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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Wishing you'd never been born is never justified
Text:Job 3:11-12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Desolation/Despair
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-07-14
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 84:1,2

Psalm 102:1-3 (after the law)

Psalm 88:1,2

Hymn 65

Psalm 84:5,6

Scripture readings:  Matthew 27:45-56, Job 3

Text: Job 3:11-12

 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

It can be heart-breaking watching someone slowly die from a terminal illness.  It can be really tough to see a loved one suffering so terribly.  And to be the one on that hospital bed, I can’t even imagine how hard that must be.  We don’t like suffering.  We don’t like watching others suffer and normally we don’t like suffering for ourselves.  Whether we’re watching or we’re the one suffering, it’s understandable to wish for a quick and easy death.  That’s partly behind our society’s acceptance of physician-assisted suicide.  You don’t want to suffer, so you choose an easy death, ask someone to help you end it.  It sounds reasonable.  But it doesn’t reckon with the fact that our lives don’t belong to us.  It’s not “my life, my choice.”  That’s a lie.  My life belongs to God, the giver of life.  If you’re a Christian, you belong with body and soul to your faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.  Your life is in his hands.  He’s the Lord of your life, not you.

Christians can lose sight of that.  Under pressure, dealing with pain, even believers can forget that God is our Creator and therefore our lives belong to him.  In moments of weakness, we can fail to acknowledge God, fail to reckon with him.  Fail to honour him. 

If any believer was in a moment of weakness, it was Job.  His afflictions are well-known, as well as his great losses.  In chapter 2, you read about this horrible disease attacking his body, leaving him with these sores that were excruciatingly painful.  And it’s been going on for months.  How much more can a man take?  It’s in this context that Job expresses his death wish.  He’s not going to take his own life, but he does long for death.  How he wants to die!  But he goes beyond that.  At the beginning of chapter 3, the Holy Spirit tells us Job “cursed the day of his birth.”  And then we hear how he did exactly that in verses 2-10.  And then in our text for this morning, he asks three “why” questions.  But these questions are not really looking for an explanation.  Instead, they’re expressing a wish.  Job wishes he’d never survived birth, or didn’t survive long after birth.  And that’s a wish that just can’t be justified.  And so that’s the theme for this sermon:

Wishing you’d never been born is never justified

We’ll consider Job’s:

  1. Short-sightedness
  2. Sinfulness
  3. Saviour

The words of verses 11 and 12 aren’t complicated.  In verse 11, Job asks why he didn’t die as a little baby straight from his mother’s womb.  As I just mentioned, this is actually a wish that that would have happened to him.  In verse 12, Job develops the same thought a little bit further.  He speaks of the knees that received him and the breasts that nursed him.  The knees that received him speaks of how his mother would’ve had him on her knees, on her lap, in preparation for nursing him.  Of course, being nursed by your mother was essential for a newborn baby in those days.  If you weren’t nursed, you’d soon die.  So, what Job is saying is, “Why didn’t my mother just let me die back then?  It would’ve been so much better for me.  I wouldn’t be going through this horrible suffering if my mother hadn’t loved me and fed me.” 

So, in verse 11, he wishes he hadn’t survived the birthing process.  In verse 12, he wishes that if that hadn’t happened, at least he could have died from starvation soon after being born.  At any rate, he’s looking at his birth as something terrible – it set into motion a whole chain of events leading up to his present suffering.

When people suffer horribly, they can develop what we call tunnel-vision.  They become short-sighted.  They can only see one set of facts, one bundle of experiences.  Everything else which might provide a better understanding is just ignored.  There’s a really good example of that in Psalm 73.  Asaph was the writer of that psalm.  He saw how the wicked prospered while believers like him suffered.  He could only see those facts.  He was short-sighted, he had tunnel-vision.  But God expanded his vision so he could see the vital context he needed to make sense of what he was seeing and experiencing.  In Psalm 73, God taught Asaph that there’s ultimate judgment for wickedness.  In this life, believers may suffer, but because they have God as their greatest satisfaction, they can endure it.  And yet this short-sightedness is still not an uncommon thing. 

We see that happening with Job here in chapter 3.  He’s lost sight of the big picture.  He’s got tunnel-vision.  What are some of the key facts outside of Job’s range of view?  What has he lost sight of?  Well, there are three things we can note. 

Let’s start with the most important thing.  When Job was formed in his mother’s womb, who was behind that?  What David said in Psalm 139 applies to every human being.  In Psalm 139, David is speaking to God and he says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  That applies to every human being ever conceived – including Job.  God formed Job’s inward parts.  God knitted him together in his mother’s womb.  Job was fearfully and wonderfully made, just like you and me.  And David goes on in Psalm 139.  He says in verse 16, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.”  All of our days have been written by God.  It’s like our life is the script of a drama.  God is the author who wrote the script beforehand.  God wrote Job’s script, including the day of his birth.  The wise and good God ordained it all.  Job’s tunnel-vision keeps this outside his range of view. 

Another thing outside of Job’s range of view is the joy he would have brought to his parents at his birth.  In his suffering, he can’t think of how others would have rejoiced in God’s goodness at the birth of a healthy baby son.  When each of our children were born, my wife and I rejoiced at God’s blessing.  We praised his name for this new life come into the world.  God had his name lifted up by us.  We recognized what Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD.”  Our kids come from God, and so believing parents praise God when they receive this gift.  If Job’s parents were believers (which seems likely), the same would’ve happened with Job.  And in the years following, there would’ve been more praising of God’s name because of Job.  As a godly man, he was a blessing to other people. He would’ve been a blessing to his wife and children.  But right now, Job can’t see that.  His tunnel-vision blocks all this out.  He can only see his suffering and so the day of his birth is an abomination to him.  It’s a day to be cursed. 

Job is also short-sighted when it comes to the whole span of his life.  It’s true that he’s been suffering for several months.  But think about how old Job must be at this point in his life.  He had ten children.  If he and his wife had been married when he was 20, and if they’d all those children in rapid succession, those ten children would have been all on the scene by the time he was 30.  However, in chapter 1, all ten children were at a party at the oldest brother’s home.  The oldest brother is evidently an adult living on his own, so let’s say the son is at least 20.  So conservatively, Job would be at least 40.  But more likely he would be in his 50s or 60s.  Let’s just go with a middle-range figure of about 50.  For 50 years after his birth, Job has lived and experienced God’s goodness and blessings to him.  But that’s all out of sight.  Now all he can focus on is his present, his present suffering.  The previous 50 years may as well not have existed.  Every good gift previously received is out of his range of sight.  Every blessing bestowed can’t be seen.  Every moment of rejoicing is obscured.  In his weakness, all Job sees is his present misery and the only moment in his past he can think about is his birth.  And he considers that to be a wretched and accursed day.  He wishes it never happened.  But then, probably without realizing it, he’s wishing that all those 50 years of prosperity and praising God also never happened.

So in his suffering Job has lost the plot.  He doesn’t see the big picture anymore.  Job just doesn’t seem capable of putting his suffering in context.

We need to see this first of all in terms of human weakness and frailty.  Job was in a horrible place.  His deep suffering has become legendary. When that kind of deep suffering happens, weak human beings don’t always have the mental capacity to keep everything in mind.  Our brains don’t always have the power to recall the things which give us the context to understand what we’re dealing with.  We’re weak creatures with bodies affected by the fall into sin.  We get traumatized by horrible stuff we go through. 

This is where we need to remember how our God is compassionate and merciful.  As Psalm 103 says, our compassionate God “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”  God is long-suffering with our short-sightedness when we suffer, patient with our tunnel-vision when we’re hurting.  The fact that this is in Scripture tells us God is aware of our weaknesses – he put it in his Word.  And the Bible also teaches us how God interacts with us in a way that’s sensitive to our weaknesses. 

Let’s think about the Lord’s Supper for a moment.  One important reason why God gave us the Lord’s Supper is because he knows we’re weak.  We’re prone to short-sightedness.  Especially when we’re suffering we can lose the plot.  But every time we have the Lord’s Supper, we’re turned again to Christ.  Every time we have the Lord’s Supper, God points us to the body and blood of Christ that was offered on the cross to bring us peace with him.  Every time we have the Lord’s Supper, God proclaims to us that he is compassionate, merciful, and patient with our weaknesses.  He gives us bread and wine, things we can touch, see, and taste, to reinforce what we hear from his Word.  With the bread and wine, which are real, he reminds us that what Christ did for us is just as real.   Through the bread and wine, he’s helping us so we can always see the big picture of his love for us and his presence in our lives.  Think of it like this:  the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper are like God’s prescription lenses to help cure our short-sightedness. 

When we’re short-sighted, have tunnel-vision, that doesn’t absolve us of our moral responsibility for things we might say.  Perhaps it mitigates our responsibility somewhat, but we’re always responsible for what we say and do, even at our lowest moments.  That was true for Job too.  Yes, he was suffering horribly.  Yes, he’s got this tunnel-vision, this short-sightedness which is making him lose the plot.  But the things he says here in chapter 3 can’t be justified.  That includes what he says about his birth in verses 11 and 12. 

God put this chapter in the Bible.  Why is it in the Bible?  It’s not just here as a historical record of what Job said.  This was written for our instruction.  But how is God instructing us here?  Does God approve of what Job says here?  Is God giving us permission to speak like Job did should we ever find ourselves in some horrible state of suffering?  No, we can’t imagine that God would approve of the way Job speaks in this chapter.  This just isn’t language that’s pleasing to God.

Let’s look closer at verses 11 and 12.  Job is wishing that he hadn’t survived birth, or that he had died shortly after birth. Prior to this he was cursing the day of his birth.  He’s not cursing God – he hasn’t sunk that low.  But what you need to see is that he is cursing the work of God.  Job’s birth is the work of God.  God brought him into the world.  It was God’s doing.  To curse your birth is to curse a work of God.  That’s a dangerous, sinful thing to do. 

It’s sinful – Job was breaking God’s law.  Think about it for yourself for a moment:  which commandments was he breaking?  There are at least two of them.  Job was breaking the third commandment about God’s Name.  God’s Name is more than just the word ‘God’ or ‘Yahweh.’  In the Bible, God’s Name is everything connected to God.  His Name includes what he does.  So in the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s explanation of the third commandment, it says we’re required to make holy and reverent use of God’s works.  The Shorter Catechism is exactly right.  We’re not to curse God’s works, but to glorify God for them.  Job failed to do that.  Were we to wish that we’d never been born, we’d be failing with the third commandment too.

Now what other commandment was Job breaking?  He was breaking the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.”  No, Job wasn’t explicitly worshipping an idol.  He didn’t explicitly do what this commandment forbids.  But he was neglecting what this commandment requires.  As our Heidelberg Catechism explains, the first commandment requires us to submit to God “with all humility and patience.”  One of the Bible texts referred to there is 1 Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”  Job’s wishes in our text didn’t show a believer humbling himself under the mighty hand of God.  Instead, he was challenging God’s wisdom and saying God was wrong. God was wrong to allow him to survive birth.  God was wrong to give him a mother with knees to receive him and breasts to nurse him.  Job failed to submit to God with all humility and patience.  He was second-guessing God.  Were we to take Job’s words on our lips, we’d be failing to keep the first commandment just like he did.

So to come back to the question:  what is God teaching us here?  He is teaching us that this kind of language we hear from Job is wrong.  But there’s more.  He’s also teaching us something about believers. 

There are those who say that Christians can reach a point in this life where they no longer sin.  That’s a false teaching called perfectionism.  Perfectionism says certain Christians can become so holy on this earth that they no longer sin.  There are really people who call themselves Christians who believe this.  When I was about 19 years old and still living with my parents, we had some people come by doing door-to-door evangelism.  They said right out that they weren’t sinners.  They had achieved the sinless life.  Perfect.  I was speechless – I’d never encountered someone like that before.  The story is told of the great preacher Charles Spurgeon encountering someone who made the same claim.  This fellow had arrived at sinless perfection.  Spurgeon didn’t say anything at that moment.  But the next day at breakfast, he poured a jug of milk over the man.  That proved his claim to be false. 

We believe what God says about us in the Bible:  even as Christians, we continue to sin.  But what Job shows us is that even believers can fall into serious sins.  Even strong believers can end up breaking the third commandment and the first commandment.  If you want another example in the Bible, think of Peter.  One moment he’s confessing that Jesus is the Christ, and the next moment he’s taking God’s name in vain to deny Jesus.  And here’s Job in the Old Testament, a man said to be blameless and upright, who fears God and turns away from evil.  But now he’s under the gun and cracks are showing.  Back in chapter 2, verse 10, the Holy Spirit said that Job didn’t sin with his lips.  But here in chapter 3, he is clearly sinning with his lips and quite seriously.  Job was a believer.  He’d been living a relatively holy life.  But here in Job 3 we see verified what our Catechism says in QA 114:  “In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of obedience” to God’s commandments.

What Job needed – and what we all need – is a Saviour.  The whole Old Testament from Genesis 3 onwards was crying out for a Redeemer to come.  Here in Job as well, there’s a cry for God to send someone to provide rescue from sinful words and thoughts.  The wages of this sin of cursing God’s works is death, eternal death.  The wages of this sin of refusing to submit humbly and patiently to God is hell, eternal hell.  That’s what Job deserves from God.  That’s what we all deserve.    

But thankfully, as I mentioned earlier, God is compassionate, merciful, and loving.  In his love, he provided a way for us to escape what we deserve from his justice.  That way was there for Job too.  God promised to send a Redeemer to make the sacrifice that would pay for sins once-for-all.  If Job believed that promise, there was forgiveness for his sins.  Job could be forgiven for his sinful wishes about his birth.  And if we believe in the fulfillment of that promise in Christ, there is forgiveness for all our sins, also for times we’ve spoken foolishly about God’s works, whether our birth or whatever it may be.  God’s grace in the blood of Christ covers whatever weak and sinful words we’ve spoken in our suffering.    

We sang Psalm 88 earlier.  Like our passage, it’s coming from a place of brokenness.  Psalm 88 is known as “the Dark Psalm.”  All the other lament psalms have a bright spot, usually at the end of the psalm.  But not 88.  In fact, the last word of Psalm 88 is “darkness.”  This psalm speaks prophetically of the horrible suffering our Saviour endured both in body and soul while he was on the cross.  But what I want you to note is that there’s no cursing in Psalm 88.  There’s no cursing of God, no cursing of his works. 

That reflects what happened on the cross.  In our reading from Matthew 27, we hear Jesus quoting the well-known words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  The “why” of Jesus is totally different to the “why” of Job.  Job’s “why” was a wish that he’d never been born.  The “why” of Jesus wasn’t a wish that Christmas had never happened.  He wasn’t saying that he wished he’d never taken on a human nature to suffer and die for us.  Instead, his “why” was one of agony, borne out of the eternal wrath of God being poured out on him.  His “why” was coming from our hell placed on his shoulders.  Jesus experienced hell on the cross, the infinite wrath of God poured out on him body and soul.  Job was suffering horribly, but let there be no doubt:  Jesus suffered far worse.  And yet he never cursed God for his suffering, he never cursed the works of God.  Jesus never cursed the day of his birth.   Isn’t this amazing:  even to the end on the cross, Jesus was perfectly obedient to both the third commandment and the first commandment, as well as all the others.  Here’s good news:  God promises to credit that law-keeping to everyone who believes in Jesus.  So do that, do that again.  Believe in the Saviour who’s paid for every time you’ve responded the wrong way to your suffering.  Believe in the Saviour who suffered in the right way, obeying God in your place. 

Loved ones, let’s also pray for the work of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s pray that he would unite us more and more to this beautiful Saviour.  If you knew that you were going to suffer horribly next year, would you want to suffer with the attitude and approach of Job?  Or like that of Christ?  Are you spiritually united to Job?  Or to Christ?  If we’re united to our Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit, let’s pray that he would help us in our weakness.  That he would make us strong.  That he would give us a big picture view of our suffering.  Let’s pray that he would help us speak words that honour God, rather than words that degrade him.  If we’re united to Christ, even if we’re suffering, we can bless the day of our birth.  We can be thankful that God brought us into this world to live for his praise.  To live for him even when we’re dying. 

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spent several years in a Soviet gulag, a prison camp.  In that gulag, in that prison camp, he experienced atrocities.  He and his fellow prisoners were often freezing in the winter time.  They were beaten and tortured.  They had to live in their own filth.  Lice-infested.  Starved.  In his book The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn reflects on his experience.  He says something surprising:  “And that is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me, ‘Bless you, prison!...Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!”  His suffering in prison had taught him things he would otherwise never have learned.  Similarly, we can bless the things God has brought into our lives, for the lessons we’ve learned as a result.  We can bless the day we took our first breath.  We can bless God for having given us new birth in Christ.  Yes, it takes something supernatural to bless God and his works when you’re suffering, it takes grace.  But that’s what God specializes in pouring out – so let’s pray to him and ask him for that.  AMEN.

PRAYER

Our compassionate and merciful God,

Thank you for your patience with our weaknesses.  We’re just creatures and the fall has broken us.  When we suffer and especially when it’s bad, we’re liable to become short-sighted.  We easily get tunnel-vision.  When we do, please continue to be patient with us and show us your mercy in Christ.  And also please forgive us for any times where we’ve been inclined to curse your works, where we’ve perhaps thought or said that it would have better that we’d never been born.  You are the wise God and everything you’ve ordained is good and wise, including our existence, our lives.  Please forgive us through what Christ did on the cross.  We thank you that he never cursed the day of his birth.  We’re thankful that you promise to credit his obedience to us.  Father, let his righteousness be ours in your sight.  We do also pray for the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts to unite us closer to Jesus.  When we suffer, help us to suffer like our Saviour, submitting to you with all humility and patience.  O Holy Spirit, when it’s our calling to suffer, we pray that you would put the right attitude in our hearts and the right words in our mouths.  Please give us words which give honour to the One who saved us by his grace.  O Spirit of power, make us strong in our weakness.                                 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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