Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reflections on Job 25

 Job 25 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Bildad from Shuah said:
  2. God is the one to fear, because God is in control and rules the heavens.
  3. Who can count his army of stars? Isn't God the source of light?
  4. How can anyone be innocent in the sight of God?
  5. To him, not even the light of the moon and stars can ever be pure.
  6. So how can we humans, when we are merely worms?

In this chapter we have the last of the speeches from the friends, this one delivered by Bildad. Only Eliphaz and Bildad spoke in this third round of speeches, but it is rather obvious from Bildad's contribution that he had little left to say and might have better chosen not to speak as did Zophar.

Bildad offered nothing new in this short speech which could be summed up in saying God is great and man by comparison is a maggot. His question, "How can a person be justified before God?" is left dangling with no offer of hope. If, on the one hand it implies that there is no justification to be had by man before God, he would be grossly in error. The whole of the message of God's Word through the scriptures is man's redemption or justification before God. If, on the other hand Bildad was implying through his question that man cannot justify himself before God and this is only something God can do, then he was correct.

Man's best effort will never justify him before God. But God has made a way through Jesus Christ in which man can be justified simply through faith in the provision He makes possible. Man may be a maggot compared to God, but man is not a maggot in God's eyes, for He was willing to sacrifice His only Son to make possible man's justification.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reflections on Job 24

 Job 24 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Why doesn't God set a time for court? Why don't his people know where he can be found?
  2. Sinners remove boundary markers and take care of sheep they have stolen.
  3. They cheat orphans and widows by taking their donkeys and oxen.
  4. The poor are trampled and forced to hide
  5. in the desert, where they and their children must live like wild donkeys and search for food.
  6. If they want grain or grapes, they must go to the property of these sinners.
  7. They sleep naked in the cold, because they have no cover,
  8. and during a storm their only shelters are caves among the rocky cliffs.
  9. Children whose fathers have died are taken from their mothers as payment for a debt.
  10. Then they are forced to work naked in the grain fields because they have no clothes, and they go hungry.
  11. They crush olives to make oil and grapes to make wine-- but still they go thirsty.
  12. And along the city streets, the wounded and dying cry out, yet God does nothing.
  13. Some rebel and refuse to follow the light.
  14. Soon after sunset they murder the poor and the needy, and at night they steal.
  15. Others wait for the dark, thinking they won't be seen if they sleep with the wife or husband of someone else.
  16. Robbers hide during the day, then break in after dark because they reject the light.
  17. They prefer night to day, since the terrors of the night are their friends.
  18. Those sinners are filthy foam on the surface of the water. And so, their fields and vineyards will fall under a curse and won't produce.
  19. Just as the heat of summer swallows the snow, the world of the dead swallows those who sin.
  20. Forgotten here on earth, and with their power broken, they taste sweet to worms.
  21. Sinners take advantage of widows and other helpless women.
  22. But God's mighty strength destroys those in power. Even if they seem successful, they are doomed to fail.
  23. God may let them feel secure, but they are never out of his sight.
  24. Great for a while; gone forever! Sinners are mowed down like weeds, then they wither and die.
  25. If I haven't spoken the truth, then prove me wrong.

Job's response to Eliphaz is continued from chapter 23. In that portion of his response he complained that God could not be found and he had no way of appealing his plight. Here, in chapter 24, Job suggests that God needs to reserve times people know they can take their complaints to Him for judgment. But since that is not the case, all sorts of injustice goes on without anything or anyone to stop it.

Those unable to help themselves, such as the poor, the widows, and the orphans, are oppressed and God seems to be oblivious to it all. This contradicts the assertions of Job's friends who claim that the wicked die young as a result of their actions. Job says no, the wicked live much as the righteous do as if God pays no attention to their sin. On the other hand, Job is pointing out that the righteous do not necessarily live lives of ease either. They often suffer at the hands of the wicked who go unpunished. No, the simplistic view the friends have of life is just not right. Both the wicked and the righteous suffer and both prosper.

From the human perspective, only what happens in our earthly life is what matters. But, of course, this is a very short-sighted view. God has an eternal perspective on justice that is far superior to ours. From His perspective, whatever enjoyment the wicked receive in this life is all they get. Once this life is ended all they have for an eternity is suffering. It is this perspective Job seems to be eluding to in the last verses of the chapter. The wicked may be exalted "for a moment," he says, but then they are gone, brought low and shriveled up. God allows the wicked a "sense of security," but "His eyes watch over their ways." Their judgment is coming.

A prayer authored by theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, referred to as the "Serenity Prayer," can be applied to the tension we have with injustice in this world. It states:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

We cannot change the injustice in this world. Sure, criminals can be punished, but much injustice does not fall under any crime and nothing short of vengeance can be done about it. We have to leave it in God's hands and trust that His justice is right and best. Therefore, we do best to accept what we cannot change and leave it to God. What we can change we should, but we need God's wisdom to know the difference.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reflections on Job 23

 Job 23 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said:
  2. Today I complain bitterly, because God has been cruel and made me suffer.
  3. If I knew where to find God, I would go there
  4. and argue my case.
  5. Then I would discover what he wanted to say.
  6. Would he overwhelm me with his greatness? No! He would listen
  7. because I am innocent, and he would say, "I now set you free!"
  8. I cannot find God anywhere-- in front or back of me,
  9. to my left or my right. God is always at work, though I never see him.
  10. But he knows what I am doing, and when he tests me, I will be pure as gold.
  11. I have never refused to follow any of his commands,
  12. and I have always treasured his teachings.
  13. But he alone is God, and who can oppose him? God does as he pleases,
  14. and he will do exactly what he intends with me.
  15. Merely the thought of God All-Powerful
  16. makes me tremble with fear.
  17. God has covered me with darkness, but I refuse to be silent.

Chapter 23 is the first half of Job's third reply to Eliphaz. In this half he defended his innocence and was certain God would agree with him if he could present his case before Him, but God was no where to be found. Not to the north, east, west, or south. But if he could find God he was sure God would pay attention to him and not be harsh with him. And yet, even without presenting his case before God, Job knew that God knew that he had followed in God's ways and kept His ways without turning aside. Job had treasured God's words even more than food.

Even though God knew of Job's faithfulness to His ways, this was no assurance that God would take away his suffering, for God "does what He desires." (23:13) And God will complete what He had decreed for Job and anything else He determined to do. This thought terrified Job. Was there even more of this suffering he had to go through?  Nevertheless, Job says, "I am not destroyed by the darkness." (23:17) His hope was still in God.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Reflections on Job 22

 Job 22(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Eliphaz from Teman said:
  2. What use are we humans to God, even the wisest of us?
  3. If you were completely sinless, that would still mean nothing to God All-Powerful.
  4. Is he correcting you for worshiping him?
  5. No! It's because of your terrible sins.
  6. To guarantee payment of a debt, you have taken clothes from the poor.
  7. And you refused bread and water to the hungry and thirsty,
  8. although you were rich, respected, and powerful.
  9. You have turned away widows and have broken the arms of orphans.
  10. That's why you were suddenly trapped by terror,
  11. blinded by darkness, and drowned in a flood.
  12. God lives in the heavens above the highest stars, where he sees everything.
  13. Do you think the deep darkness hides you from God?
  14. Do thick clouds cover his eyes, as he walks around heaven's dome high above the earth?
  15. Give up those ancient ideas believed by sinners,
  16. who were swept away without warning.
  17. They rejected God All-Powerful, feeling he was helpless,
  18. although he had been kind to their families. The beliefs of these sinners are truly disgusting.
  19. When God's people see the godless swept away, they celebrate,
  20. saying, "Our enemies are gone, and fire has destroyed their possessions."
  21. Surrender to God All-Powerful! You will find peace and prosperity.
  22. Listen to his teachings and take them to heart.
  23. If you return to God and turn from sin, all will go well for you.
  24. So get rid of your finest gold, as though it were sand.
  25. Let God All-Powerful be your silver and gold,
  26. and you will find happiness by worshiping him.
  27. God will answer your prayers, and you will keep the promises you made to him.
  28. He will do whatever you ask, and life will be bright.
  29. When others are disgraced, God will clear their names in answer to your prayers.
  30. Even those who are guilty will be forgiven, because you obey God.

Eliphaz, the friend who was first to speak, began round number three. In this speech, he attempted to support his argument that suffering equals sin. He began his argument by pointing out that God does not benefit from man's condition, whether he is wise or righteous or blameless. Seemingly Eliphaz was saying that God does not bless or punish us to prompt our behavior, He does so as a result of our behavior. And certainly God had not brought judgment on Job as a result of his piety. Therefore, the only conclusion can be that Job had sinned and this was the reason for his losses and suffering.

Eliphaz seemed to think he had an airtight argument, so why make up things with which to accuse Job? This is hardly blamess behavior on the part of Eliphaz. God, Himself, had pronounced Job blameless in the beginning so we know Job was not guilty of the things of which Eliphaz now accused him. How could he make such false accusations to Job's face while making such an affair of Job's sin. The list of accusations were rather serious acts of injustice: taking a man's cloak as collaterial and not returning it at night for covering; withholding water and food from the needy; and refusing help for widows and orphans. All this while Job prospered.

Job should know, says Eliphaz, that judgment awaited him. Could Eliphaz not see that Job had nothing further to fear since he had nothing further to lose? Nevertheless, Eliphaz reminded Job that God was not ignorant of his misdeeds. His actions were not hidden. Job needed to stop and no longer continue in his ways. Otherwise he would be as those of old - possibly Noah - who were swept away by a flood.

Eliphaz concluded his speech with a call to repentance. Good could still come to Job if he would "Come to terms with God and be at peace." (22:21) If Job would do this he would be renewed and God would prosper him once again. It was all quite simple. Eliphaz had it all neatly packaged. A significant piece that Eliphaz was missing, though, is that our greatest reason and blessing for coming to terms with God and being at peace with Him is the relationship and fellowship we have with God has a result. This blessing is greater than the prosperity.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reflections on Job 21

 Job 21 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said:
  2. If you want to offer comfort, then listen to me.
  3. And when I have finished, you can start your insults all over again.
  4. My complaint is against God; that's why I am impatient.
  5. Just looking at me is enough to make you sick,
  6. and the very thought of myself fills me with disgust.
  7. Why do evil people live so long and gain such power?
  8. Why are they allowed to see their children grow up?
  9. They have no worries at home, and God never punishes them.
  10. Their cattle have lots of calves without ever losing one;
  11. their children play and dance safely by themselves.
  12. These people sing and celebrate to the sound of tambourines, small harps, and flutes,
  13. and they are successful, without a worry, until the day they die.
  14. Those who are evil say to God All-Powerful, "Leave us alone! Don't bother us with your teachings.
  15. What do we gain from praying and worshiping you?
  16. We succeeded all on our own." And so, I keep away from them and their evil schemes.
  17. How often does God become angry and send disaster and darkness to punish sinners?
  18. How often does he strike them like a windstorm that scatters straw?
  19. You say, "God will punish those sinners' children in place of those sinners." But I say, "Let him punish those sinners themselves until they really feel it.
  20. Let God All-Powerful force them to drink their own destruction from the cup of his anger.
  21. Because after they are dead, they won't care what happens to their children."
  22. Who can tell God what to do? He judges powerful rulers.
  23. Some of us die prosperous,
  24. enjoying good health,
  25. while others die in poverty, having known only pain.
  26. But we all end up dead, beneath a blanket of worms.
  27. My friends, I know that you are plotting against me.
  28. You ask, "Where is the home of that important person who does so much evil?"
  29. Everyone, near and far, agrees
  30. that those who do wrong never suffer disaster, when God becomes angry.
  31. No one points out their sin or punishes them.
  32. Then at their funerals, they are highly praised;
  33. the earth welcomes them home, while crowds mourn.
  34. But empty, meaningless words are the comfort you offer me.

In his response to Zophar, Job directed his comments to the absurdity of his friend's assertions that the wicked live short lives and do not enjoy their gains. If this is true, "Why do the wicked continue to live, growing old and becoming powerful?" (21:7) Neither do their children suffer from their father's sins. While many wicked "spend their days in prosperity and go down to Sheol in peace," (21:13) they "say to God: 'Leave us alone! We don't want to know Your ways.'" (21:14) And even though these wicked reject God their prosperity comes from God.

Job continued to challenge the assumptions of his friends by asking them to tell him how often the lives of the wicked are snuffed out? Nor, he says, does God reserve their punishment for their children. How does that punish them, for when they are dead they don't care? No, health, wealth, or suffering are no means by which to judge one's character. For God allows one a life of excellent health and of ease and another a bitter life without prosperity, and yet they both die and decay in the grave.

Job's friends needed to broaden their experience. Ask a traveler, Job said, who has been many places and seen many things. See if he agrees with their assumption that the wicked are punished in this life. The traveler as well will agree that "the evil man is spared from the day of disaster, rescued from the day of wrath." (21:30) No, the friends have it all wrong. How could they offer such "futile comfort?" All their answers are lies. (21:34)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reflections on Job 20

 Job 20 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Zophar from Naamah said:
  2. Your words are disturbing; now I must speak.
  3. You have accused and insulted me, and reason requires a reply.
  4. Since the time of creation, everyone has known
  5. that sinful people are happy for only a while.
  6. Though their pride and power may reach to the sky,
  7. they will disappear like dust, and those who knew them will wonder what happened.
  8. They will be forgotten like a dream
  9. and vanish from the sight of family and friends.
  10. Their children will have to repay what the parents took from the poor.
  11. Indeed, the wicked will die and go to their graves in the prime of life.
  12. Sinners love the taste of sin; they relish every bite
  13. and swallow it slowly.
  14. But their food will turn sour and poison their stomachs.
  15. Then God will make them lose the wealth they gobbled down.
  16. They will die from the fangs of poisonous snakes
  17. and never enjoy rivers flowing with milk and honey.
  18. Their hard work will result in nothing gained,
  19. because they cheated the poor and took their homes.
  20. Greedy people want everything and are never satisfied.
  21. But when nothing remains for them to grab, they will be nothing.
  22. Once they have everything, distress and despair will strike them down,
  23. and God will make them swallow his blazing anger.
  24. While running from iron spears, they will be killed by arrows of bronze,
  25. whose shining tips go straight through their bodies. They will be trapped by terror,
  26. and what they treasure most will be lost in the dark. God will send flames to destroy them in their tents with all their property.
  27. The heavens and the earth will testify against them,
  28. and all their possessions will be dragged off when God becomes angry.
  29. This is what God has decided for those who are evil.

Friend Zophar returned for a second time to reveal his superior understanding. He had been insulted by Job's accusations against the three friends and could not remain silent. His vast understanding would not allow him to be quiet.

Zophar assumed his knowledge to be of a common variety that everyone knew, except of course Job, and no one could refute. He did not, however, offer evidence to support it. His speech launched into a description of the plight of the wicked with the obvious implication that Job was one of the wicked. As a supposed friend of Job, he evidently did not know him well or he could not have made these charges. The whole thing is based on one huge and hugely wrong assumption: suffering equals sin. If one suffers it can only be because he has sinned. Without considering any other evidence concerning Job, Zophar and his friends freely flung accusations at him. Job was the prime exhibit proving their point.

According to Zophar's statements concerning the wicked, and therefore concerning Job, Job was arrogant and, as had already been observed, his joy and happiness was only for a moment. His wealth, which was already gone, had been vomited out because it was ill-gained by oppressing the poor and turned to venom in his stomach. Job's appetite for wealth, said Zophar, was insatiable for he was driven by his desires. The inevitable outcome was what Job had experienced - his prosperity was short-lived and distress came to him at the height of his success.

Job's iniquity had been exposed for what it was and the earth had risen up against him. What Job had experienced was his lot from God because of his wickedness. So said Zophar, though he did not insert Job's name in place of the wicked. It was implied, though.

The problem with Job's friends is one most of us have - we want a neatly packaged explanation for everything, and insisting on being able to do so inevitably leads to error in our thinking. For in doing so we presume to know God's ways and reasons which is a bad presumption to make. It is a mark of our level of trust and maturity to live comfortably with incomplete understanding and simply trusting the reasons to God. Our trust being based on our acceptance of God's love and mercy. Though we don't know, and can't know, His reasons, we trust that they are loving and intended for our good. Therefore we will accept whatever comes and trust in God's outcomes regardless of how long we must wait to see them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reflections on Job 19

 Job 19 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said:
  2. How long will you torture me with your words?
  3. Isn't ten times enough for you to accuse me? Aren't you ashamed?
  4. Even if I have sinned, you haven't been harmed.
  5. You boast of your goodness, claiming I am suffering because I am guilty.
  6. But God is the one at fault for finding fault with me.
  7. Though I pray to be rescued from this torment, no whisper of justice answers me.
  8. God has me trapped with a wall of darkness
  9. and stripped of respect.
  10. God rips me apart, uproots my hopes,
  11. and attacks with fierce anger, as though I were his enemy.
  12. His entire army advances, then surrounds my tent.
  13. God has turned relatives and friends against me,
  14. and I am forgotten.
  15. My guests and my servants consider me a stranger,
  16. and when I call my servants, they pay no attention.
  17. My breath disgusts my wife; everyone in my family turns away.
  18. Young children can't stand me, and when I come near, they make fun.
  19. My best friends and loved ones have turned from me.
  20. I am skin and bones-- just barely alive.
  21. My friends, I beg you for pity! God has made me his target.
  22. Hasn't he already done enough? Why do you join the attack?
  23. I wish that my words could be written down
  24. or chiseled into rock.
  25. I know that my Savior lives, and at the end he will stand on this earth.
  26. My flesh may be destroyed, yet from this body I will see God.
  27. Yes, I will see him for myself, and I long for that moment.
  28. My friends, you think up ways to blame and torment me, saying I brought it on myself.
  29. But watch out for the judgment, when God will punish you!

Job reached a low point at which point he was more pleading than argumentative. How long would his friends continue to torment him, he asked. If he was guilty of sin, as they asserted, it involved God and not them. He wanted them to understand, though, that it was God who had wronged him and not he who had wronged God. So why couldn't they just leave it between Job and God?

To convince his friends to have mercy on him, Job laid out his plight. His losses were the point of this whole conversation, so enumerating them was not necessary. What Job wanted them to understand was that God was ignoring him and obviously angry with him, regarding him as an enemy. After all, Job had cried out to Him, but there was no justice. In addition to his lack of comfort from God, God had removed from him any human comfort - brothers, acquaintances, relatives, friends, and servants - all treated him as a foreigner. Even his wife found him repulsive. Wasn't it enough that God's hand had struck him? Did his friends also have to persecute him?

But then, at this lowest point, Job voiced his faith and hope with as much conviction as he had that God had wronged him. He knew, without a doubt, that when his body was destroyed in death that God was his "living Redeemer," and that he would "see God in my flesh." And when Job saw Him, He would not be a stranger to him. Thinking about it made his heart long for it.

Job was not only convinced that God was just "a" living Redeemer, but that He was "my" living Redeemer and that he would see Him in the flesh and not be a stranger to Him. Despite his feeling that God had wronged him and considered him an enemy, Job was just as convinced that in death God would be his Redeemer and friend.

As a parting word in this speech to his friends, Job warned them that if they continued to assert that his sin had caused his problems, it would be they who should worry about punishment by the sword. Bildad had stated that this was the outcome for the wicked, and Job evidently considered their continued assertion of his sin to be wicked.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reflections on Job 18

 Job 18 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Bildad from Shuah said:
  2. How long will you talk? Be sensible! Let us speak.
  3. Or do you think that we are dumb animals?
  4. You cut yourself in anger. Will that shake the earth or even move the rocks?
  5. The lamps of sinful people soon are snuffed out,
  6. leaving their tents dark.
  7. Their powerful legs become weak, and they stumble on schemes of their own doing.
  8. Before they know it,
  9. they are trapped in a net,
  10. hidden along the path.
  11. Terror strikes and pursues from every side.
  12. Starving, they run, only to meet disaster,
  13. then afterwards to be eaten alive by death itself.
  14. Those sinners are dragged from the safety of their tents to die a gruesome death.
  15. Then their tents and possessions are burned to ashes,
  16. and they are left like trees, dried up from the roots.
  17. They are gone and forgotten,
  18. thrown far from the light into a world of darkness,
  19. without any children to carry on their name.
  20. Everyone, from east to west, is overwhelmed with horror.
  21. Such is the fate of sinners and their families who don't know God.

Bildad, the person of fewer words among the friends took another turn at speaking and was, by this time, ill tempered. He had grown weary of Job's talking, offended by Job's accusation that he and his friends should learn from the animals, and that their words were empty. He, no doubt, could not wait for Job to be quiet so he could return fire.

Following his initial attack on Job, Bildad then spoke of the ruin that befalls the wicked, obviously implying that Job was wicked:
  • The lamp in his house (life and prosperity) would go out
  • He would become weakened physically as a result of his schemes
  • A series of snares awaited him: a net, a trap, a snare, etc.
  • His skin would be eaten away
  • He would be torn from his tent
  • He would be marched off to the king of terrors
  • His house would be burned and all security gone
  • He would be forgotten, banished, and left with no descendants
Bildad and his friends have built their case against Job on unexamined assumptions. The first, mentioned before, that suffering equals sin. If one suffers it is obviously a result of sin in their life. A second such assumption is that age equals wisdom. They drew upon this assumption in two ways, the fact that at least one of the three was as old as Job's father, and then by drawing on the counsel of ancestors. A third faulty assumption began now to appear: to speak critically of God amounts to wickedness. This, at least, seems to be the source of Bildad's reference of Job as being wicked. It was one thing to call him a sinner and still another to accuse him of being wicked.

It becomes more and more evident that it was the friends, and not Job, who did not know or understand God. God is not an impersonal God who is easily put off and must be appeased. As with any personal relationship there will be rifts and angry words spoken. This was Job's situation. He was grieving and could see no other cause for his suffering than that it came from God, and for no good reason. Therefore, he spoke angrily toward God. But he did not curse God or deny His existence or deny any of His powers. He was simply aggrieved with God and said so. This speaks more of an intimate relationship than of a wicked person who rebels against God.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reflections on Job 17

 Job 17 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. My hopes have died, my time is up, and the grave is ready.
  2. All I can see are angry crowds, making fun of me.
  3. If you, LORD, don't help, who will pay the price for my release?
  4. My friends won't really listen, all because of you, and so you must be the one to prove them wrong.
  5. They have condemned me, just to benefit themselves; now blind their children.
  6. You, God, are the reason I am insulted and spit on.
  7. I am almost blind with grief; my body is a mere shadow.
  8. People who are truly good would feel so alarmed, that they would become angry at my worthless friends.
  9. They would do the right thing and because they did, they would grow stronger.
  10. But none of my friends show any sense.
  11. My life is drawing to an end; hope has disappeared.
  12. But all my friends can do is offer empty hopes.
  13. I could tell the world below to prepare me a bed.
  14. Then I could greet the grave as my father and say to the worms, "Hello, mother and sisters!"
  15. But what kind of hope is that?
  16. Will it keep me company in the world of the dead?

Broken in spirit, Job continued to speak. His life appeared to be over. What was left? He had nothing and no one. His friends had turned into mockers. Nevertheless, he maintained his innocence in the face of his losses, but the only one who could plead his case was God even though God had brought on his problems. The minds of his friends had been closed so they were of no use to plead his case.

Job had become an object of scorn to the people. Though an upright person would be appalled at his treatment, this did not include his friends who continued to berate him. But, Job was righteous and would "hold to his way." (17:9)

All that seemed left for Job was the grave. He taunted his friends to come back and try again to offer wisdom for his plight, but he didn't expect to find a wise man among them on a second try any more than he had on the first. So he must accept that his "days have slipped by; my plans have been ruined, even the things dear to my heart." (17:11)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reflections on Job 16

 Job 16 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said:
  2. I have often heard this, and it offers no comfort.
  3. So why don't you keep quiet? What's bothering you?
  4. If I were in your place, it would be easy to criticize or to give advice.
  5. But I would offer hope and comfort instead.
  6. If I speak, or if I don't, I hurt all the same. My torment continues.
  7. God has worn me down and destroyed my family;
  8. my shriveled up skin proves that I am his prisoner.
  9. God is my hateful enemy, glaring at me and attacking with his sharp teeth.
  10. Everyone is against me; they sneer and slap my face.
  11. And God is the one who handed me over to this merciless mob.
  12. Everything was going well, until God grabbed my neck and shook me to pieces. God set me up as the target
  13. for his arrows, and without showing mercy, he slashed my stomach open, spilling out my insides.
  14. God never stops attacking,
  15. and so, in my sorrow I dress in sackcloth and sit in the dust.
  16. My face is red with tears, and dark shadows circle my eyes,
  17. though I am not violent, and my prayers are sincere.
  18. If I should die, I beg the earth not to cover my cry for justice.
  19. Even now, God in heaven is both my witness and my protector.
  20. My friends have rejected me, but God is the one I beg
  21. to show that I am right, just as a friend should.
  22. Because in only a few years, I will be dead and gone.

As Job spoke again he accused his friends of being miserable comforters. Why is it we think we are comforting when we offer empty platitudes or attempt to solve the circumstance of the one suffering without understanding their situation instead of simply offering companionship and a listening ear? Job's friends sounded like they were provoked with him instead of like friends who sympathized at his suffering. If Job were in their place he could easily "string words together" as they had done - but he wouldn't do that. Instead, he would use his mouth to encourage them rather than accuse and he would offer consolation. And if Job's friends were astute, they would recognize that this was what Job wished to receive from them.

After lashing out at his accusers Job turned to lashing out at God for he felt that God was responsible for his circumstances, and in this he was at least partially correct. However, in verses 7-14 Job accused God of striking out at him in anger and harassing him, and in this he was incorrect. We have to wonder why God brought Job to Satan's attention as if enticing him to attack Job, but otherwise God was not Job's antagonist. This was Satan's role. God was pleased with Job's faithfulness and certain that he would not waver regardless of what Satan did to him. Therefore, God withdrew the protective hedge He had around Job and allowed Satan to attack. Of this, God was guilty, but He did not bring on Job the suffering he was experiencing.

Then, in verses 18-21, Job spoke of his need of a heavenly advocate. Man, he felt, was inadequate to arbitrate between a man and God, but a heavenly being might be able and he was confident that such a witness on his behalf was present in heaven. Is this a prophetic reference to Jesus? If not, it is certainly the role Jesus plays on our behalf. Such an advocate in heaven was Job's only hope for his friends only scoffed at him. He had no one on earth on whom he could depend, and his time on earth was running out.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Reflections on Job 15

 Job 15 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Eliphaz from Teman said:
  2. Job, if you had any sense,
  3. you would stop spreading all of this hot air.
  4. Your words are enough to make others turn from God and lead them to doubt.
  5. And your sinful, scheming mind is the source of all you say.
  6. I am not here as your judge; your own words are witnesses against you.
  7. Were you the first human? Are you older than the hills?
  8. Have you ever been present when God's council meets? Do you alone have wisdom?
  9. Do you know and understand something we don't?
  10. We have the benefit of wisdom older than your father.
  11. And you have been offered comforting words from God. Isn't this enough?
  12. Your emotions are out of control, making you look fierce;
  13. that's why you attack God with everything you say.
  14. No human is pure and innocent,
  15. and neither are angels-- not in the sight of God. If God doesn't trust his angels,
  16. what chance do humans have? We are so terribly evil that we thirst for sin.
  17. Just listen to what I know, and you will learn
  18. wisdom known by others since ancient times.
  19. Those who gained such insights also gained the land, and they were not influenced by foreign teachings.
  20. But suffering is in store each day for those who sin.
  21. Even in times of success, they constantly hear the threat of doom.
  22. Darkness, despair, and death are their destiny.
  23. They scrounge around for food, all the while dreading the approaching darkness.
  24. They are overcome with despair, like a terrified king about to go into battle.
  25. This is because they rebelled against God All-Powerful
  26. and have attacked him with their weapons.
  27. They may be rich and fat,
  28. but they will live in the ruins of deserted towns.
  29. Their property and wealth will shrink and disappear.
  30. They won't escape the darkness, and the blazing breath of God will set their future aflame.
  31. They have put their trust in something worthless; now they will become worthless
  32. like a date palm tree without a leaf.
  33. Or like vineyards or orchards whose blossoms and unripe fruit drop to the ground.
  34. Yes, the godless and the greedy will have nothing but flames feasting on their homes,
  35. because they are the parents of trouble and vicious lies.

Eliphaz took another turn to speak, beginning the second round of speeches. This time he increased the vehmenence with which he spoke immediately accusing Job of being filled with the hot east wind and giving empty counsel. Job's arguments, he said, were filled with words that serve no good purpose. Furthermore, he said, Job "undermine(d) the fear of God" (15:4) with words that were informed by iniquity. It was Job's own words that condemned him, not those of Eliphaz.

Not only were Job's words informed by iniquity and of no value, according to Eliphaz, he further accused Job of thinking himself to be wiser than any other as if he were "the first person ever born." (15:7) With this Eliphaz added a second faulty assumption to his first. His first faulty assumption was that suffering equals sin. This second one is that age equals wisdom. He used this as his trump card over Job's wisdom. Not only was Job not the first person born, among the three friends was one older than Job's father. Obviously, according to Eliphaz' thinking, this man was wiser than Job by mere claim of age.

Now Eliphaz asked in verse 11 if God's consolations delivered through the three friends were not enough for Job? Why did he have to turn his anger on God with such vile words? Of all Eliphaz had to say, this might be the most puzzling. When were their any words of consolation that came from these three antagonists? Probably the most consolation they offered was when they sat with Job in silence for seven days before anyone spoke. Job had reason to be angry, particularly with the friends. And while he may not have had reason to be angry with God, his anger was certainly understandable. Having lost everything, including his health, while God stood by we can understand Job's anger, and yet are we not to receive both gain and loss from God with thankfulness? Particularly when all we have is His anyway? Is it not God, Himself, who is the source of our joy and not the things He provides? Certainly these are words more easily accepted intellectually than emotionally.

Job has been asserting his innocence before God, but Eliphaz rebuked this saying that not even the angels are pure, so how could a mere man make such a claim? But even worse, such claims of innocence were coming from one "who is revolting and corrupt, who drinks injustice like water." This is what he thought of Job. And because Job was so corrupt, Eliphaz drew on the authority of their ancestors to inform Job of what awaited him. Starting with the statement, "A wicked man writhes in pain all his days; few years are stored up for the ruthless." Eliphaz listed numerous repercussions the wicked could expect to suffer. Obviously, Job fell in this category. But Eliphaz must have lost all sense of Job's circumstances in the heat of his anger with Job. What threat did any of his list of repercussions pose to Job after what he had already suffered?

In his ignorance Eliphaz was indirectly making an even greater claim of innocence than Job. How else could he stand in judgment of Job with his words of condemnation as if he were better than Job? What would be his argument if he were in Job's place?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reflections on Job 14

 Job 14 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Life is short and sorrowful for every living soul.
  2. We are flowers that fade and shadows that vanish.
  3. And so, I ask you, God, why pick on me?
  4. There's no way a human can be completely pure.
  5. Our time on earth is brief; the number of our days is already decided by you.
  6. Why don't you leave us alone and let us find some happiness while we toil and labor?
  7. When a tree is chopped down, there is always the hope that it will sprout again.
  8. Its roots and stump may rot,
  9. but at the touch of water, fresh twigs shoot up.
  10. Humans are different-- we die, and that's the end.
  11. We are like streams and lakes after the water has gone;
  12. we fall into the sleep of death, never to rise again, until the sky disappears.
  13. Please hide me, God, deep in the ground-- and when you are angry no more, remember to rescue me.
  14. Will we humans live again? I would gladly suffer and wait for my time.
  15. My Creator, you would want me; you would call out, and I would answer.
  16. You would take care of me, but not count my sins--
  17. you would put them in a bag, tie it tight, and toss them away.
  18. But in the real world, mountains tumble, and rocks crumble;
  19. streams wear away stones and wash away soil. And you destroy our hopes!
  20. You change the way we look, then send us away, wiped out forever.
  21. We never live to know if our children are praised or disgraced.
  22. We feel no pain but our own, and when we mourn, it's only for ourselves.

Throughout Job's speech he fluctuated between confidence in his case before God and a lack of hope in his situation. After all, what chance did he have against One so mighty? He remained confident that he had done nothing to warrant his suffering and yet that seemed to make no difference. Life has a way of honing our theology. Prior to these circumstances, Job may have had leanings theologically with his friends in thinking all suffering was punishment for sin. But he knew he had not sinned so this thinking did not apply in his situation. What then? He held solidly to the idea of God's sovereignty so whatever was happening was a result of God's handiwork. When life throws us a curve, we cannot be quite so smug about our theology. But if we will hold firm to God's sovereignty, as did Job, God will teach us through our circumstances.

In his despair, Job was overwhelmed with the shortness of life and longed to enjoy what life he had left. He questioned why God even took such notice of one whose existence is so short. Job had no choice concerning the length of his life. It is God who sets the limits on life. So why not let man live out whatever time he has with a measure of peace?

These thoughts led Job to raise the question that is often quoted from this passage: "If a man die, shall he live again?" (14:14) Job's imagination carried him away as he dreamed of dying and going to the grave for a period of time during which he would have no awareness of suffering and pain. Once God's anger was past, then he could return to this life and enjoy what time he had left. The inspiration for these thoughts came from nature. A tree, for instance, can be cut down and then a sprout will shoot up from the stump and the tree returns to life. Why can't a man be restored to life after he dies? That might solve Job's problem.

As his imagination continued along this line, he envisioned God summoning him from the grave once His anger was past. For God would long to reunite with Job who was the work of His hands. In this renewed relationship God could take notice of Job's life without giving attention to his sin and thus becoming concerned again with causing him pain.

But, alas, this was just a fantasy. In reality, man's decay was as inevitable as was erosion in nature in which a stone is worn away by the constant flow of water. And so man returns to dust, from which he came, without hope of return.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reflections on Job 13

 Job 13 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. I know and understand every bit of this.
  2. None of you are smarter than I am; there's nothing you know that I don't.
  3. But I prefer to argue my case with God All-Powerful--
  4. you are merely useless doctors, who treat me with lies.
  5. The wisest thing you can do is to keep quiet
  6. and listen to my argument.
  7. Are you telling lies for God
  8. and not telling the whole truth when you argue his case?
  9. If he took you to court, could you fool him, just as you fool others?
  10. If you were secretly unfair, he would correct you,
  11. and his glorious splendor would make you terrified.
  12. Your wisdom and arguments are as delicate as dust.
  13. Be quiet while I speak, then say what you will.
  14. I will be responsible for what happens to me.
  15. God may kill me, but still I will trust him and offer my defense.
  16. This may be what saves me, because no guilty person would come to his court.
  17. Listen carefully to my words!
  18. I have prepared my case well, and I am certain to win.
  19. If you can prove me guilty, I will give up and die.
  20. I ask only two things of you, my God, and I will no longer hide from you--
  21. stop punishing and terrifying me!
  22. Then speak, and I will reply; or else let me speak, and you reply.
  23. Please point out my sins, so I will know them.
  24. Why have you turned your back and count me your enemy?
  25. Do you really enjoy frightening a fallen leaf?
  26. Why do you accuse me of horrible crimes and make me pay for sins I did in my youth?
  27. You have tied my feet down and keep me surrounded;
  28. I am rotting away like cloth eaten by worms.

As Job continued to speak he again lashed out at his friends telling them they hadn't said anything he had not heard before. Their so-called memorable sayings were merely "proverbs of ash." (13:12) Plus, their words were coated in lies and they themselves were "worthless doctors." (13:4) They would express more wisdom by their silence than by speaking. Rather than defending himself with the friends, Job preferred to go directly to God and plead his case, and so he did.

In pleading his case before God, Job was demonstrating his confidence in God and even stated that his hope was in God. He remained a person of faith. Satan's challenge with God remained in God's favor. As Job began his defense, he pledged to be silent if God were to indict him. Yet, to this point God had been both absent and silent. So Job also requested that God no longer hide from him as if he were an enemy but rather state the iniquities and sins he had committed to justify his suffering. Surely they didn't go back to his youth but he didn't know of any more recently. Job was wearing out like a moth-eaten garment. He wanted resolution. Surely in his condition he didn't warrant God's attention to this degree.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Reflections on Job 12

 Job 12 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said to his friends:
  2. You think you are so great, with all the answers.
  3. But I know as much as you do, and so does everyone else.
  4. I have always lived right, and God answered my prayers; now friends make fun of me.
  5. It's easy to condemn those who are suffering, when you have no troubles.
  6. Robbers and other godless people live safely at home and say, "God is in our hands!"
  7. If you want to learn, then go and ask the wild animals and the birds,
  8. the flowers and the fish.
  9. Any of them can tell you what the LORD has done.
  10. Every living creature is in the hands of God.
  11. We hear with our ears, taste with our tongues,
  12. and gain some wisdom from those who have lived a long time.
  13. But God is the real source of wisdom and strength.
  14. No one can rebuild what he destroys, or release those he has imprisoned.
  15. God can hold back the rain or send a flood,
  16. just as he rules over liars and those they lie to.
  17. God destroys counselors, turns judges into fools,
  18. and makes slaves of kings.
  19. God removes priests and others who have great power--
  20. he confuses wise, experienced advisors,
  21. puts mighty kings to shame, and takes away their power.
  22. God turns darkness to light;
  23. he makes nations strong, then shatters their strength.
  24. God strikes their rulers senseless, then leaves them to roam through barren deserts,
  25. lost in the dark, staggering like someone drunk.

Bildad said he had heard enough of Job's babbling and it would seem that Job, too, has heard enough from his friends as he launched a biting retort at them in chapter 12. "No doubt you are the people," he said, "and wisdom will die with you!" (12:2) Then dropping the sarcasm he made a frontal attack on their so-called wisdom: "Who doesn't know the things you are talking about?" (12:3) There was no special wisdom in their counsel. In their great wisdom, it was Job, who had called on God and received His answers, who had become a laughingstock while "The tents of robbers are safe, and those who provoke God are secure." (12:6) But even their misguided judgment was made possible by God. Nothing happens apart from God's hand, which is wisdom even the animals understand.

In God's sovereignty those who are great are brought down. He makes nations great and also tears them down. He also reveals mysteries, bringing to light what has been hidden. Or, He withholds reason from the world's leaders and veals in darkness what was once in the light. Nothing escapes God's hand. The implication? Job's plight had come from God's hand, not from Job's sin.

We want to think we have more control over life than we really do, and so we make statements such as, "Control your own destiny." And yet we have absolutely no control over our destinies. True, our choices make a great difference in what happens in our lives, but even in this, the outcome of our choices is not beyond God's sovereignty. What about our freedom to make choices? Even this is a God-given freedom.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Reflections on Job 11

 Job 11 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Zophar from Naamah said:
  2. So much foolish talk cannot go unanswered.
  3. Your words have silenced others and made them ashamed; now it is only right for you to be put to shame.
  4. You claim to be innocent and argue that your beliefs are acceptable to God.
  5. But I wish he would speak
  6. and let you know that wisdom has many different sides. You would then discover that God has punished you less than you deserve.
  7. Can you understand the mysteries surrounding God All-Powerful?
  8. They are higher than the heavens and deeper than the grave. So what can you do when you know so little,
  9. and these mysteries outreach the earth and the ocean?
  10. If God puts you in prison or drags you to court, what can you do?
  11. God has the wisdom to know when someone is worthless and sinful,
  12. but it's easier to tame a wild donkey than to make a fool wise.
  13. Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer,
  14. and give up your sins-- even those you do in secret.
  15. Then you won't be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless.
  16. Your troubles will go away like water beneath a bridge,
  17. and your darkest night will be brighter than noon.
  18. You will rest safe and secure, filled with hope and emptied of worry.
  19. You will sleep without fear and be greatly respected.
  20. But those who are evil will go blind and lose their way. Their only escape is death!

Job's third friend, Zophar, now entered the discussion. He had heard enough of Job's babbling, as he called it, and could not withhold speaking any longer. While the first two friends had not been kind to Job, Zophar was even less kind. According to Zophar, not only had Job sinned, his sin was greater than the suffering he was experiencing. "God," he said, "has chosen to overlook some of your sin." (11:6)

After telling Job his sin was greater than his punishment, Zophar went on to attack his intelligence, telling him he couldn't even "fathom the depths of God or discover the limits of the Almighty." (11:7) Obviously, none of us can, but Zophar went on to imply that Job was a stupid man who would gain understanding only when a wild donkey gave birth to a man. Furthermore, he said, God knows a worthless person when He sees one and was making no mistake when He punished Job.

Zophar didn't leave Job without hope, but it was meaningless in light of his unjust condemnation. If only Job would "redirect your heart and lift up your hands to Him (God) in prayer," Zophar said, "if there is iniquity in your hand, remove it, and don't allow injustice to dwell in your tents," then Job could hold his head high and be free from fault. If Job didn't reach out to God, his only hope was death.

While Zophar comments in these last verse might have been a word of hope to a guilty person, they were a stab to the heart for Job who was already reaching out to God and suffering just the same. Zophar only added to his suffering.