14 “Mortals, born of woman,
are of few days and full of trouble.
2 They spring up like flowers and wither away;
like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.
3 Do you fix your eye on them?
Will you bring them before you for judgment?
4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure?
5 A person’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 labourer.
The Book of Job carries a lot of reference to the brevity of man’s life. This is especially true of chapter 14. Man “is of few days” (verse 1), “Like a flower” (verse 2) etc.,
In verses 1-12 Job embraced the fact of God’s control over the issues of this life, but challenged their meaning.
Life is short (verses 1-2), all are sinners (verse 4), and days are limited (verse 5), then comes death (verses 7-12). In light of this, Job asked God for grace instead of such intense judgment (verse 3), he requested rest from the pain (verse 6), and suggested that a tree has more hope than he did (verse 7).
This is very reminiscent of Ecclesiastes.
Life is short. Job said that we are like flowers. The life of a flower can last only a few hours. He also said that we are like shadows. A shadow is active but disappears in a moment.
A life can be active like a shadow or beautiful like a flower but it can be gone in an instant.
Job expresses some perplexity at why God would be concerned with a creature of such brevity and such impurity.
He knew that God determines our lifespan and days on earth and he knew that there was some kind of purpose to that but he was questioning the purpose.
His request is to be left alone to get on with what he is supposed to do until it’s the end of his days.
It’s a hard wrestling when you think that God might be against you and you don’t understand what is going on or why it is happening.
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 a man dies and is laid low;
he breathes his last and is no more.
11 As the water of a lake dries up
or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
12 so he lies down and does not rise;
till the heavens are no more, people will not awake
or be roused from their sleep.
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 someone dies, will they live again?
All the days of my hard service
I will wait for my renewal to come.
15 You will call and I will answer you;
you will long for the creature your hands have made.
16 Surely then you will count my steps
but not keep track of my sin.
17 My offenses will be sealed up in a bag;
you will cover over my sin.
Job had talked about flowers and shadows. His life seemed weak and fragile but he also considered the life of a tree and that seemed a little more mysterious to him.
You can cut down a tree. Its branches become mere wood. And the tree has no leaves. The tree many seem dead for many months. But that tree can grow again. You might expect such a tree to be very weak. But in fact, the new branches have renewed strength. The scent of water will revive the roots of a tree. The roots appear to be dead, but come back to life, when water gets to the roots.
The thought about the tree gave some hope to Job (verses 13-17).
Job did not appear to have a grasp on eternity but he longed for some future state of being (Job 7:2; 14:13). It was a vague hope with no great assurance.
Job thought about the death of the human body. That body simply returns to the earth. Maybe Job did not remember that God created man from the dust (Genesis 2:7). Job yearned for something that had not yet been revealed to him but now we know with certainty (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
Then Job thought about sleep. A person who sleeps will wake. A dead body does not wake. But Job’s longing was that his dead body would wake. And this thought gave him hope that he would meet God.
Job asked to die and remain in the grave until God’s anger was over, then be raised to life again when God called him back (verses 13-15).
His hope was that God had a bag that he put his sin into and sealed them up, so they could be disposed of an forgotten about.
All of this reminds me of the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:11
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
18 “But as a mountain erodes and crumbles
and as a rock is moved from its place,
19 as water wears away stones
and torrents wash away the soil,
so you destroy a person’s hope.
20 You overpower them once for all, and they are gone;
you change their countenance and send them away.
21 If their children are honoured, they do not know it;
if their offspring are brought low, they do not see it.
22 They feel but the pain of their own bodies
and mourn only for themselves.”
Job’s observation of a tree gave him hope (verses 7-9). But then he thought about the earth itself. Even mountains do not last always. Job saw how rocks can fall from mountains. The rain causes erosion of the soil from the mountains. And the soil goes into the sea.
The turbulent waters wear away the stones of the river by their constant action.
He reverted to a hopeless mood, speaking about death as inevitable (verses 18-20) and causing separation (verse 21). He was painfully sad to think of it (verse 22). It all seemed hopeless and he was helpless.
We can get many insights into life and death when we look at nature and creation. We closer I look at creation the more amazed at who is