Job 36


Job 36:1-7
36 Elihu continued:
2 “Bear with me a little longer and I will show you
that there is more to be said in God’s behalf.
3 I get my knowledge from afar;
I will ascribe justice to my Maker.
4 Be assured that my words are not false;
one who has perfect knowledge is with you.
5 “God is mighty, but despises no one;
he is mighty, and firm in his purpose.
6 He does not keep the wicked alive
but gives the afflicted their rights.
7 He does not take his eyes off the righteous;
he enthrones them with kings
and exalts them forever.
I started out by liking Elihu but now I really begin to take a strong dislike. 

Although there is some accuracy in what he says about the nature of God he appears arrogant and cocky in believing his words come directly from God. 

His main accusation against Job is his misrepresentation of God being unfair or unkind. This is perhaps true. Elihu may be accurate in his assessment of Job but the way he carries himself makes him difficult to hear. 

I think about this dilemma and the challenge to my heart is two fold. If I am in the position of delivering an assessment, a judgment or even feedback it would be prudent to give careful thought to my delivery and how I carry myself so that my hearer can hear the message. It may even be a case of asking myself honestly am I the best person to deliver this message.

If I am in the position of recipient my challenge is to cut through the noise and the emotional obstacles that may come with the delivery and ask myself “what is the message? Is it true? Is it reasonable? What do I want to do about it? 

I begin to wonder how many friends Elihu had and indeed who he was… perhaps indeed a prophet to usher on the presence of God or perhaps a later fictional addition to the text as some scholars suggest. We don’t know much about this mysterious character but he appears to be giving an accurate assessment of the nature of God but is a bit off the mark in his insensitive dealings with Job. What’s the lesson here? Listen to the message not the messenger perhaps?  Listen to what’s behind the message not the immediate emotional response?

Job 36:8-12

8 But if people are bound in chains,
held fast by cords of affliction,
9 he tells them what they have done—
that they have sinned arrogantly.
10 He makes them listen to correction
and commands them to repent of their evil.
11 If they obey and serve him,
they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity
and their years in contentment.
12 But if they do not listen,
they will perish by the sword
and die without knowledge.
Elihu along with Job’s friends, were relating difficulties in this life with being out of fellowship with God.

This is erroneous thinking. All of the apostles who followed Jesus, except for one, were believed to have died a martyr’s death. That in itself discredits the theory that Elihu had here. These apostles suffered for doing good, not for doing wrong. Stephen was stoned to death for preaching the gospel. In fact following God rarely …if ever equates to an easy life.
2 Timothy 2:12 informs us that “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us”

Job 36:13-15

13 “The godless in heart harbor resentment;
even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.
14 They die in their youth,
among male prostitutes of the shrines.
15 But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering;
he speaks to them in their affliction.
Elihu identifies the issue of resentment being the source of sin that even when God enslaves them to a destructive way that they do not cry out for help, they are resigned to this empty way of living and become embroiled deeper in the downward spiral. He says they die in their youth. Maybe this is not physical death but rather spiritual death. In other words they become unresponsive to spirituality.

The practice of shrine prostitution is mentioned which was part of the pagan religious practices of the ancient world.
The idea of God speaking through suffering is also brought to the table. This is when we are perhaps most responsive to God’s prompts and his calling to us out of the world and all the mess that we have surrounded ourselves with.

Elihu in his arrogance was speaking some profound spiritual truths.

Job 36:16-21

16 “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress
to a spacious place free from restriction,
to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.
17 But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked;
judgment and justice have taken hold of you.
18 Be careful that no one entices you by riches;
do not let a large bribe turn you aside.
19 Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts
sustain you so you would not be in distress?
20 Do not long for the night,
to drag people away from their homes.
21 Beware of turning to evil,
which you seem to prefer to affliction.
It appears that Elihu is saying that Job may have been delivered from this disaster if he accepted it in the right spirit and now he was getting what he deserved. His gold and riches were no longer of use to him. They could not save him from all of this. 

Job had wanted God to end his life and yet Elihu was saying that he should not dare to make such a wish. His part in this was to just patiently accept the affliction that God had put upon him.

If this passage tells me anything about human nature, it is our ability to express in a very authoritative fashion positions on stuff we don’t have any clue about. Our ignorance is only equalled by our pride and arrogance.

Job 36:22-26

22 “God is exalted in his power.
Who is a teacher like him?
23 Who has prescribed his ways for him,
or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?
24 Remember to extol his work,
which people have praised in song.
25 All humanity has seen it;
mortals gaze on it from afar.
26 How great is God—beyond our understanding!
The number of his years is past finding out.
The focus and emphasis shifts from Job to the almighty as Elihu emphasizes the greatness of God that no man can fathom. He cannot be taught anything by man, he cannot be corrected …stop, look, contemplate and be amazed !!


Job 36:27-33

27 “He draws up the drops of water,
which distill as rain to the streams;
28 the clouds pour down their moisture
and abundant showers fall on mankind.
29 Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds,
how he thunders from his pavilion?
30 See how he scatters his lightning about him,
bathing the depths of the sea.
31 This is the way he governs the nations
and provides food in abundance.
32 He fills his hands with lightning
and commands it to strike its mark.
33 His thunder announces the coming storm;
even the cattle make known its approach.
Elihu makes a declaration about who controls the weather and then God’s power in the rain storm. This was a typical question in the ancient world. God is the ruler of all nature. This beautiful Hebrew poetry describes God’s command of the weather and nature.

In Job 26:14, Job said that man’s experience of God was like a whisper. But God’s greatness was like the thunder. Job and his friends were about to have a greater experience of God. 

A storm was approaching. Elihu described the storm. The men were sitting outside (Job 2:8; Job 2:13). So they carefully watched the storm.

First, the men saw the clouds (verses 27-29).

Then the men saw the distant lightning. And they heard the distant thunder. It was not raining yet. But the storm was coming closer. Even the cows realised this. When a storm approaches, cows do not continue to eat. Instead, they sit on the ground (verse 33).

When we observe nature or watch nature in some way we cannot help but be fascinated at the beauty, the design, the detail. I have moments of mindfulness sometimes when I walk into work even in the urban surroundings I can notice a plant or a movement in the clouds.
I cannot help but think of God. Sometimes all we need to do is to slow down enough and look beyond the concrete that we are surrounded by and notice how nature works to bring us back to the presence of God.


Job 33


Job 33:1-7
33 “But now, Job, listen to my words;
pay attention to everything I say.
2 I am about to open my mouth;
my words are on the tip of my tongue.
3 My words come from an upright heart;
my lips sincerely speak what I know.
4 The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
5 Answer me then, if you can;
stand up and argue your case before me.
6 I am the same as you in God’s sight;
I too am a piece of clay.
7 No fear of me should alarm you,
nor should my hand be heavy on you.
Elihu turns from addressing the four men to addressing Job alone. He begins with some bold claims about his position and right to speak. He says that his motives are sincere and honest.  (verses 1-7), this is followed by references to Job’s questions/complaints (verses 8-11). He then addresses Job with his answers(verses 12-33).

Elihu asserts that Job has had a complaining attitude toward his suffering and a hostile attitude toward God. God does not have to answer to man (verse 13), he then goes on to say how God reveals himself to mortal men and that he will restore a man when he responds favourably to suffering.

Job’s three friends all came with an attitude that they were wiser than Job but Elihu appears at this stage to have had a little more humility. He wanted to hear from Job, he wanted to understand and he reminded Job that he was a mere man as Job was.

A direct encounter with God or even an angel would have gripped Job with terror and fear but if God were to communicate through an ordinary man then it would not appear so alarming or burdensome.

Sounds like a template for the incarnation of God.

Job 33:8-14

8 “But you have said in my hearing—
I heard the very words—
9 ‘I am pure, I have done no wrong;
I am clean and free from sin.
10 Yet God has found fault with me;
he considers me his enemy.
11 He fastens my feet in shackles;
he keeps close watch on all my paths.’
12 “But I tell you, in this you are not right,
for God is greater than any mortal.
13 Why do you complain to him
that he responds to no one’s words?
14 For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it.
Elihu paraphrased Job’s words and communicated back what he thought was the intent and heartbeat of what Job was saying. This is a good model for counsel. 

Connection always wins over correction! However, he does bring one thing to the table that he feels that Job must hear right at the beginning and that is that God answers to no one, If Job could embed this in his thinking then everything else will at least have some intellectual perspective even if it is hard to grasp emotionally. He used his speech in order to prepare Job to meet with God.

Job 33:15-18

15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they slumber in their beds,
16 he may speak in their ears
and terrify them with warnings,
17 to turn them from wrongdoing
and keep them from pride,
18 to preserve them from the pit,
their lives from perishing by the sword.
In verse 14 Elihu tells us “For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it.”

Elihu used two stories to explain this idea. The first story is in verses 15-18. This sounds like Eliphaz’s strange dream (Job 4:12-21). The second story sounds rather like Job’s life.

In both stories, the man was not expecting God to speak. But God had an important message to get across to both men.
This dream is like Eliphaz’s dream (Job 4:12-21). But there are important differences:

·     In Elihu’s story, God spoke by the dream. In Eliphaz’s dream, a strange spirit spoke.

·     In Elihu’s story, the message was that the dreamer himself must stop his evil behaviour. But in Eliphaz’s dream, the message seemed to be that Job must stop his evil behaviour.

It may be that Eliphaz’s dream really was from God. Possibly God was warning Eliphaz to stop his evil behaviour. Eliphaz however, had his own interpretation a targeted Job (Job 22:2-10).

Perhaps God was speaking to Eliphaz. But Eliphaz did not want to hear God’s message.

It wouldn’t be so unusual. I wonder how many sermon’s I have heard through the years and thought that this would be a good message for some specific person, a friend, my wife etc., and deflect the idea that God actually has something to say to me. …or even worse I have prepared a sermon with someone in mind that they need to hear this message without engaging with the scripture and immersing my own heart in God’s counsel. Maybe it’s just me that has that issue but I suspect not.

Job 33:19-33

19 “Or someone may be chastened on a bed of pain
with constant distress in their bones,
20 so that their body finds food repulsive
and their soul loathes the choicest meal.
21 Their flesh wastes away to nothing,
and their bones, once hidden, now stick out.
22 They draw near to the pit,
and their life to the messengers of death.
23 Yet if there is an angel at their side,
a messenger, one out of a thousand,
sent to tell them how to be upright,
24 and he is gracious to that person and says to God,
‘Spare them from going down to the pit;
I have found a ransom for them—
25 let their flesh be renewed like a child’s;
let them be restored as in the days of their youth’—
26 then that person can pray to God and find favour with him,
they will see God’s face and shout for joy;
he will restore them to full well-being.
27 And they will go to others and say,
‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right,
but I did not get what I deserved.
28 God has delivered me from going down to the pit,
and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’
29 “God does all these things to a person—
twice, even three times—
30 to turn them back from the pit,
that the light of life may shine on them.
31 “Pay attention, Job, and listen to me;
be silent, and I will speak.
32 If you have anything to say, answer me;
speak up, for I want to vindicate you.
33 But if not, then listen to me;
be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”

Elihu came as a type of mediator for Job. The thrust of his message was that God does not act in a whimsical way and that there is purpose in suffering. God allows suffering for spiritual benefit.

The idea of a “ransom” being necessary to secure a person’s redemption and to avoid the deserved judgment is presented here and written about centuries later in Romans 5:6-11.

Some scholars believe that Elihu was presenting himself as the mediator that job needed (9:31-33). This may have been his intention but he most certainly was not the mediator that Job sought. Job needed an intermediary who could be a “ransom” for him. This is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Job 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 15

The Bible urges us to give careful thought to our ways. To be quick to listen and slow to speak. A man who does not fear God is quick to air his opinion and is not usually measured in his response.

Proverbs 15:1-8
1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
5 A fool spurns a parent’s discipline,
but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
6 The house of the righteous contains great treasure,
but the income of the wicked brings ruin.
7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge,
but the hearts of fools are not upright.
8 The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

The first five verses are about communication and how we use our words. God sees beyond our words, he can see into our hearts and can weigh our motives. This is something that is impossible for man. Other people’s motives are not our business.

Gentle words are more effective than harsh words. We can say something very direct with gentle words and most likely it will have greater impact.

Verses 2 & 7 tell us that the words of a fool tend to be unbridled and without any real substance. Often emotional or emotive language but when you scratch beneath the surface it’s not really thought through.

It makes me think of the recent (this was originally written in August 2016) Brexit referendum. It seemed to me that both sides were full of soundbites without substance. We had nothing to base our decision on. There was a lot of self preservation and ego going on in the discussion. The words of fools. The tongue of the wise however adorns knowledge and understanding.

Our speech should be gentle, respectful and honest. A soothing tongue without honesty though is perhaps more destructive than unbridled truth. The violence of silence.

There is something about discipline. Particularly the discipline of a parent. Whilst it may rarely be administered perfectly we know that almost all the time it comes from a place that we can trust and is underpinned by love. It is through discipline that we grow. We are disciplined first by God’s word, second by honest counsel and third by the hand of God through life since he has wired the universe with its own cause and effect system which automates discipline when the other gentler methods fail. The question is do we listen? Or more to the point do I listen? The DNA of the universe is wired with God’s wisdom.

There are words about treasure and ruin. This is not necessarily material gain but is the overall effect of righteousness and evil. God is the greatest treasure. He told Abram “I am your very great reward” …the presence of Yaweh as we sojourn through life. God in all his manifestations is a treasure that will fulfill us, will quench our thirst and meet our deepest needs if we allow it. The ways of evil on the other hand lead to darkness, ruin, chaos, broken relationships.

The good news is that in his wisdom and wired into the DNA of creation that’s when we can experience the presence of God without all the noise that’s going on around us. Rock bottom is a solitary place and to sit with yourself and all of your darkness is not an easy thing but when you have nowhere else to go and the cause and effect of the universe has forced you there then this is the moment God enters. He sits next to you. He puts his arm around you and asks you “What do you want to do?”. At least that’s how I experienced it on the day that I walked along the Roding River.

Verse 8 informs us that the sacrifice of the wicked is no sacrifice at all. Primarily we have to think about Israel’s sacrificial system. There are many that would have sacrificed for show. They would have approached it casually with unclean hearts. I think about all those special contributions I gave to keep up with others or outdo what others were giving as I plunged my family into deeper debt, all the marathon prayers and heroic evangelism (2000 before 2000). It was all for show. It was about me looking impressive. The January contact goals on staff. I always made sure I was near the top of the table. God detests this kind of sacrifice. I know there were moments of sincere compassion, love for the lost and genuine connection in my prayer time and my passion for what we built with the camps was always honest and sincere.

I would have done that all year round. It was my dream for the church to own the site that hired where we ran all of our camps and retreats and that I would run these events all year round. Post 2009 I reasoned that even if it did happen it would have been taken off of me and given to some model leader trained in a model church such was my cynicism. The truth is that it was my dream and not God’s dream.

God had a different plan. A better plan that involved me walking through the valley of the shadow of death and knowing his presence in a new way. The prayer of the upright pleases him.

Proverbs 15:9-14

9 The Lord detests the way of the wicked,
but he loves those who pursue righteousness.
10 Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path;
the one who hates correction will die.
11 Death and Destruction lie open before the Lord—
how much more do human hearts!
12 Mockers resent correction,
so they avoid the wise.
13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit.
14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

These verses bring two main themes to the table. The first is that our outward behaviour is a reflection of what is going on inside. It doesn’t tell the story of a man’s heart completely because there is so much more than the surface symptoms. The heart of a man is deep waters but the bahaviour gives an indication.

Outward sin is a sign that all is not well but it doesn’t tell us exactly what is not well. We know that sin is a result of relationship problems … Relationship with God, with self and others but it still is only a symptom and cannot be dealt with in isolation.

God’s discipline is the other theme and this is God’s way of drawing our attention to the problems and encouraging us to deal with them.

If a person does not accept God’s correction, then that person will suffer. We have a choice as to whether we respond or not. What we do know is that in the end the conscience always wins. It will either win in leading us to repentance or will win in leading us to destruction. It will not allow us to sit on the fence for too long.

Proverbs 15:15-19

15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
16 Better a little with the fear of the Lord
than great wealth with turmoil.
17 Better a small serving of vegetables with love
than a fattened calf with hatred.
18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.
19 The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns,
but the path of the upright is a highway

Verses 15-16 remind us that the allure of wealth will leave us empty and bitter. You can have the world and all it’s turmoil and clamouring for more because that is all that materialism and worldly desire does it fixes you on always wanting more.

I am experiencing the joy of not having much and feeling like I have everything. It’s a matter of perspective really. Each month is a challenge to make ends meet but not stressful. It’s deeply satisfying making sure that we keep our heads above water and then when we can do something we want or buy something extra it’s underpinned by gratitude rather than entitlement. That’s a great feeling. For some people it’s constant stress to make ends meet and that’s hard but the turmoil of the wealthy is also hard.

The theme continues in verse 17. Love and vegetables is better than the best choice food without love. Meal times are important for connection, for fellowship and to be together but what is on the table is not so important. We had a great curry last night but the baked potato the previous night was just as much a blessing. Who is at the table is way more important than what is on the table.

The poor have more. I think Mother Theresa said something about the greatest malaise in this world is the emotional poverty of loneliness more than the physical poverty of scarcity.

Verse 18 is about patience. Patience is powerful. We live in a world that almost applauds impatience and wanting it now, or wanting change now, or making something happen now. God is patient. Patience plays a huge part in bringing about change. A patient man can resolve a conflict in a way that a hot headed man has no power. I need to hold onto this as I am the go between in a very challenging situation between family members that struggle to be present with each other.

A sluggard is very slow. He has lots of excuses. Solomon uses humour here. Nobody could be so slow that plants grew on his path. The truth is that the man was very lazy.

The good man is like someone who travels along a good, clear road. A good person is patient (verse 18). But, at the right time, a good person acts very quickly. He is not lazy! He will achieve what he sets out to achieve. He is hard working and industrious. He is not a procrastinator and does not put off to tomorrow what could and should be done today.

Proverbs 15:20-27

20 A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.
21 Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.
22 Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.
23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
and how good is a timely word!
24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent
to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead.
25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud,
but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.
26 The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked,
but gracious words are pure in his sight.
27 The greedy bring ruin to their households,
but the one who hates bribes will live

Similar to Proverbs 10:1, 15:20 calls on parental respect. The honour of father and mother is one of the commandments given to Israel at Mount Sinai. Being a parent, the older I get I realise how much is bound up in my children’s decisions. One of my children is almost 30 and is a parent herself, another is at university and my youngest is at a sports development centre. I still worry about their decisions and choices it’s not a neurotic worry but a sincere concern and longing for their lives to go well.  I don’t think that goes away. I think my parents would feel a strong sense of sadness or disappointment with decisions I have made and it lingers into their old age.

This saddens me. I ask myself about my relationship with my parents in this moment and I think I have not really shown them the honour and respect that they deserve. I am thinking about an amends process for them.

In verse 21 we read about the attraction of folly to the unwise and the straight and narrow path of the wise. There is something bohemian, non conformist and outside the box in my spirit. There is a creative energy in me that is drawn away from the mainstream religious life. I don’t really understand it completely but I have always been a bit outside the box. I need to learn how to express it in a healthy and God fearing way.

Advice is good but not all advice is good so many advisors are necessary to weigh up options and think things through. The main point of advice I suppose is to take out the emotional attachment to certain decisions and make them more objective but for an advisor to give good advice they must understand what you really want and not impose what they want for you on the advice. This is the shortcoming in “church advice” of the past. It was loaded with the advisors desires for you and not helping you to think through your options to your goal.

In some situations your own objectives would not be clear, they would be deliberately void of information leaving the advisor to interpret your desired outcome or motives or even worse you might state an outcome that is not what you want but what you think you should want which also is going to inevitably lead to bad advice.

There is a huge responsibility on the part of advisor. It is not something to be taken lightly. It is something I have taken way too lightly in the past. An advisors role is not tell someone what to do or what to think but to help them process their own their own thinking. It’s important to think about, pray and reflect on any words of advice that I give. It’s important to think about probable outcomes.

In verse 24, Solomon is using humour. He imagines that the wise man is walking up a hill. Sometimes, it is hard to walk up a hill. However, the wise man needs always to travel upwards. He cannot travel downwards (opposite of upwards), because that way leads to death, the grave and hell. The phrase “uphill struggle” springs to mind.
God will tear down the houses, the empires and all that is established by the proud but he cares deeply about those who cannot do things for themselves, those without a voice and those without resources.

The last two verses in this section talk about what is done in secret e.g. bribes and assures that God sees everything and will use everything both good and bad to bring about his honour and his will.

Proverbs 15:28-33
28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones.
31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.
32 Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.
33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord,
and humility comes before honor.

The Bible urges us to give careful thought to our ways. To be quick to listen and slow to speak. A man who does not fear God is quick to air his opinion and is not usually measured in his response.

Verse 29 reminds me of Isaiah 59. ‘God is not deaf or weak. The result of your evil actions is that you have moved far away from God.’ (Isaiah 59:1-2). I think in all my darkness I never completely lost sight of the fact that God was involved in all this. This is not to give myself credit for anything at all but I always was aware that the hand of God was on it. I think there is a point that God does not hear and that’s when you shut him out. It’s not about your behaviour but what is in your heart and your desires.

Verse 30 tells us about the light in our eyes can have a positive impact on others. It’s true that our attitudes, our demeanour, our positive, faithful outlook has a positive impact. It is contagious. This is unlike religious behaviour which is judgmental, self righteous or pious and turns people away.

These last few verses in this section tell us about the virtues of discipline and humility. The fear of the Lord means that we will respect his code of what is right and wrong above our own. We understand that he wired all of this into creation and this is how things work in his universe. The problem is that we think it’s our universe and we want to define what is right and wrong and how things work but this is flawed as it does not consider the rest of creation and considers only what’s in front of our own nose.

Humility is a special quality that has a low view of my own importance. It is not low esteem. It is just an accepting that actually the universe can still run without my influence, that everything can function in this world just fine without my influence.