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21st May

Job 8-11; Psalm 136

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
21st May

Job 8-11; Psalm 136

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Job we’ve read through the prologue and start round one of the speeches. We read as Job was exalted as a model example of a righteous man. God held court with his divine beings and heard reports, including the report of the satan (think of this as a job title, rather than the big, bad guy of the Bible). The satan asked the question, was Job genuinely righteous and faithful or was he just behaving that way because God was blessing him?

So God put this theory to the test, removing all of his blessing and favour from Job and leaving him alone and with a body full of sores. But despite all this, Job didn't sin or turn from God. He did, however, lament his situation, crying out that it would be better if he hadn't been born, and asking God why he won't just let him die. To begin with, Job’s friends chose to sit with him and mourn with him. But then they started to rebuke him.

Eliphaz pointed out that Job guided others with wisdom in the past, but now accuses him of not listening to his own wisdom. We know that God is just and punishes the wicked. Either Job is innocent and God will rescue him, or he is guilty and deserves what he gets. Either way, Job is foolish to complain to God. Job pointed out that he's not complaining, but crying out to God for help. Why should he be rebuked for seeking salvation from God? Life is too hard and too short to simply accept your lot in life. Then Job turned back to God and asked him directly why he is being punished so.

Job 8-11

Today Bildad joins the fight. He picks up Eliphaz's argument, but where Eliphaz made suggestions and hinted at ideas, Bildad is a bit more direct. He challenges Job for his complaints. He suggests that Job's children died because they were wicked, and that Job should cry out to God to repent rather than complaining. If Job is innocent, then God will rescue him either way.

Bildad then encourages Job to look at history and nature and see that he is right. If papyrus or reeds are planted nowhere near water, they might grow for a little bit but will quickly waste away. The implication? If people choose to live wicked lives far from God, of course they're going to suffer.

And life is fragile. It is like a cobweb, easily broken, or a plant that, while it can survive in difficult situations, is easily pulled up. And so Bildad attempts to end on a positive note. God does not reject good people. If Job will follow Bildad's advice, then God will restore him. Like Eliphaz, Bildad is showing no real compassion for Job. He’s not sitting with Job in his pain. He’s more interested in correcting Job than in supporting him.

Job responds by outlining the point where he and his friends agree; God's nature. He gives a long speech on how powerful God is and his authority over the earth. Yet despite that, Job feels like he can't see God, and that God snatches whoever he wants, pouring out his anger.

Job recognises God's power and authority, but he points out his experience of God hasn’t been great. In his opinion, he doesn't seem to be getting a fair trial, because he knows he's innocent (and we know he's innocent) but God won't respond to his questions or tell him what he has done wrong. Instead, he feels crushed by God's might, and that even if he could protest his innocence, God would just declare him guilty anyway.

And this is where Job's wrestling takes him to a dark place. He begins to question God's justice. He accuses God of laughing at the destruction of the innocent, and of blinding justice so that wicked people win.

Then Job turns back to his immediate problem. His life is short and doesn't look like it will improve, and even if he could prove his innocence before God, he would be guilty anyway. The problem, according to Job, is that God is too powerful for any human to defend themselves, so God will just do whatever he wants. There is no one to be a mediator or defender on behalf of Job.

Some things Job suggests here are not true of God. He doesn't laugh at innocent people being destroyed. But this is what happens when we wrestle with pain. Sometimes it takes us to dark places where we don't see properly. But what Job does well is he forces his wrestling to constantly point him back to God, and so once he again he appeals directly to God.

He asks God himself if he rejoices in oppressing his people. He asks if God is in fact more human that we think, with human eyes that can't see if people are innocent or not so has to test people to find out. Job appeals to God, pointing out that he is God's creation. God was the one to knit him together. With love and care, God has given him life. And yet to Job is just feels like God is there to accuse him. To pounce on every little sin that Job makes.

And so once again, Job asks God why he ever made him. Why was he born and why won't God let him die? Again, these questions and accusations may seem wrong, but the important thing is that Job is using them to bring him back to God. Rather than assuming that God is wicked and walking away, he is coming back to God time and again to better understand.

In comes the third friend, Zophar, and he is even more harsh than the first two. He accuses Job of babbling and mocking God and even says that God is being kind because Job deserves much worse than what he is getting. He asks Job if he could ever understand God and all that he does. He even insinuates that Job is a stupid man for all his complaints.

He then tells Job what he needs to do. If Job would just turn away from his sin and make his heart right before God, everything would be fine. He would be able to lift up his face, there would be no more fear or misery, and his life would be great. Once again, one of Job's friends has tried to 'educate' Job but has said things that are not only unhelpful, but that are also just hurtful.

Psalm 136

This psalm isn’t attributed to anyone in particular and falls into the category of praise psalm. Every verse ends with the phrase ‘for his steadfast love endures forever’.

Psalm 136:1-3 - A call to give thanks to the Lord

Psalm 136:4-9 - He is Lord over creation

Psalm 136:10-22 - He delivered his people from Egypt and into their own land

Psalm 136:23-26 - He remembers, rescues, and provides

The psalmist opens with a call to give thanks to the Lord for he is good. Give thanks to him, for he is the God of gods, and the Lord of lords. He is greater than any other.

Then the psalmist focuses on the Lord as creator. He alone does great wonders. Through his understanding, the heavens, earth, and seas were made. The sun, moon, and stars were all made by him.

Next up is the exodus, where God brought his people out of Egypt. He struck the firstborn of Egypt and brought out his people. With his strength and mercy he split the Red Sea in two and caused his people to walk through it, but drowned pharaoh and his armies. He led his people through the wilderness, defeating great nations before them so they might inherit the land.

Finally, the psalmist highlights that God is the one who remembers, rescues, and provides. He remembered his people, rescuing them from their foes, and giving them food. And so the psalmist gives a final call to give thanks to the God of heaven.

Through it all, everything characteristic or action of God is attributed to his steadfast love that endures forever. Everything God is and does flows out of his love, and we can be confident in that always.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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