Perhaps Job lay under the stars until he was wet from the dew. Finally, he spoke. And when he did, what a remarkable response! Verse 20 comprises nine words in the Hebrew text. These words describe what Job did before the text goes on to tell us what Job said. Five of the nine words are verbs. When you read your Bible, always pay close attention to the verbs, because they move you through the action of a narrative, helping you vicariously to enter the event.
First, Job peeled himself off the ground. He "arose." The next verb tells us something strange. He "tore his robe." The word translated "robe" is a term describing a garment that fits over the body loosely, like an outer gown that reaches below the knees. This is not the undertunic; it's the outer robe that kept him warm at night. Job reached to his neck and, not finding a seam, he seized a worn part of the fabric and ripped it. In the ripping of the robe he is announcing his horrible grief. It was the action of a man in anguish. It's used several times in the Old Testament to portray utter grief.
And then we read the third verb. He "shaved his head." The hair is always pictured in the Scriptures as the glory of an individual, an expression of his worth. The shaving of the head, therefore, is symbolic of the loss of personal glory. And to carry his grief to its lowest depth, his fourth action is to fall to the ground. But, let's understand, this was not a collapse of grief, but for another purpose entirely. It's this that portrays the heroism of Job's endurance. He doesn't wallow and wail, he worships. The Hebrew verb means "to fall prostrate in utter submission and worship." I dare say most of us have never worshiped like that! I mean with your face on the ground, lying down, full-length. This was considered in ancient days the sincerest expression of obedience and submission to the Creator-God.
Before moving on, I'd like to suggest you try this sometime. Palms down, facedown, knees and toes touching the ground, body fully extended, as you pour out your heart in worship. It's the position Job deliberately took. Complete and humble submission.
Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.