July 25, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, July 26-Aug.1

July 26

Job 20,  Mt. 17
Job 21, Titus 1


Job 20

Zophar feels compelled to speak because he believes he speaks the truth (“my thoughts cause me to answer”) and because Job thinks he has checked (refuted) the cherished beliefs of the three friends.  Zophar believes he must show that Job, not the friends is the one in error.  He must check Job.

Here again we read wonderfully wise words.  Zophar may be wrong about Job, but his words about the final state of the wicked are wise and true.  His thoughts are concisely expressed in verse 5, “the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment.”  The rest of the chapter can be understood as an expansion and clarification of these words.

Zophar does not dispute Job’s statements about the prosperity and worldly ease enjoyed by wicked people.  He does insist that they will know the wrath of God.  Those who have gained wealth by immoral means will be forced to vomit them up again (15).  The wrath of God will rain upon him (23).  “The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods shall flow away in the day of [God’s] wrath” (28). Zophar’s error is his belief that the punishment of the wicked always happens in this life.  Like Job, Zophar knows little or nothing of Heaven and Hell.  Therefore, in his view, God must punish the wicked in this life, or Job’s accusations against God are true.  So Zophar has to speak and has to defend his beliefs, thinking he is defending God.

It is worth noting that the wickedness to which Zophar refers is primarily the social and economic abuse of the poor (19).  In Job’s time the economy was driven by agriculture.  It still is today, though most people don’t understand that.  By various means, certain people were able to gain ownership or control of vast tracts of land.  They usually considered the people on the land to be their property also.  In a later era we would call this “feudalism.”  The landowner would be called the gentry, the people would be called peasants.  The system is not as highly developed in Job’s time, but a form of it exists, and through it, the land holders stand together to keep the peasants working for them.  Of course, the land owners take part of the crops and other products as tribute, taxes, or rent.  Most charge exorbitant rates that keep the peasants in perpetual poverty while the land owners live in luxury.  The same thing could happen in trade, mining, manufacturing, or any other form of business, and it still happens today.  Zophar does not condemn legitimate business or the wealth it creates.  He does not say all people should have an equal share of the economy.  He says those who abuse the poor steal their legitimate share from them.  God sees this theft, and will take the thieves’ ill gotten gains from them.

Job is one of the land owners, and Zophar is accusing Job of abusing the poor who work for him.  All three of Job’s friends believe this is Job’s terrible sin, and that his suffering is God making Job vomit up again the riches he has gotten by abusing the poor. 

Job 21

Job denies abusing the poor.  But, he says, those who do, and whose families have done so for generations, continue to prosper.  They grow richer, not poorer.  Their houses are safe from fear, their livestock produce great herds, and they spend their days in ease until the moment they go down to the grave.  So, the evidence that God’s wrath is poured out on the wicked in this life does not exist.  Instead, the evidence seems to indicate that God favours the wicked, even when they intentionally spurn God.  “Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.  What is the Almighty that we should serve him?  And what profit should we have if we pray unto him?” (14 & 15). 

In a sense, this is exactly what Job is asking, along with billions of others down through history.  What good is there in serving God?  What profit is there in doing good?  What penalty is paid for doing evil?  As far as they can see, there is no reward for the good and no penalty for the wicked.  Therefore, why not pursue wealth and pleasure?  Why not take everything you can get, by any means possible, and enjoy it while you can?  For it seems God does not care, and the good things of life go to the wicked, not the good.

To Job, this is especially true, since he thinks death is either the end of a person’s existence, or a descent into a shadowy existence where wealth does not exist and pleasure is unknown.

July 27

Job 22,  Mt. 18:1-20
Job 23, Titus 2&3


Job 22

Eliphaz again takes the conversation.  This time his speech is sharp.  He both accuses Job of terrible sin, and names the sin.

The first 4 verses speak of the impossibility of any man being “profitable” to God.  Here Eliphaz speaks truth.  It does not increase God’s completeness or contentment when people do good.  God is eternally complete and content.  Nothing people can do can add to or take away from Him.  He is happy in His own fellowship.  The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost do not need the love or fellowship of people.  Thus far, Eliphaz has spoken the truth.

Even verse 5 is true.  Job’s wickedness is great and his iniquities are infinite.  But the same is true of all people, including Eliphaz.  So his words are true, but his meaning is false, for he is accusing Job of being a sinner, while he, Eliphaz is righteous.

Verses 6-20 run into deeper falsehood.  Here Eliphaz gives the details of what he believes are the sins of Job.  The sins are basically two.  First, Job has achieved great wealth by cheating and stealing.  Second, he has scorned God by thinking God will not see his sins, or, if He sees them, will not punish him for them.

Verses 21-30 give a very good example of very bad theology.  Eliphaz declares that God will give Job health and wealth if he repents of his sin.  God will give him gold in such abundance it will be like the dust on the ground and stones in the brooks (24).  He promises Job the power to lift the downcast out of their sickness and poverty, just by speaking a word over him.  This is not true, yet it is a very popular view in various Christian groups today.  Prosperity preachers, and those who promise miracles to those who act, or believe, or pray in the correct word, dominate TV and radio Christian broadcasting.  But the Bible does not make such promises.  Remember, even Christ didn’t get relief from His troubles when He prayed in Gethsemane.

Job 23

Job still maintains that he is not guilty of the sins Eliphaz accuses him of.  He wishes he could leave these friends behind and go straight to the presence of God.  There he would  order (present) his case, and God would give him relief.  But he can’t find God.  He goes forward looking for God, but He is not there.  He goes backward, but he cannot find God.  It is as though God has sent plagues upon him, yet does not hear or listen to his prayer.  The only one who can help him is God, and God will not do it.  As far as Job can know, this suffering is his lot for the rest of his life.  Therefore, Job has no hope.  His despair is absolute.

July 28

Job 24 & 25,  Mt. 18:21-35
Job 26, Philemon


Job 24

Job continues to insist that God does not always punish the wicked or reward the righteous while they live on earth.  The sins described in verses 1-16 virtually cover the entire range of the Ten Commandments, especially as they apply to commerce and community.  The horrific effects of sin are shown.  Corruption in business does not just make money, it steals the land and livestock of the poor.  It leaves people homeless and starving.  Verse 8 presents a disturbing picture of the homeless and naked exposed to the elements and clinging to a rock because they have no covering from the cold.  There is no shelter in a rock.  There is no warmth in a rock.  Even if the rock has a small enclave or ledge, or even if it has a cave, the cold stone sucks the heat out of the cold and shivering people.  This is the result of evil in commerce that puts profit above all else.

Verses 17-25 tells of the death of the wicked, but death is the lot of all people.  Whatever suffering it entails is suffered by the evil and the good.  So the righteous have no satisfaction in the death of the wicked, for they, too will die.

Job 25

This short chapter of only six verses comprises another response from Bildad.  He basically repeats the words of Eliphaz in Job15:14-15.

Job 26

Now it is Job’s turn to speak again, and he delivers an impassioned defence that goes from here  through chapter 31.  In chapter 26, Job rebukes Bildad, saying his words give no comfort.  They do not save the arm that has no strength or give wisdom the one who lacks it.  His words are dead things formed under the sea, unseen and unprofitable (1-4).  God is powerful (5-14).  Nothing can resist His might, but the thunder (way He uses His power in nature and in the lives of people), no one can understand (14).  This pitiful statement again expresses the absolute hopelessness of Job.  He has heard, and answered, all of Bildad’s arguments before.  They did not help then: they do not help now: and Job does not expect them to help, not ever. 

July 29

Job 27,  Mt. 19:1-15
Job 28,  Hebrews 1


Job 27

Job says he will not compromise his integrity.  He has not committed the sins his friends accuse him of, and he will not confess to crimes he has not committed.  No matter what his friends think, and no matter what God does to him, Job says he still has the satisfaction of knowing he is a good and righteous man.  “My righteousness I hold fast” (vs. 6).  Verses 8-23 describe the fate of the wicked in fearful terms.  It is hard to tell if Job is mocking his friends by parroting their words, or if Job is sincerely voicing his beliefs.  It is possible that his views have changed, even though he still believes he has been unfairly treated by God.

It is probable that Job has seen a glimmer of hope.  He has spoken of the possibility of knowing God’s mercy in the after life.  He has voiced a hope that such a thing might be possible, and that God will give the final rewards and justice to people after death.  Job seems to have a revival of this hope here.  In verse 19 he says, “The rich man shall lie down.”  This particular lying down is in the grave.  The rich man, like all others will die, and the riches he has enjoyed will be left behind for the living.  “But he shall not be gathered.”  Job refers to an ancient belief that the dead are gathered unto their people after death, and that there is some kind of peace about being gathered to them.  Thus, Genesis 25:8 says, “Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.”  We read similar words in Genesis 35:29; “Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people.”  This is said as a good thing, as a homecoming and a reunion.  In Luke 16:22 our Lord says the beggar, Lazarus, “died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.”  This probably has the same meaning as the verses about the deaths of Abraham and Isaac.  Job was familiar with the idea of an after life in which the good receive good and the evil receive evil.  It is very possible that Job is beginning to realise that this must be true.  Otherwise, all that he has been saying about the injustice of God is true.

So Job says the wicked lie down in the grave “but are not gathered” as Abraham and Isaac were gathered.  Instead, “Terrors take hold on him” (20), and “God shall cast upon him, and spare not”  (22), meaning to cast him out of God’s presence and into the terrors of verse 20.

Job 28

Now Job asserts that man cannot really attain wisdom.  He means man, by his own intellect and experience, cannot discover the answers to the most important questions of life.  They are beyond man’s capacity to answer.  What is the meaning of life?  Why do the innocent suffer?  Why do the wicked prosper?  Is God real?  Does God care?  People consider themselves wise, and they formulate their own answers to these questions, but their answers are mere hopes and guesses without evidence and without validity.  Yet they are willing to risk eternity on their hopes and guesses.  To Job, only God possesses the wisdom to answer these questions.  “God understandeth the way thereof (of wisdom), and He knoweth the place thereof.  For He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven” (23 &24).

July 30

Job 29, Mt. 19:16-30
Job 30,  Heb. 2


Job 29 and 30

Chapters 29 and 30 are a lament.  29 recalls Job’s past wealth and honour among his people.  Chapter 30 presents his current, bitter circumstances.  The faith expressed in chapter 28 has waned, casting Job back into despair.  He says God will not reward him after life, not even if Job is somehow able to cry out to Him.  “He will not stretch out His hand to the grave, though [the dead] cry in His destruction” (30:24).

July 31

Job 31,  Mt. 20:1-16
Job 32,  Heb. 3


Job 31

Job continues to maintain his own righteousness, but here he becomes even more forceful about it.  We can see the intensity of the conversation growing and the animosity rising among the men.    Job names the sins his friends say he has committed.  At the end of each list of sins, he announces his willingness to suffer for them if he has committed them.  In verses 8, 10, 22, and  40 he calls upon God to pour out terrible sufferings upon himself, in addition to what he has already suffered. He says, if God can show him his sin he will accept His verdict as a crown (36).

We can’t help feeling Job is making a mistake here; that he is letting his anger at his friends , and God, make him say things he shouldn’t, and claim more righteousness for himself than he possesses.    It is as though Job has gone from a legitimate statement of innocence of the sins he is accused of, to daring God to strike him if he has even considered committing any sin.  If God were to actually act on Job’s words, it would be far more terrible for Job than he can imagine.

Job 32

Job’s friends have given up on him.  They believe he is hardened in sin, and no amount of reasoning or reproof will convince him to repent.  He is righteous in his own eyes, and wicked in their eyes, so further discussion is pointless.  But Elihu continues.  His remarks are not offered in an attempt to help of comfort Job.  He wants only to vent his anger and prove that Job is a hardened and wicked man.  He is an example of how our faith often become more about us than about God.  For, though he speaks of God and the things of God, it is his view and opinion of God that he argues for.  We cannot say he does not care about the truth about God, but we can say he is more concerned about justifying his own views than about knowing the truth.  The same thing happens today.  Some people’s Christianity is much more about them than about God.  It is about their feelings and tastes and comforts, for which they contend as angrily as Elihu.  Often their arguments are based on experience  or results, rather than Scripture.  They say, “This makes me feel like I am close to God, therefore it must be good.”  “This draws large crowds of people, therefore it must be right.”   They seldom do the painstaking Biblical research, or serious historical investigation necessary to rightly divide the word of truth.

August 1

Job 33,  Mt. 20:17-34
Job 34, Heb. 4


Job 33

Elihu’s anger wanes a little in this chapter, but his self-righteousness does not.  He is sure his words are full of uprightness and his lips utter knowledge clearly (3).  He repeats Job’s words (8-11) only to rebuke Job for striving against God and not listening to what Elihu believes is the word of God to Job coming through his friends (11).  He reiterates the previous assertions of the friends, saying God chastens the wicked with pain as a message to turn from sin and live (16-23).  He confidently asserts that God receives the penitent sinner and blesses him with good things in life (24-30)  The chapter concludes with an arrogant command to Job to take Elihu’s words to heart (mark them, vs. 31), because he will teach Job wisdom (32).

How often the young account themselves wise.  A young man with a very limited exposure to the Bible will gladly dispute the words of a Godly minister who has devoted a lifetime to studying Scripture.  A person who has experienced very little of life, and very little of its sorrows, eagerly instructs those struggling under heavy burdens of grief, loss, and regrets.  A person with a degree in counselling, and two years of marriage considers himself and expert in marriage and family life.  Each new generation happily discards the “foolishness” of its elders and embraces the “wisdom” of its young and inexperienced trend setters.  Elihu does repeat the words and ideas of the older men, but he is convinced that he is better able to dispute with Job than they.  His is the confidence of youth.

Job 34

Elihu continues to mock Job’s words.  His restatement of them is sarcastic and caustic.  He is still more concerned with appearing to be wise, and justifying his own views, than he is about Job’s sorrows.  We cannot help noticing here that, though Job’s friends can quote his words with great accuracy, none has really listened to them.  None has tried to see Job’s point of view or understand his complaint.  None  has really attempted to answer Job’s questions or explain why God allows innocent people to suffer.  The uniform response of his friends has been the assumption of Job’s guilt and the constant restatement of the view that his suffering is God’s punishment for sin.

We continue to hear this today.  We hear that if we only have enough faith, or know the correct way to pray, or live in obedience to God’s commandments, or give the right amount of money to the right “ministry” with the right attitude, God will give us our miracles of healing and happiness and prosperity.  The book of Job refutes all such claims. It says the wicked often prosper at the expense of the innocent, and God often allows faithful people to fall into grievous sorrow.  The Elihus of the world have no answer to this.

July 19, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, July 19-25

July 19

Job 8, Mt. 13:1-30
Job 9, 1 Tim. 4


Job 8

Bildad has been quietly listening to Job and to Eliphaz.  He cannot be untouched by the plight of his friend, yet he is convinced Job is wrong about everything.  He says Job’s words are like “strong wind,” they are powerful, but destructive to his faith and his entire life.  God does not pervert justice (vs. 3).  Evil comes to evil people; good comes to good people.  Therefore, Job’s children sinned, and brought God’s wrath upon them, and Job sinned, and brought God’s wrath upon him.  If this is not so, according to Bildad, God is unjust and there is no hope for any justice ever.  Verse 6 gives the heart of Bildad’s faith; “If thou wert pure and upright; surely now [God] would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.”  He is telling Job God has been sleeping toward him because of his sin, but He will awake for Job if he repents of sin and begins living righteously again.  He confidently states that, if Job will do this, God will make him rich and prosperous again.

Bildad’s ideas are still popular today.  Most of the TV and radio preachers teach some form of it, promising miracles, health, prosperity, and deliverance from problems to those who have enough faith to  trust God for it.  Many teach that God will make people rich if they simply give money to their “ministries.”  As we will see, the book of Job absolutely refutes these ideas.

Job 9

Bildad has expressed what Job had always believed (9:1).  But now Job has questions.  He wants to ask God why He has allowed such sorrow to crush the life and faith out of him.  But who can argue with God?  God is wise (knowledgeable) in heart, and mighty in strength.  No mere human can outwit God or stand against His power.  Job acknowledges the power of God in verses 4-10.  But, though God is supremely powerful, Job says He is unjust and cruel. He has afflicted Job without cause (17), and He has given the earth to the wicked.  These are serious charges.  The first accuses God of tormenting Job for pleasure, the way some people take pleasure in causing other people or creatures to suffer.  It makes God responsible for all the suffering in the world, as though it comes to us from His hand specifically to cause us pain.  The second  means God is no rewarder of faith or protector of the good.  He allows evil men to take wealth by evil means, and He allows them to control the political, legal, and economic systems for their own gain.  In other words, God seems to be on the side of the wicked.

We are beginning to see more of the depth of Job’s inner pain.  In addition to the deep grief caused by the death of his children, the faith on which he has built his life has been shattered.  The God he loved, and thought loved him, appears to be nothing more than a super-powered criminal.  The wicked prosper while the innocent suffer, and God seems to be on the side of the wicked.  Thus, there is no hope for justice, no hope for peace, no hope that the world can ever be anything better than a place of violence, greed, and cruelty. This is despair in the deepest meaning of the word, and it drains every ounce of hope and faith out of Job.  Generations later, St. Paul will write “If God be for us, who can be against us?  To Job, God is against us, therefore, no matter who or what else is for us, we can expect only suffering and sorrow in life.

We face the same despair Job faced if there is no God.  With no God, humanity, controlled by fleshly appetites and lusts, and will always live by the law of the jungle.  The strong will take what they want, and leave the scraps to the rest.  The powerful will make the rules for others, but they, themselves,  will be immune to them.  Without God, there is no ultimate authority of right and wrong, and there is no ultimate judge to whom they will answer.  Therefore, kindness and cruelty are morally equivalent, and there is no moral mandate to choose one over the other.  If there is no God, man is the only arbiter of what is and is not acceptable.  Even if people choose to live in a form of social contract that attempts to produce the most benefit for the most people, disagreements over the definition and means of accomplishing it will divide and provoke the people.  This is why man’s utopian attempts have been disasters of blood, and have only replaced one group of oppressors with another. Even our best efforts have produced imperfect results.  If man is our only hope, then truly we have no hope.

July 20

Job 10,  Mt. 13:31-58
Job 11,  1 Tim. 5


Job 10

The heart of chapter 10 is Job’s desperate cry in verse 15,  “I am full of confusion.”  Job has lost his faith, and doesn’t know what to believe anymore.  This does not mean he doesn’t believe in God.  He still believes in the God of Adam and Eve, and Seth and Enoch and Noah.  But he no longer believes in the goodness and mercy of God.  He believes God is cruel, and has created him merely for the purpose of oppressing him (vs. 3).  Though Job maintains that God knows he has not been wicked (vs. 7), yet He continues to afflict Job (vs. 7-17).  Is this why God made Job?  Is this the kind of being God is?  Is this the One Job has tried to love and obey all these years?  If this is the kind of being God is, Job is weary of life (vs. 1),  He wishes he had not been conceived, or that he had died at birth and been carried from the womb to the grave (vs.19).

Job 11

A third friend speaks.  His name is Zophar, and, like the others, he admonishes Job and maintains that Job’s sorrows are the punishment for sin.  In fact, he wants Job to know he deserves more punishment than he is getting (vs. 6).  “God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.”

We in the New Testement Church know this is true.  We know “all have sinned,” and “the wages of sin is death.”  But Job has been taught that those who know God, abstain from gross wickedness, and generally live by the moral law of God, will be blessed with an abundance of the world’s material goods, and will live happy and prosperous lives.  Zophar affirms this idea.  He believes it with all his heart. He is sure Job has sinned, and that his current anger and questioning of God is increasing Job’s sin and provoking God to increase Job’s suffering.

We still have people like Zophar today.  They tell us that if we were only as righteous as they, or had as much faith as they, or believed God for our miracles, or gave “seed money” to their ministries we, too, would be prosperous and trouble free, like them.  Usually, of course, we easily find that their lives are not as holy or trouble free as they would like us to believe.

July 21

Job 12,  Mt. 14:1-21
Job 13,  1 Tim. 6


Job 12

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have confidently asserted their beliefs to Job.  They have assured him that suffering only comes to those who sin, therefore, Job is guilty of a terrible sin, for which he must repent and return to Godliness.  These men are very sincere in their beliefs, and in their compassion for Job.  But Job is tired of their assertions.  They are not the ones suffering, nor have they ever experienced anything like Job is experiencing.  When he begins to speak again in chapter 12, his words are sarcastic and cutting.  “No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.”  Job’s words would normally mean they are God’s chosen messengers and their combined store of wisdom is so great that it is as though wisdom will die when they die.  Of course the sarcastic tone of Job’s words mean just the opposite.  Job means they are not God’s messengers, nor are they wise in the ways of God.  They are, in fact, fools.

Job says he understands their views as well as they do, but Job thinks their ideas mock him.  He believes, when he calls upon God, God laughs him to scorn.  It is the robbers who prosper, and they who provoke God who are secure. while Job, a righteous man, suffers severely.

Verses 7-25 acknowledge the absolute power of God, but accuse Him of using His power unjustly.  He sends droughts and flood (15).  He takes away the wisdom of counselors and judges (17).  He crushes princes and mighty men and nations, and he raises up and/or destroys nations  merely for His own pleasure (18-21).  He makes rulers of nations (people with power to help or to harm the people of that nation) to wander in the wilderness, meaning to not know how to lead or how to help their nations.  He causes them to grope in darkness, not knowing what to do, or seeing the consequences their policies will cause.  Job means their leadership is confused and their policies are foolish, like a man trying to find his way in a strange place and in total darkness, or in a drunkenness.

Job may be applying these words to his friends, also.  He may be saying they are trying to lead him to God, but they are as much in the dark as he. 

Job 13

Job expresses his anger even more bluntly now.  He says he has as much knowledge of the things of God as they.  But they are no help.  They are forgers of lies (4).  In other words, all that they say and believe is lies.  Their attempts to help are like medicines from an incompetent physician.  They do not help.  Job is using their own arguments against them, for, if what they say is true, their false accusations of sin will bring God’s wrath on them.  He will reprove them and make His dread come upon them (10,11).

Verse 14 sees a shift in Job’s attitude.  “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” he says in verse 15.  Is this a sign that even all the sorrow he has experienced has not fully crushed his faith in God?  Or is Job trying to manipulate God, as people often do when trouble strikes?  He is probably trying to be truthful, for he immediately says he will maintain his ways before God, meaning he will stand by his word that he has not sinned, and that he will trust God to know this.  He will believe God will be his salvation.  Though his soul is filled with despair and anger, and he even considers taking his own life, there is still a spark of hope in Job that God may yet help him.

If Job has sinned, let God take away his transgressions (23).  Let Him not break a shaking leaf or harm the stubble of grass.  God has treated Job like an enemy, written bitter things against him, and put his feet in stocks like a criminal.  Will God yet have mercy?  Is there yet any meaning or hope in life?

July 22

Job 14, Mt. 14:22-36
Job 15, 2 Tim. 1


Job 14

Verses 1 and 2 ask an important question that still troubles people today.  We are born into a world that is full of trouble and sorrow, why does God add to them by judging us and holding us accountable for our failures, for not knowing Him, or even for open sin?  Why doesn’t God just let us alone?  Or, better yet, why doesn’t He help us rather than condemn us?  Why doesn’t He hold us in love, rather than blast us with anger?

Job admits that we, and he, are imperfect and incapable of making ourselves righteous.  We cannot bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing, meaning, us (4).  But Job insists God, who obviously knows this about us, should be forgiving and kind to us. Furthermore, our time is short on earth, and we have no ability to add years to our lives.  Why does God fill our short lives with trouble and sorrow?  A tree can be cut down, yet still live and send forth new branches, but a man cut down is dead forever.  Why does God torment us, then cut us down?

Verse 9 begins some of Job’s most profound and moving thoughts.  Troubled as he is, he thinks he could bear his afflictions if he only had some hope that, one day, God would reach down to him in mercy and do good to him again.  He wishes he could die and lie in his grave until whatever is causing God to afflict him passes.  Maybe then God could turn to him in mercy again, and raise him up, and restore him to His favour.  Job says, if that would happen he would wait patiently for that change (14).  If that would happen, and God would call him, he would answer, even if he were in his grave (15).

Job’s words remind us of the Apostle Paul, who also suffered much.  He was often without shelter from the heat and cold and sun and snow.  He often had no food for days at a time.   He suffered constant and severe pain due to the stonings and beatings he endured for the sake of Christ.  He wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27:  “five times received I forty stripes save one.  Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned.  Thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst and fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”  But Paul said he could endure them because he believed God was going to take him to be with Him in indescribable joy forever. Thus he wrote in in Romans 8:18; “I reckon  that the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”

Job does not know about Heaven.  He has no hope that God will raise him from the grave, or do good to him again in this life.  The mountains are large and strong, but even they fall and come to nought (18).  Stones are hard and strong, but water can wear them away to nothing (19).  In the same way God has destroyed Job’s faith.  Once it was a mountain.  Once it was a rock.  But God has moved it and worn it away, and now it is gone.  Job thinks the idea that God may do good for him again is a vain hope, and the chapter ends with Job as deep in despair and anger at God as ever. 

Job 15

Eliphaz answers Job again. He is shocked at Job’s unbelief and blasphemy.  He is angry that Job asserts himself over the wisdom of men much older than himself.  But he is more angry at Job’s hostility toward God, for Job turns his spirit against God and let blasphemous words out of his mouth (13). Therefore, rather than pitying and comforting Job, he blasts him with angry and hurtful words.  The same often happens today, doesn’t it?

Now Eliphaz utters some of the most profound words in the entire book of Job.  He says, in verse 14, “What is man, that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”  Here, long before the prophets, before Moses, or even Abraham, Eliphaz states a foundational Biblical truth. No man is clean before God. No man is righteous before God. The sun and moon and stars, which Eliphaz calls “the heavens” are not even clean in God's sight.  “How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?”  

How this sounds like the words of the prophet, “there is none righteous no not one.” How it sounds like the words of the Apostle, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” How profound and insightful these words are from this ancient man of God. Everyone deserves to suffer, he teaches. It is only by God's grace that the seemingly righteous are spared, while the openly wicked reap the wrath of God.  But, profound as his words may be, Eliphaz cannot convince himself that Job is not guilty of horrible and wicked sin, for which he is being punished by God.

July 23

Job 16, Mt. 15:1-20
Job 17, 2 Tim. 2


Job 16

The heart of this chapter is found in verse 21, “Oh that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbor.”  Job wishes he had someone to plead his case before God.  He wishes for an intercessor, a helper, a Saviour.

By now we are seeing more and more clearly that the needs and questions expressed in Job are answered in Christ.  “If a man die , shall he live again?”  Is God gracious and good, or is He capricious and cruel?  Does God forgive sin?  Is life worth living?  Is there an intercessor who will plead our case before God?  Is there any help for those enduring the trials of life?  Is God near to His people, or is He insulated and distant from them?  Does God really care about sin?  Is there really any justice in this world?  Is God Himself really just?  Does living a Godly life guarantee peace and prosperity?  Can certain acts of faith manipulate God into giving peace and prosperity?  All of these things are answered in Christ.  The deepest needs of the human heart and soul are answered in Christ.  Our most troublesome questions are answered in Christ.  In Him, our sorrows have meaning, and in Him the love and peace of God is secured for us forever.  One of the most troubling questions of life is, if God is good, why does He allow suffering? This, too is raised in Job, and answered in Christ.

Job 17

Job’s spirit is so troubled he is experiencing trouble breathing,  His “friends” are like mockers rather than helpers.  They provoke rather than comfort (1-3).  His suffering has become the subject of local gossip, a “byword” (6).  The righteous are astonished because of him.  But among his “friends” there is no wise man, despite their claims to know the ways of God (10).

He concludes there is no help for him in this life.  His only comfort, or, hope, is the grave (13-15) which will deliver him from his suffering and gives the consolation that his “friends” and those who gossip about him will also go down to the pit.

July 24

Job 18, Mt. 15:21-39
Job 19, 2 Tim. 3


Job 18

Bildad responds to Job’s remarks with anger.  We can see the tone of the conversations changing.  What began as a genuine attempt to comfort and support Job, turned into a theological debate and has now become an angry argument.  Bildad wants Job to stop talking and listen to reason, his reason.  “How long will it be ere ye make an end of words?  Mark [pay attention], and afterward we will speak” (2).  Bildad is now even more convinced that Job’s suffering is God’s retribution for terrible and habitual sin.  He is angry at Job for not believing this and confessing his sin.  He is even more angry at Job for not receiving the counsel of his friends.  He accuses Job of considering the friends as having no more understanding of God than the beasts, and rather than friends, they are counted as vile by Job (3).  Verse 4-21 are Bildad’s angry defence of his conviction that God gives peace and prosperity to the good, and sorrow and suffering to the wicked.

Job 19

Job’s response is equally angry.  He says his friends “vex” his soul and break him in pieces (2).  He continues to maintain his lack of great sin, and to accuse God of mistreating him.  The anger and intensity of the conversation shows that the issues they discuss are not mere philosophical discourses, they are the issues of life and its meaning.  They are the issues of God and His being.  They ultimately reduce to one question: given the power and nature of God, and given the reality of suffering, is life worth living? 

Finally Job begs his friends to pity, rather than criticise him (21-24), and asserts a deep faith that he will see God in peace and acceptance again through One who will defend him and justify him before God.  He again speaks of a hope that this will happen even if Job dies before the Redeemer comes.  Though worms destroy his body, yet in his flesh will he see God (25&26).  Surely this Redeemer is none other than Christ our Lord who died for our sins and “ever liveth to make intercession.”

July 25, St. James the Apostle

Acts 11:27- 12:  ,  Mt. 16
Mt. 20:20-, 2 Tim. 4

Collect for the Day,

“Grant, O merciful God, that as thine holy Apostle, Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of Thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed Him; so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow Thy Holy Commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

James was one of three disciples who were closest to Christ during His earthly ministry.  He was known as a man of great wisdom and faith, and he was diligent about seeing that the doctrine and practice of the the Church conformed to that given to the Apostles from Christ.   The Collect refers to his leaving a lucrative fishing  business to follow Christ.  But James would soon give  much more in the service of Christ.  The murder of Stephen in Jerusalem began an intense persecution of the Church by the same Jewish religious leaders who had convinced Pilate to crucify Christ.  Most Christians rapidly left Jerusalem at this time, but the Apostles remained in the city, including James.

James was one of the most influential Apostles.  This made him particularly conspicuous to the Jewish opposition, and an obvious target of their attacks. In or around the year 44 A.D, his enemies succeeded in having him arrested and executed. He was the first Apostle to suffer martyrdom for his Saviour.

July 11, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, July 12-18

July 12

Esther 4,  Mt. 8:18-34
Esther 5,  1 Thess. 4


Esther 4

A fearful time of mourning has overcome the Jews. In their distress they forsake their food for fasting, and give up their beds to lie in sack cloth and ashes. The reason for their sorrow is the decree of the king, passed at the urging of Haman, and sent into all the provinces of Persia. The decree orders to destroy, kill, and cause to perish, all Jews, “both young and old, little children and women.” (3:13).  Every Jew is to die. All of their property is to be confiscated. Even the date of this mass execution is set, “the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.”

We often read Scripture too quickly and without involvement. The more familiar we are with a passage, the more likely we are to read its words, yet be unmoved by the needs, suffering, or faith it expresses. But let the decree of Ahasureus sink into your being for a moment. Understand that it orders the execution of every single Jew in the empire, including those in Israel. Understand this requires gathering the Jews into concentration camps, where, in one day, they will all be killed. Imagine the fear and the suffering; the blood, screaming children, and weeping mothers.

Understand also, that had these Jews returned to Jerusalem when they had the chance, they would not be facing this tragedy. They would be safe in Judea. They would be the strongest military force in the area. And they would be allies of the king of Persia, not his enemies. Think, for a moment, about those who did return to Jerusalem. Think of those who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, who rebuilt the temple, and faced the dangers and hardships of life in Israel. What would it have meant to them to have the help and the presence of those who stayed behind in Babylon? But those who stayed behind chose to remain where life is easier and more peaceful. They had learned to love their new homes and lands instead of Jerusalem. Their loyalties lay with their new country, not with Israel; until now. Now they find it not a land of rest and peace, but  a land of sorrow, suffering, and death. If only they had returned to Jerusalem when they had the chance. The Reverend Matthew Henry wrote a telling comment on this passage: “Those who for want of confidence in God, and affection to their own land, had staid in the land of their captivity, when Cyrus had given them liberty to be gone, now perhaps repented of their folly, and wished, when it was too late, that they had complied with the call of God.” Many “Christians” today knowingly live in opposition to the clear teaching of Scripture. Let us pray that they may repent of their folly, rather than wish, when it is too late, that they had complied with the call of God.

Esther has not been living as a Jew. She has been assimilated into the Persian culture, and enjoy ing her status as a queen. Unlike Vashti, who did not go to the king’s pagan festival, Esther must be fully participating in them, for she retains her queenly position.

Mordecai has openly declared himself a Jew, and urges Esther to do the same. Chapter 4 contains what are probably the two best known verses in the book of Esther. Verse 14 is Mordecai's plea for Esther to intercede for the Jews: “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Verse 16 is Esther’s decision to act on behalf of the Jews: “if I perish, I perish.”

Esther 5

Many commentators have suggested that merely to go to the inner court of the kings house, without invitation, is to risk execution. Yet Esther does so boldly. Thankfully she is received by the king, who accepts her invitation, with Haman, to a banquet she will prepare for them on the following evening.

The king knows she wants something, and encourages to voice her petition.  She wisely does not, but does invite the king to another banquet on the next evening.

Meanwhile, Haman is boasting to his friends and wife, that he is so favoured by the king and Queen, that he was invited to the first banquet and it is also invited to a second. He alone has been given this honour. Yet his anger against Mordecai continues to burn. He orders a gallows built specifically for the purpose of hanging Mordecai.

July 13

Esther 6,  Mt. 9:1-17
Esther 7, 1 Thess. 5


Esther 6

Unable to sleep, the king orders the book of the records of the chronicles brought and read to him. This is not one of the Biblical books of Chronicles. It is a book of recent Persian history and events in which he learns of Mordecai’s action which saved the king’s life. He determines to honour Mordecai.

The next morning, Haman comes to the king to seek permission to hang Mordecai on the gallows he has built. When the king asks, “What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour?” Haman thinks the king intends to honour him. Verses 7-9 describe what Haman wants the king to do for him. But the king is not talking about Haman; he is talking about Mordecai, the man Haman wants to hang.  “Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the kings gate.”  Haman must be shocked and angry, yet he has no choice but to do as the king commands. Later that day he complains to his friends but his complaining is interrupted by the call to come to Esther’s banquet.

Esther 7

At the banquet Esther pours out her heart to the king. She tells him that her people are to be slain until they all perish, and begs, “let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request.” 

Hearing this, the king is angry.  He demands to know who “durst in his heart to presume to do so?”  The queen responds, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.” The fire of hate and conceit that burned in Haman’s heart, now turns to fear as cold as ice.  The king leaves the palace, and returns to find Haman begging Esther for his life. The king, already angry, thinks Haman is trying to “force the queen.” Within a few minutes, Haman stands on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. On that very gallows, “they hanged Haman.”

Again and we see the mighty hand of God protecting His people and working His will in human history. It is not chance or fate that saves the Jews. It is not even the courage of Esther or Mordecai, great as their courage is. It is the hand of God working in grace to accomplish His will on earth.

July 14

Esther 8, Mt. 9:18-38
Esther 9:1-19, 2 Thess. 1


Esther 8

The danger to the Jewish people does not end with the death of Haman.  He and his people have aroused animosity against the Jews throughout the Persian Empire.  No doubt the Jews themselves cause part of the animosity.  They have continuing complex of believing their calling to know and serve the Living and True God is due to their moral and spiritual superiority to other people, whom they call “unclean.”  Rather than having compassion on the Gentiles, they are conceited, and even hateful towards them.  This is odd, because, at the same time, many, perhaps even most of the Jews are happily adopting Gentile ideas and life-styles.  Most of their animosity toward Gentiles, then, is due to ethnic conceit, not fidelity to God.

If they were faithful to God, they would still engender animosity from the Gentiles, because they would live very different lives.  They would not participate in pagan festivals, eat their foods, intermarry with them, or even socialise with them on a large scale.  They would live separate and secluded lives in their own towns or neighbourhoods.  If they were really faithful to God, they would leave their Persian homes and return to the land God gave them and in which He called them to dwell and worship Him.  So, while many Jews have become Persians in every detail,  they still feel superior to Persians.  Others, like Mordecai, refuse to bow to men like Haman or acknowledge the Persian idols.  This combination engenders a strong dislike of the Jews,  and thousands of people are determined to fulfil Haman’s decree to annihilate the Jewish people.    

Esther 9:1-19

It must be remembered that a Persian king’s decrees could not be reversed.  Thus, when Ahasureus takes Haman’s advice, and orders the Jews to be annihilated on a certain day, he is powerless to annul that decree.  So he issues another decree which allows the Jews to resist the annihilation efforts by force.  The vast majority of people in the Empire, knowing the king’s regrets over the first decree, and that he desires to preserve the Jewish people, make no effort to harm the Jews.  But thousands of people in many places do.  So when the day arrives, the Persian Empire is thrown into a bloody war of ethnic cleansing.  We do not know how many Jews suffered or died in this war, but the book of Esther records seventy-five thousand of their enemies killed throughout the Empire, plus 500 in the capitol city.  The sons of Haman are also executed by hanging.  This preserves the Jewish people as an ethnic identity, leaving hope that they will return to their true identity soon.

July 15

Esther 9:20-32, 10:1-3,  Mt. 10
Job 1,  2 Thess. 2


Esther 9:20-32, 10:1-3

A time of feasting and thanksgiving is decreed for all the Jews by Esther and Mordecai, which becomes known as the feast of Purim.  It is interesting that the feast originates with people without ecclesiastical authority who live outside of the land of Judah.  The Judeans must feel some animosity toward the Jews who remain in Persia rather than joining and helping them in their very difficult situation in Jerusalem and Judea.  At the same time, they rejoice that God has preserved their brethren. So the feast is adopted by the Judean people, and becomes a standard in the Jewish annual calendar.  Thus the book of Esther ends with the Jewish people safe and rejoicing in the providence of God.

July 16

Job 2, Mt. 11
Job 3, 2 Thess. 3


Job 2

Job is thought to be a very ancient book.  The events it describes do not occur in Israel, and probably happen long before the time of Abraham.  They are so tragic and so puzzling that they have been recorded and preserved in poetry and in a format that is almost like a theatrical play.  Job’s situation casts him into deep despair, and causes him to question the very foundations and elemental principles of life.  Three questions underlie the entire book.  First, if good and bad things happen to all people, why should anyone try to be good?  Second, if good and bad things happen to those who try to love and obey God, why should anyone try to love and obey Him?  Third, if this is what life is like, why not just die and get out of it?  These are not simply topics for philosophical discussion in the safety of the halls of academia.  They are the deep, existential questions of the heart of a man caught in sorrows that threaten his views of life, his faith in God, and his desire to live at all.  These are life and death, and Heaven and Hell, time and eternity questions asked by a man who, like all of us, exists in the midst of these very real issues, and cannot escape their very real consequences.

Chapter 1 shows Job as a righteous man who lives in obedience to God.  Job’s righteousness is not sinless perfection.  It is a life lived in faith and love of God instead of in opposition and rebellion against God.  It is a life that is lived trusting God to to accept and bless him because God is merciful and good.  But Job’s faith is shaken when the disasters strike him.  The devil, one of the angelic beings, or, sons of God, says Job only loves God because God has protected Job from sorrow (put a protective hedge around Job), and has made him rich and happy.  If God takes away Job’s worldly treasures, his faith will die and he will curse God to His face.  Will we only trust God in good times?  Will we trust Him when everything else is gone?  These questions clearly confront us as we read the book of Job.

Chapter 2 finds Job in deep grief yet still holding on to his faith in God.  Verse 9 is a statement of faith.  It says he will trust God in bad times as much as in good times.

Job 3

Job’s faith is much weaker now.  He is beginning to wish he had never been conceived (1-10).  In verse 11 he wishes he had died in the womb, or that his mother had never fed or cared for him after birth.  Why didn’t she just let him die?  As you read these verses let yourself feel a little of the depth of Job’s grief and confusion.  Why is Job saying it is better to be dead than to live under the power of God, who causes such sorrow and suffering?

Job thinks of death as either the end of existence, or as existing in a form and place that is barren of both joy and sorrow.  To him is is a kind of existence in which a person is conscious, but immune to the things of life.  It is something like a shadow of life.  A shadow resembles a person and moves with a person, but does not feel the pain or care about the questions of life.  That is why Job says if he were dead he would be at peace. 
July 17

Job 4,  Mt.12:1-21
Job 5, 1 Timothy 1


Job 4

Now the friends of Job begin to speak.  These friends have often been criticised as unfeeling moralists who thunder on about the wrath of God on a sinful Job.  But Eliphaz is actually tender and compassionate at first.  His faith, too, is tried by Job’s sorrows, and he wants to know how these things could happen to a man like Job.  He begins by asking permission to speak.  He has no wish to humiliate Job, or to haughtily pronounce judgment upon what he may perceive as Job’s sins.  His desire is to understand and comfort Job.

He gently points out that Job has often comforted others in their suffering.  Therefore, Job knows the “answers” to all the theological, moral, and practical issues he is facing.  The implication is that if Job was able to help others, he should be able to help himself.  He knows both the cause of his troubles, and the way out of them.

Eliphaz makes one  dynamic point, which he will repeat many times in the course of the book: “whoever perished being innocent?  Or where were the righteous cut off?”  He is stating an idea that is still popular today, that the innocent do not suffer.  Only the wicked perish, and they perish by the blast of God.  They are like lions who kill and devour their prey, but, in the end, it is they who perish.

Verses 12-21 tell of a dream of a visitation by God in which Eliphaz learns of the justice of God.  He is so convinced of the reality of this visitation that, on its basis, he essentially accuses Job of sin.  A mortal man, Job, is not more just than God or more pure than his Maker.  In other words, sinners suffer, the innocent do not.  Therefore, Job is guilty of sin, and his suffering is in exact proportion to the degree of his sin.

Job 5

Eliphaz continues.  His point is that Job’s suffering is a gracious correction from God (17).  If Job will repent of his sin God will restore his former happiness, and keep him in it all the days of his life.  He is absolutely convinced that this is so.  Thus, in verse 27 he concludes his remarks, saying, “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it and know thou it for thy good.”  He is saying, Job, I know this to be true.  I have received it in a visitation from God, and I have pondered it in my heart often.  Listen to it, and believe it, and all will be well with you.

We must be careful about religious experiences.  It is possible to have experiences that we think are given by God, but are not.  Eliphaz’s  vision was not from God, though he was convinced it was.  This brings us to a very important point: Scripture is not judged or interpreted by experiences.  Experiences are judged and interpreted by Scripture. 

July 18

Job 6, Mt. 12:22-50
Job 7, 1 Tim. 2, 3


Job 6

It is Job’s turn to speak, but he does not confess sin and repent, as Eliphaz expects.  Instead he says that, just as an animal only complain when it is not fed or cared for, he is not complaining without reason.  And the reason is not that God is making him suffer, though he is innocent of wrong and is suffering unjustly.  Furthermore, his suffering is so terrible, and his anger and mistrust of God is now so consuming, he no longer desires to serve God, or even to live.  “Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me; that He would let loose His hand, and cut me off.”

Job 7

Job continues to express his sorrows. Life has become a burden for him, and God will not release him from it.  He is forced “to possess months of vanity,” and “wearisome nights” are appointed to him.  Life is empty and meaningless.  Nights are spent in mourning and tears rather than peaceful sleep and rest.  He is “full of tossings to and fro until the dawning of the day,”  He begins to address God, and, in very disrespectful ways, tells Him He is unfair and cruel.  If indeed Job has sinned (and he maintains that he has not) God should pardon his transgression and take away his iniquity.  Instead, for no reason, God sends unbearable sorrows to him.  His only relief  can be death, and his soul chooseth it rather than life (vs. 15).

Job’s grief is so terrible he plans to take his own life (vs. 21).  He seems to say he will kill himself, and when God looks for him again, to afflict him again, He will not find him because he will be dead.  This is deep and gripping sorrow, and Job sees no way out of it.  Normally he would cast himself upon the mercies of God.  Normally he would trust God to be kind and generous.  But it seems God has turned against him.  It seems God is capricious, and delights in tormenting him.  Therefore, Job has no hope.  He does not believe life will ever be anything better for him.  He believes God will keep him in this state of torment as long as he lives, so he decides to end his life.  He thinks that is his only escape.

Fortunately there is much more to the book of Job.  Though it challenges many common ideas about the ways of God and His dealings with humanity, yet it also affirms His grace and kindness.  Let Job only continue on, and he will find peace, not only peace with God, but peace in God.