Job begins his “woe is me” discourse by pointing to how things used to be for him. God used to be with him and watch over him (29:2-5a), his children were with him (v. 5b), and he had an abundance of “good” things (v. 6). He had rank among the people (v. 7), was revered by young and old alike (v. 8), and even royalty respected him (vv. 9-10). He was renowned among the people as blessed (v. 11) and as a righteous man who gave of himself (vv. 12-17). Job thought those days would never end (vv. 18-20). In verses 21-25, Job then points out that his wisdom was well-known by all – indeed, all desired to hear his wisdom and they would not disagree with him. This is a rebuke of his friends who have attacked his righteousness and his wisdom.
Then, Job turns from then to now. Instead of men hearing his wisdom, the unwise mock him (30:1). These are those who have no standing in the world, no reputation among men, no blessings in this world, no riches to speak of – these are worthless men (vv. 2-8)! And yet, Job is now more worthless (vv. 9-10). Because of what God has done to him, men no longer respect him, and even enjoy his hardship (vv. 11-13). This is again directed towards his friends.
And he continues: no one respects him anymore (v. 14). He has lost all honor and all his worldly “goods” (v. 15). His soul is downcast, his body is broken (vv. 16-18), and it is God’s doing (v.19) – God Who is ignoring Job’s pleas for mercy (v. 20), Who is instead cruel and uses His great power against Job (vv. 21-22), and Who will ultimately send Job to death (v. 23). Job then talks about how unfair it all is. He was a help to those hurting and in need (vv. 24-25), and yet, help is withheld from him though he asks for it (vv. 26-30). He has lost everything “good” (v. 31).
Job ends with a final claim to righteousness. He is not lustful (31:1) because he fears God (v. 2). Yet, God seems to have not noticed (vv. 3.4)! Job states that he would accept such punishment if it were just, but accuses God again of injustice (vv. 5-8). If he has sinned, he would deserve this calamity and God would be just (vv. 9-15). But he, Job, is righteousness (and by implication, God is not). He has helped the poor, the widow, and the orphan (vv. 16-18 – see Jas 1:27). If this were not true, he would accept his condition (vv. 19-22).
But Job has done right, because he fears God (v. 23) and has not put his trust in worldly riches (vv. 24-25). Neither has he worshipped false gods (vv. 26-27). If he had, his punishment would be just (v. 28). He has not rejoiced at the “evil” that has befallen even his enemies (vv. 29-30), but is well known to help those in need (vv. 31-32). Job has not hidden any sin from others, even in his heart (vv. 33-34).
Job’s final words are a challenge to God. He wants God to explain Himself (v. 35)! If Job has done wrong, he will own up to it (vv. 36-37). And if he is guilty of sin, then he will accept what God gives him (vv. 38-40).
Job has wholly crossed over to the other side. Though he still rebukes his friends for their faulty thinking that confuses worldly comfort with a reward from God and worldly calamity with punishment from God – he tells God Himself that he doesn’t deserve this because he is righteous! How differently we apply what we “believe” in theory, to ourselves practically!!
What’s more, Job looks back on the “old days” fondly because of what he used to have, and says that is proof that God was with him. Then, he laments “these days” because of all he doesn’t have, and says it is proof that God has left him. In his suffering, he has completely lost sight of what he claims to believe about God!
This is the plight of fallen man. But don’t judge Job – or anyone whose faith falters in the face of suffering. Rather, point them to Christ. And when you suffer, look to Christ.
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. – 1 Peter 2:19–24 (ESV)