A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate
- the Human Condition
- God’s Revelation of His Plan (Current location of study)
- God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
- Our Response
“Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light?” – Job 3:16
Before diving into this passage, I want to take a few moments to look at some principles pertaining to God’s timing and perspective. Remember that last week we looked at Adam and Eve’s original sin and God’s promise that an offspring of theirs would eventually confront Satan again. Now, Eve and Adam may have thought this would be sometime in their lifetime. Similarly, when Jesus’ return was promised to his disciples (after his ascension to heaven), the angels said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)” The disciples may also have thought that Jesus’ return was eminent. However, it is easy for us humans to forget that God’s timeline is not the same as ours.
Peter said, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)” God created all things and controls all things, and this includes “time”. God’s perspective on time is very different from ours.
As we saw last week, God made a promise to Abraham to bless his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3). God confirmed that promise in a later passage (Genesis 15:13-16) by saying, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Did you catch the statement about time? God told Abraham that he was going to fulfill His promise of giving the promised land to Abraham’s offspring, but it wouldn’t be for another 400 years! From our perspective, that’s kind of a long time! And also look at God’s reason for delay. It wasn’t about Abraham or his descendants – it was about the “iniquity of the Amorites” not being complete yet. In other words, God’s overall purpose was to delay judgment on the Amorites as long as possible. In the quote from 2 Peter above, Peter was likely referencing a passage in Ezekiel 18:23 that says, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” It is God’s desire to give every opportunity to humans to repent and turn back to Him.
And now that brings me to the story of Job. Job was likely a man who lived sometime around the time of the patriarch’s (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). He lived in a region thought to have been just south of the Dead Sea (in a land referred to as “Uz”).
Job was not a Jew (a descendent of Jacob/Israel) because he was contemporaneous with the patriarchs. However, Abraham and his kin were descendants of Shem, one of the three sons of Noah, and so were the peoples of Uz (Note the legend in the map above identifying the descendants of the sons of Noah – Ham, Shem, and Japheth).
Job was a God-fearing man whose story is largely about the contrast between the human perspective and God’s perspective. Job’s life turned upside down because of an unseen (to him) spiritual battle going on between Satan and God. To finish my exposition on Job, I’m going to re-use some of a blog post that I wrote in January, 2018 (you can read the entire previous blog if you wish). Job was lamenting the turn his life had taken and discussing/arguing about it with some friends of his. Here is my “summary” of the entire book:
- Job wishes he had never been born (Job 3)
- Eliphaz accuses him of hidden sin because, obviously, good people will prosper. (Job 4-5)
- Job says that he has every right to complain about God’s treatment of him (Job 6-7)
- Bildad tells Job he just needs to ‘fess up and repent (Job 8)
- Job admits that he needs a mediator to help him plead his case before God (Job 9-10)
- Zophar tells Job that he actually deserves worse than what he got (Job 11)
- Job acknowledges that his troubles couldn’t have happened without God’s permission, and yet he commits to maintaining his trust in God (Job 12-14)
- Eliphaz tells Job that he doesn’t truly understand God (Job 15)
- Job complains that his friends are lousy comforters and are no help (Job 16-17)
- Bildad affirms his belief that God would only allow evil to afflict bad men (Job 18)
- Job again affirms trust that God will ultimately provide redemption from his sins (Job 19)
- Zophar agrees with Bildad that only the truly wicked will suffer as much as Job has (Job 20)
- Job counters with the observation that plenty of wicked people prosper during their life on Earth (Job 21)
- Eliphaz jumps on the anti-Job bandwagon and accuses him of wickedness (Job 22)
- Job now complains about the apparent silence of God (Job 23-24)
- Bildad suggests to Job that God will never be pleased with any human (Job 25)
- Job finishes his speeches with a long soliloquy about God’s majesty and his determination to stand firm in his faith in God (Job 26-32)
- Elihu, who has apparently been eavesdropping on these conversations, now steps in and rebukes Job (for self-righteousness) and his friends (for their incomplete and inaccurate understanding of God’s character and majesty) (Job 33-37)
- God now challenges Job to recognize that God is God and Job is not and God has a much broader perspective on the workings of the universe that Job does. (Job 38-41)
- Job repents, intercedes for his friends as well, and God restores to him greater prosperity than he had before (Job 42)
Now, for this week’s study, the 3:16 passage from Job must be considered within the context of the entire book.
“Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light?” – Job 3:16
Job was feeling really down about his life at the moment and wanted his life to end. God had permitted Satan to take his adult children – all ten of them – plus his wealth and his health. At this point I conjecture that he was probably in his 30s, agewise. He was suffering physically and emotionally. But he was also having a case of tunnel-vision, which is very easy and natural to do in circumstances like this. He rightly stated in Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” But as the conversations of the book progress, Job quickly becomes quite self-focused and descends into despair.
As the conversations of the book develop, though, Job does make some very insightful observations which show the depth and breadth of his theological understanding and faith. Look at the following:
… how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times…. I become afraid of all my suffering, for I know you will not hold me innocent. I shall be condemned; why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me. For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. (Job 9:2-3, 28-33)
Job recognized that he was in the same boat as all of humanity (which I discussed in the first posts of this study regarding the human condition): He is a sinner unworthy of fellowship with a holy God and is in need of someone to stand before God to intercede for him. Notice that he identifies this needed “arbiter” as one who can “lay his hand on us both“, meaning someone who is equal with both God and man. The one and only person to fit that description is Jesus!
Job also observed,
Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him…. If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come. You would call, and I would answer you; you would long for the work of your hands. For then you would number my steps; you would not keep watch over my sin; my transgression would be sealed up in a bag, and you would cover over my iniquity. (Job 13:15-16, 14:14-17)
He recognized that it is in God’s heart to have fellowship with the humans that He created and desired to remove their sinfulness from them. This foreshadows that future 3:16 that “God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”
Finally, Job recognized that God’s desire is already in motion – the plan is already in place. He observed that
Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high. My friends scorn me; my eye pours out tears to God, that he would argue the case of a man with God, as a son of man does with his neighbor. For when a few years have come I shall go the way from which I shall not return. (Job 16:19-22)
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27)
Job’s heart “faints within” himself, not because of terror, but because he is anticipating the greatness of an eternity living in God’s presence. Similar to Paul’s statement that “… I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18)”, Job manages to step out of the midst of his troubles and keep his faith in God intact. Ultimately, he is rewarded with riches and children again and lives a long life before entering into eternity with His Creator.
Take courage from Job! You may not have all the answers you want right now, or understand why you’re going through things that you are, but don’t forget that you are loved by your Creator and He has a much larger view of your life than you do!
I’ll see you next week as we continue looking at how God’s plan unfolds in Exodus 3:16.