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

Lockdown thoughts from Job 8:8-22

Day 15. Bildad is berating his blameless bestie, Job.

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 (Bildad) “For ask now of the previous generation,
and take heed of the search of the fathers.
9 For we are of yesterday, and do not know,
For [like] a shadow [are] our days on the earth.
10 Is it not they [who] will instruct you, [who] will speak to you?
11 Can the papyrus plant rise up with no marsh?
Will reeds flourish without water?
12 When it is still blossoming, and will not be plucked,
Before any [other] plant they will wither.
13 Thus the paths of any who forget God,
the hope of the godless shall perish,
14 who loathes his trust,
And his confidence is a spider’s web.
15 He leans (impf.) against his house, but it does not stand,
He takes hold (lit: causes to be strong) of it, but does not endure (lit: arise).
16 He is a moist plant before the sun,
and over the garden its shoots spread.
17 Upon a heap its roots entwine,
it looks for a house of stones.
18 If it is uprooted (lit: devoured) from its place,
it disowns him: “I have never seen you!”
19 Thus, this is the joy of his way,
And out of the soil others sprout up.

20 Look, God does not reject the blameless,
And he does not take hold of the hand of evildoers.
21 Still he will fill your mouth [with] laughter,
and your lips [with] shouting.
22 Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
and the tent of the wicked will not exist.”

  • Bildad who has pointed out in vv1-7 that Job’s suffering must be due to his or his children’s sin, closes his “wisdom” speech by invoking the wisdom of the generation above him (v8-10).
  • He uses vivid metaphors to illustrate that when people oppose God, they end up perishing more swiftly than the water reed, or putting their weight on something as flimsy as a spider’s web. The wicked may seem to be fastened securely and flourishing, yet they (like roots on stones) can be quickly uprooted.
  • When Bildad declares that “God does not reject the blameless”, remember that Job has already been declared “blameless” (tam; whole) in chapter 1 – so these sentiments are aimed at the wrong person!

My thoughts:

  • There’s much that’s true about God and his world in Bildad’s speech. Our days are like a shadow on earth. There is no hope when we forget God. And yes, in general, sin brings sorrow.
  • Yet true words aimed wrongly can do damage – Job doesn’t take too well to Bildad’s bluster in the next chapter. His suffering is not because of any sin he’s done. It’s not what he needed to hear.
  • I remember one time someone told me they were really struggling financially, and I replied that perhaps money was too much of an idol for them. Whether it was true or not, but they needed sympathy not a pat-answer proverb. I had to ask forgiveness for my mistimed words.

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


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 |


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:


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.

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.

Pass over my sins
let me rest
in peace.

“Lament for thread” by WHC, 7.4.20