By Olen Holderby
“Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life” (Job 9:21). This statement is in the midst of Job’s reply to the speech of Bildad the Shuhite. We must keep in mind Job’ s suffering, and the efforts of his three friends to explain that suffering. Chapter 8 gives Bildad’s speech, while chapters 9-10 record Job’s reply. Job points out the extreme unlikeliness of man’s being able to answer God (9:3), and that no one can really prosper by hardening himself against God (9:4). Then he speaks of the great power and wisdom of God, and of God being able to do what he pleases without man being able to alter his action (9:5ff).
Job considers arguing his case with God; but he is at a loss for arguments with such a wise and powerful opponent. Even if God should hear his concern, Job’s own limitations preclude his knowing how to answer God. Further, he feels that his own mouth would condemn him. However, Job cannot accept responsibility for his suffering condition and, at the same time, be honest with himself. He thinks himself to be innocent, “I am blameless, yet I do not know myself; I despise my life” (NKJ). What does Job mean by saying, “I despise my life”?
Some have suggested that Job was saying that he despised his past life; while others have said that Job was declaring that his life was not worth striving for with God. Tome, it seems more likely that Job was drawing a contrast between self-importance and the importance of Gods plans for him. Perhaps the NIV is plainer for verse 21, “Although I am blameless, I have no concern for myself; I despise my own life.” If this be accurate, the verse appears to offer some good lessons for us today.
1. We do not argue with God. How well this is taught in the New Testament, “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, 0 man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” (Rom. 9:19-20) Whatever God says, on any subject, settles the matter on that subject. Will a man argue with God?
2. The relative insignificance of our life as compared with the plans of God for us. This, too, is well taught in the New Testament, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John12:25). Luke 14:26, Matthew16:24-25, and Luke 10:16, all reflect very pointedly on this thought. How is it that the creature who receives life from the Mighty God, can argue with the Giver over the use of that life?
Webster defines “despise” as “feel contempt for,” and offers as synonyms: abhor, disdain, scorn, look down, etc. Vine says that it means, “To make of no account, to regard as nothing.” One very important question is in order: In contrast with the plans of God for you, can you say, I despise my own life?
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 7 p. 6
April 6, 1995