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22nd May

Job 12-15; Psalm 137

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
22nd May

Job 12-15; Psalm 137

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 was being punished so.

Eliphaz is followed by Bildad, who claims that Job's children must have been wicked and that's why they were punished. He argued that we can see that those close to God flourish and those far from him suffer. If Job is good, God will restore him. Job argued that he's not getting a fair trial and begins to question God's justice. Then Zophar jumped in to accuse Job of mocking God, saying that Job should be grateful because he deserves worse than what God is currently doing.

Job 12-15

Job pushes back against his friends. He points out that he is just as intelligent as they are, and that he knows fully that God is in charge and God has let this happen. The issue for Job is that he knows he is an innocent man, but he seems to be punished when wicked men like robbers and thieves are left in peace.

Every animal knows that God is in control of their life. God is powerful. If he chooses to tear down a building or block up a river, then it happens. Both the innocent and wicked belong to him, and he can treat them however he wants.

Job points out that throughout human history we've seen God remove great men from their positions, be they judges, priests, kings or princes. God builds up and destroys nations as he sees fit and leaves men staggering around in the dark.

In all this, Job is showing how much wiser than his friends he is. His friends want to box God up in a very easy-to-understand way. Job, however, recognises God's authority to do whatever he wants and sometimes that's behave in a way that makes little sense to humans.

And Job points this out. He notes that he can see and understand these things, that he's no more ignorant than his friends. But Job isn't interested in just thinking and debating about these things. He wants to talk to God about them. He wants to use these questions to help him better know and understand God.

But before Job turns back to God, he goes on the offensive against his friends. He accuses them of speaking falsely about God, of oversimplifying him. He asks them whether they think God needs them to defend his case. Are they not concerned that God will hear how they think themselves important enough to defend his case for him, and will come down and punish them for their pride?

So Job tells them to be silent so he can speak to God, for even if God punishes him for his questions, he would still much rather put his trust in God.

Job turns back to God and asks him to hear his pleas. He invites God to call to him so he can answer, or if God prefers, Job can call to God and God can answer. Job then asks God to reveal his sin to him. If God is a punishing Job for his sin, that's fine. Job just wants to know why he is being punished so that, if possible, he can change his ways. Because at the moment, it feels like God is just punishing him for no reason.

But then Job once more spirals into the meaningless of life. He complains to God that life is short, and so God should just let his people live and then die, not punish them. He begins to explore what happens after death.

Job notes how a tree can be cut down, but the stump will sprout again. Yet when Job looks at humans, it looks like they die, are lain the ground, and then nothing. To Job, it looks like there is no life after this short and painful one. Job even asks God the question, "If a man dies, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14).

And yet, from his current position, it all seems meaningless. Just like how God wears away mountains over time, so will God remove humans. And when someone is dead, they no longer get to enjoy watching their children succeed, or mourn seeing them fail. Everything is meaningless. This ends the first round of speeches.

The second round of speeches starts again with Eliphaz. While he was fairly gentle with Job the first time, this time he is not pulling his punches. He calls Job a windbag, full of hot air, asking questions that are not helpful or useful.

Eliphaz accuses Job of no longer fearing God and allowing sin to control his mouth. He asks Job a series of rhetorical questions. Were you with Adam and Eve walking in the Garden with God? When God holds his council meetings, do you sit in them? In short, do you presume to have secret knowledge about God that we don't have?

Eliphaz rebukes Job for the words that are coming out of his mouth. He argues that God can do whatever he wants, because even his holy ones, the divine beings that make up his council, are corrupt compared to God. Therefore, humans are awful in comparison. While Job assumes that people are precious to God (Job 10:12-13) Eliphaz argues that humans are ‘abominable and corrupt’ and so God can treat them as he wants.

Eliphaz then ends on a long speech where he basically says the same thing over and over again; you reap what you sow. The irony is at the beginning of his speech, Eliphaz called Job a windbag full of hot air. He now finishes his speech, taking up 19 verses to say not much of anything.

Psalm 137

This psalm isn’t attributed to anyone in particular and falls into the category of lament psalm. In this psalm, the psalmist is lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem from their perspective in exile in Babylon.

Psalm 137:1-3 - Mourning in Exile

Psalm 137:4-6 - Holding on to Jerusalem

Psalm 137:7-9 - Judgement against Edom and Babylon

The psalmist reflects on their time in Babylon. They would sit by the rivers of Babylon and weep because of how Jerusalem was destroyed. They hung up the harps they had used to worship the Lord because now they feel far from him. And to add to their pain, their captors would mock them asking for songs about how great Jerusalem was.

This caused the psalmist to feel torn and conflicted. How could they sing songs about the Lord’s goodness to Jerusalem when Jerusalem is destroyed and they are here in exile? But at the same time, how could they forget Jerusalem? How could they give up their hope that one day they will be restored to Jerusalem?

This leads the psalmist to turn to their enemies and ask the Lord to bring judgment on them. They point to the Edomites who helped the Babylonians raid them, and ask that the Lord remember that. And may Babylon be paid back for all they’ve done.

Then comes potentially the most violent verse in the Bible, “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!”. It’s a graphic image with the psalmist blessing anyone who violently kills the infants of Babylonians, just as many of their own infants were killed. It’s a verse that stands in complete opposition to the Bible’s call to love our enemies, and so we’re left with the uncomfortable question of what to do with a verse like this.

For me, the psalms can serve as an expression of real human emotion. In lament, we get to experience unfiltered pain, hurt, anger, and frustration. Too often in Christian circles, we suppress these emotions because we see them as too ugly and unbecoming of a godly man or woman.

But the reality is what we suppress festers and leaks out of us in other ways. A better way is to bring the ugly emotions we feel and let them out before God so we can work through them with him. The psalm should not serve as a justification of violence against children or our enemies. But it should serve as permission to bring all our pain, hurt, anger, and frustration and let it out before God so he can work in us and redeem us.

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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