Wednesday, 2 July 2014

(184) July 3: Job 23-25 & Acts 10:24-48

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

To discover:­
As you read note how Job expresses confidence in God.

To ponder:
Job feels God’s hand heavily upon him, and longs to be able to “find” God so he could “state his case” regarding his innocence, and get an “answer” as to why he has suffered. And again, he displays faith, being confident God would not oppose or condemn him on account of his uprightness (23v4-7). Instead he states that he would be “delivered.” He probably means that with his innocence proved, he would no longer suffer. We should remember here that Job doesn’t consider himself perfect. By relying on his uprightness he is relying on the fact that he fears and so knows God.
            Job’s problem however is that he can’t find God, even though God is at work around him (23v8-9). Yet he is consoled by the fact that God knows “the way” Job takes. And in the light of this Job sees his trials as a testing through which his character will be proved and refined just as gold is proved and refined through fire. Peter makes the same point for the Christian (1 Pet 1v3-8). In the light of this, Job recounts how he has kept to God’s “way” and “treasured” his words. Yet he still feels this counts for nothing, because God does as he pleases. And so Job remains terrified at the many things he assumes God still has in store for him (23v13-16). Indeed, he describes this fear as “darkness” covering his face. It is the fear of not being able to see what is about to strike. Many who suffer, and some who just anticipate it, experience this fear. However, they can be consoled as Job is, that whatever they face God knows their hearts, and will acknowledge their faithfulness in the end.
            Having acknowledged that God knows his deeds, Job now despairs that those who “know” God look in vain for him to stand in judgement. This may reflect Job’s longing for a set time in which he might make his case and be vindicated. He then proves that God doesn’t set such times by recounting how the wicked oppress the poor (24v2-11), and although they cry out for help, God “charges no-one with wrongdoing.”
Job then continues, speaking of the murderer, adulterer and thief, who act during darkness (24v13-17). And in a manner that seems more measured than his previous assumption that the wicked simply prosper, Job accepts that although they “become established” and God “may let them rest in a feeling of security,” nevertheless, God sees their “ways,” and so they are only exalted for a little while until being gathered up like everyone else in the harvest of death. So the wicked are transient, like foam on water or snow in heat, ultimately being forgotten by those who live on. Of course this is all true for the righteous too, but by stressing God takes their life and sees their ways Job perhaps hints towards an accounting beyond death. Indeed, once more, despite his previous protestations that the wicked often do well, Job accepts they may nevertheless taste God’s judgement to some degree in this life, illustrated by their land being cursed so that its vineyards bear no fruit.
            Bildad responds briefly, and seems to focus simply on Job’s claim to be upright (ch. 25). As if to counter it he stresses God’s supremacy and the fact that next to him none are pure, but are mere maggots and worms. This is all true in perspective, and Job might well agree; although humanity have huge dignity and significance to the Lord in having been made in his image. The problem with Bildad’s words, however, is that he is again on the defensive for God, rather than empathizing with Job’s struggles and accepting that, humanly speaking, he is indeed upright.
Praying it home:
Praise God that despite our smallness compared to him he actually knows every hair on our head. Pray that this would be a comfort to those who suffer.

Thinking further: Missing pieces of Job?
Because Bildad’s speech in chapter 25 is so brief and without the usual sort of opening words, many conclude much of the speech has been lost. Moreover, we would expect another speech from Zophar, but instead have a longer speech from Job. Scholars even argue that what might have been in the rest of Bildad and Zophar’s speeches could have been mistakenly inserted, as the text was passed on, into Job’s speeches. However, although some sections of Job’s speeches do seem to give some ground to the friends’ arguments, they still refrain from affirming their points fully, and so remain consistent with Job’s view of things. And the shortness of Bildad’s speech with the absence of Zophar’s could be explained simply by them giving up on the argument.
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