Job

(176) June 25: Job 1-2 & Acts 7:1-19

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­­
As you read consider what exactly is being tested in Job.

To ponder:
Job worships Israel’s God, but is not an Israelite, living in Uz, the area of Edom, south of Israel. However, he is portrayed as the archetypal wise and so righteous man, pre-figuring the utterly righteous Christ. He is blameless, which does not mean he is perfect, but without fault in the eyes of the world (see 1 Thess 2v10). So he fears God, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1v7). It would have been assumed that it is because of this that Job is blessed with the large and numerically complete family, and with wealth, implied by his livestock. Indeed, he was known as the “greatest man.” And he was a godly father too, challenging all fathers by offering sacrifices incase his children had sinned – the equivalent of praying for God’s mercy to one’s children today.
            With all this in place, we now look behind the scenes. “The Satan” (lit: adversary) refers to an angelic being who stands against God and his people. Yet by having to present himself to God, we immediately see he is subject to God’s will. And here God takes the initiative. The sense is that Satan has been roaming the earth, perhaps looking for mischief, and God asks if he has considered Job. The title “servant” for Job here is a noble one, rarely used (2 Sam 7v5). By affirming the supremacy of Job’s righteousness and wisdom, it is as if God wants him to be a testimony to Satan of what the faithful can be. Paul makes this point in asserting how the unity of godly Christians displays God’s wisdom to the principalities and powers (Eph 3v8-11), proving the redemptive power of the gospel. We should see our own call to righteousness and wisdom as this significant.
            Satan effectively says Job is only like this because God has hedged him in with protection, and that if God would curse him, Job would surely curse God. The LORD’s response shows Satan’s activity is constrained by God’s permission, allowing him to afflict Job’s possessions but not Job. Satan’s power to influence human action and nature itself is then seen in the three events that lead to Job losing his livestock (and so wealth) and servants; and the fourth in which his children are killed (1v13 -29). In response Job mourns, but still worships, acknowledging God can give and take away as he pleases, and refusing to charge God with doing wrong. This is key to understanding the book. It affirms that true righteousness and wisdom is seen in maintaining one’s blamelessness and fear of God even when the worst happens, submitting to God’s unfathomable will and never charging him with injustice.
            This is all confirmed as Satan’s conversation with God is repeated, but with God’s affirmation that Job “still maintains his integrity” – that is his blamelessness and fear of God. Satan’s response “skin for skin” probably means if God inflicts Job’s physical wellbeing, then Job would do similar by paying God back with a curse. Interesting here is the fact that what Satan does to Job is at the same time ascribed to God as the one who permits it and so is effectively acting through Satan (2v3, 6-7). Afflicted with some terrible skin disease, Job is then pictured mourning amongst ashes, apart from all society, seeking to alleviate the pain with broken pottery. It’s a vivid picture of how consuming and alienating extreme suffering can be.
            Job’s wife, perhaps angry that Job is sticking with God after they have lost their children, urges him not to hold onto his integrity, ie. to turn from living for God to curse him. Family members might encourage the Christian to the same. Yet Job highlights this is “foolish” rather than wise. Noticeably, he doesn’t deny God would ever allow such suffering, recognising nothing happens but by his provoking or permitting it. Instead, he affirms trouble as well as good should be accepted from God. So he doesn’t sin by cursing God or charging him with wrongdoing (1v22, 2v9). At this point Job has been a model in how to respond when inexplicable suffering comes, foreshadowing Christ himself who was supremely attacked by Satan and cursed by God, yet continued in faithful submission.
Job’s three friends are foreigners, who show a commendable compassion in travelling to “sympathise” and “comfort” him. And their care is evident in their mourning when they can barely recognise him because of his sufferings, and being unable to speak for seven days. This response also affirms how severe his sufferings were. At this point, they therefore challenge any cold complacency we may have when our friends suffer.
           
Praying it home:
Praise God that even evil and suffering is not out of control, but comes according to his wise purposes. Pray that those you know who suffer would maintain their blamelessness and fear of God, not charging him with wrongdoing.

Thinking further: Lessons from Job
Here we once again see God’s absolute sovereignty, even over evil, and his readiness to both provoke and permit suffering for his own reasons. In Job’s case, this is to test and prove his faithfulness to God’s glory before Satan. And we can conclude Job’s sufferings were also so that we might benefit from this book. Suffering may also come to deepen our character, perseverance and hope (Rom 5v3-4), prove the genuineness of our faith to us (1 Pet 1v7), display our godliness to the unbelieving world (1 Pet 3v1-2), or occasionally even come as a deserved punishment (1 Cor 11v28-34). However, Job’s example already is that we may not know what God’s particular purpose in an experience of suffering is. However, we must maintain our blamelessness and fear of God nevertheless, trusting him and so not questioning his justice by charging him with doing wrong.
                                                          
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(177) June 26: Job 3-5 & Acts 7:20-43

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­­
As you read consider the key points Eliphaz is trying to make.

To ponder:
Job’s words only confirm how severely he is suffering. In short, he wishes that the day of his birth never took place - that pagan priests or the like who “curse” days or claim to be able to rouse the Leviathan (ie. sea monster), would use their power to curse that day (3v8). He recognises that for those who suffer it would be better to be stillborn and so “asleep,” ie. unconsciously resting in the place of the dead. Moreover, he asks the obvious question: Why does God continue to give life to those who long to die because of their suffering? Why does he “hedge” them in, not with protection (as 1v10) but with hardship in every direction. Most believers fear the arrival of tragedy, but for Job, what he feared had come to pass (3v25). Against the so called prosperity teachers, who promise health and wealth, he is therefore clear evidence that the godly are not exempt from extreme suffering. And he vocalizes their feelings.
            Eliphaz seems rather provoked to respond by what Job has said, and somewhat critical of his attitude, suggesting he would be “impatient” if someone speaks to him (4v1). He recognizes Job is godly in having done much to strengthen others in their troubles. But he finds fault in Job being so discouraged. Instead, he suggests Job should be confident that because he is blameless his sufferings will pass as the upright are never destroyed. Rather, it is the evil who perish under God’s anger. His attitude highlights the danger of insensitivity to another’s suffering, often seen in urging them to buck their ideas up rather than appreciating their dispair. It is also na├»ve, as a moment’s reflection shows that all who are upright die eventually, and many after great suffering.
            Eliphaz, however, has more to say. He claims to have received a prophetic word (4v12-21) that no mortal is more righteous than God. His point seems to be that their lives are so transient that they never have time to gain sufficient wisdom. How ready Christians can be to super-spiritualize their counsel as a word from God, to the frustration of their hearers, when it is just obvious insight. Eliphaz goes on to tell Job that resenting his situation or envying those who don’t suffer is foolish and detrimental. Indeed, he implies to act in this way is to be a fool and so subject to all the trouble fools experience in this hard human life because they lack the wisdom to guard against them (5v2-6). And so rather than foolishly calling on angels for help, as they will give no answer, Job should “appeal to God.” Again, the challenge is to all who like Eliphaz are quick to rebuke the lowly in spirit and urge contentment in their hardships. There is a place for these things (Phil 4v8-13), but not with insensitivity.
            The appeal to God urged upon Job, is to his justice as the one who as creator has power to thwart the crafty and save the needy (5v8-16). There may be a suggestion here that Job should not only seek his own deliverance but punishment on those behind his initial sufferings (see 1v13-17). At one level the advice is not wrong, but it assumes there is no higher reason for Job’s sufferings. Of course we know there is and so are learning that there is not necessarily a simple answer when trouble comes. From our perspective God may not do what seems just and deliver us - just as was the case with Jesus. This is not to suggest God is unjust, but that he is doing something else through our hardships, meaning that justice must wait. We can only accept the mystery inherent in not being party to God’s purposes.
            In missing this, Eliphaz goes on to conclude that although Job’s sufferings cannot be punishment, because he is evidently upright, the reason for them must be as discipline to correct some lack he has. He is therefore bold enough to insensitively say Job is actually “blessed” and should not “despise” his experience, as when it is over God will surely restore him to a position of great blessing. 5v23 speaks of an agreement with creation that entails harmony in which crops flourish without stones hindering them, and livestock are safe as wild animals don’t attack. The whole section is a wonderful picture of life in the new creation (5v17-26), and is an encouragement when we suffer (Rom 8v18-21). But it is not a promise for this life. Moreover, we know Eliphaz is misdiagnosing the situation, as Job is not being disciplined. So where he finishes boldly asserting the truth of what he has said, and calling Job to apply it, we finish having learnt that although we can know reasons why someone might suffer, we rarely know the reasons why they do suffer, and so should refrain from declaring any.

Praying it home:
Praise God for the hope of glory that does give perspective to suffering. Pray that you would be sensitive to the despair and struggle of those who suffer, not giving glib answers.

Thinking further: The genre of Job
We should note that much of the book is poetry and so not intending to provide a developed understanding of such doctrines as the afterlife. Again, the inclusion of ideas such as pagan priests or magicians cursing days or raising sea monsters should not be read as suggesting Job believes in such powers. They are simply the concepts of his day that he is using to express himself. This all reminds us that poetry requires reflection. We will not be able to comment on everything written, but will try to portray the sense of the argument. But do try and find the time to ponder the rich language, feeling its force, often as it builds line after line, saying almost the same thing but with a different illustration or nuance. Like narrative, poetry doesn’t always comment on the right or wrongs of what is said, leaving the reader to chew over them, and discern these things by reflection on the wider scriptures. We should therefore acknowledge a degree of uncertainty to some of our conclusions, although God’s final verdict on Job’s three friends is that they do not speak “what is right” about him as God (42v7).
                                                          
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(178) June 27: Job 6-8 & Acts 7:44-60

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­­
As you read consider what Job is seeking to say.

To ponder:
Eliphaz has been glib, failing to appreciate Job’s pain. So Job responds stressing his “anguish” as the reason for the “impetuous” words (in chapter 3) Eliphaz was so quick to criticize. He is clear his experiences are from the LORD. They are his “arrows”, “poison” and “terrors.” And this is why Job is braying like a donkey without grass. He therefore finds Eliphaz’s words like tasteless food that he refuses to touch as it will make him ill. We must appreciate why those who suffer speak as they do.
            Job longs for God to bring about his death so at least he would find joy in not having blasphemed him and so denied his words (ie. law). He has no hope as he has no strength, whether physical, emotional or spiritual to help himself. Yes, he should remember that his hope is in God’s strength not his own. But the point is he feels God is against him and he is therefore without hope. In such despair, he expects “devotion” from his friends even if he were to forsake God. This is the unreserved loyalty in hardship those who suffer need. Yet instead, Job has found his friends as undependable as streams that dry up causing distress and disappointment to those who had looked in hope for water. This language powerfully portrays how those experiencing hardship thirst desperately for sympathy and understanding to sustain them.
From this point, although Eliphaz has been the only one to speak, Job addresses the friends together, presuming the others share Eliphaz’s attitude. Job sees them as not helping because they were afraid. And so often we can fail to give the necessary support for fear of what properly getting involved would mean for our time, or fear of not knowing what to do. Here, the fear might be of seeming to condone whatever sin the friends assumed had led to Job’s suffering.
            Job is clear, he never asked his friends to rescue him (6v22-23), which is what Eliphaz sought to do by urging him to call on God. He just wanted support. And now he is angry. He calls them to show what he’s done wrong, saying their painful arguments prove nothing. He then charges them with failing to listen and so treating his words as inconsequential by so quickly seeking to correct him. 6v27 is a particularly strong statement that they lack all care for the needy or loyalty to their friends. Job then appeals to them to reconsider his claim to be innocent. We should not be surprised at such outbursts from those who suffer, but deal patiently with them.
In chapter 7 Job turns again to God. The irony of his experience is that his days, months and nights pass slowly in the discomfort of his disease (7v1-6). Yet at the same time, he is aware of how swiftly his life is passing with every hopeless day, and so prays God would remember him (7v6-10). The sense is that his brief existence is ending quickly with nothing but slow torment to mark it. He therefore declares he will complain in his anguish and bitterness, asking why God pays him such attention when he is so insignificant (7v12-17). He even sees God as keeping him from the comfort of sleep by sending him terrible dreams. Of course, the reason God does give humanity such attention is because people are at the centre of his purposes. Nevertheless, Job goes on to ask if God will ever leave him alone. In what follows we then see the utter confusion that stems from trying to discern the reason behind our suffering: Job hasn’t sinned. But even if he had, he reasons God would surely forgive, no doubt because he knows he loves God. So Job just cannot fathom why God would afflict him as he has.
Bildad is now provoked and responds, and more harshly than Eliphaz. He jumps to defend God’s justice even though Job has not actually questioned it, but only expressed confusion. Bildad is black and white: suffering depends on sin. So he declares Job’s children must have sinned because they were killed. By contrast, “if” Job is upright then God will restore him. Here Bildad appeals to the lessons learnt by previous generations, that just as vegetation perishes without water, so the godless perish for forgetting God, clinging to what cannot hold them (8v11-19). He concludes by saying God doesn’t reject the blameless or strengthen the evil, so Job can be sure he will rejoice again. Bildad’s words are of course true in the ultimate sense. But we know Job’s children were not guilty, and Jesus certainly wasn’t! The reasons for suffering are therefore more complex. And so an individual’s godliness does not mean they will not die of cancer or some other illness.

Praying it home:
Praise God for using Job to teach such relevant wisdom on suffering. Pray that you would be patient with those who suffer.

Thinking further:
To read the NIV Study Bible introduction to Job, click here.
                                                          
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(179) June 28: Job 9-11 & Acts 8:1-25

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­­
As you read note what is so frustrating Job.

To ponder:
In 9v1-20 Job’s struggle is that he has no-where to turn. He accepts God doesn’t reject the blameless, but recognizes that in reality no mortal can be truly regarded as having done right before God. So even if he wanted to argue his case, he knows he wouldn’t be able to answer God. First, because God is wise. Job could never therefore defeat God’s reasoning. Second, because God is powerful as creator, doing just as he pleases. Moreover, as his acts are unfathomable, innumerable and unperceivable, no-one can question what he does. Indeed, as he doesn’t restrain his anger, one dare not question him (Rahab is a sea monster mythology held God battled at creation, 9v13). Rather than argue, Job therefore concludes all he can do is plead for mercy. Indeed, he reasons that if he did actually summon God to hear his case, God would not, and might even punish him. What follows suggests he may have in mind punishment for the sin of talking back to God and questioning God's right to do as he pleases (see Rom 9v20-21). God is mighty and so cannot be overpowered. And he is just and so his justice cannot be questioned. Even if totally innocent, Job therefore says that to even query God’s action to him would end up making him guilty and so condemned. As we will see towards the end of the book, this recognition that God has every right to do as he pleases is commendable, and looks to the sonly submission of Jesus. However, it should not be held with the sort of bitterness Job might be displaying.
            Job continues to affirm his blamelessness, but seems to adopt a degree of fatalism. He disagrees with Bildad’s view that God rewards the blameless, noting instead that God destroys them alongside the wicked, showing little concern for the innocent, and causing injustice when a land is conquered (9v21-24). The idea of “mocking” is probably used simply to portray apparent disregard, without suggesting God is capricious. Here, Job’s reflections remain correct. God governs everything, so he must in some way be behind these calamities (see Lam 3v33-38). And our feelings on seeing them echo Job’s. Life seems unjust. But we are learning God has his reasons.
            From 9v26 Job again reflects on the speedy passing of life, acknowledging he is unable to rustle up a smile because he continues to dread his sufferings. He concludes that God must have found him guilty in some way, even though he considers himself innocent. Even if he made himself as pure as possible, he therefore feels that God would still act against him (9v30-31). Yet unable to argue his case, Job recognizes that he needs someone to arbitrate, to lay his hand on both parties as if to pacify them. Only by this means does Job feel he could speak up without fear. One cannot but think of Christ our mediator. We should still seek to remain free from sin in our attitude to God. However, as those who can come to God in full assurance, we need not fear speaking our mind.
            Job speaks up nevertheless, airing his complaint. Rather than being condemned, he wants to be told what charges are against him, and whether it pleases God to oppress him by seeking out his faults although innocent, whilst “smiling” on what the wicked do. Job is utterly bewildered at the apparent injustice of it all, asking why God would destroy one he himself formed and watched over (10v8-12). Job seems to be sharing his friends’ wrong assumption that his sufferings must be for some sin. And so, knowing he is blameless as human beings go, he concludes God must have been watching for the minor sins even the upright commit, and so punishing him for those (10v6, 14). 10v16-17 suggests he therefore feels that even if he were to hold his head high in knowing his innocence, God would be ready to pounce on any pride and punish him. So Job asks why God had him born, again wishing he had died in the womb. And he begs God to give him a moment’s joy before he dies.
            Zophar, the third friend, now answers in some anger (11v1-3). He rebukes Job for protesting his innocence, assuming Job must have sinned so greatly that God had even forgotten some of it. He states that because God is limitless, he cannot be opposed if he convenes a court against someone, because he sees all evil. Zophar implies Job must therefore have committed some hidden sin that God has found out. He even suggests Job is “witless” and lacking the wisdom to see his own sin (11v12 with 6). He therefore urges Job to repent and devote his heart to God, with the promise of restoration and rest without fear.
           
Praying it home:
Praise God for his awesome power and wisdom. Pray that you would come before him with a right and reverent attitude.

Thinking further:
None today.
                                                          
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(180) June 29: Job 12-14 & Acts 8:26-40

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read consider how you would describe Job’s feelings.

To ponder:
Job responds rather sarcastically, affirming he has knowledge, and his friends are not saying anything not known to everyone (12v1-3). Although righteous and one who has experienced God’s acceptance of him in answering his prayers, Job is struggling in having become a laughing stock to his friends. Again he notes how the wicked enjoy peace, stating that all creation knows this is God’s doing as he holds the life of every creature in his hands (12v5-12). Yet Job still holds that God is wise in what he does, whilst detailing how he displays his power in what is dark and difficult (12v13-25). So Job knows God cannot be opposed just as his friends do. But he considers them worthless doctors and liars who would have actually shown wisdom in being silent. Indeed, he suggests they are speaking for God deceitfully, perhaps referring to their view that he prospers the righteous and brings hardship on the wicked (the view Job has just countered). He also says they show God favouritism by jumping to his defence, rather than being impartial in considering Job’s case. Therefore, Job thinks God would actually rebuke them if he were to examine them (13v7-12), as God does in the book's conclusion. It’s a reminder that it doesn’t necessarily please God for us to jump to defending him if we speak error or fail to appreciate the struggles people have with his ways.
            Job then restates that he is prepared to risk his life in defending himself to God, yet at the same time saying that even if he were killed, he would hope in him. This is striking. At the same time Job can fear God’s holiness, whilst hoping in his justice and mercy. He is therefore confident, that even if slain, he will be delivered because of his godliness. This is not to suggest he considers himself worthy of deliverance. Rather, he is confident that because he loves God, God will act for him. He therefore states that he knows he will be vindicated, and calls people to bring any charges against him. Job has moved through his struggle to a point of faith. He trusts that his unfathomable, mighty, and terrifying God, who does just as he pleases, and who is inflicting him with such horrors, is still actually for him. Through the clarity of the gospel, we are called to this same place of faith amidst the mystery of our suffering. We know that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” because his righteousness has been counted as our own (Rom 8v1). So in God’s eyes we are innocent. We can therefore be confident that he is for us, despite our hardships (Rom 8v31-39).
Job is not, however, quite this clear. He prays God would “withdraw his hand,” but also that he should respond to him by showing him what offence he has committed. So Job still assumes that although he is blameless, his sufferings must be for some sin somewhere. And so, as he wonders why God is considering him an enemy and chasing down and tormenting one so insignificant, he assumes it must be as punishment for some sin in his youth (13v24-27). So often when Christians suffer, they also assume it is punishment for something in their past or even in their family’s. This is to make the same mistake. Again, “there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”
            Now Job again affirms the transient nature of human life, but also its fixity. He recognises that God determines everything, even his degree of purity, and so questions God judging people before their time is actually over. He then reflects that unlike natural life which renews, human life seems to just cease with no rising after death (14v7-12). This reflects the undeveloped understanding of the afterlife in Job’s day. But in what follows, he sees more. He longs to be hidden in the grave, and then remembered after God’s anger has passed. He therefore seems to trust that despite what was assumed in his day, God will call him from the grave, longing for him as one God had made, and that his sin would then be covered over (14v13-17). This is an astonishing affirmation of the hope of the gospel. And in dire and lasting suffering, it alone is the hope we can have.
            However, Job returns to the fact that, but for the eyes of faith, what seems to be the case, is that God erodes hope in this life, as people die and so never know how their sons fare (14v18-22). How futile life is without Christ.
           
Praying it home:
Praise God for how the certainty of resurrection gives hope within suffering. Pray that those who suffer would hold onto the gospel, and so know their hardships are not punishment, and that they will end with resurrection.

Thinking further:
None today.
                                                          
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(181) June 30: Job 15-17 & Acts 9:1-22

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read note why Job takes issue with Eliphaz.

To ponder:
We return to Job’s first “friend.” He argues Job lacks wisdom because he speaks empty words that have no value. Rather, he says Job condemns himself by speaking so forthrightly to God (15v6, 13). He therefore challenges Job with thinking he knows something others don’t, and rebukes him for not listening to God’s consolations (ie. the “gentle” words of the friends), but instead raging against him. He is still failing to actually listen to or empathise with Job.
            Now Eliphaz speaks more strongly than in his first speech. He implies Job considers himself purer than other men (15v14-16), but then states in numerous ways how he thinks the wicked get their comeuppance in this life (15v17-35), so questioning Job’s assertion that often they don’t, and that the righteous often suffer. Surely he intends 15v25-26 to be a particular dig at Job (see 15v13). How easy it is to be driven to distort facts out of a desire to win a debate. One really shouldn’t speak to the suffering, unless sure of what is to be shared.
            Job responds that he’s already heard much of this sort of thing, charging his friends with being “miserable comforters.” He says he could speak that way if the tables were turned, but wouldn’t. Instead he would encourage and comfort them. This stresses what Job really needed.
            Now however, whether he speaks or is silent, his pain remains. And he addresses himself again to God, saying his sufferings “testify” against him, perhaps as a false witness in suggesting to others that he is unrighteous. He then adds his friends’ opposition to him as yet another means of God assailing him in numerous ways (16v9-14). It’s a reminder that unhelpful counsel can end up only adding to people’s distress.
            Job goes on to stress his mourning (16v15-16). But his appeal for help is what is striking. He speaks of his blood lying on the earth (probably that of his children) crying out for justice (see Gen 4v10), and asks that this would never cease. But he then speaks of a “witness” and “advocate” and “intercessor” in heaven, who pleads with God for him as a friend (16v18-21). He may be doing nothing more than personifying the truth that appealed to God on his behalf. However, one can’t but see God the Son here, acting for those who are his. When we are falsely accused with doing wrong as Job was, we can be certain both that God the Father sees, but also that God the Son speaks for us as our friend. And this enables us to leave justice with God and not act in vengeance towards our opponents (Rom 13v17-21).
            Acknowledging he will die in a few years, Job then puts his hope in God. Indeed, recognizing he can give no “pledge” to back up his words himself, he asks God to do so – in essence, do whatever is necessary to take Job at his word. Moreover Job recognizes that whatever God’s reasons, he has surrounded him with mockers whose minds he has closed. He then asks that God would not let them triumph. Of course the call to punish them by afflicting their children is wrong. God does not punish children for their father’s sins (17v5, Ezek 18v20). But Job is angry. Even upright men are “against” him as they are against the “ungodly.” Yet he knows they will continue as they are and even grow stronger. It’s a reminder that it is often believers who make the sort of mistakes these friends are making, exacerbating the despair of thode who  suffer as they find they don’t even have upright people to turn to. Yet of them, Job says none are wise. Rather, they are giving him false hope saying “light is near” in the midst of darkness (17v10-12). This false hope must be their assertion that if Job repents he will experience God’s blessing and restoration. But as Job knows his suffering is not for some major sin, he knows repentance will make no difference. And so he feels his only hope is for the darkness and decay of the grave (17v13-16).
           
Praying it home:
Praise God that whatever people think of us he knows the truth, and Christ speaks for us before his throne. Pray that you would entrust any sense of injustice to him.

Thinking further:
None today.
                                                          
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(182) July 1: Job 18-20 & Acts 9:23-43

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read note Job’s varying attitudes to God.

To ponder:
Bildad says little more than Eliphaz. He rebukes Job for going on and considering his friends “stupid” in their advice, whilst “tearing himself to pieces” in anger. 17v4 seems to be a suggestion that Job expects the very fabric of creation to be changed to accommodate him. This may reflect the sense that the friends feel the very nature of things is that the wicked suffer and the righteous prosper, but Job is asking them to think it is often the other way around. And so Bildad details how he sees the fate of the evil man who “knows not God”: He experiences weakening, having his schemes thwarted, and facing terror and calamity before finally perishing without offspring or legacy, with “men of the west” appalled at his fate. Again, there are clear allusions to Job’s situation in having lost his children and being a horror to those who look on. Job really is being attacked relentlessly with the accusation that he has done evil and will face these things in their fullness unless he repents. “The king of terrors” (18v14) is probably a way of referring to death as a ruler who uses terrors to drag people into his presence.
            As hinted at before, Job’s response shows that in addition to his previous sufferings, his friends’ words now torment and crush him. Indeed, he states that even “if” he had gone astray that would not be their concern. Of course, in reality it should be (Gal 6v1).
            Job then makes his strongest statement yet: He finally accuses God with doing wrong against him and withholding justice (19v6-7). This is perhaps the central theme to the book, which eventually humbles us with the recognition that although the reasons for suffering are often unfathomable, God does not do wrong or act unjustly. Perhaps the lesson here, however, is that when we give unwise counsel to a suffering friend we can so exacerbate their despair that we push them towards sinning in their response to God. It is a mark of Christ's supremacy that he didn't.
            Job accuses God with keeping him from moving on in life, removing his honour as an esteemed and blameless man, gradually tearing him down, uprooting his hope for the future, counting him like an enemy, alienating him from others, including his loved ones, and reducing him to nothing but skin and bones (19v8-20). So he begs his friends for pity and prays his words would be recorded, no doubt as the only testimony to his innocence. This is ironic, considering we’re reading his words. Could it be that Job had them recorded after the event?
Yet despite being so aggrieved, Job still clings in faith to God. Indeed, (although these verses are uncertain) he seems to see God as his “redeemer” who will vindicate him beyond death as innocent and, presumably, free him from both his sufferings and the false accusations. More than that, whether apart from flesh (see footnote) or in new flesh, he expects to then see God as Moses and others did on earth. This is what his heart yearns for because he wants an audience with God in which he can state his case and perhaps be given a reason for all he’s endured (see 13v3). And so in his Spirit-guided reflections, Job effectively trusts in the gospel! He even holds that God will judge his opponents if they continue to hound him. This is the inconsistency displayed when the believer struggles. They may in one moment seem to be doubting and raging against God, but in another coming to a point of trust nevertheless. And because salvation is by grace, that trust is all that is needed for their hope to remain.
            Zophar responds next, still refusing to truly hear Job or see how he is displaying faith. Instead, he responds to Job’s rebuke with yet another restatement that the wicked suffer, stating it has been this way since the time of Adam. This is no doubt why he stresses how those whose “pride reaches to the heavens” then “perish forever” (20v4-6), just as Adam did. And so Zophar says the wicked are banished, leaving their children to make amends for what they’ve done. In particular he notes how under God’s wrath the godless lose their ill-won riches – perhaps an allusion to Job’s prior wealth (20v12-29). By digging their heels in, these so called friends are now reinterpreting Job’s past life in a way that implies he was always dishonest rather than righteous. This is how fickle those who set themselves against another can be.

Praying it home:
Praise God that at the resurrection we will not just be freed from hardship, but vindicated as having done right in serving the Lord. Pray that this would be a comfort for those you know who suffer.

Thinking further:
None today.
                                                          
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(183) July 2: Job 21-22 & Acts 10:1-23

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read consider what Job is trying to stress.

To ponder:
Job asks for “consolation” from his friends by asking them to break from their mocking just for a moment, in order to listen to him. He defends his impatience by the fact that he is not addressing man. Presumably his point is that God is fully able in both his power and wisdom to act justly in this life, but puts this off, making Job’s impatience justified. Job says his friends should join in his “astonishment” and “terror” at this (21v5-6), because it means that despite the fact that the wicked reject God, refusing to serve or pray to him, they nevertheless experience happiness and prosperity with their families, homes and livestock, before dying in peace (21v7-15). Of course this is not always the case, but it often is. And it is a critical argument for Job, overturning the contrasting assumptions of his three friends. 21v16 is uncertain, but may mean that Job has nevertheless kept himself from the counsel of the wicked (see Ps 1) because he has known their prosperity is ultimately in God’s hands and so could be removed by him. This truth would only exacerbate his present frustration at God having removed all he had despite him keeping from their counsel. It is particularly hard when we purposefully choose God over the ways of others, only to find them prospering and ourselves struggling.
            21v17-21 rhetorically bring the answer that the wicked do not often suffer under God’s anger in the ways outlined. Moreover, the idea that their sons do is no comfort because the wicked don’t care about the family they leave behind and should suffer for their own sins anyway. Yet Job still notes that no-one can instruct God on what he does as he judges even the highest beings. Nevertheless, from the human perspective his ways seem arbitrary in that one dies in prosperity and another in bitterness, and both are then buried in the ground. So it seems that the prospering wicked have it better than the bitter righteous like Job. And here it is no comfort to say the wicked have no legacy (21v27-28), as they are spared calamity and rebuke during their life. So Job’s reflections here cry out for a final accounting for how people live, which Jesus so clearly taught. Without it, there really is no justice to life.
            Eliphaz responds for a third time and more forcefully. By stating God is not benefited by any wisdom or righteousness in Job, he wrongly suggests God is so removed that he is unconcerned by such things. Eliphaz then recounts what he assumes Job has done as an explanation for his sufferings (22v4-11). He goes on to charge Job with assuming God cannot see what he has done in order to judge him, and so walking as evil men had done in the past (22v13-15). Moreover, echoing Job’s own words, Eliphaz says he himself stands apart from the ways of the wicked knowing God can remove all they have, to the joy of the righteous (22v16-18, see 21v14-20). By this means Eliphaz urges Job to do the same, implying God sees his sins and this is why he is suffering. He therefore calls him to repent and so “submit” to God by heeding Eliphaz’s instruction. And he promises Job will then be restored to prosperity, renewed into blamelessness, and rejoice in God answering his prayers and delivering the needy through Job’s righteous acts (22v21-30). Because we have seen God remove these things despite Job’s uprightness, we know these are promises Eliphaz can’t make, warning us against giving those who suffer false hope for this life.
           
Praying it home:
Praise God that his final justice grants us patience with the injustices of this life. Pray for that patience in those you know who suffer.

Thinking further:
None today.
                                                          
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(184) July 3: Job 23-25 & Acts 10:24-48

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read note how Job expresses confidence in God.

To ponder:
Job feels God’s hand heavily upon him, and longs to be able to “find” God so he could “state his case” regarding his innocence, and get an “answer” as to why he has suffered. And again, he displays faith, being confident God would not oppose or condemn him on account of his uprightness (23v4-7). Instead he states that he would be “delivered.” He probably means that with his innocence proved, he would no longer suffer. We should remember here that Job doesn’t consider himself perfect. By relying on his uprightness he is relying on the fact that he fears and so knows God.
            Job’s problem however is that he can’t find God, even though God is at work around him (23v8-9). Yet he is consoled by the fact that God knows “the way” Job takes. And in the light of this Job sees his trials as a testing through which his character will be proved and refined just as gold is proved and refined through fire. Peter makes the same point for the Christian (1 Pet 1v3-8). In the light of this, Job recounts how he has kept to God’s “way” and “treasured” his words. Yet he still feels this counts for nothing, because God does as he pleases. And so Job remains terrified at the many things he assumes God still has in store for him (23v13-16). Indeed, he describes this fear as “darkness” covering his face. It is the fear of not being able to see what is about to strike. Many who suffer, and some who just anticipate it, experience this fear. However, they can be consoled as Job is, that whatever they face God knows their hearts, and will acknowledge their faithfulness in the end.
            Having acknowledged that God knows his deeds, Job now despairs that those who “know” God look in vain for him to stand in judgement. This may reflect Job’s longing for a set time in which he might make his case and be vindicated. He then proves that God doesn’t set such times by recounting how the wicked oppress the poor (24v2-11), and although they cry out for help, God “charges no-one with wrongdoing.”
Job then continues, speaking of the murderer, adulterer and thief, who act during darkness (24v13-17). And in a manner that seems more measured than his previous assumption that the wicked simply prosper, Job accepts that although they “become established” and God “may let them rest in a feeling of security,” nevertheless, God sees their “ways,” and so they are only exalted for a little while until being gathered up like everyone else in the harvest of death. So the wicked are transient, like foam on water or snow in heat. They are ultimately forgotten by those who live on. Of course this is all true for the righteous too. But by stressing God takes their life and sees their ways Job perhaps hints towards an accounting beyond death. Indeed, despite his previous protestations that the wicked often do well, Job once more accepts they may nevertheless taste God’s judgement to some degree in this life, illustrated by their land being cursed so that its vineyards bear no fruit.
            Bildad responds briefly, and seems to focus simply on Job’s claim to be upright (ch. 25). As if to counter it he stresses God’s supremacy and the fact that next to him none are pure, but are mere maggots and worms. This is all true in perspective, and Job might well agree; although humanity have huge dignity and significance to the Lord in having been made in his image. The problem with Bildad’s words, however, is that he is again on the defensive for God, rather than empathizing with Job’s struggles and accepting that, humanly speaking, he is indeed upright.
           
Praying it home:
Praise God that despite our smallness compared to him he actually knows every hair on our head. Pray that this would be a comfort to those who suffer.

Thinking further: Missing pieces of Job?
Because Bildad’s speech in chapter 25 is so brief and without the usual sort of opening words, many conclude much of the speech has been lost. Moreover, we would expect another speech from Zophar, but instead have a longer speech from Job. Scholars even argue that what might have been in the rest of Bildad and Zophar’s speeches could have been mistakenly inserted, as the text was passed on, into Job’s speeches. However, although some sections of Job’s speeches do seem to give some ground to the friends’ arguments, they still refrain from affirming their points fully, and so remain consistent with Job’s view of things. And the shortness of Bildad’s speech with the absence of Zophar’s could be explained simply by them giving up on the argument.
                                                          
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(185) July 4: Job 26-28 & Acts 11

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read note what Job is teaching about wisdom.

To ponder:
Job begins sarcastically (26v-4). The inference is that his hearers haven’t helped the needy, imparted wisdom, or received inspiration. 26v5-6 is difficult to understand. The point may be that God knows even what happens in the place of the dead, causing anguish to those there as they are still accountable to him. But by contrast, his great power and wisdom displayed in the creation shows we grasp only “a faint whisper” of him and so cannot understand “the thunder of his power” – presumably the terrifying experiences we may suffer in life (26v7-14). 26v12-13 illustrate God governing the sea and sky with the mythological idea of him slaying Rahab, a sea monster who causes rough seas, and a serpent, which seems to be a picture of cloud. So in response to Bildad’s rebuke (25v6), Job shows he is well aware of his smallness before God. And this section helpfully humbles us, reminding us that although we can see in Christ that God does only what is right, his ways are ultimately unfathomable. It is presumptuous and arrogant indeed to assume we can grasp what he is doing or why (see Rom 11v33-36).
            What Job is certain of however, is that although he maintains that God has denied him justice and made him bitter, he will not sin by denying his integrity (27v1-6, see 2v3, 9), ie. that he is righteous. Moreover, in anger at his friends’ condemnation of him, he wishes they would receive the penalty of the wicked and unjust. This of course does not commend such an attitude, but simply portrays Job’s feelings. Job then outlines what the fate of the wicked is. Intriguingly, this is closer to Zophar’s reflections (ch. 20) than Job’s earlier response (ch. 21). The resolution is probably that whereas there Job was contradicting Zophar’s assumption that all the wicked receive their just deserts in this life, here he is outlining what happens when some do (as he accepted in 21v17). And so he declares that the wicked man’s fate is to be without hope or delight in God when distress comes (27v7-10), and despite some experience of prosperity in family and wealth, it is for his children ultimately to suffer and his money to be enjoyed by the righteous as he is snatched away by death (27v11-23). There is truth here. Although it may not be through hunger and plague as in Job’s day, in a general sense the offspring of the wicked can experience hardship, not least because of the errors of their parent. And their material gain may well be taken, perhaps in payment of debts due (as 20v10). So Job notes that the prosperity the wicked enjoy and that seems so unjust whilst he suffers, is a temporary prosperity. A degree of justice may be worked out in this life, and should keep us from envying the wicked (the point of Ps 73).
            Having taught what he does know, Job concludes that although man can mine and so search out great riches far from where anything can see, he is unable to find the treasure that is wisdom, nor buy it with the riches he has gained (28v1-19). Like precious gems, wisdom is “hidden” from “every living thing,” and even from death itself. Only God who sees and formed everything knows the way to it, and he has said to man: “The fear of the LORD – that is wisdom and to shun evil is understanding” (as Prov 1v7, 9v10, Eccl 12v13-14). This is key in the book and explains Job’s refusal to compromise. We like Job may lack wisdom as to God’s purposes, but we have wisdom as to his pleasure. What matters in life is not being able to fathom God’s ways, but obeying his commands. This is to live wisely. And Jesus was clear that because this displays true faith, it is this that brings eternal rewards (Matt 7v24-27, Jam 3v13-4v10). Indeed, it is supremely in Jesus that God's unsearcheable wisdom is made known, so to live wisely is to live for him.  
           
Praying it home:
Praise God that his power and wisdom is so great that it far surpasses our ability to fathom it. Pray that you would focus instead on fearing him and turning from evil.

Thinking further:
None today.
                                                          
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(186) July 5: Job 29-31 & Acts 12

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read consider how you would summarise Job’s frustrations.

To ponder:
These are the final words we have from Job last speech. He understandably turns his thoughts with longing to the days before his sufferings, describing them as days when “God watched over” him - although we know God still does. His language describes God’s help in keeping him from following the ways of darkness (evil), of blessing his home and granting him wealth (29v1-6). He then recounts the respect he held from others because of his care and defence of the poor and needy (29v7-17). He also notes how men cherished his wisdom, and so esteemed him that they were astounded if he even smiled at them (29v21-25). In speaking of sitting at the city gate, we learn Job was probably an elder, involved in resolving disputes and the local government of his people (see Ruth 4v1-4). In this, he was like a king or chief (29v25). It is in this context he was particularly known for his justice and mercy. And Job had assumed this life would continue, with him dying at home at a good old age, having always known vigour and honour (29v18-20). Although this assumption was unfounded, his account is a model of righteous living and leadership against which we might assess ourselves.
             Of course things were now very different. Now, the sons of the most despised and impoverished outcasts of society felt able to mock Job (30v1-8). Their rejection by society suggests they were extremely undesirable. Indeed, calling them a “base and nameless brood” implies they had no honour in the eyes of others and so no name (30v8). And their sons not only mock, but are ready to spit at and even attack Job, causing him further terror by putting him in fear of his safety (30v9-15). Job’s description resonates with any observation of how bullying teenagers pick on the weak and vulnerable. But the sense is of how humiliating it was for this once greatly honoured man to be at the mercy of such undesirables. Of course, in his prime Job would have defended any in his position. But his fellow elders seem not to care.
            In what follows, it is as if Job adds God to the number who attack him, despite his protestations. And so his suffering continues with particular pain at night, and he anticipates it will end in death (30v16-23). It is with this sense of being attacked that Job reflects that no-one “lays a hand on a broken man when he cries for help.” His point is that what God is doing would be regarded as extreme even amongst men. It is this sentiment that so often lies behind the reflection that a loving God would never allow suffering. Job teaches us to sympathise with this, even though the book teaches things aren’t so simple as Jesus so clearly shows. And so Job complains that despite his grief for the needy, he has received only evil and darkness when he hoped for goodness and light. His suffering therefore continues. And here we are given some insight into his actual disease. It involved his skin literally blackening and peeling with an extreme burning sensation. For this reason Job’s joy had turned to mourning. (30v24-31).
            Job’s speeches end with a final defence of his innocence. Again and again he argues that “if” he has done wrong “then” he should suffer judgement, implying throughout that he hasn’t and so is unjustly afflicted. He begins affirming he had made a “covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” It is a word for all men today. Yet Job’s reasons for doing it were to avoid disaster as his heritage from the LORD, as God sees his ways. He may be stressing the irony that he has received disaster despite such godliness. Job then declares that if he had been dishonest, wandered from God’s path, sought other women, denied his servants justice, ignored the poor, widows and fatherless, trusted in wealth or false gods, rejoiced at his enemy’s misfortune, failed to be hospitable or neglected his land and its tenants, then he should suffer the appropriate consequences for each (31v5-34, 38-40). He signs this off as his defence, calling on God to answer him, and confidently asserting he would approach him like a prince to give an account of his every step (31v35-37). 
Each item Job lists has its New Testament counterpart; and the note on enemies shows the call to love even one’s foes was ancient. But the main point, which is one made throughout the book, is the seeming injustice of life if there is no final accounting by God. Like Ecclesiastes the book therefore teaches the need for God to one-day bring ever deed into judgement, encouraging the suffering believer to be comforted by that (Eccl 12v13-14), knowing that on that day the wicked will get their comeuppance and the righteous will enjoy God’s blessing (Lk 16v19-26). It is a special comfort (and challenge) to know that Christ who suffered so acutely yet so righteously will on that day be our judge.
           
Praying it home:
Praise God for the encouragement the final judgement is when we continue to act righteously amidst suffering. Pray that you would do so.

Thinking further:
None today.
                                                          
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(187) July 6: Job 32-34 & Acts 13:1-23
Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read note what distinguishes Elihu’s argument from that of the previous three friends.

To ponder:
We have not met Elihu before. The three friends cease their arguments as Job will not shift on his assertion that he is “righteous.” And Elihu is angry. But it is not at Job’s claim to be upright, but at his focus on justifying his innocence rather than God’s. He was therefore angry at the friends too, for not refuting Job in this. Such anger is not always wrong, if it is for God’s honour (Jn 2v16-17).
            Elihu comes across as godly himself. He is humble enough to respect his elders and hear them first – a lesson in restraint many could learn from (32v4-7). He also speaks more gently, reassuring Job that he need not fear him (33v7), and that he is concerned for Job (33v32). This is a better example of how to speak with those who suffer. Nevertheless, Elihu feels compelled to speak by the understanding he has as a human being, and is determined to be honest (33v8-22). Indeed, he is concerned the three friends might leave the refuting to God (32v13). 
            Elihu calls Job to answer him, and ably sums up Job’s argument. Job is saying he is pure yet God has found fault with him, implying God must therefore be unjust (33v8-11, also 34v5). 33v12 probably means that Job is wrong because he is assuming God acts just like men do. In other words, this may be a right conclusion at the level of human justice, but God’s purposes are broader. This tendency to complain about what God is doing in suffering because it seems inconsistent with human concepts of what is right is common. But our concepts of how things should be reflect our limited understanding and perspective. As God’s do not, he often acts in ways that seem unacceptable to us, but that with full knowledge we would accept as right and just.
Elihu goes on to state Job is complaining that God doesn’t answer him (ie. his “man’s words”), but adds that God does nevertheless “speak” (33v12-14). He does this by terrifying people in their dreams to warn them to turn from pride and wrongdoing (33v14-18), and by inflicting them with suffering. Here Elihu describes sufferings like Job’s (33v19-22). His point seems to be that God has already spoken to Job, and not to charge him with wrongdoing, but keep him from it, and specifically from pride – which he would have been prone to due to his highly esteemed position in society. In other words, although Elihu seems to assume with the others that Job has done wrong, he holds that suffering may be discipline rather than punishment (Heb 12v4-8), to turn a man’s “soul” from the pit, ie. grave (33v30). His speculation about a possible mediating angel who would speak to God on the sinner’s behalf, ransoming him from the pit so he could be restored to health, all echoes Job’s earlier longings (33v23-26, see 16v19-21, 19v25-27) and looks to Christ. It implies hope for restoration if Job will only “pray” to God. He could then testify to others that despite his sin he didn’t get what he deserved (33v26-27).
            In chapter 34 Elihu may be addressing Job’s three friends, rather than wise men in general (34v1-4). He states Job “keeps company with evildoers.” In context this probably means that by saying there is no gain in pleasing God because he is unjust, Job is aligning himself with the wicked who think such things (34v7-9). To this Elihu declares that God repays men for what they do as it is “unthinkable for God to do wrong,” and especially when one considers he holds everyone’s lives in his hand (34v10-15). Elihu then states that God displays justice in how he governs rulers, punishing the godless so that they do not continue ruling and so “laying snares” for people (34v16-30).
            Now addressing Job, Elihu then speaks of the person who vocalizes an acceptance of guilt and desire to learn where they’ve gone wrong, but then refuses to actually repent (34v31-33). He is probably implying this is what Job has done by asking God to show him the error of his ways if he has done wrong, whilst refusing to actually admit any wrongdoing. Elihu is clear, God will not reward such people. He then adds that Job speaks without knowledge and he longs that Job be “tested to the utmost” (ie. punished) for answering like a “wicked man,” and so adding conscious “rebellion” against God to his less wilful sin. Elihu has a commendable zeal for God, and highlights how those who suffer can sin in their speech about God. But he still hasn’t fully appreciated Job’s situation.
                       
Praying it home:
Praise God for how he does use suffering to discipline people and wake them up to sin or a tendency to pride. Pray that you would trust God in suffering and not speak against him.

Thinking further:
None today.
                                                          
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(188) July 7: Job 35-37 & Acts 13:24-52

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read consider what Elihu stresses about God.

To ponder:
Chapter 35 isn’t easy to understand. Job has implied God is unjust. But Elihu seems to be asking whether it would be just for God to clear Job (as Job claims he will), whilst Job has the attitude that there is nothing to be gained before God by not sinning (35v1-3). He then suggests that because God is the transcendent creator, human action does not affect him (35v1-8). Here, Elihu doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about human action (see 36v5-16, 37v24). Rather, his point seems to be that Job can’t somehow move God to answer his plea for deliverance by threatening to sin because he feels God will not reward righteousness. Elihu then describes how people cry out under oppression whilst failing to actually look for their Maker who can give them songs (ie. joy) at night, and wisdom too. And so, because of this arrogance, God does not listen or answer them. Elihu's point is that if God doesn’t respond then, how much more will he refuse to listen to Job who claims (as 35v2-3) that his case is before God, but that God doesn’t care about wickedness (35v9-16). Elihu’s portrayal of God here is that he is unconcerned for people’s struggles, coldly administering justice, and lacking in the grace to engage those who find his ways hard. The fact that God does answer Job from chapter 38, and eventually comes to us personally in Christ, shows just how wrong Elihu is.
            Elihu is, however, concerned to vindicate God’s justice (36v1-4). And so he restates his contribution to the book’s discussion. He is adamant, as the others were, that God cares for the afflicted, rewards the righteous (36v5-8), and that suffering comes because of sin. However, he also stresses God’s purpose in it is to “tell” people “what they have done” wrong, and so bring them to repentance and restoration (26v5-12). Elihu therefore describes two groups of people to Job: the godless who “harbour resentment” (as he assumes Job does), and so do not cry out in their affliction, but die in sin; and those who do listen as God “woos” them “from the jaws of distress” (36v11-16). He then states that Job is currently “laden with the judgement due to the wicked,” and shows concern that he could be turned to evil more generally. Elihu therefore urges Job not to be enticed to sin for the sake of money, as wealth and effort can do nothing to free him from his distress; and not to long for the night when people might kidnap others (36v17-21) – perhaps in order to gain money by way of ransom. (This may have been a particular problem in Job’s day). There is wise warning here against responding to suffering by resenting and so rejecting God, and therefore giving oneself to sin.
            36v22-37v24 finish Elihu’s speech with a meditation on God’s supremacy as Creator and, again, his power and wisdom (36v22). As similar truths are made by God in his coming speech, it proves that although Elihu still misdiagnosed the reason for Job’s sufferings and so wrongly condemned him, he was wiser than the others not just in seeing how suffering can turn the wicked from sin, but in recognising how limited our perspective on God’s ways is.
It is worth taking time to chew the words of this section over. The main point seems to be that the wonder of all God does throughout his creation shows that he is “beyond our understanding” (36v26, 29, 37v5, 15, 16). The stress on his mighty “voice” may also imply he should be humbly and reverently listened to, rather than spoken back to (37v1-7, 19-20). And so Elihu concludes we cannot draw up our case (ie. Job’s defence) before God because of “our darkness” (ie. lack of understanding of his ways). Indeed, to do so is to risk being “swallowed up,” for if we cannot look into the brightness of the sun, how much more can’t we face up to God’s “awesome majesty” (37v19-22). So Elihu ends by saying God is beyond our reach. He also reaffirms his key point that God is just, not oppressing people (as Job has implied), and therefore to be “revered,” for he looks well on the “wise in heart” (37v23-24). Of course, in Christ God shows that he is not beyond our reach, but willing to come close and meet with us face to face. And in Christ, he makes it possible for us to come close without fear of being consumed.
                       
Praying it home:
Praise God for the wonder of his works in creation. Pray that you would not respond to suffering with resentment and so sin.

Thinking further:
None today.
                                                          
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(189) July 8: Job 38-39 & Acts 14

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read consider what God reveals about himself.

To ponder:
Throughout the book Job has longed to be able to speak with God. He has wanted to state his case by protesting his innocence, and gain an answer that vindicated him and led to his deliverance from suffering (13v3, 23v1-7). No doubt he expected this answer to therefore give a reason for why he suffered even though righteous. But it is interesting that his greatest concern was over the justice (or injustice) of what he was having to endure, and with it, his reputation before those who looked on and assumed it meant he was wicked. This gives insight into what lies behind the struggles of believers today when they suffer. It is often accompanied by a subconscious question of whether it may be because of some sin, and if not, then a subconscious assumption that God is treating them unjustly. It is these things that can fuel the longing to know: “Why?”.
            God’s willingness to speak with Job is significant in itself. It affirms he is not the cold removed God portrayed at times in the previous speeches. Moreover, it gives huge dignity to Job and humanity in general that God would be willing to engage them. However, just as it was often uncomfortable for the disciples to speak with Christ, and just as he often answered them with a question and in a way that was totally unexpected, so it is here. God doesn’t so much answer Job as require answers from him, having him stand “like a man” in the dock (38v1-3). First, God declares that Job has not spoken correctly. He has “darkened” God’s “counsel” in the sense that he has caused the wisdom of God known by others to shine less brightly by confusing it with error (38v2). We should recognise the seriousness of presuming to say things of God that are wrong. This is why we must pay such close attention to scripture.
            A superficial reading of what follows could lead one to assume God does nothing to actually engage with Job’s issues or even correct what has been said. God simply asks question after question that distinguishes Job as a creature from God as Creator. However, it is the things God stresses about himself that are instructive. He stresses his authority in determining the details and boundaries of the creation (38v4-15) and limiting wickedness by ending each night with day (38v15). So God governs all that is, and whatever his purpose in allowing the wicked to remain, he doesn’t allow them a totally free reign. God then stresses his knowledge of the entire creation and its “laws,” seen in his control of the weather and the stars which mark the seasons (38v16-38). God therefore knows what he is doing in the world, and the natural forces that bring hardship are under his kingly rule and subject to his command (38v33-35). God also stresses his care in providing for and watching over the life of animals that have no use for human beings (38v39-39v8). If so concerned for the wellbeing of creatures that present no deeper reason for his care, there can therefore be no doubt he is concerned for human beings who he has created to know and image him. God’s final point is more uncertain. It seems to stress his wisdom as sometimes understandable and sometimes incomprehensible (39v9-30). So the wild ox and hawk serve no discernable reason from man’s perspective, but serve and obey God nevertheless. The ostrich seems frankly laughable and stupid, but laughs at other animals with her speed. And although the horse serves human purposes, its responses in battle are mysterious.
            God does not therefore give Job what he wants. He gives him no reason for his sufferings. Nor does he really prove his justice. This suggests Job was presumptuous to expect these things. But God’s “answer” is nevertheless sufficient because it gives ample reason to trust him. He does restrain the wicked. And the righteous do not suffer because he lacks power or control or love. The creation gives plentiful testimony to all these things. Yet it also testifies to the fact that not everything God does is comprehensible to human beings. Indeed, throughout it is emphasized that Job can neither do or understand the mighty wonders that God does. And so he needs to humbly learn his place.
                       
Praying it home:
Praise God for all that is displayed of him in the creation. Pray that in the midst of suffering you would trust what is seen of him there, and more clearly in scripture and in Christ.

Thinking further: The General Revelation of God in creation
The knowledge of God discerned from the creation is called “General Revelation” because it is general or common to people everywhere. Some are nervous of looking to creation for knowledge of God because of how easily its testimony can be misunderstood – just as it was by Job and his friends. And we are of course blessed with the clearer and superior revelation of scripture, and of Christ as portrayed there. Nevertheless, scripture affirms the validity of reflecting on what the creation tells us of God – so far as it doesn’t contradict scripture.
                                                           Here Paul teaches that from the creation of the world everyone everywhere has clearly seen and understood “God’s power and nature” in what has been made (Rom 1v20). As the conclusion of the book of Job shows, the very existence of the creation constantly points to God by asking “who did this” and “who does that” with respect to its formation and daily activity. It is here God’s power is so evident. Yet the book also assumes creation points to God’s nature as a wise and loving king, because of how he governs nature in such profound ways for the good of his creatures and the restraint of evil. Paul would add that by creating man with a conscience, we are also instinctively aware that God is moral and just, and that we deserve death for our sin (Rom 1v32). Moreover, we are aware that God is a God of grace for continuing to bless us with the things of his creation despite this (Acts 14v15-17).
                                                           Those who have not heard of Christ or read the scriptures therefore “have no excuse” for not glorifying or thanking God rightly (Rom 1v20-21) – ie. according to these truths; or for not “reaching out” and trying to “find him” (Acts 17v25-28). They fail to do these things not because they lack access to sufficient truth about him, but because they “suppress the truth” in order to live as they please (Rom 1v18-19). If it wasn’t for their love of sin our friends and neighbours would therefore be eagerly seeking knowledge of God and readily accepting that it is found in scripture and Christ. Yet because they do not do this, in his grace Christ has commissioned his church to go to them and call them to repentance through the gospel.
                                                          
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(190) July 9: Job 40-42 & Acts 15

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.


To discover:­
As you read consider what the conclusion tells us about all that’s gone before.

To ponder:
Having spoken, God challenges Job to “answer” or even “correct” him. Of course Job has nothing to say (40v1-5). How could he presume to correct the one who made, governs, understands and cares for all things, according to his faultless wisdom (chs. 38-39). Indeed, if we feel we might justify ourselves, when facing him on judgement day “every mouth will be silenced” in an awareness of personal sin and God’s holy majesty (Rom 3v19).
            Despite Job’s silence however, God has more questions for him. Job is prepared to discredit God’s justice in order to justify himself (40v8). Knowing that he himself is righteous, Job has been prepared to suggest God has done wrong by causing him to suffer. Instead, he should have accepted God’s ways are unfathomable yet always right, and that God must therefore have a reason. This is the response to evil and suffering the book has led us to, and is affirmed by Paul with respect to God’s justice in election too (Rom 9v19-21, 11v33-36).
            In what follows, God stresses that if Job shared his majesty and might by which he humbles the proud and crushes the wicked, then he could “save” himself by delivering himself from his sufferings (40v9-14). The sense is that power and justice go together. So God’s power is expressed in punishing evil men and thereby delivering the needy and oppressed. His point is probably that because Job does not have God’s power, he does not have the authority or ability to establish what is just in his own situation either. This is reserved for the king of creation.
            This understanding seems confirmed by the rest of the speech. Building verse upon verse, God beautifully describes two of his most mighty creations – “the behemoth” (40v15-24), possibly an hippopotamus (40v21-24); and “the leviathan” (41v1-34). God’s point is not made unless these are real creatures. However, the language is poetic, portraying the leviathan as we would imagine a dragon. Moreover, they are both probably symbols of chaos, showing that it too is part of God’s creation yet under his control. It is the terrifying strength of the two animals that is to the fore, and the fact that only God can tame them (40v16, 19, 24, 41v1-8, 12). The lesson is that if no-one can stand against these creatures, how much more can’t they stand against their creator (41v10). Indeed, we should be fearful of doing so. Of course, as we will see in the Psalms, we can be honest with God, expressing our struggles and calling on him for help. But this is a warning against confronting him and seeking to bend him to our will. God owns everything and so is not subject to our desires. No-one therefore has a “claim” against him he is bound to pay (41v11, unless, of course, it is to claim what he has promised in the gospel). Such reverent fear seems alien to the modern believer in our informal culture. But it is the only fitting way to approach God (Rev 4v9-11, 7v11-12).
            This is immediately seen in Job’s second response. The sense of 42v2 is probably that having been faced with God’s power and wisdom as creator, Job now truly knows that God has the right to do as he pleases. And so Job concludes that in denying God’s justice to justify himself, he had spoken of things he didn’t “understand” and were “too wonderful” for him to know (42v3). Now his knowledge of God has moved from simply hearing to a greater clarity described as “seeing,” so Job repents of his presumptuous speech. Strikingly here, Job still hasn’t been told the reason for his suffering. He simply has to trust God recognising his ways are beyond his grasp. Certainly when we see God face to face after death, we will acknowledge that whatever we have faced (and whatever difficult doctrines we’ve struggled with), God has the right to do as he pleases, and much within his purposes is too wonderful for us to grasp.
            The surprise of 42v7-16 is that despite God’s challenge of Job, he is not angry with him. On the contrary, four times he calls Job his “servant” – a noble title, saying that Job had spoken what was “right” of God. This probably refers to the fact that throughout Job refused to condone a black and white view of God’s dealings with the wicked and the righteous in which the former always suffer and the latter always prosper. This would explain God’s anger at Job’s three friends. His response therefore commends the importance of accepting that his dealings with the world are mysterious and complex. And this may be why he does not rebuke Elihu, who at least accepted that.
            In order to escape punishment, the friends have to offer seven burnt offerings (symbolising devotion to God) and have Job pray for them. By contrast, God simply restores all that Job lost and more, and in a way that stresses blessing – in acknowledgement, wealth, complete numbers of children, beautiful daughters, inheritance for all, and long life. Job is therefore like Christ. He too suffered most terribly according to God’s sovereign purpose before being raised to a place of blessing and acknowledgement before the universe. He supremely proves that the righteous sometimes suffer, whilst also proving God’s justice in requiring his death to satisfy his justice at sin. And Christ’s submissive attitude, more than that of Job, is the model for how we handle hardship.
                                   
Praying it home:
Praise God for the clarity the cross brings to the message of Job in proving both that he has purpose in suffering and that he is just. Pray that you would live in humble and reverent fear before his majestic might.

Thinking further:
None today.
                                                          

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