August 1, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, August 2-8

August 2

Job 35, Mt. 21:1-23
Job 36, Heb. 5


Job 35

We cannot help noticing that the friends of Job do understand much of the ways of God. There is much truth in their words.  Even Elihu, though quick to anger and eager to find fault with his elders, has an amazing understand of the power and glory of God. This understanding is coupled with a logical mind and an eloquent tongue so that he speaks with great power.

He knows human beings are powerless to affect God, unless God Himself allows it. He says, profoundly, “If thou sinnest what doest thou against Him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto Him? (6). In other words, our sins, even multiple and gross repeated sins cannot really hurt God. At the same time, “If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him? or what receivest he of thine hand?” (7).  Our sins hurt other people, and our good deeds may help other people. But we can't help God, neither can we hurt Him (8-13), unless, by some miracle of Grace, he allows himself to be touched by our actions, feelings, and needs.

Elihu’s major flaw is his continuing insistence that God rewards righteousness with worldly riches, and punishes wickedness with worldly woes. It is this belief that leads Elihu to be angry at Job and to continue to accuse Job of being a wicked man. He accuses Job of lying (15) and confidently states that, because of Job’s wickedness, God has visited him in His anger, meaning, brought this suffering upon Job.

Chapter 36

Elihu claims to speak on God’s behalf (1-4).  This may be a simple claim to speak from a fuller understanding of God’s ways than the other men possess, or it may be a claim to speak from Divine inspiration. Either way, Elihu’s claim is incorrect.

Verses 5-33 further and eloquently expound the belief he shares with the other friends of Job, that God, “preserveth not the life of the wicked; but giveth right to the poor” (6).  Verse 17 reiterates his belief that Job is one of the wicked, therefore, God’s judgment and justice take a “hold on thee.”

August 3

Job 37, Mt. 21:23-46
Job 38,  Heb. 6


Job 37

Here we come to the conclusion of the remarks of Elihu, and the “comforts” offered to Job by his friends.  Verses 1-14 comprise yet another discourse on the power and wisdom of God, and call on Job to listen to his words and consider the wondrous works of God. He implies that Job either has a false view of his own righteousness, or has been lying to the friends in an attempt to appear righteous to them.

Verses 15-24 mock Job. They accuse him of claiming knowledge he does not possess. It is, of course, true that Job was not there when God disposed (performed and showed) His wonders.  Elihu refers primarily to God's creation of the universe. But Elihu’s sarcasm is seen in verse 19, where he says, “Teach us what we shall say unto Him; for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.” He is sarcastically saying, teach us, wise man, since you know so much about God; and since we are so foolish and we speak from darkness, and you speak from light.

Job 38

Chapter 38 ends the bantering between Job and his friends. Their argument has consumed the greater part of the book. Their respective views have been repeated so often they have almost become tiresome to us. They have contained beautiful statements of the wondrous glory of God. They have contained wondrous pictures of his love and compassion, and of his protection of the righteous and punishment of the wicked. Yet the friends of Job remain blind to the fact that even the righteous suffer in this life. They have failed to acknowledge the fact that the wicked often prosper in this world by oppressing and abusing other people, including the righteous.

Job, on the other hand, fails to understand that he is a sinner. Because he has not oppressed the poor, or gained his wealth by paying unfair wages or corruption in business; and because he has been a generous and helpful friend of the working man and poor, he believes he is righteous. Job  believes his former wealth and luxury were the due reward of his righteousness. They were not just blessings from God, there are what God owed him for being good. The passages in which Job hopes for a redeemer to take his side, are not based on the knowledge of sin and the need of the Lamb of God to take away his sin and cleanse him of all unrighteousness. They are based on Job’s wish that someone would speak to God on Job's behalf, convince God of Job’s righteousness, and, on the basis of that righteousness, persuade God to stop afflicting Job, and return his wealth and other due rewards of righteousness.

In chapter 38, God Himself begins to speak, and the clamouring disputants are silenced. His first words to Job are; “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” It is as though God asks; “Who dares to speak to Me in such arrogance? Who presumes to tell Me what I must do? Does a foolish man, whose life is a vapour, whose wisdom is vanity, whose very nature is fallen and sinful, now lecture Me about goodness and justice, and about how I am required to deal with man? Is this Job, the man who thinks himself righteous? Does he not remember that I am God?  Does he not remember that he is My servant?  Where were you when I laid the foundations the earth?  Tell Me how I did it.  I needed neither your help nor your permission.

How we poor humans elevate ourselves in our own eyes.  We presume to tell God how to be God and on what terms we will “allow” Him into our lives.  Our prayers become means of getting things we want from God, as though a certain formula of prayer or righteous living compels Him to do our bidding.  Even our worship easily degenerates into self-centred entertainment rather than genuine recognition of His greatness and devotion to obedience to Him.  Like Job’s friends we make confident assertions about the Almighty and His ways from the darkness of our own fantasies of what we want God to be, rather than from the light of His revelation in Scripture.  Therefore, we often curse what God blesses, and bless what God curses, calling evil good and good evil.

One day we will stand before God.  We will see Him in all His power and glory.  On that day we will not need anyone to tell us how foolish and selfish and sinful we are.  God will not need to read four chapters of the book of Job to us to humble us before Him.  The light of His glory will make our filthiness and sin more abundantly clear that we would ever want to see. 

August 4

Job 39,  Mt. 22:1-22
Job 40, Heb 7


Job 39

God reminds Job of His continuing care and provision for His creation.  Just as He did not need Job’s help or permission to create, neither does He need Job’s help or permission to sustain His creation.  Just as Job is not able to create the universe, he is equally unable to cause the hinds to calve, the peacocks to fly, or care for the ostrich’s eggs left defenceless in the dust.  The horse is stronger and braver than Job.  Such things are beyond the abilities of man, yet God does them continually and effortlessly.

Job 40

Finally Job begins to understand.  He who maintained that he was righteous now sees himself a vile sinner.  He who dared to call God wicked and unjust, now recognises the depths of his ignorance of God.  He no longer arrogantly accuses God.  Instead he admits he has wrongly answered God in the past, but now he will “proceed no further.”

Beginning in verse 6, God challenges Job to make himself equal to God.  The equality expected is actual, not theoretical.  Let himself deck himself with majesty equal to God’s.  Let Job cast abroad his rage, and abase those who assert themselves against him, as God can do.  Let Job punish the wicked with the same power God has.  Then God will acknowledge the validity of Job’s complaint.  Then Job can prevail over God, or at  least, be not overcome by God.

In verse 9 God means does Job have the strength God has?  If two warriors meet in battle, the strength of their arms may decide the outcome.  God is telling Job to test his arm against God’s.  If he is able to do what God does, then God will say Job has delivered himself, won the battle, and Job’s right arm is stronger than God’s (14).

But, God warns, Job cannot prevail against God.  He cannot even prevail against Behemoth, who, though far stronger than Job, is but a tiny creature, compared to God. Verses  15-24 describe Behemoth, and many have wondered what animal is described here.  Some have suggested it is the hippopotamus, while others believe it is the elephant.  Job is obviously no match for either.  Therefore, he can never hope to be a match for the One who creates and sustains many such creatures.

August 5

Job 41,  Mt. 22:23-46
Job 42,  Heb. 8


Job 41

God now describes another fearful creature.  While Behemoth is a land animal, Leviathan is a water dweller.  There is some disagreement over the identity of the beast, some believing it is the whale; others believe it is a crocodile.  It does seem to live near people, who dare not stir him up (10), and the crocodile’s skin does resemble scales.  But what are we to think about the smoke going out of his nostrils, and the flame that “goeth out of his mouth” (20,21)?

Whatever this creature’s identity, Job is no match for him.  Therefore, he is no match for the One who created and controls him.

Job 42

At last Job is beginning to understand.  God is in control, and, odd as it may sound to human ears, we as His creatures have no rights in His eyes.  He owes us nothing.  He does not owe us love.  He does not owe us answers to prayer.  He does not owe us life.  He does not owe us Heaven.  This is the same point the Apostle Paul makes in Romans 9:19-24.  Romans 9:21 is especially clear. “Hath not the potter power over the clay?”  God is the potter, we are the clay.  He makes and forms us according to His plan and purpose.  We do not create and form God according to our plans and purposes.

Job now sees that his anger toward God is unjustified.  His questioning of the wisdom and justice of God is very wicked.  Even though he thought he was right at the time, Job cannot see the whole picture as God can, therefore, he is incompetent to pass judgment on God, or on the way God’s Providence leads and affects his life.   Matthew Henry’s devotional commentary states it thus;

“God's judgments are a great deep, which we cannot fathom, much less find out the springs of. We see what God does, but we neither know why he does it, what he is aiming at, nor what he will bring it to. These are things too wonderful for us, out of our sight to discover, out of our reach to alter, and out of our jurisdiction to judge of them. They are things which we know not; it is quite above our capacity to pass a verdict upon them. The reason why we quarrel with Providence is because we do not understand it; and we must be content to be in the dark about it, until the mystery of God shall be finished.”

It is important that we note that Job never gets his questions answered.  God never tells him about allowing Satan to test Job’s faith.  He never tells Job why He allows evil to flourish, or why He allows His faithful people to suffer.   He never tells Job about Heaven or Hell.  At least, He doesn’t say anything about these very pressing issues in the book.

God does restore Job’s fortune.  He  “blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (12).  But He never gives answers to the issues Job and his friends raise in the book.  He leaves Job, as the Reverend Matthew Henry said, “in the dark about it.”

Thanks be to God, we have a little more light.  We know “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom.8:28).  We know that “the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:3).  We know tribulations build patience, patience builds experience (Godliness of character) and experience builds hope, or faith in God (Rom. 5:3-5).

Yet, even with these promises, we are still much in the dark about things.  We still wonder why God allows some things to happen, why He allows evil people to rise to positions of power, and to persecute those who attempt to follow Him.  In these things we have only two recourses.  One, we can contend with God in anger and frustration, as Job did through most of the book. Many choose this recourse, and live joyless, bitter lives.  Two, we can trust and obey God.  This is the more difficult choice.  It truly is easier to let the tribulations of life make us angry at God, and live in bitterness against Him. Of course such bitterness may harm others, and definitely harms  those who choose it, but it does not hurt God. Many choose to trust and obey.  Abraham, Sarah, Paul, and millions of others whose names we will not know until we meet them in glory, have trusted God, and made themselves learn to be content in whatever circumstances God places them.  Like them, the book of Job challenges and invites us to trust and obey. 

August 6

Proverbs 1:1-19, Mt. 23:1-24
Prov. 1:20-33, Heb. 9


Proverbs 1

Verse 1 identifies the author of the book as Solomon, son of David and king of Israel.  So, here we are reading the words of an ancient king who was known for his wisdom.  This fact alone makes the book worthy of our reading.

Verses 2-7 give the purpose of the book.  The proverbs it contains are not mere witty sayings spoken for amusement at family and social functions.  They are not for entertainment, like crossword puzzles  or video games,  They are not even subjects for learned people to discuss and debate.  They are given so the reader may know wisdom (2).

The purpose of the book is further revealed in verse 10.  It is written to Solomon’s son.  That son is probably Rehoboam, who was destined to become king of Israel after Solomon.  Proverbs is written to guide the young boy as he grows and matures.  It is written to shape his thoughts and form his character that he may become the kind of person who should be entrusted with the service of leadership.

But what is wisdom?  It is the knowledge of God’s revelation in Scripture, applied to every aspect of life.  Wisdom applies, and lives by, the teachings of Scripture in our relationships to God, nature, other people, and even to our own selves.  “The wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.”  Thus, wisdom begins with the fear (reverent knowledge of, and willing obedience to) God as He is revealed, especially in Scripture. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

Verses 7-19 begin with Solomon’s ernest plea to his son to choose and follow the ways of wisdom. Beginning at verse 11 Solomon depicts the practices of the foolish. They are wicked, greedy, and proud. They are the life styles of self indulgence made possible by cheating and oppressing others in order to make money. They are the ways of those who are, “greedy of gain.” These particular people are greedy enough to kill for money. But all corrupt practices are condemned here, even those which do not cause the death of their victims.  It is possible to kill a person’s will, emotions, or finances without actually killing his body 

Beginning in verse 20, Solomon uses the literary technique of personification to make Wisdom speak. Her words are directed to those who ignore the teachings of Scripture and pursue the foolishness of sin. Such people hate knowledge, do not choose the fear of the Lord, and despise the counsel and reproof of wisdom (29,30). Their destruction will come, but those who choose the ways of wisdom, “shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”

August 7

Prov. 2, Mt. 23:25-39
Prov 3. Heb. 10


Proverbs 2

Proverbs gives a constant comparison between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God.  The wisdom of the world tells us our greatest happiness in life is found in the indulgence of our fleshly appetites, therefore, we should indulge them to the fullest extent possible by any means necessary.  The wisdom of God tells us our greatest happiness comes from knowing God and living according to His will in every aspect of life.  Those who follow the world’s wisdom believe they can define for themselves what is best for them, and how to acquire it.  Those who follow the wisdom of God believe God is wiser than man.  He knows what is good for us, and what produces true happiness better than we do, therefore, we will follow God and trust Him.

Solomon has already told us that the world’s way will actually destroy us, while God’s way produces safety and quietness in the soul.  There is a sense in which this happens on earth, for the wicked constantly need new and more things to satisfy their appetites, while the Godly can rest in the peace of God that passes all understanding.  Ultimately, of course, this happens after we pass from this world to the next.  There the wicked face the lake of fire known as the second death, but the people of God find joy and peace so wonderful our language cannot express it and our minds cannot perceive it.  We will exist in a realm without sorrow, and in the closest possible fellowship with God and His people, forever.

Therefore, Solomon encourages his son to seek wisdom as others seek the riches of this world.  Verse 1-9 promise that those who seek wisdom will know God, who is the highest good and most valuable treasure.  They will be enabled to know every good path, which are the ways of true happiness here and forever.

10-19 present the ways of the evil man and strange woman.  The point of the passage is that we  should seek and find the wisdom of God rather than fall into the temptations presented by evil men, or ungodly women.  Such people will lead the unsuspecting into wanton, licentious living, which appears to be fun and fulfilling, but is actually the way of death.  The upright and Godly will find and follow Wisdom.  They will dwell in the land.  “But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and transgressors shall be rooted out of it.”  

Proverbs 3

There is probably no better statement of the blessings of following God than that found in Proverbs 3:5-7.  Our tendency is to trust our own judgment rather than the clear commandments of God.  We forget that our judgment is impaired by our limited experience and knowledge, and is partial and prone to error.  God’s judgement is absolute and inerrant.  Even worse, our judgement is warped by our natural inclination toward sin, and we forget that sin is death.  Like Eve we are easily convinced that God is withholding true happiness from us, and, if we just take that “fruit” for ourselves, we will be as happy and complete as God Himself.  This is the very reason why we must, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” 

Verse 11 is often thought to mean God chastises our sin by causing us to suffer in this life. And indeed He does. The Old Testament prophets frequently warned Israel that their oppression and  suffering were the means by which God punished their sins. In the New Testament also, we read that many were weak, and sick, and even dead as punishment for the sin of taking the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11:29,30). It is also true that the Scriptures chasten and correct us. In other words, wisdom corrects our lives and leads us into the things that are “health to thy navel and marrow to thy bones” (8).  The navel once connected us to the lifeline of our mother.  Our spiritual navel connects us to the lifeline of God.  In the womb our bones received their marrow.  In God the spiritual “body”  of our character is formed and strengthened.

August 8

Prov. 4, Mt. 24:1-22
Prov. 5. Heb. 11

Proverbs 4

Solomon encourages his children, especially Rehoboam, to hear the instruction of their father, through which they will receive good doctrine, understanding, and wisdom. The young are prone to reject the counsel of their elders, and put blind faith in the ideas and views of other young people and themselves. Each generation considers itself the most enlightened and wisest generation to date, eagerly dismissing the values and experience of past generations to embrace whatever is new and “cool” now. Often the new generations believe the values of the past are the cause of all  problems and injustices. Their generation, with its new values and greater understanding, will right the wrongs of the past and create a better future for themselves and humanity.

There are several problems with this. First, it fails to see the good that has come to the younger generation through the efforts of earlier generations. Whatever freedom and peace they enjoy , the technology that makes their lives comfortable and healthy, the infrastructure of highways and cities and farms, and the tools of language have all come to them from earlier generations. Often older generations have fought and sacrificed every thing to secure these things and pass them down to the new generation. Second, the youth often fail to see that it is not the values of the past that have caused our problems; it is the failure to live up to those values. War, crime, abuse, and oppression, have not happened because older people valued hate, oppression and violence.  They happened because some would not live by the values of peace, and justice, and generosity so eloquently taught in the Ten Commandments, and in the words of Christ, “whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even unto them.” Third, the reason all people, in all generations, including the present and future generations, fail to live up to these values is the natural tendency of all people to live by our own rules, rather than God’s, even when their rules cause distress and harm to others. We are all as inclined toward selfishness as water is inclined to go downhill. Until this inclination is changed, humanity in general, and individuals specifically, will continue to act out the same patterns and actions that caused, and continue to cause, the problems we face in this world today.

Rehoboam is a prime example. Taught to personify wisdom, goodness, and justice, he rejected his teaching and listened to the advice of his young friends. The result of his actions divided his nation, making it an easy target for enemies who wanted its land and resources (2 Chron 10, and 12:1).

Just as children are encouraged to hear the wisdom of their elders, elders are encouraged to be wise. Parents should apply themselves to becoming wise. Otherwise parenting becomes simply a case of the blind leading the blind and fools leading fools. Unfortunately for our children, parents are often too busy chasing our own pleasures to learn or apply wisdom to the task of parenting. Most of our wisdom is gained from making mistakes, for which our children and families suffer. No one can live without making mistakes. No one can live without sin. But we can apply ourselves to wisdom through diligent study of the Bible. Such study is not merely  learning the contents and meaning of the Scriptures. It is letting our minds, values,  and character be shaped and formed by the Scriptures, such that our attitudes and actions conform more and more to the teachings we find in the Bible.

Proverbs 5

Next to refusing to acknowledge God as our God, whose ways are wisdom and life and peace,  some of our worst failures in life are due to our lack of respect for the Biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage.  Few of us ever attain positions of power that enable us to cause wide scale oppression, abuse, or strife.  But sexual temptation is ubiquitous in western culture, and, combined with our natural desires, it presents many opportunities for sexual sins. It often seems that the devil distracts us from the important issues of life, by focusing our attention on the gratification of our sexual urges. He has also convinced us that, with the exception of sexual relations by force, or with minors, all forms of sexual gratification are good and acceptable. We have come to believe that, with exceptions already noted, consensual sexual expression outside of Biblical marriage, harms no one. Untold numbers of physically or emotionally abandoned children, and the emotional scars carried by many adults who have been used as sexual toys and abandoned, show the fallacy of this belief, yet, western culture has accepted the lie, and our obsession with sex is one of the reasons why our culture is decaying under us.

By contrast, the Bible teaches chastity for the unmarried, and fidelity for the married. Marital faithfulness, rather than sexual promiscuity, is the Biblical model. Verses 15-23 are quite graphic in their depiction of sexual expression within marriage. It is figuratively expressed in verse 15; “Drink waters out of thine own cistern,” (15), and literally expressed in verse 18; “rejoice with the wife of thy youth.”