google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Job - Why God? - Part 7
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Study 7 : Job 29-31

Job’s self-assessment.

 

 

We now come to two long speeches: the first by Job, summarizing his thinking, is 3 chapters long; the second by a new guy, Elihu, is 5 chapters long.

Job cannot have been an old man when the disasters struck him. However long he lived (another 140 years according to the last chapter) he was only middle-aged for he had time to have another complete farming career and a considerable family. But much of what he describes in these chapters is remarkably similar to the common experience of an old person in western culture. Up to about 100 years ago most people in the world only lived in one or two or three places their whole lives long, often one as they grew up and just another subsequent to marriage. Consequently as they grew old they would be surrounded by people they had known for a very long time: family, friends and acquaintances. For many today things are very different. Education and job opportunities take us to live in many different places. Sometimes parents demand a weekly visit but that tends to be a disaster, as it leaves one not really belonging in either the place of residence or the parent’s home area. As a result of this mobility we will often enter old age and retirement surrounded mainly by strangers. The situation Job describes in a totally different culture and for very specific reasons is extraordinarily like that which may be your experience, as in part it is mine, or as it may be yours at some future date.

JOB 29: 1 – 6.

Assuming you are or have been married and had a family you will remember that it was great fun when you were in your prime and they were growing up. We then did all sorts of things: building sand castles, playing with toy trains etc. that we now have no excuse to do!

JOB 29: 7 – 25.

Our experience would have been, in detail, very different from Job’s yet it probably had much the same effect. We probably had a job, which gave us status. We mattered. We were somebody. Even if we had no very exalted role, not in charge of anybody else, we still had a position in some firm or organisation or in the family. We may not have realised it at the time but we drew strength from that sense of significance. But, if like me you are old, you will find it easy to relate to what Job says next.

JOB 30: 1 – 15.

What a magnificent phrase that is: “God has unstrung my bow”. Job no longer has the strength, or the will, to pull the bowstring back far enough to send an arrow far enough to matter. I used to pride myself on my ability to run upstairs two, or even three, steps at a time. No longer. Now an old man I go up sedately one step at a time. That is my equivalent to having my bow unstrung.

Question: if you are getting older – what is your equivalent to the unstrung bow: loss of strength or beauty or what?

More significantly, with retirement often comes a great loss of status. (More in Western societies than in those of the Third world where there is usually some role even the aged are expected to fulfil). No one now looks for your advice; no one looks up to you as someone that matters.

Question: that is not true in all societies. How good is the one in which you live at using the advice and gifts of old folk?

If circumstances mean that you, an older person, no longer live where you spent most of your working life then it may well feel as though you are being mocked by younger people as Job was, even when they are being polite to you.

JOB 30: 16 – 41.

Old age commonly brings aches and pains in joints and muscles! Job thinks of these as the work of God “tossing me about in the storm”. We think about such things in a very different way but the experience is just as real; my right ankle, left knee and left shoulder all ache! It is indeed like being tossed about in a storm.

Unfortunately Job’s final chapter is a bad note to end on, here it is: JOB 31: 1 – 40.

Each of us will have a different life story to tell. As we get older we tend to reminisce more and more, telling the old stories of what has happened to us and what we have done. Family and friends may get fed up with stories of the “good old days” if we tell them too often, and they may not have been all that good. It is easy to fail to realise how much the world, and probably our society has advanced during our lifetime.

In our society, and many others, loneliness coming from the mobility of our lives or the smallness of our family can be the curse of old age for many. It probably was not Job’s problem although the depth of his grief will have tended to isolate him from other people.

The element in the equation that is not considered in the book of Job is the role that the company of the Lord’s people should play in the life of those in distress or in old age. In Job’s day they were the people of Israel – but Job was probably not an Israelite – and in our day it is the local church. Sadly, because of the extreme individualism in modern Western society, it may not be very good at supporting the struggling. Even when it tries it is usually a case of one individual helping another rather than any sense of a corporate action supporting an individual. Other cultures in other societies often do these things much better.

Job has succeeded in summarizing very accurately most of the problems of old age. I, for one, can relate to his mutterings very easily (I am now 80 years old). The trouble is that in all these 3 chapters there is very little positive at all. We have to wait until Elihu has had his say and the Lord speaks out of the storm clouds before we get any positive encouragement. Every good doctor makes a careful diagnosis of what is wrong with a patient before he prescribes a treatment or picks up his scalpel. This is the diagnosis – particularly if you are in your later years.

This has been a strange study to write. There is very little that is positive here. But it is important to think about the situation we, or other people, are in. that is diagnosis.

Question: can you think out what might be the cure for you? For others?

 

 

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