Day 25 (Jan. 25): Eliphaz accuses Job of sin, Job seeks a meeting with God, Job describes walking in darkness, Bildad compares humans to God

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Job 22-25

Questions & Observations

O. (Job 22:1-30): Just more accusations.  Eliphaz assumes he knows all of God’s thinking.

Q. (23:1-17): Eighth speech?  I thought the no. 7 was a symbol of completeness.  OK, we’ll carry on.  Job seems to be OK with everything in this speech until 23:15-17.  It seems that the dark side — giving in to thinking he has done wrong and being punished for it and/or giving up on God — is knocking hard on Job’s door.  Am I interpreting this correctly?

A. It does appear that Job is getting warn down.

O. (24:22-25): Job poses the questions of why are the wicked not punished in the first half of his speech, but he answers them in the second.  Job talks a lot of dark and light.  He’s trying to say walk in the path of the light (God) because evil lurks in the dark (Satan)? Since Satan is a player in Job’s despair, I see him listening closely.  I imagine Satan rising and falling with the tone of speeches between Job and his friends.

Q. (25:1-6): Bildad’s speech is interesting.  It sounds like he is saying that Job can’t possibly be undeserving of punishment because he is human, and thus not perfect.  No one can shine like God.  I am unclear about verses 4-6.  What is Bildad saying about being born of a woman?  Is he just referring to all humans?  There is no jab against women here, right?  And, 5-6 confuses me because God loves His people.  Why would He refer to them as worms, even in a comparison.  I don’t think that is how He thinks of us, His creation.  Putting this in perspective, this is NOT God’s words, it’s Bildad’s.

A. I think all of the words spoken here are that of Bildad and not God.  I think there is no particular jab at women here; Bildad is using a fancy way of saying “every human ever born”.  I think that scripture is clear that God cares greatly for us (though this does not make us free to do as we please) and does not think of us as worms.  Bildad, like his friends, is speaking for himself here, and not for God.

Day 23 (Jan. 23): Eliphaz and Bildad continue to accuse Job, Job defends himself to friends and God

Job 15-18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Job 15:1): If you were in these friends’ shoes — Eliphaz in this instance — can you blame them for making such accusations as these.  They do not know for a shadow of a doubt that Job’s kids didn’t sin.  They don’t know the relationship that Job had with God.  We are supposed to be God’s disciples, but how can we tell when it’s a proper time to give an opinion.  Is it ever proper?  Is it just like that saying (please pardon), but to assume makes an ___ out of you and me?  Meaning that you assume you know everything about someone’s relationship with God, but you don’t, so your opinion makes you look foolish.  Eliphaz still relies on his knowledge that if you are good, you are blessed and if you sin, you will suffer.  He does not acknowledge that God can conjure good and bad.

A. Honestly these passages are a lot of Job and his friends talking past each other.  They are trying to be helpful to each other (Job is trying to make the situation clear, and his friends are trying to offer good advice to Job), but each side is failing.  As to Eliphaz’s statement, I’m not sure I would say that God conjures up both good and evil, but rather that bad things happen (to both “good” and “bad” people as we see them) which God allows, and that God is greatly generous in this life even to those who do not seek him (see Matthew 5:43-48 to read Jesus describing how this works).  So, on some level, God causes good to all (He allows our lives to continue, and provides for the needs of even the gravest offender), and bad things happen to everyone as well.  As Jim Keller talked about in his sermon this past Sunday, suffering is universal, and that at any given moment each of us is undergoing some sort of suffering however minor.  Ultimately, we are called to leave the hard decisions about who is “good” or “evil” to God, and to be good comforters, unlike Job’s friends.

Q. (16:1): I think if I were Job right here, I would exit the conversation.  Is this a message to us, that the accusations may keep coming, but we have to remain steadfast and answer them time after time.

A. There’s an interesting bit of wisdom from Proverbs 26 that I’m going to share here that can help us sort this out (I think).  In verse 4, the writer tells us to not bother answering a fool in his error (folly), because its not worth the trouble.  Then, in the very next verse, the writer tells us that we SHOULD address a fool, in order to prevent him from being wise in his own eyes.  What is going on?  Is this a contradiction?  Is the writer really being that stupid?  Of course not!  What he is saying is that as a wise person (Proverbs is all about becoming wise), you must discern when is the time to argue, and when is the time to say “it’s not worth it.”  Basically, we would be hard pressed to say that we should always argue, or always retreat, but rather that we should consider the wise path in our given circumstance.

O. (16:7-17): Wow!  Although I feel for Job here, I also see another story line.  I see how furious and hurt Job is toward God, yet he remains true to God.  He says in 16:17, “… my prayer is pure.”  This must really irritate Satan by now.  Job is reduced to skin, bones and boils and he still acknowledges God.

Q.  I just noticed a verse I missed in a prior reading.  Job 1:22.  It says, “In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.”  To me, this is God saying, “Seek me, study me, question me, learn me, know me.”  What do you get from this verse?

A. Throughout the narrative, it is clear that Job desires to be heard by God, and though he is incredibly bitter about his lot at the moment, he does not falsely accuse God.

Q. (16:21-22): Either Job is giving God an idea here or he is foretelling.  Just curious, do we know that God knew he was going to send a Savior from Day 1 or is it a plan that came to be from man’s hopeless struggle with sin?  I don’t know what Job is saying in 16:22.

A. I think your question presumes to know the mind of God, but my best guess is that the Trinitarian Son of the Godhead volunteered to be the needed savior long before humanity was even created, but it’s just a guess.  It certainly did have its origins in the hopelessness of man’s sin, as we discussed yesterday — the need for both love and justice required a great sacrifice on God’s part.

I think verse 22 is saying that since Job knows he’s going to die (or maybe that he wishes that he was dead), he wants to be “squared” with God before he goes, since there is no coming back.

Q. (17:6-7): The devastation that became of Job was a result of God showing Satan Job’s obedience to Him.  On the flip side, this is showing others bad fortune that has become of one of God’s followers.  This would be counter-productive to showing others that living a Godly life produces good fortune.  Your insight?

A. Certainly it is harder to be a good witness for God if you feel that God is using you as a punching bag, as Job is convinced of here.  But oftentimes it is the people who have been through the blackest periods of life (and survived) that have the most powerful witness of all.  As we’ve been talking about, it can be very hard to praise God in the midst of trials (though I think this is our call).  But if we are able to trust God to bring us through difficult times, when they are complete, we can give powerful testimony to the faithfulness of God.

Q. (18:1-21): I didn’t get anything new from this passage.  Just making sure I didn’t fail to point out something.

A. Keep in mind that repetition is the key to emphasis in ancient storytelling.

Day 19 (Jan. 19): Job — Satan challenges God, Job tested, Job’s friends offer “help”

Good morning!  Thank you for checking out BibleBum.com, where we are reading the Bible in one year, chronologically.  This blog is unique in that at the end there are questions from the reading answered by a seminary graduate who has studied cultural history.  The information helps readers grasp confusing parts, find deeper meanings and sometimes surprise!

If you have been reading along, congrats, you have finished Genesis!  Today we start a new book, Job.  For background information about Job, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/job/.  We will be referring to this link before every new book to provide information about the author, time it was written and other scene-setter material.

If you are new to this blog, you can go to the “Best New Year’s Resolution” tab to find out why we started BibleBum.com.  To start this blog from the beginning, click on the index tab and find Day 1.  I hope you find this as fun and as enriching as we have creating it!

Job 1-4

Questions & Observations

O.  How can anyone possibly own this much property?  He has all these riches and still praises God.

Q. (Job 1:5): After his children had been celebrating for several days Job made it practice to purify them by offering a sacrifice for each one in case they had sinned against God.  How does God view routinely sinning and then asking for forgiveness — taking Him for granted?

A. What you are describing in your question is what Bonheoffer (a church father during the Nazi rule in Germany) called cheap grace: the idea of taking God’s forgiveness for granted, and going on to make bad decisions.  This, frankly, is a very tempting option for a lot of people, and it also can be hard to avoid, since many of us have “pet” sins that we struggle with.  But part of what it means to be a maturing Christian is our gradual efforts to change our bad habits and to be increasingly repulsed by our defiant sin choices.  It should be a daily part of our walk with God to ask for His guidance in the ways that we are taking advantage of His grace and working to remove them.

As it relates to the story, I honestly don’t think this is what the author is talking about.  The writer is trying to show that Job is such an upright man, that he even offers up sacrifices for things his kids MIGHT have done.

Q. (1:6): Can you tell us anymore about this meeting?  Who is the heavenly court?  What is Satan doing with them?

A. While this is not the only glimpse into heaven that we get in the Bible (at least that’s what it appears to be), this is the only time that such a description is given to us.  My assumption is that the heavenly court is made up of angels (including at least one fallen one), but it doesn’t exactly tell us the “roll” of who is there.  The word Satan means “accuser”, which is exactly what he is doing in this scenario: accusing God of protecting Job, and accusing Job of being a “fair weather” person who only loves God because God has been so generous to him.  This is not the last time in the OT that we will see Satan accuse.

One other note that warrants mentioning here: there is a fair degree of variation between what Christians and Jews have to say about Satan and his “role”.  Many Jews do not see Satan as the great enemy of God, but rather an angel who serves the important role of “testing the mettle” of God’s faithful: he does so on God’s side, so to speak.  Passages like this one can point in that direction: the passage does not make God and Satan to be completely antagonistic.  Satan is testing Job, but only with God’s permission.  This image of Satan being a servant, rather than an enemy of God, varies greatly from the picture that is painted by the New Testament.  Keep in mind: much of what the Bible says about the devil (and hell, by the way) comes directly from Jesus Himself (see John 8:42-47 for example), and this obviously would lead to a very different interpretation of Satan’s role between Christians (who follow Christ) and Jews (who reject Jesus as Christ or Messiah).  We will continue to get glimpses into the spiritual realm of angels, demons, and Satan, so see how these two visions line up with what you’ve been taught.

Q. (1:20): I know there is a larger question to ask here.  I’ll get to it.  But, I want to ask about the tearing of clothes.  We have seen Jacob do this, Joseph’s brothers, and here Job tore his robe and shaved his head in despair.  Is there symbolism here?

A. Tearing (or rending) one’s clothes was a way of showing great distress, in this case mourning for Job’s dead children and servants.  Shaving the head would have also been seen as a sign of mourning: it was very uncommon for a man to shave his head (which probably included shaving off facial hair) in this period, and it would have made the man stand out.  If you wanted to bring attention to the fact that you were in mourning, shaving your head and beard would have been a great way to do it.

Q. (1:13-2:10): After reading this, I just said “whew.”  How could anyone take this and why would God test Job so harshly?  In 2:4, it says “you (Satan) urged me (God) to harm him (Job) …” saying God did the harming.  But in 1:12, God said he would allow Satan to test him.  So, who tested him?  Is this a slip of translation?  I bet your going to say that what we need to glean from this is that Job was faithful to God no matter what happened to him or who harmed him.  So, here we are again at: “Does God cause bad things to happen?  Or just know about them and allow them to happen?”  I think it’s clear here that God made the bad things happen.  What significance does this have in God’s battle of strength with Satan?  To me, this is a battle between God and Satan and Job is the pawn.  Again, I feel like I’m going to get struck for saying that!  Just trying to understand.

A. Let’s pull back a bit.  Job is basically an extended narrative essay on the eternal question of theodicy: basically, if a loving, all-powerful God exists, why do bad things happen?  So in the first few chapters, we already have one part of the answer: part of the reason that we suffer is that God is not the only powerful entity in our universe.  There are other entities whom desire to harm God’s children because doing so harms the God who loves them.  If Satan cannot confront God directly, he surely can target God’s children to gain (in his mind) some measure of revenge.  So, God does not choose our suffering, but allows it for us to be tested just as Job is being tested here.

I think the verse you are pointing to does not say that God harmed Job directly, but as you clearly state, He does allow the harm of Satan.  Is that exactly the same as saying “God harmed Job” because He allowed it to happen?  Well, that’s up to you to decide.  Part of what this story builds up to in the late chapters is that we must be VERY cautious in assuming anything about the mind of God.  We make a lot of presumptions about God’s justice (or lack there of as we see it), but ultimately, God does not have to answer to us, as we shall see.

O. (1:1-26): Job is obviously beside himself, hurt to the core.  He seemed calmer when he told his wife that we need to accept the good and the bad — all that comes from God.  Here, it finally hit him.  His ranting reminds me of when something is troubling me and I have crazy thoughts running through my head as I struggle to see the light of it.  His problems are much more devastating than anything I have faced, but I can still relate.

Q. (4:9, 4:19):  When I first read this, I thought it was God talking.  Then, I looked back and was relieved when I saw that it was Eliphaz.  I imagine most people listening to this response of his friend and thinking, “He’s got a point.”  However, we learn that Job does not forget who his Creator is.  We are told that God is loving, yet he can come down on people severely.  We are merely dust, purely disposable.  From my perspective, it seems that the Old Testament is harsher, but the New Testament is the new law and shows much more affection.  Do you feel God can have a change of heart?

A. That is, of course, a classic debate that has been going on for centuries.  Certainly the relationship between man and God changed through the actions of Jesus in the New Testament, but I do not feel that the OT paints God as any less loving and faithful to His chosen people.  It’s just that in the NT, everyone — Jew and Gentile alike, becomes His chosen people if they are in Christ.  I have this great book called Grace in a Tree Stump by one of my professors at Asbury (Ellsworth Kalas — one of my favorite writers), that talks about the many ways that God shows mercy and grace to people throughout the Old Testament.  We should be careful about saying God is more or less “harsh” in the Old or New Testaments.  One thing to remember that frequently gets cast aside in such discussions: while the Old Testament certainly comes across as harsh, it is the New Testament that has the most to say about hell, its reality, and the reality that people will end up there if they do not trust Christ for their salvation.  The Old Testament has a some instances of God striking people down or “causing them suffering” as we’ve been talking about, but the New Testament has a lot more to say about the ETERNAL destiny of sinners.  Is that ultimately more harsh and cruel?  Something to think about.