Job 30

pain_from_within_by_kimded


Job 30:1-1

30 “But now they mock me,
men younger than I,
whose fathers I would have disdained
to put with my sheep dogs.
2 Of what use was the strength of their hands to me,
since their vigour had gone from them?
3 Haggard from want and hunger,
they roamed the parched land
in desolate wastelands at night.
4 In the brush they gathered salt herbs,
and their food was the root of the broom bush.
5 They were banished from human society,
shouted at as if they were thieves.
6 They were forced to live in the dry stream beds,
among the rocks and in holes in the ground.
7 They brayed among the bushes
and huddled in the undergrowth.
8 A base and nameless brood,
they were driven out of the land.
9 “And now those young men mock me in song;
I have become a byword among them.
10 They detest me and keep their distance;
they do not hesitate to spit in my face.
11 Now that God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me,
they throw off restraint in my presence.
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Job now turns from the wistful reflection of his exalted past to a heavy lament of his present situation. In contrast to being the most celebrated of leaders and wise men he is now the subject of derision from the lowest in societies pecking order. Disrespected by outcasts and mocked by street urchin type children.

He was the subject of jokes from the mouths of vagabonds and sordid entertainment for societies most unwelcome.

Formerly the most important people would gather to listen to Job. He was someone with great influence and was respected by the wise and influential from near and far. Remember that even Job’s three friends were among those and they travelled some distance when they heard of his plight.
But now, there was gathering of a different kind. The low level gathering of mockery and spectacle. He was mocked, jeered and insulted.

A shadow for Christ perhaps?

Job had known the fathers of these youths. But the fathers did not impress Job. Job would not employ them. They were too lazy. They did not want to work.
These fathers were not responsible men. Perhaps they were drunks. Perhaps they were always asking other people for money. They were outcasts from the city as they were trouble makers and these children were like their fathers. They swore. They insulted Job. They laughed at him. And they caused trouble.
They considered themselves superior to Job.
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Job 30:12-15

12 On my right the tribe attacks;
they lay snares for my feet,
they build their siege ramps against me.
13 They break up my road;
they succeed in destroying me.
‘No one can help him,’ they say.
14 They advance as through a gaping breach;
amid the ruins they come rolling in.
15 Terrors overwhelm me;
my dignity is driven away as by the wind,
my safety vanishes like a cloud.
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This is the continuation of a description of the taunting young men or children who had gathered like a gang and were cruel to Job. They tried to trip him when he walked by them, and they put obstacles in his path that took great pain to go around. They showed no respect him. He was the laughing stock of the town. These gangs of young men tried to stop Job in every step he took.

Job watched the youths as they talked. He felt that they were making plans to attack him but felt too ill and lacking in any motivation or energy to avoid them.

Job compared himself to a City when being attacked. A City cannot move when under siege, it cannot hide. It must just absorb whatever punishment that is coming at it
He was waiting for the youths to attack. He had no escape and could not protect himself.

Job had lived most of his life up until now as a confident, secure man who was respected and honoured. This was no longer the case. (Job 29:18-20).

His security was not real. His reputation would not endure. This can happen to any of us. We could lose everything through our own moral failure (as was true in my own case) or through events outside of our control as was the case of Job. Either way, whatever we put our security in other than God will be brought into question at that point. Whether it is something physical such as financial security or something more spiritual such as our reputation both will be brought down. God is a jealous God, he will not allow us to have any other God’s… why? because they can do us no good at all, they are false God’s. They cannot give us what we deeply desire or need. Only God Almighty the author of life, the founder of all things can do that and he promises to do so. He stops at nothing in his pursuit of us,

All of this terrible treatment by these gangs of young boys, coupled with the shame and disgrace that Job was feeling, had him terrified. It seems that no one was interested in the welfare of Job. God used this attack from Satan to strip Job of everything and leave him only with the presence of God and the possibility of Job finding his peace in that alone.
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Job 30:16-19

16 “And now my life ebbs away;
days of suffering grip me.
17 Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
18 In his great power God becomes like clothing to me;
he binds me like the neck of my garment.
19 He throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.

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Job’s life ebbed away, suffering gripped him, his bones ached, he experienced relentless gnawing pain, his skin was peeling (verse 30), and he was reduced to mud, dust, and ashes. He felt that he was the victim of some kind of divine mugging.
Job’s afflictions had robbed him of his will to live. It consumed his thinking. He was ravaged with disease, pain and anguish.
Even at night he could not find rest. The pain was gnawing away at him.

The word mud in verse 19 can also be translated “the mire” which is the lowest depth of misery and degradation (see Psalm 40:2; 69:2, 14). He blamed God but still had enough faith to wrestle with him in prayer.

Job believed that God had discarded him. He sat in ashes and prayed. His becoming like dust and ashes indicated that he was impure, offensive to his fellow men, an object of scorn and disdain.

To feel completely abandoned by everyone and to feel abandoned by God is perhaps the greatest pain of all. We may have had dark moments in our lives where we experienced that momentarily, maybe through relentless pain and suffering, maybe as a result of our sin or someone else’s sin. That hopelessness is a hard place and quite usually the crucible where our faith is formed to be deeper and more profound although it’s hard to see it ourselves in that moment. Jesus endured this at the cross. Complete abandonment even from his father. His words as recorded in Matthew 27:46 were “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus did not deserve to be in that position, it can be argued that Job did not deserve to be in that position. The truth is though, that God was present. Very present. At the Cross he was present. It was part of an incredible plan, in Job’s suffering he was very present and in our suffering he is also very present. He is at that crucible knowing that something new will emerge from this situation.
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Job 30:20-23

20 “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22 You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23 I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.
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Job struggled to see God’s presence in all that was going on and the anguish he felt. If God was present he could only deduce that it was cruel behaviour on the part of the hand of the almighty. In his worldview he was suffering the fate of the wicked and yet he knew that in his heart of hearts he was not wicked.

He knew that ultimately death comes to everyone but he struggled with the process or his journey towards what seemed like an inevitable pending death.

Why do bad things happen to good people? We don’t actually know. God in his wisdom does not answer that question for us. He alone knows. What we do know is that our definition of “good people” varies a lot depending on variable experiences of life, cultural views, worldviews. Only God defines what is truly good. Secondly we know that we live in a broken messed up world where things don’t function properly since we took on the definition of good and evil on our own terms in the garden of Eden. 

The world we live in has suffered as a result of our attempt to play God rather than allow God to be God. The outcome is that we can suffer as a result of long term flawed condition, the result of another person’s action or even as is the case of Job due to something occurring in the spiritual realms. There is of course also the consequences of our own sin.
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Job 30:24-31

24 “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31 My lyre is tuned to mourning,
and my pipe to the sound of wailing.

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Verses 24-26 seem to be saying that God must have some sympathy, if Job has shown compassion for the needy and poor (verse 25). Job reached out for help in his misery and received only evil (verse 26).

He could not believe that his all powerful all loving God would not hear his cries and continue to allow his intense suffering and distress.

Verse 29 could possibly be translated as ostriches as opposed to owls. The mournful howl of the jackals is referred to in Micah 1:8; the ostrich also gives a strange, melancholic cry, particularly at  night. In Job 39:13, the female ostrich receives the name of “wailer.”

Job described his skin as black and peeling. He felt abandoned by God and hopeless, and his physical condition amplified this feeling (Psalm 102:3; Lamentations 4:8).

Formerly, Job played music. Then the sounds that he made were happy, like the sound of the children in Job 21:12 but now the sounds that Job made were mournful.
It must have been immensely difficult to see anything to inspire faith at this time. The feeling of abandonment is one of the most intensely painful feelings. I felt it in the Summer of 2015. It was my own fault and I knew it was my own fault but to feel rejected and abandoned by everyone without hope, without certainty then there are moments you just want to die and to feel God’s abandonment on top of that, the physical suffering and intense grieving of having lost everything I can’t imagine how dark this must have all felt to Job especially knowing deep down that he was a good man and walked with God.

Job 29

Spirit


Job 29:1-6
Job’s Final Defense

29 Job continued his discourse:
2 “How I long for the months gone by,
for the days when God watched over me,
3 when his lamp shone on my head
and by his light I walked through darkness!
4 Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house,
5 when the Almighty was still with me
and my children were around me,
6 when my path was drenched with cream
and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.
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Job’s concluding monologues present a summary of his righteousness and an appeal for justice.

Job was coming to a spiritual realization as the verses at the end of chapter 28 seem to indicate but here we see him lamenting for how life used to be and harking back to his wonder years and that God blessed him and took care of him.

He harked back to his successful life
·     God was protecting him and providing for him (Job 1:10).
·     Job became rich (Job 1:3, 1:21).
·     He had a large family (Job 1:2).
·     It appears that he had a productive, fruitful and successful farm with an abundance of cream and olive oil.
He longed for the days when he knew that God was present and on his side. What he perhaps wasn’t so clear about was that God was still with him and on his side in this difficult time even when his friends were attacking him, even when he was struggling with his health and feeling despair. God was just as near him in this time as in the successful times.

These are poignant words as I feel quite low at the moment (May 2017) about work and how I really find it hard to want to be there as it’s become quite a negative atmosphere and all I hear all the time is that our performance is not good enough, we need more, there needs to be more intensity about what we do.

I can find myself longing for the days when I was successful but for whatever reason God is here and present and sees fit that I should go through this difficult time. On a scale of hardship it doesn’t compare with anything that Job was enduring but that’s not the point.

This is about God being present in the good, the bad and the ugly of life. God allowing something in life to shape us.
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Job 29:7-11

7 “When I went to the gate of the city
and took my seat in the public square,
8 the young men saw me and stepped aside
and the old men rose to their feet;
9 the chief men refrained from speaking
and covered their mouths with their hands;
10 the voices of the nobles were hushed,
and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.
11 Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
and those who saw me commended me,
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These verses within Job’s lament give us some further insight into his life before his troubles came.

He was clearly an influential man. He was respected as a leader in his community, perhaps even a judge.

In patriarchal times, walls would surround a city. There would be a square by the city’s main gate. People would gather there for meetings. The leaders of the community would make decisions there and the judges would hold court.

Job attended the meetings of the rulers. He was considered a wise man with some authority.

There was a healthy fear and respect of his wisdom from old and young alike. He had a reputation as a fair man and was a known figure.

Whilst Job’s fall from the pedestal he was on was undeserved, he had done nothing wrong. It had a purpose that he nor others knew anything about. It was the result of something happening in the heavenly realms.

I know the same situation for different reasons. I did not just fall from a pedestal, the pedestal was completely smashed. It was also a result of something going on in the spiritual realms but it was caused by my dishonesty, lack of authenticity, the resultant thievery, sexual immorality and everything else that was hidden in my life. God will not be mocked. Everything that was propping me up had to come down with a crash.

I spoke at conferences throughout the UK and overseas, I received a lot of affirmation for my insightful style of preaching, teaching and speaking. I was part of an influential leadership team and was well known for various aspects of spiritual life in our international community of churches. It had to go. My ego was bound up in it. 

Do I lament that influence? Occasionally I will remember something and feel a mixed feeling about it. I will feel sad about what was going on underneath and that at that time I couldn’t handle “success” with authenticity. I genuinely no longer desire that mantel of “being somebody”. I enjoy living quietly getting on with life and find joy in my family, my close friendships, simple things of life and my creative pursuits. I wouldn’t trade my walk with God that I have now for anything …any level of fame or fortune. To feel peace every day, to have a clear conscience every day and to feel connected every day is a great blessing.

Not every day is a good day. I have my lustful moments when I notice a woman and I have temptations towards dishonesty which usually comes in the form of wanting to cover up mistakes I have made at work, I have the desire to run from difficult situations quite often or escape into something more palatable than face the difficult situation but I make the right decision more often than the wrong decision and I have learned to U turn when I head in the wrong direction.

In my former life when I had the opportunity to U turn I just ran faster. On some level I identify with some of Job’s lament and there is something that causes me to grieve about my former life but it’s mostly … I wish I could have handled it differently.

Today I am blessed. Life is different. It has taken a few different turns in my 54 years. Life is far from the utopian freedom that I sometimes long for but it is good. God is good.

Job knew that God is good. He struggled to reconcile this with what happened to him and searched his soul to understand it. This lament is part of that process.

We don’t always get we want but always we get what we need for our spiritual health and the best opportunity that we can have to know God and connect with him. He knows us intimately. He knew that Job would benefit from this and he knew what I needed to go through for my heart to be in a place where it could respond to God at a deeper level and ignite my desire with a more enduring flame.
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Job 29:12-17

12 because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to assist them.
13 The one who was dying blessed me;
I made the widow’s heart sing.
14 I put on righteousness as my clothing;
justice was my robe and my turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy;
I took up the case of the stranger.
17 I broke the fangs of the wicked
and snatched the victims from their teeth.
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In these verses we read about the Poor, fatherless, ready to perish, widow’s etc.,

All over the ancient Near Eastern world, a man’s virtue was measured by his treatment of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. If he protected and provided for this group, he was respected. Job had been accused if not doing such things and this being the cause of his suffering and yet Job had indeed taken this responsibility seriously.

Taking care of the vulnerable and the poor is to carry the very heart of God. Contrary to the accusations of the 3 friends, Job went beyond the standards of the day to care for the widow, the orphan, the poor, the disabled, and the abused. Job saw to it that they had their needs taken care of. If he even heard of someone in trouble, he searched them out, and helped them.
Job was saying that he was just as tough on the wicked, as he was kind to the innocent. He was a champion and upholder of justice.

He carried the very heart of God in his being as best as he could with his human limitations. It is interesting that the words in verse 13 about putting on righteousness as clothing echoes down the millennia to Galatians 3:27 and being clothed in Christ or Ephesians 6:10-18 putting on the full armour of God. There is a recognition that his righteousness was not his own and that it came from God.

These are stirring words and his heart for the poor challenges me. I feel a love and compassion in some moments and certainly when I was working with the guys in the addiction recovery programme that I ran. I would feel it or if I bother to stop and talk with a homeless person I might find a connection or if I see suffering.

I pray for a softer heart towards the vulnerable and the poor, to carry the heart of God to the hurting and needy. I am selfish at the core of my being and I have moments when the light goes on and my heart softens but day to day I don’t really think too far beyond myself  and that’s not a great way to live.
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Job 29:18-20

18 “I thought, ‘I will die in my own house,
my days as numerous as the grains of sand.
19 My roots will reach to the water,
and the dew will lie all night on my branches.
20 My glory will not fade;
the bow will be ever new in my hand.’
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Job had experienced a lifelong intimate walk with God and his life had been one of vitality, health, energy and living with God’s blessings of fruitfulness and family. He expected to die a satisfied old man surrounded by family. This was his expectation and was the common expectation of a righteous man in his day.
He had no sense that this was coming, no hints, no clues. His world was turned upside down in a very sudden and immediate way.

Sometimes God changes our lives. Something comes out of the blue, stops us in our tracks and we are faced not with the life we were expecting but a very different life. It’s hard to compare any personal experience with Job in this sense. 

Certainly once my great unravelling began I knew that life would be different from now on and didn’t quite know exactly how different it would be. I might go to jail, I might not be able to repair my relationships with my family or my close friends, I might live in exile to the spiritual family, I might head further down a self destructive path. It was a time of fear and uncertainty but it was also a time of great blessing and relief. The pressure was off, I was no longer running away, hiding in the shadows, faking anything. I had to deal with shame first and though that was not my intentional thought, a good friend recommended a book called “the gifts of imperfection” which I read whilst living in my car and sofa surfing during August 2015.
All of this was sudden but it wasn’t unexpected given what had happened. My life would change. God had a different plan than I had previously thought for my life. In some ways I knew there was great challenge ahead and great suffering in the present for those that had been hurt, betrayed, let down by my actions but there was also a freedom emerging from a self imposed prison of a double life underpinned by dishonesty and play acting. Multi talented insightful spiritual leader with a gift for preaching on the outside and a secret life of sexual sin, flirting, deceit and financial ruin on the other. A man who lied, cheated and blagged his way through life.

However we look at life changes whether sudden or surprising, brought on by our own actions or events outside of our control. We can be sure that God is present, that he is involved and he wants to do something with our cooperation that will be fundamentally for our good. Countless Biblical stories are evidence of this and Job is one of those stories.

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Job 29:21-25

21 “People listened to me expectantly,
waiting in silence for my counsel.
22 After I had spoken, they spoke no more;
my words fell gently on their ears.
23 They waited for me as for showers
and drank in my words as the spring rain.
24 When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it;
the light of my face was precious to them.
25 I chose the way for them and sat as their chief;
I dwelt as a king among his troops;
I was like one who comforts mourners.
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Job reminded his friends that there had been a day when no one had rejected his insights. He was known as a man of depth and profound understanding. His walk with God was well known and he was respected as a spiritual and wise man. His leadership galvanized people and inspired loyalty.

Once Job spoke the debate was over. His words made sense. He was very influential..

Now he was in a situation where his friends would not agree with anything that came from his mouth. Bildad said that he would prefer to listen to the wind (Job 8:2).
Job had not changed. Only his circumstances had changed.

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.
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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.
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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.”
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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 25

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Job 25:1-6
Bildad

25 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
2 “Dominion and awe belong to God;
he establishes order in the heights of heaven.
3 Can his forces be numbered?
On whom does his light not rise?
4 How then can a mortal be righteous before God?
How can one born of woman be pure?
5 If even the moon is not bright
and the stars are not pure in his eyes,
6 how much less a mortal, who is but a maggot—
a human being, who is only a worm!”
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These verses usher in Bildad’s final speech which come in the form of an interruption as he upholds his position that God is awesome and man is worthless.
The arguments all seem to be exhausted as Bildad offers a few final words in this discourse.  Brief but brutal. “Yahweh has all power, but a man is as useless as a worm in His presence”.

The essence of Bildad’s short comments are true. God is absolute in sovereignty and terrible in power, so that even in His high places, and among His celestial hosts, He maintains peace and harmony.

However, he was not answering what Job had said in the last chapter. He was bringing up the greatness of God, which is undeniable, and also bringing up the worthlessness of man.

Bildad’s dark view of humanity is frequently propagated in theology circles even to this day however our true value to God is revealed at the Cross. If we are indeed worthless to God then why sacrifice all that he did for us. We may be misguided and foolish in our ways, hurting and devouring all of creation with our selfish core but God sees enough value in us to send Jesus to die for us, to take the consequences of all this chaos and mess on his own head. Bildad either forgot or was unaware that man was made in the image of God, we were given dominion over the animals so we are indeed more than worms.

Job 24

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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?”
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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 22

almighty
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 21

4039f11ba19391be295c55b7198c86ac
Job 21:1-6
21 Then Job replied:
2 “Listen carefully to my words;
let this be the consolation you give me.
3 Bear with me while I speak,
and after I have spoken, mock on.
4 “Is my complaint directed to a human being?
Why should I not be impatient?
5 Look at me and be appalled;
clap your hand over your mouth.
6 When I think about this, I am terrified;
trembling seizes my body.
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In this chapter Job strikes at the heart of his friends’ assumption that the wicked are judged and the righteous are blessed. Job claims and points to evidence that this is not true, he calls for them to look at life in an objective way. The children of the wicked are established (verse 8), his house is safe (verse 9), his cattle are fruitful and give birth to offspring(verse 10). He even receives an honourable burial (verses 32-33).

Job addresses the theological flaws of his friends. The outcomes of personal fortunes in this life are not the standards of eternity.

Job called for his friends to be quiet and to listen to some amazing and terrifying truth (verses 1-6), namely that the wicked do prosper (verses 7-13) though they deny God (verses 14-15), and they prosper not by their doing, but by the hand of God (verse 16).
This seems to be the point where the simplistic idealism of Proverbs and the challenging of this way of thinking in Ecclesiastes meet and is unravelled.

The general truth of Proverbs is the rule of the universe and wired into the DNA of the way things work in the world but this world is broken due to the human intervention of attempting to play God in our own lives and so things don’t work in such a flawless way. Things go wrong. Variables occur.

God is sovereign and the great leveller of all things but this life and this world is under our dominion and is the limited domain of Satan. It is broken, fallen and not in a good place. When something is broken it does not work properly and is no longer fit for it’s intended purpose. It might function at some level but does not fulfil the potential that it was originally designed for. That sounds very much like the world that we live in.

Job begins to address his friends simplistic and incorrect views and judgments but his expectation is that they “Mock on”. His only appeal is that they listen and consider what he has to say.

His observation raised more questions in his mind. Job could not reconcile why the wicked might prosper and he might suffer. He wished it was as simple as that and he wouldn’t be in the situation he was in but his observation of life and his own experience led him to raise these difficult questions. Most of us have similar questions about the nature of God and suffering. It is one of the biggest questions that we bring to the table in our experience and understanding of God.

Job asserts that his complaint was not against his friends and questioned why they were so bothered by it. Job’s complaint was to God and he trusted that God would allow him to speak, though they would not. He was in some way thankful that his friends were not his judge. He knew that God was fair, and that He knew his heart. Job was satisfied that God would be his Judge. At the same time he trembled with fear at what he was bringing to God.
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Job 21:7-16
7 Why do the wicked live on,
growing old and increasing in power?
8 They see their children established around them,
their offspring before their eyes.
9 Their homes are safe and free from fear;
the rod of God is not on them.
10 Their bulls never fail to breed;
their cows calve and do not miscarry.
11 They send forth their children as a flock;
their little ones dance about.
12 They sing to the music of timbrel and lyre;
they make merry to the sound of the pipe.
13 They spend their years in prosperity
and go down to the grave in peace.
14 Yet they say to God, ‘Leave us alone!
We have no desire to know your ways.
15 Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
What would we gain by praying to him?’
16 But their prosperity is not in their own hands,
so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked.

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Job challenged the notion that evil people suffer short lives and short lived gain. His observation had led him to believe otherwise. His own conscience told him that his suffering was not a punishment for his failure to do something or his own wilful sin. The words of his friends may have included some simplistic truths but they were not absolute by an means.

Sometimes the wicked do indeed prosper. It seems unfair.

Not only are they mighty in power themselves, but they leave their power as an inheritance to their children after them (Psalm 17:14). This contradicts what Eliphaz had said (Job 15:34), what Bildad had said (Job 18:19), and what Zophar had said (Job 20:10).
In verse 9 Job states that their homes are free from fear which challenges what Zophar had just said that “a fire not blown should consume him” (Job 20:26), and Bildad in Chapter 18:15 that “destruction and brimstone would destroy the evil persons habitation.”

In verse 10 we read about the evil person’s fruitful cattle and verse 11, in striking contrast to the fate of Job’s own children, and in contradiction to what Eliphaz had said (Job 15:29-33).

Verses 13-16 bring us to the core of the theological challenge facing Job and friends. Evil people have no respect for God and no time for God, they do not see the benefit of connecting with their maker, they are too busy charting their own course, making their own life work and when things seem to go well for them and bad for those who try to do what is right is does not seem fair. This was a challenge for Job and a challenge for his friends but they were approaching it in different ways. Job was wrestling with it and his friends were judging the outcomes of people’s lives with a labelling that fit their own worldview.
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Job 21:17-26

17 “Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out?
How often does calamity come upon them,
the fate God allots in his anger?
18 How often are they like straw before the wind,
like chaff swept away by a gale?
19 It is said, ‘God stores up the punishment of the wicked for their children.’
Let him repay the wicked, so that they themselves will experience it!
20 Let their own eyes see their destruction;
let them drink the cup of the wrath of the Almighty.
21 For what do they care about the families they leave behind
when their allotted months come to an end?
22 “Can anyone teach knowledge to God,
since he judges even the highest?
23 One person dies in full vigour,
completely secure and at ease,
24 well nourished in body,
bones rich with marrow.
25 Another dies in bitterness of soul,
never having enjoyed anything good.
26 Side by side they lie in the dust,
and worms cover them both.
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Job’s wrestling with God’s justice is continued here with questions about how and when God deals with evil. He understood that there was something more beyond mortality but was unsure about how God’s justice would pan out. He knew about the death of the body but did not understand what happened to men’s spirits.

This whole section repeats the assertions of Job’s friends regarding the judgment of sinners. To refute that perspective, Job suggested that his friends were guilty of telling God how He must deal with people (verse 22).

Job struggled with the idea that the wicked were not under the same attack that he was under and questioned when justice would be delivered on them. He could not understand why they appeared to continue life as it was and he suffered intensely.

In verses 22-24: Job concluded that in the end, no connection exists between how one lives and the prosperity or poverty a person experiences, and so trying to sort out the life base on observation is futile. Job could not see justice in the world or with God but he clearly recognized “falsehood” in his friend’s “answers”. They had based their assumptions in their own intellect and pride. Job knew that he did not have the answers and neither did his friends have the answers to these questions. He asserted in verse 22 that no one could teach God, he was the ultimate lawgiver and ultimate holder of knowledge.

The closing verses in this section remind us that absolutes will get us nowhere. Some of the wicked live and die in prosperity and some do not. This completely nullifies all that his friends had been saying to him.

Job observed that some die from obvious sickness and some die for no obvious reason but all die. Some people live long lives full of bitterness and anguish but eventually we all become dust.

One of the key points on my journey towards walking with God in the late 80’s and early 90’s was a self improvement guru and pop psychologist by the name of Wayne Dyer. He was an engaging speaker and a very talented writer with some great insights on human behaviour and the complexities of dealing with our emotional makeup. One of the ideas he put across in his work was the idea that we are ultimately spiritual beings having a human experience. This is what Job was reaching for in his wrestling. He caught a sense of something beyond our experience of life and death whilst his friends saw only the earthly existence.

It is important and valuable to remind myself of this basic spiritual truth when things are not going the way that I want them to go or think they should go. In moments when the hand of God perplexes me to hold onto the idea that life is beyond our earthly years. There is judgment and then there is eternity.
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Job 21:27-34

27 “I know full well what you are thinking,
the schemes by which you would wrong me.
28 You say, ‘Where now is the house of the great,
the tents where the wicked lived?’
29 Have you never questioned those who travel?
Have you paid no regard to their accounts—
30 that the wicked are spared from the day of calamity,
that they are delivered from the day of wrath?
31 Who denounces their conduct to their face?
Who repays them for what they have done?
32 They are carried to the grave,
and watch is kept over their tombs.
33 The soil in the valley is sweet to them;
everyone follows after them,
and a countless throng goes before them.
34 “So how can you console me with your nonsense?
Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!”
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Travellers would be story tellers and that is how people in Job’s day found out about what was going on in the world around them. Job asks his friends have you not listened to the reports of travellers? The world has not changed that much in that we hear often in the news of wicked people that get away with things they should not and live in luxury. Fraudulent bankers, money launderers, war criminals …even my own story to the casual observer it would look like I got away with my thievery and dishonesty only that does not tell the whole story.

In verse 31, Job was saying that there would be no one brave enough to go to the powerful wicked man on this earth, and accuse him to his face. Job also was explaining that it was not the place of another man to judge him, or to punish him. That should be left to God.

Back in verse 26, Job reported that an evil man’s death was very much like the death of a good man. The bodies of both men would lie next to each other in the grave. But as Job wrestled with this with some uncertainty, he also considered how their graves may be guarded, the sweet soil may be used and in fact they may be better off. This troubled him. His earlier words resonate with this thinking “He shall sweetly rest in his grave, free from all cares, and fears, and troubles” (Job 3:17-18).

Zophar expected the evil man to face an impending earthly judgment. Job proved that many wicked people have successful lives. Neither could explain the apparent injustice.
Eliphaz seems to have assumed that Job’s reasoning meant that he approved of an evil life. Eliphaz then placed that judgment on Job.