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Eternal Fingerprints

Introduction

 

cropped-cross-over-fingerprint

This blog is intended to be a shared journey through scripture, spiritual ideas and a wrestling with God and man.

It is a battle of vulnerability with all my flaws and weakness but with a hope in a God who is perfect and without flaw.

This God seems to accept a humility and brokenness in lieu of perfection. A God who desires heart rather than piousness and religiousness.

My commentary on scripture to the best of my knowledge and understanding is theologically accurate and written in contemporary language. It’s not perfect. I have never met anyone with perfect theology. So much of our worldview is anchored in our own experience even when viewed through a reasonably sound exegetical lense. We all have our subtle and not so subtle angles on interpretation.

It is written in a style that is meaningful and connected with my own experience of life and spirituality. I hope any readers will also find meaning and connection in this journey. More than anything I hope I can communicate the heart of God rather than any emphasis on doctrine or law.

I am a Christian. I am not your average religious person though. I struggle with religiousness and religious groups. I make no judgment about church culture because I see many people find meaning, purpose and some kind of security within that framework.

I understand this. I worked full time in the ministry for a large group of churches for 16 years. I spoke in many Cities around the world. It worked for me. …at least I thought it did.

In the latter years I disengaged, allowed bitterness to rule my heart and pressed the self destruct button on my life on a scale of greater magnitude than even in the days and years before I found God.

I had a complete moral failure and meltdown that saw me head for oblivion in a dark pit of self pity, deceit, manipulation, adultery, cruelty and thievery. These events were dealt with very publicly and quite rightly usurped me from my seat of influence. I should be in jail but I am not.

The way I see it is that it was an intervention from God. It’s as if he said “Human judgment is flawed. I am not going to put you under human judgment. Instead I am going to put myself under human judgment”. This he did at the cross. I wake up each day with gratitude and a clear conscience. This is not because I am innocent but it is because I am free.

I must add that I am free not because anything was swept under the carpet. Far from it. Everything was exposed in broad daylight and put under Crystal clear scrutiny. It was the most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with. To face people I had betrayed, hurt and let down. To experience the full gravity of guilt and shame and yet I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This was the key to a great healing and reconciliation. This is God’s way. I am forever changed as a result of what happened. This is good.

I know that faith is not simply an intellectual exercise but is to be lived with intentional activity and that walking with God demands that we live in community with other believers and share our message of hope to those who are suffering in this broken world without hope. I want to unpack these ideas or tenets in this blog. I want to explore them in the light of scripture.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he effectively answered his enquirer that it is to “love God and love people” (Matthew 22:36-40). This is not something that can be practiced in isolation. Neither is it something that can be measured by law.

My big question is this. What does it really look like to walk with God? What does it mean? Religious answers do not satisfy me. I want an answer that I connect with and can share with others.

I have titled the blog “Eternal Fingerprints” because it is a piece of work that I hope will leave eternal fingerprints on your heart as I seek the same transformation of my own. They are not my fingerprints but rather they are the fingerprints of God from his word.

This is one reason that I choose to write with anonymity. I want my readers to focus on the message rather than the messenger. Some of my readers will know who I am if you move in the same congregational circles that I have moved in. I hope that if you feel any sense of hurt or betrayal as a result of my actions and we have not yet had the opportunity to meet face to face then you will draw something helpful and healing from these words.

This is my journey. I am happy to share it with you.

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Job 20

joy

Job 20:1-11
Zophar

20 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:
2 “My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer
because I am greatly disturbed.
3 I hear a rebuke that dishonours me,
and my understanding inspires me to reply.
4 “Surely you know how it has been from of old,
ever since mankind was placed on the earth,
5 that the mirth of the wicked is brief,
the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.
6 Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens
and his head touches the clouds,
7 he will perish forever, like his own dung;
those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’
8 Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found,
banished like a vision of the night.
9 The eye that saw him will not see him again;
his place will look on him no more.
10 His children must make amends to the poor;
his own hands must give back his wealth.
11 The youthful vigour that fills his bones
will lie with him in the dust.
——————————–
Zophar’s second speech focuses on two key ideas: the prosperity of the wicked is short, and his doom is certain.

The have their “short” times of “triumphing” – there may be “passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25), but judgement is coming. Job’s spiritual experience did not line up with Zophar’s rigid expectations, so Job was branded amongst the “wicked”.

It appeared to Zophar that Job seemed to think that evil people had successful lives. Zophar wanted to prove that this idea was wrong.

Contrary to Zophar’s confident assertion, sometimes wicked people live long lives. For example, Noah endured the wickedness of his neighbours for 120 years while he preached and built the ark (Genesis 6:3), and God gave the Canaanites four centuries before He judged them as a nation. Later he allowed the Egyptians, the Assyrians, The Babylonians all to have long periods of prosperity with his people the Israelites in slavery to the evil empires !!

In Job’s day, people respected older people and their ideas (Job 32:6-9). So the people believed that ancient wisdom was very important (Job 8:8-9). Zophar calls on ancient wisdom as the support for his position.

In verses 5-6, the application of Zophar’s words about this wicked, hypocritical, proud person were aimed at Job. He would, like others so wicked, suffer the consequences of his sins (verses 7-29).

This wicked man may be powerful while he is alive. But when he dies, nobody will even remember this man. He asserts that Job will amount to nothing but a forgotten grave.

Job had reached a very high position of prosperity before all of the calamity came upon him. It appears, that Zophar may have been jealous of that high esteem, and had hoped that Job would fall. It did not matter how highly he was thought of, Zophar said he would fall as low as Job had, sitting in the heap of ashes. He said he would fall so low that no one could find him. Some might ask, where he had gone.
It’s a weighty accusation.

I read and wrote about these verses whilst an event that reminded me of a past glory of being highly thought of, esteemed and appreciated. It was an event that I helped pioneer and ran for 16 years. This is what I wrote about that experience. 

There is a whole generation here that know nothing of that legacy and a handful that remember but know the height from which I fell. It is strange, to be here but special. I see my fingerprints all over the event. The way it’s organised, the programme, the culture but it’s no longer mine. It gives me both a satisfaction that I built something good and enduring but also a sadness that I miss it and wished I could have carried on. 

I suppose I am attempting to step into Jobs shoes of being forgotten, of losing his influence and how that might have felt. It appears that whilst his friends and accusers are focused on that outward thing, his focus is more about what he perceives as his abandonment by God. 

My experience has been one of encouragement, Grace and even gratitude from those that knew what I had a hand in building. One person who did not know me innocently asked “is it the first time you have been to one of these events” …there was a time that everyone knew who I was.——————————————————–

Job 20:12-19

12 “Though evil is sweet in his mouth
and he hides it under his tongue,
13 though he cannot bear to let it go
and lets it linger in his mouth,
14 yet his food will turn sour in his stomach;
it will become the venom of serpents within him.
15 He will spit out the riches he swallowed;
God will make his stomach vomit them up.
16 He will suck the poison of serpents;
the fangs of an adder will kill him.
17 He will not enjoy the streams,
the rivers flowing with honey and cream.
18 What he toiled for he must give back uneaten;
he will not enjoy the profit from his trading.
19 For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute;
he has seized houses he did not build.
——————————–

These verses represent the heart of how Zophar perceived Job’s life and circumstances. Whilst his observation are general truths about the gains of evil behaviour being short lived and not truly enjoyable. The bounty will be consumed without peace etc., …this we know was not the case in Job’s situation. Verses 12-16 imply that the evil deeds of a man are like a poison with an enticing taste and yet it will not be as tasty as the first bite. It will turn sour in his stomach and ultimately may kill him.

Zophar was listing sins that could have been committed by Job, implying that this was the root of his trouble. He said that he had oppressed the poor and taken their house away from them.
——————————–

Job 20:20-29

20 “Surely he will have no respite from his craving;
he cannot save himself by his treasure.
21 Nothing is left for him to devour;
his prosperity will not endure.
22 In the midst of his plenty, distress will overtake him;
the full force of misery will come upon him.
23 When he has filled his belly,
God will vent his burning anger against him
and rain down his blows on him.
24 Though he flees from an iron weapon,
a bronze-tipped arrow pierces him.
25 He pulls it out of his back,
the gleaming point out of his liver.
Terrors will come over him;
26     total darkness lies in wait for his treasures.
A fire unfanned will consume him
and devour what is left in his tent.
27 The heavens will expose his guilt;
the earth will rise up against him.
28 A flood will carry off his house,
rushing waters on the day of God’s wrath.
29 Such is the fate God allots the wicked,
the heritage appointed for them by God.”
—————————–

Zophar’s narrative continues
Money cannot save anyone from death. Ill gained wealth will not save the evil man from the wrath of God!

The evil man’s gains will not even bring him peace in this life. He may through his guilty conscience live in constant fear and weariness of being found out. There is also the fact that what he has can be taken from him at any moment.

Zophar implied that Job constantly hungered for more. He was never satisfied. What may have begun as a sincere but misguided line of questioning from his friends was now a full blown accusation levied against Job.

Zophar said that God would take all of it away from him, so he would have nothing left for other men to take.

God is a fair judge. He will deal with every man according to his deeds. A man might be able to escape from his enemies. But nobody can escape from God.

These verses tell of a harsh judgment of wrath from the hand of God and whilst there is truth in God’s judgment to suggest that Job would be at the mercy of such judgment was brutal.

Verse 24 is literally translated as “The glittering sword” from the Hebrew bârâq. It describes the brightness of the sword piercing the gall which was supposed to be the seat of life (see notes Job 16:13).

Verse 26 implies a fire from heaven, not lit by human hands. Probably lightning or brimstone would consume everything.

This darkness represented total separation from the Light of God. In the case of Job, his wife was left and some of his servants. Zophar said it would not go well with them because they were living in Job’s house.
Zophar thought that everybody would agree with him. But, as Job would explain in chapter 21, Zophar had overlooked the fact that many people who do wicked things are very successful during their lives on earth. They do not die when they are young. It is true that God will punish them in the end.

The implications on Job that he was experiencing punishment and there was more to come although contained some observational truth in the ways of God was theologically flawed.

Job had asked for heaven and earth to witness for him. Zophar was saying that heaven and earth would be opposed to Job. He was trying to offset everything that Job had said.

Zophar was summarizing the things he had said in the last few verses that he thought would come to Job. He thought Job to be full of unrepentant evil and therefore had no heritage.

Job 19

alienated
Job 19:1-12
19 Then Job replied:
2 “How long will you torment me
and crush me with words?
3 Ten times now you have reproached me;
shamelessly you attack me.
4 If it is true that I have gone astray,
my error remains my concern alone.
5 If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me
and use my humiliation against me,
6 then know that God has wronged me
and drawn his net around me.
7 “Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response;
though I call for help, there is no justice.
8 He has blocked my way so I cannot pass;
he has shrouded my paths in darkness.
9 He has stripped me of my honour
and removed the crown from my head.
10 He tears me down on every side till I am gone;
he uproots my hope like a tree.
11 His anger burns against me;
he counts me among his enemies.
12 His troops advance in force;
they build a siege ramp against me
and encamp around my tent.
—————————————————
Job’s response to Bildad’s second speech was desperate. The collective accusations from his friends brought such grief to Job that he cried again for a mediator. He affirmed his deep belief in the ultimate justice of Yahweh, even if His justice is not revealed immediately or in this life. Job’s words expressing hope in his “Redeemer” and his belief in the resurrection of the body are pivotal.

In verses 1-19 Job felt “strange” by God and abandoned by his “Close friends” and what remained of his “relatives”. No one stood up to defend him. All that was once strong in Job’s life – his family, his social standing, his wealth, his faith – was now broken. There was nothing to hold onto except God.

Job was anguished that friends had become defiant and relentless for mentors (verses 2-3). However, we begin to see deep faith in the midst of deep despair emerge in this passage. It seemed their attack would never end. Job mentions ten times here which is an expression for “never ending”. This was not a reluctant reproof of Job but rather a vicious assault on his character.

In verses 5-7: Job effectively was saying that if God sent him friends like Bildad, who needs enemies? Job’s fear was that there would be no justice..

They had shown Job no mercy at all. He reminded them that if he was being punished by God for whatever it was that he had done wrong. It was not their duty to add to his pain and suffering.

Job felt that he was being attacked but when he called for help, nobody came to assist.

Job compared himself to a city, the walls of which are attacked on every side and broken down. His ruin is complete and he perishes. He was torn up like a tree and all hope of life gone as a result. Job’s “hope” was no doubt, to lead a peaceful life walking with God, . surrounded by his relatives and friends, until old age. This hope had been “torn up by the roots”.

Job could have stood the calamities much better had he known where they had come from. His deepest hurt was believing that God’s wrath had been poured out upon him. He struggled to understand this.

The beauty of this section is we see an authentic wrestling with the goodness of God and a dismissiveness of his friends erroneous counsel. Job’s processing is desperate and courageous.
—————————————————
Job 19:13-22
13 “He has alienated my family from me;
my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.
14 My relatives have gone away;
my closest friends have forgotten me.
15 My guests and my female servants count me a foreigner;
they look on me as on a stranger.
16 I summon my servant, but he does not answer,
though I beg him with my own mouth.
17 My breath is offensive to my wife;
I am loathsome to my own family.
18 Even the little boys scorn me;
when I appear, they ridicule me.
19 All my intimate friends detest me;
those I love have turned against me.
20 I am nothing but skin and bones;
I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth.
21 “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity,
for the hand of God has struck me.
22 Why do you pursue me as God does?
Will you never get enough of my flesh?
——————————————————–
In Job’s suffering he felt completely abandoned. His friends were insulting him, his servants did not answer and even his wife would not come near him because his breath was so bad!!

Once his house had been a centre of the community and people came to celebrate but now everyone looked upon him as though he was not known to them. He was an outcast.
Job loved his friends and had been comforted by them at the beginning as they sat in silence with him but now their words were deeply hurtful. He pleaded with them to have pity and not abandon him as everyone else had done.
——————————————————–
Job 19:23-29
23 “Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,
24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
or engraved in rock forever!
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
28 “If you say, ‘How we will hound him,
since the root of the trouble lies in him,’
29 you should fear the sword yourselves;
for wrath will bring punishment by the sword,
and then you will know that there is judgment.”
——————————
Job has endured incredible suffering beyond what most people suffer. He has experienced loss of everything he knew that we would ordinarily place our security in, abandonment of those closest to him, he has lost his reputation (I can relate to that – although for different reasons). He has lost his health, his wealth and has been wrestling with the spiritual issues that have caused him to feel abandoned and punished by God for no apparent reason.

…and yet something beautiful emerges from this passage. From the depths of degradation he expresses the confidence that if his case could only be recorded for posterity, future generations would judge him favourably (verses 23-24). Furthermore, he knows confidently that he has a “Redeemer” (verse 25, Hebrew goel), One who will champion his cause and vindicate him. The Redeemer is more than an arbiter (9:33) or a witness (16:19) but a Kinsman-Redeemer who will avenge him. Clearly, Job viewed God Himself as the Redeemer, and the Hebrew word is in fact used often of God (Exodus 6:6; Psalm 19:14; 72:14;  Isaiah 41:14; 43:14; 47:4; 49:26; Jeremiah 50:34). He had landed on a square of faith and absolute confidence that he would be vindicated by his just God.

“In my flesh” (verse 26) speaks of a resurrected body. Though it may also be translated “apart from my flesh,” as a spirit being, the emphasis of the original means “from the standpoint of my flesh,” in my resurrected body. Here is evidence of the Old Testament belief in the resurrection of the human body. Mind blowing!

Bildad said that everyone would forget the wicked man (Job 18:17-19). But Job did not want anyone to forget that he was innocent (Job 16:18). So Job wanted someone to write his words so that people would remember them always. Somehow the story was indeed recorded and passed on as the Book of Job. It may be the most ancient book that still exists. Job wanted a permanent record of the things that he and his friends discovered about God.

The three verses (Job 19:25-27), are the most emphatic words Job has spoken so far in this book.

It appears to be that Job is alluding to a strange kind of rock-inscription, of which, there do not appear to be any specimens. This presumably is one of the clues that tell us that this dates the book in the most ancient of times.

Job wished the characters of his record to be cut deep into the rock with an iron chisel, and the incision made to be then filled up with lead (compare the mediaeval “brasses”).
It is not exactly clear whether Job wanted the whole story recorded or just the words about the resurrection which clearly is a pivotal point in this story but also in ancient understanding of the story of God and man.

The Redeemer is the clear message of the gospel. See Luke 2:38; Romans 3:24; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12).

Up to this point Job had been doubtful whether he could ever prove himself innocent. He prayed. But he was not sure that God would ever help him. His wrestling with God brought him to a place of confidence.

Job was developing his thoughts. They are recorded in chapter 16:19-21. There, Job said that somebody in heaven was helping him. He described that person as a lawyer or a friend. Job probably meant God himself. In Job 14:7-9, Job remembered about trees. A tree that seems dead can often live again. And in Job 14:13-17, Job prayed that this would happen to Job himself.

The Hebrew word translated as redeemed is GOEL. In Hebrew thinking a GOEL frees someone by either of two particular methods. Either the GOEL may pay a debt for that person. Or the GOEL may fight to free the person. Some examples of further use are:
(1) In the Book of Ruth, Boaz freed Ruth. He loved her. So he paid her debts and he married her. He was her redeemer or GOEL.
(2) God is often called a GOEL or redeemer. For example, Psalm 19:14 and Isaiah 63:16.
(3) The Bible teaches that Jesus is our redeemer (1 Peter 1:18-19). When he died for us, he freed us from Satan’s power. The price for our freedom was paid at the cross. He took on death for us.
(4) In Job 19:25, Job uses this word to describe God. Even if God has to take Job from the grave to save him. God will rescue him, even if God must pay to rescue him. And God will rescue Job even if God must fight for Job. This was a metanoia (worldview change, mind change, repentance) .

Job 18

Terror (2)
Job 18:1-4
Bildad
18 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
2 “When will you end these speeches?
Be sensible, and then we can talk.
3 Why are we regarded as cattle
and considered stupid in your sight?
4 You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger,
is the earth to be abandoned for your sake?
Or must the rocks be moved from their place?
———————————–
Bildad enters the discussion for the second time. He decides he cannot reason with Job, so fear becomes his weapon of choice.

He ruthlessly attacked Job in his second speech with a wake up and smell the coffee kind of recant. Next he turned to scorn (verses 3-4). Then he turned to another long tale of the bad outcomes the wicked experience (verses 5-21).

He was saying that Job talked too much and should calm down. He took offense at being compared to cattle. Job had insulted their intelligence.

He asserted that Job could not change the world. He was tearing himself in anger for no good reason. He was his own greatest tormentor with his own rage.

He accused Job of tearing himself as a child does when he is having a tantrum. He said that Job actually wanted God to change the forces of nature to suit him. He accused Job of wanting to be the centre of attention.

This is what happens in dialogue when our focus is not on listening and understanding the other person we are in dialogue in. We move into fear and start to dig our heels in, assert our own worldview and attempt to control. It all comes from a place of fear because it raises too many questions about our own belief system. We all do it. Sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly.
———————————–
Job 18:5-21
5 “The lamp of a wicked man is snuffed out;
the flame of his fire stops burning.
6 The light in his tent becomes dark;
the lamp beside him goes out.
7 The vigour of his step is weakened;
his own schemes throw him down.
8 His feet thrust him into a net;
he wanders into its mesh.
9 A trap seizes him by the heel;
a snare holds him fast.
10 A noose is hidden for him on the ground;
a trap lies in his path.
11 Terrors startle him on every side
and dog his every step.
12 Calamity is hungry for him;
disaster is ready for him when he falls.
13 It eats away parts of his skin;
death’s firstborn devours his limbs.
14 He is torn from the security of his tent
and marched off to the king of terrors.
15 Fire resides in his tent;
burning sulphur is scattered over his dwelling.
16 His roots dry up below
and his branches wither above.
17 The memory of him perishes from the earth;
he has no name in the land.
18 He is driven from light into the realm of darkness
and is banished from the world.
19 He has no offspring or descendants among his people,
no survivor where once he lived.
20 People of the west are appalled at his fate;
those of the east are seized with horror.
21 Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man;
such is the place of one who does not know God.”
———————————–
This is a blistering speech on the woes of the wicked.

In verses 5-6 light is associated with life just as darkness is associated with death.

God is the Author of life. He alone can “light” a person’s “lamp” (Proverbs 13:9; Acts 17:25, 28). But Bildad’s misguided point is that the Lord also snuffs out “the light of the wicked”. This berating of Job is intense to say the least.

Bildad’s only idea in this chapter was that a wicked man is never successful. Bildad did not directly say that Job was wicked but this is clearly a loaded series of statements full of implied intent.

Bildad was certain that the wicked man could not continue to live. A candle can only burn for a few hours. Then, there is darkness. Job expected to die soon (Job 16:22).
The wicked man tries to make trouble for other people. But he himself suffers from his schemes. He is like a hunter who walks into his own trap.

Job asserted that God caused his suffering. Bildad appeared to think that Job caused his own trouble.

Verse 9 is sometimes obscurely translated as “The gin”. A “gin” is a metallic sheet pounded thin, or a spring. A trap that was set at night to catch robbers and thieves. They would be held tight until morning when they would be apprehended. Verse 10 is speaking of the two types of gin. One above ground and one that was like a pit.

Six different kinds of traps or snares are mentioned. The speaker scrambling together every word that he can find that is descriptive of the art of snaring. The art had been well studied by the Egyptians long before the age of Job, and a variety of tricks and tools for capturing animals and birds are represented on early Egyptian monuments. It looks like this had been an influential craft throughout the Middle East.

In verse 13 “death’s firstborn is a poetical expression meaning the most deadly disease death ever produced.

When Bildad referred to the man’s tent, he did not simply mean a home. He also meant the man’s life. A tent is temporary. Sometimes tent is used to describe the human body. A dwelling place for the soul.

As God rained fire and brimstone out of heaven upon Sodom & Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24), so shall brimstone be scattered upon his habitation to ruin and destroy it (compare Deuteronomy 29:23; Psalm 11:6). This is a serious and weighty assertion that Job is being destroyed because of his sin.

We read earlier that the thought about a tree gave comfort to Job (Job 14:7-9). The nature of a tree seemed to imply that the dead can live again. But Bildad thought that Job’s idea was not reality. He reminded Job that a tree can really die.

It appears that he was speaking of Job’s ancestors being forgotten, and him not having any children to be his branches. We read of the tree which had no water at its roots drying up and dying.

Bildad warned Job. Nobody would remember him after his death. Job had no children alive (Job 1:18-19). Job trusted God to prove that Job was innocent (Job 16:18-21). But Bildad was of the opinion that Job was deluded about this.

This is the greatest dread of the modern roamers of the desert (Compare Jeremiah 35:19).
Bildad was asserting that Job would not be remembered by anyone. Ironically Job is one of the best remembered people in the Bible. It turned out to be the book of Job and not the Book of Bildad or The Wisdom of Eliphaz.

Bildad’s words throughout the chapter illustrate the power of words; in this case, their power to do further damage (Proverbs 12:18). Job is obviously broken already, and here is Bildad, tearing him to shreds. Much of the Book of Job could be a manual on how not to counsel, how not to deal with grief. Grieving is often met with head information when it is a state of the heart. To meet grieving with intellect will not touch it. The excellent grief recovery handbook  (James & Friedman) describes this practice as “attempting to paint with a hammer. It’s the wrong tool for the job and will create a mess”. A heart issue can only be effectively met with heart counsel. ..empathy, connection, love! Head counsel of judgement, repair advice and an examination of what went wrong or caused the issue of grief will only alienate and push others away.

Job 17

grief


Job 17:1-2

17 1 My spirit is broken,
my days are cut short,
the grave awaits me.
2 Surely mockers surround me;
my eyes must dwell on their hostility.

—————————————-

This was Job’s rock bottom moment and at this he took his anguish to God. He believed he was near death. His friends had become enemies, mockers and had failed to provide him with the emotional support that friends are supposed to provide. He had been abandoned in that sense.

Is this a kind of shadowing of Jesus? Job did not deserve death. Although he had not lived a perfect life, he had lived a faithful life and in his hour need his friends had deserted him. God of course would restore Job’s life to a life greater than his previous life. Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven.

Perhaps this is a shadowing of God’s greater plan. Perhaps it just gives a few clues about what is to come in the future.
—————————————-

Job 17:3-5

3 “Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.
Who else will put up security for me?
4 You have closed their minds to understanding;
therefore you will not let them triumph.
5 If anyone denounces their friends for reward,
the eyes of their children will fail.
————————————–
Job had discovered at this point, that the only one he could trust was God. He was wanting a handshake from God. This would be a sign that an agreement had been struck. He prayed that God would declare him innocent.

He was accusing his friends of attacking him as they would a prey. In the past, they had flattered him when he was wealthy. Now they were accusing him of every type of sin. The saying “Kick a man when he is down” springs to mind.

I wonder if this is how my colleague feels after I fired him yesterday (March 2017). It’s tough. I want to contact him and let him know how I feel about what happened away from all the formality. I can’t until the appeal period is over should he choose to appeal.

I have fired people before. It’s never easy but I think that this was one of the hardest. There were some questions about his performance but I felt he just needed more time in the role. We had promoted him to a senior position only a month earlier. 

My bosses were under pressure to cut costs and needed a return on investment quicker than they had confidence and I had to admit that he could deliver. It was a moral dilemma. I wrestled with my conscience on the matter. I believed the company were most at fault in this situation and though I said so, I didn’t say it with the steeliness to match the strength of opinion from the other two members in the leadership team whose convictions were heading in the opposite direction. I was a coward and delivered the blow that caused my colleague to lose his job. 

Are there some parallels that relate to this passage? Were Jobs three friends the product of ancient “group think” causing negative momentum? Did my colleague feel a great betrayal on my part? 

I talked with him after the appeal period had passed. He was very gracious. I revisited the conversation with the leadership team and put a different marker in the sand. I would not be pressured into firing someone that I didn’t believe should be fired. 

Job’s suffering of course was far greater than being fired. He lost everything and everyone. He lost his health and well-being. I wonder if I had been one of Job’s friends how would I have been? I wonder if I had been one of Jesus’ disciples at his arrest how would I have been? 

…I believe I have my answer and its not pretty even at a time I am supposedly “doing well spiritually” (Whatever that means) 
————————————–

Job 17:6-7

6 “God has made me a byword to everyone,
a man in whose face people spit.
7 My eyes have grown dim with grief;
my whole frame is but a shadow.
——————————————

Job’s words remind us about Jesus’ death. See also Psalm 22 and Isaiah chapter 53. The similarities are really quite remarkable.

——————————————

Job 17:8-9

8 The upright are appalled at this;
the innocent are aroused against the ungodly.
9 Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways,
and those with clean hands will grow stronger.

————————————–
Job asserted that wise and good men would consider his calamities, and not be as condemning as his friends but instead wonder at the depth and mysteriousness of God’s judgments, which can fall so heavily upon innocent men, while the worst of men prosper.

These verses describe the effect that the book of Job has on most of us who pursue to do what is right and pursue a walk with God. It is perhaps the intention of this piece of work and one of the key reasons that the book of Job is included in the canon. We are astonished at the amount of suffering that Job endured without being overcome. We are shocked by the attitude of his so-called friends. Yet we can hold up the mirror to our own hypocrisy and judgmental attitudes as we read through the book.

The righteous man does not stop being righteous because problems come his way. He will hold fast to his belief in the face of all sorts of trouble.

Actually he sometimes does stop being righteous… and I did for a season or two… but the point is that God puts us through what we need to facilitate spiritual growth and that he will form Christ in us (Romans 8:28-29).

Forming Christ is not some spiritual revelation that comes out of the blue but such is our pride and self sufficiency the forming of Godly character into our stubborn hearts and ways involves suffering. This can be suffering as a result of our sin or someone else’s sin. It can be suffering as a result of doing what is right in a broken world of sin or it can be suffering (as is the case of Job) for no apparent or immediately obvious reason.
————————————–

Job 17:10-16

10 “But come on, all of you, try again!
I will not find a wise man among you.
11 My days have passed, my plans are shattered.
Yet the desires of my heart
12 turn night into day;
in the face of the darkness light is near.
13 If the only home I hope for is the grave,
if I spread out my bed in the realm of darkness,
14 if I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother’ or ‘My sister,’
15 where then is my hope—
who can see any hope for me?
16 Will it go down to the gates of death?
Will we descend together into the dust?”————————————

Job was not unteachable, he seemed interested if they had any insight worth hearing and ready to reply. He was expecting to die soon and no longer felt the need to prove himself before men.

He was preparing to acquaint himself with death. He had no further hope for the future. He simply wanted to prove that he was innocent before God. His great frustration and despair was that he could not understand why all this had happened to him. It challenged his worldview about how God works and interacts with men. He knew that he was a sinner, the same as all men but he was also certain that he was not a hypocrite and that he had been authentic in his walk with God.

Job 16

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Job 16:1-6
16 Then Job replied:
2 “I have heard many things like these;
you are miserable comforters, all of you!
3 Will your long-winded speeches never end?
What ails you that you keep on arguing?
4 I also could speak like you,
if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
and shake my head at you.
5 But my mouth would encourage you;
comfort from my lips would bring you relief.
6 “Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved;
and if I refrain, it does not go away.
———————————–
Job tells his friends that they are miserable comforters. What had started out as a seemingly sincere intention to help and support had turned into a rancour littered with sarcasm and had only served to frustrate all parties involved. Job asserts that if the situation were reversed he also could make lengthy speeches with fine sounding words but he would have been a lot more encouraging, comforting and generous with his words.

This whole discussion had now degenerated into an exchange of insults and name calling. The expression “Shake my head at you” was a common statement of  derision (see 2 Kings 19:21; Psalm 22:7; Isaiah 37:22; Matthew 27:39).
———————————————-

Job 16:7-18

7 Surely, God, you have worn me out;
you have devastated my entire household.
8 You have shrivelled me up—and it has become a witness;
my gauntness rises up and testifies against me.
9 God assails me and tears me in his anger
and gnashes his teeth at me;
my opponent fastens on me his piercing eyes.
10 People open their mouths to jeer at me;
they strike my cheek in scorn
and unite together against me.
11 God has turned me over to the ungodly
and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked.
12 All was well with me, but he shattered me;
he seized me by the neck and crushed me.
He has made me his target;
13     his archers surround me.
Without pity, he pierces my kidneys
and spills my gall on the ground.
14 Again and again he bursts upon me;
he rushes at me like a warrior.
15 “I have sewed sackcloth over my skin
and buried my brow in the dust.
16 My face is red with weeping,
dark shadows ring my eyes;
17 yet my hands have been free of violence
and my prayer is pure.
18 “Earth, do not cover my blood;
may my cry never be laid to rest!
——————————————-
Job thought that God caused these troubles and cruelly turned him over to the ungodly. He said that his enemy attacked him like a wild animal. It was as if he was being cruelly tortured.

Job’s lament of his suffering pointed his frustration towards God. Some of the greatest spiritual change comes about through authentic wrestling with God. It makes me think of Jacob wrestling all night (Genesis 32:24-32) and the result being a change of identity, Peter arguing with God became a metanoia moment (Acts 10:9-16). 

The constant wrestling in the Psalms seems to indicate that it is this kind of relationship which facilitates growth and greater understanding of God and our place in the presence of God and his creation.

My own greatest moments of enlightenment have not come through peaceful meditation or “quiet time” insight but in the raw wrestling of my soul in the crucible of life. In moments of suffering or the consequences of personal darkness. That’s usually when the light goes on. The passages of peace are a blessing to be enjoyed but the real work is done in the turmoil and the storms of life.
——————————————-

Job 16:19-22

19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
my advocate is on high.
20 My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;
21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as one pleads for a friend.
22 “Only a few years will pass
before I take the path of no return.
—————————————————–
Job had expressed his desire for advocate to represent him before God in chapter 9:33. This demonstrates an internal longing for Jesus in his life. It is a deeply moving passage. Here we see a shift in his faith where there is a certainty that this advocate is present in heaven bringing his case before God!

The words describe the character of Jesus. He sympathises with our struggles (Hebrews 4:15). He prays for us (Hebrews 7:25). He is our priest (Hebrews 7:24).

Job knew that he could not fully rely on his earthly friends for the support that he needed and now he begins to look for this from a heavenly friend to meet these needs. It was a paradigm shift.

Job was so sick that he felt death was very near.

Job 15

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Job 15:1-6
Eliphaz

15 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
2 “Would a wise person answer with empty notions
or fill their belly with the hot east wind?
3 Would they argue with useless words,
with speeches that have no value?
4 But you even undermine piety
and hinder devotion to God.
5 Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty.
6 Your own mouth condemns you, not mine;
your own lips testify against you.
——————————————————————
Eliphaz returns to the conversation and this time around he launches into a scathing attack on Job.

He began by accusing Job of sinning that involved attacking God with his complaints. He felt Job was guilty of empty words and had not exhibited godly fear and righteous prayer (verse 4), but rather was sinning in his prayer (verses 5-6). He was accused of being full of wind and of being rather bombastic.

..So the heat is turned up.

Job said that he was as wise as his friends (Job 12:3). He even said that they could learn from his words (Job 13:5-6). This caused a strong reaction in Eliphaz.

Eliphaz begins with a question. There are over three hundred questions in the Book of Job which is more than in any other book in the Bible. They express the viewpoint of wisdom and the search for understanding. Their constant use in the book clearly reflects it’s Near Eastern origin.

Eliphaz was criticizing Job for his talking, referring to it as “unprofitable”. He thought all of Job’s talk was in vain. He thought that God regarded it no more than he would the blowing of the wind. The east wind in that part of the world was the most “blowy” and “blustery” of winds.

Job claimed and reasoned that good men often have things that are not good in life and that evil men often prosper (Job 12:6). Eliphaz did not agree. He believed that God rewards good and punishes evil. Job’s words appeared to be disrespectful to his creator. He believed that Job was not showing reverence toward God and that he was hindering other’s prayers to God.

Eliphaz now accuses Job of “iniquity” and being “crafty” deceitful, whereas in his first speech he seemed to assume Job’s sincerity. 

Now even Job’s own words were condemning himself, there was no need for further testimony! The accusation levied against Job was of being irreverent and blasphemous in his speech. This is a shadow of the accusations levied against Jesus much later in time.
——————————————————————

Job 15:7-13

7 “Are you the first man ever born?
Were you brought forth before the hills?
8 Do you listen in on God’s council?
Do you have a monopoly on wisdom?
9 What do you know that we do not know?
What insights do you have that we do not have?
10 The grey-haired and the aged are on our side,
men even older than your father.
11 Are God’s consolations not enough for you,
words spoken gently to you?
12 Why has your heart carried you away,
and why do your eyes flash,
13 so that you vent your rage against God
and pour out such words from your mouth?
———————————————-
True wisdom is not necessarily linked to age but to consistent trust and obedience to God’s ways (Psalm 119:99-100). Wisdom comes from walking with God and discovering that his commands are trustworthy and true (Deuteronomy 4:6; 1 Timothy 4:12).Solomon was reportedly the wisest man that ever lived. He was granted wisdom in his youth (1 Kings 3)

In verses 7-1,  Eliphaz condemned Job for rejecting the conventional wisdom, as if he had more insight than other men (verses 7-9) and could reject the wisdom of the aged (verse 10) and the kindness of God (verse 11). It was a serious charge against Job. He was saying that Job was going against conventional wisdom, the society norm and accepted culture and beliefs of his elders.

The common belief was that an older man was wiser (Job 32:7). Eliphaz said that many of the respected elders believed the same ideas as Eliphaz himself. Their forefathers had the same ideas. They thought that someone inflicted with illness or disease must be opposed by God because of some sin. Even Jesus’ disciples had a similar worldview (John 9:2). But Jesus challenged this (John 9:3).

Eliphaz charges Job with these words…
“Are you older than the hills?” As wisdom herself is (Proverbs 8:23). “Did you exist before the earth was created?”

He was accusing Job of believing that he had supernatural intelligence. He was also asking Job if he was the firstborn of God. In other words he was saying, are you trying to compare yourself to God.

The words are harsh, condemning, full of judgment and misunderstanding.
“Are you privy to the secret council of God?”

No mortal man had ever been included in the counsel of God, and yet that was what Eliphaz was saying that Job believed he had done. He was suggesting Job thought he was the only wise man on the earth and accusing him of great pride and arrogance.

Eliphaz defended the position of the friends. It appears that at least one of Job’s friends was as old as Job’s father. It probably would have been Eliphaz, because he always spoke first.

Job said that he wanted to meet God. He wanted to reason with him because he could not understand his troubles. It went against his belief system so he was wrestling with and struggling with the common belief that suffering equals a result of sin. He could not fathom it. It was a sincere wrestling. Eliphaz misunderstood this and assumed that Job was angry with God.

Eliphaz was insisting that he and his friends had offered a solution to Job. He should repent of his sins and seek God with all his heart, and then perhaps God would stop the punishment against him. 

His conclusion was that Job was rebellious and too proud to admit his sin against God.

I wonder how Job must have felt under all this judgment and condemnation on top of his grieving and immense suffering. I know that if I am mildly sick I can barely engage with normality, let alone emotive dialogue.
———————————————-

Job 15:14-16

14 “What are mortals, that they could be pure,
or those born of woman, that they could be righteous?
15 If God places no trust in his holy ones,
if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes,
16 how much less mortals, who are vile and corrupt,
who drink up evil like water!
—————————————
In verses 14-16, Eliphaz delivers a strong but accurate statement about the sinfulness of man (Romans 3:23), the statement attacked Job’s claim to righteousness. Verse 15 refers to holy angels who fell and brought impurity into the heavens (Revelation 12:1-4). Whilst it is true and theologically accurate that all men are sinners it is quite irrelevant to the context of  Job’s complaint and question. His suffering was not due to any sin.

Eliphaz and his friends primary moral code and philosophy was one of retributive justice. They could not distinguish the difference between the fact that all suffering is a result of our sinful nature but not all the suffering is loaded proportionately on the being whose acts are sinful. Cause and effect is not necessarily delivered with equality. Such is the nature of a fallen world. The innocent sometimes suffer and the wicked sometimes get away with it but at the end of all things God will sort it out.

I remember myself and one of my younger brother’s being sat on a stool in the bathroom whilst my dad sorted out a particular issue that had occurred in the house. It’s a very simplistic illustration but in the end God will sift through it all and bring it back to perfect judgment.

Eliphaz was saying that if even the heavens, and the angels in heaven were not clean, the earth and its inhabitants were filthy. They were filled with iniquity.

Theologically accurate but completely unhelpful. Sometimes it’s good to think beyond being right and start thinking about being effective. Eliphaz was completely ineffective in his counsel of Job.
—————————————

Job 15:17-26

17 “Listen to me and I will explain to you;
let me tell you what I have seen,
18 what the wise have declared,
hiding nothing received from their ancestors
19 (to whom alone the land was given
when no foreigners moved among them):
20 All his days the wicked man suffers torment,
the ruthless man through all the years stored up for him.
21 Terrifying sounds fill his ears;
when all seems well, marauders attack him.
22 He despairs of escaping the realm of darkness;
he is marked for the sword.
23 He wanders about for food like a vulture;
he knows the day of darkness is at hand.
24 Distress and anguish fill him with terror;
troubles overwhelm him, like a king poised to attack,
25 because he shakes his fist at God
and vaunts himself against the Almighty,
26 defiantly charging against him
with a thick, strong shield.

——————————————-

Eliphaz continues his rant about Job’s sin being the cause of his suffering. To support his relentless point, he launches into a lengthy monologue about the wicked and their outcomes in life, drawing many parallels to the sufferings of Job. He had pain, and didn’t know when his life would end (verse 20). He suffered from fear, every sound alarmed him, and he thought his destroyer was near (verses 21-22). He worried about having food (verse 23). His suffering made him question God (verses 24-26). 

Once well-nourished, housed and rich (verses 27-29), he would lose it all (verses 30-33). Eliphaz concluded by calling Job a hypocrite (verses 34-35), saying that this was the reason things were going so badly.
Eliphaz again asserts his personal experience as his authority: “from what I have seen.” He then surveys the judgments that fall on the wicked,  implying that Job is to be numbered among them.

Verse 18 refers to the oral tradition of the time. There were few or quite possibly no written records during this period. 

Knowledge among the ancients was communicated chiefly by tradition from father to son. They had few or no written records, and hence, they embodied the results of their observation in brief, pious sayings, and transmitted them from one generation to another.

Eliphaz said that even the wise men of old and the fathers had warned their children of the punishment that came to those who sin. These were not secrets but common knowledge.

Verse 19 alludes to the idea that the land they lived in had been kept safe from foreign invasion, cultural invasion or religious invasions. It seems evident that Job’s time was the time of the Patriarchs most likely after Noah and Abraham.
Eliphaz warned Job not to accuse God. He should not argue but just accept that he is guilty.

I have been on the receiving end of counsel like that and I have also delivered counsel like that. It is unhelpful and hurtful to the recipient and if my experience it is anything to go by delivering that type of counsel it only serves to make me feel better about myself, take my focus off my own shortcomings and place myself above the person I am giving counsel to in my imagined hierarchy. It doesn’t seem that there is anything fruitful or productive in that.
——————————————-

Job 15:27-35

27 “Though his face is covered with fat
and his waist bulges with flesh,
28 he will inhabit ruined towns
and houses where no one lives,
houses crumbling to rubble.
29 He will no longer be rich and his wealth will not endure,
nor will his possessions spread over the land.
30 He will not escape the darkness;
a flame will wither his shoots,
and the breath of God’s mouth will carry him away.
31 Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless,
for he will get nothing in return.
32 Before his time he will wither,
and his branches will not flourish.
33 He will be like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes,
like an olive tree shedding its blossoms.
34 For the company of the godless will be barren,
and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes.
35 They conceive trouble and give birth to evil;
their womb fashions deceit.”
————————————————-
Job had observed that many evil people are successful (Job 12:6). Eliphaz argued that their success was temporary. Their wealth would not last. Soon, they would lose everything (verse 29).

Job had spoken about a tree that someone had cut down (Job 14:7-9). This idea gave hope to Job. Perhaps God would allow Job to live, even after death. Eliphaz rebutted what he perceived as a stupid idea. If someone burns a tree, that tree will not live again (verse 30).

Eliphaz seemed to think that a person’s spirit dies with that person. He thought that the only new life after death would be through our children. They would be our only hope for the future. An evil man would have no children (verse 33). As Job’s children were dead, Job’s own death would be his end.

In verse 27 Eliphaz accused Job of gluttony, coveting and greed and yet he lived in ruin. Surely God took away his riches. Maybe Eliphaz had been jealous of how Job had been previously blessed and was now gloating on his disaster.

He believed that Job had to be a hypocrite. Job had proclaimed faith in God. Eliphaz said Job’s faith was just for show and that he was corrupt, prideful and greedy.
We don’t know what was behind such a disproportionate response.

Job 14

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Job 14:1-6

14 “Mortals, born of woman,
are of few days and full of trouble.
2 They spring up like flowers and wither away;
like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.
3 Do you fix your eye on them?
Will you bring them before you for judgment?
4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure?
No one!
5 A person’s days are determined;
you have decreed the number of his months
and have set limits he cannot exceed.
6 So look away from him and let him alone,
till he has put in his time like a hired labourer.
———————————————
The Book of Job carries a lot of reference to the brevity of man’s life. This is especially true of chapter 14. Man “is of few days” (verse 1), “Like a flower” (verse 2) etc.,

In verses 1-12 Job embraced the fact of God’s control over the issues of this life, but challenged their meaning. 

Life is short (verses 1-2), all are sinners (verse 4), and days are limited (verse 5), then comes death (verses 7-12). In light of this, Job asked God for grace instead of such intense judgment (verse 3), he requested rest from the pain (verse 6), and suggested that a tree has more hope than he did (verse 7).

This is very reminiscent of Ecclesiastes.
Life is short. Job said that we are like flowers. The life of a flower can last only a few hours. He also said that we are like shadows. A shadow is active but disappears in a moment.
A life can be active like a shadow or beautiful like a flower but it can be gone in an instant.

Job expresses some perplexity at why God would be concerned with a creature of such brevity and such impurity.

He knew that God determines our lifespan and days on earth and he knew that there was some kind of purpose to that but he was questioning the purpose.

His request is to be left alone to get on with what he is supposed to do until it’s the end of his days.

It’s a hard wrestling when you think that God might be against you and you don’t understand what is going on or why it is happening.
———————————————————-

Job 14:7-17

7 “At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
8 Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.
10 But a man dies and is laid low;
he breathes his last and is no more.
11 As the water of a lake dries up
or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
12 so he lies down and does not rise;
till the heavens are no more, people will not awake
or be roused from their sleep.
13 “If only you would hide me in the grave
and conceal me till your anger has passed!
If only you would set me a time
and then remember me!
14 If someone dies, will they live again?
All the days of my hard service
I will wait for my renewal to come.
15 You will call and I will answer you;
you will long for the creature your hands have made.
16 Surely then you will count my steps
but not keep track of my sin.
17 My offenses will be sealed up in a bag;
you will cover over my sin.
———————————————–
Job had talked about flowers and shadows. His life seemed weak and fragile but he also considered the life of a tree and that seemed a little more mysterious to him.

You can cut down a tree. Its branches become mere wood. And the tree has no leaves. The tree many seem dead for many months. But that tree can grow again. You might expect such a tree to be very weak. But in fact, the new branches have renewed strength. The scent of water will revive the roots of a tree. The roots appear to be dead, but come back to life, when water gets to the roots.

The thought about the tree gave some hope to Job (verses 13-17).

Job did not appear to have a grasp on eternity but he longed for some future state of being (Job 7:2; 14:13). It was a vague hope with no great assurance.

Job thought about the death of the human body. That body simply returns to the earth. Maybe Job did not remember that God created man from the dust (Genesis 2:7). Job yearned for something that had not yet been revealed to him but now we know with certainty (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Then Job thought about sleep. A person who sleeps will wake. A dead body does not wake. But Job’s longing was that his dead body would wake. And this thought gave him hope that he would meet God.
Job asked to die and remain in the grave until God’s anger was over, then be raised to life again when God called him back (verses 13-15).

His hope was that God had a bag that he put his sin into and sealed them up, so they could be disposed of an forgotten about.
All of this reminds me of the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:11

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
———————————————–

Job 14:18-22

18 “But as a mountain erodes and crumbles
and as a rock is moved from its place,
19 as water wears away stones
and torrents wash away the soil,
so you destroy a person’s hope.
20 You overpower them once for all, and they are gone;
you change their countenance and send them away.
21 If their children are honoured, they do not know it;
if their offspring are brought low, they do not see it.
22 They feel but the pain of their own bodies
and mourn only for themselves.”
————————————————
Job’s observation of a tree gave him hope (verses 7-9). But then he thought about the earth itself. Even mountains do not last always. Job saw how rocks can fall from mountains. The rain causes erosion of the soil from the mountains. And the soil goes into the sea.

The turbulent waters wear away the stones of the river by their constant action.

He reverted to a hopeless mood, speaking about death as inevitable (verses 18-20) and causing separation (verse 21). He was painfully sad to think of it (verse 22). It all seemed hopeless and he was helpless.

We can get many insights into life and death when we look at nature and creation. We closer I look at creation the more amazed at who is