30 “But now they mock me,
men younger than I,
whose fathers I would have disdained
to put with my sheep dogs.
2 Of what use was the strength of their hands to me,
since their vigour had gone from them?
3 Haggard from want and hunger,
they roamed the parched land
in desolate wastelands at night.
4 In the brush they gathered salt herbs,
and their food was the root of the broom bush.
5 They were banished from human society,
shouted at as if they were thieves.
6 They were forced to live in the dry stream beds,
among the rocks and in holes in the ground.
7 They brayed among the bushes
and huddled in the undergrowth.
8 A base and nameless brood,
they were driven out of the land.
9 “And now those young men mock me in song;
I have become a byword among them.
10 They detest me and keep their distance;
they do not hesitate to spit in my face.
11 Now that God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me,
they throw off restraint in my presence.
Job now turns from the wistful reflection of his exalted past to a heavy lament of his present situation. In contrast to being the most celebrated of leaders and wise men he is now the subject of derision from the lowest in societies pecking order. Disrespected by outcasts and mocked by street urchin type children.
He was the subject of jokes from the mouths of vagabonds and sordid entertainment for societies most unwelcome.
Formerly the most important people would gather to listen to Job. He was someone with great influence and was respected by the wise and influential from near and far. Remember that even Job’s three friends were among those and they travelled some distance when they heard of his plight.
But now, there was gathering of a different kind. The low level gathering of mockery and spectacle. He was mocked, jeered and insulted.
A shadow for Christ perhaps?
Job had known the fathers of these youths. But the fathers did not impress Job. Job would not employ them. They were too lazy. They did not want to work.
These fathers were not responsible men. Perhaps they were drunks. Perhaps they were always asking other people for money. They were outcasts from the city as they were trouble makers and these children were like their fathers. They swore. They insulted Job. They laughed at him. And they caused trouble.
They considered themselves superior to Job.
12 On my right the tribe attacks;
they lay snares for my feet,
they build their siege ramps against me.
13 They break up my road;
they succeed in destroying me.
‘No one can help him,’ they say.
14 They advance as through a gaping breach;
amid the ruins they come rolling in.
15 Terrors overwhelm me;
my dignity is driven away as by the wind,
my safety vanishes like a cloud.
This is the continuation of a description of the taunting young men or children who had gathered like a gang and were cruel to Job. They tried to trip him when he walked by them, and they put obstacles in his path that took great pain to go around. They showed no respect him. He was the laughing stock of the town. These gangs of young men tried to stop Job in every step he took.
Job watched the youths as they talked. He felt that they were making plans to attack him but felt too ill and lacking in any motivation or energy to avoid them.
Job compared himself to a City when being attacked. A City cannot move when under siege, it cannot hide. It must just absorb whatever punishment that is coming at it
He was waiting for the youths to attack. He had no escape and could not protect himself.
Job had lived most of his life up until now as a confident, secure man who was respected and honoured. This was no longer the case. (Job 29:18-20).
His security was not real. His reputation would not endure. This can happen to any of us. We could lose everything through our own moral failure (as was true in my own case) or through events outside of our control as was the case of Job. Either way, whatever we put our security in other than God will be brought into question at that point. Whether it is something physical such as financial security or something more spiritual such as our reputation both will be brought down. God is a jealous God, he will not allow us to have any other God’s… why? because they can do us no good at all, they are false God’s. They cannot give us what we deeply desire or need. Only God Almighty the author of life, the founder of all things can do that and he promises to do so. He stops at nothing in his pursuit of us,
All of this terrible treatment by these gangs of young boys, coupled with the shame and disgrace that Job was feeling, had him terrified. It seems that no one was interested in the welfare of Job. God used this attack from Satan to strip Job of everything and leave him only with the presence of God and the possibility of Job finding his peace in that alone.
16 “And now my life ebbs away;
days of suffering grip me.
17 Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
18 In his great power God becomes like clothing to me;
he binds me like the neck of my garment.
19 He throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.
Job’s life ebbed away, suffering gripped him, his bones ached, he experienced relentless gnawing pain, his skin was peeling (verse 30), and he was reduced to mud, dust, and ashes. He felt that he was the victim of some kind of divine mugging.
Job’s afflictions had robbed him of his will to live. It consumed his thinking. He was ravaged with disease, pain and anguish.
Even at night he could not find rest. The pain was gnawing away at him.
The word mud in verse 19 can also be translated “the mire” which is the lowest depth of misery and degradation (see Psalm 40:2; 69:2, 14). He blamed God but still had enough faith to wrestle with him in prayer.
Job believed that God had discarded him. He sat in ashes and prayed. His becoming like dust and ashes indicated that he was impure, offensive to his fellow men, an object of scorn and disdain.
To feel completely abandoned by everyone and to feel abandoned by God is perhaps the greatest pain of all. We may have had dark moments in our lives where we experienced that momentarily, maybe through relentless pain and suffering, maybe as a result of our sin or someone else’s sin. That hopelessness is a hard place and quite usually the crucible where our faith is formed to be deeper and more profound although it’s hard to see it ourselves in that moment. Jesus endured this at the cross. Complete abandonment even from his father. His words as recorded in Matthew 27:46 were “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus did not deserve to be in that position, it can be argued that Job did not deserve to be in that position. The truth is though, that God was present. Very present. At the Cross he was present. It was part of an incredible plan, in Job’s suffering he was very present and in our suffering he is also very present. He is at that crucible knowing that something new will emerge from this situation.
20 “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22 You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23 I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.
Job struggled to see God’s presence in all that was going on and the anguish he felt. If God was present he could only deduce that it was cruel behaviour on the part of the hand of the almighty. In his worldview he was suffering the fate of the wicked and yet he knew that in his heart of hearts he was not wicked.
He knew that ultimately death comes to everyone but he struggled with the process or his journey towards what seemed like an inevitable pending death.
Why do bad things happen to good people? We don’t actually know. God in his wisdom does not answer that question for us. He alone knows. What we do know is that our definition of “good people” varies a lot depending on variable experiences of life, cultural views, worldviews. Only God defines what is truly good. Secondly we know that we live in a broken messed up world where things don’t function properly since we took on the definition of good and evil on our own terms in the garden of Eden.
The world we live in has suffered as a result of our attempt to play God rather than allow God to be God. The outcome is that we can suffer as a result of long term flawed condition, the result of another person’s action or even as is the case of Job due to something occurring in the spiritual realms. There is of course also the consequences of our own sin.
24 “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31 My lyre is tuned to mourning,
and my pipe to the sound of wailing.
Verses 24-26 seem to be saying that God must have some sympathy, if Job has shown compassion for the needy and poor (verse 25). Job reached out for help in his misery and received only evil (verse 26).
He could not believe that his all powerful all loving God would not hear his cries and continue to allow his intense suffering and distress.
Verse 29 could possibly be translated as ostriches as opposed to owls. The mournful howl of the jackals is referred to in Micah 1:8; the ostrich also gives a strange, melancholic cry, particularly at night. In Job 39:13, the female ostrich receives the name of “wailer.”
Job described his skin as black and peeling. He felt abandoned by God and hopeless, and his physical condition amplified this feeling (Psalm 102:3; Lamentations 4:8).
Formerly, Job played music. Then the sounds that he made were happy, like the sound of the children in Job 21:12 but now the sounds that Job made were mournful.
It must have been immensely difficult to see anything to inspire faith at this time. The feeling of abandonment is one of the most intensely painful feelings. I felt it in the Summer of 2015. It was my own fault and I knew it was my own fault but to feel rejected and abandoned by everyone without hope, without certainty then there are moments you just want to die and to feel God’s abandonment on top of that, the physical suffering and intense grieving of having lost everything I can’t imagine how dark this must have all felt to Job especially knowing deep down that he was a good man and walked with God.