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23rd May

Job 16-19; Psalm 138

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
23rd May

Job 16-19; Psalm 138

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Job we’ve read through the prologue, the first round of speeches, and started the second round. 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, leading to the first round of speeches. Eliphaz started off gentle, praising Job for his past wisdom and pointing out 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. Bildad 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.

Zophar then jumped in to accuse Job of mocking God, saying that Job should be grateful because he deserves worse than what God is currently doing. Responding to them in turn and then as a whole, Job argues that he has every right to bring his case before God. God will do what he will do and Job is willing to accept that, as long as can speak to God himself. All these friends want to do is correct Job and hold on to the box they’ve put in God. They don’t want to comfort him or challenge their own assumptions about how God works.

This started round two of speeches, where the friends get harsher. Eliphaz accused Job of not fearing God and being foolish. God is powerful and humans are abominable and corrupt, so God can do what he wants.

Job 16-19

Eliphaz had accused Job of being a windbag full of hot air, so Job begins by throwing that same accusation right back at Eliphaz. He labels Eliphaz and his friends as 'miserable comforters'.

What comes next is a long section on how Job feels like God has treated him, and it's bad. The language is very strong and visual. He has shrivelled me. He has torn me. He casts me to the wicked. He broke me. He seized me and dashed me. He slashes open my kidneys. He breaks me. In this moment, Job is being brutally honest with how he feels. There's no filter.

And Job's response to the violent attack from God is to lie down in the dust and cry. His argument is that he hasn't responded violently or sinfully. He's just been asking God questions. And so he asks the earth not to swallow him up, and the sky to hear his prayers.

Then Job's speech begins to lose any structure reflecting the pain and confusion Job is in. He complains that his days are numbered and "the graveyard is ready for me." (Job 17:1). He asks God to put up a pledge, to provide evidence to Job's friends that he is indeed innocent. He then blames God for making his friends ignorant so they would mock him. He complains about how God has treated him some more, and then accuses his friends some more. He ends by saying his only hope is an early death.

Bildad steps in, and like Eliphaz, is clearly more upset about Job's insults than he cares about comforting Job. He asks Job if he thinks Bildad and his friends are just like stupid cattle that don't know what they're talking about. He doubles down on this idea that God always punished evil.

Just like a person who turns off the light might stumble round their house, a wicked person had removed the light of God from their life and will trip over themselves. Wicked people will always get caught in their own traps. They will be consumed by terror, famine, and disease. The wicked can have no confidence in their tents, their homes, because they will be taken from them. The wicked will dry up and perish, fading away.

Perhaps most cruelly, the wicked will have no children to follow them. We've seen Job's friends use this argument a number of times, which is particularly hurtful when we remember that all of Job's children have died. Bildad's point is this. God ALWAYS punishes the wicked. Therefore, as Job is being punished, he must be wicked. It's cold and clinical and gives no thought to what it must be like to actually go through these sufferings.

Job comes back and challenges Bildad. He asks how long his friends are going to torment him like this. He admits that there is always a possibility that he has sinned. He's even asked God a number of times to point out his sin to him so he can change it. But if he has, that's between Job and God. He doesn't need his friends butting in, telling him what he's done wrong.

Job has no problem with God punishing him. His issue is that God has stopped talking to him. He has cried out 'violence' and God has given him no justice in responding to his questions. He again lists ways that God has hurt him and crushed him. Then he lists all the people that have joined in with God to abuse him; brothers, relatives, guests, servants, his wife, young children, and his closest friends. God has thoroughly crushed him, so he asks his friends why they too feel the need to stick the boot in.

But this time Job ends on a high. Despite all this, he is going through, he still knows that his redeemer lives. Even when he is fully destroyed, he trusts that he will see God face to face. And so Job ends with a warning to his friends. If they insist on continuing down this path of putting themselves over Job and judging him, they should be careful that they don't fall under God's judgement too.

Psalm 138

This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of praise psalm.

Psalm 138:1-3 - I praise the Lord

Psalm 138:4-6 - All the earth will praise the Lord

Psalm 138:7-8 - The Lord preserves me

The psalmist starts with declaring that they give thanks to the Lord before the ‘gods’. The spiritual beings. In other words, they will declare the praise to all the heavens. They bow down in the temple and thank the Lord for his faithfulness and love. When the psalmist had called out to the Lord, the Lord answered them and strengthened them.

The psalmist then turns outward. All the earth should praise the Lord just as they have. The earth will sing the Lord’s praise because he is worthy of them. Even though the Lord is far above all things, he still cares for those who are low and poor. But those who set themselves up as important, the Lord keeps his distance from.

Bak to the psalmist, they recognise that, though they walk through difficult times, the Lord is the one that protects them and guides them. They know that the Lord will fulfil all that he has planned for the psalmist because he is a faithful and loving God. They then end with a request that the Lord never forget them, for he is the one that made them.

In this psalm, the psalmist has recognised all that the Lord has done to protect and guide them, and this has led them to praise. Their hope is that similarly all people will praise the Lord, and that the Lord will continue to keep and provide for them.

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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