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.