Friday, 4 July 2014

(186) July 5: Job 29-31 & Acts 12

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

To discover:­
As you read consider how you would summarise Job’s frustrations.

To ponder:
These are the final words we have from Job last speech. He understandably turns his thoughts with longing to the days before his sufferings, describing them as days when “God watched over” him - although we know God still does. His language describes God’s help in keeping him from following the ways of darkness (evil), of blessing his home and granting him wealth (29v1-6). He then recounts the respect he held from others because of his care and defence of the poor and needy (29v7-17). He also notes how men cherished his wisdom, and so esteemed him that they were astounded if he even smiled at them (29v21-25). In speaking of sitting at the city gate, we learn Job was probably an elder, involved in resolving disputes and the local government of his people (see Ruth 4v1-4). In this, he was like a king or chief (29v25). It is in this context he was particularly known for his justice and mercy. And Job had assumed this life would continue, with him dying at home at a good old age, having always known vigour and honour (29v18-20). Although this assumption was unfounded, his account is a model of righteous living and leadership against which we might assess ourselves.
             Of course things were now very different. Now, the sons of the most despised and impoverished outcasts of society felt able to mock Job (30v1-8). Their rejection by society suggests they were extremely undesirable. Indeed, calling them a “base and nameless brood” implies they had no honour in the eyes of others and so no name (30v8). And their sons not only mock, but are ready to spit at and even attack Job, causing him further terror by putting him in fear of his safety (30v9-15). Job’s description resonates with any observation of how bullying teenagers pick on the weak and vulnerable. But the sense is of how humiliating it was for this once greatly honoured man to be at the mercy of such undesirables. Of course, in his prime Job would have defended any in his position. But his fellow elders seem not to care.
            In what follows, it is as if Job adds God to the number who attack him, despite his protestations. And so his suffering continues with particular pain at night, and he anticipates it will end in death (30v16-23). It is with this sense of being attacked that Job reflects that no-one “lays a hand on a broken man when he cries for help.” His point is that what God is doing would be regarded as extreme even amongst men. It is this sentiment that so often lies behind the reflection that a loving God would never allow suffering. Job teaches us to sympathise with this, even though the book teaches things aren’t so simple. And so Job complains that despite his grief for the needy, he has received only evil and darkness when he hoped for goodness and light. His suffering therefore continues. And here we are given some insight into to his actual disease. It involved his skin literally blackening and peeling with an extreme burning sensation. For this reason Job’s joy had turned to mourning. (30v24-31).
            Job’s speeches end with a final defence of his innocence. Again and again he argues that “if” he has done wrong “then” he should suffer judgement, implying throughout that he hasn’t and so is unjustly afflicted. He begins affirming he had made a “covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” It is a word for all men today. Yet Job’s reasons for doing it were to avoid disaster as his heritage from the LORD, as God sees his ways. He may be stressing the irony that he has received disaster despite such godliness. Job then declares that if he had been dishonest, wandered from God’s path, sought other women, denied his servants justice, ignored the poor, widows and fatherless, trusted in wealth or false gods, rejoiced at his enemy’s misfortune, failed to be hospitable or neglected his land and its tenants, then he should suffer the appropriate consequences for each (31v5-34, 38-40). He signs this off as his defence, calling on God to answer him, and confidently asserting he would approach him like a prince to give an account of his every step (31v35-37). 
Each item Job lists has its New Testament counterpart; and the note on enemies shows the call to love even one’s foes was ancient. But the main point, which is one made throughout the book, is the seeming injustice of life if there is no final accounting by God. Like Ecclesiastes the book therefore teaches the need for God to one-day bring ever deed into judgement, encouraging the suffering believer to be comforted by that (Eccl 12v13-14), knowing that on that day the wicked will get their comeuppance and the righteous will enjoy God’s blessing (Lk 16v19-26).
Praying it home:
Praise God for the encouragement the final judgement is when we continue to act righteously amidst suffering. Pray that you would do so.

Thinking further:
None today.
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