Job 36

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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.
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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?
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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”
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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.
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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.
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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 !!

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Job 36:27-33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.
————————————————–
This section is introduced with the Hebrew word vaya‛an. The translation being “And he answered”; the word “answer” being used, as it is often in the Scriptures, to indicate the commencement of a discourse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Job 34

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Job 34:1-4

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

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

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

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

The opening four verses usher in the following discourse …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

34 “Men of understanding declare,
wise men who hear me say to me,
35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge;
his words lack insight.’
36 Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost
for answering like a wicked man!
37 To his sin he adds rebellion;
scornfully he claps his hands among us
and multiplies his words against God.”
———————————————

After a promising start, Elihu concluded that Job was guilty because he expressed anger and frustration against God rather than maintaining a posture of repentance and silence.

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

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

 

Job 27

page0-breath_of_godJob Job 27:1-6
Job’s Final Word to His Friends

27 And Job continued his discourse:
2 “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice,
the Almighty, who has made my life bitter,
3 as long as I have life within me,
the breath of God in my nostrils,
4 my lips will not say anything wicked,
and my tongue will not utter lies.
5 I will never admit you are in the right;
till I die, I will not deny my integrity.
6 I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it
my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.
———————————————————–
Jobs final words on the matter protest his innocence in terms of righteousness. He refuses to compromise his integrity and give in to pressure from his friends to think otherwise. 

Job maintains his authenticity despite being emotionally and physically weak due to sickness, trauma and relentless emotional pressure from his friends. Job places his righteousness in context of divine judgment. The wicked are those who separate themselves from having faith and the fear of the Lord. Job does not qualify in this context.

Job had suffered intense trauma and trouble. He supposed that God caused this but still trusted God.

In Job 23:1-7, Job explained that he wanted God to be his judge. Now in chapters 27-31 he was speaking with certainty that God was already his judge.
———————————————————–

Job 27:7-23

7 “May my enemy be like the wicked,
my adversary like the unjust!
8 For what hope have the godless when they are cut off,
when God takes away their life?
9 Does God listen to their cry
when distress comes upon them?
10 Will they find delight in the Almighty?
Will they call on God at all times?
11 “I will teach you about the power of God;
the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal.
12 You have all seen this yourselves.
Why then this meaningless talk?
13 “Here is the fate God allots to the wicked,
the heritage a ruthless man receives from the Almighty:
14 However many his children, their fate is the sword;
his offspring will never have enough to eat.
15 The plague will bury those who survive him,
and their widows will not weep for them.
16 Though he heaps up silver like dust
and clothes like piles of clay,
17 what he lays up the righteous will wear,
and the innocent will divide his silver.
18 The house he builds is like a moth’s cocoon,
like a hut made by a watchman.
19 He lies down wealthy, but will do so no more;
when he opens his eyes, all is gone.
20 Terrors overtake him like a flood;
a tempest snatches him away in the night.
21 The east wind carries him off, and he is gone;
it sweeps him out of his place.
22 It hurls itself against him without mercy
as he flees headlong from its power.
23 It claps its hands in derision
and hisses him out of his place.”
————————————–

In these verses Job seems to agree with some of his friends allegations. The principle of what they had been saying was true but their allegations had been against him . He characterized his friends as enemies who would also be judged by God for their cruelty and hypocrisy.

Job refused to be a hypocrite. He knew that God would not listen to hypocrisy.
Some of the words here are similar to Zophar’s words in Job 20:29. And Job’s ideas in verses 14-22 are also similar to Zophar’s ideas in chapter 20.

Whilst Job’s friends were technically correct on a number of matters they missed the point on so many and completely misunderstood who Job was and what kind of heart he had.

This is something I have been very guilty of as a religious leader. I have made so many assumptions about the condition of an individual’s heart or spiritual condition based on external evidence. The truth is that we cannot know what a man’s heart is like by external evidence. The rebellious heart could equally be a wounded or hurting heart, the angry heart could be a grieving heart. I have been on the receiving end of misjudgements like this and delivered many judgments. Job’s friends appear to have categorized him on his circumstances rather than his behaviour.

An evil person is evil at home as well as out there in the world and his widow will not miss him. Even in my case and my years of darkness I deceived my family. On the surface everything looked good to my family and even to those around my family within the community of believers but had I died in this period the full weight of my darkness would have been upon them without the possibility of closure. It would have been a most cruel outcome.

In verse 16, the word clothes is an inaccurate translation. It misses something of an important point. The correct translation is “raiment” . This is not merely clothing for everyday use, but rather for pomp and show. Raiment was part of the treasure of great men. The phrase signifies that he might have such a variety of raiment, and such large quantities of it, that it would be valued no more than a quantity of clay. His riches would be polluting and troublesome. The Septuagint version reads “gold” instead of “raiment” (as in Zechariah 9:3), where similar expressions are used in reference to Tyre.

When the wicked man dies, other people will receive his possessions. It is as if God is storing these possessions to give to other people.

A moth destroys. It is fragile itself and lasts but for a moment in time. The booth spoken of here, was a temporary shelter that was erected at harvest time. It would be torn down after harvest. This was saying, the house of the evil man was temporary.

In other words, the wicked man might seem powerful. But his life is weak. He can die in a moment (Matthew 7:26-27; Luke 12:16-20).

In Job 3:16-19, Job thought that death is like sleep. But in Job 26:5, Job had a different idea. He described how the dead are in deep anguish.

Some believe that verses 19-23, are descriptions of hell. When the wicked man wakes in hell, God has taken away that man’s wealth. The home in verse 21 is like that man’s body (see verse 18). But the man’s spirit has left his body. The man’s body might seem calm (Job 21:32-33). But his spirit is afraid and in anguish.

Another idea is that verses 19-23, Job was describing the wicked man’s life after God had disciplined or punished him.

It sounds to me like a description of the suddenness of death. It seems to flow better with the context of the passage and fit with the writing style. Remembering that this Hebrew poetry and poetry is not a literary type that you can safely build a doctrinal position from.

Job 24

4058647-abstract-background-dark-grunge-texture-on-the-wall

Job 24:1-4
24 “Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?
Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?
2 There are those who move boundary stones;
they pasture flocks they have stolen.
3 They drive away the orphan’s donkey
and take the widow’s ox in pledge.
4 They thrust the needy from the path
and force all the poor of the land into hiding.
————————-
These verses show Job wrestling with the idea that God does not intervene more quickly and why the unrighteous do not necessarily experience judgment and go to the grave with their robbery, dishonesty, cruelty and other evil deeds. He knew that God would judge but was struggling with his timetable. Zophar thought that God would be swift in his punishment (Chapter 20) but Job’s experience (and our experience) was different.

Verse 2 refers to a practice of moving boundary stones (See Deuteronomy 19:14; Proverbs  22:28; 23:10). Corrupt landowners often did this to increase their holdings, particularly where the land was owned by bereaved widows. Taking advantage of widows will be treated by the ultimate court in heaven.

Job was troubled by the way that people who mistreated the poor seemed to get away with it and the poor would suffer as a result. It seemed unjust and unfair.
———————————–

Job 24:5-12

5 Like wild donkeys in the desert,
the poor go about their labour of foraging food;
the wasteland provides food for their children.
6 They gather fodder in the fields
and glean in the vineyards of the wicked.
7 Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked;
they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold.
8 They are drenched by mountain rains
and hug the rocks for lack of shelter.
9 The fatherless child is snatched from the breast;
the infant of the poor is seized for a debt.
10 Lacking clothes, they go about naked;
they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry.
11 They crush olives among the terraces;
they tread the winepresses, yet suffer thirst.
12 The groans of the dying rise from the city,
and the souls of the wounded cry out for help.
But God charges no one with wrongdoing.
————————————————
Job’s observations of the poor show that he cared and was concerned about the poor contrary to his friends accusations. He had a sense that often the poor suffer as a result of the wrongdoings of the wealthy. People taking advantage of their vulnerability and the fact that they have no voice against the rich and powerful. Job had lived a benevolent life and was connected with the emotional plight of the poor and hardship. His present suffering brought him even closer to their world and their experience of life.

He recognised that the poor struggle to find food (verse 5). They get cold and wet (verse 6). They have nowhere to live. Their world is one of struggle to even have the basics of life, they are at the mercy of loan sharks, thieves and corrupt landlords … not much has changed in the world!

I was one of those who took advantage of the poor. I justified it by the thought that no one directly suffered but I took a significant amount of funds that was allocated to them. Judas Iscariot springs to mind. My story could have been the same. Given a certain set of circumstances it probably would have been. God intervened and brought me back.
Job said that they are like wild donkeys. God answered Job on this point in chapter 39:5-8. God reminded Job that he knows about wild donkeys and is their provider of food.

God loves the poor, he looks out for them and provides for them. The ministry of Jesus testifies to this.
————————————————

Job 24:13-17

13 “There are those who rebel against the light,
who do not know its ways
or stay in its paths.
14 When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up,
kills the poor and needy,
and in the night steals forth like a thief.
15 The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk;
he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’
and he keeps his face concealed.
16 In the dark, thieves break into houses,
but by day they shut themselves in;
they want nothing to do with the light.
17 For all of them, midnight is their morning;
they make friends with the terrors of darkness.

——————————————
In ancient times it would be very unusual for any activity at night. Work had to be in daylight hours because there was no artificial light. darkness was synonymous with criminal and underhand activity.
But the people that Job described hate daylight. They prefer darkness. They carry out their evil deeds in secret. See also 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8.

Having said that about modern life… things haven’t changed that much. My interaction with destructive behaviour was often done when my family were sleeping. Cam sites were visited mostly in darkness, there were times I slipped out of the house in darkness.
——————————————

Job 24:18-25

18 “Yet they are foam on the surface of the water;
their portion of the land is cursed,
so that no one goes to the vineyards.
19 As heat and drought snatch away the melted snow,
so the grave snatches away those who have sinned.
20 The womb forgets them,
the worm feasts on them;
the wicked are no longer remembered
but are broken like a tree.
21 They prey on the barren and childless woman,
and to the widow they show no kindness.
22 But God drags away the mighty by his power;
though they become established, they have no assurance of life.
23 He may let them rest in a feeling of security,
but his eyes are on their ways.
24 For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone;
they are brought low and gathered up like all others;
they are cut off like heads of grain.
25 “If this is not so, who can prove me false
and reduce my words to nothing?”
————————————–
These verses show some kind of perspective on those people intent on evil and hurting others. They may seem to get away with it for a very long time but their life will end and their wickedness cannot continue. God will uproot them and deal with them at the appointed time.

A wicked man may be powerful. So much that nobody may dare to oppose that man and no human may stop them from their evil deeds but when God acts, that man will die. Nothing can prevent that man’s death.

These men are like corn during the harvest. The farmer decides when he will collect the corn. On that day, the corn cannot remain in the field. Its end is certain.

Job asserted the view that God knew the right time to deal with wickedness and that it would be dealt with. He was sure of this and invited his friends to prove otherwise.

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 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.