job

Chapters 17-18

Probably a coincidence, but right there in 18:8-10 is the same imagery seen in Psalm 25:15. “His feet thrust him into a net and he wanders into its mesh. A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare holds him fast. A noose is hidden for him on the ground; a trap lies in his path.” According to the NIV footnotes, these verses refer to Bildad’s (Job’s friend) belief that this is the natural fate of the wicked. But clearly Job’s experience suggests that the good don’t necessarily have an easy life. Nor do the wicked necessarily suffer. For God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) Just prior to this verse in Matthew came one of Jesus’ toughest, most uncomfortable commands – to love our enemies. How this relates to the verses from Job I have no idea. It’s just where I ended up. [01-03-2008]

Chapters 19-20

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (19:25-27)

These verses have a similar sentiment to those in Psalm 27, “I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (v.13-14) A confidence in God, and even in the midst of the black pit of despair, of things one day being put to right through Him. And who else but Job has reason to despair? The man whose own breath is offensive to his wife. (19:17) The NIV notes suggest this is because his illness resulted in bad breath, but I wonder if it’s also a reference to his presence – his wife just can’t stand having him around.

In contrast, the words of Job’s well meaning friend seems to focus on himself – “My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer because I am greatly disturbed.” (20:2) – and not on Job’s situation or emotional state; not even on God. Self-involved. Failing to empathise. How often do we do the same? Hear of someone’s problems and, in the conversation that follows, relate it back to our own experience, so that we end up talking about ourselves? The friend’s vision is limited to how God might act in the here and now (or the then and there). But God has a broader, eternal, more just perspective. As Martin Luther King said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” [06-03-2008]

Chapters 21-22

Having started reading Job half way through, I am no doubt missing some context. I know how Job’s story begins, and the general gist of what happens. But this to-ing and fro-ing between Job and his friends is just bizarre. They just don’t seem to be able to understand Job’s perspective. Eliphaz’s conclusion that what has happened must be the result of great sin is not an uncommon one. How many of us think we are being punished when life takes a turn for the worse? I know I have. At times, his petition seems to makes sense: “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored.” (22:22-23a) These are interesting verses. They sound right, but they assume that the motivation for turning to God is prosperity and restoration – wanting things to be how they were. Job knows better, and labels their words lies. (21:34) Perhaps for some of us, and I include myself amongst them, our desire for safety and comfort, and of maintaining the status quo, becomes an impediment to serving God.

The NIV notes suggest that even though Job knows that God is in control, God is still a mystery to him. Who can’t relate to that? There are people all around us who don’t believe and yet they prosper and enjoy the good things of life. And at the same time there are others who love God deeply, but suffer much. How do we make sense of that? God’s ways are mysterious. There is a lot about God that I don’t understand, and don’t expect to, in this lifetime. Who was it that said, “The more I know about God, the more I realise I don’t know.”? We mere humans can’t possibly fathom the mind of God, and it is arrogant to suggest that we can. As Job says, “Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” (21:22) In one sense the lack of understanding doesn’t matter. With an eternal perspective, the external trappings (and I use that word intentionally) of life count for nothing. God sees the heart. God senses our yearning. (19:27b) [13-03-2008]

Chapters 27-28

Where is wisdom? I love chapter 28. We mine deep into the earth searching for treasures. But for what? “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living.” (28:12-13) So, what is wisdom? “It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air.” (28:21) Even Death doesn’t know what it is. (28:22) So, what is wisdom? “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” (28:28) [03-04-2008]

Chapters 29-30

Job states all the good things he did before, and the standing he had in the community. He “delivered the poor … and the fatherless” (v12), was “eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame.” (v15). “Men listened to me and waited and kept silence for my counsel.” (v21) Everyone knew what kind of man Job was, and yet no one came forward to help him when life took a turn for the worse. Friends gave him advice and platitudes, but as far as I can tell, no one provided any practical assistance. Did his community feed him, clothe him, shelter him? No. They laughed at him. (30:1) How do we respond when a friend is in trouble? A stranger? An enemy? [10-04-2008]

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