Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reflections on Job 40

 Job 40 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. I am the LORD All-Powerful,
  2. but you have argued that I am wrong. Now you must answer me.
  3. Job said to the LORD:
  4. Who am I to answer you?
  5. I did speak once or twice, but never again.
  6. Then out of the storm the LORD said to Job:
  7. Face me and answer the questions I ask!
  8. Are you trying to prove that you are innocent by accusing me of injustice?
  9. Do you have a powerful arm and a thundering voice that compare with mine?
  10. If so, then surround yourself with glory and majesty.
  11. Show your furious anger! Throw down and crush
  12. all who are proud and evil.
  13. Wrap them in grave clothes and bury them together in the dusty soil.
  14. Do this, and I will agree that you have won this argument.
  15. I created both you and the hippopotamus. It eats only grass like an ox,
  16. but look at the mighty muscles in its body
  17. and legs. Its tail is like a cedar tree, and its thighs are thick.
  18. The bones in its legs are like bronze or iron.
  19. I made it more powerful than any other creature, yet I am stronger still.
  20. Undisturbed, it eats grass while the other animals play nearby.
  21. It rests in the shade of trees along the riverbank
  22. or hides among reeds in the swamp.
  23. It remains calm and unafraid with the Jordan River rushing and splashing in its face.
  24. There is no way to capture a hippopotamus-- not even by hooking its nose or blinding its eyes.

God concluded His first speech to Job with the challenge: "Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?" Yes, Job had attempted to do that, so now "Let him who argues with God give an answer." (40:2) But Job had no answers and recognized there was nothing he could say to God. So he said, "How can I answer You? I place my hand over my mouth." (40:4) God had bombarded Job with a lengthy list of questions that dealt with Job's understanding of or participation in creation. The result was zero. Job had no understanding nor had any part in creation. He was humbled by this comparison with God's greatness and wisely kept quiet.

Then, in verse 6, God began another round with Job speaking to him from the whirlwind as before. Job, God asked, "Would you really challenge My justice? Would you declare Me guilty to justify yourself?" (40:8) Yes, Job had dared to do just that, persistently proclaiming his innocence and God's guilt of injustice. If Job was to challenge God he needed to be qualified. Did he have an arm like God's? Could he thunder with a voice like His? Could he humiliate the proud and trample the wicked? If Job could do all these things, then he was capable of delivering himself. He didn't need God nor did he have the need to accuse God. But, of course, Job was not capable of any of these things so he was dependent on God and in no position to question His governance of the universe.

Having compared Job to Himself, God then went back to nature and Job's ability to control a beast such as the Behemoth that God considered to be the "foremost" of His works. Could Job so much as capture this beast or tame it let alone create it? Obviously not. And God was not through with him.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reflections on Job 39

 Job 39 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. When do mountain goats and deer give birth? Have you been there when their young are born?
  2. How long are they pregnant
  3. before they deliver?
  4. Soon their young grow strong and then leave to be on their own.
  5. Who set wild donkeys free?
  6. I alone help them survive in salty desert sand.
  7. They stay far from crowded cities and refuse to be tamed.
  8. Instead, they roam the hills, searching for pastureland.
  9. Would a wild ox agree to live in your barn and labor for you?
  10. Could you force him to plow or to drag a heavy log to smooth out the soil?
  11. Can you depend on him to use his great strength and do your heavy work?
  12. Can you trust him to harvest your grain or take it to your barn from the threshing place?
  13. An ostrich proudly flaps her wings, but not because she loves her young.
  14. She abandons her eggs and lets the dusty ground keep them warm.
  15. And she doesn't seem to worry that the feet of an animal could crush them all.
  16. She treats her eggs as though they were not her own, unconcerned that her work might be for nothing.
  17. I myself made her foolish and without common sense.
  18. But once she starts running, she laughs at a rider on the fastest horse.
  19. Did you give horses their strength and the flowing hair along their necks?
  20. Did you make them able to jump like grasshoppers or to frighten people with their snorting?
  21. Before horses are ridden into battle, they paw at the ground, proud of their strength.
  22. Laughing at fear, they rush toward the fighting,
  23. while the weapons of their riders rattle and flash in the sun.
  24. Unable to stand still, they gallop eagerly into battle when trumpets blast.
  25. Stirred by the distant smells and sounds of war, they snort in reply to the trumpet.
  26. Did you teach hawks to fly south for the winter?
  27. Did you train eagles to build
  28. their nests on rocky cliffs,
  29. where they can look down to spot their next meal?
  30. Then their young gather to feast wherever the victim lies.

God was now speaking to Job and his friends, though He was addressing Job. He had begun with a line of questioning to Job challenging his qualifications to question God's wisdom. God's questions began concerning the creation and control of the earth and then the stars and clouds, and was now concerning the animals of creation beginning with the lions and ravens.

In this chapter God asked Job about goats and deer, wild donkeys and wild oxen, ostriches, storks, war horses, and locusts, and hawks and eagles. Job had no part in making, sustaining, or controlling any of these animals or birds.

All of these questions served to remind Job of how small he was in the scheme of things, particularly compared to God. It also served to remind him of how great God is. But we also see in God's discussion of the various animals His pride and joy in the animals He has made. If He has such pride in the animals and provides for them in every detail, is He not more delighted with man, caring for him in every way?

Job's friends, as do so many, picture God as an angry God who must be appeased by man if man is to enjoy any happiness in life. But the reality is very different. For God takes pleasure in man and wants to have a loving relationship with each. It is man who turns away from God, not God from man. And it is God, not man, who provides a way to have a loving relationship with man.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reflections on Job 38

 Job 38(Contemporary English Version)
  1. From out of a storm, the LORD said to Job:
  2. Why do you talk so much when you know so little?
  3. Now get ready to face me! Can you answer the questions I ask?
  4. How did I lay the foundation for the earth? Were you there?
  5. Doubtless you know who decided its length and width.
  6. What supports the foundation? Who placed the cornerstone,
  7. while morning stars sang, and angels rejoiced?
  8. When the ocean was born, I set its boundaries
  9. and wrapped it in blankets of thickest fog.
  10. Then I built a wall around it, locked the gates,
  11. and said, "Your powerful waves stop here! They can go no farther."
  12. Did you ever tell the sun to rise? And did it obey?
  13. Did it take hold of the earth and shake out the wicked like dust from a rug?
  14. Early dawn outlines the hills like stitches on clothing or sketches on clay.
  15. But its light is too much for those who are evil, and their power is broken.
  16. Job, have you ever walked on the ocean floor?
  17. Have you seen the gate to the world of the dead?
  18. And how large is the earth? Tell me, if you know!
  19. Where is the home of light, and where does darkness live?
  20. Can you lead them home?
  21. I'm certain you must be able to, since you were already born when I created everything.
  22. Have you been to the places where I keep snow and hail,
  23. until I use them to punish and conquer nations?
  24. From where does lightning leap, or the east wind blow?
  25. Who carves out a path for thunderstorms? Who sends torrents of rain
  26. on empty deserts where no one lives?
  27. Rain that changes barren land to meadows green with grass.
  28. Who is the father of the dew and of the rain?
  29. Who gives birth to the sleet and the frost
  30. that fall in winter, when streams and lakes freeze solid as a rock?
  31. Can you arrange stars in groups such as Orion and the Pleiades?
  32. Do you control the stars or set in place the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper?
  33. Do you know the laws that govern the heavens, and can you make them rule the earth?
  34. Can you order the clouds to send a downpour,
  35. or will lightning flash at your command?
  36. Did you teach birds to know that rain or floods are on their way?
  37. Can you count the clouds or pour out their water
  38. on the dry, lumpy soil?
  39. When lions are hungry, do you help them hunt?
  40. Do you send an animal into their den?
  41. And when starving young ravens cry out to me for food, do you satisfy their hunger?

Job was, no doubt, relieved for God to finally speak. Under God's barrage of question that Job could not answer, though, his relief may have been short lived.

Job finally got his audience with God, but it did not prove to be his day in court as he had requested. God gave no explanation for Job's plight or provide answers to why good people suffer while the wicked prosper. Instead, He pointed out, through His line of questions, the absurdity of man questioning God abilities. If Job were to demand answers of God as if He were either subject to Job or His wisdom inferior to Job's, Job should establish his right to demand answers by first answering God's questions.

God's first question of Job was sufficient to end the discussion: "Where were you when I established the earth?" But God didn't stop with this question. Instead, He asked less complicated questions for Job to answer and yet he could answer none of them. Who fixed the earth's dimensions? What supports its foundations? Who enclosed the sea while I made the clouds as its garment and determined its boundaries? Was that you, Job?

Had Job commanded the morning or did he understand the gates of death or comprehend the extent of the earth? Where does light or darkness come from? This Job should know since he was already born. After all, he was such a wise and aged man. Obviously this was God's use of sarcasm at Job's audacity to question God's judgment. What, then, about snow or hail or maybe the east wind? Maybe Job knew the source of these? Or maybe Job could command the clouds to cause a flood of water or send lightning bolts across the sky?

Finally, God asked Job if he could put the constellations in place in the heavens? Did he know the laws of heaven that controlled the movement of the heavenly bodies? On a smaller scale, could Job even provide food for a young lion or a raven? What could Job do besides question God?

Job was not alone. Who can do any of these things? Nor are we any different from Job. We all question God and try to hold Him accountable to our puny ideas of justice or how to govern the world. What do we know compared to God? And yet, if God doesn't match up to how we think He should operate we conclude there is no God. But here we are. How did we get here? The most highly acclaimed scientist has not yet answered that question, though many throw out theories that make much less sense and are no more scientific than the existence of God. Once we can explain our existence and play a role in controlling nature or the universe, maybe then we can rightfully question God.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reflections on Job 37

 Job 37 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. I am frightened and tremble all over,
  2. when I hear the roaring voice of God in the thunder,
  3. and when I see his lightning flash across the sky.
  4. God's majestic voice thunders his commands,
  5. creating miracles too marvelous for us to understand.
  6. Snow and heavy rainstorms
  7. make us stop and think about God's power,
  8. and they force animals to seek shelter.
  9. The windstorms of winter strike,
  10. and the breath of God freezes streams and rivers.
  11. Rain clouds filled with lightning appear at God's command,
  12. traveling across the sky
  13. to release their cargo-- sometimes as punishment for sin, sometimes as kindness.
  14. Job, consider carefully the many wonders of God.
  15. Can you explain why lightning flashes at the orders
  16. of God who knows all things? Or how he hangs the clouds in empty space?
  17. You almost melt in the heat of fierce desert winds when the sky is like brass.
  18. God can spread out the clouds to get relief from the heat, but can you?
  19. Tell us what to say to God! Our minds are in the dark, and we don't know how to argue our case.
  20. Should I risk my life by telling God that I want to speak?
  21. No one can stare at the sun after a breeze has blown the clouds from the sky.
  22. Yet the glorious splendor of God All-Powerful is brighter by far.
  23. God cannot be seen-- but his power is great, and he is always fair.
  24. And so we humans fear God, because he shows no respect for those who are proud and think they know so much.

As Elihu neared the conclusion of his speeches, he pointed to God's majesty and greatness in an attempt to diminish Job's view of himself by comparison. Wanting Job to humble himself before God rather than accuse Him and criticize Him.

God's majesty and greatness, he pointed out, are best seen through nature which is easily recognized. A good example is a thunderstorm when the lightning streaks across the sky followed by the roar of the thunder. It is like hearing the voice of God. More calming and peaceful, though no less awesome, is a snowfall or a torrential rain. The torrential rains, Elihu said, "serve as His signature to all mankind." Through them all people may know God's work. Further examples of God's greatness are the windstorm or a driving north wind or an ice storm or a cloud formation. All of these God has at His disposal for either punishment or a demonstration of His love.

Elihu then asked Job to ponder these things and consider God's wonders. Having done so, the question for Job to consider was whether he understood how God does all these things and whether he could assist God with any of it. Obviously, Job could neither understand how God controls nature or help God do so. In that case, should Job be so bold before God? If he was so smart, he should teach them what they should say to God to defend themselves or he should tell them how to approach God. Should they give God notice that they want to speak? Should they speak to God when they are confused? Elihu had already told Job he spoke without understanding, so this last question was likely aimed at suggesting that Job was confused and therefore should remain quiet before God.

In conclusion Elihu said that God is too great for man to even reach. He is above reproach concerning His justice and righteousness. Nor, He does oppress. Therefore, men should not consider themselves wise in their own hearts for God does not look on this with favor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reflections on Job 36

 Job 36 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Elihu said:
  2. Be patient a while longer; I have something else to say in God's defense.
  3. God always does right-- and this knowledge comes straight from God.
  4. You can rest assured that what I say is true.
  5. Although God is mighty, he cares about everyone and makes fair decisions.
  6. The wicked are cut down, and those who are wronged receive justice.
  7. God watches over good people and places them in positions of power and honor forever.
  8. But when people are prisoners of suffering and pain,
  9. God points out their sin and their pride,
  10. then he warns them to turn back to him.
  11. And if they obey, they will be successful and happy from then on.
  12. But if they foolishly refuse, they will be rewarded with a violent death.
  13. Godless people are too angry to ask God for help when he punishes them.
  14. So they die young in shameful disgrace.
  15. Hard times and trouble are God's way of getting our attention!
  16. And at this very moment, God deeply desires to lead you from trouble and to spread your table with your favorite food.
  17. Now that the judgment for your sins has fallen upon you,
  18. don't let your anger and the pain you endured make you sneer at God.
  19. Your reputation and riches cannot protect you from distress,
  20. nor can you find safety in the dark world below.
  21. Be on guard! Don't turn to evil as a way of escape.
  22. God's power is unlimited. He needs no teachers
  23. to guide or correct him.
  24. Others have praised God for what he has done, so join with them.
  25. From down here on earth, everyone has looked up and seen
  26. how great God is-- God is more than we imagine; no one can count the years he has lived.
  27. God gathers moisture into the clouds
  28. and supplies us with rain.
  29. Who can understand how God scatters the clouds and speaks from his home in the thunderstorm?
  30. And when God sends lightning, it can be seen at the bottom of the sea.
  31. By producing such rainstorms, God rules the world and provides us with food.
  32. Each flash of lightning is one of his arrows striking its target,
  33. and the thunder tells of his anger against sin.

Elihu began his last speech claiming broad knowledge and flawless arguments with which to defend God's justice and sovereignty. He proceeded, then, to claim that God gives justice to those who are afflicted but does not keep the wicked alive, using affliction as a teaching tool. In this argument Elihu demonstrated his thinking to be little different from the other three friends. The presence of affliction, according to him, is due to iniquity or sin. However, he was arguing that God uses affliction to turn one to repentance and back to God, whereas the other three argued that affliction was judgment for sin.

Therefore, Elihu argued that God uses affliction to tell people "what they have done and how arrogantly they have transgressed." Thus, opening their ears to correction so they will repent of their iniquity. Here is his bold assertion that affliction is a direct result of one's iniquity. The remedy of the afflicted is to be repentant and serve God obediently, bringing an end to the affliction and leading to years of prosperity. If, on the other hand, a person does not obey, they will cross the "river of death." This is his instruction to Job as to why he remains in his affliction. Job, he is saying, remains in his suffering because he has been complaining about God's injustice rather than repenting and serving God. If Job does not cry out for God's help, Elihu says, he will be like those who have a godless heart and die in their youth.

Elihu continued his argument saying that, "God rescues the afflicted by afflicting them; He instructs them by means of their torment." (36:15) He implies that Job was not letting the affliction teach him. He had instead become "obsessed with the judgment due the wicked," and remained mired in his affliction. Elihu warned Job that he should be careful not to be lured by his former riches thinking they could deliver him from his affliction. And, Job should be careful not to give in to iniquity thinking righteousness is no better. After all, iniquity is why Job was afflicted in the first place.

Instead of complaining, Job should be praising God for the wonders of His creation. God uses nature, that He has created and controls, both to bless and to judge. Through the rain and the lightning He gives food but also destroys. Elihu has condensed his understanding of God into a neat package that should be understandable to all. There is no reason, in his thinking, to tax one's brain to figure out why a person suffers. It is simple. The person has sinned, leaving only the question of what they are going to do about it? Will they repent and obey God leading to renewed prosperity or will they refuse to call out to God and die as a result of their sin?

Elihu's simplistic argument will soon fall apart when God gives His reply to this group of friends.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reflections on Job 35

 Job 35 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Elihu said:
  2. Job, are you really innocent in the sight of God?
  3. Don't you honestly believe it pays to obey him?
  4. I will give the answers to you and your friends.
  5. Look up to the heavens
  6. and think! Do your sins hurt God?
  7. Is any good you may have done at all helpful to him?
  8. The evil or good you do only affects other humans.
  9. In times of trouble, everyone begs the mighty God to have mercy.
  10. But after their Creator helps them through hard times, they forget about him,
  11. though he makes us wiser than animals or birds.
  12. God won't listen to the prayers of proud and evil people.
  13. If God All-Powerful refuses to answer their empty prayers,
  14. he will surely deny your impatient request to face him in court.
  15. Job, you were wrong to say God doesn't punish sin.
  16. Everything you have said adds up to nonsense.

Elihu continued his speech, telling Job that it was he who was unjust rather than God. Is it just, he asked, for Job to say, "I am righteous," and to also ask, "What does it profit . . . if I do not sin?" He tells Job to consider God who is high above him and the clouds. How does sin affect Him? Or if you are righteous, of what benefit is that to God? It is only man, he says, who is affected by our actions.

People cry out to God when they are oppressed but they do not consider who God is and what He does for them. This is because of their pride, he says. But God does not pay attention to their pleas because their cries are empty. They are thinking only of themselves and not of God. Job, according to Elihu, compounds this when he complains that he cannot see God and is having to wait on Him to do something about his case. With what appears to be sarcasm, Elihu adds, that Job's complaint is in vain because, according to Job, God "does not pay attention to transgression." But Elihu misconstrued Job in this. Job did not say that God does not pay attention to transgression, only that God does not always deal with it in this lifetime.

Missing through nearly all the speeches to this point, including those of Job, is God's love. Scripture tells us "God is love," one example being, Exodus 34:6: "Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth." But this aspect of God is almost completely absent throughout the discourse between Job and his friends. Job made one reference of God's love early in the discourse and Elihu mentioned it later in his present speech. But these are passing references and do not seem to influence their thoughts to any great degree.

Can a loving God be unconcerned about Job's plight or unaffected by man's sin or his righteousness? I think not. He was so affected by man's sin that He provided a way, though His own Son, to deal with it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Reflections on Job 34

 Job 34 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Elihu said:
  2. You men think you are wise, but just listen to me!
  3. Think about my words, as you would taste food.
  4. Then we can decide the case and give a just verdict.
  5. Job claims he is innocent and God is guilty of mistreating him.
  6. Job also argues that God considers him a liar and that he is suffering severely in spite of his innocence.
  7. But to tell the truth, Job is shameless!
  8. He spends his time with sinners,
  9. because he has said, "It doesn't pay to please God."
  10. If any of you are smart, you will listen and learn that God All-Powerful does what is right.
  11. God always treats everyone the way they deserve,
  12. and he is never unfair.
  13. From the very beginning, God has been in control of all the world.
  14. If God took back the breath that he breathed into us,
  15. we humans would die and return to the soil.
  16. So be smart and listen!
  17. The mighty God is the one who brings about justice, and you are condemning him.
  18. Indeed, God is the one who condemns unfair rulers.
  19. And God created us all; he has no favorites, whether rich or poor.
  20. Even powerful rulers die in the darkness of night when they least expect it, just like the rest of us.
  21. God watches everything we do.
  22. No evil person can hide in the deepest darkness.
  23. And so, God doesn't need to set a time for judgment.
  24. Without asking for advice, God removes mighty leaders and puts others in their place.
  25. He knows what they are like, and he wipes them out in the middle of the night.
  26. And while others look on, he punishes them because they were evil
  27. and refused to obey him.
  28. The persons they mistreated had prayed for help, until God answered their prayers.
  29. When God does nothing, can any person or nation find fault with him?
  30. But still, he punishes rulers who abuse their people.
  31. Job, you should tell God that you are guilty and promise to do better.
  32. Then ask him to point out what you did wrong, so you won't do it again.
  33. Do you make the rules, or does God? You have to decide-- I can't do it for you; now make up your mind.
  34. Job, anyone with good sense can easily see
  35. that you are speaking nonsense and lack good judgment.
  36. So I pray for you to suffer as much as possible for talking like a sinner.
  37. You have rebelled against God, time after time, and have even insulted us.

Elihu began round two of his speech and called for the group to listen to him and weigh the accuracy of his words. Then he proceeded to defend God. Job had accused God of injustice, saying God had caused him incurable suffering though he was without transgression. But it is impossible for God to do wrong, Elihu says. He only repays a person according to his deeds. God does not act wickedly nor pervert justice. If He were to withdraw His spirit every living thing would die, but He doesn't.

How could God govern the world if He were unjust? He puts down the wicked regardless of who they are, be they king or rich while defending the poor. There is nowhere a person can hide from God, so God doesn't need to examine a person in court. He already knows the evidence. Without further invetigation, as Job called for, God strikes down the wicked, and "when God is silent, who can declare Him guilty?"

Elihu proposed a further argument to Job. What if Job were to now confess his sin and promise to "no longer act wickedly?" On whose terms should God then repay him? Shoud God repay Job on Job's terms since he had rejected God's? Reasonable men as well as the wise, says Elihu, would join him in saying that Job had spoken without knowledge. His words were like those "of wicked men." He had added rebellion to his sin.

Though it is true, as Elihu claims, Job was showing arrogance in refusing to acknowledge any sin in his life. Who can be sure they are not blind to sin in their life? But Elihu still had the same flaw as his friends in assuming that Job had sinned or he otherwise would not be suffering.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Reflections on Job 33

 Job 33 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job, listen to me! Pay close attention.
  2. Everything I will say
  3. is true and sincere,
  4. just as surely as the Spirit of God All-Powerful gave me the breath of life.
  5. Now line up your arguments and prepare to face me.
  6. We each were made from clay, and God has no favorites,
  7. so don't be afraid of me or what I might do.
  8. I have heard you argue
  9. that you are innocent, guilty of nothing.
  10. You claim that God has made you his enemy,
  11. that he has bound your feet and blocked your path.
  12. But, Job, you're wrong-- God is greater than any human.
  13. So why do you challenge God to answer you?
  14. God speaks in different ways, and we don't always recognize his voice.
  15. Sometimes in the night, he uses terrifying dreams
  16. to give us warnings.
  17. God does this to make us turn from sin and pride
  18. and to protect us from being swept away to the world of the dead.
  19. Sometimes we are punished with a serious illness and aching joints.
  20. Merely the thought of our favorite food makes our stomachs sick,
  21. and we become so skinny that our bones stick out.
  22. We feel death and the grave taking us in their grip.
  23. One of a thousand angels then comes to our rescue by saying we are innocent.
  24. The angel shows kindness, commanding death to release us, because the price was paid.
  25. Our health is restored, we feel young again,
  26. and we ask God to accept us. Then we joyfully worship God, and we are rewarded because we are innocent.
  27. When that happens, we tell everyone, "I sinned and did wrong, but God forgave me
  28. and rescued me from death! Now I will see the light."
  29. God gives each of us chance after chance
  30. to be saved from death and brought into the light that gives life.
  31. So, Job, pay attention and don't interrupt,
  32. though I would gladly listen to anything you say that proves you are right.
  33. Otherwise, listen in silence to my wisdom.

Having introduced himself to the discussion, Elihu set out to now address Job's concerns, asking Job to pay attention. His intentions were good and his words sincere, he says. He was made by God as was Job, which he presumably summits as his right to speak on equal standing with Job. Job should not fear his words, though, for he would not exert pressure on Job.

Elihu began by addressing Job's claim of innocence before God and his insistence that God was not dealing justly with him. God is greater than man, he says, and such charges cannot be made. Besides, God does answer us, contrary to Job's claims, but we do not always notice. He answers through dreams, for instance, giving warnings intended to "turn a person from his actions and suppress his pride." (33:17) God also speaks through pain and suffering which are also intended to keep a person from the grave. A further means of God speaking to people is through an angel whose intent, also, is to turn a person from the grave.

Elihu sees a different purpose for suffering than do the three friends. Whereas they see it as punishment for sin, Elihu sees it as a means of teaching. But like the friends, he sees the cause as being sin. Therefore, Job could not claim innocence from sin for obviously he had or he wouldn't be suffering. But through the suffering he could learn and be turned away from the grave. Having learned the intended lesson, the person would escape the grave and be restored to health and to his relationship with God. God uses these various means to speak to man repeatedly so he may be spared from the grave.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reflections on Job 32

 Job 32 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Finally, these three men stopped arguing with Job, because he refused to admit that he was guilty.
  2. Elihu from Buz was there, and he had become upset with Job for blaming God instead of himself.
  3. He was also angry with Job's three friends for not being able to prove that Job was wrong.
  4. Elihu was younger than these three, and he let them speak first.
  5. But he became irritated when they could not answer Job,
  6. and he said to them: I am much younger than you, so I have shown respect by keeping silent.
  7. I once believed age was the source of wisdom;
  8. now I truly realize wisdom comes from God.
  9. Age is no guarantee of wisdom and understanding.
  10. That's why I ask you to listen to me.
  11. I eagerly listened to each of your arguments,
  12. but not one of you proved Job to be wrong.
  13. You shouldn't say, "We know what's right! Let God punish him."
  14. Job hasn't spoken against me, and so I won't answer him with your arguments.
  15. All of you are shocked; you don't know what to say.
  16. But am I to remain silent, just because you have stopped speaking?
  17. No! I will give my opinion,
  18. because I have so much to say, that I can't keep quiet.
  19. I am like a swollen wineskin, and I will burst
  20. if I don't speak.
  21. I don't know how to be unfair or to flatter anyone--
  22. if I did, my Creator would quickly destroy me!

We are surprised now by a fifth voice that joins the discussion. Elihu, a man younger than the others, had sat quietly through all the speeches of the three friends and Job listening for the conclusions that would be drawn. But Elihu had grown angry with the speeches and now that silence hung over the group, his words were bursting to come out. He was angry because Job had justified himself rather than God and because the friends had been unable to refute Job.

Elihu had hoped that wisdom would accompany the words of the three older friends but had been disappointed. Wisdom and understanding, he concluded, comes from God rather than from age. In their failure to refute Jobm the friends should not claim wisdom, he said. So now Elihu would speak, telling what he knew. His comments would not be directed to Job because Job had not addressed him. In his comments, Elihu would speak without partiality or flattery. But speak, he would, for the words were bursting to come out of him as unvented wine is bound to burst the wineskins.
Elihu's speech begins in the next chapter.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reflections on Job 31

 Job 31 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. I promised myself never to stare with desire at a young woman.
  2. God All-Powerful punishes men who do that.
  3. In fact, God sends disaster on all who sin,
  4. and he keeps a close watch on everything I do.
  5. I am not dishonest or deceitful,
  6. and I beg God to prove my innocence.
  7. If I have disobeyed him or even wanted to,
  8. then others can eat my harvest and uproot my crops.
  9. If I have desired someone's wife and chased after her,
  10. then let some stranger steal my wife from me.
  11. If I took someone's wife, it would be a horrible crime,
  12. sending me to destruction and my crops to the flames.
  13. When my servants complained against me, I was fair to them.
  14. Otherwise, what answer would I give to God when he judges me?
  15. After all, God is the one who gave life to each of us before we were born.
  16. I have never cheated widows or others in need,
  17. and I have always shared my food with orphans.
  18. Since the time I was young, I have cared for orphans and helped widows.
  19. I provided clothes for the poor,
  20. and I was praised for supplying woolen garments to keep them warm.
  21. If I have ever raised my arm to threaten an orphan when the power was mine,
  22. I hope that arm will fall from its socket.
  23. I could not have been abusive; I was terrified at the thought that God might punish me.
  24. I have never trusted the power of wealth,
  25. or taken pride in owning many possessions.
  26. I have never openly or secretly
  27. worshiped the sun or moon.
  28. Such horrible sins would have deserved punishment from God.
  29. I have never laughed when my enemies were struck by disaster.
  30. Neither have I sinned by asking God to send down on them the curse of death.
  31. No one ever went hungry at my house,
  32. and travelers were always welcome.
  33. Many have attempted to hide their sins from others-- but I refused.
  34. And the fear of public disgrace never forced me to keep silent about what I had done.
  35. Why doesn't God All-Powerful listen and answer? If God has something against me, let him speak up or put it in writing!
  36. Then I would wear his charges on my clothes and forehead.
  37. And with my head held high, I would tell him everything I have ever done.
  38. I have never mistreated the land I farmed and made it mourn.
  39. Nor have I cheated my workers and caused them pain.
  40. If I had, I would pray for weeds instead of wheat to grow in my fields. After saying these things, Job was silent.

In the verses of chapter 31, Job listed a number of sins of which he claimed innocence. Several of which he had been accused by his three friends.

The first sin Job mentioned was lust. He had not looked on a young woman lustfully, having made a "covenant with my eyes." While here Job addressed sinful thoughts, he later mentions the sinful action of allowing himself to be seduced by another's wife. He was not guilty of this sin either.

Another sin of which Job claimed innocence was injustice. He had not been deceitful in his ways nor dishonest in his business dealings. Neither had he dismissed any complaints of his servants against him without addressing them. Furthermore, he had helped the poor, the widow, and the orphan, and he had opened his door to the traveler.

Job was not guilty of covetousness or idolatry either. He had not placed his trust in his wealth rather than God, nor had he worshiped the luminaries, denying God. Job could find nothing of which he was guilty warranting the calamities that had befallen him. Was he overly pious in this assessment? Probably. None of us are completely innocent of sin, though we may be unaware of any.

Some, such as Samuel Ridout, are critical of Job's self assessment saying, "We are glad to be through with Job's words as uttered here." Moreover, he says, "Job's words will be rightly ended when he is ready to give praise to the One who alone is worthy of it." While I agree with this later statement, I don't necessarily agree with the first. I am in no position to be critical of Job and don't know of any who are. I know of no one who has suffered the losses Job had, but know of many who have suffered much smaller losses who have turned away from God. While I have not turned away from God in my losses, my attitude hasn't been any different from Job's. My thoughts in these times, however, have come from the opposite direction of Job's. Instead of claiming innocence of sin, I enumerated the ways I had served God that should have protected me from such loss.

Of course, it doesn't work this way. Serving God is not a protection against suffering just as sin is not a guarantee of suffering. While Job disagreed with his friends' idea that suffering equals sin, his claim of innocence and plea for justice get very close to the same thinking. But I understand Job's cry for justice and cannot be critical. He clung to God's greatness and sovereignty throughout his ordeal.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Reflections on Job 30

 Job 30 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Young people now insult me, although their fathers would have been a disgrace to my sheep dogs.
  2. And those who insult me are helpless themselves.
  3. They must claw the desert sand in the dark for something to satisfy their hunger.
  4. They gather tasteless shrubs for food and firewood,
  5. and they are run out of towns, as though they were thieves.
  6. Their only homes are ditches or holes between rocks,
  7. where they bray like donkeys gathering around shrubs.
  8. And like senseless donkeys they are chased away.
  9. Those worthless nobodies make up jokes and songs to disgrace me.
  10. They are hateful and keep their distance, even while spitting in my direction.
  11. God has destroyed me, and so they don't care what they do.
  12. Their attacks never stop, though I am defenseless, and my feet are trapped.
  13. Without any help, they prevent my escape, destroying me completely
  14. and leaving me crushed.
  15. Terror has me surrounded; my reputation and my riches have vanished like a cloud.
  16. I am sick at heart! Pain has taken its toll.
  17. Night chews on my bones, causing endless torment,
  18. and God has shrunk my skin, choking me to death.
  19. I have been thrown in the dirt and now am dirt myself.
  20. I beg God for help, but there is no answer; and when I stand up, he simply stares.
  21. God has turned brutal,
  22. stirring up a windstorm to toss me about.
  23. Soon he will send me home to the world of the dead, where we all must go.
  24. No one refuses help to others, when disaster strikes.
  25. I mourned for the poor and those who suffered.
  26. But when I beg for relief and light, all I receive are disaster and darkness.
  27. My stomach is tied in knots; pain is my daily companion.
  28. Suffering has scorched my skin, and in the city council I stand and cry out,
  29. making mournful sounds like jackals and owls.
  30. My skin is so parched, that it peels right off, and my bones are burning.
  31. My only songs are sorrow and sadness.

Job's fall was great. Not only had he lost everything he owned plus his family and his health, he had lost respect in the community. Before, he had the respect of the most upstanding leaders of the community, but now he was mocked by the sons of men he wouldn't put with his sheep dogs. These were men who had been "expelled from human society." These foolish young men mocked Job with their songs. In his weakened state they had no fear and had "cast off restraint in (Job's) presence." They looked for ways to trip him up and block his path.

Besides being mocked by the dregs of society, Job felt God had grabbed him by his clothes and thrown him in the mud. Though Job cried out to God for help, it seemed God only looked at him and remained silent. Instead of helping, it seemed God only harassed him with His "strong hand." Rather than restoring Job's health and prosperity, Job knew that God would instead "lead me to death." Though Job had previously comforted those who had fallen on hard times, "no one would stretch out his hand" to help Job. Job had become a brother to jackals.

Job's misery is unimaginable. I cannot claim to have suffered even a margin of what he did and yet have felt overwhelmed at times by the little suffering I have experienced. In Job's position I might have been greatly tempted to take the advise his wife gave him, to just, "Curse God and die!" But Job refused. He complained at God's injustice in bringing the suffering on him without giving him an audience, but he did not curse God nor turn away from God. If God was the cause of his suffering, God was also the only one who could relieve his suffering.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reflections on Job 29

 Job 29 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said:
  2. I long for the past, when God took care of me,
  3. and the light from his lamp showed me the way through the dark.
  4. I was in the prime of life, God All-Powerful was my closest friend,
  5. and all of my children were nearby.
  6. My herds gave enough milk to bathe my feet, and from my olive harvest flowed rivers of oil.
  7. When I sat down at the meeting of the city council,
  8. the young leaders stepped aside,
  9. while the older ones stood
  10. and remained silent.
  11. Everyone was pleased with what I said and did.
  12. When poor people or orphans cried out for help, I came to their rescue.
  13. And I was highly praised for my generosity to widows and others in poverty.
  14. Kindness and justice were my coat and hat;
  15. I was good to the blind and to the lame.
  16. I was a father to the needy, and I defended them in court, even if they were strangers.
  17. When criminals attacked, I broke their teeth and set their victims free.
  18. I felt certain that I would live a long and happy life, then die in my own bed.
  19. In those days I was strong like a tree with deep roots and with plenty of water,
  20. or like an archer's new bow.
  21. Everyone listened in silence to my welcome advice,
  22. and when I finished speaking, nothing needed to be said.
  23. My words were eagerly accepted like the showers of spring,
  24. and the smile on my face renewed everyone's hopes.
  25. My advice was followed as though I were a king leading my troops, or someone comforting those in sorrow.

As Job continued to speak he recalled when just months earlier he enjoyed a closeness with God and God watched over him. He could walk through dark times guided by God's light. God's friendship rested on his home.

He had respect in the community, unlike what he had from his friends currently seated around him. When he went to the city gate the men stood and hushed their conversations to speak with him. They spoke well of Job. Again, unlike the friends presently seated with him who accused him of wickedness.

In defense of his integrity, Job told of helping the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the dying when he was prosperous. He was clothed "in righteousness" and his decisions "were like a robe and a turban." Furthermore, he sought justice for the stranger, shattering "the fangs of the unjust." (29:14, 17)

Did Job lack wisdom as accused by his friends? Not in light of his previous life. At that time men listened to him expectantly, waiting for his advise. His words were like rain to a farmer. They gave direction to those who heard them. In short, Job "lived as a king among his troops." (29:25) If only Job could return to those days! Even if he could not return to his previous prosperity, would he not be glad to again feel God watched over him?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Reflections on Job 28

 Job 28 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Gold and silver are mined, then purified;
  2. the same is done with iron and copper.
  3. Miners carry lanterns deep into the darkness to search for these metals.
  4. They dig tunnels in distant, unknown places, where they dangle by ropes.
  5. Far beneath the grain fields, fires are built to break loose those rocks
  6. that have jewels or gold.
  7. Miners go to places unseen by the eyes of hawks;
  8. they walk on soil unknown to the proudest lions.
  9. With their own hands they remove sharp rocks and uproot mountains.
  10. They dig through the rocks in search of jewels and precious metals.
  11. They also uncover the sources of rivers and discover secret places.
  12. But where is wisdom found?
  13. No human knows the way.
  14. Nor can it be discovered in the deepest sea.
  15. It is worth much more than silver or pure gold
  16. or precious stones.
  17. Nothing is its equal-- not gold or costly glass.
  18. Wisdom is worth much more than coral, jasper, or rubies.
  19. All the topaz of Ethiopia and the finest gold cannot compare with it.
  20. Where then is wisdom?
  21. It is hidden from human eyes and even from birds.
  22. Death and destruction have merely heard rumors about where it is found.
  23. God is the only one who knows the way to wisdom,
  24. because he sees everything beneath the heavens.
  25. When God divided out the wind and the water,
  26. and when he decided the path for rain and lightning,
  27. he also determined the truth and defined wisdom.
  28. God told us, "Wisdom means that you respect me, the Lord, and turn from sin."

This chapter brings us closer to the depth of this man Job. "Where can wisdom be found, and where is understanding located?" he asks. (28:12) As metals and precious gems cannot be found on the earth but must be mined below ground, so wisdom is not found in the land of the living. Nor can it be bought with gold or silver. As for value, gold and glass do not compare and its price is beyond pearls.

Having established the rarity and value of wisdom, Job returns to the questions mentioned above, "Where then does wisdom come from, and where is understanding located?" (28:20) It is hidden from every living thing and cannot be found in destruction and death. "But God understands the way to wisdom, and He knows its location." says Job. (28:23) As God considered everything He created, the weight of the wind, the limits of the water, and the path for the lightning, He also "considered wisdom and evaluated it." (28:27)

And what did God determine concerning wisdom? What He determined, He told to mankind, and this is what He said, "The fear of the Lord--that is wisdom, and to turn from evil is understanding." Honoring God and hating evil is the essence of wisdom and knowledge, and of revering God. If we get this right understanding of God's dealings, as with Job, will come, though it will never be complete. We, instead, want to reverse the process. We want to understand God's dealings before we give Him honor, hate evil, and submit to His teachings. This is like a dog chasing its tail. It is never caught. Nor do we gain understanding of God's ways until we first pursue God rather than understanding. Once we have God, understanding follows.

Job's friends thought they had understanding, but what they had was their own ignorant and uninformed ideas which they presumed to be understanding. But they did not arrive at these ideas by honoring God or hating evil. If evil is to withhold food from one in need, as they accused Job, it is also to withhold comfort from one in need of comfort as they had done with Job.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Reflections on Job 27

 Job 27 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said:
  2. I am desperate because God All-Powerful refuses to do what is right. As surely as God lives,
  3. and while he gives me breath,
  4. I will tell only the truth.
  5. Until the day I die, I will refuse to do wrong by saying you are right,
  6. because each day my conscience agrees that I am innocent.
  7. I pray that my enemies will suffer no less than the wicked.
  8. Such people are hopeless, and God All-Powerful will cut them down,
  9. without listening when they beg for mercy.
  10. And that is what God should do, because they don't like him or ever pray.
  11. Now I will explain in detail what God All-Powerful does.
  12. All of you have seen these things for yourselves. So you have no excuse.
  13. Here is how God All-Powerful treats those who are wicked and brutal.
  14. They may have many children, but most of them will go hungry or suffer a violent death.
  15. Others will die of disease, and their widows won't be able to weep.
  16. The wicked may collect riches and clothes in abundance as easily as clay.
  17. But God's people will wear clothes taken from them and divide up their riches.
  18. No homes built by the wicked will outlast a cocoon or a shack.
  19. Those sinners may go to bed rich, but they will wake up poor.
  20. Terror will strike at night like a flood or a storm.
  21. Then a scorching wind will sweep them away
  22. without showing mercy, as they try to escape.
  23. At last, the wind will celebrate because they are gone.

Job was steadfast in his insistence on his innocence. God, he said, had deprived him of justice, but he would maintain his integrity until he died. In the face of such loss and suffering it would be difficult to remain so steadfast in one's innocence. One is usually inclined either to become angry with God and blame Him or to accept their own guilt while remaining puzzled as to what they had done. Blaming God is the usual choice. Job did blame God, accusing Him of depriving him of justice, but unlike most who blame God, he did not turn away from God.

Following his insistence of his own innocence, Job turned to talking about the wicked. While he felt he was deprived of justice he still felt that justice reigned. He did not agree with his friends that the wicked were always swiftly dealt with. He still asserted, as he had before, that many of the wicked enjoyed a normal life, though some suffered in life as did anyone else. The difference, however, is that when they suffer in life they have no hope - no one to whom they can turn. The wicked do not delight in the Lord and so will not likely call out to Him when in distress. But even if they do, will they be heard?

Even for those who do not suffer during their lifetime, death will eventually come and they will have no hope in death. Though they may have heaped up riches in life and accumulated wealth, when they lie down in death it will be gone and they will see it no more. Their wealth will go to others. Their inheritance to their children will be destruction, nor will they be mourned when they is gone. The wicked person will not be missed. Death for them is a time of terror in which they are swept away into the night. They are picked up as by a fierce wind and are gone, blasted without mercy.

Job did not speak of the righteous, but what did he infer or not infer about them? First, he did not infer that the righteous do not suffer. This he could not do for he saw himself as righteous and he was clearly suffering. But he did infer that the righteous have hope. They could call out to God in times of trouble and God would help them through it. And he inferred that their was hope beyond death for the righteous. Though he did not say what they could expect in death he infers that it is not like the wicked who faces terror in death.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reflections on Job 26

 Job 26(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said:
  2. You have really been helpful to someone weak and weary.
  3. You have given great advice and wonderful wisdom to someone truly in need.
  4. How can anyone possibly speak with such understanding?
  5. Remember the terrible trembling of those in the world of the dead below the mighty ocean.
  6. Nothing in that land of death and destruction is hidden from God,
  7. who hung the northern sky and suspended the earth on empty space.
  8. God stores water in clouds, but they don't burst,
  9. and he wraps them around the face of the moon.
  10. On the surface of the ocean, God has drawn a boundary line between light and darkness.
  11. And columns supporting the sky tremble at his command.
  12. By his power and wisdom, God conquered the force of the mighty ocean.
  13. The heavens became bright when he breathed, and the escaping sea monster died at the hands of God.
  14. These things are merely a whisper of God's power at work. How little we would understand if this whisper ever turned into thunder!

Job sarcastically admonished Bildad for his useless counsel, asking in effect, "Where did you get this stuff?" Then Job addressed the greatness of God showing the in-adequateness of Bildad's description of God. While Bildad referred to a powerful God, his was a God of terror and a God before whom one had no hope.

Job, on the other hand, described a God who has power over death and the grave and who has stretched the skies over empty space and suspended the earth within that space, held in place with nothing but His might. God also formed the clouds from the waters enfolded within them and separates light and darkness with the horizon. The heavens are made beautiful by His breath. And all this, says Job, only touches on God's greatness.