for judgment?
4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one!
5 Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.
6 So look away from him and let him alone, till he has put in his time like a hired man.
With all this in mind, Job felt affirmed in his belief that God is absolutely sovereign over every person and in control of every moment of his or her life. One’s days are determined by the wisdom of God and no human can cross the limits set by God. Instead of bargaining with God about the duration of his life, Job pleaded with God about the quality of his life. Like he did in 7:19, Job appealed to God for rest. He utilized the imagery of a hired worker in verse 6. A hired worker labors in difficulty for his pay, and Job believed he had earned enough for one lifetime. For Job it seemed that payday would be the day of his death, the day when his difficult suffering would come to an end.
Job had begun to reflect on the brevity of life and the reality of judgment awaiting all people. This judgment is deserved since all humans are impure. Job pleaded for God to leave him alone so he could gain some type of relief from his pain during this short lifetime. From other passages, we are reminded of God’s patience and care for His people. So Job’s request was certainly not at odds with the grace of God. However, we also understand that in His sovereign providence, God doesn’t always deliver us out of suffering, but intends to deliver us through suffering. The effect of such trials often leads the faithful to cling to God even more tightly. As it has often been said, sometimes we don’t realize God is all we need until God is all we have. In this way, we can learn to trust God and see His comfort in times of affliction. These things can be a means God uses to turn our hearts and focus our hopes on Him.
DESPAIR (JOB 14:7-12)
7 "At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.
8 Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.
10 But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more.
11 As water disappears from the sea or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
12 so man lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep.
Trees can be cut down to a stump yet continue to live and grow with the right nutrients and water. A stump and its roots can persist in sprouting new vegetation after the body of the tree is gone. When people die, they fade away. When a person breathes his or her last breath, no amount of air can bring him or her back to life.
As water dries up from a lake or a river, it is unlikely they will come to life again. The same is true of humans. Humanly speaking, once they lie down and die, they will not rise up again. Job was speaking of death as finality. For Job, death has the last word. Death is the final sleep. Job wanted relief from his horrible suffering!
Humans have a strong will to live, and we should avoid falling into despair over Job’s fatalistic language. His circumstance created the context for his words. In the Old Testament, God revealed the concept of a resurrection for the dead (See Isa. 26:19). The concept of resurrection is more fully developed in the New Testament. The language after the resurrection of Christ is full of hope for believers. In First Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul reminded us that since Christ has been raised, Christians will also experience their own Easter morning. It is fascinating that, like Job, the New Testament writers often used metaphors from nature and sleep to describe both death and resurrection. Where Job seems to have focused on the natural finality of death, the writers of the New Testament speak to the supernatural victory over death (1 Cor. 15:50-58). In this sense, death does not have the last word. Even though death is an unwelcome enemy, Christians do not weep over death as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13).
Scripture teaches that all people will be raised physically from the dead on the last day. The difference is that Christians will be raised to everlasting glory; those who do not trust in Christ will be raised to judgment (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). In many ways, the thought of death can be a means God uses to bring people to ask the larger questions of eternity. Learning to enter into someone’s suffering and to weep with those who weep can be a powerful aid in ministering to them with the hope of the gospel. Think of how many people in your life have come to faith or returned to faith in the midst of or following a season of suffering. It is difficult for a person who has suffered little to comfort a person who has suffered much. Suffering deepens our capacity to empathize and minister to others. Jesus Christ was sinless, yet see how he suffered as he lived and died.
HOPE (JOB 14:13-14)
13 "If only you would hide me in the grave and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me!
14 If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come.
In the previous scriptures, Job portrayed death as the final word in the natural world. Job wanted relief. Unlike a tree that draws water to sprout new life, a dead person cannot draw breath and return to life. Like a dried up body of water with no natural resources for replenishment, a dead person cannot awake from the sleep of death. Job wished that death would hide him in “Sheol” from the anger of God that could have possibly led to all of his suffering.
In the Old Testament, the concept of Sheol depicted the grave or the abode of the dead. Sheol was also considered to be located in the depths of the earth, thus illustrating Job’s desire to be hidden until God’s anger passed. In fact, some passages indicate that the Old Testament saints spoke of Sheol as the state of being cut off from God (Ps. 88:3-5); Isa. 38:11). Other passages seem to present it differently (Ps. 139:8). Being the place of the dead, Sheol was considered an inescapable abode, a final destination.
Job here had reached a new level of despair in his suffering. If we were to isolate Job’s thoughts in their scriptural context, it is understandable why he was wallowing in despair. Job pondered the possibility that he had angered God, even though he did not see himself as deserving of his affliction. His thought at this point was focused on the desire for his suffering to end, even if it meant his death. Job assumed that if God had time to calm down, he might be shown relief. Job’s hope was that if he were gone, God would miss him (14:15b). In essence, Job characterized death as a place to escape suffering.
Looking at Job’s reasoning helps us to understand that we can’t understand all that happens to us. Sometimes life does not make sense with our limited reasoning abilities in God’s vast universe.
Life is a gift from God. Because life is given by God, only God has the right to choose when to take it. As believers, we find hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As believers in Christ, we are hidden from the anger of God against sin. Scripture teaches that Jesus descended to the dead and on the third day rose again. Jesus is depicted as truly dead after His crucifixion, that is, in the grave or in the realm of the dead. The good news of the gospel brings us clarity of hope that had not yet been fully revealed in the time of Job.
Now that the Bible is complete, we as believers have the advantage of seeing the whole picture. The Bible teaches us that Jesus actually died, but rose again, and therefore achieved victory over death (2 Tim. 1:10). The Bible also teaches us that Jesus defeated death. If we are in Him, we have nothing to fear or no reason to despair (Heb. 2:14). Finally, we know that Jesus is the firstfruits, the hope of what’s to come after death (1 Cor. 15: 20-23). Christ leads us through no darker rooms than He went through before. He tasted death Himself, He can support us while we taste it and take our hands, reminding us: “I’ve been there before.” In Christ, death does not have the last word. Jesus holds the keys of death (Rev. 1:17-19). The only way to be hidden from the just wrath of God against sin is to be hidden in Jesus Christ (Col. 3:3).
2 Tim 1:12 …for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.