Then Job replied: “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas— no wonder my words have been impetuous. The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God’s terrors are marshaled against me. Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass, or an ox bellow when it has fodder? Is tasteless food eaten without salt, or is there flavor in the sap of the mallow ? I refuse to touch it; such food makes me ill. “Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut off my life! Then I would still have this consolation— my joy in unrelenting pain— that I had not denied the words of the Holy One. “What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze? Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me? Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that stop flowing in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels. Caravans turn aside from their routes; they go off into the wasteland and perish. The caravans of Tema look for water, the traveling merchants of Sheba look in hope. They are distressed, because they had been confident; they arrive there, only to be disappointed. Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid. Have I ever said, ‘Give something on my behalf, pay a ransom for me from your wealth, deliver me from the hand of the enemy, rescue me from the clutches of the ruthless’? – Job 6:1-23
In this passage the dialogue between Job and his friends continues with this reply from Job to his friend Eliphaz’s somewhat insensitive advise, which seemed to favor religiosity over relationship. Job is still in a state of wanting to die…at one point he asks if “God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut off my life”. Job has certainly lost hope. What he did not expect was to lose his friends as well.
Job is not impressed by the way his friends are consoling him….”my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that stop flowing in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels”.
As a person who has worked and studied rivers for a number of years this language holds great meaning for me. Intermittent streams, also referred to as ephemeral streams, are streams that do not flow on a consistent basis. They are often located in arid environments where the groundwater table is well below the surface so they dry up at times. They can also experience flash floods when thunderstorms roll over their basins and drop abundant rain.
Job is disappointed with his friends. They were supposed to be perennial, perpetually flowing, streams but they have turned out to be intermittent. I suspect that this is because deep down they are not truly connected to the spring or planted by the river that is God so that they can provide others, in this case Job, with consistent living water from God. They are not able to pour out part of their living water for Job because they are experiencing it only intermittently themselves.
So what is the take home message here? Don’t trust your friends? I am not sure it is quite that simple. I think God wants us to love one another and lean on each other when we encounter trials like Job is experiencing, but I think the key point is that God wants us to love Him more. I am thankful that God provided Living Water that was sufficient for Job, even in the midst of his Despair and the unreliable waters provided by this friends.
Prayer: God provide deep springs of Living Water for us when encounter trials and help us to provide reliable water for others.