1 “Man who is born of a woman
is few of days and full of trouble.
2 He comes out like a flower and withers;
he flees like a shadow and continues not.
3 And do you open your eyes on such a one
and bring me into judgment with you?
4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
There is not one.
5 Since his days are determined,
and the number of his months is with you,
and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,
6 look away from him and leave him alone,
that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day.
7 “For there is hope for a tree,
if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
8 Though its root grow old in the earth,
and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put out branches like a young plant.
10 But a man dies and is laid low;
man breathes his last, and where is he?
11 As waters fail from a lake
and a river wastes away and dries up,
12 so a man lies down and rises not again;
till the heavens are no more he will not awake
or be roused out of his sleep.
13 Oh that you would hide me in Sheol,
that you would conceal me until your wrath be past,
that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
14 If a man dies, shall he live again?
All the days of my service I would wait,
till my renewal should come.
15 You would call, and I would answer you;
you would long for the work of your hands.
16 For then you would number my steps;
you would not keep watch over my sin;
17 my transgression would be sealed up in a bag,
and you would cover over my iniquity.
18 “But the mountain falls and crumbles away,
and the rock is removed from its place;
19 the waters wear away the stones;
the torrents wash away the soil of the earth;
so you destroy the hope of man.
20 You prevail forever against him, and he passes;
you change his countenance, and send him away.
21 His sons come to honor, and he does not know it;
they are brought low, and he perceives it not.
22 He feels only the pain of his own body,
and he mourns only for himself.” – Job 14:1-22 ESV
Job has reached the far-from-optimistic conclusion that life is short and then you die. Through the pain-clouded lens of his own life, he has determined that the time span from birth to death is a relatively short one and the period in between is filled with troubles of all kinds. But his dour assessment does not provide an accurate reflection of his own life. Up until recently, he had enjoyed a trouble-free existence, complete with wealth, good health, and a vibrant family life. He had been a respected member of the community and was considered “the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3 ESV). But then tragedy struck. In a series of bizarre disasters, Job endured the loss of his fortune, the deaths of his ten children, and the failure of his health. And the sheer emotional weight of these unexpected and unexplained losses led Job to reach his inaccurate but very heartfelt conclusion.
Because of all that had happened in his life, Job was having a difficult time remembering the “good old days.” His memory was clouded by his pain. His ability to recall the many years of blessing had been greatly diminished by the severity of his most recent losses. He was living in the moment and evaluating the success of his entire life through tear-stained eyes and a broken heart. We may judge his view as myopic and self-centered but his words were coming from a place of pain. That is what led him to be so brutally blunt with God.
“You have decided the length of our lives.
You know how many months we will live,
and we are not given a minute longer.
So leave us alone and let us rest!
We are like hired hands, so let us finish our work in peace.” – Job 14:5-6 NLT
His unabashed honesty with God makes us uncomfortable. We can’t imagine getting away with that kind of in-your-face approach to God. Yet, there have probably been times when we have thought what Job dared to say. On those occasions, we felt the desire to shake our fists in the face of God and declare our dissatisfaction with His handling of our lives. But lacking the boldness of Job, we just kept our thoughts to ourselves and weathered the storm.
But Job wasn’t willing to back down or shut up. He felt like he had been backed into a corner and was being falsely attacked by his friends. His integrity was under assault. Not only had he lost everything near and dear to him, but he was being systematically robbed of his reputation. Still reeling from his most recent losses, Job was having to sit back and listen as his name was dragged through the mud by his supposed friends. And it was all too much for him to bear. That’s what drove him to take his case to God. That’s what emboldened him to say things that make us gasp in shock.
“I wish you would hide me in the grave
and forget me there until your anger has passed.
But mark your calendar to think of me again!” – Job 14:13 NLT
Job was asking God to kill him. He would rather die than continue to endure the sorrow and suffering that marked his earthly existence. He saw no light at the end of the tunnel. There was no silver lining to the dark cloud that had settled over his life. He had lost all hope and was desperately pleading with God to intervene; to do something, anything to relieve his pain. Even death would be preferable to more despair.
In his monologue, Job reveals a rather embryonic and as-yet-incomplete understanding of the afterlife. He seems to believe in a life after death but is not quite sure what it entails. His mention of Sheol is a reference to the grave. He knows his life will end in death but is not certain of what will happen next. He hints at a belief in some kind of resurrection or release from Sheol or the grave.
“Can the dead live again?
If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle,
and I would eagerly await the release of death.” – Job 14:14 NLT
If he could be certain of life after death, he would have reason to hope. But for Job, death was like a door that opened into an unknown realm. He didn’t know what was beyond the threshold of death, so all he could do was focus his attention on this life. And from his vantage point, the future was far from bright.
Job wanted to believe in a resurrection from the dead. The concept was comforting and encouraging.
“You would call and I would answer,
and you would yearn for me, your handiwork.
For then you would guard my steps,
instead of watching for my sins.
My sins would be sealed in a pouch,
and you would cover my guilt.” – Job 14:15-17 NLT
He envisioned God calling him from the grave and restoring him to life. He imagined his past sins being forgiven and forgotten by God as he began his new resurrected life in the presence of God. But then his pessimism kicks back in and he reverts to his old tried-and-true, dark-and-gloomy view of life.
“But instead, as mountains fall and crumble
and as rocks fall from a cliff,
as water wears away the stones
and floods wash away the soil,
so you destroy people’s hope.” – Job 14:18-19 NLT
Job couldn’t bring himself to see past the present. His world was relegated to the here and now, which kept him from believing in any kind of hereafter. With his myopic outlook on life, he couldn’t imagine a better tomorrow or the possibility of a blessed eternal state.
This poor man had reached rock bottom. He was depressed, distressed, disappointed, and totally devoid of all hope. His final statement in this morbid monologue reflects the depth of his despair.
“You always overpower them, and they pass from the scene.
You disfigure them in death and send them away.
They never know if their children grow up in honor
or sink to insignificance.
They suffer painfully;
their life is full of trouble.” – Job 14:20-22 NLT
As far as Job could tell, death was a dead end. He had no assurance of a future resurrection, so he assumed the worst. For Job, death was a black hole from which he would lose all touch with this world. From his gloomy perspective, Job assumes that the dead can’t look back and see what happens to their loved ones. From their vantage point in Sheol, the dead don’t have access to this world. They can’t watch their grandchildren grow up. They don’t have the hope of looking back and seeing their loved ones carry on after their deaths. This sullen outlook about the future led Job to view his current circumstances with even greater despair.
Job saw the grave as his only escape from the pain of this life but, at the same time, it filled him with fear because he didn’t know what lay beyond death’s door. Job didn’t know what the apostle Paul knew. He wasn’t privy to the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ. He was living on the other side of the cross. But as New Testament believers, we can find hope, assurance, and peace in the words that Paul penned.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 NLT
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.