Psalm 1

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So we begin this excursion into the book of praises. In terms of my own personal spiritual recovery this was the first book that got me back into reading the Bible. I will be going through my original notes from 2015 and building from them as well as providing the historic and cultural framework of the Psalms. Hopefully my personal journey through them will add something helpful in your own connection with scripture.

A quick reminder from the introduction notes. Psalm 1 focuses on how blessed a person is who meditates on the Torah, prayerfully reading it day and night and then obeying it.

Torah means teaching. It is also the name used to categorise the first five books of the Old Testament (also known as the books of Moses).
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Psalm 1
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
 and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
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This wisdom psalm is a helpful introduction to the book of Psalms. It summarises in a few verses the message of the Bible and the fate of man in relation to God. (Jeremiah 17:5-8 gives us a significant parallel). By two cycles of contrast, Psalm 1 separates all people into their respective spiritual categories:

  1. A picture of the Godly (1:1-3).
  2. A Picture of the Ungodly (1:4).
  3. The outcome of the chosen way to live (1:5-6).

The word “blessed” means “inward joy is theirs” (Matthew 5:3-12). An exclamation of strong emotion, it results from deep reflection on a subject. The psalmist paints a picture of the gravitational pull of evil.

From the perspective of the individual, this is a deep-seated joy and contentment in God; from the perspective of the believing community, it refers to redemptive favour (see Deuteronomy 27:11 – 28:6).

So a person is blessed if they do not allow themselves to be influenced or be in the company of people who will inevitably pull them astray. Instead their focus is to meditate on the law of the Lord, to think about and reflect on a life that is worth living. To show self control and be proactive and intentional about living the kind of life that pleases God rather than reactive, acting on impulse as a result of what is going on around them.

It is interesting that Jesus’ sermon on the mount also opens with the word “blessed”

Notice the progression in verse 1. At first, he is walking, then he is standing, then last he is sitting. This demonstrates the progression of influence. First we walk with and all within the time frame of one verse we find ourselves sitting and investing time with those whose agenda is not driven by being with God but rather one of selfish pursuit.

The contrast is asserted that the man who is blessed instead of walking, standing and eventually sitting with the ungodly he invests his heart and time into knowing God, walking with God, standing with God and sitting with God allowing God to be his primary influencer rather than men who will lead him astray.

Because of the mostly arid terrain of Israel, a lush tree served as a fitting symbol of blessing in the Old Testament. The image here is of a “tree” nourished by the constant supply of water from the river. The Hebrew word suggests the attributes of strength, stability, and endurance.

The same qualities are on offer for the man who is rooted in scripture and draw strength from it for their lives (Jeremiah 17:8). Those who are deeply “planted” in God’s Word will be fruitful in life.

We are then given an abrupt contrast in verse 4,  “Not so the wicked!”

“Chaff” is a word that describes the leftovers from the harvest which were unsubstantial, without value, and worthy only to be discarded. usually the chaff would either blow away in the wind or be burned.

We know that the chaff grows with the wheat until harvest time. The chaff is destroyed, and the wheat is carried into the barn. The ungodly live around the godly in this world, but at harvest time there is a separation.

To “stand in the judgement” of God is a desired outcome here, a symbol of divine approval. “assembly of the righteous” refers to God’s people, those whose faith is reflected by their delight in God’s Word (1:2), and who live according to it.

In the day of judgement, the wicked will not be left standing with those who love God and strive to obey Him; they will be separated like the chaff.

Charles Spurgeon the influential preacher put it like this…

“The righteous carves his name upon the rock, but the wicked writes his remembrance in the wind. The righteous man ploughs furrows of earth and sows, and has a harvest here, which shall never be fully reaped until he enters the enjoyments of eternity. But as for the wicked, he ploughs the sea, and though there may seem to be a shining trail behind his keel, yet the waves shall pass over it, and the place that knew him shall know him no more forever”.

I read this Psalm on August 1st 2015, two days after arriving back in London. I had decided two days earlier that I was going to put everything on the table. Come home and face the consequences of my deceit, theft, affairs, sexual immorality, cruelty and everything that I had hidden from my family and closest friends in recent years.

I was mindful of Jacob the deceiver wrestling with an angel all night and asserting that he would not let him go unless he would be blessed. By daybreak he walked with a limp because of an injury to his hip due to the wrestling, he bore the scars of the fight but he was sufficiently changed. His name was changed to Israel which means “He wrestles with God”. I had been heading for the abyss of destruction in life and left a trail of carnage behind me. This was the turning point.

To be honest I was licking my wounds a bit and self pity still dominated but God allowed me to get to a desperate enough place to at least bring it all into the open. So two days into at least attempting to be in my right mind here’s a snippet of what I wrote having read that Psalm.
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“As I read it (Psalm 1), I did not really connect with the Psalm. There was almost an “I know this already” about me. It felt like religious words. It did not really touch my heart. I look at my summary above and there is something that stirs inside me. It’s not a big stirring but maybe just a connection with the reality of what I have done. In many ways it seems surreal. I don’t feel the connection because I was not privy to the effect of my actions on others in the moment. I was too self consumed. My oldest daughters text from when I absconded to Germany gave me a glimpse. I contrast that with what she wrote in my father’s day card or my birthday card and its hard to believe it is the same person. I am tearful. In some ways it is not the same person. I have done something that has caused something to die inside of her. That saddens me.

In a more poignant way my wife asked me in an email if I had taken her Oyster card when in the house. I really hadn’t and she was wrestling with the fact that she would even question me. She wrote these words in a following email:

“This has been a really hard day because of what that thought triggered for me. Of course  I am glad you did not take it but it is really beside the point. The fact is there was a time when I trusted you 150% and now that is replaced with mistrust and it is really devastating. This is going to happen often now. I could not tell you, and maybe I won’t always tell you. But this is so hard because my nature is to trust and you took advantage of that. I have been very strong, I know that. But today I am weak. Today I hurt and cannot stop crying.”

I wrote an apology. I genuinely was not hurt because she accused me. I was deeply saddened for breaking something in her that is a great quality. I cried about it a lot yesterday. “Love always trusts” has died in my wife because of me. She was always the most trusting person I knew, some might say that she was naive but she always took me at my word. Something I never deserved.

I had a good phone call with a friend. I talked through my day which I think I wasted I stayed pretty much the whole day in Tesco car park. It was a bit soul destroying, going through papers, resting, reading and trying to keep my phone charged from the car battery. My friend said that from my email it was good that I am beginning to be honest but a lot of self pity came through. I agreed and I really want to fight the self pity and find a way forward. I am not sure how exactly.

I went on a prayer walk along the Roding River which was a favourite prayer walk for myself and my wife when we were first married. For the first few minutes I could barely get words out. I cried mostly. I found enough in me to have a meaningful conversation about wanting to find my way and to walk with God.

I slept well last night though my back hurts from sleeping at a strange angle. I don’t mind sleeping in the car. The hardest thing is not being able to organise my space, my clothes, my documents .. I really miss being organised. Sleeping in Tesco’s car park is a bit scary, there are drinkers and drug users about. I have had to park discretely near the skips. At least I have access to a toilet as the store is open 24 hours.”
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My journey into this darkness began with walking with the wicked, then standing with them finally sitting (and sleeping with them). Two years on from my meltdown I see it with such clarity. I thought I knew it before. I know my problem with lust and I know that some of the other issues that are bound up in my ego are ever present and I am always one decision away from walking with the wicked. I can only ever make a decision for today but two years of daily decisions of walking with God have kept me in a good place.

More reflections from my journal that day…
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Having worked in the addiction recovery field for almost 3 years during my meltdown I wondered if indeed I had some kind of addiction. Now I believe that we are all addicted to something or even multiple things. It’s just a way of explaining how we plug what is essentially a spiritual void with something that is of this world. Of course it doesn’t meet that need. It doesn’t quench that thirst or satisfy. It promises to deliver something that it cannot possibly deliver.

What is my addiction? I don’t really know what it is or if it really is an addiction but I do know it has the effects and impact of an addiction. Maybe it’s an addiction to attention but I am not so sure. I know the bottom line of it is that I am resisting knowing and accepting the real me because I feel inadequate, not good enough, not normal. I barely even see it but I know it’s there.

I can think of it most easily in terms of how things were in the relationships I had. I know there were many more that I wrote to in whatsapp and Facebook and gave some hope, created something.

I know I was powerless, perhaps I still am powerless. I know that my life became unmanageable. Everything seemed contained when I was living the double life but towards the end I had a compulsion to act at every opportunity and a mental obsession that took all of my head space. I noticed in the last few weeks that I was less focused at work and at home to the point I was not really achieving anything in a day. My responsibilities at home would go unmet and I was there but absent. This had been noticed by the whole family.

I know that to continue this way is not the answer. I know that the problem is bigger and stronger than me and that I can only do this with God.

I know that I would not drink poison even if I don’t know much about the chemistry and the biological impact of drinking poison. If I saw something labelled poison I would not drink it because most likely I would die.

This life I have been living had poison labelled all over it. It’s what the Bible calls sin. It’s the lawlessness of man when he chooses to trust his own instincts over what God his designer says is good for him. It is a mistrust of God, a decision that says I don’t trust that you will meet my needs God, I don’t trust that you have my best interests at heart. It’s a decision that says “I always have my best interests at heart” so I will trust me.

I am powerless to indulge in this kind of life successfully without it having a negative impact. Okay I could do it for a while and the negative things were subtle but now ….

The Spiritual impact is carnage. My connection with God, my connection with my family and my connection with my community is destroyed.

Was this obsession making me more of the person I want to be or less the person I want to be? I try to take an inventory.

I know the right answer to this. The honest answer is that I don’t know. I do know that I don’t want a double life, I do know that I want to be honest, I do know that I want to live without the need for attention or affirmation. I think I want to walk with God but on the other hand I don’t want to be religious. I think I can only do this with God.

The social impact of this is devastating. It has changed my relationships. I am isolated, alone …it has destroyed my wife’s capacity to trust. My children don’t speak with me. My dad is very cold towards me, I am sure that there are many people who are angry with me.

I lost my job as a result of stealing money to support this lifestyle. The idea that I committed a crime was unimaginable a few years ago.

I might feel physically okay at the moment but I am sure that staying like this for a while will have a negative effect. I don’t get to shower as often as I would like, I don’t eat regularly and when I do its not the healthy balanced way I have been eating the last few years. I don’t get to work out.

Financially I have caused a whirlwind of destruction both personally and for the family. The possibility of losing the house is not out of the question. The financial impact on the family is catastrophic. I am perhaps £70,000 in debt including the money that I stole.

The emotional destruction is intense. I can’t begin to scratch the surface with that. I get glimpses when my wife or someone else expresses something to me.

Hiding things became my habit. I hid everything. Our financial situation, my online life, the post, how I was really feeling, my entire world became secret.

I think the honest answer is that this obsession is not drawing me closer to the real me but neither was the religious framework with which I was living.

I know I need to discover internal motivation and not be affected so much by external things.

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Reading those words now make me think about the fact that even the religious system can be the addiction that some people have. It’s a challenging dilemma. On the one hand we don’t want to walk with the wicked because we know where that leads and on the other hand we can create a man made system for doing good which leads us down another dark alley. We are broken, we are flawed and we are a mess.

God on the other hand promises us something that is unattainable by human effort. It is what we are seeking and hoping for. It is found at source in him. It is not found in other people at all. I am not denying the power, the importance and the necessity of community…how on earth are we going to love one another if we are not living close enough to others to intentionally practice that command? How are we going to forgive one another as God commands if we are not living within close enough proximity that we will offend each other?

The answer as far as I can make out is not bound up in religious systems or culture or organisational endeavours of the church but rather rooted in walking with, standing with and sitting with God and then the possibilities of how this works in community can be explored.

Job 42

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Job 42:1-6

42 Then Job replied to the Lord:

2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

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Job’s response appears to have been immediate, humble and repentant. Still without the answers that he was wrestling with and still in his suffering but his attitude was different and heart was responsive,

He was not confessing the sins that Eliphaz and his other friends accused him of, presumably he was innocent of such misjudgements but rather this was a dispute with God about his justice.

Job recognised God’s sovereignty, his ultimate goodness and felt extreme disappointment with himself for lacking faith that his hand was at work in his present suffering.

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Job 42:7-8
Epilogue

7 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”

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These verses seem strange. Job’s friends were wrong in their approach but were at times theologically on point, there doesn’t appear to me too much to differentiate their behaviour with Job’s behaviour and it may appear that they all deserved the same punishment.

Job is identified as a servant of God. A servant is someone who carries out his master’s work. Job was in some way identified as carrying out God’s work (Job 29:14). Acting on behalf of God !

Job was already God’s servant when his suffering began (Job 1:8). And Job was still God’s servant during his trials (Job 2:3). In verses 7-8, God emphasised 4 times that Job was God’s servant.

In the culture of the day there was a special relationship between a servant and his master. Someone who insulted a servant was also insulting the servant’s master. See Mark 12:1-9. A master would try to punish the person who insulted his servant. The master would feel that the person was insulting the master’s own honour.

In 2 Kings 2:23-24, some youths insulted Elisha. It was as if they were insulting God himself. Bears came from the wood and attacked the youths. If the youths had insulted an ordinary man, who was not a servant of God such a terrible thing may not have happened. But Elisha was acting on behalf of God.

Eliphaz said that Job was evil (Job 22:5). This would be a stupid thing to say about any innocent person. But Job was a servant of God. So Eliphaz’s stupid words were insulting God.

A servant’s primary responsibility was to be loyal to his master. Job did all that he could to be loyal to God. He maintained that loyalty when he heard his wife’s foolish advice to curse God and die (Job 2:9-10). Job did not blame God in chapter 3.

Job’s friends accused Job. His friends arguments led him into a path of blaming God in order to maintain his own innocence. Their poor stewardship of the situation had led Job into this dark place.

So God was angry with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.

God could have punished Job’s friends. But instead, God wanted to forgive them. So God told them to kill some animals. Then, they should burn the animals as gift to God. The animals would suffer the punishment that the friends deserved.

This later became a pattern of life for his people. God often wanted such sacrifice to give a physical demonstration of his punishment and mercy. Ultimately Jesus became the sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-10).

Job prayed for the friends because he was God’s servant. So Job was able to pray on behalf of his friends. This also was a shadow of what was to come, first through the priesthood and later through Christ himself (Hebrews 2:17, 4:14).

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Job 42:9
9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
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In the preceding verses Eliphaz is told to get seven bulls and seven rams and sacrifice them.

The number 7 is used 735 times in the Bible (54 times in the book of Revelation alone). If we include the words ‘sevenfold’ (6) and ‘seventh’ (119), the total jumps to 860 references.

Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). It appears to derive its meaning from being tied directly to God’s creation of all things. According to Jewish tradition, the creation of Adam occurred on October 7th, 3761 B.C. (or the first day of Tishri, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar). The word ‘created’ is used 7 times describing God’s creative work (Genesis 1:1, 21, 27 three times; 2:3; 2:4). There are 7 days in a week and God’s Sabbath is on the 7th day.

The Bible, as a whole, was originally divided into 7 major divisions. They are 1) the Law; 2) the Prophets; 3) the Writings, or Psalms; 4) the Gospels and Acts; 5) the General Epistles; 6) the Epistles of Paul; and 7) the book of Revelation. The total number of originally inspired books was forty-nine, or 7 x 7, demonstrating the absolute perfection of the Word of God.

There are at least seven men in the Old Testament who are specifically mentioned as a man of God. They are Moses (Joshua 14:6), David (2Chronicles 8:14), Samuel (1Samuel 9:6, 14), Shemaiah (1Kings 12:22), Elijah (1Kings 17:18), Elisha (2Kings 5:8) and Igdaliah (Jeremiah 35:4).

In the book of Hebrews, written by the apostle Paul, he uses seven titles to refer to Christ. The titles are ‘Heir of all things’ (Hebrews 1:2), ‘Captain of our salvation’ (2:10), ‘Apostle’ (3:1), ‘Author of salvation’ (5:9), ‘Forerunner’ (6:20), ‘High Priest’ (10:21) and the ‘Author and finisher of our faith’ (12:2).

Job’s friends obeyed God, they went to Job and asked his aid and interposition, and obtained it. The Lord accepted Job in this intermediary priest type role. Job is therefore a type of Christ, not merely in his sufferings, but also as mediator for his friends who had so completely misjudged him and misunderstood him.

Their only chance of being forgiven was for Job to accept them and pray to God for them. God had already accepted Job. They knew they must go to Job in humility, having rejected him already. This had to be one of the hardest things they had ever done.
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Job 42:10-15
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

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Job prayed for his friends which is evidence that there was no longer any bitterness towards them. He forgave them and God forgave him. God’s restoration was immediate and abundant.

Friends, prosperity, family and long life were all restored to Job.
There was a point in Job’s life when he imagined he would be prosperous and successful all his life and then it was all taken from him. His dominant thought was that he was going to die. He didn’t see his suffering coming and then in the midst of his suffering he had no idea what lay ahead of him.

This is the nature of life and it’s twists and turns. Our footing in life can seem secure but something can come left from centre and pull the rug from under our feet or suddenly we can be escalated into an arena of life that we did not expect or choose.

We have no idea about what may be happening in the spiritual realms that may have an impact on our earthly life.

Job looked after his daughters carefully. Usually only the sons would share the family’s wealth. It is interesting that his daughters are named and his sons are not.

I think the purpose of this text is most likely to inform us about how Job dealt with his girls so that is why their names are mentioned and not the boys.

Possibly, the author wants to draw our attention to two things in the text.

There were no other women in the land as beautiful as Job’s daughters.
According to the Old Testament, the inheritance was only given to the males of the family and not the females. The sons were given an inheritance. The only reason girls were given an inheritance was if there father were to die without having a male heir (Numbers 27:8). If a girl were given an inheritance then she was not allowed to marry anyone other than a man from her father’s tribe. God did not allow the inheritance of one tribe to pass along to another tribe (Numbers 36).
The names have special meanings.

The first daughter’s name is Jemimah = “day by day”

This may have been a reminder to Job that after all of his sufferings he would need to live one day at a time. Keep everything in the day.

The second daughter’s name is: Keziah = “cassia”- a spice; a powdered bark like cinnamon

This spice is also mentioned in Psalm 45:8 “All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia ; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.”

His third daughter was named:

Keren-happuch = “horn of antimony” used by ladies of that time to apply eye cosmetics

The names of the girls, the beauty that is mentioned is perhaps  indicative that the suffering in Job’s life had come to an end.

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Job 42:16-17
16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.
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Tradition says that Job was about 70 when his troubles began which would mean that he would have been about 210 when he died which seems to be about right for the patriarchal period.

After the flood, God said that men would not continue to live for more than 120 years (Genesis 6:3). And Psalm 90:10 says that a normal life is 70 or 80 years.

Because of verse 16 and some traditions or customs that are mentioned in the book, it is believed that Job lived in very ancient times. If so, the Book of Job may be the oldest book that still exists.

There are many lessons that we can draw from this book and it is rather easy to see something of ourselves in Job and an example of our struggle with the fairness and unpredictability of life. It is however less common to think of ourselves as one of the judgemental friends who labelled Job’s struggle and made many assumptions about what was going on and yet that is quite possibly just as significant for most of us (especially those of us that would think of ourselves as religious or having a faith).

It’s something for me to think about. I am most certainly someone who can identify both with Job and his friends. The good news is that all were forgiven and found their connection with God.

That’s the end of my journey into the wisdom literature. I hope that you have found it helpful and insightful. Some of the material has been lifted from my most recent journals since early in 2017.

In my personal studies, journal reflections I am now working my way through the book of Genesis which I am finding incredibly inspiring and encouraging. I look forward to publishing that in my blog at a later date.

Tomorrow, I will begin a new journey into the Psalms. The original reflections on the Psalms began on my recovery journey in the Summer of 2015. I have been rereading my journals from that period and they bring up a lot of stuff for me. A lot of sadness about the darkness I was in and also an appreciation of how God allows us to grow. The Psalms were my anchor in that initial period when I could barely whisper a prayer. I could at least wrestle with the Psalms and learn to pray through them.

After the Psalms I dug into Luke followed by Acts (or Luke the sequel as I like to call it), 1&2 Corinthians, Zephaniah, Nahum & Habakkuk before landing into the wisdom literature. This is a taste of things to come.

My desire is to get through the whole Bible within a 7 year period and from thereon publish an evolving commentary and study series building on the framework that was ignited by my recovery and journey back to some kind of spiritual health.

If you find it helpful or insightful then I thank God that he has made it useful to you as well as me. I hope you will stick with me for this adventure and that we will grow together in our knowledge of God and our faith.

Please note that though I love to write I am not claiming any theological expertise, I have borrowed a lot of material from other sources and rephrased it in my own words and it’s just one mans journey wrestling with himself and God in the light of the scriptures. It’s written with a reasonable level of articulation and grammar in an accessible style that I hope is easy for you to understand and not too academic or pious. It is far from perfect …imagine it as a sketchpad.

Job 41

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Okay, so I know the picture is not a leviathan. Hang in there with it. The picture has some relevance. Besides, the leviathan images I looked at were a bit too influenced by mythology and fantasy animation. 

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Job 41:1-2

41 “Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
2 Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
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One commentary puts it like this:

“Leviathan is a symbol of evil, drawn in part from Ugaritic myths about a fire-breathing sea dragon (Psalms 74:14; 104:26; Isa. 27:1). Dr. Henry Morris points out that the “Leviathan” was evidently the greatest of the marine reptiles or dinosaurs, something like a plesiosaur, perhaps, though modern commentators tend to call it a crocodile.” Ultimately, Leviathan points to Satan, the paragon of evil, whom Yahweh has in control and one day will destroy (e.g., Isa. 27:1; Rev. 20:1-3).”

That seems quite a credible explanation. Most modern translations use the word crocodile and most mainstream commentators will also refer to the crocodile.

The crocodile of course is an animal of great strength and an extremely dangerous animal which cannot be tamed by man and cannot be controlled. The point is that God controls it. He has power and authority over it.

Leviathan is a large sea creature, whose exact identity is unknown.

“Leviathan appears in 4 other Old Testament texts (Job 3:8; Psalms 74:14; 104:26; Isaiah 27:1). In each case Leviathan refers to some mighty creature who can overwhelm man but who is no match for God. Since this creature lives in the sea among ships (Psalm 104:26), some form of sea monster, possibly an ancient dinosaur, is in view.

Some elements of the description match the idea of the crocodile, which had scaly hide (verse 15), terrible teeth (verse 14), and speed in the water (verse 32). But crocodiles are not sea creatures and clearly this one was (verse 31).

Some have speculated that it is a killer whale or a great white shark, because he is the ultimate killer beast over all other proud beasts (verse 34). It could also have been some sea going dinosaur.

Whatever it is, God is speaking of the unlikelihood of catching one on a hook, or of tying his tongue down with a rope.
Job imagined that God was responsible for Job’s troubles. But chapters 1 and 2 explain that, in fact, the accuser called Satan was responsible.

There are some similarities between Satan and Leviathan

· Nobody can control Satan, except God. The same is true of leviathan.

· The devil is a fierce enemy. A crocodile or leviathan never tries to escape from trouble. It does not retreat, its reaction is always to attack.

· A person cannot defeat the devil by his own skills or intelligence. We need divine assistance from God. Even the most skilled experts in reptile behaviour will have trouble restraining the crocodile!

· Satan is filled with pride and arrogance. The crocodile behaves as if it is the proudest animal.

So whether we are talking about some fantastic mythical beast or a crocodile or some other fearsome animal, the point is that there is some comparison to Satan whom man has no power or authority over but God can comfortably restrain and manage.

Job had no place to stand before God and tell him that he was unjust or unfair or ask why all of this happened. In the big scheme of eternity, the heavens and the passages of time …this was trivial stuff even though it was huge and monumental to Job. There really was no case to answer because God knows what he is doing, when he is doing it, how he is doing it and why he is doing it. Everything is for ultimate good and is motivated by his love for his people and his creation.

If our earthly lives are all there is then these questions of Job’s seem justified but we are created to be spiritual beings that will ultimately live eternally with God in harmony with his purposes and his Kingdom.

Satan will do what he will do and many things in life cannot be controlled by human effort. We are not in control even though we think we are.
————————————-

Job 41:3-5

3
Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
4
Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?
5
Can you make a pet of it like a bird
or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
_________________________
The idea of taming or domesticating the leviathan or crocodile is absurd. It is presented here almost as sarcastic. Job is asked if he would have it as a pet !!!
God could control it but Job certainly would have no control over such a beast.
_________________________

Job 41:6-11

6 Will traders barter for it?
Will they divide it up among the merchants?
7 Can you fill its hide with harpoons
or its head with fishing spears?
8 If you lay a hand on it,
you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
9 Any hope of subduing it is false;
the mere sight of it is overpowering.
10 No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
Who then is able to stand against me?
11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.

———————————————
Overpowering the leviathan or crocodile is near to impossible for one man, fishing spears would be ineffective. It would be futile and certainly a man would be worse off for trying. Fighting God is as futile. God has no problem subduing or restraining such a beast but Job wanted to contend with God and question him over his suffering.
———————————————

Job 41:12-17

12 “I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs,
its strength and its graceful form.
13 Who can strip off its outer coat?
Who can penetrate its double coat of armour?
14 Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
ringed about with fearsome teeth?
15 Its back has rows of shields
tightly sealed together;
16 each is so close to the next
that no air can pass between.
17 They are joined fast to one another;
they cling together and cannot be parted.
——————————————
These verses almost certainly describe the crocodile… impenetrable skin, scales, fearsome teeth. God’s variety in creation is amazing and what is even more amazing is how the whole eco system works in perfect balance to sustain life on earth in all of it’s variety and complexity.

——————————————

Job 41:18-21

18 Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
its eyes are like the rays of dawn.
19 Flames stream from its mouth;
sparks of fire shoot out.
20 Smoke pours from its nostrils
as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.
21 Its breath sets coals ablaze,
and flames dart from its mouth.
————————————–
These verses are dense Hebrew poetry and filled with metaphor but it is easy to see why people have been led to believe that God is describing a dragon or some other mythical creature. Unfortunately one of the common misrepresentations of scripture is to misunderstand literary genres. This is poetry and as such it should be read as poetry.

This is a description of something fearsome and unbridled or unleashed out of control and impossible for man to control. The emphasis is that this creature surrenders to God’s ways and is obedient to God’s design.

The variety in God’s design is amazing. It is breath taking. He has described a number of animals in the book of Job. I watched a documentary last night about deep sea creatures in the darkest parts of the ocean. The Mariana trench etc., and some of those seem otherworldly.

The amazing thing is that all of nature is true to it’s design …except us. We decide that we want to live by our own self imagined design and assert our ways over God’s ways and yet God lavishes us with affection.

amazing …

————————————–

Job 41:22-25

22 Strength resides in its neck;
dismay goes before it.
23 The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
they are firm and immovable.
24 Its chest is hard as rock,
hard as a lower millstone.
25 When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
they retreat before its thrashing.
————————————–
The poetic description of the leviathan continues. Our translation doesn’t really do it justice but it captures an image of a fearsome beast whether crocodile or otherwise. Whilst we don’t really get animals in this country that we need to fear too much. Myself and my wife had an encounter with a herd of cows yesterday was quite scary. There was a point of realization where I knew if they ran at us we would not stand a chance and they were definitely not too pleased by our presence.

We went out to the depths of Essex, somewhere near Thaxted and attempted a walk that to be fair we were warned was not very well signposted. We managed to get off track and back on track on a couple of occasions the most notable being a dramatic encounter with some aggressive cows (see attached pic). According to the walk instructions we were to climb over a stile and walk diagonally across the middle of the field to a gated a bridge to reach another bridge and then a peaceful meadow and riverbank. Sounded fantastic and though the field was full of cows, I have never been too bothered about cows as long as you treat them respect and proceed with caution.

However, the cows had another idea as we began our journey towards them. They herded together and began to walk towards us. That’s okay we thought, we would navigate our way around them and keep our distance. They were having none of it. They decided to move rather speedily towards us (as speedily as cows move without looking undignified). They picked up pace a little but perhaps the scariest part of it was their solid conviction in their eyes that either we were going to get out of their field or they were going to fight to the death. These cows meant business. We moved back towards the stile as the cows edged closer towards us, with us scrambling over the stile whilst they were merely feet away. They then stood staring at us by the stile pretty much telling us don’t even try to pass. This is the moment I took the picture.

It was a close shave that took us back to the road and the long walk back to base, adding possibly a good thirty minutes to the walk. We did however have a fantastic time and enjoyed sending the story to the rest of the family on whats app with pictures.

We had the last laugh. I made a corned beef curry last night as we had friends over to eat with us.  

The point is that God has carved out the most amazing detail in creation and every part does it’s work. Crocodiles do a lot to ensure that rivers are clean by eating carcasses of other species and keeping population of other species down they are in some ways guardians of certain rivers ensuring that everything runs smoothly.

There is incredible design in nature. Day to day we might observe a few things that inspire us but the deeper we dig, the level of detail is fascinating.

Yesterday on our walk apart from the cow encounter we saw flowers that we had not seen before and blue dragonflies hanging around stinging nettles … great swarms of them. I also saw a red beetle like creature feeding off the pollen of a large daisy as well as hover flies and other flying things that looked like they were pretending to be wasps. Amazing..

————————————–


Job 41:26-29

26 The sword that reaches it has no effect,
nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
27 Iron it treats like straw
and bronze like rotten wood.
28 Arrows do not make it flee;
slingstones are like chaff to it.
29 A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
it laughs at the rattling of the lance.
—————————————-
All weaponry is completely useless against the leviathan or crocodile. This is a fearsome beast that cannot be overcome by man and his weapons of war. Some commentators have suggested that this is an allegory for Satan. I am not sure that it is, but if it is then it would carry a similar meaning that only God can subdue Satan. Man is powerless against such a force. Satan devours without any fear of man.

—————————————-

Job 41:30-32

30 Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.
31 It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
32 It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
one would think the deep had white hair.
————————————————
The crocodile leaves when it chooses to leave. Nobody can tell it what to do. Its legs are short, so its body leaves a track in the mud.

It stirs the water as it returns to the river. And the crocodile also leaves a track of bubbles (called foam) on the surface of the water.

The beauty and artistry observed in nature is beautiful and awesome when you stop to think about it and pause to contemplate what is happening.

The movement of the leviathan is expressed in a very poetic way here. There is much poetry in nature. It’s important to me to slow down and just take in what is actually happening in a moment. We live life too fast in general.

We talk sometimes about how life would be if civilization collapsed when we are on our walks. It’s something that I think about quite a lot. I am quite certain that although our years would be less in number, time would feel as though it were going more slowly.

————————————————

Job 41:33-34

33 Nothing on earth is its equal—
a creature without fear.
34 It looks down on all that are haughty;
it is king over all that are proud.”

—————————————–
We close the penultimate chapter of the book of Job with the final words of God to Job. He leaves him with much to ponder about the world around him, creation and where he fits into the big scheme of things.

The leviathan or crocodile will bring down the proudest of creatures. You cannot help to look at him with reverence and fear

The words imply, that he is created not to be afraid; he has no dread of others. In this respect he is different from other animals. The Septuagint says, “He is made to be sported with by my angels.”

So God has demonstrated his wisdom and power in the context of creation known to Job.

This wisdom and power of our creator prompts a response of reverence and humility. We don’t understand why God’s providence allows certain events to occur but we have no choice but to accept that they are wisely and justly ordered if we are to accept that God is a God of love and our part is to submit to his divine order of things.

Psalm 104 is similar to Job chapters 38-41. Psalm 104 also describes various animals:

· Psalm 104:11 and Job 39:5-8. These passages are both about the wild donkey

· Psalm 104:18 and Job 39:1-4. These passages are both about the wild goat.

· Psalm 104:26 and Job chapter 41. These passages are both about the crocodile or leviathan.

· Psalm 104:7-9 and Job 38:8-11. These passages both describe how God made a boundary for the sea.

· Psalm 104:21-22 and Job 38:39-40. These passages both describe how God provides food for lions.

There are also other similar passages.

In Job chapters 38-41, God was testing Job (Job 38:3; Job 40:7).

Psalm 104 is like an answer to Job’s test. The Psalm praises God, who did all these things by his wisdom (Psalm 104:24). He will punish wicked and bring about justice in his own way and on his terms (Psalm 104:33-35).

Job 39

Job 39:1-12

39 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?

Do you count the months till they bear?

    Do you know the time they give birth?

They crouch down and bring forth their young;

    their labour pains are ended.

Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;

    they leave and do not return.

“Who let the wild donkey go free?

    Who untied its ropes?

I gave it the wasteland as its home,

    the salt flats as its habitat.

It laughs at the commotion in the town;

    it does not hear a driver’s shout.

It ranges the hills for its pasture

    and searches for any green thing.

“Will the wild ox consent to serve you?

    Will it stay by your manger at night?

10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?

    Will it till the valleys behind you?

11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?

    Will you leave your heavy work to it?

12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain

    and bring it to your threshing floor?

—————————————
The wonders of the animal kingdom are put before Job and further questions that he would have no answer for.

Job had at one point reasoned that God did not really know his situation. The reason that he had not yet been rescued was because perhaps God was unaware. God clearly knows the details of how the complexity of his creation works and he knows the small details of Job’s life.

The diversity of creation is brought to the table. Every animal has it’s own personality and instinct. This is true of each individual human being too, The variety and complexity in creation is astounding,

Jesus taught a lesson in Matthew 10:29-31 that he knows even when one sparrow falls to the ground and that we will not be forgotten, God knows the details of our lives, He knows everything that has shaped us and caused us to act in ignorance and fear. He knows why sin has surfaced in our lives, He understands this and has compassion for our pitiful plight.

In verses 1-12 we read about goats, donkeys and oxen. On the farm these animals are domesticated and managed but here he speaks of wild animals before they are tamed. They behave as God intended them to behave and not to obey the instructions of men.

Wild goats are shy, they live in the mountains. The young goats are not loyal to their mothers, they quickly gain their independence and go off on their own.

A tame donkey is a loyal animal that is easily managed and can carry heavy loads. A wild donkey however is completely different, it will not obey any man’s orders. It is completely unmanageable.

An ox has incredible strength. Job used to own 1000 oxen (Job 1:3), they are very useful in agriculture because of their strength.

I have seen verse 9 translated as unicorn before but the Hebrew word just means an animal with horns. The idea is an animal that cannot easily be domesticated. Ox seems better to convey the idea. It is an animal of great strength. However, it would be of no use to the farmer if it cannot be tamed. It might wander into the fields and instead of being useful to the farmer it would destroy the crops.

A wild ox would be happy to take the crops but instead of taking the crops to the farm house or the barn it would eat the crops itself!

The question being asked of Job and his friends is what do you really know? Who are you to question my ways and my purposes? You have no idea about the complexity of creation and why I have done what I have done or the point of all this. Just be quiet!!!

Good point. I am too quick to lose my gratitude and perspective and act as though all that matters is whatever is in front of my nose. There is a big world out there beyond my needs, my wants, my desires, my issues and problems. 

God is God, I am not!!!

—————————————

Job 39:13-18

13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,     though they cannot compare     with the wings and feathers of the stork. 14 She lays her eggs on the ground     and lets them warm in the sand, 15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,     that some wild animal may trample them. 16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;     she cares not that her labour was in vain, 17 for God did not endow her with wisdom     or give her a share of good sense. 18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,     she laughs at horse and rider.

————————————————-

In his description of the ostrich God lets us know about the diversity in creation. Some animals are created to be wise and clever, others are created with other impressive traits but are not so bright. The Ostrich is a mixture of foolishness and strength. Ostriches have been known to chase horses and scare them off!

The variety in creation is astounding. There are some bizarre creatures out there and some very majestic creatures. The ostrich has wings but does not fly. It runs extremely fast and has incredible strength. Some birds are extremely careful about their eggs and care for their young but ostrich eggs are left in vulnerable places and it does not appear to have any sense of maternal instinct.

—————————————
Job 39:19-25

19 “Do you give the horse its strength     or clothe its neck with a flowing mane? 20 Do you make it leap like a locust,     striking terror with its proud snorting? 21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,     and charges into the fray. 22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;     it does not shy away from the sword. 23 The quiver rattles against its side,     along with the flashing spear and lance. 24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;     it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. 25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’     It catches the scent of battle from afar,     the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

———————————-

From the ostrich we move into a magnificent, vivid picture of the war horse.

A war horse is more fearless than a loyal soldier.

Ostriches are like cowards! They run away from the battle. But army horses do the opposite. They race into the battle.

The Ostrich has physical strength but the horse represents mental strength and courage as well as physical strength.

Man did not give the horse strength, God did.

An army set for battle is set rigid with discipline and focus to hem back the fear that may be felt. The horse however, is impatient and engaging, it cannot stand still, but rises up with his fore feet and paws and prances. it digs the earth and makes it hollow, by a continual striking upon the ground. It feels no fear and has no hesitation.

Horses are not able to reason that they might be going to their own death in battle. They just want to do what horses do. This is the wonder of God’s design.

—————————————
Job 39:26-30

26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom     and spread its wings toward the south? 27 Does the eagle soar at your command     and build its nest on high? 28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;     a rocky crag is its stronghold. 29 From there it looks for food;     its eyes detect it from afar. 30 Its young ones feast on blood,     and where the slain are, there it is.”

——————————————

The hawk’s strength of wing is extraordinary, and one of the most majestic sights is to see a bird of prey in flight. Human ingenuity has not been able to master flight so majestic.

Even young hawks manage such precision navigation in their migration.

The sight of a bird of prey is razor sharp, When it spies it’s prey, it flies with incredible swiftness and accuracy, even like an arrow out of a bow.

Eleven of God’s creatures, six beasts and five birds, are presented for Job to explain. God cycled through all of these subjects, and when He finished, Job had not answered one question.

We have nothing to answer in creation. What can we say?

Job 37

abstract-contemporary-art-oil-painting-by-artist-todd-krasovetz-titled-phalo-whale1
Job 37:1-13

37 “At this my heart pounds
and leaps from its place.
2 Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice,
to the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
3 He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven
and sends it to the ends of the earth.
4 After that comes the sound of his roar;
he thunders with his majestic voice.
When his voice resounds,
he holds nothing back.
5 God’s voice thunders in marvellous ways;
he does great things beyond our understanding.
6 He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’
and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’
7 So that everyone he has made may know his work,
he stops all people from their labour.
8 The animals take cover;
they remain in their dens.
9 The tempest comes out from its chamber,
the cold from the driving winds.
10 The breath of God produces ice,
and the broad waters become frozen.
11 He loads the clouds with moisture;
he scatters his lightning through them.
12 At his direction they swirl around
over the face of the whole earth
to do whatever he commands them.
13 He brings the clouds to punish people,
or to water his earth and show his love.
———————————
In the preceding chapters Job and his friends had been conversing about the nature of God and in reality clutching at straws as if any of us can truly describe the nature of God or second guess his actions and reasons for specific actions.

They were about to have an encounter with the almighty. God himself would speak to Job. Then the men would start to see him with awe and holy fear!

It appears that Elihu was led by the Holy Spirit to express some things about God that the friends had been off point about and then to usher in the presence of God. Elihu was sent to “introduce God”.

But God is too great for a mere man (Job 33:6) to introduce him. Nobody can control God (Job 36:23). Nobody can force God to act (Job 34:29). So in reality, God introduced himself.
God is on record as speaking to people in many different ways (Job 33:14). Elihu described a dream (Job 33:15) and a servant of God (Job 33:23). Sometimes God has spoken to people in a whisper (1 Kings 19:11-13). But God spoke to Job from a storm (Job 38:1).

Before God spoke Elihu described the storm. He described it’s awesome power and noise. It’s impact on people and the livestock, the fact that it cannot be controlled or managed, it will not necessarily do what you expect it to do. In the storm and indeed the weather system there is great complexity. God is more than this.

To look at a storm can be breathtakingly beautiful but at the same time extreme storms can be extremely frightening. I know there have been times when I have been sailing with my dad and I have been afraid because we were at complete mercy of the weather.
God is more…
———————————
Job 37:14-18
14 “Listen to this, Job;
stop and consider God’s wonders.
15 Do you know how God controls the clouds
and makes his lightning flash?
16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?
17 You who swelter in your clothes
when the land lies hushed under the south wind,
18 can you join him in spreading out the skies,
hard as a mirror of cast bronze?
————————————

Elihu appears to be demonstrating that everything is in control and God has it all covered. He wanted Job to believe that God caused this trouble for him because he was not faithful to God and that God’s did this to give Job the opportunity to repent. We know of course from the intro to the whole book in the opening chapters that this occurred because of the opposite that Job was fiercely loyal to God and was counted as a faithful servant.

Perhaps Job’s greatest error was that he was too focused on himself. It’s not surprising when you consider what he was going through. His speeches seem to have focused on the fact that he was innocent and his own rights. (Chapters 29 and 31). However, God is always right (Job 32:2). Job should have really been focused on God’s greatness but instead preferred to speak about himself. Like most of us, he was the centre of his universe.

In verse 18 Elihu has a bit of a dig and implies that Job thinks he is equal with god in terms of his knowledge. This sounds absurd but in reality we all assume that position at some point. It is our core problem, that we think we know better than God and therefore do things our own way rather than his way.
————————————
Job 37:19-24
19 “Tell us what we should say to him;
we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness.
20 Should he be told that I want to speak?
Would anyone ask to be swallowed up?
21 Now no one can look at the sun,
bright as it is in the skies
after the wind has swept them clean.
22 Out of the north he comes in golden splendour;
God comes in awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power;
in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.
24 Therefore, people revere him,
for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?”
————————————

What would Job do if he had an audience with God, Elihu was asking an excellent question. He reasoned that the wisest thing would be to remain silent for what can we bring to the presence of God that is worth anything at all? To speak in the presence of God may invite judgment!

He uses a lot of irony on these verses and is goading Job on with provocative words. He reasoned we can barely look at the sun, let alone stand in the presence of God.

The men had argued about who was the wisest. This is amusing when you think about the scenario with the disciples in Mark 9:30-36 when they were all arguing about who is the greatest. Human nature has not really changed, We all want to be one better than those around us. There is something comically ugly about this.

Job 36

weather

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.
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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 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.

————————————
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?