Week of Oct. 25

Our True Dark Sky Sanctuary

Read: Job 16; Acts 21-23

“Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
and he who testifies for me is on high.”
Job 16:19, ESV


Where do you turn when you are an emotional basket case, as we say? You flail about seeking any and everyone to put healing salve on your raw grief, but no one, not even God, appears to be able to comfort you. Job pours out his frustration over the unhelpful counsel and attitudes of his friends and the seemingly unmerciful actions of God. He is in physical and emotional pain, cannot figure out what God has done to him, and he is fed up with the “empty words” of his “comforters” (HCBC). Then, hope breaks through the clouds of doubt and despair! He knows where to turn, and we will learn from him today.

A Biblical Lens

Duane Garrett provides us with rich insight into this focal chapter when he brings the use of “chiasm,” the pattern of repeating ideas in inverted order, to our attention (HCBC). The careful pattern suggests that there is more at work here than Job’s venting on his friends. Furthermore, his insertion of hope- and trust-filled words in 16:19-21 invite us to consider a deeper theme that runs throughout this discourse. Are you with me? Good!

If we reach back to chapters 13 and 14 when Job spoke previously, we will surely see a continuation of the conversation. Job no doubt gives counselors some delight when he chastises his friends for their lack of originality in their counsel to him. Ordinary folks like us should practice great restraint when we are tempted to offer advice to our suffering friends and family members (16:2).

These companions had given him no useful advice; instead, they had only “aggravated” his condition. Job takes the word “miserable,” which Eliphaz had used when “comforting” his friend and applies it in return to express how terrible his advice was (cf. 15:35/16:2; “miserable” and “miserable comforters”; 15:2/16:3, “windy” and “windy words”). Hold onto this exchange and read on.

Job now turns his focus to God (16:6-14). We simply do not have enough space here to go into great detail, but we will want to notice that he does not actually ask God for an explanation of his suffering (NAC). Robert Alden term this paragraph as a “complaint section” (NAC). The suggestion is that God is unmerciful. He is caught in the vise of suffering because neither speaking nor remaining silent eases his pain (16:6). He states that God has “worn me out,” “shriveled me up,” “torn me,” “hated me,” and “gnashed his teeth at me,” which gives us a crystal-clear picture of his condition (16:7-9). He widens the scope by declaring that he, like Christ would be, was a righteous sufferer (16:10-14). All told, Job thinks that God has singled him out and pierced him through with arrows. Do you see it?

Job has absolutely nowhere to turn, or so it would seem. His friends are useless comforters, and God appears to be an adversary who stalks his innocent prey (16:15-17). Job has a point. He had committed no violence toward any other human life, nor has he offered an impure prayer to God (16:17). He was, as the first chapter stated, blameless. He is the quintessential innocent sufferer. Yet, dear friends, he suffered. And, inexplicably, we do as well.

You have been very patient with me, so here is my takeaway. “Even now,” Job says, “behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high” (16:19). When we are squeezed to the point of throwing in the towel and quitting because our friends are horrible helpers and God appears to be a merciless monarch, then we are to reach up in hope to the God of all goodness and comfort! Even in our despair, when we are living all across an emotional spectrum, we may praise God for being “witness,” “advocate,” “intercessor,” and “friend” (16:19-20).

A Moral Pathway

Massacre Rim sits six miles from the Oregon border in remote northwest Nevada. The location has been designated the 7th Dark Sky Sanctuary on the planet (there are altogether only 10 such places). The area is protected by the Bureau of Land Management in order to maintain its wilderness qualities. The land is so remote that it has “exceptional quality of starry nights.” The sanctuary is an immense 100,000-acre area of darkness. However, I found it intriguing to read that on moonless nights, the stars are so dense and bright that they cast a shadow on the ground. Hmm.

Let’s consider the moral “massacre rim” that was Job’s existence. His story provides an extended discussion of God’s character when viewed through the lens of unexplained suffering (cf. NAC). I find it powerfully significant that, even though passages on the grave outnumber those on hope by ten-to-one, a doctrine of resurrection may be found inside the book (NAC). Only a good God can provide light in such darkness!

God is our true dark sky sanctuary! We often do not invite the misery, nor are those around us any help to escape it; however, God plants a light into every heart which prompts us to hope in him. Into all of the teeming mass of humanity, ensconced in moral darkness, God sent a tiny light into the world (John 1:9, 12). Follow that light out of your dark, hopeless misery. It leads you to the loving Father (John 1:12, 3:16-17).

For Your Journaling

1. Read through Job 16 and find phrases that help to describe the pain and sorrow you feel today. Then, read again verse 20, “My eye pours out tears to God,” and pour out your sorrow to him (1 Peter 5:7).

2. Now, where have you been looking for hope? Paul writes in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” I find it assuring that Job modeled this very exhortation. He found hope in his suffering and we also may find the same through hope, patience, and prayer.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock