Job 10-13: Respectful Screaming: How a Suffering Servant should Pray to the God of Woe
by Joseph Franks
When one reads the first chapters of Job, one sees that God is ultimately responsible for the woes of Job. He watches the harm caused by storms, sinners and Satan, and chooses not to bear his mighty arm. While God is not the author of sin, he is the one who plans and providentially guides all that buffets his friend. Job is under duress, and it is God’s will that Job horribly suffers.
Job’s friends seem to understand this reality. In their counsel, they are correct regarding the source of Job’s problems. However, they are incorrect regarding the reason for Job’s woes. They have reached the conclusion that Job is being judged for some particular sin, and they are convinced that God will relent when Job repents. However, despite their good intentions, they are wrong. They are giving good counsel to the wrong man, for Job is not being judged due to his iniquitous lifestyle. Job is being harmed because he is righteous and blameless. Job is God’s servant who is being used to humiliate Satan.
In chapter 12, Job presents his theology of suffering to his friends. He is sure that he is not a rebel walking in open defiance. He is also sure that God is the source of his woes:
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food? Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days. “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open. If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land. With him are strength and sound wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his. He leads counselors away stripped, and judges he makes fools. He looses the bonds of kings and binds a waistcloth on their hips. He leads priests away stripped and overthrows the mighty. He deprives of speech those who are trusted and takes away the discernment of the elders. He pours contempt on princes and loosens the belt of the strong. He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light. He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away. He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a trackless waste. They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man. (Job 12:9-25)
In chapter 12, Job tells his counselors that God is responsible. In chapter 13, Job tells God that God is responsible. He knows that God is the source of his woes, and he longs to have a personal conversation with his Friend who harms him so:
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. Keep listening to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears. Behold, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be in the right. Who is there who will contend with me? For then I would be silent and die. Only grant me two things, then I will not hide myself from your face: withdraw your hand far from me, and let not dread of you terrify me. Then call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and you reply to me. How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? Will you frighten a driven leaf and pursue dry chaff? For you write bitter things against me and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth. You put my feet in the stocks and watch all my paths; you set a limit for the soles of my feet. Man wastes away like a rotten thing, like a garment that is moth-eaten. (Job 13:14-28)
Job understands that it is God who slays him. Job senses it is God who is hiding his face and counting him as an enemy. Job presents God as the one who has imprisoned him in the stocks. And Job longs to have renewed communion with the one who troubles him so. Job wants to argue with him face to face. Job desires not to be terrified in his presence. Job is ready to answer God’s call, or he wishes for God to respond to his. If Job has offended God, he is ready to quickly take care of this matter. The suffering is bad, but the silence is unbearable. Job knows the “what” and the “who”, but he does not know the “why.” However, until the “what” is resolved and the “why” is answered, Job will not forsake the “who.” He will accuse. He will blame. He will cry. He will beg for help. He will request information, but “though God slay him”, Job will never cease trusting him.
Friends, in these chapters of Job, I believe we see a suffering man respectfully screaming. He is desperate for relief from the “what.” He is longing to understand the “why.” He needs communion with the “who” and he is like Jacob who has the audacity to wrestle with God. Job also reminds us of David who respectfully screamed for God in the cave. He rashly hurled accusations at God in an attempt to hear God’s voice. Finally, Job’s respectful screaming is also seen in Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. Jesus cried and bled while praying, “Take this cup from me.” With a blood-curling cry he yelled from the cross, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Gut-wrenching prayer or respectful screaming is a trait of the Suffering Servant. God encourages us to talk to him while he allows harm to come our way. Just be careful to keep the humility and the respect in your scream. There might be a time when he forces you to put your hand over your mouth and repent of your arrogance as he is revealing himself to you.