Psalm 9

We are reminded that God is established forever. He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. There was no one before Him, and there will be no one after Him. His throne is established in eternity. Ultimately, nothing and nobody can usurp him. 

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Mortal
Psalm 9

 

For the director of music. To the tune of ‘The Death of the Son’. A psalm of David.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;

    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

My enemies turn back;

    they stumble and perish before you.

For you have upheld my right and my cause,

    sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.

You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;

    you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,

    you have uprooted their cities;

    even the memory of them has perished.

The Lord reigns for ever;

    he has established his throne for judgment.

He rules the world in righteousness

    and judges the peoples with equity.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,

    a stronghold in times of trouble.

10 Those who know your name trust in you,

    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;

    proclaim among the nations what he has done.

12 For he who avenges blood remembers;

    he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

13 Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!

    Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,

14 that I may declare your praises

    in the gates of Daughter Zion,

    and there rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;

    their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.

16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice;

    the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.

17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,

    all the nations that forget God.

18 But God will never forget the needy;

    the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

19 Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;

    let the nations be judged in your presence.

20 Strike them with terror, Lord;

    let the nations know they are only mortal.


The psalms are Hebrew poetry. We mostly think about rhyming poetry where the ends of words rhyme.

Another type of poetry is to make the ideas sound like each other.

Psalm 9:8 is a good example of this. The 2 parts of the verse mean the same.

Another form of Hebrew poetry was to use an acrostic. This often caused the words to be jumbled and makes for difficult reading or awkward translation like Psalm 9:3.

Not many of the psalms are acrostics. Psalm 119 is the most well known acrostic. The others are 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145.

We do not usually translate them into English as acrostics, because there are only 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. However psalm 9 and 10 have been translated in this way because some of the letters are missing.

David probably wrote Psalm 9 and 10 as one psalm. Jewish tradition holds that he wrote it after he killed Goliath. The first part says that God beat the foreign enemy (Psalm 9). The second part says that wicked men in Israel are making the helpless into oppressed people. (Psalm 10)

The reasons for thinking that it was one psalm are:

  ·   Psalm 10 has no words at the top about David or music. This is quite unusual in a psalm by David.

  ·   Hebrew words that David did not often use are in Psalms 9 and 10.

  ·   Psalms 9 and 10 make one acrostic.

However, Psalms 9 and 10 evidence two different approaches. The first is an individual hymn while the second is an individual lament.

In the first part (verses 1-12), praise is prominent, and in the second part (verses 13-20), prayer is prominent. Many subtle patterns weave the thoughts of its verses and lines together. Shifting back and forth between the individual and corporate perspectives is characteristic, as are introverted, structures.

David’s hymn in Psalm 9 ebbs and flows through two respective tides of prayer and praise dealing with individual and corporate perspectives.

Verses 1-2 introduce some “I will” statements as we glimpse David’s dedication to exuberant worship of the Lord.

There is a strong sense of gratitude for the fact that God has made him victorious over his enemies (presumably the Philistines).

Marvelous works are celebrated, referencing God’s extraordinary interventions into history on behalf of His people (compare the Exodus events).

This is a psalm determined to praise God and connect with him in awe and gratitude. The opening verses are deeply expressive.

Verses 5 and 6 reveal the just Judge’s dealings with the godless. Verses 7 and 8, deal with His dealings with all men in general, and verses 9 and 10 deal with His gracious dealings with the faithful.

We are reminded that God is established forever. He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. There was no one before Him, and there will be no one after Him. His throne is established in eternity. Ultimately, nothing and nobody can usurp him.

In verses 9-10 we are informed that he is a refuge. God as a place of safety is a recurring theme in the Psalms (46:1-2; 91:1-2). A refuge or stronghold, sometimes translated “fortress”. He is a high place of security and protection (1 Samuel 23:14, 19, 29).

There is a “both/and” tension running throughout the Old Testament, i.e., God is enthroned in and above the heavens, and also, He symbolically dwells locally in Zion in His tabernacle (compare 1 Kings Chapter 8; Psalm 11:4).

As the result of this omnipresent wonder and in celebration of his work and intervention. The heart of the psalmist is full of praise and joy. He wants the world to know just who is this God!

In God’s kingdom the humble are celebrated, the weak are protected and the violators of peace are brought to justice. He will remember those who have suffered innocent bloodshed and he brings judgement on their oppressors.

Death is depicted like an earthly city, surrounded by a wall, where people are held captive – hence the reference to the gates of death.

The idea in verses 13 & 14 is, that the dead could not praise God, that his work of  is not yet complete, so he calls on God to intervene and save him so that he can continue to worship and praise him on the earth. This of course is an earthly perspective.

The psalm finishes by telling us 2 things:

  ·   God will remember the oppressed, even if they have to wait what appears to be a long time

  ·   God will teach us that we are only human and therefore mortal. It is only God that is really powerful

In verses 15-16, we are presented with God’s unfailing  boomerang. The principle of exact retribution. This in popular culture today is called karma or “what goes around, comes around”.


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

I spent a good amount of the day going through the loft looking for things to list on eBay. I have a lot of vinyl records, some that are worth decent sums of money but are a bit awkward to list from the phone and the computer is painfully slow but I managed to get a few items up. I was trying to find my EWI (Electronic woodwind instrument). I am sure I could get at least £200 for that but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was quite puzzled and a little consumed by the apparent loss of this instrument. I could not  remember taking it out of the house for many months and was sure I had seen it since. I found it eventually at about 11pm and was so relieved.

My dad phoned. It was a better conversation than last time. A little less of an edge. It must be difficult for him. I am sure it must bring up some of his own stuff plus I just learned that his sister, my aunt had just come out of a coma so he had all that going on when he last called. I knew she was very sick but I had no idea that she was in a coma until today. He was still mainly concerned about me being out of work, the financial situation but he did ask towards the end of the conversation “what are the chances of a reconciliation with my wife”. I told him that it was early days yet and that we both needed space and processing time but I would not rule it out.

PSALM 9
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
…………………….
I hold on to these words in Psalm 9. God is my stronghold in times of trouble. All I can do in this moment is to seek God. He will not forget about me.

My experience of God is an absent God…he’s out there doing his thing, being God but he’s not so interested in me. He is busy with the universe and other people who are more connected to him and have better hearts than me. Of course that experience is erroneous and in contradiction to scripture.

I know Jesus saved his strongest words for the self righteous and religious. I am a sinner of the highest order. I can see Jacob the deceiver in me, Samson the manipulator, David the adulterer who covered his steps by killing her husband, I am Jonah the moaner who ran away. I am not a pretty picture but God used all these people despite their flaws.

One of my friends and journal recipients came round in the evening and we spent a couple of hours together. It was great to see him. I talked through my story and he asked me a number of questions. We prayed and he told me that it was really helpful for him to be able to have more empathy for me. I really am glad that he is in this loop. He is a great friend. Meeting with him gave me the confidence and desire to make some more connections. I thinking about others I want to connect with. Yesterday was a pretty good day in the end.


Reflections two years on

The first thing that strikes me about this Psalm is that gratitude is key. I didn’t have a whole lot of gratitude two years ago. My thought life was dominated by fear, anxiety, anger, judgement, sadness and mostly self pity.

There was however a small glimmer of light and enough of an awareness of the presence of God to edge me forward. People were generally more gracious than I expected to. This gave me confidence to edge further forward, make apologies, some amends and reconnect.

Psalm 9 is a celebration of who God is. It is a Psalm of wonder and confidence in his absolute sovereignty.

It reminds me that though I have many limitations, God compensates for all this. In him there is more than hope. There is surety that every injustice, every despair, every failing will be put right. God is God…we are not.

Psalm 3

fear
Psalm 3

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1 Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

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David was king of Israel 1000 years before Jesus. Absalom was a son of David. Absalom wanted to become king so he attacked David. David ran away to a safe place. Absalom proclaimed himself king.

David asked God to intervene. He was restored as king. Absalom died. The historical background to the psalm is described (in 2 Samuel chapters 15-18). Though David petitioned (in verse 7), “Arise, O Lord; save me”, it is clear from (2 Samuel 15:32-37), that David shrewdly sent his friend Hushai back to Jerusalem to deceive Absalom. David used his own means and resources but expressed that he trusted in God.

David wrote Psalm 3 after he ran away. He apparently wrote it one morning. He thanked the LORD for a safe night. That is why Psalm 3 is sometimes referred to as a morning song.

David calls God by the name LORD. This is quite an intimate expression of God’s name. In Hebrew it is YAHWEH. Absalom and his men use the more descriptive term ELOHIM which we translate God. Absalom’s rebellion was gaining momentum and his followers were increasing, his followers were certain of David’s downfall. He was fearful and prayed for supernatural intervention.

David’s confidence was in God that he would be sustained by him and protected by him. Whilst that is completely expressed there was also a genuine fear of the situation at the same time. It can be seen as a wrestling with what he knew was true and where his feelings were leading him.

This psalm intermingles both lament and confidence. In its sweeping scope, it becomes a pattern for praise, peace and prayer amidst pressure. As it unfolds through 3 interrelated historical phenomena, David shares his theological “secret” of having assurance in the face of adversity.

  1. The Psalmist’s Predicament (3:1-2);
  2. The Psalmist’s Peace (3:3-6);
  3. The Psalmist’s Prayer (3:7-8).

This is the first of 73 psalms that are specifically attributed to David. Further information connects its occasion with the Absalom episode (2 Samuel chapters 15-18), although many of its features are more descriptive of persecution in general.

David begins on a low note by lamenting his predicament and his multiplied miseries.

David was up against a numerous and formidable enemy that appeared to be gaining momentum. Absalom his son had stolen the hearts of the people. This was fast becoming a movement of the people that would likely usurp the throne.

Ahithophel, his counsellor, sought his ruin and, and had his advice been followed, his ruin, morally speaking, would have been unavoidable.

We know the sadness in David’s heart when he fled from his own son. This is a bit of a mirror of how Jesus felt when the Hebrews turned against Him.

David was a man of courage from his youth. The instances of his attacking the lion and the bear, when he kept his father’s sheep, his engaging with Goliath, and his military exploits, show it.  There were now many thousands up in arms against him, and his own son at the head of them; all the tribes of Israel were revolting from him, and he was only attended with a few of his friends. He felt the fear but he was not completely dismayed because he knew the God that he loved and served.

David’s well documented sin brought about a twofold impact. On the one hand his recovery journey from a humanistic point of view was never truly achieved. The consequences of his actions plagued him for the rest of his life. They brought about a a completely broken family unit, suspicion of his courtiers and erosion of public confidence in his leadership. In truth this element of David’s journey never became what it should have become or would have become.

From a spiritual perspective he became a different man. God brought about incredible growth and change in his walk with him, his dependence on God and his absolute devotion to God. He became known in the annals of history as a man after God’s own heart and that is celebrated throughout scripture. God brought about a refining that gave him full restoration to the Lord.

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Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

Yesterday I had my DWP appointment. It was frustrating. I prayed for the person that dealt with me be someone I could connect with and find helpful but she turned out to be a bit of a jobsworth. A very good one in making sure that all the I’s were dotted and the t’s crossed but really not too helpful. She also told me that because my dismissal was my own fault it will have an impact on my claim. Not exactly what I wanted to hear but fair enough I guess. I also learned that I could not back date it to the day of my dismissal because I wasn’t actively looking for work during that time. I was given access to a job centre computer to look for work but it was painfully slow and the internet kept dropping so I quietly left the building.

I have to go back for a further appointment on Wednesday and she has also asked that I attend a job club who may be able to help me to present myself as marketable given my difficult situation. I felt moments of humiliation and moments of “this is what I need”. I have never been out of work since the day I left school when I was 15 years old and always taken pride in my work ethic. I never imagined I would be in a situation like this.

I feel quite disoriented at times. I took so much for granted just having some space to organise myself. It is something I really miss in my current situation.

I hate the fact that my phone runs out of battery after only a couple of hours. It annoys me and is an inconvenience because it is my connection to the outside world and my main resource in finding work, trying to find somewhere to stay. I need to find a way to charge it on a regular basis. I am sure it’s not doing my car battery much good.

My plans for this week are scuppered. It gets exhausting at times, wearing me down, breaking my spirit. It is however, a blessing to be learning to live in a different much less convenient way.

Life in Tesco’s car park is not easy. It’s also a matter of time before I will be moved on. The longest a car is supposed to stay here without a fine is two hours.

I notice how much I take many things for granted that I no longer have access to. Simple things like not having 24/7 access to a toilet which means I have to regulate when I eat and drink mindful of the next opportunity to be able to use a toilet.

Also, having to think carefully what I need for the whole day and to pack my small rucksack with everything I need and make sure anything else is left in a safe place.

I read Psalm 3 this morning. These words resonated with me:

“I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.”

It is God who sustains me. I do not need to fear. I need to keep remembering this. It’s hard to remember when things don’t go my way but it’s when I need to remember and look to him.

The debt management company phoned me in response to an email I sent them about my circumstances. The result of the conversation was that they want to wash their hands of me …presumably because there is no longer the possibility for them to make money from me. They advised me to file for bankruptcy and suggested the Citizens Advice Bureau as the next point of contact. My thoughts turned towards protecting the house from my creditors and the sooner it goes into wife’s name the better. I feel a bit anxious about this.

I went back towards my family home. I saw my sister in laws car outside the house in front of my car. I didn’t want to face her so went to the library. I discovered I can use the internet for 2 hours a day free of charge. That encouraged me. I looked up some homeless services in the area and will go there today.

I went for a prayer walk by the cricket pitch and the Churchill statue. It was meaningful and uplifting. I noticed the contrasting colours in the evening dusk, the trees and the grass. I really had my most enjoyable prayer time with God for a long time. It had been a difficult day that had eroded my spirit but I felt at the end of the day some peace in my heart and a genuine surrender.

I walked a lot yesterday. I don’t know how many miles but it was a lot. My feet hurt, one of my heels is cracked and I am not sure if this is from sleeping awkward in the car but I am walking with a limp because of a pain in the hip. When I felt it this morning it took me right back to Genesis 22 and Jacob …yesterday’s prayer time was no meeting with an angel or face to face with God but it was a break through for me. Maybe the limp is a sign from God that a good work is beginning in me.

Today my plan is that I am going to make some progress in sorting out my living situation, make some progress on the job front, make some progress with my financial situation and make some progress spiritually. These are my daily goals. As long as I can do a bit of work on each then I feel good.

Although it is difficult I feel blessed that I am homeless and jobless in the summer. It feels good to be outdoors. I am afraid of what lies ahead but I know that the Lord will sustain me. I don’t know how but I know my resources are flimsy and his are not.

I have good health, I have mobility, I have a few people around me that are being very kind, very generous and very supportive. I am enjoying a slower pace of life for now, I am beginning to find God again. Reading and praying is no longer a duty or chore but prayer is often spontaneous and I always look forward to reading. It’s a long time since I felt that. I am not sure I will feel that every day but yesterday was like that in the end and today has started in this way.

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Reflections two years on

Reading this Psalm again, I think about King David that after his great fall that he permanently lost his grip on his kingship, his influence was shattered and he never really recovered although he recovered enough in his brokenness to walk with God and ultimately be described as a man after God’s own heart. He gained something better. I feel that too. There is  a sadness and grieving for the loss and the damage done not only to my reputation but to my relationships. I know that I will never be afforded the trust that was once given to me and I have to navigate my way through life without that but there is no great desire to have the influence I had, once again because what I have now is better more fulfilling and more deeply rooted. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody but I would not trade it for anything.

The heart of Psalm 3 is that when the odds are stacked against you and everything looks bleak it is okay to feel the fear, it is human to feel the feel the fear but we can also feel the freedom by wrestling with it in the presence of God and having the confidence to know that whatever the outcome …our God is at work in the situation.

 

Job 35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Job 34

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Job 34:1-4

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

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

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

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

The opening four verses usher in the following discourse …

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

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

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

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

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

5 “Job says, ‘I am innocent,
but God denies me justice.
6 Although I am right,
I am considered a liar;
although I am guiltless,
his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’
7 Is there anyone like Job,
who drinks scorn like water?
8 He keeps company with evildoers;
he associates with the wicked.
9 For he says, ‘There is no profit
in trying to please God.’
10 “So listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
11 He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
12 It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.
13 Who appointed him over the earth?
Who put him in charge of the whole world?
14 If it were his intention
and he withdrew his spirit and breath,
15 all humanity would perish together
and mankind would return to the dust.
—————————————–
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.
—————————————–

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.
———————————–

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
———————————-

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!
——————————————————

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 31

Shocking-Purity_hero

Job 31:1-4
31 “I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a young woman.
2 For what is our lot from God above,
our heritage from the Almighty on high?
3 Is it not ruin for the wicked,
disaster for those who do wrong?
4 Does he not see my ways
and count my every step?

——————————————–
Job intensified his claims that he was innocent and demanded justice.

This chapter follows a protocol for court procedures in the nations of the area where Job lived. This would be swearing of allegiance to the King or deity followed by statements of “if” and “let”. These statements established the terms of the oath. The “if” describing what the accused is being accused of doing and the “let” being the terms of punishment or curses from the deity. Job’s defence of himself stated that if these accusations were true then let the full weight of the curse come upon me.

This represented Job’s final attempt to defend himself before both God and man.

He brings all of the following accusations to the table… purity (verse 1), general sin (verses 2-3), truth (verse 5), coveting (verse 7), marital faithfulness (verse 9), equity (verse 13), compassion (verses 16-21); materialism (verses 24-25), false religion (verses 26-27), love for enemies and strangers (verses 29-32), secret sin (verses 33-34), integrity within business (verses 38-40). Job recognised that he was a sinner but he asserted that he had no pattern of sin. 

He asked God to answer him (verse 35), and to explain why he suffered. Finally, he appeals to God to be the judge: if what he has claimed for himself is not true, let God himself pronounce the consequences (verses 35-40).

This was largely a reply to the accusations from Eliphaz that are outlined in chapter 22.

He spoke here of purity toward women (Prov. 6:25; Matt. 5:28).

Much temptation begins with gazing intensely at something you desire (Psalm 119:37; 1 John 2:16). Job’s covenant” commitment to refrain from lustful desire reveals his refusal to consider adultery or the acquisition of other women as part of a harem (31:9-12). He was aware that adultery can be committed with the heart as well as with the body (Matt. 5:27-28).

Job had made a covenant with himself never to look upon a woman with lust in his eyes. It appears from all accounts, that Job was a faithful husband to his wife. He was not an adulterer. This was something he had promised himself. 

I know this to be true when I trace my own adultery back. I began on that track when I stopped being disciplined with lust in the autumn on 2009. It was January 2011 when finally I ended up physically committing adultery. In the autumn of 2009 whilst I had allowed my mind to go there I didn’t think it would ever become a reality nor at that point did I want it to be a reality. I didn’t want it to be a reality in 2011 either, only I found myself in that situation, opportunity knocked and I had already played it out in my head.

A different decision that day may have led to a very different story, that’s true but the door really opened in 2009.

Job in his wisdom protected himself from that possibility. He made a covenant with his eyes.

Job knew that God was his judge. So he was careful about his actions. He made intentional decisions about his life and his ways. He knew that a man might hide his evil deeds from other people. But nobody can hide from God (Psalm 139:1-10). He was saying that there would have been no inheritance from God if he had been such a man.

God saw every detail of my secret life, my wife, my friends and others near me may have seen some cracks and may have known that something was not right but not enough to bring it into question. God dealt with it in his time and in a way that some might call punishment. I don’t see it as punishment but discipline. It was an act of grace and of love. He knew my heart, he knew I would repent but wanted me to feel the consequences and knew exactly what I needed. It was painful but to look back on it I feel it was also beautiful.

He equipped my family to handle it in a way that has matured them and helped them to grow spiritually, he equipped my closest friends to handle it in a way that has brought about growth and flourishing wisdom.

In some of the more difficult moments I wouldn’t have said that as I could not see it. My dominant feeling at the time was probably self pity. In fact I know it was self pity because I have my journals from the summer of 2015 when it all unravelled.
The point is that God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Job knew this but was perplexed by his situation. These verses in chapter 31 lay out his defence.
——————————————–

Job 31:5-6

5 “If I have walked with falsehood
or my foot has hurried after deceit—
6 let God weigh me in honest scales
and he will know that I am blameless—
7 if my steps have turned from the path,
if my heart has been led by my eyes,
or if my hands have been defiled,
8 then may others eat what I have sown,
and may my crops be uprooted.

———————————————–
Job was careful about his ways
·     his actions,
·     his thoughts,
·     and his behaviour.
He was sure of his honesty and integrity. He wanted an honest judgment and he knew very well the reap what you sow principles of the world that he lived in.
———————————————–

Job 31:9-12

9 “If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
or if I have lurked at my neighbour’s door,
10 then may my wife grind another man’s grain,
and may other men sleep with her.
11 For that would have been wicked,
a sin to be judged.
12 It is a fire that burns to Destruction;
it would have uprooted my harvest.
——————————————-
It appears that he was accused of adultery but Job protested his innocence and knew that even lust would have taken him down. This kind of sin burned within a person until it totally destroyed them. Intimacy belongs between a man and his wife and as someone who has violated that covenant on every level I know the fallout only too well. I know what it leads to and that recovery from such a destructive pattern is rare.

It is addressed in Deuteronomy 5:18. Jesus had something to say about it as recorded in Matthew 5:27-28.

Job knew that if he had been guilty of this he may as well have given his wife over to another man. His life would have been in tatters and everything he built his life on would be uprooted and destroyed.
——————————————-

Job 31:13-15

13 “If I have denied justice to any of my servants,
whether male or female,
when they had a grievance against me,
14 what will I do when God confronts me?
What will I answer when called to account?
15 Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?

———————————————-
In verse 15 we read that Job was aware that he answered to maker of us all and therefore treated his servants with respect. He treated his staff well.

He knew his God as the avenger and champion of all the oppressed. If he had been harsh and cruel to his dependents, he would have provoked God’s anger. Every servant was still a man, a brother; equal with his master.

Job had compassion on the poor and on his servants as well. He had never mistreated any of them. Job was saying if he had mistreated his servants, he could expect no better from God, whose servant he was (Job 2:3).

In the culture of the day and up until recent history a wealthy man would not respect his servants. He would be harsh with them. Much later, Jesus talked about this principle. It is recorded in Matthew 24:48-51.

It is important for me to remember that hierarchy is pretty meaningless. We are all brothers and sisters in this journey through life. It is too easy to think in terms of pecking orders and where I fit whether at work, within the community of church, socially, in my neighbourhood and every setting that I walk into or pass through. 

The saying “some days I am the dog and others I am the tree” rings true as an experience of life but really it is my processing that is flawed. I am made in the image of God as relational being. I exist to tell God’s  story and to propagate love in any and every situation I encounter.

———————————————-

Job 31:16-23

16 “If I have denied the desires of the poor
or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,
17 if I have kept my bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless—
18 but from my youth I reared them as a father would,
and from my birth I guided the widow—
19 if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing,
or the needy without garments,
20 and their hearts did not bless me
for warming them with the fleece from my sheep,
21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
knowing that I had influence in court,
22 then let my arm fall from the shoulder,
let it be broken off at the joint.
23 For I dreaded destruction from God,
and for fear of his splendour I could not do such things.
———————————————-
Job had lived his life fearing God and taking on God’s heart for the poor and needy. He not only gave charitable offerings to the poor he connected with them he relationally reflected the heart of God.
·     Job was kind to the widows in verse 16.
·     The child in verse 17 needed a father figure. Job treated him as though he was family.
·     In verse 19 we read that he gave clothing to those that needed it.
·     He used his position of influence to defend the poor in legal situations. A voice to those without a voice.

Job knew that God had blessed his life and therefore he shared what God had given him both in terms of his wealth but also of his heart.

How would rather his bones be broken or limbs torn apart than to face God would this not have been the case as his accusers had suggested.

This raises questions about how I view those in need. I have momentary windows where I connect but more often my heart is one of selfishness and self protection. The light goes on occasionally when my heart is moved but there are many times my response is one of indifference. I want that to change.
———————————————-

Job 31:24-25

24 “If I have put my trust in gold
or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’
25 if I have rejoiced over my great wealth,
the fortune my hands had gained,
————————————————-
Job was not overly enamoured by money. His focus was God and not money. It seemed he had plenty of wealth but he knew that everything came from God.
He asserted that his security was in God and not gold. The bible speaks a lot about money and the right perspective on money. Of Jesus’ recorded words there is more said about money than love!! Clearly it is something close to our hearts and the purse strings appear to be connected to the heart strings in some way.

A healthy perspective would be “Spend some, save some, share some” …at least that’s been my recent thinking. Maybe invest some might also be an appropriate addition. However, these are issues of stewardship but what Job is speaking of here is more about where our heart is. To be focused on gold is idolatrous and a violation of our relationship with our maker. The void in our heart is shaped only for the presence of God, to try and place anything else there will not meet that need.
————————————————-

Job 31:26-28

26 if I have regarded the sun in its radiance
or the moon moving in splendour,
27 so that my heart was secretly enticed
and my hand offered them a kiss of homage,
28 then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.

—————————————————–
The sun and the moon were worshipped as God’s by many. A kiss was a symbol of worship in honour of men  (Genesis 41:40; Psalm 2:12), or idols (1 Kings 19:18; Hosea 13:2). If such idols were out of reach a kiss on the hand was a symbolic way of throwing kisses to them.

Job did not worship the sun or the moon, or even his own person. He knew his God was the great redeemer. He had a great awareness of idolatry and was not guilty in this way.

Our biggest challenge in idolatry is the worship of self, not in a pious or religious way but just the way that every decision we make is to please self. We dress it up in other ways at times but often there is a pay off to our own well being, our ego or some way of propping up of self that makes us feel significant. I know some people who are successful in the battle against that on some level but most of us are not. I think at best we have small God centred victories.

I don’t think it’s something to over think or analyse but something to go to God with knowing that he is the only one who can sort this out. He is our redeemer.
—————————————————–

Job 31:29-30

29 “If I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune
or gloated over the trouble that came to him—
30 I have not allowed my mouth to sin
by invoking a curse against their life—

—————————————————-
Jobs claim was that he never wished ill of his enemies or rejoiced in another persons suffering. He kept a careful guard about what came out of his mouth. He knew that this was not the heart of God.

—————————————————-

Job 31:31-32

31 if those of my household have never said,
‘Who has not been filled with Job’s meat?’—
32 but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,
for my door was always open to the traveller—
————————————————

Job’s defence continues with an assertion of his attitude towards travellers and strangers. He was a hospitable man and would ensure that those passing through were looked after.

This makes me think about how welcoming and kind I should be to those around me. In this fast paced modern world that we live in and the multiple distractions that take us away from relationships we can easily be focused on our own pleasure and forget about the value of connection. 

In the church we kind of have a programmed connection and forced connection in the form of various different group meetings. Family group, church meetings, discipling times but all of these can lack the authenticity of just being a relational being. This is not a criticism of the practice but rather a question about how far gone we are that we have to create a programme to be relational.

Yesterday we were in a small Essex village and we stopped and had three conversations with strangers. It was just small talk. Two we asked for directions and one we were in the village shop but all three offered more than we asked for in terms of conversational content. That is rare in London. We are however …wired for relationship.

————————————————


Job 31:33-34

33 if I have concealed my sin as people do,
by hiding my guilt in my heart
34 because I so feared the crowd
and so dreaded the contempt of the clans
that I kept silent and would not go outside
————————————————
The NIV translates verse 33 with the words “as people do”. The Hebrew text could equally be translated “If I covered my transgressions as Adam”, this may indicate familiarity with the narrative of Genesis but more likely is a generic term for the common man. However, Adam did indeed hide from God when he violated the relationship (Genesis 3:8).

Job claimed that he did not hide. He lived accessible to all and transparent. 

He allowed accusations to be levied against him and answered them.

In Proverbs 28:13 we are informed “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper”. Job knew very well this spiritual truth since God sees everything and knows the motives of our hearts. He was not someone who would cover up his flaws or blame others for things that went wrong. Even throughout the trauma of his current predicament he was not one to blame but rather struggled with understanding why things had turned out the way they had.

————————————————

Job 31:35-40

35 (“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defence—let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser put his indictment in writing.
36 Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
I would put it on like a crown.
37 I would give him an account of my every step;
I would present it to him as to a ruler.)—
38 “if my land cries out against me
and all its furrows are wet with tears,
39 if I have devoured its yield without payment
or broken the spirit of its tenants,
40 then let briers come up instead of wheat
and stinkweed instead of barley.”
The words of Job are ended.

——————————————-
Job protested his innocence and invited further accusation from God, he felt that in the presence of God he would be vindicated and justice done. He felt that God was the source of his trouble but could not understand why that would have been the case.

Whatever God said, the Job would accept. That was his position.

He ended his speech with words about the earth being his testimony.

He had often spoken about the soil at the end of previous speeches (Job 7:21; Job 10:21-22; Job 17:16; Job 21:33). We are created from the earth (Genesis 2:7). We return to the earth when we die (Genesis 3:19).

Job had respected the land, the people that had been placed in his path and most of all he had respected his maker. The earth could testify to this but if the land spoke out against him and reclaimed him then his body would be returned to the ground. Nobody would cultivate the soil that he had once taken such good care of. Weeds would grow instead of healthy fruitful crops.

Job finished his speech with these sad words.

Job 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.
————————–
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.
————————–

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,
—————————————————
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 26

storm clouds


Job 26:1-4

26 Then Job replied:
2 “How you have helped the powerless!
How you have saved the arm that is feeble!
3 What advice you have offered to one without wisdom!
And what great insight you have displayed!
4 Who has helped you utter these words?
And whose spirit spoke from your mouth?
———————————————
In verses 1-4 Job responded to Bildad’s lack of concern for him, showing that all his friends’ theological and rational words missed the point of Job’s need altogether and have been completely unhelpful.

Job himself has virtually said much the same as Bildad (Job 9:2; Job 14:4), so he makes no further comment on his remarks here, but merely asks how he has helped him with such words, or others like him in a weak and helpless condition.

In six sarcastic questions Job tells Bildad that God would be in a great deal of trouble if Bildad had not been there to help God! Then Job outdoes Bildad in describing the majesty, power and greatness of God.
Job had studied wisdom (chapter 28). So Job believed that words about God should not merely come from the human mind. Rather, such words should come from God’s Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

In chapter 25, Bildad’s speech seemed to describe vast spaces. He spoke about heaven. He spoke about the moon and stars. He spoke about the soil. And he referred to graves. Job’s reply seems to describe even more vast spaces. Job spoke about hell as well as heaven. He spoke about the sky and the clouds. He spoke about mysteries of the day, for example the horizon and the rain.

Job also spoke about some events which we will look at in verses 12-13. We do not know much about these events. We may not even be sure whether these are past or future events. But the Bible seems to mention the same events elsewhere. Some people think that Job was referring to stories from other ancient societies. Possibly, stories from Mesopotamia.
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Job 26:5-14

5 “The dead are in deep anguish,
those beneath the waters and all that live in them.
6 The realm of the dead is naked before God;
Destruction lies uncovered.
7 He spreads out the northern skies over empty space;
he suspends the earth over nothing.
8 He wraps up the waters in his clouds,
yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.
9 He covers the face of the full moon,
spreading his clouds over it.
10 He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters
for a boundary between light and darkness.
11 The pillars of the heavens quake,
aghast at his rebuke.
12 By his power he churned up the sea;
by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.
13 By his breath the skies became fair;
his hand pierced the gliding serpent.
14 And these are but the outer fringe of his works;
how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”
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Job used three words to describe the place of the dead: “the waters, hell,” and “destruction”: This is his way of saying that if God sees what is going on in the world of the dead, He certainly knows all the world of the living. God has authority over the realms of both the dead and the living.

In verses 5-14 as before in chapters 9 and 12, Job showed that he was not inferior to this friends in describing God’s greatness. He understood that as well as they did. He described it as manifested in the realm of the dead called Sheol and Abaddon, or place of destruction (verses 5 and 6), the earth and sky (verse 7), the waters above (verses 8-10) and below (verse 12, and the stars (verse 13).

The Hebrew word is the Rephaim, who were among the aboriginal inhabitants of the south of Palestine and the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea.
It is used to express the dead and the inhabitants of the underworld generally. The translation is awkward but it seems to imply that they are pierced through with terror, or they tremble.

All the secrets of this mysterious, invisible, and undiscoverable world are naked and open before God. The grave lies naked and destruction is uncovered.

Job described hell. Elsewhere, Job was not sure whether hell exists (Job 3:13-14; Job 21:22-26). But in these verses, Job was not explaining his own ideas. Instead, he was speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Bildad had thought of God as dwelling in heaven alone. He did not realize that God was omnipresent. God is not only in heaven but on the earth as well. This could be speaking of hell that is under the water.

Even hell is within the view of God. It is also under the control of God. God is not controlled by anyone or anything. Even Satan has to answer to him and cannot leave his presence.

In verses 7-10 and 13: With great accuracy, Job described the world as it is – created out of “nothing” by the Maker of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1). This is especially remarkable since the Book of Job predates the Book of Genesis. He speaks of the Holy Spirit’s role in Creation. (Genesis 1:2, 26). 

This is breath taking and inspiring. We all need moments to stop and take it in. Our modern world is too fast paced for us to sometimes stop and be inspired. We live behind too much concrete and in too much artificial light. We are too full of our human ingenuity (which God gave us) and can lose sight of God’s awesomeness.
Many ancient people thought that the earth was on poles. Even Job mentions these poles elsewhere. But Job’s words here are correct. Scientists have proved that an empty space surrounds the world. God balances the world on nothing.

It was by God’s hand that the stars were scattered into space. Of course, all planets, the moon and sun, were created by God, and placed in the empty space of the sky; and told to stay in their places. The earth is not hanging or sitting on anything. It is in the open sky, where God put it and told it to stay.

God’s design of this world is amazing. We need the rain. Nothing holds the rain in the sky. It doesn’t make sense that something as heavy as water can be held in the sky and poured out at an appropriate time. Of course we have scientific explanations for it but the design and system behind the science didn’t come from a human mind. 

As a mere observer in the days of Job when science was not so advanced it would have filled with wonder and if you stop and engage with nature and even think about it in some detail with it’s complex eco systems … it’s just mind blowing.

Verse 9 reminds us that We are dealing with the King of Kings, the only true king. We may not see him but it doesn’t stop him from being king!!!

The theme of God’s power over the sea (“water with bounds”) is common to the poetic genres in the Bible (Psalm 104:7-9; Proverbs 8:27-29; Jeremiah 5:22). For God to have power over the chaos of the sea symbolized that He has power over everything that seems chaotic and evil to humanity. Imagine the disciples reaction when Jesus calmed the storm or walked on water. They would have been familiar with these verses. I shiver runs down my spine as I imagine the situation. I imagine whispers of  “Who is this rabbi that is with us?”

This describes the earth as a circular sphere, a scientifically accurate statement before it’s time in human history.

In verse 11 we are reminded that no one can usurp God’s power. Satan’s best attempt will leave him destroyed at the end of all things. God created the world by his word (Genesis 1:3-26). Psalm 2:4-6 has feelings and emotions. When driven by human emotion we can be very powerful and influence a lot. Passion is a great galvanizer. How much more the passion of an unlimited God? Nobody can successfully oppose God.

Verses 11-13 seem to describe a particular event.
·     The enemy in verse 12 is called RAHAB in Hebrew. This word is also in Isaiah 51:9. Isaiah seems to be describing a terrible sea animal. This however is a symbolic description of the army from Egypt. Or, as a description of the sea. God’s people were tapped by the sea but God parted the sea to allow the Israelites to escape (Isaiah 51:10). The Egypt army drowned (Exodus chapter 14).

·     The enemy in verse 13 is NACHASH in Hebrew. This word usually means a snake or serpent. In the garden called Eden, the devil appeared as a NACHASH. This word is also in Isaiah 27:1. Isaiah described the same event as Job 26:13. But in Isaiah, the NACHASH has another name too. This name is leviathan. The word leviathan is in Job 3:8 and Job chapter 41. We have translated leviathan as ‘crocodile’, which seems to be the animal that God described in Job chapter 41. But in both Isaiah and Job, leviathan could potentially by symbolic of Satan.
So, in the end, God will punish the devil (Revelation 20:10). This is the event that Isaiah described in Isaiah 27:1. But the words in Isaiah 27:1 are similar to Isaiah 51:9. So we think that Job was describing the devil’s final punishment in verses 11-13.

In the closing verses of this chapter Job offers a perspective that all he had cited about God’s unrivalled power over the grave, over nature, over the earth and skies, was a faint outline of His infinite, incomprehensible sovereignty.

Poetic language reminding his counselors that all that could be said and understood by man was only a glimpse of the nature and power of God almighty!

We know that thunder is connected with the voice of God frequently. When Moses had the Israelites at the foot of the mountain to hear the Commandments, the voice of God was spoken of as a thunder. It gripped the Israelites with fear.