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.

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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 22

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Job 22:1-3
Eliphaz
22 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
2 “Can a man be of benefit to God?
Can even a wise person benefit him?
3 What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous?
What would he gain if your ways were blameless?
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Eliphaz makes his final speech. It seems that his frustration with Job escalates into a vicious attack. Eliphaz compiles a catalogue of sin of which Job must be guilty (verses 6-20). This leads into a beautifully poetic passage on the forgiveness and grace of God (verses 21-30) along with an appeal to Job to repent.

It begins in response to Job’s words in Chapter 21:14-15, he spoke about the attitudes of wicked people. Such people will not serve God because there is no benefit for them. But Job would not behave like them.

Eliphaz emphasizes the almighty nature of God, saying that God was so lofty and transcendent that he had no direct concern at all with Job. That even if Job were righteous it would have no great benefit to God himself and therefore God would not be interested in Job’s appeals or be involved in the trivia of his life.

Eliphaz’ view of God is not an uncommon view among believers. This would be my default view of God that he is far off, distant and not really concerned with the trivia or detail of my life. That God is not really connected with me or engaged with my experience of life.

It seems that often our view of God is shaped by our experience of our own earthly father’s and this may be a frequent worldview of someone who grew up with an absent father or a father who was not really engaged.

There are some who may fear God in an unhealthy way who grew up with an overbearing father.

Whilst this is not an absolute, it’s certainly something I have noticed when sitting in groups with people who have struggled with their view of God. Counsellors and therapists call this projection.

Even in Job’s story we see in the opening verses that God was intimately involved with Job. He knew details, he thought about Job, he considered his life and his ways. We see evidence throughout scripture that God is a God of intimate connection with his people. Far from the lofty view that Eliphaz was asserting.

Whilst it may be true that our righteousness may have no great benefit to God, it has a significant benefit to our own well being and that is why God is passionate about it because he loves us intimately, deeply and fully.

Eliphaz was implying that Job was depending on his own righteousness. He thought that Job wanted to be perfect to assist God. This had never been what Job had said, or even hinted at. Whilst this can be an issue for religious people, we can get cocky and arrogant in a very subtle way with the idea that we are good have earned God’s favour almost that he is lucky to have us on the team.

Job was not like that. He knew the righteousness that he had. He knew that he could not lay claim to it. This had been a work of God in him. He knew that he was flawed, but redeemed. He stated in chapter 19 that his Redeemer lives.

It is important for me to remember that my story is not one where I once needed God but now I am okay. I need God’s ongoing redemption and grace. I didn’t used to be a sinner and now I am okay. I am a sinner today and tomorrow and next week. It’s also important to remember that sin is not about whether I measure up or meet a performance criteria but is a violation of relationship. It is a usurping of my father and effectively saying… I don’t trust you dad, you don’t have my best interests at heart and therefore I don’t believe you will meet my needs so I am going to meet my own needs.

Every lie, every manipulation, every fleeting lustful thought and glance does something to me and those around me that erodes what is supposed to be relationship, that is supposed to be underpinned by love, safety, security and trust and instead if I assert my own way over God’s way it brings fear, fragility and mistrust into my life and those around me.

Does it make any difference to God? In one sense no. It has no effect on his well being. He is always 100% God. He is fired up and 100% full of joy. In another sense his love for us and longing for us to connect with life and experience the fullness of relationship with our fellow humans and our maker mark a grieving in his heart. …not for him, he’s okay but for us that we lose something that he longs for us to have.

In our human experience we have moments of that when we shed our usually selfish heart and in a moment we may feel this for our spouse or our children or grandchildren. Sometimes a bad decision from one of our children may bring a negative feeling of shame and skew that selflessness because we feel disappointment due to how we might look in the eyes of others and our reaction may be more self focused than on the wellbeing of our children but in one of those moments when we feel only love and compassion for our children and we lose all sense of self a bad decision by our son or daughter leads us down a path of grieving which is not our loss but theirs. We see clearly how their bad decision may effect them and we feel their pain even though they themselves don’t quite connect with that yet.

After my multiple affairs and wanderings and the initial hurt and trauma that my wife suffered as a result of my destructive behaviour, she was able to work through her own sense of hurt and pain and shame in the story and this awakened a compassion and love that although not without consequences for our marriage and family was a strong catalyst in facilitating my journey home.
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Job 22:4-20

4 “Is it for your piety that he rebukes you
and brings charges against you?
5 Is not your wickedness great?
Are not your sins endless?
6 You demanded security from your relatives for no reason;
you stripped people of their clothing, leaving them naked.
7 You gave no water to the weary
and you withheld food from the hungry,
8 though you were a powerful man, owning land—
an honoured man, living on it.
9 And you sent widows away empty-handed
and broke the strength of the fatherless.
10 That is why snares are all around you,
why sudden peril terrifies you,
11 why it is so dark you cannot see,
and why a flood of water covers you.
12 “Is not God in the heights of heaven?
And see how lofty are the highest stars!
13 Yet you say, ‘What does God know?
Does he judge through such darkness?
14 Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us
as he goes about in the vaulted heavens.’
15 Will you keep to the old path
that the wicked have trod?
16 They were carried off before their time,
their foundations washed away by a flood.
17 They said to God, ‘Leave us alone!
What can the Almighty do to us?’
18 Yet it was he who filled their houses with good things,
so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked.
19 The righteous see their ruin and rejoice;
the innocent mock them, saying,
20 ‘Surely our foes are destroyed,
and fire devours their wealth.’
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Eliphaz now makes some specific charges against Job…
The idea of demanding security against loans given to relatives when the wealth that he had meant that he did not need to do so was a strong accusation of taking advantage of his own family when they were in need.

The thrust of Eliphaz’ accusations was that Job took advantage of the poor and needy and was not generous with his wealth.

He accused Job of concealing his sin from God and selfishly indulging in his blessed life. He reasoned that this is the reason that God was punishing him now. He reminded Job that he could not hide from God!!

The three friends told Job to learn from ancient advice (Job 8:8-9; Job 15:10; Job 20:4). But Eliphaz knew that some ancient advice is wrong and that people had passed down ancient advice sometimes to justify their own actions rather than express a spiritual truth.

Verses 16 & 17 may refer to Noah’s flood (Genesis chapters 6-8). It may be a more general metaphorical term.

Eliphaz emphasizes the truth that the enjoyment gained from the blessings of God will not be permanent for the wicked and that they will be swept away but he targeted this at Job as if he was to be counted amongst the wicked and also he had an short term perspective of it happening by the way of some earthly judgment without an eternal perspective.
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Job 22:21-30
21 “Submit to God and be at peace with him;
in this way prosperity will come to you.
22 Accept instruction from his mouth
and lay up his words in your heart.
23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored:
If you remove wickedness far from your tent
24 and assign your nuggets to the dust,
your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines,
25 then the Almighty will be your gold,
the choicest silver for you.
26 Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty
and will lift up your face to God.
27 You will pray to him, and he will hear you,
and you will fulfil your vows.
28 What you decide on will be done,
and light will shine on your ways.
29 When people are brought low and you say, ‘Lift them up!’
then he will save the downcast.
30 He will deliver even one who is not innocent,
who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”
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Eliphaz urged Job to stop all of his fine sounding speeches and turn his efforts to repentance then God would return to him. The words of Eliphaz are recorded as beautiful dense Hebrew poetry. Theologically accurate but misguided at Job. He was convinced that Job had fallen out of fellowship with the almighty.

Ophir is mentioned in verse 24 which was apparently a land where high quality gold could be sourced. It’s location is not certain. It is mentioned a few times in the Bible. Ophir in Genesis 10 (the Table of Nations) is said to be the name of one of the sons of Joktan.[The Books of Kings and Chronicles tell of a joint expedition to Ophir by King Solomon and the Tyrian king Hiram I from Ezion-Geber, a port on the Red Sea, that brought back large amounts of gold, precious stones and ‘algum wood’ and of a later failed expedition by king Jehoshaphat of Judah. The famous ‘gold of Ophir’ is referenced in several other books of the Hebrew Bible. In Jewish tradition, Ophir is often associated with a place in India, named for one of the sons of Joktan. The 10th-century lexicographer, David ben Abraham al-Fasi, identified Ophir with Serendip, the old Persian name for Sri Lanka.

Eliphaz realised that real success is not money. Eliphaz emphasised his ideas with humour. Men used to find gold in the rocks (Job 28:6; Job 28:10). So Eliphaz told Job that his gold belonged in the rocks. Job should return his gold and trust God instead.
God will be his silver and gold…even more secure than precious metal. Eliphaz urged Job to put his trust in the Lord and all his troubles will be over.

This may be over simplistic …one of my spiritual friends told me that his troubles actually started when he began to walk with God but it was his walk with God that helped him navigate the trouble. That could be true in my story too… the trouble didn’t really get going until I started to walk with God. If you think about it then it would make sense.Why would Satan bother with me if I was not walking with God. I am already doing what he wants me to do! Living a faithful life does not prevent trouble but simply equips us to handle trouble. Jesus told his disciples in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world”.

Job 20

joy

Job 20:1-11
Zophar

20 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:
2 “My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer
because I am greatly disturbed.
3 I hear a rebuke that dishonours me,
and my understanding inspires me to reply.
4 “Surely you know how it has been from of old,
ever since mankind was placed on the earth,
5 that the mirth of the wicked is brief,
the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.
6 Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens
and his head touches the clouds,
7 he will perish forever, like his own dung;
those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’
8 Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found,
banished like a vision of the night.
9 The eye that saw him will not see him again;
his place will look on him no more.
10 His children must make amends to the poor;
his own hands must give back his wealth.
11 The youthful vigour that fills his bones
will lie with him in the dust.
——————————–
Zophar’s second speech focuses on two key ideas: the prosperity of the wicked is short, and his doom is certain.

The have their “short” times of “triumphing” – there may be “passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25), but judgement is coming. Job’s spiritual experience did not line up with Zophar’s rigid expectations, so Job was branded amongst the “wicked”.

It appeared to Zophar that Job seemed to think that evil people had successful lives. Zophar wanted to prove that this idea was wrong.

Contrary to Zophar’s confident assertion, sometimes wicked people live long lives. For example, Noah endured the wickedness of his neighbours for 120 years while he preached and built the ark (Genesis 6:3), and God gave the Canaanites four centuries before He judged them as a nation. Later he allowed the Egyptians, the Assyrians, The Babylonians all to have long periods of prosperity with his people the Israelites in slavery to the evil empires !!

In Job’s day, people respected older people and their ideas (Job 32:6-9). So the people believed that ancient wisdom was very important (Job 8:8-9). Zophar calls on ancient wisdom as the support for his position.

In verses 5-6, the application of Zophar’s words about this wicked, hypocritical, proud person were aimed at Job. He would, like others so wicked, suffer the consequences of his sins (verses 7-29).

This wicked man may be powerful while he is alive. But when he dies, nobody will even remember this man. He asserts that Job will amount to nothing but a forgotten grave.

Job had reached a very high position of prosperity before all of the calamity came upon him. It appears, that Zophar may have been jealous of that high esteem, and had hoped that Job would fall. It did not matter how highly he was thought of, Zophar said he would fall as low as Job had, sitting in the heap of ashes. He said he would fall so low that no one could find him. Some might ask, where he had gone.
It’s a weighty accusation.

I read and wrote about these verses whilst an event that reminded me of a past glory of being highly thought of, esteemed and appreciated. It was an event that I helped pioneer and ran for 16 years. This is what I wrote about that experience. 

There is a whole generation here that know nothing of that legacy and a handful that remember but know the height from which I fell. It is strange, to be here but special. I see my fingerprints all over the event. The way it’s organised, the programme, the culture but it’s no longer mine. It gives me both a satisfaction that I built something good and enduring but also a sadness that I miss it and wished I could have carried on. 

I suppose I am attempting to step into Jobs shoes of being forgotten, of losing his influence and how that might have felt. It appears that whilst his friends and accusers are focused on that outward thing, his focus is more about what he perceives as his abandonment by God. 

My experience has been one of encouragement, Grace and even gratitude from those that knew what I had a hand in building. One person who did not know me innocently asked “is it the first time you have been to one of these events” …there was a time that everyone knew who I was.——————————————————–

Job 20:12-19

12 “Though evil is sweet in his mouth
and he hides it under his tongue,
13 though he cannot bear to let it go
and lets it linger in his mouth,
14 yet his food will turn sour in his stomach;
it will become the venom of serpents within him.
15 He will spit out the riches he swallowed;
God will make his stomach vomit them up.
16 He will suck the poison of serpents;
the fangs of an adder will kill him.
17 He will not enjoy the streams,
the rivers flowing with honey and cream.
18 What he toiled for he must give back uneaten;
he will not enjoy the profit from his trading.
19 For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute;
he has seized houses he did not build.
——————————–

These verses represent the heart of how Zophar perceived Job’s life and circumstances. Whilst his observation are general truths about the gains of evil behaviour being short lived and not truly enjoyable. The bounty will be consumed without peace etc., …this we know was not the case in Job’s situation. Verses 12-16 imply that the evil deeds of a man are like a poison with an enticing taste and yet it will not be as tasty as the first bite. It will turn sour in his stomach and ultimately may kill him.

Zophar was listing sins that could have been committed by Job, implying that this was the root of his trouble. He said that he had oppressed the poor and taken their house away from them.
——————————–

Job 20:20-29

20 “Surely he will have no respite from his craving;
he cannot save himself by his treasure.
21 Nothing is left for him to devour;
his prosperity will not endure.
22 In the midst of his plenty, distress will overtake him;
the full force of misery will come upon him.
23 When he has filled his belly,
God will vent his burning anger against him
and rain down his blows on him.
24 Though he flees from an iron weapon,
a bronze-tipped arrow pierces him.
25 He pulls it out of his back,
the gleaming point out of his liver.
Terrors will come over him;
26     total darkness lies in wait for his treasures.
A fire unfanned will consume him
and devour what is left in his tent.
27 The heavens will expose his guilt;
the earth will rise up against him.
28 A flood will carry off his house,
rushing waters on the day of God’s wrath.
29 Such is the fate God allots the wicked,
the heritage appointed for them by God.”
—————————–

Zophar’s narrative continues
Money cannot save anyone from death. Ill gained wealth will not save the evil man from the wrath of God!

The evil man’s gains will not even bring him peace in this life. He may through his guilty conscience live in constant fear and weariness of being found out. There is also the fact that what he has can be taken from him at any moment.

Zophar implied that Job constantly hungered for more. He was never satisfied. What may have begun as a sincere but misguided line of questioning from his friends was now a full blown accusation levied against Job.

Zophar said that God would take all of it away from him, so he would have nothing left for other men to take.

God is a fair judge. He will deal with every man according to his deeds. A man might be able to escape from his enemies. But nobody can escape from God.

These verses tell of a harsh judgment of wrath from the hand of God and whilst there is truth in God’s judgment to suggest that Job would be at the mercy of such judgment was brutal.

Verse 24 is literally translated as “The glittering sword” from the Hebrew bârâq. It describes the brightness of the sword piercing the gall which was supposed to be the seat of life (see notes Job 16:13).

Verse 26 implies a fire from heaven, not lit by human hands. Probably lightning or brimstone would consume everything.

This darkness represented total separation from the Light of God. In the case of Job, his wife was left and some of his servants. Zophar said it would not go well with them because they were living in Job’s house.
Zophar thought that everybody would agree with him. But, as Job would explain in chapter 21, Zophar had overlooked the fact that many people who do wicked things are very successful during their lives on earth. They do not die when they are young. It is true that God will punish them in the end.

The implications on Job that he was experiencing punishment and there was more to come although contained some observational truth in the ways of God was theologically flawed.

Job had asked for heaven and earth to witness for him. Zophar was saying that heaven and earth would be opposed to Job. He was trying to offset everything that Job had said.

Zophar was summarizing the things he had said in the last few verses that he thought would come to Job. He thought Job to be full of unrepentant evil and therefore had no heritage.

Job 18

Terror (2)
Job 18:1-4
Bildad
18 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
2 “When will you end these speeches?
Be sensible, and then we can talk.
3 Why are we regarded as cattle
and considered stupid in your sight?
4 You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger,
is the earth to be abandoned for your sake?
Or must the rocks be moved from their place?
———————————–
Bildad enters the discussion for the second time. He decides he cannot reason with Job, so fear becomes his weapon of choice.

He ruthlessly attacked Job in his second speech with a wake up and smell the coffee kind of recant. Next he turned to scorn (verses 3-4). Then he turned to another long tale of the bad outcomes the wicked experience (verses 5-21).

He was saying that Job talked too much and should calm down. He took offense at being compared to cattle. Job had insulted their intelligence.

He asserted that Job could not change the world. He was tearing himself in anger for no good reason. He was his own greatest tormentor with his own rage.

He accused Job of tearing himself as a child does when he is having a tantrum. He said that Job actually wanted God to change the forces of nature to suit him. He accused Job of wanting to be the centre of attention.

This is what happens in dialogue when our focus is not on listening and understanding the other person we are in dialogue in. We move into fear and start to dig our heels in, assert our own worldview and attempt to control. It all comes from a place of fear because it raises too many questions about our own belief system. We all do it. Sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly.
———————————–
Job 18:5-21
5 “The lamp of a wicked man is snuffed out;
the flame of his fire stops burning.
6 The light in his tent becomes dark;
the lamp beside him goes out.
7 The vigour of his step is weakened;
his own schemes throw him down.
8 His feet thrust him into a net;
he wanders into its mesh.
9 A trap seizes him by the heel;
a snare holds him fast.
10 A noose is hidden for him on the ground;
a trap lies in his path.
11 Terrors startle him on every side
and dog his every step.
12 Calamity is hungry for him;
disaster is ready for him when he falls.
13 It eats away parts of his skin;
death’s firstborn devours his limbs.
14 He is torn from the security of his tent
and marched off to the king of terrors.
15 Fire resides in his tent;
burning sulphur is scattered over his dwelling.
16 His roots dry up below
and his branches wither above.
17 The memory of him perishes from the earth;
he has no name in the land.
18 He is driven from light into the realm of darkness
and is banished from the world.
19 He has no offspring or descendants among his people,
no survivor where once he lived.
20 People of the west are appalled at his fate;
those of the east are seized with horror.
21 Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man;
such is the place of one who does not know God.”
———————————–
This is a blistering speech on the woes of the wicked.

In verses 5-6 light is associated with life just as darkness is associated with death.

God is the Author of life. He alone can “light” a person’s “lamp” (Proverbs 13:9; Acts 17:25, 28). But Bildad’s misguided point is that the Lord also snuffs out “the light of the wicked”. This berating of Job is intense to say the least.

Bildad’s only idea in this chapter was that a wicked man is never successful. Bildad did not directly say that Job was wicked but this is clearly a loaded series of statements full of implied intent.

Bildad was certain that the wicked man could not continue to live. A candle can only burn for a few hours. Then, there is darkness. Job expected to die soon (Job 16:22).
The wicked man tries to make trouble for other people. But he himself suffers from his schemes. He is like a hunter who walks into his own trap.

Job asserted that God caused his suffering. Bildad appeared to think that Job caused his own trouble.

Verse 9 is sometimes obscurely translated as “The gin”. A “gin” is a metallic sheet pounded thin, or a spring. A trap that was set at night to catch robbers and thieves. They would be held tight until morning when they would be apprehended. Verse 10 is speaking of the two types of gin. One above ground and one that was like a pit.

Six different kinds of traps or snares are mentioned. The speaker scrambling together every word that he can find that is descriptive of the art of snaring. The art had been well studied by the Egyptians long before the age of Job, and a variety of tricks and tools for capturing animals and birds are represented on early Egyptian monuments. It looks like this had been an influential craft throughout the Middle East.

In verse 13 “death’s firstborn is a poetical expression meaning the most deadly disease death ever produced.

When Bildad referred to the man’s tent, he did not simply mean a home. He also meant the man’s life. A tent is temporary. Sometimes tent is used to describe the human body. A dwelling place for the soul.

As God rained fire and brimstone out of heaven upon Sodom & Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24), so shall brimstone be scattered upon his habitation to ruin and destroy it (compare Deuteronomy 29:23; Psalm 11:6). This is a serious and weighty assertion that Job is being destroyed because of his sin.

We read earlier that the thought about a tree gave comfort to Job (Job 14:7-9). The nature of a tree seemed to imply that the dead can live again. But Bildad thought that Job’s idea was not reality. He reminded Job that a tree can really die.

It appears that he was speaking of Job’s ancestors being forgotten, and him not having any children to be his branches. We read of the tree which had no water at its roots drying up and dying.

Bildad warned Job. Nobody would remember him after his death. Job had no children alive (Job 1:18-19). Job trusted God to prove that Job was innocent (Job 16:18-21). But Bildad was of the opinion that Job was deluded about this.

This is the greatest dread of the modern roamers of the desert (Compare Jeremiah 35:19).
Bildad was asserting that Job would not be remembered by anyone. Ironically Job is one of the best remembered people in the Bible. It turned out to be the book of Job and not the Book of Bildad or The Wisdom of Eliphaz.

Bildad’s words throughout the chapter illustrate the power of words; in this case, their power to do further damage (Proverbs 12:18). Job is obviously broken already, and here is Bildad, tearing him to shreds. Much of the Book of Job could be a manual on how not to counsel, how not to deal with grief. Grieving is often met with head information when it is a state of the heart. To meet grieving with intellect will not touch it. The excellent grief recovery handbook  (James & Friedman) describes this practice as “attempting to paint with a hammer. It’s the wrong tool for the job and will create a mess”. A heart issue can only be effectively met with heart counsel. ..empathy, connection, love! Head counsel of judgement, repair advice and an examination of what went wrong or caused the issue of grief will only alienate and push others away.

Job 17

grief


Job 17:1-2

17 1 My spirit is broken,
my days are cut short,
the grave awaits me.
2 Surely mockers surround me;
my eyes must dwell on their hostility.

—————————————-

This was Job’s rock bottom moment and at this he took his anguish to God. He believed he was near death. His friends had become enemies, mockers and had failed to provide him with the emotional support that friends are supposed to provide. He had been abandoned in that sense.

Is this a kind of shadowing of Jesus? Job did not deserve death. Although he had not lived a perfect life, he had lived a faithful life and in his hour need his friends had deserted him. God of course would restore Job’s life to a life greater than his previous life. Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven.

Perhaps this is a shadowing of God’s greater plan. Perhaps it just gives a few clues about what is to come in the future.
—————————————-

Job 17:3-5

3 “Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.
Who else will put up security for me?
4 You have closed their minds to understanding;
therefore you will not let them triumph.
5 If anyone denounces their friends for reward,
the eyes of their children will fail.
————————————–
Job had discovered at this point, that the only one he could trust was God. He was wanting a handshake from God. This would be a sign that an agreement had been struck. He prayed that God would declare him innocent.

He was accusing his friends of attacking him as they would a prey. In the past, they had flattered him when he was wealthy. Now they were accusing him of every type of sin. The saying “Kick a man when he is down” springs to mind.

I wonder if this is how my colleague feels after I fired him yesterday (March 2017). It’s tough. I want to contact him and let him know how I feel about what happened away from all the formality. I can’t until the appeal period is over should he choose to appeal.

I have fired people before. It’s never easy but I think that this was one of the hardest. There were some questions about his performance but I felt he just needed more time in the role. We had promoted him to a senior position only a month earlier. 

My bosses were under pressure to cut costs and needed a return on investment quicker than they had confidence and I had to admit that he could deliver. It was a moral dilemma. I wrestled with my conscience on the matter. I believed the company were most at fault in this situation and though I said so, I didn’t say it with the steeliness to match the strength of opinion from the other two members in the leadership team whose convictions were heading in the opposite direction. I was a coward and delivered the blow that caused my colleague to lose his job. 

Are there some parallels that relate to this passage? Were Jobs three friends the product of ancient “group think” causing negative momentum? Did my colleague feel a great betrayal on my part? 

I talked with him after the appeal period had passed. He was very gracious. I revisited the conversation with the leadership team and put a different marker in the sand. I would not be pressured into firing someone that I didn’t believe should be fired. 

Job’s suffering of course was far greater than being fired. He lost everything and everyone. He lost his health and well-being. I wonder if I had been one of Job’s friends how would I have been? I wonder if I had been one of Jesus’ disciples at his arrest how would I have been? 

…I believe I have my answer and its not pretty even at a time I am supposedly “doing well spiritually” (Whatever that means) 
————————————–

Job 17:6-7

6 “God has made me a byword to everyone,
a man in whose face people spit.
7 My eyes have grown dim with grief;
my whole frame is but a shadow.
——————————————

Job’s words remind us about Jesus’ death. See also Psalm 22 and Isaiah chapter 53. The similarities are really quite remarkable.

——————————————

Job 17:8-9

8 The upright are appalled at this;
the innocent are aroused against the ungodly.
9 Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways,
and those with clean hands will grow stronger.

————————————–
Job asserted that wise and good men would consider his calamities, and not be as condemning as his friends but instead wonder at the depth and mysteriousness of God’s judgments, which can fall so heavily upon innocent men, while the worst of men prosper.

These verses describe the effect that the book of Job has on most of us who pursue to do what is right and pursue a walk with God. It is perhaps the intention of this piece of work and one of the key reasons that the book of Job is included in the canon. We are astonished at the amount of suffering that Job endured without being overcome. We are shocked by the attitude of his so-called friends. Yet we can hold up the mirror to our own hypocrisy and judgmental attitudes as we read through the book.

The righteous man does not stop being righteous because problems come his way. He will hold fast to his belief in the face of all sorts of trouble.

Actually he sometimes does stop being righteous… and I did for a season or two… but the point is that God puts us through what we need to facilitate spiritual growth and that he will form Christ in us (Romans 8:28-29).

Forming Christ is not some spiritual revelation that comes out of the blue but such is our pride and self sufficiency the forming of Godly character into our stubborn hearts and ways involves suffering. This can be suffering as a result of our sin or someone else’s sin. It can be suffering as a result of doing what is right in a broken world of sin or it can be suffering (as is the case of Job) for no apparent or immediately obvious reason.
————————————–

Job 17:10-16

10 “But come on, all of you, try again!
I will not find a wise man among you.
11 My days have passed, my plans are shattered.
Yet the desires of my heart
12 turn night into day;
in the face of the darkness light is near.
13 If the only home I hope for is the grave,
if I spread out my bed in the realm of darkness,
14 if I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother’ or ‘My sister,’
15 where then is my hope—
who can see any hope for me?
16 Will it go down to the gates of death?
Will we descend together into the dust?”————————————

Job was not unteachable, he seemed interested if they had any insight worth hearing and ready to reply. He was expecting to die soon and no longer felt the need to prove himself before men.

He was preparing to acquaint himself with death. He had no further hope for the future. He simply wanted to prove that he was innocent before God. His great frustration and despair was that he could not understand why all this had happened to him. It challenged his worldview about how God works and interacts with men. He knew that he was a sinner, the same as all men but he was also certain that he was not a hypocrite and that he had been authentic in his walk with God.

Job 6

anguish

Job 6:1-7
6 Then Job replied:
2 “If only my anguish could be weighed
and all my misery be placed on the scales!
3 It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—
no wonder my words have been impetuous.
4 The arrows of the Almighty are in me,
my spirit drinks in their poison;
God’s terrors are marshaled against me.
5 Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass,
or an ox bellow when it has fodder?
6 Is tasteless food eaten without salt,
or is there flavor in the sap of the mallow?
7 I refuse to touch it;
such food makes me ill.
————————————-

Job’s response to Eliphaz is recorded in verses 6:1 – 7:21. Initially Job does not respond but just continues in his lament. He appears to have patiently allowed Eliphaz complete his religious rant without interruption prior to responding at all.

Job used several metaphors to describe his suffering:
(1) the Sand of the sea, which implies a vast amount (Genesis 22:17; 32:12) and profound weight (Proverbs  27:3).
(2) as though shot with “arrows” which is an Old Testament expression for judgment (Lamentations 3:12-13),
(3) tasteless, like the “white of an egg.” Job’s point being that life had lost all its pleasure.

Job gave his answer to Eliphaz. Surely Eliphaz could not understand the full weight of what Job was enduring. He struggled to find the right words to express his own grief no wonder he could not articulate or express himself with the correct theological position on his suffering but Eliphaz was way off the mark.

Job said that some of his statements might have been a little rash. His troubles were more than the weight of all the sand of the sea.

“The arrows of the Almighty … terrors of God” are metaphors for judgment or trials that come from God.

His greatest wound in all of this was in his heart. He felt that God had taken his spirit. He was fully aware that all of this had to be allowed by God even if it wasn’t directly caused by him. His heart was broken, because he had loved God with all of his heart and honoured him with his life. This was hard to bear. He was struggling with this.

Animals are noisy when they have no food or it’s basic needs are not met. For Job this was not about food it was about great loss and suffering.

The loss of his children had taken the joy out of his life. This disease had caused his life to be a dread, and nothing pleasant.
Job describes his sickness to be like nauseous, tasteless, unpalatable food. (Psalms 42:3; 80:5; 102:9). He excuses his complaining.
————————————-

Job 6:8-13

8 “Oh, that I might have my request,
that God would grant what I hope for,
9 that God would be willing to crush me,
to let loose his hand and cut off my life!
10 Then I would still have this consolation—
my joy in unrelenting pain—
that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.
11 “What strength do I have, that I should still hope?
What prospects, that I should be patient?
12 Do I have the strength of stone?
Is my flesh bronze?
13 Do I have any power to help myself,
now that success has been driven from me?

—————————————–
Job’s request was that God would finish whatever process he began. Death seemed to be the only option for relief from this unrelenting suffering.

Job was unable to see what God was allowing to occur here and had no idea of how this might pan out. There would be many years of life and prosperity in store for him.

Eliphaz had spoken of God granting long life to those who loved God. That was the very thing that Job did not want. He could not see beyond his present suffering.

I can relate to this. In my darkest and most painful times it is easy to lose sight of what God might be doing and my prayer moves from one of surrender and walking with God to one of requesting different circumstances.

There is always a bigger picture at play. I don’t see too far in front of me in the darkness.

Jobs motives to request this blotting out of life were pure motives though. He did not want to insult God (Job 2:9-10). Job was struggling to control his speech. His spirit and body were weak. He wondered how useful to God he might be.

It must have been hard. He used to be a a significant influencer on his community whom everybody respected (Job 1:3; Job 29:1-10; Job 29:21-25). He was a leader of his people. But now, he was the one who needed help. And his friends were not helping him.

Job realized that he was very ill. All of his strength was gone.

He was now the one in need. He had nothing to support himself, nor to be useful to others, such as the poor. He had lost all power, authority, and influence, among men, and no one now was coming to him for counsel and advice. He was now misjudged as a hypocrite by his friends, and had lost his reputation for character.
These thoughts and observation resonate with me. The only difference being that Job was innocent and I am not. I used to be an influencer, a leader, respected in my community. Today I am branded a hypocrite. I don’t say this with pity. In some ways it’s freeing. I have nothing to prove to anyone. I have nothing to protect and this movement from being helper to the cone being helped is a work of God. He is doing something here.

—————————————–


Job 6:14-30

14 “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend
forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
15 But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams,
as the streams that overflow
16 when darkened by thawing ice
and swollen with melting snow,
17 but that stop flowing in the dry season,
and in the heat vanish from their channels.
18 Caravans turn aside from their routes;
they go off into the wasteland and perish.
19 The caravans of Tema look for water,
the traveling merchants of Sheba look in hope.
20 They are distressed, because they had been confident;
they arrive there, only to be disappointed.
21 Now you too have proved to be of no help;
you see something dreadful and are afraid.
22 Have I ever said, ‘Give something on my behalf,
pay a ransom for me from your wealth,
23 deliver me from the hand of the enemy,
rescue me from the clutches of the ruthless’?
24 “Teach me, and I will be quiet;
show me where I have been wrong.
25 How painful are honest words!
But what do your arguments prove?
26 Do you mean to correct what I say,
and treat my desperate words as wind?
27 You would even cast lots for the fatherless
and barter away your friend.
28 “But now be so kind as to look at me.
Would I lie to your face?
29 Relent, do not be unjust;
reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.
30 Is there any wickedness on my lips?
Can my mouth not discern malice?
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Job believed that his friends were like brothers to him (verse 15). But Eliphaz’s words were harsh, simplistic and judgmental. Job felt misunderstood, judged harshly and could no longer trust his friends.

He appeared to answer the tone of Eliphaz’s speech rather than the specific charges.

Job answered that even if a man has forsaken God (which he hadn’t), should not his friends still show kindness to him? How can Eliphaz be so unkind as to continually accuse him?

Job described his friends as being about as useful with their counsel as a dry river bed in summer. “You are no help,” he said (verse 21)

Job’s friends seemed like those dry streams. When Job’s life was good, his friends were good friends. But when Job had trouble, they could not help him. When Job needed their help (verse 13), they did not support him.

Job was calling them fair weather friends. Their friendship dissolved at the very first sign of trouble.

Job mentions Tema and Sheba. The troops of Tema were in the north. They were Arabs descended from Ishmael (Genesis 25:15; Isaiah 21:14), and Sheba was in the south (Jeremiah 6:20). It was part of the Arabian Desert, where water was precious.
When they came to the places where they hoped to find water. Finding none were ashamed of their vain hope, and reflected upon themselves for being so foolish as to raise their expectations upon such a groundless speculation.

These nomadic caravans came to sell, and were disappointed when their benefactor was no more.

Job had looked for and needed friends who loved him, and would stand beside him. He was ashamed of his friends when they did not stand beside him in his grief and sorrow.

Job is effectively saying that his friends are about as much use as a dried up stream is to the caravan. They might as well not be in existence.

As far as Job was concerned these so-called friends were nothing in his eyes. They stood against Job for fear they might be incriminated.

Job knew that his friends could not help him. His troubles were too great. His friends’ money could not help him. And they could not defend him. They were too late. Job’s trouble had already happened before they arrived.

Job was starting to realise that he needed God’s help. Only God could rescue him. However, he was perplexed by what had happened and could only see that God was against him at this point.

He had not asked for any help at all from  his friends, even though everything had been taken from him. He did not even ask for them to intervene with prayer. They had come of their own freewill with no comfort for Job in the physical, or in the spiritual sense.

He asked that his friends show him where he had sinned.

Now Job told them if he was wrong about them, he would say no more. He could not understand what he had done to cause their friendship to not mean more to them.
Job expressed a willingness and readiness to listen to words of truth and wisdom. He complained that the language or the approach they were using was of no benefit his heart.

Had they spoken truth, he would have gladly listened. They had done nothing to help. They had just given him less hope than he had before they came.

“Fatherless” was both a personal lament and a reminder to Job’s friends that all of his children had died.

This was a way Job had of expressing their lack of feeling for those in need. They had given him no way out. They had already dug his grave in their thoughts.

Job said that he was innocent. He did not pretend that he was perfect (Job 31:33). But Job’s friends did not believe this (Job chapter 22).

Job was saying they should know in their own hearts that he was telling them the truth.