Week 2 – Lessons From Job
Day 1 – Introduction to the Fatherless in Job: Job 6:27
This week’s posts will be a little different than last week’s. The verses we covered last week, all fit together, but could also stand pretty well on their own. This week, as we look at the book of Job we will have to follow a trail through the entire book to get the full picture. Don’t get discouraged it won’t be as overwhelming as that might sound! I first went through this study in detail about two years ago (2010), and I was amazed at what I found in the book of Job. Some of it I had already seen, but when I began looking at the book as a whole I got an enormous surprise!
Most of us know the story of Job, so we will not linger there. Instead, we begin in Job chapter six. Here we find Job answering one of his accusing friends. In response to their assumption that there must be some sin in his life for God to be punishing him so severely, Job says, “Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind? Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend.”
Job’s friends thought that they did well to rebuke him in his despair for, according to Job 4:3-5, they felt that he was now being hypocritical. He had comforted others and strengthened weak hands, but, now that sorrow had come upon him, he was troubled.
After two chapters of criticism and accusations of hidden sins, Job finally gets a chance to answer. He addresses many things in his speech and brings it to its peak by nailing down his friends’ actual concern in the matter: that the same thing might happen to them! Then he makes very plain what sort of men they are, or at least the sort of men they are behaving like. “Ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend.” These are the sort of men who would fall upon the helpless and kick a friend while he is down. It is important to remember this description of these men because it comes up later in the book.
Job Wasn’t Alone In This Type of Experience
David expressed his feelings in a similar situation in Psalm 35:13-17:
“But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother. But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not: with hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth. Lord, how long wilt thou look on? Rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.”
Just as David found himself with the “abjects gathered…together against [him]”, so Job finds himself facing his three friends. Their accusations were much like the hypocritical mockers that “gnashed” upon David with their teeth. Surely, at this point Job felt that he too had been thrown to the lions.
The description in Psalm 35 is so appropriate for these so-called friends of Job. You see, the word “abject” literally means someone who “smites with the tongue”! But, Job’s response seems equally as harsh, especially when you look at the implications of what he is saying. What is he accusing these men of? What does it mean to “overwhelm the fatherless”?
Job’s accusation was not a light one. We stand to learn a lot from his description of these men, some of them are things that might surprise you.
What It Means To Overwhelm
If I were going to try to paint a picture of what it is to be overwhelmed it would probably involve a dark, ominous cloud about to overtake the unsuspecting, or incredibly frightened, people below it. It might involve images from some of the photos we have recently seen from Hurricane Sandy. Whatever the case, it would be big and black and much bigger than any of us could ever imagine taking on alone. Most of us have felt that emotion, the feeling that something in life was going to swoop down upon us and consume us.
The Hebrew word used here has many uses and meanings primarily dependent upon context. The most applicable here are these: “to fall upon, attack, desert, to cause to fall, throw down, knock out, lay prostrate, overthrow.” They sound like descriptions of a swarming army coming up from all sides against a small camp of men in the middle of an open field. Or of those who could give help suddenly leaving a besieged village to fall into the hand of the enemy. Or of rebels swelling up over the walls of a castle and throwing down their government.
But We Are Talking About Children.
We are talking about men who come up against children in this manner. Men who take advantage of them in some way or another, men who desert them and leave them helpless against all the attacks that they face in life, men who overthrow any good in their life and swoop in to use them and their disadvantage for their own advantage. Men for whom an intense sense of loathing grows in the heart of any who can vividly picture such a scene.
But, are we guilty of the same? Be careful of instantly declaring your innocence. Do we as churches, as individuals, cause the fatherless to fall? Perhaps we are most like that middle group of men who leave those in need to the devices of them that pursue them.
There is a very real battle for the hearts, minds, bodies, and souls of these children. If you don’t believe me, just look at the statistics of children from fatherless homes, orphanages, foster care programs. Examine them carefully and ask yourself who is winning the battle and gaining control over these precious little ones. Where are we when a child loses a parent? AND FOR HOW LONG? Where are we when children are born into this world, already fatherless? Do we let them fall to the ground from birth? Do we overwhelm them with expectations that they have no way of meeting? Do we swell over them with compassion and assistance, or with disdain?
Beyond Oppression and Opportunism
One of the most interesting things about the Hebrew word translated overwhelm is that, although it is not used this way in Scripture, the word is used in Chaldean to refer to abortion. Yes, you read that right. How often does our society feel it is justifiable to abort a child because they are not coming into a two parent home, because the child is fatherless, or because the mother does not have sufficient means to support the child alone? This is the sort of deplorable behavior of which Job was accusing his friends.
Have we as a nation become such as they? In the matter of abortion, yes. In the matter of setting them up to fail through social programs that have absolutely no means of bringing about a successful and productive life, yes! Are we guilty as a nation of overwhelming the fatherless? Yes. The solution, however, is not found at the national level, but rather in the hearts of individual people, in churches, in those who are willing to take up God’s command and pursue it.
There is one last thing that must be discussed at this point before going any further in our study. It may be a bit controversial among some, but we are not dealing with opinion here. We are dealing with the facts of God’s Word, and this is a fundamental point in the care of orphans.
The term fatherless, which is the same word that has been used in every verse that we have discussed to this point, literally means just that “an orphan, used of a child that is bereaved only of his father.” Here is where the controversy comes in. I have heard many say, “Orphan ministry should only be to those who have lost both of their parents.” God doesn’t see it that way.
At one point, I felt that way – before I started to study out what God has to say about all of this. God did not put that limitation on these children. In fact, once we get to the New Testament we find that the word “orphanos” (from which we get our word “orphan”) is even broader. It means one who is bereft and does not specify whether of both parents, only the father, or only the mother.
God’s command is much bigger than we want to make it, and we need to take it very seriously. According to the 2010 census, 42.8% of our children are born to unwed mothers. That is approximately 1,631,750 children every year. Though some of these fathers may be in the picture, the commitment of marriage is not there and they may not be depended upon to maintain their relationship with their children. This number does not include the families that are ripped apart by divorce, death, abandonment, or incarceration.
Our children are at great peril. Are we of the sort to allow them to be overwhelmed? Are we overwhelming them? Or will we go out, as Job later explains, and follow the commands which God has given to us concerning them?
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“Hear my cry, O God, attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, WHEN MY HEART IS OVERWHELMED: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” Psalm 61:1-3