Thursday, 26 June 2014

(178) June 27: Job 6-8 & Acts 7:44-60

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider what Job is seeking to say.

To ponder:
Eliphaz has been glib, failing to appreciate Job’s pain. So Job responds stressing his “anguish” as the reason for the “impetuous” words (in chapter 3) Eliphaz was so quick to criticize. He is clear his experiences are from the LORD. They are his “arrows”, “poison” and “terrors.” And this is why Job is braying like a donkey without grass. He therefore finds Eliphaz’s words like tasteless food that he refuses to touch as it will make him ill. We must appreciate why those who suffer speak as they do.
            Job longs for God to bring about his death so at least he would find joy in not having blasphemed him and so denied his words (ie. law). He has no hope as he has no strength, whether physical, emotional or spiritual to help himself. Yes, he should remember that his hope is in God’s strength not his own. But the point is he feels God is against him and he is therefore without hope. In such despair, he expects “devotion” from his friends even if he were to forsake God. This is the unreserved loyalty in hardship those who suffer need. Yet instead, Job has found his friends as undependable as streams that dry up causing distress and disappointment to those who had looked in hope for water. This language powerfully portrays how those experiencing hardship thirst desperately for sympathy and understanding to sustain them.
From this point, although Eliphaz has been the only one to speak, Job addresses the friends together, presuming the others share Eliphaz’s attitude. Job sees them as not helping because they were afraid. And so often we can fail to give the necessary support for fear of what properly getting involved would mean for our time, or fear of not knowing what to do. Here, the fear might be of seeming to condone whatever sin the friends assumed had led to Job’s suffering.
            Job is clear, he never asked his friends to rescue him (6v22-23), which is what Eliphaz sought to do by urging him to call on God. He just wanted support. And now he is angry. He calls them to show what he’s done wrong, saying their painful arguments prove nothing. He then charges them with failing to listen and so treating his words as inconsequential by so quickly seeking to correct him. 6v27 is a particularly strong statement that they lack all care for the needy or loyalty to their friends. Job then appeals to them to reconsider his claim to be innocent. We should not be surprised at such outbursts from those who suffer, but deal patiently with them.
In chapter 7 Job turns again to God. The irony of his experience is that his days, months and nights pass slowly in the discomfort of his disease (7v1-6). Yet at the same time, he is aware of how swiftly his life is passing with every hopeless day, and so prays God would remember him (7v6-10). The sense is that his brief existence is ending quickly with nothing but slow torment to mark it. He therefore declares he will complain in his anguish and bitterness, asking why God pays him such attention when he is so insignificant (7v12-17). He even sees God as keeping him from the comfort of sleep by sending him terrible dreams. Of course, the reason God does give humanity such attention is because people are at the centre of his purposes. Nevertheless, Job goes on to ask if God will ever leave him alone. In what follows we then see the utter confusion that stems from trying to discern the reason behind our suffering: Job hasn’t sinned. But even if he had, he reasons God would surely forgive, no doubt because he knows he loves God. So Job just cannot fathom why God would afflict him as he has.
Bildad is now provoked and responds, and more harshly than Eliphaz. He jumps to defend God’s justice even though Job has not actually questioned it, but only expressed confusion. Bildad is black and white: suffering depends on sin. So he declares Job’s children must have sinned because they were killed. By contrast, “if” Job is upright then God will restore him. Here Bildad appeals to the lessons learnt by previous generations that just as vegetation perishes without water, so the godless perish for forgetting God, clinging to what cannot hold them (8v11-19). He concludes by saying God doesn’t reject the blameless or strengthen the evil, so Job can be sure he will rejoice again. Bildad’s words are of course true in the ultimate sense. But we know Job’s children were not guilty, and Jesus certainly wasn’t! The reasons for suffering are therefore more complex. And so an individual’s godliness does not mean they will not die of cancer or some other illness.

Praying it home:
Praise God for using Job to teach such relevant wisdom on suffering. Pray that you would be patient with those who suffer.

Thinking further:
To read the NIV Study Bible introduction to Job, click here.
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