Lockdown thoughts from Job 12

Day 20. A week to go before we possibly move from Level 4. Just a translation from Job 12 today and some brief musings.

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 And Job answered, saying:

2 “Truly, that you [are] people,
And with you wisdom will die.
3 Furthermore I have a mind (heart) like you,
I am not fallen [behind] from you.
4 I am a joke (lit: laugh) to [my] friends, (I) who called to God and He answered me,
A just and blameless joke.

  • Job closes the first round of speeches with a lengthy reply to his friends (God is addressed as third person, e.g. verse 4).
  • Verse 2 is a sarcastic retort to his friends, though the rest seems to be genuine sorrow.
  • There’s a strange oddity in the Hebrew text where it literally reads “A laugh to his friends am I”. The scribes seem happy to have preserved this grammatical discrepancy, but probably “my friends” is what’s meant.
  • Verse 4 is striking – Job describes himself the same way that the narrator does (1:2). But He vents that his just and blameless character seem to be laughing fodder for his friends.

5 For destruction [there is] contempt
according to the thought of those at ease,
[it is] ready for those who slip [their] feet.
6 The tents of those who devastate are at ease
and secure are those who provoke God,
Who bring God into their hand.

  • Job’s friends have still not accounted for the fact that wicked people seem to prosper – they are at ease, and secure (v6).

7 But ask the beasts, and they would teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and they would tell you.
8 Or bushes of the earth, and they will tell you,
And they will count to you – the fish of the sea.
9 Who does not know, among all these, that Yahweh’s hand made this?
10 In whose hand [is] the life of every living thing, and the breath of all humankind.
11 Does not the ear examine words, and the palate taste food (to it)?
12 With the aged [is] wisdom, and length of days understanding.
13 With Him are wisdom and might, to Him counsel and understanding.
14 Look, [if] He tears down then it does not rebuild,
[If] He shuts a man in then it does not open.
15 Look, [if] He holds back the waters then they dry out,
And [if] He sends them then they devastate the earth.

  • I’m noticing a fair amount of creation and flood allusions here. Perhaps Job’s ancestors passed down to him the events of Genesis 1-11 to make such explicit references to the days of creation (e.g. v7, v8), and even God shutting the door on Noah’s ark (v14, compare Genesis 7:16), and devastating the earth with waters (v15, compare Genesis 7-8).
  • Verse 9 is the first time that the name Yahweh is used again since the prologues. Perhaps when we behold creation, Job expresses no doubt that it is the covenant God who sustains and no other.

16 With him are might and prudence,
to him are [both] the errant and the misleading.
17 Leading counsellors away stripped,
judges he also makes into fools.
18 The bonds of kings He opens,
And binds a loincloth around their waists.
19 Leading priests away stripped,
He also overthrows the powerful.
20 He turns aside the speech of trusted ones,
and the discernment of elders he takes away.
21 He pours contempt upon the princes,
And the belt of the strong he loosens.
22 He uncovers the deep things from darkness,
And he brights to light deep shadows.
23 Making great the nations yet He destroys them,
He enlarges their boundaries and guides them.
24 He turns aside the heart/understanding of the people’s chiefs on earth,
He makes them wander in a formless waste without path,
25 They grope in darkness without light, and they wander like drunks.

  • Job reminds his friends that true wisdom belongs to God alone. These “three wise men” do not have a monopoly on knowing how the world works. This is a good reminder amidst competing ideologies and opinions in our world today (including about public health / economy debates).
  • Whatever wisdom we have is a gift, and shouldn’t we wielded to hurt others.

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


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.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 10

It’s Day 19 of our nationwide lockdown. I’m grateful Jesus was not locked down! Job, in her suffering, has just explored the hope of legal justice from God (chapter 9) – but without hope, turns back to lament.

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 |


1 “I loathe my life
Let me abandon to myself my complaint,
Let me speak in bitterness of my soul.

2 saying to God: ‘Do not condemn me,
Let me know for what you are contending with me.’

3 Is it good for you that you oppress,
To despise the labour of your hands,
while you are radiant over schemes of wicked people?

4 Do you have eyes of flesh?
Or do you see as a man sees?
5 Are your days as a days of a humankind?
Or your years like the days of a man?
6 Since you search for my iniquity,
And for my sin you seek?
7 Upon your knowledge that I am not wicked,
And there is no one who delivers out of your hand?

  • Job’s agony makes him blurt out to his friends: “I loathe my life” (v1). Amidst God’s continued silence yet ongoing contending (v2), he turns from his thoughts of litigation back to lament.
  • Job fires off three sharp questions from vv3-5. How does it benefit God to oppress Him? Is God subject to human vision? Is God subject to human time? He’s wrestling with being in relationship with God yet not understanding what He’s trying to achieve.
  • Verse 7 is important – Job thinks that God knows too that he’s innocent, yet he struggles to work out why he is present in his suffering, yet seemingly absent in his care.

8 Your hand shaped me and made me,
together all around, yet you destroy me.
9 Remember that like clay you have made me, and to dust I will return.
10 Did you not, like milk, pour me out?
And like cheese curdle me?
11 Skin and flesh you clothed me,
And with bones and sinews you have woven me.
12 Life and lovingkindness you gave to me (lit: you made with me),
And your supervision guarded (lit: watched) my breath.

  • These verses echo Genesis – Job is personally fashioned and shaped by God, yet he can’t work out why his Maker would want to destroy him (verse 8). This is the same word that God uses in the prologue to describe how he’s “destroyed [Job] for no reason” (2:3)
  • If God is committed to care for his creation, why won’t he now keep doing that? Job appeals to His character and lovingkindness (v12; chesed)
  • The command “Remember” (v9) is key – Job asks God to remember him. In the midst of his lamenting (see also chapter 7 and 14), Job does not let go of his relationship with God.

13 Yet these you have hidden in your heart,
I know that this is with you.
14 If I sin then you watch over me,
And from my iniquity you would not acquit me.
15 If I am wicked, woe to me! And (if) I am innocent, I would not lift my head,
Full of shame, and see my affliction.
16 And if it was lifted up, like a lion you would hunt me,
Then you would return, show power at me.
17 You renew (impf.) your witnesses in front of me
and increase your anger with me,
Fresh troops (lit. changes and a host) are against (lit. with) me.

  • These verses expand on the charge of verse 8: “and now you destroy me”. It’s dark and sombre.
  • In verse 12, the word “watch” (shamar) describes how God cares for Him. Two verses later, the same word describes how God is overbearingly watching him to miss the mark and sin.
  • Job is caught between what we knows about God (caring for His created ones) and what he feels right now (oppressed and corrected) – it’s as if he’s being hunted by poachers (v16), or attacked by another wave of soldiers (v17).

18 So why from the womb did you bring me out?
I could have died, and no eye see me.
19 Just as though I had not been,
Carried from the womb to the grave.
20 Are not few my days? Then refrain;
And leave me alone (lit: set from me) and cause me a little cheer.
21 Before I depart, and not return,
to the land of darkness and deep shadow,
22 the land of gloom, as thick darkness,
deep shadow without order,
and lights as thick darkness.

  • Here are some final words of despair from Job. Much like chapter 3, he laments his birth. The main difference now is that here, he is brave enough to ask directly: “Why did you bring me out?” (v18, whereas previously he only lamented, “Why have I been born?”).
  • There’s a cluster of six different words for darkness in verse 21-22. Job feels darkness, thick darkness, shadow and gloom.
  • Yet he doesn’t give up – he laments sorrowfully, but still appeals to God rather than abandon faith in Him. He’s in relationship despite his unimaginable grief.
  • In the same way, Jesus crying out at the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” still recognises he is in relationship despite unimaginable grief. Thank God for that.

Lockdown thoughts from Job 9

Day 17 of our lockdown (I think; starting to lose count!)

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


1 And Job answered, saying:

2 “Surely I know that it is so.
But how can humankind be in the right before God?
3 If someone would wish to contend with Him,
he could not answer Him once from a thousand.
4 Wise of heart and mighty of strength!
Who has hardened against Him and gained peace?
5 The One who moves mountains yet they do not know,
who overturns them in His anger.
6 The One who shakes the earth from its place, so its pillars shudder.
7 The One who commands the sun and it does not rise,
And encloses the stars.
8 Stretching out the heavens to Himself,
And treading upon the waves of the sea.
9 He makes Ash, K’sil, Kimah (the Bear, Orion and Pleiades),

and chambers of the southern [sky].
10 He does great things beyond searching,
Marvellous things beyond number.

  • The word “contend” in verse 3 could also mean “contest a lawsuit”. The first stirrings of Job wanting to make a case to God starts with him denying that it’s possible, based on God’s immense strength and wisdom (v4).
  • Job rehearses God’s amazing attributes and abilities. What strikes me afresh is how much these descriptions also resonate with what we now know about God’s Son, Jesus: the one who treads upon the waves of the sea (v8, Mark 4), who was present as agent of Creation (Col 1:15-17), and accomplished marvellous things beyond number.

11 “Look, he passes over me but I cannot see,
He goes by, but I cannot fathom him.
12 Look, he snatches, who can turn him back?
Who will say to him, “What are you doing?”
13 God will not turn back his anger,
Under him bowed those who helped Rahab.
14 Indeed how can I answer him?
Let me choose my words with him.
15 Though I am in the right, I cannot answer [Him],
To my accuser I shall plead for mercy.
16 If I summoned him and He answered me,
I would not believe that he was hearing my voice.
17 [He] who with a storm bruises me,
and multiplies my wounds for no reason.
18 He does not let me catch my breath,
But fills me with bitterness.
19 If for strength, behold [Him] the mighty!
If for justice, who can summon Him?”

  • Job is saying in verse 11 that — like the mountains that have quaked, God has passed by and shaken his life asunder. But the reasons for it remain elusive to him (and will remain so).
  • From verse 14, Job begins to talk about mounting a case against God, to “take him to court” as it were. Notice the range of “justice”-related words (bolded).
  • The word for “for no reason” (hinnam) appears here again in verse 17. The main question of the book of Job is whether he loves God hinnam (for no reason), or for the benefits He gives him (1:9). Ironically, here Job says he has been afflicted in the same way.

20 “Though I am in the right, my mouth condemns me;
I am blameless, yet he would declare me twisted.
21 I am blameless, [yet] I know not myself;
I despise my life.
22 It is all the same, so I say:
blameless or wicked, he destroys.
23 When disaster brings death suddenly,
Regarding the calamity of the innocent, he mocks it.
24 The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
The faces of its judges He covers,
if not – then – who – he?”

  • Job is blameless (said twice, literally: “Blameless I am”). But he feels resigned to the fact that it doesn’t make a difference to the suffering God has brought upon him.
  • For Job to “despise” his life is similar to what he expressed in chapter 3. In the epilogue, Job will similarly “despise” (himself) and repent in sackcloth and ashes (42:6).
  • The last phrase in v24 is so broken up in Hebrew, it’s as if Job couldn’t bear to say it.

25 My days are swifter than a runner,
They flee; they see no good.
26 They go along with ships of reed,
Like an eagle swooping over food.
27 If I say: “Let me forget my complaint,
Let me put off my sad face and be cheerful,”
28 I would become (pf.) afraid of all my sorrow;
I know that you would not hold me innocent.
29 I would be condemned.
Why then in this “hevel” do I work?
30 If I wash myself with snow, and cleanse my hands with lye,
31 Then in a pit you will plunge me,
And my clothes abhor (pf.) me.
32 For He is not a man, as me, [that] I might answer him,
[that] we come together in judgement.
33 There is no arbiter between us,
to lay his hand upon us both.
34 Let him turn away his rod from me,
And let not his dread terrify me.
35 Then would I speak to and not fear him,
But it is not so with me.

  • Oh Job. He goes back to pondering his mortality (v25-29). He describes his life as flashing past before his eyes – this time not like a weaver’s shuttle (see 7:6) but like a runner.
  • Job concludes that there is no arbiter (or mediator) between him and Yahweh (verse 33), and laments his inability to seek justice. He will return to this theme in future chapters. And we know that, this side of the cross, we have in Jesus the Suffering Servant who is “one mediator between God and man”. Thank God for Easter.

Tenebrae, online

Watch our lockdown version of a Tenebrae service here: https://youtu.be/bbqYH8G9LOc

Tenebrae means “darkness” or “shadows”. As an experiement, I read through the events surrounding Jesus’s final few hours with some dear friends from around the world.

Come and pause from all the chaos, hear Jesus’s last words before He died, and reflect on the darkness He took on the cross to rescue sinners.

If you’d like to follow along from Luke’s Gospel, the words are here: bit.ly/shadowandflame