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.
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.
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.
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.
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.