At the end of The Never Ending Story the Empress tells Atreyu that Bastien (the kid reading the book) has already chosen her name. He just has to say it. The Nothing, begins tearing down the ivory tower that she lives in and she pleads with Bastien to say the name he has chosen. Bastien puts down the book, runs to a window, opens it and shouts something unintelligible that turns out to be the name “Moonchild.” Remember all that?
The reason I remind you of something you might have rather forgotten about is that sometimes when I am reading the Bible I just want to shout things at the people I am reading about. The reader has many advantages over the people in the story. When men and women in the Bible were in the middle of the story, they didn’t have the advantage of seeing the big picture, knowing how it was all going to end, or getting let in on some significant pieces of information that the reader is often let in on. In the book of Job the reader is let in on the fact that God is the one who pointed out Job and that the reality of it all is that even though Job doesn’t understand it, God is still faithful to Job through it all. God is the one pushing forward the events of the story. God is the one who is still present, still faithful, and who knows how it will all turn out.
Having said all of that, I find Job 29-30 a very helpful read in gaining godly perspective. I say that because Job doesn’t know what is going on. He doesn’t know where God is. He didn’t hear the conversation between Satan and God. To be fair, if Job had heard that conversation it would have made Job as a test case pointless because he would have been tainted with knowing the very reason he was being put through the trials and come out on the other side not having his faith really tested because it wouldn’t have been faith. Anyway, he doesn’t know how the story ends or what blessings are in store. All he knows is that he has lost it all and has no idea if any of it will ever be restored or, more importantly, if he will ever be connected with God as he was in the past. The reality of it all is that Job has no idea that he is actually more connected with God, in God’s silence toward Job, than he had ever been in his life.
Let’s listen in,
1Job continued his discourse:
2 “How I long for the months gone by,
for the days when God watched over me,
3 when his lamp shone upon my head
and by his light I walked through darkness!
4 Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house,
5 when the Almighty was still with me
and my children were around me,
6 when my path was drenched with cream
and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.
7 “When I went to the gate of the city
and took my seat in the public square,
8 the young men saw me and stepped aside
and the old men rose to their feet;
9 the chief men refrained from speaking
and covered their mouths with their hands;
10 the voices of the nobles were hushed,
and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.
11 Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
and those who saw me commended me,
12 because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to assist him.
13 The man who was dying blessed me;
I made the widow’s heart sing.
14 I put on righteousness as my clothing;
justice was my robe and my turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy;
I took up the case of the stranger.
17 I broke the fangs of the wicked
and snatched the victims from their teeth.
18 “I thought, ‘I will die in my own house,
my days as numerous as the grains of sand.
19 My roots will reach to the water,
and the dew will lie all night on my branches.
20 My glory will remain fresh in me,
the bow ever new in my hand.’
21 “Men listened to me expectantly,
waiting in silence for my counsel.
22 After I had spoken, they spoke no more;
my words fell gently on their ears.
23 They waited for me as for showers
and drank in my words as the spring rain.
24 When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it;
the light of my face was precious to them.[a]
25 I chose the way for them and sat as their chief;
I dwelt as a king among his troops;
I was like one who comforts mourners.
1 “But now they mock me,
men younger than I,
whose fathers I would have disdained
to put with my sheep dogs.
2 Of what use was the strength of their hands to me,
since their vigor had gone from them?
3 Haggard from want and hunger,
they roamed[a] the parched land
in desolate wastelands at night.
4 In the brush they gathered salt herbs,
and their food[b] was the root of the broom tree.
5 They were banished from their fellow men,
shouted at as if they were thieves.
6 They were forced to live in the dry stream beds,
among the rocks and in holes in the ground.
7 They brayed among the bushes
and huddled in the undergrowth.
8 A base and nameless brood,
they were driven out of the land.
9 “And now their sons mock me in song;
I have become a byword among them.
10 They detest me and keep their distance;
they do not hesitate to spit in my face.
11 Now that God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me,
they throw off restraint in my presence.
12 On my right the tribe[c] attacks;
they lay snares for my feet,
they build their siege ramps against me.
13 They break up my road;
they succeed in destroying me—
without anyone’s helping them.[d]
14 They advance as through a gaping breach;
amid the ruins they come rolling in.
15 Terrors overwhelm me;
my dignity is driven away as by the wind,
my safety vanishes like a cloud.
16 “And now my life ebbs away;
days of suffering grip me.
17 Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
18 In his great power God becomes like clothing to me[e];
he binds me like the neck of my garment.
19 He throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.
20 “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22 You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23 I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.
24 “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31 My harp is tuned to mourning,
and my flute to the sound of wailing.”
This is so helpful to my faith because there are times I don’t know how things are going to turn out and times when things seem very hopeless. In times like those it is easy to sound like Job in these verses. However, the same God watches over us in present silence who watched over Job. He is just as involved, just as faithful, just as powerful, and will provide everything we need for life and godliness. It is easier to see it in someone else’s story than it is in our own. So, while it may feel God is far off or that God is no longer watching over us, he still is. We, like Job, are not let in on the rest of the story but walk through the story by faith, knowing that God is present and powerful even while silent. Faith is not always easy but it is verses like this that help me understand the big picture. Maybe when we find ourselves in the Job 29-30 moments there is a great cloud of witnesses watching us run this race shouting things at us like, “Don’t give up…this is all going work out for the good!” or “Don’t lose heart…God is fighting for you!”