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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 32

intervention


Job 32:1-5
Elihu

32 So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2 But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. 3 He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him.4 Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. 5 But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.
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Job’s final defence provoked a response from a fourth friend – the young man “Elihu.” You get the impression from the text that these speeches were quite intrusive and were born out of listening to what was going on between the friends. They do however prepare the way for even more “intrusive” speeches from God himself!

Elihu was a “Buzite”. His ancestry can be traced to the Arabian tribe of Buz (Jeremiah 25:23). The “family of Ram” is unknown.

“Elihu” means He is my God. “Barachel” means God blesses. These names both indicate that Elihu was a believer in the One True God.

Elihu took a new approach to the issue of Job’s suffering. Angry with the other 3, he had some new thoughts, but was very hard on Job. Elihu was angry, full of self-importance and verbose, but his approach was refreshing after listening repetitiously to the others, though not really helpful to Job.

After Job had finished his speech which was met with silence from his friends then Elihu stepped in.

There are differing opinions about Elihu. I have read a lot of commentary that suggests that Elihu was foolish and merely repeating what Job’s friends had already said but packaging it slightly differently but it appears that he was more balanced, fair and accurate without the bias of Job’s friends. He exercises some wisdom and eventually introduces God himself.

Elihu’s main idea was that God is fair. Job’s other friends said that they believed this. But they themselves were unfair to Job. However, Job was not always sure that God is fair. If God was always fair, it did not explain his trouble. In all this however, Job did feel sure that God would be a fair judge.

Job wanted a friend who would act like a lawyer (Job 9:32-35; Job 16:19-21). He needed someone to intercede with God on his behalf. He hoped that God himself would step in and sort this out. We know that ultimately this is fulfilled in Jesus.
In the context of all of this Elihu acts like this lawyer. The book of Job is written in such a way that it seems as though Elihu arranged for Job to meet God. There was nothing special about Elihu, he was not a prophet as such or anything more than an ordinary young man but his words were from the Holy Spirit (Job 32:8; Job 36:4).

Elihu was probably one of a number of onlookers who witnessed the debate between Job and his friends. In the six chapters devoted to his speeches, the emphasis seems to be fourfold:
1. Absolute reverence for God,
2. Sensitivity to sin
3. Purpose in suffering
4. The danger of spiritual pride

In this early part of Elihu’s intervention he lives up to the caricature of “angry young man”. The word “wrath” occurs four times in verses 2-5. He explains that he has kept silent because of his youth, but now feels compelled to speak.

This was actually stating that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had run out of things to accuse Job of. Job knew that he was not guilty of the things they had accused him of. They thought Job was righteous in his own sight. Job had not made that statement. He had only defended himself from their accusations, which were untrue.

Elihu was angry with Job for self-righteousness, and with the friends for false accusations and unsuccessful arguments.

Elihu was polite. He respected the older men. He did not interrupt them.
———————————————–

Job 32:6-8

6 So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said:
“I am young in years,
and you are old;
that is why I was fearful,
not daring to tell you what I know.
7 I thought, ‘Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.’
8 But it is the spirit in a person,
the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.
—————————————–

Elihu makes a very refreshing introduction. He had waited for his elders to speak assuming that they would impart wisdom. He clearly had some strength of opinion about the whole situation but his first step was to listen carefully to all that was being said. James’ letter in the new testament informs us that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. That is wisdom in of itself. In highly charged situations it takes a lot restraint to avoid jumping in.  There is a lot of wisdom in listening and attempting to understand different perspectives.

There is also a big difference between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom
(1 Corinthians 1:18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:27). The Holy Spirit teaches us about the ways of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-12). Job had complained that his friends were not speaking by the Holy Spirit (Job 26:4). Their statements about God were not always accurate (Job 25:6).

Elihu had listened, reluctant to speak but in the end decided that he had something to say. God had somehow put it on his heart to speak knowing that it is the breath of the Almighty that ultimately gives understanding.

There have been plenty of occasions when I should have said something but instead kept quiet and many occasions when I spoke and it would have been better to listen.

I think to some degree wisdom about when to speak and when to listen comes with age and experience but true wisdom comes from God. I know men my own age who I struggle to listen to because everything is bound up in their own opinion and worldview and they deliver a warped view of the way things are or should be with such strength of conviction it’s hard for others to ask honest questions let alone disagree. At the same time I know people half my age who have considerable wisdom. A few weeks ago when a young 19 year old and my own 17 year old son delivered the sermon at church I was blown away at how articulate they were and the measured wisdom of the message as well as the way that they delivered it. It was delivered with such calm maturity.
James 1:5 informs us that if we lack wisdom then we should ask God who gives generously without finding fault …
—————————————–

Job 32:9-14

9 It is not only the old who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right.
10 “Therefore I say: Listen to me;
I too will tell you what I know.
11 I waited while you spoke,
I listened to your reasoning;
while you were searching for words,
12     I gave you my full attention.
But not one of you has proved Job wrong;
none of you has answered his arguments.
13 Do not say, ‘We have found wisdom;
let God, not a man, refute him.’
14 But Job has not marshalled his words against me,
and I will not answer him with your arguments.

—————————————————————-

Elihu continues with this refreshing approach as he simplifies the notion of wisdom to “doing what is right” and the aged do not have the monopoly on that.

Elihu spoke like a lawyer. He had listened to the other speeches. He thought carefully about them. But the three friends’ arguments did not impress him. He saw that they had no evidence to accuse Job. He believed that Job’s speeches were better than theirs.

The three friends had failed to prove that Job was guilty. But they were still accusing Job (verse 3). They did not say, ‘We were wrong.’ Instead, they said, ‘God will prove that Job is wrong’ (verse 13). Elihu thought that they were unfair to Job. But Elihu would not be unfair.

This mysterious character appears to initially level the conversation with fairness and impartiality.
—————————————————————-

Job 32:15-22

15 “They are dismayed and have no more to say;
words have failed them.
16 Must I wait, now that they are silent,
now that they stand there with no reply?
17 I too will have my say;
I too will tell what I know.
18 For I am full of words,
and the spirit within me compels me;
19 inside I am like bottled-up wine,
like new wineskins ready to burst.
20 I must speak and find relief;
I must open my lips and reply.
21 I will show no partiality,
nor will I flatter anyone;
22 for if I were skilled in flattery,
my Maker would soon take me away.
—————————————-
Similar to the Old Testament prophets Elihu felt a heavy burden to say something. Sometimes this burden is described as a heavy weight (Nahum 1:1; Malachi 1:1). It was the work of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Spirit is described as a wind that was blowing through them (John 3:8). The Hebrew word for ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ are the same.

Elihu spoke like a lawyer. He promised impartiality and fairness and was aware of his responsibilities before God.

Job 31

Shocking-Purity_hero

Job 31:1-4
31 “I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a young woman.
2 For what is our lot from God above,
our heritage from the Almighty on high?
3 Is it not ruin for the wicked,
disaster for those who do wrong?
4 Does he not see my ways
and count my every step?

——————————————–
Job intensified his claims that he was innocent and demanded justice.

This chapter follows a protocol for court procedures in the nations of the area where Job lived. This would be swearing of allegiance to the King or deity followed by statements of “if” and “let”. These statements established the terms of the oath. The “if” describing what the accused is being accused of doing and the “let” being the terms of punishment or curses from the deity. Job’s defence of himself stated that if these accusations were true then let the full weight of the curse come upon me.

This represented Job’s final attempt to defend himself before both God and man.

He brings all of the following accusations to the table… purity (verse 1), general sin (verses 2-3), truth (verse 5), coveting (verse 7), marital faithfulness (verse 9), equity (verse 13), compassion (verses 16-21); materialism (verses 24-25), false religion (verses 26-27), love for enemies and strangers (verses 29-32), secret sin (verses 33-34), integrity within business (verses 38-40). Job recognised that he was a sinner but he asserted that he had no pattern of sin. 

He asked God to answer him (verse 35), and to explain why he suffered. Finally, he appeals to God to be the judge: if what he has claimed for himself is not true, let God himself pronounce the consequences (verses 35-40).

This was largely a reply to the accusations from Eliphaz that are outlined in chapter 22.

He spoke here of purity toward women (Prov. 6:25; Matt. 5:28).

Much temptation begins with gazing intensely at something you desire (Psalm 119:37; 1 John 2:16). Job’s covenant” commitment to refrain from lustful desire reveals his refusal to consider adultery or the acquisition of other women as part of a harem (31:9-12). He was aware that adultery can be committed with the heart as well as with the body (Matt. 5:27-28).

Job had made a covenant with himself never to look upon a woman with lust in his eyes. It appears from all accounts, that Job was a faithful husband to his wife. He was not an adulterer. This was something he had promised himself. 

I know this to be true when I trace my own adultery back. I began on that track when I stopped being disciplined with lust in the autumn on 2009. It was January 2011 when finally I ended up physically committing adultery. In the autumn of 2009 whilst I had allowed my mind to go there I didn’t think it would ever become a reality nor at that point did I want it to be a reality. I didn’t want it to be a reality in 2011 either, only I found myself in that situation, opportunity knocked and I had already played it out in my head.

A different decision that day may have led to a very different story, that’s true but the door really opened in 2009.

Job in his wisdom protected himself from that possibility. He made a covenant with his eyes.

Job knew that God was his judge. So he was careful about his actions. He made intentional decisions about his life and his ways. He knew that a man might hide his evil deeds from other people. But nobody can hide from God (Psalm 139:1-10). He was saying that there would have been no inheritance from God if he had been such a man.

God saw every detail of my secret life, my wife, my friends and others near me may have seen some cracks and may have known that something was not right but not enough to bring it into question. God dealt with it in his time and in a way that some might call punishment. I don’t see it as punishment but discipline. It was an act of grace and of love. He knew my heart, he knew I would repent but wanted me to feel the consequences and knew exactly what I needed. It was painful but to look back on it I feel it was also beautiful.

He equipped my family to handle it in a way that has matured them and helped them to grow spiritually, he equipped my closest friends to handle it in a way that has brought about growth and flourishing wisdom.

In some of the more difficult moments I wouldn’t have said that as I could not see it. My dominant feeling at the time was probably self pity. In fact I know it was self pity because I have my journals from the summer of 2015 when it all unravelled.
The point is that God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Job knew this but was perplexed by his situation. These verses in chapter 31 lay out his defence.
——————————————–

Job 31:5-6

5 “If I have walked with falsehood
or my foot has hurried after deceit—
6 let God weigh me in honest scales
and he will know that I am blameless—
7 if my steps have turned from the path,
if my heart has been led by my eyes,
or if my hands have been defiled,
8 then may others eat what I have sown,
and may my crops be uprooted.

———————————————–
Job was careful about his ways
·     his actions,
·     his thoughts,
·     and his behaviour.
He was sure of his honesty and integrity. He wanted an honest judgment and he knew very well the reap what you sow principles of the world that he lived in.
———————————————–

Job 31:9-12

9 “If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
or if I have lurked at my neighbour’s door,
10 then may my wife grind another man’s grain,
and may other men sleep with her.
11 For that would have been wicked,
a sin to be judged.
12 It is a fire that burns to Destruction;
it would have uprooted my harvest.
——————————————-
It appears that he was accused of adultery but Job protested his innocence and knew that even lust would have taken him down. This kind of sin burned within a person until it totally destroyed them. Intimacy belongs between a man and his wife and as someone who has violated that covenant on every level I know the fallout only too well. I know what it leads to and that recovery from such a destructive pattern is rare.

It is addressed in Deuteronomy 5:18. Jesus had something to say about it as recorded in Matthew 5:27-28.

Job knew that if he had been guilty of this he may as well have given his wife over to another man. His life would have been in tatters and everything he built his life on would be uprooted and destroyed.
——————————————-

Job 31:13-15

13 “If I have denied justice to any of my servants,
whether male or female,
when they had a grievance against me,
14 what will I do when God confronts me?
What will I answer when called to account?
15 Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?

———————————————-
In verse 15 we read that Job was aware that he answered to maker of us all and therefore treated his servants with respect. He treated his staff well.

He knew his God as the avenger and champion of all the oppressed. If he had been harsh and cruel to his dependents, he would have provoked God’s anger. Every servant was still a man, a brother; equal with his master.

Job had compassion on the poor and on his servants as well. He had never mistreated any of them. Job was saying if he had mistreated his servants, he could expect no better from God, whose servant he was (Job 2:3).

In the culture of the day and up until recent history a wealthy man would not respect his servants. He would be harsh with them. Much later, Jesus talked about this principle. It is recorded in Matthew 24:48-51.

It is important for me to remember that hierarchy is pretty meaningless. We are all brothers and sisters in this journey through life. It is too easy to think in terms of pecking orders and where I fit whether at work, within the community of church, socially, in my neighbourhood and every setting that I walk into or pass through. 

The saying “some days I am the dog and others I am the tree” rings true as an experience of life but really it is my processing that is flawed. I am made in the image of God as relational being. I exist to tell God’s  story and to propagate love in any and every situation I encounter.

———————————————-

Job 31:16-23

16 “If I have denied the desires of the poor
or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,
17 if I have kept my bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless—
18 but from my youth I reared them as a father would,
and from my birth I guided the widow—
19 if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing,
or the needy without garments,
20 and their hearts did not bless me
for warming them with the fleece from my sheep,
21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
knowing that I had influence in court,
22 then let my arm fall from the shoulder,
let it be broken off at the joint.
23 For I dreaded destruction from God,
and for fear of his splendour I could not do such things.
———————————————-
Job had lived his life fearing God and taking on God’s heart for the poor and needy. He not only gave charitable offerings to the poor he connected with them he relationally reflected the heart of God.
·     Job was kind to the widows in verse 16.
·     The child in verse 17 needed a father figure. Job treated him as though he was family.
·     In verse 19 we read that he gave clothing to those that needed it.
·     He used his position of influence to defend the poor in legal situations. A voice to those without a voice.

Job knew that God had blessed his life and therefore he shared what God had given him both in terms of his wealth but also of his heart.

How would rather his bones be broken or limbs torn apart than to face God would this not have been the case as his accusers had suggested.

This raises questions about how I view those in need. I have momentary windows where I connect but more often my heart is one of selfishness and self protection. The light goes on occasionally when my heart is moved but there are many times my response is one of indifference. I want that to change.
———————————————-

Job 31:24-25

24 “If I have put my trust in gold
or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’
25 if I have rejoiced over my great wealth,
the fortune my hands had gained,
————————————————-
Job was not overly enamoured by money. His focus was God and not money. It seemed he had plenty of wealth but he knew that everything came from God.
He asserted that his security was in God and not gold. The bible speaks a lot about money and the right perspective on money. Of Jesus’ recorded words there is more said about money than love!! Clearly it is something close to our hearts and the purse strings appear to be connected to the heart strings in some way.

A healthy perspective would be “Spend some, save some, share some” …at least that’s been my recent thinking. Maybe invest some might also be an appropriate addition. However, these are issues of stewardship but what Job is speaking of here is more about where our heart is. To be focused on gold is idolatrous and a violation of our relationship with our maker. The void in our heart is shaped only for the presence of God, to try and place anything else there will not meet that need.
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Job 31:26-28

26 if I have regarded the sun in its radiance
or the moon moving in splendour,
27 so that my heart was secretly enticed
and my hand offered them a kiss of homage,
28 then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.

—————————————————–
The sun and the moon were worshipped as God’s by many. A kiss was a symbol of worship in honour of men  (Genesis 41:40; Psalm 2:12), or idols (1 Kings 19:18; Hosea 13:2). If such idols were out of reach a kiss on the hand was a symbolic way of throwing kisses to them.

Job did not worship the sun or the moon, or even his own person. He knew his God was the great redeemer. He had a great awareness of idolatry and was not guilty in this way.

Our biggest challenge in idolatry is the worship of self, not in a pious or religious way but just the way that every decision we make is to please self. We dress it up in other ways at times but often there is a pay off to our own well being, our ego or some way of propping up of self that makes us feel significant. I know some people who are successful in the battle against that on some level but most of us are not. I think at best we have small God centred victories.

I don’t think it’s something to over think or analyse but something to go to God with knowing that he is the only one who can sort this out. He is our redeemer.
—————————————————–

Job 31:29-30

29 “If I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune
or gloated over the trouble that came to him—
30 I have not allowed my mouth to sin
by invoking a curse against their life—

—————————————————-
Jobs claim was that he never wished ill of his enemies or rejoiced in another persons suffering. He kept a careful guard about what came out of his mouth. He knew that this was not the heart of God.

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Job 31:31-32

31 if those of my household have never said,
‘Who has not been filled with Job’s meat?’—
32 but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,
for my door was always open to the traveller—
————————————————

Job’s defence continues with an assertion of his attitude towards travellers and strangers. He was a hospitable man and would ensure that those passing through were looked after.

This makes me think about how welcoming and kind I should be to those around me. In this fast paced modern world that we live in and the multiple distractions that take us away from relationships we can easily be focused on our own pleasure and forget about the value of connection. 

In the church we kind of have a programmed connection and forced connection in the form of various different group meetings. Family group, church meetings, discipling times but all of these can lack the authenticity of just being a relational being. This is not a criticism of the practice but rather a question about how far gone we are that we have to create a programme to be relational.

Yesterday we were in a small Essex village and we stopped and had three conversations with strangers. It was just small talk. Two we asked for directions and one we were in the village shop but all three offered more than we asked for in terms of conversational content. That is rare in London. We are however …wired for relationship.

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Job 31:33-34

33 if I have concealed my sin as people do,
by hiding my guilt in my heart
34 because I so feared the crowd
and so dreaded the contempt of the clans
that I kept silent and would not go outside
————————————————
The NIV translates verse 33 with the words “as people do”. The Hebrew text could equally be translated “If I covered my transgressions as Adam”, this may indicate familiarity with the narrative of Genesis but more likely is a generic term for the common man. However, Adam did indeed hide from God when he violated the relationship (Genesis 3:8).

Job claimed that he did not hide. He lived accessible to all and transparent. 

He allowed accusations to be levied against him and answered them.

In Proverbs 28:13 we are informed “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper”. Job knew very well this spiritual truth since God sees everything and knows the motives of our hearts. He was not someone who would cover up his flaws or blame others for things that went wrong. Even throughout the trauma of his current predicament he was not one to blame but rather struggled with understanding why things had turned out the way they had.

————————————————

Job 31:35-40

35 (“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defence—let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser put his indictment in writing.
36 Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
I would put it on like a crown.
37 I would give him an account of my every step;
I would present it to him as to a ruler.)—
38 “if my land cries out against me
and all its furrows are wet with tears,
39 if I have devoured its yield without payment
or broken the spirit of its tenants,
40 then let briers come up instead of wheat
and stinkweed instead of barley.”
The words of Job are ended.

——————————————-
Job protested his innocence and invited further accusation from God, he felt that in the presence of God he would be vindicated and justice done. He felt that God was the source of his trouble but could not understand why that would have been the case.

Whatever God said, the Job would accept. That was his position.

He ended his speech with words about the earth being his testimony.

He had often spoken about the soil at the end of previous speeches (Job 7:21; Job 10:21-22; Job 17:16; Job 21:33). We are created from the earth (Genesis 2:7). We return to the earth when we die (Genesis 3:19).

Job had respected the land, the people that had been placed in his path and most of all he had respected his maker. The earth could testify to this but if the land spoke out against him and reclaimed him then his body would be returned to the ground. Nobody would cultivate the soil that he had once taken such good care of. Weeds would grow instead of healthy fruitful crops.

Job finished his speech with these sad words.

Job 30

pain_from_within_by_kimded


Job 30:1-1

30 “But now they mock me,
men younger than I,
whose fathers I would have disdained
to put with my sheep dogs.
2 Of what use was the strength of their hands to me,
since their vigour had gone from them?
3 Haggard from want and hunger,
they roamed the parched land
in desolate wastelands at night.
4 In the brush they gathered salt herbs,
and their food was the root of the broom bush.
5 They were banished from human society,
shouted at as if they were thieves.
6 They were forced to live in the dry stream beds,
among the rocks and in holes in the ground.
7 They brayed among the bushes
and huddled in the undergrowth.
8 A base and nameless brood,
they were driven out of the land.
9 “And now those young men mock me in song;
I have become a byword among them.
10 They detest me and keep their distance;
they do not hesitate to spit in my face.
11 Now that God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me,
they throw off restraint in my presence.
————————————
Job now turns from the wistful reflection of his exalted past to a heavy lament of his present situation. In contrast to being the most celebrated of leaders and wise men he is now the subject of derision from the lowest in societies pecking order. Disrespected by outcasts and mocked by street urchin type children.

He was the subject of jokes from the mouths of vagabonds and sordid entertainment for societies most unwelcome.

Formerly the most important people would gather to listen to Job. He was someone with great influence and was respected by the wise and influential from near and far. Remember that even Job’s three friends were among those and they travelled some distance when they heard of his plight.
But now, there was gathering of a different kind. The low level gathering of mockery and spectacle. He was mocked, jeered and insulted.

A shadow for Christ perhaps?

Job had known the fathers of these youths. But the fathers did not impress Job. Job would not employ them. They were too lazy. They did not want to work.
These fathers were not responsible men. Perhaps they were drunks. Perhaps they were always asking other people for money. They were outcasts from the city as they were trouble makers and these children were like their fathers. They swore. They insulted Job. They laughed at him. And they caused trouble.
They considered themselves superior to Job.
————————————

Job 30:12-15

12 On my right the tribe attacks;
they lay snares for my feet,
they build their siege ramps against me.
13 They break up my road;
they succeed in destroying me.
‘No one can help him,’ they say.
14 They advance as through a gaping breach;
amid the ruins they come rolling in.
15 Terrors overwhelm me;
my dignity is driven away as by the wind,
my safety vanishes like a cloud.
—————————————-
This is the continuation of a description of the taunting young men or children who had gathered like a gang and were cruel to Job. They tried to trip him when he walked by them, and they put obstacles in his path that took great pain to go around. They showed no respect him. He was the laughing stock of the town. These gangs of young men tried to stop Job in every step he took.

Job watched the youths as they talked. He felt that they were making plans to attack him but felt too ill and lacking in any motivation or energy to avoid them.

Job compared himself to a City when being attacked. A City cannot move when under siege, it cannot hide. It must just absorb whatever punishment that is coming at it
He was waiting for the youths to attack. He had no escape and could not protect himself.

Job had lived most of his life up until now as a confident, secure man who was respected and honoured. This was no longer the case. (Job 29:18-20).

His security was not real. His reputation would not endure. This can happen to any of us. We could lose everything through our own moral failure (as was true in my own case) or through events outside of our control as was the case of Job. Either way, whatever we put our security in other than God will be brought into question at that point. Whether it is something physical such as financial security or something more spiritual such as our reputation both will be brought down. God is a jealous God, he will not allow us to have any other God’s… why? because they can do us no good at all, they are false God’s. They cannot give us what we deeply desire or need. Only God Almighty the author of life, the founder of all things can do that and he promises to do so. He stops at nothing in his pursuit of us,

All of this terrible treatment by these gangs of young boys, coupled with the shame and disgrace that Job was feeling, had him terrified. It seems that no one was interested in the welfare of Job. God used this attack from Satan to strip Job of everything and leave him only with the presence of God and the possibility of Job finding his peace in that alone.
—————————————-

Job 30:16-19

16 “And now my life ebbs away;
days of suffering grip me.
17 Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
18 In his great power God becomes like clothing to me;
he binds me like the neck of my garment.
19 He throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.

——————————————————
Job’s life ebbed away, suffering gripped him, his bones ached, he experienced relentless gnawing pain, his skin was peeling (verse 30), and he was reduced to mud, dust, and ashes. He felt that he was the victim of some kind of divine mugging.
Job’s afflictions had robbed him of his will to live. It consumed his thinking. He was ravaged with disease, pain and anguish.
Even at night he could not find rest. The pain was gnawing away at him.

The word mud in verse 19 can also be translated “the mire” which is the lowest depth of misery and degradation (see Psalm 40:2; 69:2, 14). He blamed God but still had enough faith to wrestle with him in prayer.

Job believed that God had discarded him. He sat in ashes and prayed. His becoming like dust and ashes indicated that he was impure, offensive to his fellow men, an object of scorn and disdain.

To feel completely abandoned by everyone and to feel abandoned by God is perhaps the greatest pain of all. We may have had dark moments in our lives where we experienced that momentarily, maybe through relentless pain and suffering, maybe as a result of our sin or someone else’s sin. That hopelessness is a hard place and quite usually the crucible where our faith is formed to be deeper and more profound although it’s hard to see it ourselves in that moment. Jesus endured this at the cross. Complete abandonment even from his father. His words as recorded in Matthew 27:46 were “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus did not deserve to be in that position, it can be argued that Job did not deserve to be in that position. The truth is though, that God was present. Very present. At the Cross he was present. It was part of an incredible plan, in Job’s suffering he was very present and in our suffering he is also very present. He is at that crucible knowing that something new will emerge from this situation.
——————————————————

Job 30:20-23

20 “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22 You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23 I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.
——————————————-
Job struggled to see God’s presence in all that was going on and the anguish he felt. If God was present he could only deduce that it was cruel behaviour on the part of the hand of the almighty. In his worldview he was suffering the fate of the wicked and yet he knew that in his heart of hearts he was not wicked.

He knew that ultimately death comes to everyone but he struggled with the process or his journey towards what seemed like an inevitable pending death.

Why do bad things happen to good people? We don’t actually know. God in his wisdom does not answer that question for us. He alone knows. What we do know is that our definition of “good people” varies a lot depending on variable experiences of life, cultural views, worldviews. Only God defines what is truly good. Secondly we know that we live in a broken messed up world where things don’t function properly since we took on the definition of good and evil on our own terms in the garden of Eden. 

The world we live in has suffered as a result of our attempt to play God rather than allow God to be God. The outcome is that we can suffer as a result of long term flawed condition, the result of another person’s action or even as is the case of Job due to something occurring in the spiritual realms. There is of course also the consequences of our own sin.
——————————————-

Job 30:24-31

24 “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31 My lyre is tuned to mourning,
and my pipe to the sound of wailing.

—————————————————

Verses 24-26 seem to be saying that God must have some sympathy, if Job has shown compassion for the needy and poor (verse 25). Job reached out for help in his misery and received only evil (verse 26).

He could not believe that his all powerful all loving God would not hear his cries and continue to allow his intense suffering and distress.

Verse 29 could possibly be translated as ostriches as opposed to owls. The mournful howl of the jackals is referred to in Micah 1:8; the ostrich also gives a strange, melancholic cry, particularly at  night. In Job 39:13, the female ostrich receives the name of “wailer.”

Job described his skin as black and peeling. He felt abandoned by God and hopeless, and his physical condition amplified this feeling (Psalm 102:3; Lamentations 4:8).

Formerly, Job played music. Then the sounds that he made were happy, like the sound of the children in Job 21:12 but now the sounds that Job made were mournful.
It must have been immensely difficult to see anything to inspire faith at this time. The feeling of abandonment is one of the most intensely painful feelings. I felt it in the Summer of 2015. It was my own fault and I knew it was my own fault but to feel rejected and abandoned by everyone without hope, without certainty then there are moments you just want to die and to feel God’s abandonment on top of that, the physical suffering and intense grieving of having lost everything I can’t imagine how dark this must have all felt to Job especially knowing deep down that he was a good man and walked with God.

Job 29

Spirit


Job 29:1-6
Job’s Final Defense

29 Job continued his discourse:
2 “How I long for the months gone by,
for the days when God watched over me,
3 when his lamp shone on my head
and by his light I walked through darkness!
4 Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house,
5 when the Almighty was still with me
and my children were around me,
6 when my path was drenched with cream
and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.
————————–
Job’s concluding monologues present a summary of his righteousness and an appeal for justice.

Job was coming to a spiritual realization as the verses at the end of chapter 28 seem to indicate but here we see him lamenting for how life used to be and harking back to his wonder years and that God blessed him and took care of him.

He harked back to his successful life
·     God was protecting him and providing for him (Job 1:10).
·     Job became rich (Job 1:3, 1:21).
·     He had a large family (Job 1:2).
·     It appears that he had a productive, fruitful and successful farm with an abundance of cream and olive oil.
He longed for the days when he knew that God was present and on his side. What he perhaps wasn’t so clear about was that God was still with him and on his side in this difficult time even when his friends were attacking him, even when he was struggling with his health and feeling despair. God was just as near him in this time as in the successful times.

These are poignant words as I feel quite low at the moment (May 2017) about work and how I really find it hard to want to be there as it’s become quite a negative atmosphere and all I hear all the time is that our performance is not good enough, we need more, there needs to be more intensity about what we do.

I can find myself longing for the days when I was successful but for whatever reason God is here and present and sees fit that I should go through this difficult time. On a scale of hardship it doesn’t compare with anything that Job was enduring but that’s not the point.

This is about God being present in the good, the bad and the ugly of life. God allowing something in life to shape us.
————————–

Job 29:7-11

7 “When I went to the gate of the city
and took my seat in the public square,
8 the young men saw me and stepped aside
and the old men rose to their feet;
9 the chief men refrained from speaking
and covered their mouths with their hands;
10 the voices of the nobles were hushed,
and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.
11 Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
and those who saw me commended me,
—————————————————
These verses within Job’s lament give us some further insight into his life before his troubles came.

He was clearly an influential man. He was respected as a leader in his community, perhaps even a judge.

In patriarchal times, walls would surround a city. There would be a square by the city’s main gate. People would gather there for meetings. The leaders of the community would make decisions there and the judges would hold court.

Job attended the meetings of the rulers. He was considered a wise man with some authority.

There was a healthy fear and respect of his wisdom from old and young alike. He had a reputation as a fair man and was a known figure.

Whilst Job’s fall from the pedestal he was on was undeserved, he had done nothing wrong. It had a purpose that he nor others knew anything about. It was the result of something happening in the heavenly realms.

I know the same situation for different reasons. I did not just fall from a pedestal, the pedestal was completely smashed. It was also a result of something going on in the spiritual realms but it was caused by my dishonesty, lack of authenticity, the resultant thievery, sexual immorality and everything else that was hidden in my life. God will not be mocked. Everything that was propping me up had to come down with a crash.

I spoke at conferences throughout the UK and overseas, I received a lot of affirmation for my insightful style of preaching, teaching and speaking. I was part of an influential leadership team and was well known for various aspects of spiritual life in our international community of churches. It had to go. My ego was bound up in it. 

Do I lament that influence? Occasionally I will remember something and feel a mixed feeling about it. I will feel sad about what was going on underneath and that at that time I couldn’t handle “success” with authenticity. I genuinely no longer desire that mantel of “being somebody”. I enjoy living quietly getting on with life and find joy in my family, my close friendships, simple things of life and my creative pursuits. I wouldn’t trade my walk with God that I have now for anything …any level of fame or fortune. To feel peace every day, to have a clear conscience every day and to feel connected every day is a great blessing.

Not every day is a good day. I have my lustful moments when I notice a woman and I have temptations towards dishonesty which usually comes in the form of wanting to cover up mistakes I have made at work, I have the desire to run from difficult situations quite often or escape into something more palatable than face the difficult situation but I make the right decision more often than the wrong decision and I have learned to U turn when I head in the wrong direction.

In my former life when I had the opportunity to U turn I just ran faster. On some level I identify with some of Job’s lament and there is something that causes me to grieve about my former life but it’s mostly … I wish I could have handled it differently.

Today I am blessed. Life is different. It has taken a few different turns in my 54 years. Life is far from the utopian freedom that I sometimes long for but it is good. God is good.

Job knew that God is good. He struggled to reconcile this with what happened to him and searched his soul to understand it. This lament is part of that process.

We don’t always get we want but always we get what we need for our spiritual health and the best opportunity that we can have to know God and connect with him. He knows us intimately. He knew that Job would benefit from this and he knew what I needed to go through for my heart to be in a place where it could respond to God at a deeper level and ignite my desire with a more enduring flame.
—————————————————

Job 29:12-17

12 because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to assist them.
13 The one who was dying blessed me;
I made the widow’s heart sing.
14 I put on righteousness as my clothing;
justice was my robe and my turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy;
I took up the case of the stranger.
17 I broke the fangs of the wicked
and snatched the victims from their teeth.
————————————————

In these verses we read about the Poor, fatherless, ready to perish, widow’s etc.,

All over the ancient Near Eastern world, a man’s virtue was measured by his treatment of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. If he protected and provided for this group, he was respected. Job had been accused if not doing such things and this being the cause of his suffering and yet Job had indeed taken this responsibility seriously.

Taking care of the vulnerable and the poor is to carry the very heart of God. Contrary to the accusations of the 3 friends, Job went beyond the standards of the day to care for the widow, the orphan, the poor, the disabled, and the abused. Job saw to it that they had their needs taken care of. If he even heard of someone in trouble, he searched them out, and helped them.
Job was saying that he was just as tough on the wicked, as he was kind to the innocent. He was a champion and upholder of justice.

He carried the very heart of God in his being as best as he could with his human limitations. It is interesting that the words in verse 13 about putting on righteousness as clothing echoes down the millennia to Galatians 3:27 and being clothed in Christ or Ephesians 6:10-18 putting on the full armour of God. There is a recognition that his righteousness was not his own and that it came from God.

These are stirring words and his heart for the poor challenges me. I feel a love and compassion in some moments and certainly when I was working with the guys in the addiction recovery programme that I ran. I would feel it or if I bother to stop and talk with a homeless person I might find a connection or if I see suffering.

I pray for a softer heart towards the vulnerable and the poor, to carry the heart of God to the hurting and needy. I am selfish at the core of my being and I have moments when the light goes on and my heart softens but day to day I don’t really think too far beyond myself  and that’s not a great way to live.
————————————————

Job 29:18-20

18 “I thought, ‘I will die in my own house,
my days as numerous as the grains of sand.
19 My roots will reach to the water,
and the dew will lie all night on my branches.
20 My glory will not fade;
the bow will be ever new in my hand.’
================================
Job had experienced a lifelong intimate walk with God and his life had been one of vitality, health, energy and living with God’s blessings of fruitfulness and family. He expected to die a satisfied old man surrounded by family. This was his expectation and was the common expectation of a righteous man in his day.
He had no sense that this was coming, no hints, no clues. His world was turned upside down in a very sudden and immediate way.

Sometimes God changes our lives. Something comes out of the blue, stops us in our tracks and we are faced not with the life we were expecting but a very different life. It’s hard to compare any personal experience with Job in this sense. 

Certainly once my great unravelling began I knew that life would be different from now on and didn’t quite know exactly how different it would be. I might go to jail, I might not be able to repair my relationships with my family or my close friends, I might live in exile to the spiritual family, I might head further down a self destructive path. It was a time of fear and uncertainty but it was also a time of great blessing and relief. The pressure was off, I was no longer running away, hiding in the shadows, faking anything. I had to deal with shame first and though that was not my intentional thought, a good friend recommended a book called “the gifts of imperfection” which I read whilst living in my car and sofa surfing during August 2015.
All of this was sudden but it wasn’t unexpected given what had happened. My life would change. God had a different plan than I had previously thought for my life. In some ways I knew there was great challenge ahead and great suffering in the present for those that had been hurt, betrayed, let down by my actions but there was also a freedom emerging from a self imposed prison of a double life underpinned by dishonesty and play acting. Multi talented insightful spiritual leader with a gift for preaching on the outside and a secret life of sexual sin, flirting, deceit and financial ruin on the other. A man who lied, cheated and blagged his way through life.

However we look at life changes whether sudden or surprising, brought on by our own actions or events outside of our control. We can be sure that God is present, that he is involved and he wants to do something with our cooperation that will be fundamentally for our good. Countless Biblical stories are evidence of this and Job is one of those stories.

================================

Job 29:21-25

21 “People listened to me expectantly,
waiting in silence for my counsel.
22 After I had spoken, they spoke no more;
my words fell gently on their ears.
23 They waited for me as for showers
and drank in my words as the spring rain.
24 When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it;
the light of my face was precious to them.
25 I chose the way for them and sat as their chief;
I dwelt as a king among his troops;
I was like one who comforts mourners.
——————————————
Job reminded his friends that there had been a day when no one had rejected his insights. He was known as a man of depth and profound understanding. His walk with God was well known and he was respected as a spiritual and wise man. His leadership galvanized people and inspired loyalty.

Once Job spoke the debate was over. His words made sense. He was very influential..

Now he was in a situation where his friends would not agree with anything that came from his mouth. Bildad said that he would prefer to listen to the wind (Job 8:2).
Job had not changed. Only his circumstances had changed.

Job 28

Metal ore

Job 28:1-2

Interlude: Where Wisdom Is Found

28 There is a mine for silver
and a place where gold is refined.
2 Iron is taken from the earth,
and copper is smelted from ore.
———————————————
Job’s poem about wisdom
Though Job had agreed with his friends that the wicked suffer (27:13-23), he asserted that in his case it did not explain anything or make sense of his own trauma and suffering.

So Job brought to the table the idea of considering that God’s wisdom was beyond their comprehension. This chapter is a poem about wisdom. The wisdom of God is not gained by natural or theoretical knowledge. What God does not reveal, we can’t know.

It begins with a description about how laboriously man works to extract the ores and precious metals from the earth (verses 1-11), Job raises the ultimate question of the sufferer: “where can wisdom be found?” (verse 12). It cannot be purchased with earthly wealth (verses 13-19), but true wisdom is attained only through “the fear of the Lord” (verse 28). This concept of the fear of the Lord unites all the wisdom books (compare Proverbs. 1:7; Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Job poetically affirms the nature and “value” of biblical wisdom. As precious metals are mined from the earth by men who take great risks in their personal safety, their comfort, their time and their resources so wisdom may be mined from creation by true searchers and seekers – but only if their quest centres around a “fear of the Lord”.

In verses 1-19 we see a shift from the language of condemnation to a discourse on “wisdom” which is abrupt but not surprising, given Job’s shifting emotions. 

Human ingenuity cannot unearth wisdom or properly value it because it takes more than human intellect and intelligence. It demands humility and spiritual perspective. It demands aligning our will to the will of God.

In verses 1-11, we see references to mining silver, gold, iron, sapphires and flint, as well as smelting copper. Tremendous effort is made by men who seek precious metals (compare Proverbs 2:1-9). The process needed great skill. It began with a search for the right rocks. Then they would burn the rocks in a furnace which would result in a tiny amount of pure metal. A lot of energy was extended for the smallest amount of return on investment of effort and time. This is what made such metals precious.

The most precious metals, silver and gold, may be found in a distant,  dark and deep in the earth. It may take an unprecedented amount of resources to pull a small amount of metal from the earth but such a place is known, men penetrate to it, they find the metal, they bring it to the surface, they refine it and they have their precious commodity.

Iron and brass (copper) are products of nature. Both iron and brass were plentiful in the areas around the Mediterranean Sea. Iron does come from the earth, and brass has to be melted out of stone. Again both metals can be found by man and with some effort made useful for life.

The antithesis is presented in Job 28:18, The question is asked “Where shall Wisdom be found?”  And where is the place of understanding? The answer is that it is found in no place known to man.
———————————————

Job 28:3-4

3 Mortals put an end to the darkness;
they search out the farthest recesses
for ore in the blackest darkness.
4 Far from human dwellings they cut a shaft,
in places untouched by human feet;
far from other people they dangle and sway.
———————————————
The pursuit of precious metal involved descending into darkness, going underground into caves, men would lower themselves attached to ropes and go to places where man had previously not been. Light would enter the darkest places as man cut a hole in the ground and metals that had previously only been in darkness were brought to light.

This is a continuation of the previous verses about the efforts that man would go to in order to pursue treasure and precious commodities. 

A man would go to a place where men had not previously been, they would take great risks to pull some of this metal out of the earth. There were many dangers in underground caves.

Wisdom is more precious than metals such as gold, silver and copper but it also takes a special effort of pursuing God and his ways. Wisdom could only be obtained from God and the realms where man cannot tread.
———————————————

Job 28:5-11

5 The earth, from which food comes,
is transformed below as by fire;
6 lapis lazuli comes from its rocks,
and its dust contains nuggets of gold.
7 No bird of prey knows that hidden path,
no falcon’s eye has seen it.
8 Proud beasts do not set foot on it,
and no lion prowls there.
9 People assault the flinty rock with their hands
and lay bare the roots of the mountains.
10 They tunnel through the rock;
their eyes see all its treasures.
11 They search the sources of the rivers
and bring hidden things to light.
———————————————–
In these verses Job speaks of the wonders and mysteries of the earth. The fascinating make up of our planet and the environment God has created for us to sustain life.

The soil where plants grow seems so ordinary. But nothing is ordinary underground. The beasts of the air or earth do not live in such places. But men have learned the skills to go there. They have invested enormous effort to discover precious commodities buried deep in the earth.

This is all a continuation of the discourse about God’s wisdom which is more precious than all of these commodities put together. It is more valuable, more enduring and his hidden from man in such a way that it demands us to mine for it, to make similar effort if we are to gain from it’s treasure but Job’s point is that although we risk life mining for gold and precious stones we don’t put the same effort into pursuing what is really precious.

I think about things that are important to me. If I am to think about things that are non relational but are earthly things, I think about my creative life and making music. I can put enormous effort, energy and focus into a music project and barely think about the sacrifice involved because I love it.

The question comes. What about my relationship with God? What about the pursuit of God’s wisdom? What about the intimate knowledge and understanding of my maker? I think that’s the question that Job is bringing to the table.
———————————————–

Job 28:12-18

12 But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?
13 No mortal comprehends its worth;
it cannot be found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, “It is not in me”;
the sea says, “It is not with me.”
15 It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
nor can its price be weighed out in silver.
16 It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir,
with precious onyx or lapis lazuli.
17 Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it,
nor can it be had for jewels of gold.
18 Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention;
the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.

——————————————————
Despite the incredible achievements of human endeavour, in Jobs time mining was an incredible wonder of man’s ingenuity. In our day we can look at scientific, medical advancements, discoveries in space and the earth and be filled with wonder about our own efforts and perseverance.

Job’s argument is that this does not bring us wisdom. Wisdom comes from God. It is not discovered through the application of human skill and industry. It cannot be bought with precious stones.

Wisdom cannot be labelled with an earthly price tag or afforded any worldly value at all. No amount of human effort can find it and it cannot be found in the land of the living! It is not an earthly commodity but something that is given by God!

Like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, here Job asserts the source and true value of wisdom.

——————————————————

Job 28:19

19 The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it;
it cannot be bought with pure gold.
———————————–
Cush is sometimes translated as Ethiopia but this could be quite misleading and is probably more likely the Midian. The point is that the precious stone and rare commodity of Topaz from a distant land does not compare with wisdom and neither does the most pure gold. Job is emphasizing the value of wisdom over worldly things.

I put way too much stock and value in things that give me pleasure in this life. Usually experiences, events, things I enjoy doing. True treasure is found in relationship with God. The most fulfilling satisfying engagement with the gift of life is our encounter with God and our pursuit of his wisdom.

We easily get thrown off the path and distracted by things that glitter or glisten, things that may look attractive on the outside but leave us empty. Job knew that the wealth he had gained through life was meaningless and his sadness was not about his wealth but his feeling of disconnect from God and that is what he was wrestling with.
———————————–

Job 28:20-22

20 Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds in the sky.
22 Destruction and Death say,
“Only a rumour of it has reached our ears.”
—————————————-

Topaz (verse 19) may be beautiful. But it is not useful. God and silver (verse 15) are valuable. But money cannot teach us how to trust God. So wisdom is better than all these things. But wisdom is not something that you can just discover. In fact, wisdom does not even belong in this world. It is part of God’s spiritual DNA and formed in the spiritual realms.

In verse 21, Job spoke about things that are alive. In verse 22, he spoke about people who are dead. Wisdom is elusive to the living and impossible for the dead.

It is an immaterial commodity, but man cannot even conceive of it, because its nature transcends him. Physical eyes cannot see the things of God. The things of the Spirit are not discerned in the physical. 2 Corinthians 4:18 springs to mind. Visible things are temporary but the invisible is eternal.

The Hebrew word for death that is used is Abaddon. Abaddon is Sheol, the realm of the dead, here personified, as also is Death. Compare Revelation 1:18; 9:11, Job 26:6. This was speaking as a place of destruction, death of those who were never saved. They heard a glimmer of it, but it was too late.

The point is that wisdom can only be found in God and the pursuit of God. It is from the spiritual realms.

—————————————-


Job 28:23-26

23 God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
24 for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
26 when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
——————————————————–
God is the source of all wisdom and whilst it is impossible for man to attain wisdom by his own effort, God freely gives it as a gift (James 1:5). He knows the way to wisdom. He is the way to wisdom. Jesus of course said “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) … wisdom is bound up in that single statement!

Job and friends have probed God’s wisdom 3 times round by this point and have landed nowhere near the truth of the matter. These verses are pivotal.

Job made the point clearly that the divine wisdom necessary to explain his suffering was inaccessible to man. Only God knew all about it because He knows everything (verse 24). True wisdom belongs to God (verses 25-26). We can only know wisdom if God reveals it to us (compare Deuteronomy 29:29).

Verses 25-28: Creation itself is evidence of the vastness of God’s wisdom (Psalm 104; Proverbs 3:19, 8:22-31, Romans 1:20).
In the gospel of John Jesus is having a conversation with a group of Pharisees, they are questioning his identity and he is pushing their buttons with his answers to their questions. In chapter 8 verse 31 we read these well known very familiar words … perhaps over familiar

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus was speaking to those in the group who believed him. Some of the Pharisees had a hard time with what he said but some in the group actually listened, accepted what he was saying and here after claiming very clearly that he was from God he gives us these words on the way to discover and live wisdom. Hold to his teaching and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. In other words live it to experience it.

God is the source of wisdom, the way to wisdom and to experience it in a visceral, haptic, intimate way we are to live it. If we don’t live it we are left with knowledge and knowledge alone is one dimensional and pretty useless.
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Job 28:27

27 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
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Wisdom is not merely the thoughts of human minds or clever ideas. Wisdom is in the DNA of creation and part of who God is. God created the universe and everything in it. Everything is held together with supreme wisdom and works within an ordered framework. When we tap into wisdom it informs behaviour and how we live life. Wisdom is more than knowledge. It is application. It has been tested by God and is to be tested by us.

Job is acknowledging that wisdom is more than anything he and his visitors could reach in their moral debates as they exchanged their theological viewpoints and made various assessments and judgments about Job’s suffering. 

Job knew that it was beyond comprehension because God had not revealed it but wisdom was at work here because God was at the centre of whatever was going on. It was hard to accept but that didn’t stop it from being true.
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Job 28:28

28 And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”
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This final verse of chapter 28 is reminiscent of Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 3:5-6.

It was also Jesus’ message as recorded in Mark 1:15.

Wisdom is found in obedience to God.
Job had made the connection that the others did not. While the specific features of God’s wisdom may not be revealed to us, the alpha and omega of wisdom is to revere God and keep his commands, live his way (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10).

Unanswered questions are God’s business and trusting him with our obedient submission is our business. 

This is the wisdom expressed in Proverbs 1:7 – 2:9 and Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. This is the thread that unifies the wisdom literature. We may never know the reasons for life’s sufferings. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be curious and pursue understanding of such things but if that is our obsession over and above trusting God then we will miss the beauty of life and our ultimate purpose in living this life, walking with our God.

Job 27

page0-breath_of_godJob Job 27:1-6
Job’s Final Word to His Friends

27 And Job continued his discourse:
2 “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice,
the Almighty, who has made my life bitter,
3 as long as I have life within me,
the breath of God in my nostrils,
4 my lips will not say anything wicked,
and my tongue will not utter lies.
5 I will never admit you are in the right;
till I die, I will not deny my integrity.
6 I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it
my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.
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Jobs final words on the matter protest his innocence in terms of righteousness. He refuses to compromise his integrity and give in to pressure from his friends to think otherwise. 

Job maintains his authenticity despite being emotionally and physically weak due to sickness, trauma and relentless emotional pressure from his friends. Job places his righteousness in context of divine judgment. The wicked are those who separate themselves from having faith and the fear of the Lord. Job does not qualify in this context.

Job had suffered intense trauma and trouble. He supposed that God caused this but still trusted God.

In Job 23:1-7, Job explained that he wanted God to be his judge. Now in chapters 27-31 he was speaking with certainty that God was already his judge.
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Job 27:7-23

7 “May my enemy be like the wicked,
my adversary like the unjust!
8 For what hope have the godless when they are cut off,
when God takes away their life?
9 Does God listen to their cry
when distress comes upon them?
10 Will they find delight in the Almighty?
Will they call on God at all times?
11 “I will teach you about the power of God;
the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal.
12 You have all seen this yourselves.
Why then this meaningless talk?
13 “Here is the fate God allots to the wicked,
the heritage a ruthless man receives from the Almighty:
14 However many his children, their fate is the sword;
his offspring will never have enough to eat.
15 The plague will bury those who survive him,
and their widows will not weep for them.
16 Though he heaps up silver like dust
and clothes like piles of clay,
17 what he lays up the righteous will wear,
and the innocent will divide his silver.
18 The house he builds is like a moth’s cocoon,
like a hut made by a watchman.
19 He lies down wealthy, but will do so no more;
when he opens his eyes, all is gone.
20 Terrors overtake him like a flood;
a tempest snatches him away in the night.
21 The east wind carries him off, and he is gone;
it sweeps him out of his place.
22 It hurls itself against him without mercy
as he flees headlong from its power.
23 It claps its hands in derision
and hisses him out of his place.”
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In these verses Job seems to agree with some of his friends allegations. The principle of what they had been saying was true but their allegations had been against him . He characterized his friends as enemies who would also be judged by God for their cruelty and hypocrisy.

Job refused to be a hypocrite. He knew that God would not listen to hypocrisy.
Some of the words here are similar to Zophar’s words in Job 20:29. And Job’s ideas in verses 14-22 are also similar to Zophar’s ideas in chapter 20.

Whilst Job’s friends were technically correct on a number of matters they missed the point on so many and completely misunderstood who Job was and what kind of heart he had.

This is something I have been very guilty of as a religious leader. I have made so many assumptions about the condition of an individual’s heart or spiritual condition based on external evidence. The truth is that we cannot know what a man’s heart is like by external evidence. The rebellious heart could equally be a wounded or hurting heart, the angry heart could be a grieving heart. I have been on the receiving end of misjudgements like this and delivered many judgments. Job’s friends appear to have categorized him on his circumstances rather than his behaviour.

An evil person is evil at home as well as out there in the world and his widow will not miss him. Even in my case and my years of darkness I deceived my family. On the surface everything looked good to my family and even to those around my family within the community of believers but had I died in this period the full weight of my darkness would have been upon them without the possibility of closure. It would have been a most cruel outcome.

In verse 16, the word clothes is an inaccurate translation. It misses something of an important point. The correct translation is “raiment” . This is not merely clothing for everyday use, but rather for pomp and show. Raiment was part of the treasure of great men. The phrase signifies that he might have such a variety of raiment, and such large quantities of it, that it would be valued no more than a quantity of clay. His riches would be polluting and troublesome. The Septuagint version reads “gold” instead of “raiment” (as in Zechariah 9:3), where similar expressions are used in reference to Tyre.

When the wicked man dies, other people will receive his possessions. It is as if God is storing these possessions to give to other people.

A moth destroys. It is fragile itself and lasts but for a moment in time. The booth spoken of here, was a temporary shelter that was erected at harvest time. It would be torn down after harvest. This was saying, the house of the evil man was temporary.

In other words, the wicked man might seem powerful. But his life is weak. He can die in a moment (Matthew 7:26-27; Luke 12:16-20).

In Job 3:16-19, Job thought that death is like sleep. But in Job 26:5, Job had a different idea. He described how the dead are in deep anguish.

Some believe that verses 19-23, are descriptions of hell. When the wicked man wakes in hell, God has taken away that man’s wealth. The home in verse 21 is like that man’s body (see verse 18). But the man’s spirit has left his body. The man’s body might seem calm (Job 21:32-33). But his spirit is afraid and in anguish.

Another idea is that verses 19-23, Job was describing the wicked man’s life after God had disciplined or punished him.

It sounds to me like a description of the suddenness of death. It seems to flow better with the context of the passage and fit with the writing style. Remembering that this Hebrew poetry and poetry is not a literary type that you can safely build a doctrinal position from.

Job 26

storm clouds


Job 26:1-4

26 Then Job replied:
2 “How you have helped the powerless!
How you have saved the arm that is feeble!
3 What advice you have offered to one without wisdom!
And what great insight you have displayed!
4 Who has helped you utter these words?
And whose spirit spoke from your mouth?
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In verses 1-4 Job responded to Bildad’s lack of concern for him, showing that all his friends’ theological and rational words missed the point of Job’s need altogether and have been completely unhelpful.

Job himself has virtually said much the same as Bildad (Job 9:2; Job 14:4), so he makes no further comment on his remarks here, but merely asks how he has helped him with such words, or others like him in a weak and helpless condition.

In six sarcastic questions Job tells Bildad that God would be in a great deal of trouble if Bildad had not been there to help God! Then Job outdoes Bildad in describing the majesty, power and greatness of God.
Job had studied wisdom (chapter 28). So Job believed that words about God should not merely come from the human mind. Rather, such words should come from God’s Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

In chapter 25, Bildad’s speech seemed to describe vast spaces. He spoke about heaven. He spoke about the moon and stars. He spoke about the soil. And he referred to graves. Job’s reply seems to describe even more vast spaces. Job spoke about hell as well as heaven. He spoke about the sky and the clouds. He spoke about mysteries of the day, for example the horizon and the rain.

Job also spoke about some events which we will look at in verses 12-13. We do not know much about these events. We may not even be sure whether these are past or future events. But the Bible seems to mention the same events elsewhere. Some people think that Job was referring to stories from other ancient societies. Possibly, stories from Mesopotamia.
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Job 26:5-14

5 “The dead are in deep anguish,
those beneath the waters and all that live in them.
6 The realm of the dead is naked before God;
Destruction lies uncovered.
7 He spreads out the northern skies over empty space;
he suspends the earth over nothing.
8 He wraps up the waters in his clouds,
yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.
9 He covers the face of the full moon,
spreading his clouds over it.
10 He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters
for a boundary between light and darkness.
11 The pillars of the heavens quake,
aghast at his rebuke.
12 By his power he churned up the sea;
by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.
13 By his breath the skies became fair;
his hand pierced the gliding serpent.
14 And these are but the outer fringe of his works;
how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”
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Job used three words to describe the place of the dead: “the waters, hell,” and “destruction”: This is his way of saying that if God sees what is going on in the world of the dead, He certainly knows all the world of the living. God has authority over the realms of both the dead and the living.

In verses 5-14 as before in chapters 9 and 12, Job showed that he was not inferior to this friends in describing God’s greatness. He understood that as well as they did. He described it as manifested in the realm of the dead called Sheol and Abaddon, or place of destruction (verses 5 and 6), the earth and sky (verse 7), the waters above (verses 8-10) and below (verse 12, and the stars (verse 13).

The Hebrew word is the Rephaim, who were among the aboriginal inhabitants of the south of Palestine and the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea.
It is used to express the dead and the inhabitants of the underworld generally. The translation is awkward but it seems to imply that they are pierced through with terror, or they tremble.

All the secrets of this mysterious, invisible, and undiscoverable world are naked and open before God. The grave lies naked and destruction is uncovered.

Job described hell. Elsewhere, Job was not sure whether hell exists (Job 3:13-14; Job 21:22-26). But in these verses, Job was not explaining his own ideas. Instead, he was speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Bildad had thought of God as dwelling in heaven alone. He did not realize that God was omnipresent. God is not only in heaven but on the earth as well. This could be speaking of hell that is under the water.

Even hell is within the view of God. It is also under the control of God. God is not controlled by anyone or anything. Even Satan has to answer to him and cannot leave his presence.

In verses 7-10 and 13: With great accuracy, Job described the world as it is – created out of “nothing” by the Maker of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1). This is especially remarkable since the Book of Job predates the Book of Genesis. He speaks of the Holy Spirit’s role in Creation. (Genesis 1:2, 26). 

This is breath taking and inspiring. We all need moments to stop and take it in. Our modern world is too fast paced for us to sometimes stop and be inspired. We live behind too much concrete and in too much artificial light. We are too full of our human ingenuity (which God gave us) and can lose sight of God’s awesomeness.
Many ancient people thought that the earth was on poles. Even Job mentions these poles elsewhere. But Job’s words here are correct. Scientists have proved that an empty space surrounds the world. God balances the world on nothing.

It was by God’s hand that the stars were scattered into space. Of course, all planets, the moon and sun, were created by God, and placed in the empty space of the sky; and told to stay in their places. The earth is not hanging or sitting on anything. It is in the open sky, where God put it and told it to stay.

God’s design of this world is amazing. We need the rain. Nothing holds the rain in the sky. It doesn’t make sense that something as heavy as water can be held in the sky and poured out at an appropriate time. Of course we have scientific explanations for it but the design and system behind the science didn’t come from a human mind. 

As a mere observer in the days of Job when science was not so advanced it would have filled with wonder and if you stop and engage with nature and even think about it in some detail with it’s complex eco systems … it’s just mind blowing.

Verse 9 reminds us that We are dealing with the King of Kings, the only true king. We may not see him but it doesn’t stop him from being king!!!

The theme of God’s power over the sea (“water with bounds”) is common to the poetic genres in the Bible (Psalm 104:7-9; Proverbs 8:27-29; Jeremiah 5:22). For God to have power over the chaos of the sea symbolized that He has power over everything that seems chaotic and evil to humanity. Imagine the disciples reaction when Jesus calmed the storm or walked on water. They would have been familiar with these verses. I shiver runs down my spine as I imagine the situation. I imagine whispers of  “Who is this rabbi that is with us?”

This describes the earth as a circular sphere, a scientifically accurate statement before it’s time in human history.

In verse 11 we are reminded that no one can usurp God’s power. Satan’s best attempt will leave him destroyed at the end of all things. God created the world by his word (Genesis 1:3-26). Psalm 2:4-6 has feelings and emotions. When driven by human emotion we can be very powerful and influence a lot. Passion is a great galvanizer. How much more the passion of an unlimited God? Nobody can successfully oppose God.

Verses 11-13 seem to describe a particular event.
·     The enemy in verse 12 is called RAHAB in Hebrew. This word is also in Isaiah 51:9. Isaiah seems to be describing a terrible sea animal. This however is a symbolic description of the army from Egypt. Or, as a description of the sea. God’s people were tapped by the sea but God parted the sea to allow the Israelites to escape (Isaiah 51:10). The Egypt army drowned (Exodus chapter 14).

·     The enemy in verse 13 is NACHASH in Hebrew. This word usually means a snake or serpent. In the garden called Eden, the devil appeared as a NACHASH. This word is also in Isaiah 27:1. Isaiah described the same event as Job 26:13. But in Isaiah, the NACHASH has another name too. This name is leviathan. The word leviathan is in Job 3:8 and Job chapter 41. We have translated leviathan as ‘crocodile’, which seems to be the animal that God described in Job chapter 41. But in both Isaiah and Job, leviathan could potentially by symbolic of Satan.
So, in the end, God will punish the devil (Revelation 20:10). This is the event that Isaiah described in Isaiah 27:1. But the words in Isaiah 27:1 are similar to Isaiah 51:9. So we think that Job was describing the devil’s final punishment in verses 11-13.

In the closing verses of this chapter Job offers a perspective that all he had cited about God’s unrivalled power over the grave, over nature, over the earth and skies, was a faint outline of His infinite, incomprehensible sovereignty.

Poetic language reminding his counselors that all that could be said and understood by man was only a glimpse of the nature and power of God almighty!

We know that thunder is connected with the voice of God frequently. When Moses had the Israelites at the foot of the mountain to hear the Commandments, the voice of God was spoken of as a thunder. It gripped the Israelites with fear.