Tag Archive for 'Job'

Small Thoughts-No Answers in the Book of Job

When we are afflicted or tested, and it’s not a consequence of sin, we often try to figure out what God is trying to teach us, but to no avail. Then we think we’re missing out on it. Much of the time, God is refining us (1 Peter 1:6-7), or changing us into the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29), or pruning us (John 15:2), or doing whatever he wants, without letting us know why or exactly how. Even worse, those who don’t believe in God’s providence think that these things happen randomly.

In the book of Job, we can see that God actually told Satan who he could afflict. Then Job tried to find out reasons why. His so-called friends came up with all kinds of illegitimate reasons. Even in the end, when God actually spoke to Job, he didn’t tell Job that Satan afflicted him or why God told him to.

We should practice healthy introspection by comparing our behavior to Scripture (Hebrews 12:13-21 as an example), be sensitive to God’s conviction, and pray, but then not try to conjure up a reason for what God is doing when he himself doesn’t tell us.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
Hebrews 12:7 NIV

I would occasionally like to try a new type of blog post. They will be short thoughts. I’m absolutely, most definitely, not trying to mimic Twitter, write posts because people have short attention spans, or abbreviate larger ideas or doctrines for the sake of making short posts. They really are small or short thoughts, not that they can’t be expanded on. They are my own thoughts and not authoritative or inarguable.

Job’s Friends

This is one of the best explanations I’ve read about Job’s so-called friends. I wish that anyone who gives ‘advice’ to those who are suffering would read Job along with an exposition of it.

I think part of the reason Job is so long is so that people get a feeling of what suffering people go through–the endless assumptions, platitudes, general truths that are misplaced, etc. It can go on and on. But I want to say that with my conditions, I haven’t had to deal with this as much as a lot of people.

‘After some initial sympathy, Job’s friends place themselves above Job and his sufferings. They do not seek to comfort; rather, they seek to explain. Comforting and explaining are quite different. The basic theology of the friends is not bad, but their application of it is incorrect. As Kidner notes, the rebuke of the friends by God does not dismiss the basic theology of Proverbs as much as it “attacks the arrogance of pontificating about the application of these truths, and of thereby misrepresenting God and misjudging one’s fellow men. The friends are thus negative characters and not models of behavior for the audience. Much of what they say is true, but they say it at the wrong time and apply it to the wrong situation.’

— J. Scott Duvall, J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word

Also see:
Blog Posts on Job

How To Give Bad Advice To Suffering People

I wish that everyone that gives unsolicited advice to those who are suffering, especially chronically, would be required to first read Job and at least a short exposition of it. That would remove so much heartache from so many sufferers. They would see what well meaning but bad acting friends are. Most of all, they would see God’s rebuke of Job’s “friends”. I believe they really were friends, but as time went on, they acted less and less like friends, and more like self-righteous people who want to prove themselves right.

Here is an excellent quote from What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About:

Job also demonstrates the damage that can be done to others, especially to those who are suffering, when “comforters” or “counselors” presume to analyze a situation and then deliver dogmatic pronouncements about what God is doing and what his purposes involve. Job 28 shows that there are situations in life where human finitude makes it impossible to understand the works and ways of God and that the proper course in such situations is to fear God and turn from evil (Job 28:28; cf. Eccl. 12:13). After Eliphaz counseled Job to turn from his sin and to ask God for forgiveness, Job observed how unhelpful such directives were because he did not know anything to confess. In chapter 6, he observed that what a suffering person needs in such circumstances is kindness from his friend rather than theological advice and analysis which, in Job’s case, only intensified his pain. Job himself asserted those who lack such care have forsaken “the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14), and Yahweh later affirmed how his anger burned against the three whose words were filled with foolishness (42:7). The book of Job, therefore, clearly warns against the arrogance of assuming that our theological categories constitute a comprehensive statement about how God works.

–Edward M. Curtis

One thing I noticed in this post The Sad Christian, is that the commenters who had the least experience with depression, especially the chronic kind, were somehow the ones who gave the most advice. The ones who are going through the same thing are ones who don’t give advice. They tell him they [truly] know what he’s going through, or that they’ll pray for him, as opposed to the platitudes, advice that he already knew about ten years ago, advice he’s already heard 25 times, etc. Books are written on that, and I could write a lot more, but I’ll leave it at that. If you want to look at the comments, you can see what I mean.

One comment I like there is, “So the question becomes how our faith helps us endure depression rather [than] how our faith stops us from being depressed.” He’s commenting on how the author of the post, who’s tried nearly everything, still has bouts of deep depression. Some people don’t believe this can happen to a solid Christian, but believe me, it does, as do all kinds of illnesses.

Most people really do care and really do mean well. But they should know better. And if you’re one of those people, now you do.

Also see:
What IS the Book of Job About? | Scripture Zealot blog
What Not to Say to Those Who are Suffering | CCEF

Not Everyone Recovers From Suffering

Sometimes there is no visible silver lining, no redeeming value in sight. Sometimes those who endure difficulty feel that nothing is left but an empty shell. Some people never recover physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It is not guaranteed that we will emerge on the other side of pain strengthened by the experience. It would be naive to suggest that suffering universally results in growth. S. Cairns suggests a more nuanced perspective as he elaborates on Simone Weil’s observation that “affliction compels us to recognize as real what we do not think possible.” He observes:

The occasions of our suffering are capable of revealing what our habitual illusions often obscure, keeping us from knowing. Our afflictions drag us — more or less kicking — into a fresh and vivid awareness that we are not in control of our circumstances, that we are not quite whole, that our days are salted with affliction.

I dare to suggest, however, that when we undergo trials, the biblical way to pray is for strength to carry on and acquit ourselves well. We should seek to honor God when life is at its lowest. We should strive to trust him even when hope is gone.

–John Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)

These are things we need to pray for people who are suffering. I’ve said it before–if we only pray for healing, we are probably doing the sufferer a great disservice. Which is more important, temporal healing, which may or may not happen, or, if they are a believer, things that are Scripturally in God’s will and are a part of eternal things? (Both would be great.)

Many times in the Western world, we don’t see those suffering. Usually, the worse the suffering, the less likely we are to see them. So we go on thinking that as life goes on we make more money, really bad things shouldn’t happen to believers, otherwise they don’t have enough faith or somebody hasn’t laid hands on them yet, and it’s always darkest before the dawn. Not to sound morbid, but it can always get darker.

Some insist on going out in “faith”, testing God, and guessing His will, without praying for anything else. Praying is not gambling with God’s will. Certainly pray for the temporal situation and people’s physical needs. Pray for whatever bad is happening to stop. But pray for things that are definitely God’s will as what’s found in Scripture, and you will be participating as a slave of Christ in shaping that person’s or people’s lives. Use Paul’s prayers if you would like help in that regard.

What IS the Book of Job About?

It’s not about why there is suffering. It’s not about how to handle suffering. Job does it well, except for when he doesn’t. It’s most definitely not about how to give advice. To the contrary for the most part. The best thing Job’s “friends” did was to come and spend the time to sit in silence with him.

What I like about Walton’s commentary on Job is that he is definitive in his interpretation of what Job is about, and also about what Job is not about. He also tackles all of the questions that people may have, and doesn’t shy away from any of them; at the same time, he leaves the unanswerable unanswered.

At some point, I will have another quote or two about why we can’t and shouldn’t try to figure out why we’re suffering or in a bad situation, or “what God is trying to teach me” or anything of that sort. I’ll write more about that later.

So, at long last, what answers does the book provide as it seeks to guide our understanding of God’s policies in a world where suffering and evil may plague the righteous as well as the wicked? Yahweh does not defend his justice; he does not explain Job’s suffering; and he does not enter the courtroom into which Job has summoned him. We should not expect him to perform any of these actions in our personal circumstances either, even though these often represent our deepest longings. He directs our thinking in an entirely different direction. If there is any part of Job’s speeches that Yahweh addresses directly, it is Job’s lament over the day of his birth, since Yahweh picks up many of the same terms and concepts that Job used. This interconnection gives some indication of where God is trying to meet Job.

The message of Job is that we must trust God’s wisdom when we encounter suffering or crises, rather than attempting to figure out answers to the “why” questions. We should not think that the cosmos itself reflects God’s attribute of justice or that we can hold God accountable to running the cosmos according to justice moment by moment. If he were to do so, none of us would survive, for we all embody injustice at some level in our sinful condition. So justice would involve punishing us.

Trusting God’s wisdom does not mean adopting a belief that everything that happens to us ultimately represents justice even though we cannot see why that is so. Trust is not the conviction that there is a good reason (= explanation that justifies the suffering) even when we cannot fathom it. In other words, the book does not suggest a hidden, deeper justice behind what we perceive as injustice. If we were to think in those terms, we would still be clinging to justice as the foundation of the system and simply theorizing alternative ways that it could function, as Elihu did.

Instead, the book posits that God, in his wisdom, is willing to allow injustice in this world — perhaps sometimes as a means to a greater end, but even that does not offer an explanation that justifies the suffering. We can assume that it grieves his heart, for he is just. In his wisdom, he elevates purposes above reasons, a concept that was elaborated briefly in the Introduction (pp. 47 – 48). Even here, however, we must tread carefully. We cannot know reasons, and we cannot assume that there are reasons. We should assume that there are purposes, but that does not mean that we can or will ever know those purposes. The injustice, suffering, trials, and crises that we experience shape us into the people we are and the people God desires us to be. This truth is not intended to bring comfort to those suffering, nor does it do so. It is meant to bring understanding that might prevent us from committing Job’s error, which is the easy solution of blaming God. The alternative is to trust God.

Later on he writes:

The book of Job is not intended to bring comfort to the suffering, but to bring understanding that might prevent us from simply blaming God. The alternative is to trust God, and the book gives us a focus for our faith. Too often we focus our faith on believing that God will heal, relieve our suffering, or protect us from pain. Sometimes our faith lies in the belief that God will somehow come to us and give us explanations. Other times we place our faith in our ability to force our experiences into a coherent, meaningful narrative. All these approaches are unrealistic. Our faith should be directed toward embracing an all-wise God and asking him for help to live well before him regardless of our plight in this world that continues to display both order and disorder.

–John Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)

book-job-nivac-walton

Also see:
Quick Thoughts on Walton's Commentary on Job | Scripture Zealot blog

Quick Thoughts on Walton’s Commentary on Job

I wanted to write a quick few sentences of what I thought of Job by John H. Walton over at Goodreads.com, and it ended up being a little longer, so I thought I’d post it here. It’s not a polished review with complete sentences. I will be offering a few good quotes from it soon.

book-job-nivac-walton

This is a very complete commentary on a difficult book. I didn’t feel wanting at all. Some deep writing for being NIVAC. I feel like I have a much better understanding of the book now. The running commentary of the real ‘suffering woman’ was something that I benefitted from. I know that not everyone appreciated this in a commentary, but it would be easy to skip over. He wrote a very good part near the end on what Job is about. He wrote with a lot of clarity on a book that at first appears to have little. He also wrote about interpreting Scripture, so there are other benefits too. His theology, which has God not quite as sovereign as I would have Him, or not quite as much in control of smaller things, disagrees with mine, but that is of little significance, because I can disagree with him on some minor matters and still learn just as much.

This and the commentary on Revelation are definitely hits for the NIVAC series.

Also see:
What IS the Book of Job About?

Behavior, Holiness and Wisdom in Job

For being a more basic commentary on Job, this has some deeper things in it, some much more than this. Walton also writes about wisdom in general along with Bible interpretation which makes the commentary all the more valuable.

Because we tend to see God’s requirements in the Bible as “rules,” we rationalize giving ourselves permission to do what it does not explicitly forbid. If we conclude that the Bible does not specifically speak against certain sorts of sexual behavior, against the activities we enjoy (but have been told are not spiritual), against the movies we want to watch, against the language we enjoy using, against the way we dress, and so on, we feel free to indulge ourselves with free conscience: “The Bible doesn’t say I can’t.” We may take comfort in all of the dastardly offenses we have not committed and decide that we are “good enough.” After all, we are not disobeying the Bible.

This is minimalism in its mature and virulent form. For instance, the Bible says nothing about drug abuse. Some might respond by pulling out a biblical injunction to respect your body, but that is the wrong approach, because it still assumes that we have to dredge up a biblical prohibition or command to regulate every aspect of our behavior. Attempts to explicate all the mandates of Scripture are criticized (truly enough at times) as illegitimate proof-texting that employs questionable hermeneutics and fails to consider cultural context. Let us consider briefly some of the ways that people seek behavioral guidance from the Bible.

Wisdom. Wisdom literature such as that found in the book of Proverbs provides many important guidelines for behavior. Two problems, however, must be noted. (1) The literature contains a combination of guidelines that could be considered universal and those that are more cultural. (2) The coverage of the material is spotty. The literature gives us examples of how we can order our lives based on the fear of the Lord, but it is far from comprehensive, systematic, or programmatic.

What does God want from us? How do we draw parameters without imposing potentially arbitrary rules? How does one develop biblical standards if the Bible does not yield specific information through role models, the law, or exhortations in the Proverbs or New Testament letters? Consider these ten principles:
1. We should conscientiously pursue wisdom (in its Old Testament sense), godlikeness, and holiness.
2. Beyond what is clearly stated in revelation, we should not presume to draw parameters for others (e.g., for what constitutes modesty, humility, appropriate entertainment), only for ourselves; these should reflect our goal (holiness) rather than the lowest common denominator that we can rationalize.
3. The boundaries may differ from culture to culture and perhaps from person to person, but there must be carefully thought-out parameters that reflect our desire for holiness.
4. We should not impose our boundaries on others, though we could hold them accountable to their own boundaries and challenge them to aim higher.
5. There must be discernable differences between Christian be havior and the world’s behavior (Rom. 12:1 – 2).
6. We should not concede either to self-righteousness or to self-indulgence.
7. We should understand that God does not need what we give; our behavior can please him but does not benefit him.
8. Our behavior should not be motivated by expectation of material rewards [as with Job]; further, our behavior cannot save us.
9. We should aspire to be godlike, not just to keep rules (which inherently only lead us in the right direction).
10. Obedience is expected but represents the minimal level of godliness.

The path of wisdom, godlikeness, and holiness would rely on Scripture for guidance without necessarily looking to specific texts to lay down hard and fast rules (though it occasionally might and we dare not neglect them when it does). Wisdom brings order to life and relationships, and the wise take God seriously. Wisdom derives from biblical values, but it is not necessarily bound to Israelite culture. Holiness recognizes that aspects of our behavior will sharply distinguish us from those around us. God’s holiness is embodied in his distinguishing attributes; we exhibit holiness by reflecting God’s communicable attributes (e.g., by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit). We can build ideas about godlikeness around the biblical text’s portrayal of God. Obedience is important, but our end responsibility is to strive to be like God. Disobedience will impede us from reaching this goal, but obedience alone will not necessarily achieve it.

Ideally, we should aspire to holiness, not because of benefits we can gain as a result, but because God is God and our righteous behavior is one of the ways we honor him. Regardless of whether we experience any advantages in life because of these decisions, we choose this path because of who God is.

–John H. Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)

What Job Is About

A good reminder that the way the book of Job helps us with suffering is to learn more about God than to look to Job as an example. I’m learning the importance of distinguishing between narrative of imperfect people, even if they are ‘blameless before God’, and doctrine (teaching) that is perfectly inspired by God.

We are used to reading the book of Job to find encouragement from Job’s exemplary response to suffering. We consider his patience, longsuffering, faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity all to make him an admirable character. In our desire to preserve this pristine role model, we are perhaps sometimes too eager to eliminate or neglect anything that might compromise his stellar performance. This approach reads against the grain of the book’s rhetorical strategy. The book is not trying to prove that Job’s response to his situation is irreproachable; he is not held up as a paragon of virtue showing us how we ought to respond in suffering (though some of his responses are certainly admirable). The book is teaching us about God and his policies, not offering Job as a biblical paradigm for how to approach suffering. We will uncover the authoritative teaching of Scripture by unfolding its rhetorical strategy, not by imitating its characters. To say this another way, we will learn more about surviving crises by understanding God than by imitating Job.

–John Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)

The Lessons of Job and Depression

I know I’ve been writing a lot about mental illness lately, but this is so good I have to pass this on. It also goes against the Voddie Baucham type preaching where he feels he knows what mental illness is not, and preaches outside of Scripture on it. For those who need more Biblical encouragement from someone who’s not a coddler, here is a quote and a link to the article, which I highly recommend reading, at the end. It’s also a good mini-lesson on one facet of the book of Job. This would go along with Two [Three?] Views of Mental Illness | Scripture Zealot

The lessons of Job are manifold but it seems that a few rather stand out: this is acomplicated, fallen, evil world; Christians can expect to suffer – hey, we all die in the end, no matter how jolly we might feel at points in the interim, so we had better get used to the idea; Christians are no more exempt from depression than they are from cancer or strokes; and the idea that these things are necessarily linked to our lack of faith, to our personal sin, to our outlook on life, or, indeed, to anything intrinsic to us, is nonsense and unbiblical. A pastoral theology which has not grappled with the whirlwind and the speeches of the last part of Job is sub-biblical; and preaching which does not take these things into account is not biblical preaching. One might add that perhaps one of the key lessons of Job (and the Psalms, for that matter) is: it is OK to be depressed. It is horrible and grim and dark. But it may not be your fault, any more than cancer or a stroke are your fault. Above all, it does not mean that you are forgotten by God, even if God only ever seems to come to you in the whirlwind; and, finally, it does not mean that you will not participate in the glorious resurrection when all the travails of this world will be definitively left behind.

Carl Trueman, Any Place for the God of Job?

Worms, Wretches and Maturity

Three eclectic items for you. I’m still not doing well, maybe worse. Please pray. I really don’t want to go to the hospital.

Proverbs 30:1-3 NLT
The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh contain this message.
I am weary, O God; I am weary and worn out, O God.
2 I am too stupid to be human, and I lack common sense.
3 I have not mastered human wisdom, nor do I know the Holy One.

Job 25:4-6
How can a mortal be innocent before God?
Can anyone born of a woman be pure?
5 God is more glorious than the moon; he shines brighter than the stars.
6 In comparison, people are maggots; we mortals are mere worms.”

Psalm 22:5-6
They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you and were never disgraced.
6 But I am a worm and not a man.
I am scorned and despised by all!

Clifford observes that these examples of “low anthropology,” of self-abasement, express reverence.

–Bruce Waltke, Proverbs, quoting Clifford, Proverbs, p. 26

This makes sense because even these examples don’t begin to measure the difference in knowledge and wisdom, between God and us. One of my favorite phrases lately, when I’m not at my worst, is “I’m too stupid to be human.”

Isaiah 55:8-9
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

The more we learn this, the more we realize what a wretch we are, as in the hymn Amazing Grace, or how Wretched, as in the radio show.

On another note:

Hope for Your Dark Night of the Soul

And:

Marks of maturity
This ‘walk’ is similar to mine. I’m not sure I’m at the second part yet, or at least some of them. It’s an interesting post in any case.

Was Job a Real Person?

Of course he was!

Ezekiel 14:14
Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were there, their righteousness would save no one but themselves, says the Sovereign LORD.

I realize that Ezekiel is filled with dream-like imagery, but this message from the Lord (and the rest of the section) certainly confirms to me that they were real individuals. Not that I needed any more convincing.

Scripture of the Day: God Creating Animals As They Are

This is most likely my last post on any commentary on evolution as I wrote about yesterday.

I would just like to post a passage of Scripture that I believe shows that God created animals with specific characteristics right from the beginning without them needing to develop those characteristics through macro-evolution. It’s just what I believe–I’m not going to change anyone’s mind about the subject and I’m certainly not looking for a debate.

In any case I think this is a great passage of Scripture and it’s an important reminder for me.

Job 39:13-40:2
13 “The ostrich flaps her wings grandly,
but they are no match for the feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on top of the earth,
letting them be warmed in the dust.
15 She doesn’t worry that a foot might crush them
or a wild animal might destroy them.
16 She is harsh toward her young,
as if they were not her own.
She doesn’t care if they die.
17 For God has deprived her of wisdom.
He has given her no understanding.
18 But whenever she jumps up to run,
she passes the swiftest horse with its rider.

19 “Have you given the horse its strength
or clothed its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Did you give it the ability to leap like a locust?
Its majestic snorting is terrifying!
21 It paws the earth and rejoices in its strength
when it charges out to battle.
22 It laughs at fear and is unafraid.
It does not run from the sword.
23 The arrows rattle against it,
and the spear and javelin flash.
24 It paws the ground fiercely
and rushes forward into battle when the ram’s horn blows.
25 It snorts at the sound of the horn.
It senses the battle in the distance.
It quivers at the captain’s commands and the noise of battle.

26 “Is it your wisdom that makes the hawk soar
and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Is it at your command that the eagle rises
to the heights to make its nest?
28 It lives on the cliffs,
making its home on a distant, rocky crag.
29 From there it hunts its prey,
keeping watch with piercing eyes.
30 Its young gulp down blood.
Where there’s a carcass, there you’ll find it.”

1 Then the LORD said to Job,

2 “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?
You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”