Let’s open our Bibles to the Old Testament book of Job, and chapter 14. Job 14 meaning.
I trust that we’re not growing weary of this study. I’ve personally been enjoying going beyond the typical treatment of the first and last few chapters of the book and really digging in to the middle section of poetry.
It might not preach very well – but I think it’s really helpful to understand what’s being communicated in these chapters. Because it’s all profitable.
And so, let’s gird up the loins of our mind and begin our journey through the 14th chapter of this wonderful book that will impart wisdom to us if we let it.
Job focuses on man’s impermanence
Now, Job begins this chapter speaking of man’s impermanence – the fact that our lives are so short.
KJV Job 14:1 Man that is born of a woman [is of/lives only a] few days,
and full of [trouble/turmoil].
2 He [cometh forth/grows up] like a flower,
and [is cut down/withers away]:
he fleeth also as a shadow,
and [continueth/remains] not.
And so, not only is man not permanent – but his life is also filled with trouble. And Job was certainly experiencing both of these realities.
And notice the metaphors that Job uses to portray the brevity of mankind’s lifespan.
Job speaks of a flower. And it’s the kind of flower that springs up quickly. And then – whether it’s cut down or it just withers – it’s gone just as quickly as it appeared.
And then, Job speaks of life being like a shadow – something so temporary. Once the light changes its angle or when the object casting the shadow moves – it’s gone. No more shadow. Just like that.
And Job is saying that life for humans is like this. Temporary. And troubled. Especially for Job himself.
Job wonders why God is being so harsh to the impermanent Job
And so, in light of the fact that man’s lifetime – and especially Job’s own life – is so temporary and troubled – Job wonders why the God of the universe would be so harsh toward him.
3 And dost thou [open/fix] thine eyes upon such an one,
and bringest me into judgment [with/before] thee?
So, Job pictures God as locking-in on Job with his eyes. Of just staring intensely at Job – to Job’s own detriment.
And that’s because Job is also picturing God as ushering Job into court to convict him of crimes.
But – Job’s point is – why all this fuss about a creature whose life is so short and full of turmoil?
As if God doesn’t have bigger concerns than troubling the already-troubled Job.
And once more we need to remind ourselves that Job is convinced that God is acting this way toward him – not because Job has special revelation from God that this is the case – but because this is how things appear to Job’s naked eye, as it were.
Because – in Job’s mind and in the minds of his three friends – and maybe even to Elihu later on – bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. That’s what we’ve been calling Retribution Theology.
So, if something bad is happening in your life, it’s because you’re bad – says Job and the cast of characters in this book. But Job knows that he’s not bad. Even God can vouch that he is a righteous man. Not sinless. But righteous.
And therefore, if something bad is happening to someone good, then God is certainly doing it.
But, that’s not how Job thinks God ought to act. It’s out-of-character with the being that Job has worshipped and served for so many years.
And all of this is utterly confusing to Job.
And so, when your life is hard – does it mean that God is punishing you for sin?
It could mean just that! And yet, there might also be some other explanation – like a heavenly wager between God and Satan.
And if life is going well – does that mean that God is really pleased with you?
It could mean that! But it might just be that the God who sends his rain on the just and the unjust is happening to want to favor you that day.
So, we do need help – just like Job – to stop interpreting how God is feeling and what God is thinking about us based on circumstances in our lives.
So, how do we know what God thinks about us? Open your Bible and read it. He tells you there. He tells you that if you’re trusting Christ that you are accepted in the Beloved One. That he loves you. That nothing can separate you from that love.
He also tells you that he chastens those whom he loves. He tells you that all who will live godly will suffer persecution. He gives you examples of godly people who suffer.
So, let’s base our thinking on God’s Word rather than on our feelings and circumstances.
And there’s only one way to know what his Word says. And that’s by reading it. Let’s as individuals be in his Word regularly.
God apparently considers Job irreversibly unclean
Now, as we’ve seen before, Job is starting to wonder if perhaps he has sinned and only God remembers it. Maybe Job really is one of those bad people who – alone – should have bad things happen to them.
And it seems to Job that God is considering him beyond being able to be cleansed of his sin. Maybe he’s uncleanable. And if that’s the case, then Job is hopeless, because…
4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
And this question reminds us of what the Lord says in the Old Testament book of Haggai when he asks the priests if when they touch bread with holy meat if the bread becomes holy.
You’ve got bread over here. You’ve got meat that’s been consecrated to God over here. And the question is whether the meat will consecrate the bread if the two touch.
And the answer is “no.” Holy meat will not make normal bread holy. You can’t consecrate bread by putting consecrated meat on it. All you do is make a sandwich.
But the opposite is certainly the case. If someone who was ceremonially unclean according to the Mosaic Law touched anything else, that other thing would become unclean.
So, here, Job says something similar. It’s not possible to bring something clean out of something unclean. No one can do it. It’s an impossibility.
And since that’s what Job thinks God is considering him to be – as unclean – he’s feeling hopeless that this can ever change. And thus, the way that God is dealing with Job will never change – in his mind, at least.
Why trouble an already-short life?
And so, Job continues with this theme of questioning God as to why he’s so harsh with him.
And Job’s next argument goes like this: God has determined the length of everyone’s life. He knows how long each man will live. And so – in light of that – Job basically says, “Then please just let me live until this short life you gave me is over!”
5 Seeing [his/man’s] days are determined,
the number of his months are [with thee/under your control],
thou hast appointed his [bounds/limits] [i.e., of years…]
[so…] that he cannot pass;
6 [Turn/Look away] from him, that he may rest,
till he shall [accomplish/fulfill], as an hireling, his day.
So, God determines our days – how long we live. That’s all in God’s hands.
And that time is ultimately so short. So short – in fact – that Job urges God to basically just leave suffering mankind alone until their short life – over which God has complete control – is finished.
Hope for a tree
Now, Job continues and he states that there is hope for a dead tree.
And we’ll see where he’s going with this assertion in just a little while. But let’s follow what he says for now.
7 For there is hope [of/for] a tree,
if it be cut down,
Here’s the hope…
that it will sprout again,
and that [the tender branch thereof/its new shoots] will not [cease/fail].
And that’s the case even when it seems like there’s practically no life left in a dead old tree.
8 Though [the root thereof/its roots] [wax/grow] old in the [earth/ground],
and [the stock thereof/its stump] [begins to…] die in the [ground/soil];
But if you introduce one key ingredient to the picture, it will come back to life!
9 Yet [through/at] the scent of water it will [bud/flourish],
and [bring/put] forth [boughs/sprigs/shoots] like a [new…] plant.
And this is a really interesting natural phenomenon. Trees find a way to come back to life. Even the ugliest old trees that look as dead as dead can be so often spring back to life. It seems like all they need is water and they’re finding ways to sprout and grow and venture into new areas.
No hope for man
But – and this is where Job is going with the tree discussion – in contrast to the dead tree – a man who dies has no hope of coming back to life in his same old body. The old tree just comes back to life with its same form – but it doesn’t work that way for man.
10 But man dieth, and [wasteth away/lies prostrate/is powerless]:
yea, man [giveth up the ghost/expires], and where is he?
And really, if all you have to go on in this life is what the eye can see, then that last question that Job asks is where you’re left. When your loved one’s body ceases to function, where is he? Because that thing lying in the casket is not him! Where is he?
And once again, we’re not quite sure what Job would have known about the afterlife. And yet, I don’t think that this is Job denying the existence of heaven or hell. I think it’s him once more looking at things from the external human-only perspective.
And to our physical senses, when a man’s body expires, he never comes back in that same exact body, unchanged. It doesn’t happen. The resurrection body is not the same sin-cursed body that you die in. It’s glorious and new.
Man is like an evaporating sea
So, instead of being like a dead tree – which has some hope of new life springing back into what appears to be dead – man is more like a body of water whose content is evaporating.
11 As the waters [fail/evaporate/disappear] from the sea,
and [the flood/a river] [decayeth/becomes parched/drains away] and drieth up:
12 So man lieth down,
and riseth not:
till the heavens be no more,
they shall not awake,
nor be raised out of their sleep.
And Job probably wasn’t thinking of what we know as the Dead Sea. But to me, that body of water would be the best illustration of what he’s saying here.
The Dead Sea – especially in our day – is evaporating. That body of water in Israel is fed from the north by the Jordan River. But the problem for this sea is threefold.
First, irrigation siphons off so much of the water that would normally come from the Jordan River.
Second, the sea has no outlet and is basically beaten by the hot desert sun all day long – which leads to a lot of evaporation.
Third, these days there are cosmetic companies that own parts of the Dead Sea and they harvest the mineral-filled water in that sea to make their products and ship them all over the world.
And so, this is why – if you were to look at the Dead Sea in some modern map program online you would see – especially toward the south end of it – what seems to be a lack of water in some places.
And this – according to Job – is how man’s life works. We just all dry up. We lie down and don’t rise again.
That is, until the heavens be no more.
And Job is almost right about that. The bodies of the wicked dead will be raised right before the new heaven and the new earth are presented.
And yet – Job is missing the special revelation that we have that declares that God’s people will be raised and enjoy Christ’s Millennial reign on this old earth.
But Job is likely not aware of these realities. He’s not even aware at this point that God operates outside of the confines of the Retribution principle of always punishing evil immediately and always rewarding good immediately. He and his friends will need to have God come to them and let them in on this fact in order for them to understand it.
Job wants to die – temporarily
And so, moving on, it seems that this thought of dying makes Job wish for a middle ground. He’d like to be protected from God’s supposed punishment – maybe in a grave – but at the same time he’d like to be able to come out of that grave once God’s anger was done with him.
13 O that thou wouldest hide me in [the grave/Sheol],
that thou wouldest [keep me secret/conceal me], until thy wrath be past,
that thou wouldest [appoint/set] me a set time, and remember me! [i.e., to take him out of his temporary grave and be merciful to him again…]
So, this is what Job has come to – wishing that he could temporarily die – and doing so because he’s thinking that this will somehow allow him to bypass God’s anger – which in his mind is demonstrated by the fact that Job is suffering. Because, once more – to Job and his friends – if suffering is happening, God is causing it – and he’s causing it because he’s angry.
So, Job is resorting to fantasy in the form of toying with this idea of being temporarily dead.
Job realizes that’s impossible
But then Job realizes that temporarily dying is – of course – impossible. And so, he resigns himself to suffer until something – anything – changes in his life.
14 If a man die,
shall he live again? [i.e., what am I thinking?…]
And, that’s just Job’s acknowledging that temporary death is not an option for him.
all the days of my [appointed time/struggle/hard service] will I wait,
till my [change/release] come.
So, Job is resolving to “tough it out” until something happens to relieve his pain and anguish – if that ever happens.
Change is coming
And even though Job might not know when this change might ever take place, Job really does look forward to a time when things will indeed change between him and God. A time when God will stop punishing him and instead call for him and desire him once more.
At that point…
15 Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee:
thou wilt [have a desire to/long for] the [work of thine hands/creature you have made].
And this is what life was like for Job before the heavenly wager between God and Satan. God called and Job answered. God desired his creature, Job.
Comparing now to then
But for now, Job goes back to thinking about this change that he anticipates happening sometime.
And in Job’s mind, when this change does come, it will be so much different from how God is treating him now. And so, he goes on to compare his current miserable state with the future mercy that he’s sure that he’ll experience some day.
16 [For/Surely] now thou [numberest/count] my steps: [i.e., God is watching his every move and scrutinizing him…]
[dost thou/then you would] not [watch over/observe/mark] my sin?
So, right now Job pictures God as counting his very steps. But at that future time when God is merciful once more to Job, Job imagines that God won’t observe or mark his sin.
And in that future time when Job’s change finally comes – when God calls and desires him – and when God will no longer mark this supposed sin in his life that’s causing God to chasten him – at that time God will seal up and sew up Job’s iniquity so that it would not present any more problems for Job.
17 My transgression [is/would be (in this future time)] sealed up in a bag,
and thou [sewest up/wrap up/would cover over] mine iniquity.
So, Job pictures God’s future mercy to him in the form of taking all of Job’s sin – as if it were some literal garbage that needs to be put in a bag – and stuffing it all into that bag – and then actually sewing it up or covering it for good.
And so, this is Job’s hope – a time when God changes his approach to Job. A time when Job and God are back on friendly terms.
God destroys man’s hope
And yet – starting in verse 18 – it seems that Job is wrenched back to his current reality.
He can hope all he wants for things to change – but ultimately Job has very little confidence that a time like he’s described – with God pitying him – will ever happen.
In fact, the way that God destroys the hope of a man like Job is like mountains falling or rocks being moved out of their place.
18 [And surely/But] the mountain [falling/falls and] [cometh to nought/crumbles away],
and the rock [is removed/moves/will be removed] out of his place.
And the way that God destroys man’s hope is like water wearing away stones or floods washing away the soil and what grows out of it.
19 [As…] The waters [wear/wear away] the stones:
[thou/torrents] washest away the [things which grow out of the dust of the earth/dust of the earth/soil];
And here’s what Job has been preparing us for in verses 18 and 19 – like mountains falling and rocks being removed and waters wearing away stones and washing the soil away…
[and/so] thou destroyest [the hope of man/man’s hope].
So, mountains, rocks, and stones are all strong and practically permanent – which is exactly how a man can view what he’s hoping in. It’s strong, permanent, unmovable.
And in Job’s case and in the context of what he’s just said, Job’s hope – his expectation – is probably that God will turn from his anger and start being merciful to the suffering Job.
And yet, Job is admitting here that what he’s hoping for – his strong permanent desire for the future – well, God is destroying that right before his very eyes.
And this dashing of his hope feels to Job like a mountain falling apart – or a rock being violently moved – or a stone being worn away from friction.
Job thinks God will kill him before showing mercy
And so, when it comes down to it, Job is going to rather pessimistically guess that God will kill him before he can experience this change in God’s attitude and approach toward him.
20 Thou [prevailest for ever against him/forever overpower him/overpower him once for all],
and he [passeth/departs]:
thou changest his [countenance/appearance], [i.e., not his circumstance…]
and sendest him away.
And Job sees himself as a likely candidate for this kind of treatment from God. In other words, death.
Dead men don’t know how their kids are doing
And when such a fate befalls a man and his children keep on living – situations in their lives might be wonderful or they might be horrible. But either way – that man isn’t going to know anything about it.
21 His sons [come to honour/achieve honor/are honored],
[and/but] he knoweth it not;
[and/or/if] they [are brought low/become insignificant],
but he [perceiveth/sees] it not of them.
And of course, in Job’s situation these roles are reversed. It’s his kids – not him – that are dead. His ten children don’t know what is happening to their suffering father. He’s being brought low and coming to dishonor in the estimation of his friends – but they don’t know anything about it.
Pain before death
And then it seems like Job steps back in time with this hypothetical man he’s discussing – who eventually dies and who knows nothing of his children’s successes or failures. This man – before he dies, like Job thinks is going to happen to him – meets his death through a very painful way.
22 But his [flesh upon him/body] shall have pain,
and [his soul/he] [within/for] [him/himself] shall mourn.
And this description fits Job’s situation very well.
He focuses on the external physical suffering he’s experiencing and the internal emotional turmoil he’s well-acquainted with…
And that’s the end of three chapters of Job lamenting the fact that neither his friends nor the God he’s served his whole life are being gracious and helpful to him.
And these three chapters will trigger a second cycle of conversations with his three friends that we’ll start studying next time.