Thanks to a couple of links on my commentaries and a recent sermon by Dennis Miller, this particular verse was a comparative piece of cake. Or was it revelation made easier through obedience? Either way, I have a quick march to the lesson on this week's verse.
This week, we hit our second "missed me" book (Esther) and go to the wilderness of pain that is Job. For those unfamiliar: Job is a man who is righteous more than any other on earth. When God points this out to Satan, he says, "Skin for skin! Job is righteous because You bless him; remove the blessing, and he will curse you." So God lifts His protection, and Job finds himself stripped of wealth, children, and health, in that order (not to mention learning what a compassionate and supportive wife he has). So he settles into sackcloth and ashes to mourn and -ugh- scrape the boils covering his body. As he does, four "friends" (three immediate, one a bit later) come to commiserate with him. After a week of silence, one friend after the other says to him, "You must not be as righteous as you claim; confess your secret sin and God will heal you."
Problem is, there is no "secret sin", so they are wrong in their estimation of the problem. Bigger problem, Job KNOWS there is no secret sin, and as he is forced to defend himself, he begins to blame God, and complain that God should have given him a fair hearing. What then follows is 30 chapters of this back and forth, before the fourth man- young Elihu- starts to put it into perspective, then God Himself gives Job the answer that he didn't seek, but needed. And our verse is shortly after the start of the debate between Job and his buddies, with Job in the middle of complaining that he would have been better off never having been born:
Job 3:16 Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.
I chose the KJV version for this one to highlight between how the word "nephel" (untimely birth) is intended rather than how you might read it. But first, we need to understand something about Job and his self-opinion; I found it expressed in the commentaries by John Darby:
But the depths of Job's heart were not yet reached, and to do this was the purpose of God, whatever Satan's thoughts may have been. Job did not know himself, and up to this time, with all his piety, he had never been in the presence of God. How often it is the case that even throughout a long life of piety the conscience has never been really set before God! Hence peace, such peace as cannot be shaken, and real liberty, are not known as yet. There is a desire after God, there is the new nature; the attraction of His grace has been felt: nevertheless God and His love, as it really is, are not known.
It is a fact of God's nature that we know Him best through suffering; without this, Job really had a pretty house built on sand, a sprout with no depth of root. And now, to understand Job, and where God is going with him, we have to step ahead in time to learn something of Paul- which is where Dennis Miller came in.
1Co 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
1Co 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
1Co 15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
1Co 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
1Co 15:7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
1Co 15:8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
The phrase "born out of due time" we might define allegorically, since Paul didn't become an Apostle with the Twelve, but afterwards, and that's fine as far as it goes. But it is NOT the meaning of the word- the meaning is the same as the word "nephel".
And that meaning is, "the product of an early abortion".
Miller explained that in many places, by both Paul and others, he is explained as short in stature and not very impressive. And that, as such, he had at some point in the past, been insulted by calling him- basically- an "aborted fetus." (That is an insult I sadly understand; I have often used it to described exceedingly loathsome days.) These insults were apparently recycled by the Jews after his conversion, and like everything else, Paul uses it, to describe his condition before his salvation.
So Paul calls his futile life of righteousness in the Law before Christ as an aborted fetus; and Job thinks he would be better off as one because he is STILL LIVING that life of righteousness. And at this point, the commentators find another use of this word, in Ecclesiastes:
Ecc 6:3 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.
And if you have read Ecclesiastes, you know that Solomon had come to the same conclusion as Paul- that righteousness attainable by man was vain. And like Paul, he would chase it to the logical conclusion:
Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
Ecc 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
And that is where God, in the end, takes Job, with the bold verse at the end one of my favorites of all the Bible:
Job 40:6 Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
Job 40:7 Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
Job 40:8 Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?
Job 40:9 Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?
Job 40:10 Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.
Job 40:11 Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him.
Job 40:12 Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place.
Job 40:13 Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret.
Job 40:14 Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee.
So in a way, Job was right; he was better off an aborted fetus, or a child stillborn, than in his current state- because he would not yet be affected with the pride which told Job God had a "responsibility" to even bother to answer him. God doesn't speak to us through our pride, but through His love. Look above at verse 8; that relying on our own righteousness is always a condemnation of God.
To understand the difference between where Job was and where he needed to be, you must CAREFULLY read what comes then at last:
Job 42:1 Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
Job 42:2 "I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
Job 42:3 'Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
Job 42:4 Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.'
Job 42:5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
Job 42:6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. "
Job 42:7 And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.
Job 42:8 Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.
So Job confesses to God- he finally understands that God is not a man, that he can iron out differences with. He is God- and instead of just going by what he was taught, he has SEEN God. It has become personal for him. And now he has a job- to speak for those who still think God is a set of rules and regulations. Ironically, as I was typing this, one of Laurie's relatives posted on FB: " What the use in being right, when no one will listen to you?"
The use is, being right with God, and not right with yourself. Job was saying this very thing- until he humbled himself and let GOD be right.