Category Archives: Preaching

Lockdown thoughts from Job 8:1-7

Day 14 of our nationwide lockdown. Hoping to keep my nose in the Bible while there’s time and energy. Job’s just responded to the unhelpful accusations of Eliphaz, and now friend #2 has a go. Just a few verses 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

Translation:

1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered, saying:

2 “Until when will you utter these things?
And [will] a strong wind [be] the words of your mouth?
3 Does God pervert justice?
Or does the Almighy pervert what is right?
4 If your children have sinned against him,
he has delivered them into the hand of their rebellion.
5 But if you will seek diligently for God, and implore the Almighty,
6 If pure [are] you, and you are upright even now He will awake for you,
And restore your righteous dwelling.
7 And your former days is small,
But your latter days will be very great.”

  • What is the prosperity gospel? It is what Bildad is preaching to Job. If you live a good life — pure and upright — God will arouse like a genie and give you a righteous dwelling, and you’ll flourish till the end of your days (v5-7). But if your children are dead, it’s because they missed the mark spiritually (v3), and deserve the sorrow that’s come to them. Cold, callous conclusions. And totally opposite to the true gospel — we cannot life a good and upright life, yet in Jesus Christ, God graciously provides us a righteous dwelling for the end of our days.
  • How are Bildad’s words different to many of the black and white statements in Proverbs though (e.g. Prov 2:20-21)? Do they not also teach this kind of retribution that Bildad shares? Perhaps we need to think further how Bildad is speaking, and to whom.
  • Remember Job is already named as “upright” in the prologue (1:2). Sin brings sorrow, but it does not therefore mean that all sorrow is from sin. Job’s account teaches us that yes, even the upright will experience sorrow.
  • The word “justice” in verse 3 (מִשְׁפָּט, mishpat) is important, and will pop up more and more frequently as the dialogues run (23 times total). All of Bildad and Eliphaz’s talk about what’s right and wrong will move to Job to press God about justice – to demand an explanation for why he is suffering. How can suffering be just? We too, have a deep yearning for answers to these questions.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 7:1-21

Day thirteen. Nearly halfway through our nationwide lockdown! I’m enjoying the pace but do let me know if it’s too much of a drag. Job is continuing his reply to Eliphaz.

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 |

Translation:

1 Is there not hard service for humanity on earth?
And [are] their days like a hired one?
2 Like a slave longing for shadow [of nightfall],
like a hired hand waits for his wages.
3 Thus I have been made to inherit months of emptiness,
and nights of misery are appointed to me.
4 If I lie down and say: “when will I arise?” yet the night stretches on.
And I am full of tossing until dawn.
5 My flesh is clothed of worms and lumps of dirt,
my skin hardens then flows [from my sores]
6 My days are cursed/as light as a [weaver’s] shuttle,
and finish without hope/thread.

7 Remember that my life is like a breath,
my eye will not return to see good.
8 It will behold me no more – the eye that sees me,
Your eyes [are] upon me, but I [will] no longer be.

  • Job continues to lament his sufferings. He compares his life to days of slave labour (vv1-2), and nights full of misery (v3-4).
  • We’re reminded of what Yahweh afflicted Job with in verse 5 – he is clothed with sores that attract worms, dirt, that harden and then break out with pus (see Job 2:7).
  • There’s some achingly beautiful Hebrew wordplay in verse 6. Job could be saying that his days are “as fleeting as a weaver’s shuttle, and ends for lack of thread” (here’s a video of it zipping along). Or it could read that Job’s days are “as cursed as a shuttle, and ends for lack of hope”. The verb root for to be fleeting and to be cursed is the same (both קלל / qll pointed differently), and the noun תִּקְוָה means “cord, thread, end, hope. What does suffering feel like to Job? Like being caught in the warp and weft of a tapestry of sorrow, shuttling back and forth in vain, hoping for the thread to end.

9 As a cloud breaks up and disappears [lit: completes and goes],
thus the one who goes down to Sheol does not come up.
10 He no longer returns to his house,
and his place does not recognise him.
11 Furthermore, I myself will not refrain my mouth,
I will (or, Let me) speak in anguish of my spirit.
I will (or, Let me) lament in the bitterness of my soul.
12 Am I the sea, or a sea monster,
that you (sg) set a guard over me?
13 For I say, “my bed will comfort me,
my couch will ease my complaint.”
14 Then you dismay me with dreams,
and from visions you terrify me.
15 So my soul would choose strangling;
death from my bones.
16 I reject [my life], I would not live forever,
Refrain from me, for my days are “hevel”.


  • Job closes his reply to Eliphaz by insisting he be allowed to keep anguishing and lamenting (v11) – it could also be translated “Let me speak… let me lament.”
  • Job accuses Eliphaz of treating him like a sea monster to be guarded and caged (v12). Ironically, when God finally replies in the closing chapters he will parade monsters before Job to remind him that He rules over creation.
  • Remember Eliphaz’s righteous-sounding vision in chapter 4? They’re scary and terrifying to Job. Don’t pull that out again, please.
  • Job basically says in verse 16: “Leave me alone, Eliphaz”, because his days are hevel. I leave it untranslated because it’s the same slippery word the Teacher uses in Ecclesiastes 1:2, and should bring to mind all the various translation possibilities. Are Job’s days now meaningless? Vapour? Vanity? Fleeting? Bubbles? Suffering has a way of making us question the purpose of life, doesn’t it?

17 What is man,
that you grow him,
and that you set upon him your heart,
18 and visit him [in] mornings, in moments test him?
19 How long will you not gaze [away] from me,
[or] leave me alone to swallow my spit?
20 [Say] I have sinned; what would I do to you, watcher of humankind?
Why have you set your mark on me?
[Why am] I a burden to [you]?
21 And why do you not pardon my transgression,
or pass over my iniquity?
For now on the earth I will lie down;
You will seek me, but I will not be.


  • There’s echoes of Psalm 8 in the “What is man” questions that close chapter 7. From the description of what the 2nd person does (grows him, sets his heart upon him, watches humankind), I think Job is now addressing Yahweh.
  • Here is Job’s first halting attempts at questioning God. We will see this grow and expand in his later speeches as he gets bolder and starts to litigate God and appeal for His justice. But for now, Job asks a couple of dark questions, then resigns himself to lying in the ground again.
  • Verse 21 ends in a similar way to verse 8. Want to know what suffering feels like? It feels like people / God looking for you, but you’re not there.

I decided to respond a bit differently today. Here’s a prayer of lament:

“Lord,

Life seems so hard now in lockdown.
The days come and go
come and go
come and go
and I can’t see the end.
I’m waiting for the thread to finish.
How long Lord?

And life outside my bubble seems bleak,
full of fears and anxiety and hopelessness.
How long will You let all this pain and sorrow continue?
When will You fix all this brokenness?

And people are dying Lord.
Thousands and thousands, finishing their days without hope.
Their life’s thread cut off by coronavirus, by cancer, by suicide.
Please have mercy on them.
And on the unreached.
And on my family.
And my friends.
More thread.
Please.

As brother Jesus lamented in the Garden of Gethsemane
As He felt forsaken and crushed to pardon our sins
Father help me lament with my Saviour.
Give me fresh eyes to see how Christ
is the scarlet thread of hope
I can follow in my failures
trust in my trials
and come
and go to.

Father,
Pass over my sins
let me rest
in peace.
Amen.”

“Lament for thread” by WHC, 7.4.20

Lockdown thoughts from Job 6:1-30

I posted most of this yesterday but it didn’t seem to upload – my bad.

It’s Day 12 of 28. We’re in chapter 6, Job has just heard Eliphaz say to him: “God only punishes wicked people. Don’t despise His discipline of you now.” How does Job respond to these simplistic adages?

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 |


Translation:

1 Then Job answered, saying:

2 “If only my vexation were weighed
and my calamity (lit. falling) held together in the balances!
3 For then it would be heavier than the sea,
thus my words are rash.
4 For the arrows of the Almighty [are] in me,
of their poison my spirit drinks
the terrors of God are arranged against me.
5 Does the donkey bray over grass?
Or the ox low over his fodder?
6 Is tasteless food eaten with salt,
Or is there taste in the white of an egg?
7 My appetite (lit. soul) refuses to touch [these things],
They are as loathsome food to me.”

  • Eliphaz began his speech with the statement that “vexation slays a fool” (5:2). Job doesn’t concede to being foolish or evil, but responds by sharing how deeply vexed (from grief) he feels because of all the calamities that have literally “befallen” (see previous discussion on ‘fall’).
  • Job describes his sufferings as “arrows from the Almighty” – poison, terrors arranged in battle against Him (v4). It jars with our one-dimensional view of God, yet it wasn’t so long ago that Christians spoke and sung in this way as well (e.g. John Newton’s “I Asked The Lord That I Might Grow”)
  • In verses 5-7 Job says that, just as you’d look for the reason why animals are making noise (e.g. lack of food), look for the reason that he’s crying in grief.

8 “Oh, that my request would come
that my hope God would give,
9 that God be pleased to crush me,
that He loose his hand and cut me off!
10 And it may yet be my comfort
So I would exult in pain unsparing,
since I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
11 What is my strength, that I should wait,
What is my end, that my soul should be patient?
12 Is strength of stones my strength,
Is my flesh bronze?
13 Is there no help in me,
and is resource driven from me?”


  • Job is walking through the valley of the shadow of death. He feels so wrecked in his suffering that He’d rather God take his life. Yet He maintains that his life is in the Almighty’s hands: only He can “crush” Him, “loose His hand” (v9). Throughout this book Job never lets go of God’s sovereignty over all things, including his suffering.
  • His friends came to “comfort” (Heb: nakham) him in chapter 1, but Job would feel more “comfort” (same word) in being cut off by God (v10).
  • Job doesn’t take on Eliphaz’s assumption that he’s sinned – he insists he has not “denied the words of the Holy One” (v10).
  • But he has taken on Eliphaz’s way of addressing God from chapters 4-5. God is no longer the covenant Yahweh of chapter 1 (“The LORD gives, the LORD takes away” etc.) – he is Almighty, the Holy One. It’s a subtle shift, but there’s a greater distance in his address of God. In our suffering it can be hard to see God in His full and complete character.
  • Oh, Job. I can’t imagine how hard it is for you right now.

14 “”[He who would] withhold from a friend loyalty / loving-kindness,
The fear of the Almighty he forsakes.

15 My brothers are as deceitful as intermittent streams,
As river valleys that overflow,
16 being darkened with ice,
whereupon the snow hides itself,
17 In time they thaw, they disappear,
In its heat they evaporate from their place.
18 The [river] paths turn from their course,
They rise into emptiness [inland] and perish.
19 The caravans of Tema gaze,
The processions of Sabeans hope [for the rivers].
20 They are ashamed for they were confident,
They came up this far but are confounded.
21 For you now have become nothing,
You have seen [my] terror and fear [it].”

  • When a friend suffers, the God-fearing response is to show them the covenant loyalty (v14; חסד, chesed) that God shows us in His promise keeping character. That speaks louder than any sermon on suffering can do, and it’s what Job longed for from his friends.
  • Job uses an extended metaphor to describe how unreliable his friends are to him right now (. They’re like rivers that appear during flash floods or when ice melts: here one minute, gone the next. (How easy it is to say “I’ll pray for you” and perhaps do it once; how much harder to actually keep it up and be a reliable brother or sister!)
  • In chapter 1 the Sabeans are terrorists who destroy Job’s crops. Here they’re travellers looking for water and disappointed (v19).

22 For have I said, ‘Give to me’?
Or ‘From your wealth offer a bribe for me’?
23 Or ‘Deliver me from the hand of the adversary’?
Or ‘From the hand of the ruthless redeem me’?

24 Instruct me, and I myself will be silent,
And how I have erred make me understand.
25 How forceful are [your] ‘righteous’ words!
But what does it reprove, reproof from you?
26 In your reproving [of my] words, do you treat
(and) as wind the words of a despairing man?
27 Indeed, for the orphan you would cast lots (lit: “fall”),
And you would trade off your friend.
28 Now then – be willing to turn to me,
to your face I would never lie!
29 Turn now, let there be no “wicked words”,
And turn, my righteousness is yet in it (or here).
30 Is there on my tongue “wicked words”,
Can my palate not discern calamities?

  • Job sarcastically asks in vv23-24: “Did I ask for money from you?” All he wanted was sympathy from his friends, but all he gets so far is their reproof, reproof, reproof (3x) and scolding.
  • By their speechiness, Job’s friends have treated his laments “as wind” (v26). They’re lacking sympathy.
  • Job’s friends are acting like the kind of people who would cast lots over an orphan child and auction them off (v27-28). They’re as cold and clinical as Joseph’s brothers (Gen 37). Or perhaps even like people who wax lyrical about cost-benefit analyses of lockdowns when people are hurting and dying and need sympathy. Suffer with me, Job cries!
  • The word עַוְלָה (ʾavlah) I’ve translated as “wicked words” in this context (v29, 30). Words that are false, or words that destroy. Job wants his friends to “turn away” (literally, repent – shuv) from their wicked words, for his righteousness remains intact.

Thoughts:

  • Do I see my messages, social media posts and shares as things to “repent of” when they actually aggravate hurting people? Maybe I don’t need to jump into that debate about who’s social distancing correctly and who isn’t. Maybe my voice isn’t actually needed among the choruses criticising policymaking decisions or differing government responses. We’re all suffering together, in different ways. Maybe it’s better for me to just share their sorrows, and offer the comfort that God has comforted us with (2 Cor 1:1-3).
  • In anxious times, what hurting people need most may not be more long-winded speeches, but perhaps just chesed. Loyalty, loving-kindness: the same covenant love that Jesus demonstrated when he laid down His life for his friends (John 15:13). How can I remember and live that out as we remember Jesus’s death and resurrection amidst a raging pandemic?

Lockdown thoughts from Job 4

Week 2 of New Zealand’s lockdown. I’m just travelling through Job in the mornings. Enter Eliphaz.

Previously: Job 1:1-5 | Job 1:6-12 | Job 1:13-22 
Job 2:1-6 | Job 2:7-13 | Job 3:1-10 | Job 3:11-26


1 And Eliphaz the Temanite answered, saying:

2 “[Shall] one try words with you? You would be weary.
But who is able to keep from speaking?
3 Look –
you have corrected many
and the weak hands you have strengthened.
4 Your words uphold the one who stumbles,
and the knees which are bent you make firm.
5 However,
now it has come to you and you are weary;
it touches you and you are startled.
6 Is not your fear your confidence/folly,
your hope and the blamelessness of your ways?


7 Remember: who that is innocent has ever perished?
And where have the upright been destroyed (lit: hidden)?
8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity,
and those who sow trouble reap it.
9 By the breath/spirit of God they perish,
and by the force of his anger they are consumed.
10 The roar of the lion, the voice of the lion[ness?], and the teeth of the young lions are broken.
11 The lion perishes from lack of prey, and lion[ness?]’s cubs are separated.


  • Eliphaz responds to his friend’s lament (see chapter 3) by saying: “Has anyone tried speaking to you? (No? OK – I will then)”. He can no longer stay quiet and wants Job to take the same advice he has told others before.
  • Eliphaz knows of, and references Job’s blamelessness in verse 6 (same word as in 1:1 and 1:8), but that merely moves him towards his maxim…
  • That as “he has seen”, it is wicked people who suffer (4:8). They are literally consumed by the “breath of His nostrils” (v9), or like a den of lions that’s been starved out (v10-11). According to Eliphaz’s wisdom, only if you’re guilty of something will you suffer.

4:12 Then for me a word was stolen;
and my ears received a whisper about it.
13 In anxious thoughts from visions of the night,
during the falling of sleep upon men,
14 Dread approached me, as well as trembling,
and the abundance of my bones shook.
15 And a spirit passed my face,
the hair of my flesh bristled.
16 It stood, and I could not recognise its appearance.
A form (f.) was in front of my eyes,
[there was] silence, then I heard a voice:

“17 Is a man righteous before God?
If before his Maker, [could] a man be pure?
18 Look, in His servants He does not trust,
and his angels he attributes with madness(?).
19 Indeed, those who dwell in houses of clay,

which in the dust [have] their foundations;
They are crushed in place of a moth.
20 From morning to evening they are beaten,
without thought forever, they perish.
21 Is not their tent-cord pulled out with them,
[do they not] die, and without wisdom?”


  • Here Eliphaz switches from proverbial truths he knows (allegedly from Job), to a mystical-sounding, hair-raising vision that’s been “whispered” to his ears (v12)
  • It turns out to be a dramatic restatement of a familiar epithet: no man is righteous before God (v17). Remember, Eliphaz is saying this in response to a friend in deep sorrow and lament.
  • Verse 18 could be a reference back to the early scenes with the ben elohim / sons of God who assemble before Yahweh in chapter 1 and 2. This verse ends with the word , which is very difficult to translate but sits in parallel with “he does not trust”.
  • Line after line Eliphaz pummels us with descriptions of humanity’s frailty, and therefore our unworthiness before God. His rhetoric continues in chapter 5, but even here His God seems very one-dimensional and Deist. The God of the Bible is more than a distant unfeeling Maker.

My own thoughts:

  • When sitting with friends who suffer, I really need to “keep from speaking” too quickly.
  • “Only bad people suffer” sounds nice in theory, but doesn’t match what happens in reality. COVID is a reminder that suffering does not discriminate.
  • I need to hold everything I know that’s true about God, not just one aspect. God is holy and unlike me, and yet I should remember He is also near me through His Spirit. Holding one attribute of God without the others deflates the fullness of His character.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 3:11-26

Day #7 in the Hebrew text of Job (this chapter had 79 rare words!)

Previously: 
Job 1:1-5 | Job 1:6-12 | Job 1:13-22 
Job 2:1-6 | Job 2:7-13 | Job 3:1-10


11 Why did I not die from the womb, depart from the belly and perish?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
And why breasts that I should suckle?

13 For now I lie down,
and I would have been quiet,
and I would have slept then;
I would have rested (to me).
14 with kings and counsellors of the earth who built desert [tombs] for themselves.
15 or with noblemen [having] gold,
the ones who have filled their houses [with] silver.
16 or [why] did I not “fall out” as a miscarried hidden one,
as infants who never see light?
17 There the wicked cease agitation;
and there the weary of strength will rest.
18 Together the prisoners are at ease,

they do not hear the voice of the slave-driver.
19 The small and great are there,
and the slave is free from his master.


  • Remember, this is righteous Job speaking. No feelings are off-limits: he laments his torrid life and wishes he hadn’t been born to begin with.
  • The Hebrew in verse 14 possibly speaks of kings building “desolate places” for themselves (it’s a difficult word to translate). Perhaps in a time of renowned Egyptian kings, there’s an allusion here to their monuments and tombs. Job appeals to death’s equality and prefers it to his present suffering.
  • The word that linked the incessant sufferings that “fell upon” (נפל, niphal) Job in chapter 1 now reappears in verse 16 – literally, Job asks why “was I not as fallout [from the womb]”. Job 3:16 is a voice into those who have suffered miscarriage or abortion (the Hebrew could mean either). Job reaching for this metaphor in his grief unites him with mothers and infants who have suffered in this painful way.

20 Why is light given to the one who suffers,
and existence to the bitter of soul,
21 and to those who wait for death yet it does not [come],
and dig for it over hidden treasures?
22 [to] those who are happy, [who] rejoice with gladness when they find the grave.
23 to a man whose path is hidden, and God has hedged in?

24 For in place of my bread, my sighing comes,
and poured out like water are my howlings.
25 For the fear I feared, it arrives upon me;
and what I dread has come over me.
26 I am not at ease, but I am not quiet,
and I have no rest, but trouble comes.


  • Verse 20 is the sufferer’s lament distilled – Why does God give us life only to bring suffering and “bitterness of soul”? Naomi likewise describes her pain of being widowed and bereft of any livelihood as “bitter” (Ruth 1:20), just as the Israelites described their bondage under the Egyptians as immensely “bitter” (Exodus 1:14).
  • In verse 23, Job laments that God hedges in a man’s way, and hides his paths. Remember the adversary’s accusation in Job 1:10? He charges God with “fencing” Job in to protect him, yet ironically Job now laments that same hedging from God.
  • “My groanings are poured out like water” (e.g. ESV) is too tame a translation. Here Job is “howling” like a lion does (see Job 4:10), and as Jesus relates to when he quotes these famous words on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning howling?” (Ps 22:1) There’s no need to sanitise despair – sometimes you just want to scream and sob.

Thoughts on chapter 3:

  • Every Christian should sit with this chapter at some stage in their lives. Even if we don’t feel what Job feels, someone we love does. Depression is real, and this is a relevant passage for us.
  • Yet because Job’s “howlings” were shared by Christ Jesus on the cross – Christians know One who has walked the darkest valleys for our sins, and “howled” in agony as our loving Saviour. We suffer, but never without Someone who has been there before. A good truth to meditate on as we approach Good Friday.
  • Job is raw, honest and hurt. Yet he expresses his grief on a foundation of God’s presence and control. Even when we question why God has trapped us in our houses right now, we’re acknowledging that he’s in control. God is sovereign even in our suffering.
  • Again, no question, no feeling is off-limits with Dad. Likewise, I always try and allow my children permission to share how they really feel with me, even if it’s raw, amidst screams, and hard to take in.
  • I wonder what songs you and I can turn to in order to express corporately our lament at this broken world, and the suffering in our lives? If we can’t sing words like this as a church family, has our worship music repertoire perhaps been infected by the therapeutic or prosperity gospel?