The Brevity of Life
1 “Does not humanity have hard service on earth?
Are not their days also
like the days of a hired man?
2 Like a servant longing for the evening shadow,
and like a hired man looking for his wages,
3 thus I have been made to inherit
months of futility,
and nights of sorrow
have been appointed to me.
4 If I lie down, I say, ‘When will I arise?’,
and the night stretches on
and I toss and turn restlessly
until the day dawns.
5 My body is clothed with worms and dirty scabs;
my skin is broken and festering.
6 My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle
and they come to an end without hope.
7 Remember that my life is but a breath,
that my eyes will never again see happiness.
8 The eye of him who sees me now will see me no more;
your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone.
9 As a cloud is dispersed and then disappears,
so the one who goes down to the grave
does not come up again.
10 He returns no more to his house,
nor does his place of residence know him any more.
Job Remonstrates with God
11 “Therefore, I will not refrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
12 Am I the sea, or the creature of the deep,
that you must put me under guard?
13 If I say, “My bed will comfort me,
my couch will ease my complaint,”
14 then you scare me with dreams
and terrify me with visions,
15 so that I would prefer strangling,
and death more than life.
16 I loathe it; I do not want to live forever;
leave me alone, for my days are a vapour!
Insignificance of Humans
17 “What is mankind that you make so much of them,
and that you pay attention to them?
18 And that you visit them every morning,
and try them every moment?
19 Will you never look away from me,
will you not let me alone
long enough to swallow my spittle?
20 If I have sinned – what have I done to you,
O watcher of men?
Why have you set me as your target?
Have I become a burden to you?
21 And why do you not pardon my transgression,
and take away my iniquity?
For now I will lie down in the dust,
and you will seek me diligently,
but I will be gone.”
C H Spurgeon
Job was sorely troubled by the cruel speeches of his friends, and he answered them out of the bitterness of his soul. What we are first about to read is a part of his language under those circumstances.
Job 7:1. Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?
Is there not a certain time for each one of us to live? Is there not an end to all the trouble and sorrow of this mortal state? “Woe is me,” says Job, ”will this sad condition of things never come to a close? Must it always be thus with me?”
Job 7:2. As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, —
When the day shall close, and he can go to his home, —
Job 7:2-3. And as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work: So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.
If that is the case with any of you, dear friends, you ought to be comforted by the thought that a better man than you are underwent just what you are enduring, and underwent it so as to glorify God by it. Remember what the apostle James wrote, “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” But if our case is not so bad as Job’s was, if we are in good health, and surrounded by God’s mercy, let us be very grateful. Every morning that you wake after a refreshing night’s rest, praise God for it, for it might have been far otherwise, for you might have had wearisome nights through pain and suffering,
Job 7:4-5. When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day. My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome.
Such was the dreadful disease under which this man of God laboured, for the worst of pain may happen to the best of men. Sometimes, God ploughs his best fields most; and why should he not do so? Do not men try to do most with that which will yield most? And so God may most chasten those who will best repay the strokes of his hand. It is no token of displeasure when God smites us with disease; it may be an evidence that we are branches of the vine that bring forth fruit, or else he would not have taken the trouble to prune us.
Job 7:6. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope.
His spirits are sunk so low that he had not any hope at all left; — at least, there was none apparent just then. O you poor tried children of God, I beseech you once again to see that you are only walking where others have gone before you! Mark their footprints, and take heart again.
Job 7:7-8. O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good. The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more: thine eyes are upon me, and I am not.
As if God only looked at him, and the very look withered him; or as if there was only time for God just to look at him, and then he disappeared as though, he had been but a dream, an unsubstantial thing. It is good, my brethren, sometimes to know what vanities we are; and if we complain that things around us are vanity, what are we ourselves but the shadows of a shade?
Job 7:9-12. As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more. He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more. Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?
Am I such a big thing, such a dangerous thing, that I ought to be watched like this, and perpetually hampered, and tethered, and kept within bounds? Ah, no! Job, you are neither a sea nor a whale, but something worse than either of them. So are we all, — more false than the treacherous sea, harder to be tamed than the wildest of God’s creatures. God does set a watch over us, and well he may. But hear Job’s complaint: —
Job 7:13-15. When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint; Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions: So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.
Were you ever in this terrible place, dear friend? Some of us have been there, and we have used the very language of Job; and yet, for all that, we have been brought up again out of the utmost depths of despondency into the topmost heights of joy. Therefore, be comforted, ye poor prisoners. Through the bars and grating of your soul-dungeon, we would sing unto you this song, — the Lord, that has brought us forth, can bring you forth also, for “the Lord looseth the prisoners.” The God of Job is yet alive, strong as ever for the deliverance of such as put their trust in him.
Job 7:16-17. I loathe it; I would not live alway: let me alone; for my days are vanity. What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?
Job seems to say, “I am too little for God to notice me; why does he make so much of me as to chasten me so sorely?”
Job 7:18-19. And their thou shouldest visit him every,morning, and try him every moment? How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
Blow followed blow in quick succession. Pain came fast upon the heels of pain till Job seems to have had no rest from his anguish. This is the mournful moaning of a man on a sick-bed, worn out with long-continued grief. Do not judge it harshly. You may have to use such words yourself, one day; and if you ever do, then judge not yourself hardly, but say, “I am only now where that eminent servant of God, the patriarch Job, once was, and the Lord who delivered him will also deliver me.”
Job 7:20. I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men?
We did not expect him to call God by that name; yet sorrow hath a quick memory to recall anything by which it may be cheered. “Thou Preserver of men,” says Job, “I have sinned: what shall I do?”
Job 7:20. Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee,
“Drawing thy bow, and directing all thine arrows against my poor heart. Hast thou no butts that thou must needs make me thy target, and test thy holy archery upon me?”
Job 7:20. So that I am a burden to myself?
Oh, what heavy words, “a burden to myself!”
Job 7:21. And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust;and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.
Speaking after the manner of man, he seems to think that, if God does not pardon him soon, the pardon will come too late; for if God comes in mercy by-and-by, he will be dead and gone, and God may seek him, but he shall not be found. This is how men talk when they get a little off their head through the very extremity of grief. We, too, may perhaps talk in the same fashion, one day, so let us not condemn poor Job. Now let us read a few Verses in the 3rd chapter of the Gospel according to John, that we may be comforted. If any of you are labouring under a sense of sin, I would take you straight away to sin’s only cure.