Category Archives: Reading

Lockdown thoughts from Job 17

Apologies for missing the last few days. Our country moved into Lockdown-lite (or, Lockdown with KFC); we welcomed a new child into our family (she’s gorgeous!); life’s been busier. I’m still keen to triapse through Job in Hebrew. Job continues to stare into the grave as he responds to his miserable comforters.

Previously: 1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4:1-21 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6:1-30 | 7:1-21 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22 | 9:1-35 | 10:1-22 | 11:1-20 | 12:1-25 | 13:1-16 | 13:17-14:22 | 15:1-35 | 16 |

Translation:

17:1 My spirit is ruined, my days are extinguished;
[There are] graves for me.

  • Chapter 16 ended with Job predicting his journey to a “way from which I shall not return” (v22). Here he continues his realisation that his spirit is broken, his days are gone, and the graveyard is his next destination.

2 Surely there is mockery with me;
And in their hostility my eyes dwell.
3 Set it down: pledge me with You;
Who is he that to my hand will strike?
4 Because their hearts You have closed from understanding;
So You will not let [them] be exalted.

5 When for a portion he tells [off] friends,
then the eyes of his children will be finished.

  • Job’s friends seem to him as “mockery” (v2). High praise for the wisest of the wise huh.
  • The Hebrew for verse 3 is a bit unclear, but it seems like Job wants God to pledge him — in other words, to guarantee his wellbeing. Back in chapter 2, God has already guaranteed Job life in his wager against the Satan (2:6). But Job doesn’t get to learn this.

6 He has made me a proverb for people,
And spittle to the face I have become.
7 Dimmed with angst are my eyes,
My members are like a shadow, all of them.

  • If there was a list of sayings about suffering, Job’s name would be all over it (v6). His name is synonymous with suffering even today.
  • It’s haunting to consider verse 7 – Job has become a shadow of himself. How many people have you met who have suffered so much, that they are no longer quite their former self?

8 Righteous men are appalled by this;
The innocent one, concerning the godless, is stirred up.
9 And the righteous one holds his way,
and the clean of hands increases strength.

  • In his despair, Job holds out hope that truly righteous people are out there who will see his suffering and be appalled (v8), not applaud it

10 But turn, all of you (Hb: them), and come;
For I do not find among you a wise man.
11 My days have passed, my plans are torn apart; the desires of my heart.
12 Night into day, these men change;
[Making] Light [seem] near from the face of darkness.
13 If I hope for Sheol as my home;
In darkness I spread out my bed,
14 To the pit I have called: “You are my father!”;
“My mother” and “my sister” to the worm.

  • Job issues another challenge to his unsympathetic friends – “I do not find among you a wise man!” (v10)
  • Job has gone from one who used to make plans (v11) to one who sleeps in darkness and hopes for the grave (v13-14) – watch the repetition of the word hope (Hb: qavah).

15 So where then is my hope?
And my hope who will see?
16 To the bars of Sheol [will] I go down?
Or together into the dust [will] we descend?

  • Verse 1 started with the graveyard awaiting Job; the chapter ends with Job saying Sheol (i.e. death, the underworld) is all he has to look forward to.
  • Yet we should be encouraged that Job keeps asking “where is my hope?” (v15) This is a sign that he hasn’t totally given up. Likewise, don’t quench your suffering brother or sister’s cries of despair. By their cries, they unwittingly reveal a desire to keep going that’s worth encouraging.
  • A global pandemic, a dashed relationship, an ongoing struggle with sin — these too are situations that prompt us to ask, “where is my hope?” Although Job’s hope was never fully realised amidst his dark days, in Christ believers know a hope that will not put them to shame (Romans 5:5)
  • Though the Christian is not immune to staring into the pit or facing the bars of grave, we can walk in Job’s footsteps with hope that is realised in Jesus.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 15

Day 24. Six more days of full lockdown here in New Zealand. Cheryl’s due date is tomorrow, but no sign of baby yet.

Eliphaz makes a chapter-long reprise today.

Previously: 1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4:1-21 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6:1-30 | 7:1-21 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22 | 9:1-35 | 10:1-22 | 11:1-20 | 12:1-25 | 13:1-16 | 13:17-14:22 |

Translation:

15:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered, saying:

2 “Does a man answer with blustery knowledge (lit: wind-knowledge),
Or fill his belly with the east [wind]?
3 Arguing with useless speech,
With words that do not have value in them?
4 Indeed, you break off reverence,
And you diminish meditation before the face of God,

5 Because your iniquity teaches your mouth,
And you choose the tongue of the crafty.
6 Your mouth condemns you, and not me;
Your lips answer [back] at you.”

  • Eliphaz is less conciliatory this time round after hearing Job complain about his suffering. The first time round (chapter 5) he encouraged Job to view his plight as discipline from above. Here he scolds Job for his “useless speech” (v3)
  • In Eliphaz’s worldview, he fears that lamenting and complain will discourage people from fearing God (v4); therefore Job’s continued howlings and calls for God to answer threatens the spiritual health of others. But is that actually true? Is there no such thing as lament and complaint from faithful people (e.g., the Psalms?)

7 “Were you the first man born?
Or before hills were you brought forth?
8 The secret counsel of God – have you heard it?
Have you restricted to yourself wisdom?
9 What do you know that we don’t know?
[What] do you understand – that is not with us?
10 The grey-haired too, the aged too, [are] with us,
Mighter than your father of days.
11 Are they too slight for you, the consolations of God?
Or a word in gentleness to you?
12 Why has it carried you away – your heart?
And why do your eyes flash?
13 Because you turn your breath against God,
And you have caused words to proceed from your mouth.
14 What is man, that he be pure;
Or that he be righteous, the one born of woman?
15 Look, in His holy ones He does not trust,
and the heavens are not pure in His sight.
16 Indeed, how disgusting and corrupt,
A man who drinks in evil like water.”

  • TL;DR: “You’re not like God in wisdom Job, you sinful evil person” says Eliphaz
  • But seriously, the way Eliphaz waxes lyrical here is remarkable poetry, yet poor remedy for someone who just needed sympathy, not speechy slander
  • Verse 9 isn’t a bad question: “What do you know that we don’t know?” However, Eliphaz should ask this of himself too! If he had, perhaps he would be more careful to charge Job of evil, iniquity and so on.

17 “Let me tell you, listen to me.
And this I have seen and I shall relate it:
18 What wise men declare,
That they have not hidden,
[that is] from their fathers.
19 To them alone the land was given,
And no stranger has passed through their midst.
20 All his days the wicked one – he writhes,
According to the number of years hidden for the ruthless one.
21 Everything of dread [is] in his ears,
In a time of peace a plunderer comes upon him.
22 He does not have confidence to return from darkness,
And he is marked for the sword.
23 He wanders about for food – where is it?
He knows that it is at hand, the day of darkness.
24 It terrifies him, distress and anguish;
They overpower him like a king ready for battle.”

  • Eliphaz continues with a description of the wicked one’s days. His world is black and white, filled only with either good or bad people.
  • According to the wisdom he relies upon, God’s justice is retributive — if you are wicked, then you suffer.
  • He even gives examples (v21, see also 34) similar to the calamities that fell upon Job in chapter 1.

25 “For he stretches out against God his hand,
And is arrogant against the Almighty.
26 running against him with the neck,
With the thickness of the embossings of his shield.
27 Though he has covered his face with his fat,
And made blubber over his loins,
28 He has lived in cities, desolated places,
[and] houses no one dwells in,
Which they are made ready for heaps.
29 He will not become rich,
And his wealth will not stand,
And it will not spread over the land – his possessions.
30 He will depart from the darkness, a flame will wither his shoots,
And he will depart by the breath of his mouth.
31 Let him not trust in emptiness — being deceived,
For emptiness is his due (lit: exchange).
32 Before his time he will be filled,
And his branches will not be green.
33 He will wrong his sour grapes like a vine,
He will shed off, like an olive tree, his blossom(s).
34 For the company of the godless is barren,
And fire consumes the tents of bribery.
35 They conceive trouble, and beget iniquity, their belly prepares deception.”

  • Verses 25-27 give an unusual image of a fierce warrior assaulting God with his shield, who’s actually a blubbery man smeared with fat (food) on his face. Eliphaz thinks that Job’s protests against God come across as a man ill-prepared for battle, or as an Emperor without clothes.
  • The long tirade against “evil people like Job” starts and ends with the idea of a belly — first filled with the east wind (v1), now preparing deception (v35).
  • There’s not much to like about Eliphaz’s epithets right now. I’m thankful for friends who sympathise, pray, talk, give us reasons to smile instead of point out what’s wrong. In time, God will reveal this to Job. Eliphaz would do better to sit and sympathise with his friend.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 13:17-14:22

Day 22, 23. The Government’s announced we’re exiting lockdown next week!

Previously: 1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4:1-21 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6:1-30 | 7:1-21 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22 | 9:1-35 | 10:1-22 | 11:1-20 | 12:1-25 | 13:1-16

Translation:

17 [Job]: “Keep listening to my words,
and my declaration in your ears.
18 Look, I have arranged a legal case (lit: judgement),

I know that it is I who am right.
19 Who is he who will contend with me?
For now, I will keep silent and expire.
20 Only two [things] do not grant to me,
Then from Your face I will not hide:
21 Your hand upon me – take it far away,
and your dread – stop terrifying me [with it].
22 Then call, and I myself will answer,
or I will speak, then respond to me!

  • Job wants his day in court with God. He’s not content to suffer without an explanation. Notice the legal language again in verse 18, when he tells his friends that he’s “arranged a judgement”, and calls for a court to convene. Verse 22 seems to indicate he is happy to either serve as defendant (call, then I’ll answer) or prosecutor (I’ll speak, then respond).

23 How many are [my] iniquities and sins?
My transgressions and sins help me know.
24 Why do you hide your face,
and count me as your enemy?
25 Why do you terrify a leaf driven away,
And pursue dry chaff?
26 For you write against me bitter things,
And cause me to inherit the iniquities of my youth.
27 And you set in shackles my feet and watch all my paths,
The soles of my feet you have imprinted.
28 And this one (lit: he), like rottenness, wears out,
like a garment a moth has eaten.

  • Job begins to “prosecute” God. He doesn’t deny being a sinner (v23), but wants God to show why he’s suffering right now.
  • In verse 26 Job reiterates the “bitterness” of his suffering (see 3:20, 7:11, 9:18).
  • He describes God as “watchful” (v27) but in an overbearing way.
  • It seems “UnChristian” to complain to God, but actually Job reveals his underlying trust that only God can solve his case.

14:1 Man, born of woman,
Short of days, and full of agitation.
2 Like a flower comes forth then withers,
He flees like a shadow and does not stand.
3 Indeed, upon this one do you open your eyes?
And do you bring me before you in judgement?
4 Who can give a clean thing from unclean? Not one.
5 If man’s days are determined, the number of his months [are] with You,
His limits You have made, and he cannot pass it.

  • Job switches back to his existential anguish (e.g. chapter 3). He returns to his thoughts of the futility and difficulty of human life. In verse 1, Job has mentioned this “agitation” in verse 14 earlier, when lamenting how in the grave the wicked cease their agitation (3:17).

6 Gaze away from him and let him rest,
Until he enjoys, like a hired man, his day
.
7 Since there is, for a tree, hope —
if it is cut down, then it will sprout again,
and its shoots will not cease.
8 If its roots grow old in the earth,
and its stumps die in the soil,
9 On account of the smell of water it will break out,
And make branches like a new plant.
10 But a man dies and is weak,
Man expires — where is he?
11 As waters disappear from the sea,
and a river wastes and dries up,
12 So man lies down and does not arise
until the heavens are no more they do not awake,
And they are not roused from their sleep.

  • Job’s reflections here are like the opposite of Psalm 8 (e.g. “What is man that you are mindful of Him?”) There’s nothing like reflecting on a tree that’s hundreds of years old, to recognise our mortality before God. Creation speaks of God’s majesty, yet it does also speak of our smallness and weakness. But perhaps that’s an important perspective we need when suffering tempts us to think it’s all about me.
  • So is Job wanting God to “leave him alone” (v6), or to show His face? (13:24)? I think like Job, we too can oscillate between the two when we’re going through a tough time (“Go away God! Show yourself God!”). Suffering is messy, and Job is honest about how bitter his life is right now.

13 Oh (lit: who will give), that you would hide me in Sheol,
and shelter me until the turning of your anger,
Set me a time, and remember me!

14 If a man dies, will he live [again]?
All of the days of my service I will wait,
Until my relief comes.

15 You will call, and I, I will answer you,
you will long for the work of your hands.

16 Then now you will count my steps,
You will not watch over my sin.

17 My transgressions will be sealed up in a bag, and you would paint [lit: plaster] over my iniquity.

  • I love verse 14. It’s honest Job wrestling with the question of whether there is life after death. Because of a greater suffering servant, Jesus, when a man dies, he will certainly live again in Him. Where, O death, is your sting?

18 But as a mountain falling crumbles,
and a rock is moved from its place,
19 [as] waters weather stones,
Torrents flow over the soil of the land,
So the hope of man you destroy.
20 You overpower him forever and he goes,
You change his face and send him away.
21 His sons are honoured but he does not know,
Or they are brought low and he does not discern it.
22 Only his flesh has will be in pain upon himself,
And his self – over it he mourns.

  • While Job will keep searching for hope and vindication after death in future chapters, for now Job still mourns his condition here and now. His reflections in verses 21-22 that death separates us from the good and bad in our earthly life is mirrored in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6: “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.”
  • One of the ways coronavirus is working in people’s lives is to remind everyone of our mortality. Just read a new obituary section called “Those We’ve Lost” in the NY Times — they’re sweet, sobering and poignant reflections. Yet one day, we all must die. Do we have hope for life after that? Only the Christian message can offer answers to this age-old question.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 13:1-16

Day 21. Some interesting questions in this chapter so I only made it halfway.

Previously: 1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4:1-21 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6:1-30 | 7:1-21 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22 | 9:1-35 | 10:1-22 | 11:1-20 | 12:1-25

Translation (Job is still speaking):

1 “Look – all [this] my eye has seen,
My ear has heard and understood it.
2 Like your knowledge, I know — I too,
I am not inferior (lit. falling) to you!
3 But I speak to the Almighty, and to argue with God I desire.

  • Job is closing off his response to his friends’ first round of speeches (ch12-14). In chapter 12 he waxed lyrical about his observations of God’s sovereignty over creation.
  • His speech is emphatic in verse 2 as he insists his knowledge is not inferior to his friends. But He wants to talk to God, not them right now.
  • The word inferior is translated from our frequent friend niphal (to fall) – just as calamities fell from above, and Job fell to the ground and mourned (see discussion in chapter 1). The sense here from Job is: “I’ve fallen, but I haven’t fallen so far as to lose my mind yet!”

4 “But you (pl.) are smearers of lies;
healers of worthlessness (lit: idols) are you all!
5 Who would give for you to keep completely silent?

  • I wonder if there is more to “worthless healers/physicians” in verse 4. The Hebrew word for “worthlessness” could also mean idols (see e.g. Lev 19:4, Isaiah 2:8, Ps 97:7). Is Job comparing his friends’ wisdom to the idolatrous advice that pagan doctors and faith healers dispense? That’s not so distant to us in an age of faith healers and prosperity teachers, who prey on our idols of wealth and comfort to sell us false gospels. Perhaps our modern day equivalents to Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz are Benny, Crefo and Osteen.
  • Verse 5, in our vernacular, could be translated: “I wish you would just shut up!” No need to sanitise how hurt Job is right now.

6 “Listen now to my argument,
And to my lip’s contentions give attention.
7 To God would you speak iniquity, and to Him would you speak deceit?
8 Will you lift up His face? Or to God will you contend?
9 Is it good that He searches you?
Or as one deceives a man, can you deceive Him?
10 Surely He will rebuke you (pl.),
If you show partiality [lit: lift up faces].
11 Will not His splendour terrify you (pl.)?
And the dread of Him fall upon you?
12 Your memorised sayings (lit: remembrances) are proverbs of ashes; defences of clay are your defences.

  • Job revives his legal language from verse 6 and press his case.
  • Instead of spouting more “wisdom”, Job wants his friends to “listen/hear” (v6).
  • He then essentially charges his friends for being more interested in defending God (v8, “lifting up His face”) rather than searching for what’s actually true. Job taunts them to try it and see: surely they will be terrified by God instead (v10-11)
  • Job colourfully paints his friends’ advice as “proverbs of ashes” (v12). They sound good, but have no substance. Their words are as sturdy as mud pies in a rising tide.

13 “Be silent with me, and let me speak,
And let whatever pass over me.
14 Why do I take my flesh in my teeth? And my life place in my hand(s)?

  • Having lambasted his friends’ trite words, Job puts his case forward, Though fearful that it could cost him his life to argue against God, Job is willing that “whatever pass over” him.
  • Verse 14a is a curious expression (it’s what the Hebrew literally says). Perhaps in his grief he is reaching for self-harm language. Maybe it’s literally describing what he does with his boils — biting his flesh. Maybe he’s evoking the image of being caught like prey in a lion’s jaws (but hard to understand why he does it do himself).

15 “Look, if He slays me, I will not hope (or yet I hope in Him),
Surely I will argue my ways to His face.
16 Furthermore, this to me [is] salvation, for no godless person would go before His face.

  • Verse 15 is popularly read as Job expressing hope and trust amidst God’s sovereignty in his suffering: e.g. Shane and Shane’s “Though You slay me, yet I will trust You”. But it’s more complicated than that. The Hebrew text actually reads: “…I will not hope” (לֹא, lo), but the early scribes have suggested it be read as “I will hope in Him” (לו, also lo). Both sound the same! Does Job lose hope, or does he keep hoping in God? The text could go either way.
  • Remember that God hasn’t actually slayed Job — He’s preserved his life. And also remember that Job has just announced he’s about to say some things that might cost Him dearly before God. That’s the context.
  • I think in Job’s grief, he says things which are messy and can’t be turned into a systematic theology proof-text about God’s sovereignty.
  • When suffering is a riddle (as we saw with the puzzling use of barakh in the prologue) it presses us to keep reading to see whether Job’s wailings will be vindicated. Job is caught between hope and despair as he longs to hear back from God. I think that’s a better way to read verse 15.
  • We don’t need to sanitise our friends’ sorrows one way or another, but keep listening to their cries, as doubtful or messy as they seem.
  • Job believes “salvation” (v16) comes from having the opportunity to plead his case. But in Christ, we have a greater salvation who has pleaded our hopeless case for us. Because of His despair on the cross, we have real, lasting hope that no one can argue away.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 11

It’s Day 19 of our nationwide lockdown. Hoping to get through some of the book of Job in the mornings during these few weeks.

Previously: 1:1-5 | 1:6-12 | 1:13-22 | 2:1-6 | 2:7-13 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-26 | 4:1-21 | 5:1-7 | 5:8-27 | 6:1-30 | 7:1-21 | 8:1-7 | 8:8-22 | 9:1-35 | 10:1-22

Translation:

1 Then Zophar the Naamathite answered, saying:

2 “Will a multitude of words not be answered?
And a man full of talk (lit: lips) be proved righteous?

3 Your loose talk causes men to be silent,
And you mock yet there is no one who shames [you]
.
4 And you say: “Pure is my doctrine, and clean I am in Your eyes.”
5 But what would I give (lit: who would give) for God to speak,
And open His lips with you!
6 Then he would tell you the secrets of wisdom.
For [He is] unmatched (lit: double) in understanding.

Know that God exacts of you from your iniquity.

  • Zophar, Job’s third friend, jumps in – he can’t contain himself any longer, hearing Job’s protests go unchallenged. He accuses him of being full of talk (literally lips-filled), and should be shamed for it.
  • Verse 4 is Zophar’s summary of what he’s heard from Job’s – he believes his teaching is pure and so is his character.
  • He presumes to know God’s secret wisdom (v6a), and proceeds to tell Job. Perhaps he thinks this will comfort his friend (2:11-12), but he is wrong to claim himself as God’s spokesman.
  • Especially among Christians we must be careful not to say “Thus says the Lord” when it is not Scripture, but our own opinions we are sharing.

7 Can you find the essence (lit: search) of God?
Or until the perfection of the Almighty can you attain?
8 [It is] Higher than the heavens – what can you do?
It is deeper than Sheol – what would you know?
9 Longer than the earth is its measure, and wider than the sea.
10 If He passes and imprisons,
and summons an assembly then who can turn Him back?
11 For He knows men of emptiness,
And sees iniquity, without considering it.
12 And a hollow man will get understanding,
when a colt of a wild donkey is born a man. (i.e. never)

  • Zophar extols God’s sovereignty and unsurpassed wisdom — which are both true — but then wields it to imply that God knows Job’s “emptiness” and iniquity (v11)
  • He even uses Job’s words against him in v10: where Job says “who can turn him back” (9:12) to reflect on God’s unfathomable nature, Zophar throws the legal language back at him to warn Job from further sinning (v10)
  • He is much less subtle than Eliphaz and Bildad – he really does think Job is sinning. Bildad at least wondered if Job’s children are complicit in the sufferings that have fallen on Job (8:4); and Eliphaz allows that God will cause pain yet bind up (5:18). Zophar just reckons Job must repent.

13 If you strengthen your heart,
And stretch out to him your hands,
14 If iniquity [be] in your hands put it far away,
And do not let evil dwell in your tents.
15 For then you will lift up your face without blemish,
And be one firm and tempered, and you shall not fear.
16 For you will forget your trouble, like waters passing away you will remember [it].
17 And from noonday, life will arise,
[Though] It be dark, it will be like the morning.
18 And you are safe, for there is hope,
And you will search, to security you will rest.
19 You lie down, and there is none who cause trembling,
Many entreat your favour.
20 But the eyes of the wicked will finish,
and a refuge has escaped from them,
And their hope is to breathe out their soul.

  • Zophar’s proposed remedy is too simplistic – “stop sinning and you’ll forget your troubles”.
  • He is totally tone-deaf to Job’s depression – by referencing “darkness” in v17, he has clearly heard Job’s anguished laments (10:20-22) but glibly says: don’t sin and then it’ll feel like daytime again. He’s quick to offer a fix, but slow to sympathise.
  • We can be too quick to offer solutions when friends suffer. How many times has someone suggested, “do this”, “do this”? This morning I was encouraged by an email from someone who’s been praying for us, who simply said: “It was good to sit in the silence with you guys for a bit.” Thank you, friend.