Job 40

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Job 40:1-5
40 The Lord said to Job:
2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”
3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.”
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God challenged Job to answer his questions. Of course God did not need to know the answers but he wanted Job to acknowledge his position in all of this and who he was speaking to.

Job spoke to his friends confident that he had thought carefully about his suffering and that he was perplexed despite having wisdom and knowledge of God.

But then God spoke …And Job’s ideas did not seem so important.

Job’s immediate response was one of confessing his insignificance in the presence of the Lord.  He had no answer. How could he answer the living God? All his complaints against God were empty and futile.
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Job 40:6-14
6 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:
7 “Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
8 “Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendour,
and clothe yourself in honour and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.
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God again spoke from the whirlwind, daring Job to try running the universe according to the retribution principle. If Job could do it, then he would vindicate himself. Job had partially capitulated to his friends’ perspective on retributive judgment.

In his speeches, Job spoke as if he were wiser than God. Job even made a list of things that God should do. Job could not explain why God was not doing such things. So Job would complain about God’s behaviour.

God had given Job space to speak or answer his questions, Job had nothing to say, so here  God resumes the argument.

God unleashed another torrent of crushing rebukes to Job, in which He mocked Job’s questionings of Him by telling the sufferer that if he really thought he knew what was best for him rather than God (verse 8), then he should take over being God! (Verses 9-14).
God pointed out Job’s main error. Job imagined that God was unfair. Job said that he himself was right, rather than God.

So it turns out that Elihu’s opinion about Job was correct (Job 32:2). Elihu may not have delivered it in a particularly helpful way but he was right.

Firstly, God reminded Job about God’s great power. Job was not as powerful as God (verse 9).

God is at all times “clothed with majesty and strength” (Psalm 93:1). “With glory and beauty” (Psalm 104:1). He “decks himself with light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:2). Job is challenged to array himself similarly.

In verse 10 God was describing his own dress. He is Majesty and Strength at all times. God is engulfed in Light so bright, it is above the light of the sun. God showed Job that he could not dress himself with such as this. God had dressed Job in his robe of righteousness however.

Then God gave a list of how Job would like God to act (verses 11-13). God can do such things. But Job could not do these things. So Job was in no position to be telling God to do these things.

Job could not and would not try to right all the wrong in the world. That is of course God’s work. So God uses humour in verse 14. If Job could carry out his great ideas, then even God would respect Job!

God in effect was saying that he would turn over the universe to Job and see if he could do better! It’s really so unbelievably absurd and inconceivable that man should run the universe and yet that is exactly what we have tried to do and is the core of our sin problem. We choose to be God because we either don’t trust that God will do it the way it should be done or that he will not act with our best interests at heart.

Things have not changed that much since the time of Job. Even the righteous amongst us have the same issues as Job himself. The gap between those that are perceived righteous and those perceived to be wicked is very fine line indeed. We invest a lot of time investigating this micro divide when there is an impossible chasm between all of us and God. It may benefit us somewhat to spend more time looking at the chasm than the hair that separates us as humans.
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Job 40:15-24

15 “Look at Behemoth,
which I made along with you
and which feeds on grass like an ox.
16 What strength it has in its loins,
what power in the muscles of its belly!
17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
its limbs like rods of iron.
19 It ranks first among the works of God,
yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
20 The hills bring it their produce,
and all the wild animals play nearby.
21 Under the lotus plants it lies,
hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
the poplars by the stream surround it.
23 A raging river does not alarm it;
it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
or trap it and pierce its nose?
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The rest of the speech is taken up with a description of “behemoth (40:15-24), and “leviathan (41:1-34). I assume that these are most likely literal, rather than mythical, creatures since they are observable and because the rest of the God’s questions deal with real animals.

There has been much speculation and many suggestions about the identity of these creatures, with the most likely being the hippopotamus and crocodile, respectively.

The descriptions of both are filled with hyperbole: “he drinks  up a river” (40:23); “a flame goes out of his mouth (41:21), compare the earlier hyperbolic description of the horse in 39:19-25.

The point of referring to these animals is this: if Job cannot master just two marvels of physical strength within God’s creation, how can he expect to stand as a combatant humbly and trusting in a God who knows infinitely more than he.

Behemoth is a generic term used commonly in the Old Testament for large cattle or land animals, the description in this passage suggests an extraordinary creature, the hippopotamus as a result of the details in the passage (verses 19-24).

However, the short tail of a hippo is hardly consistent with verse 17, where tail could be translated “trunk”. It could refer to an elephant, who could be considered “first” or chief of God’s creatures whom only He can control (verse 19). Some believe God is describing a dinosaur.

The word is a transliteration of a Hebrew word that means “super-beast”. No person could contend with such a creature. So how could Job pretend to be God’s equal when he could not even control what God had created?

The word in Hebrew is really the natural plural of behēmāh, which means domestic cattle. And this fact would suggest the idea that more than one animal may be meant in the description (Job 40:15-24).

There is a word in Coptic (p-ehe-emmou, meaning water-ox), used for the hippopotamus, which may, perhaps, lie concealed in behemoth. Then the difficulty is to make the description answer throughout to the hippopotamus (e.g., Job 40:20), since the hippopotamus does not frequent mountains, neither does it exactly eat grass like an ox (Job 40:15).

But the hippo behaves as God describes. It is a large animal that lives near the river. It is strong (verse 16). It eats plants (verse 15). It is not cruel to other animals (verse 20). And the hippo can swim (verse 23)

Verse 24 suggests that it would be difficult to snare him. It would be almost impossible if he saw you coming. He would fight with his nose. This would be true of either the elephant or the hippopotamus.

Whatever the animal is supposed to be whether a dinosaur, hippopotamus, elephant or some mythical creature it is something of an impressive beast that has great strength and would be fascinating to observe.

Job does not even measure up to that and yet God created it and controls it!

Job 35

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Job 35:1-8
35 Then Elihu said:
2 “Do you think this is just?
You say, ‘I am in the right, not God.’
3 Yet you ask him, ‘What profit is it to me,
and what do I gain by not sinning?’
4 “I would like to reply to you
and to your friends with you.
5 Look up at the heavens and see;
gaze at the clouds so high above you.
6 If you sin, how does that affect him?
If your sins are many, what does that do to him?
7 If you are righteous, what do you give to him,
or what does he receive from your hand?
8 Your wickedness only affects humans like yourself,
and your righteousness only other people.
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This section is introduced with the Hebrew word vaya‛an. The translation being “And he answered”; the word “answer” being used, as it is often in the Scriptures, to indicate the commencement of a discourse.

This leads me to believe that Elihu had paused at the close of his second discourse, possibly with a view to see whether there was any inclination to reply.

In the next 16 verses we read that Elihu continues to address Job’s complaints, first of all his thinking that there appeared to be no advantage to being righteous (verse 3), which Job had said, as recorded in 21:15 and 34:9.

The first part of his answer is that Job gained nothing by sinning or not sinning because God was so high that nothing men do affects Him (verses 5-7). It only affects other men (verse 8). Job had also complained that God did not answer his prayers when he cried under this oppression (see 24:12:30:20). Elihu rather harshly gave 3 reasons why Job’s prayers had not been heard: pride (verses 10, 12), wrong motives (verse 13) and lack of patient trust (verse 14).

In other words, Job appeared to be saying, ‘God does not care whether a man is innocent or not. I thought that God would help me because of my good deeds. But in fact, I am suffering as an evil person deserves to suffer. So when I did these good deeds, I was wasting my time.’

Elihu disagreed. He felt that this was a foolish and stupid attitude.
It would be overly simplistic to suggest that if we do what is right then we will avoid suffering because God will bless us and at the same time it would be dismissive to suggest that God does not care whether we do things his way or not.

God in his infinite wisdom designed the universe and formed us in his own image. He knows what works and what doesn’t work. It is an act of love to give us a way of living that fulfils our design. His desire is that life goes well and our relationship with him flourishes and is expressed by our own will and desire …otherwise it would not be a relationship at all.

On the other hand to do right and avoid suffering would assume that everyone in all of human history would make the right choices and live by their design which of course is not what has happened, In fact we have all asserted our own will and made a decision to be the God of our own lives and that extrapolates out causing a ripple effect down the corridors of time and across all humanity in the present moment as well as setting a flawed template for the future.

This is our predicament today and was the predicament in Job’s day. The good news is that plan goes beyond the immediate, the here and now and at a certain point in human history he made a very personal intervention in the form of Jesus and as a result the possibility of a complete rebuild occurs in every individual’s life and the eternal plan remains a possibility for all that will accept it.
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Job 35:9-13
9 “People cry out under a load of oppression;
they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful.
10 But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
who gives songs in the night,
11 who teaches us more than he teaches the beasts of the earth
and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?’
12 He does not answer when people cry out
because of the arrogance of the wicked.
13 Indeed, God does not listen to their empty plea;
the Almighty pays no attention to it.

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In Job 24:1-12, Job had spoken and complained about the lack of justice for the oppressed,  Elihu reasoned that the oppressed may not truly cry out to God but rather just complain about their situation. That their true desire was not God but was pain relief or relief from their oppression and perhaps his thought was that this was the case for Job.

The question to ask myself here is am I seeking the presence of God or am I seeking for my life to go well? This can often be the dilemma of the journey to faith and we can be so easily be confused or deluded about that. Of course there are benefits to walking faithfully but there are also challenges and difficulties. It can be a thorny journey. We are called to stand up and stand out, be different and the result of that can be a world that is set against us. There are no guarantees that life will go well or our suffering will cease. We are equipped perhaps to handle these things with perspective because the true blessing is the presence of God in our lives.
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Job 35:14-16

14 How much less, then, will he listen
when you say that you do not see him,
that your case is before him
and you must wait for him,
15 and further, that his anger never punishes
and he does not take the least notice of wickedness.
16 So Job opens his mouth with empty talk;
without knowledge he multiplies words.”
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Elihu’s assessment on the situation was that God had gone easy on Job. He had not experienced the full weight of his anger and God had in fact overlooked Job’s foolish words.

Job was not expressing gratitude. Instead, he was constantly arguing that he himself was innocent. He was constantly insisting that God should help him. Job was acting as if God deserved blame for Job’s troubles. Whilst his suffering was great he appeared to be in a state of self pity.

In all of the various discourses within the book of Job we find an ongoing wrestling from all parties about the nature of God, the character of God and judgment of each other. Not much has changed in believing circles over the years. Elihu and Job’s other friends had all spoken elements of truth about God and his ways as well getting a few things wrong but often they were delivered in an insensitive way that did not help Job move forward. The question in my mind is this:Is it more important to be right? or is it more important to be effective?

Being effective is not compromising the truth it’s just emphasising the truth in a way it can be heard. In the past there are many times I can recount where being right was more important but if others cannot hear it because of the way it’s delivered then of what value is it?

Job 34

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Job 34:1-4

Then Elihu said:
2 “Hear my words, you wise men;
listen to me, you men of learning.
3 For the ear tests words
as the tongue tastes food.
4 Let us discern for ourselves what is right;
let us learn together what is good.
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Elihu addressed Job and his accusers. His approach was to quote Job directly (verses 5-9), then respond to his complaints, but at times he misinterpreted Job’s remarks, and at other times he put the words of the accusers in Job’s mouth. The most obvious example was in saying that Job claimed to be sinless and perfect (verse 6). Job however, acknowledged his sin (7:21; 13:26).

Like everyone else in the story, Elihu was not aware that God had pronounced Job innocent (1:8; 2:3). In answer to Job’s complaints that God seemed unjust, Elihu reminded Job that God was too holy to do anything wrong (verse 10), he was in fact … fair (verses 11-12), powerful (verses 13-14), just (verses 17-18), impartial (verses 19-20), omniscient (verses 21-22), the supreme judge (verse 23), and the Sovereign who does what He wills (verses 24-30).

34:1 – 35:16: In chapter 34:1 through to 35:16. Elihu answers two arguments crucial to Job’s position. First, against Job’s charge that God has wrongly afflicted an innocent man. Elihu answers that God’s absolute sovereignty (34:13-15) and omniscience (34:21-28) ensure His justice. 

Second, against Job’s position that righteousness does not bring about the blessings of life and divine favour, Elihu answers that neither sin nor righteousness cause any change in God (35:5-7). Further, Job has denied the teaching value of suffering (35:11), and has failed to have his prayers answered because they are vain (35:13).

The opening four verses usher in the following discourse …

Elihu heard the other men’s arguments. They all insisted that they were wise. They were however fixed on their own opinions and there’s little evidence that any of them would consider the opinions of Job or each other. Elihu either makes a genuine or perhaps sarcastic appeal that they reason together and listen to each other.

Although the text has mentioned only four people up to this point, the fact that Elihu was silent until chapter 32 is perhaps indicative that others were now present, and Elihu was making his appeal to a larger group of men.

Elihu now appears to have an air of arrogance as he calls them to pay attention to his words.

The words he uses seem to be great sentiments but in context perhaps quite condescending being presented by such a young man addressing his elders.

He had corrected Job for judging, and now he said that he and these other men would judge this matter for themselves. It seems quite bold.
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Job 34:5-15

5 “Job says, ‘I am innocent,
but God denies me justice.
6 Although I am right,
I am considered a liar;
although I am guiltless,
his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’
7 Is there anyone like Job,
who drinks scorn like water?
8 He keeps company with evildoers;
he associates with the wicked.
9 For he says, ‘There is no profit
in trying to please God.’
10 “So listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
11 He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
12 It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.
13 Who appointed him over the earth?
Who put him in charge of the whole world?
14 If it were his intention
and he withdrew his spirit and breath,
15 all humanity would perish together
and mankind would return to the dust.
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Elihu took issue with Job’s protests of innocence. He was saying that Job’s words sounded like the words of the wicked. He was not saying that Job was evil but he was actually arguing that it is better to be evil than to be good. His words seemed as if he was dismissive of God.

In verses 10-15 Elihu emphasises some basic truths. He appears to use rhetorical amplification and uses a lot of words that do not add anything that has not already been said.

That said, these are important tenet’s to cling to and reminders that there is another explanation for Job’s suffering to the suggestion that he is being punished by God for his sin or that God himself is unjust and unfair or cruel.
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Job 34:16-30

16 “If you have understanding, hear this;
listen to what I say.
17 Can someone who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn the just and mighty One?
18 Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’
and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’
19 who shows no partiality to princes
and does not favour the rich over the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands?
20 They die in an instant, in the middle of the night;
the people are shaken and they pass away;
the mighty are removed without human hand.
21 “His eyes are on the ways of mortals;
he sees their every step.
22 There is no deep shadow, no utter darkness,
where evildoers can hide.
23 God has no need to examine people further,
that they should come before him for judgment.
24 Without inquiry he shatters the mighty
and sets up others in their place.
25 Because he takes note of their deeds,
he overthrows them in the night and they are crushed.
26 He punishes them for their wickedness
where everyone can see them,
27 because they turned from following him
and had no regard for any of his ways.
28 They caused the cry of the poor to come before him,
so that he heard the cry of the needy.
29 But if he remains silent, who can condemn him?
If he hides his face, who can see him?
Yet he is over individual and nation alike,
30     to keep the godless from ruling,
from laying snares for the people.
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The Hebrew words shift from the plural to the singular here, as Elihu shifts his attention away from the friends and back to Job. This time, Elihu declares that an unjust God is unthinkable, because if God was unjust, He could not be God and everything would fall apart. God is a God of order and not a God of chaos!

Abraham’s question in Genesis 18:5 springs to mind…”Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Elihu said, “if it was dangerous to levy such an accusation to an imperfect earthly king, how much more dangerous was it to say to the Creator of the universe?”

God is the author of life he chooses life and death without any respect for an individual’s position or station in life.

God’s sovereignty is key to our worldview. He is either fully God or not God at all.
·     Pilate thought that he had power over Jesus. But Jesus replied that Pilate’s power came from God – John 19:10-11.
·     When King Nebuchadnezzar did not give honour to God, he became mentally ill. For 7 years, he behaved like an animal. Other men ruled his country. But then Nebuchadnezzar became humble. He praised God. And God appointed Nebuchadnezzar to be king again (Daniel chapter 4).
·     King Herod died a horrific death soon after he refused to give honour to God (Acts 12:21-23).

God is the judge of every person who is established on earth as a power and authority.

Elihu defended God against Job’s criticism that God was neglectful and absent.

He asserts that the omniscience of God is a security against his acting unjustly. He knows exactly each man’s powers, capacities, temperament, temptations, and circumstances, and will deal with all of it without partiality or prejudice.

God knows everything man does, thinks, and even is. He knows the heart and motives of every individual that ever was, is and will be!

We may flatter ourselves, or cheat others, by covering our wicked actions with plausible pretences and professions. But we cannot deceive God, nor keep our hearts and ways from his sight. It’s a scary thought when applied to ourselves but a comforting thought that gives security when applied to others.

Bottom line is that though we try, we cannot hide from God (Psalm 139:11-12). I spent most of 2015 running from God and of course he caught up with me and brought everything crashing down around me. It was in my best interests even though my immediate reaction was one of self pity. 

Over time he helped me unpack that and unravel it all. Amazing. He knew the reaction I would had and he chose the perfect moment. Any sooner and he may have got a response but it would not have been wholehearted and any later it would have been too late … I would have perhaps been unresponsive or in oblivion due to the path of self destruction that I was on.
God’s knowledge is not skewed like human knowledge. He judges with perfect wisdom and perfect precision. (Psalm 139:1-4).

Verse 23 is not referring to the judgment of the last days, but is more about the general accountability toward God that man experiences on a daily basis. The point Elihu made was that God did not need to go through all of the routine of examination and cross examination of the court to get to the sentence. God knows our works (34:25).

Even though this was not spoken directly to Job, it was a derogatory statement made about Job. He was saying that Job was wrong in asking God to consider his situation.

Job had been hugely influential. He had in fact, most likely been a judge. Elihu and Job’s so-called friends, probably would like to take Job’s place as judge. They were all jealous of Job. Elihu said that God had destroyed Job to set one of them up as governor.

He had made a true statement that God rules the earth by elevating one man to be a ruler and tearing another down. 

However, he was misunderstanding the situation of Job’s case.

In Job’s culture, a judge would select a day when he would act as judge. Everyone who needed the judge’s help would wait for that day. On the appointed day, they could go to his court. The judge would then preside over the issues that were presented before him and make decisions.

Job knew that God was a judge. But Job thought that God’s servants were waiting in vain (Job 24:1). Job thought that God may never select a day to act as judge. He was impatient in this respect.

Elihu did not agree. He explained that God is much better than any human judge. God is always acting to help us. He does not need to select a date. He does not even need to ask questions. He already knows our deeds and he will judge when he is ready, choosing exactly the right moment.
Job spoke about poor people who cried to God. Job thought that God would not help them (Job 24:10-12).

Elihu did not agree. God heard their cries. And God will act to help them at the time when he decides. He will punish their cruel rulers. And he will appoint new rulers.

Elihu was saying that Job had offended the poor and the afflicted. This was the exact opposite of the truth. Job had been the champion of the poor and the afflicted.

But God does not always stop the rule of evil men immediately. Sometimes he allows evil men to rule nations. God uses it all in his ultimate purpose. We are called to pray in such situations (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Our calling is not to complain but to pray, trust God, be supportive of our rulers but ultimately obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19).

Most of the statements that Elihu was making, were the same statements Job had made himself. Job was not only aware that these things were wrong, but had made absolutely sure that he was not guilty of any of these things. Job was not a hypocrite
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Job 34:31-33

31 “Suppose someone says to God,
‘I am guilty but will offend no more.
32 Teach me what I cannot see;
if I have done wrong, I will not do so again.’
33 Should God then reward you on your terms,
when you refuse to repent?
You must decide, not I;
so tell me what you know.
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The battle that Job and his friends had and the battle that we have is that we think we set the terms on issues of what can best be described as crime and punishment. The problem is that we barely know anything and have a very limited view first of all of the incident itself and more importantly of the heart of the person committing the crime and the heart of the victim, we also fail to see the consequential damage and ripple effect through all of humanity and our environment. 

God however sees everything with absolute clarity and the more I dig into Job the more I am convinced that we know remarkably little and that we are in no place to question how God will deal with stuff. All I have in my arsenal is that whilst I will do my best in my limitations to do what is right there is absolutely no point speculating why things happen or don’t happen. It’s really not my business.
Job complained that God did not act immediately to punish (Job 24:1). Elihu also spoke about this subject in Job 33:27-28.

God will not be regulated in His dealings by what men may think. He does not consult men. He decides the extent and the limits of his discipline, he chooses the timing and he knows the perfect time to snuff out the life of a man. He sees every knock on effect of everything. Our view is extremely limited.

The three friends and Elihu tried to get Job to say that the chastisement from God was because of some sin he had committed. They wanted him to ask God to forgive him. Job knew of no sin that he had committed. He could not ask for forgiveness, without knowing what he had done wrong.

Job had already asked God to reveal to him where he had failed. Job was a man of a pure heart.

Elihu believed that Job wanted God to listen to him and do it his way. He also was saying that it would not matter what Job wanted, God would do deal with it on his own terms and Joel was in no position to dictate terms. God would not be influenced by anyone’s explanation. Elihu wanted Job to answer this. It seems that Elihu wanted to control Job and his response in some way.

I remember when I was beginning to come to my senses, several people had fairly strong opinions about what repentance would look like for me and how I should deal with stuff. I was quite resistant at the time and was told by one brother that I was putting everything on my terms and life is not like that. I felt I was right in dealing with it the way I chose to deal with it because always I had pandered to other people’s whims and I wanted to deal with things thoroughly and with authenticity. 

Was it on my terms? Yes, I think it was. There was no model or precedent to imitate. This was the first time our church in London had seen such a dramatic high profile falling from grace. To this day I think I took the best action dealing with it in the way that I did. I had to get comfortable or least comfortable with the discomfort of being misunderstood.

Is this how God would have wanted me to deal with stuff? Should I have thrown myself at the mercy of the congregation, or was it best to have the one to one conversations with people over a period of time, removing myself from the fellowship and reconnecting with individuals on a personal level? I think I chose best but either way could have been acceptable to God.

The point is that we sometimes want to control people’s responses for whatever reason and we try to play God when God is perfectly okay at playing God himself. He has been doing it a lot longer than we have and he has never made a mistake in his entire existence. Speaking for myself, I have made more than a handful of mistakes & erroneous judgments about the heart and motives others. It’s just not pretty!
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Job 34:34-37

34 “Men of understanding declare,
wise men who hear me say to me,
35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge;
his words lack insight.’
36 Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost
for answering like a wicked man!
37 To his sin he adds rebellion;
scornfully he claps his hands among us
and multiplies his words against God.”
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After a promising start, Elihu concluded that Job was guilty because he expressed anger and frustration against God rather than maintaining a posture of repentance and silence.

Job’s wrestling was labelled as rebellion by Elihu. Whilst Job’s friends have charged him with being a wicked man, Elihu stopped short of this but could not accept his position or his wrestling with God. He took a rather religious position.

This rather pious stance failed to recognise the authenticity and honesty in Job’s wrestling but misjudged it as rebellion. 

 

Job 32

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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.
————————————————
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.
————————————————-

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.

—————————————————-

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.

————————————————


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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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,
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.’
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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.

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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.
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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.