‘Why do You not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? For now, I am about to sleep in the dust. Then You shall seek me in the morning. But I shall not be!’ Job 7:21.
Calvin’s Psychopannychia is “a refutation of the error entertained by some unskilful persons, who ignorantly imagine that in the interval between death and judgment, the soul sleeps.” It is also “an explanation of the condition and life of the soul, after this present life.” Tracts and Treatises III:413.
Calvin remarked in his Psychopannychia, in his Tracts and Treatises III:459: “When Job said: ‘Behold, I now sleep in the dust — and if You seek me in the morning, I shall not subsist’ (Job 7:21) — did he think that his soul was to be overwhelmed with sleep?” No! Also despite his grave suffering, Job still knew that “his soul was not to be thrown into the dust, and therefore was not to sleep in the dust” — even after the death of his body!
Job turns directly to God with his complaints and desponding inquiries. He longs for the alleviation of his sufferings, before what he thought was then the approaching end of his earthly life.
Even in the midst of his exhaustion of body and soul, Job still knew and felt God to be merciful — and could yet regard Him as his own God (cf. Job 7:20)…. In an incurable disease, imploring God to hasten death, and rejoicing at the thought of approaching dissolution — is not a sin. It is not to be called despair — inasmuch as one does not call giving up all hope of recovery, despair!
In Job, the fundamental nature of man is indeed sanctified — but not yet subdued. The Spirit shines forth, as a Light in a dark place. But the day, the ever constant consciousness of favour and life, has not yet dawned.
When Job here declares to God: ‘I am about to sleep in the dust….; then You shall seek me…, but I shall not be’ — he is not denying his own conscious existence after death, but only that he would then no longer be in this present world. For Job still believed in the resurrection of the dead (Job 19:25-27).
He then knew that after death, the end of the present life, there is no second life in this world. Then, after death, ‘I shall not be’ where I now am (Job 7:21)! Yet even then before his death, Job knew his Redeemer lives! Therefore, after his skin-worms destroyed his body — yet in his flesh he would see God for himself. Job’s own eyes would behold Him — even after his reins or kidneys were consumed!
The more Job’s friends exasperated him, the more he was urged on in his longing for a future life. His faith, once so heroic, only smouldered on under ashes — until at last it was set free from its bondage by Jehovah Himself. Meanwhile, consciously, Job says: ‘I shall now sleep in the dust!’