Monday, 30 June 2014

(182) July 1: Job 18-20 & Acts 9:23-43

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

To discover:­
As you read note Job’s varying attitudes to God.

To ponder:
Bildad says little more than Eliphaz. He rebukes Job for going on and considering his friends “stupid” in their advice, whilst “tearing himself to pieces” in anger. 17v4 seems to be a suggestion that Job expects the very fabric of creation to be changed to accommodate him. This may reflect the sense that the friends feel the very nature of things is that the wicked suffer and the righteous prosper, but Job is asking them to think it is often the other way around. And so Bildad details how he sees the fate of the evil man who “knows not God”: He experiences weakening, having his schemes thwarted, and facing terror and calamity before finally perishing without offspring or legacy, with “men of the west” appalled at his fate. Again, there are clear allusions to Job’s situation in having lost his children and being a horror to those who look on. Job really is being attacked relentlessly with the accusation that he has done evil and will face these things in their fullness unless he repents. “The king of terrors” (18v14) is probably a way of referring to death as a ruler who uses terrors to drag people into his presence.
            As hinted at before, Job’s response shows that in addition to his previous sufferings, his friends’ words now torment and crush him. Indeed, he states that even “if” he had gone astray that would not be their concern. Of course, in reality it should be (Gal 6v1).
            Job then makes his strongest statement yet: He finally accuses God with doing wrong against him and withholding justice (19v6-7). This is perhaps the central theme to the book, which eventually humbles us with the recognition that although the reasons for suffering are often unfathomable, God does not do wrong or act unjustly. Perhaps the lesson here, however, is that when we give unwise counsel to a suffering friend we can so exacerbate their despair that we push them towards sinning in their response to God.
            Job accuses God with keeping him from moving on in life, removing his honour as an esteemed and blameless man, gradually tearing him down, uprooting his hope for the future, counting him like an enemy, alienating him from others, including his loved ones, and reducing him to nothing but skin and bones (19v8-20). So he begs his friends for pity and prays his words would be recorded, no doubt as the only testimony to his innocence. This is ironic, considering we’re reading his words. Could it be that Job had them recorded after the event?
Yet despite being so aggrieved, Job still clings in faith to God. Indeed, (although these verses are uncertain) he seems to see God as his “redeemer” who will vindicate him beyond death as innocent and, presumably, free him from both his sufferings and the false accusations. More than that, whether apart from flesh (see footnote) or in new flesh, he expects to then see God as Moses and others did on earth. This is what his heart yearns for because he wants an audience with God in which he can state his case and perhaps be given a reason for all he’s endured (see 13v3). And so in his Spirit-guided reflections, Job effectively trusts in the gospel! He even holds that God will judge his opponents if they continue to hound him. This is the inconsistency displayed when the believer struggles. They may in one moment seem to be doubting and raging against God, but in another coming to a point of trust nevertheless. And because salvation is by grace, that trust is all that is needed for their hope to remain.
            Zophar responds next, still refusing to truly hear Job or see how he is displaying faith. Instead, he responds to Job’s rebuke with yet another restatement that the wicked suffer, stating it has been this way since the time of Adam. This is no doubt why he stresses how those whose “pride reaches to the heavens” then “perish forever” (20v4-6), just as Adam did. And so Zophar says the wicked are banished, leaving their children to make amends for what they’ve done. In particular he notes how under God’s wrath the godless lose their ill-won riches – perhaps an allusion to Job’s prior wealth (20v12-29). By digging their heals in, these so called friends are now reinterpreting Job’s past life in a way that implies he was always dishonest rather than righteous. This is how fickle those who set themselves against another can be.

Praying it home:
Praise God that at the resurrection we will not just be freed from hardship, but vindicated as having done right in serving the Lord. Pray that this would be a comfort for those you know who suffer.

Thinking further:
None today.
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