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29th May

Job 38-39; Psalm 144

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
29th May

Job 38-39; Psalm 144

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Job we’ve read through the prologue, the three rounds of speeches, and Job's final monologue, and Elihu's speech. 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 claimed 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 argued 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 got harsher. They doubled down on what they've already said and explicitly blamed all the bad things happening to Job on Job and his children's wickedness. The friends wanted to hold on to their narrow, dogmatic understanding of God. Job is wrestling with the nuance that comes from lived experience. For round three, Eliphaz started making up sins he assumed Job has committed, Bildad defaults back to God can do what he wants so deal with it, and Zophar doesn't even speak.

Job then started his monologue where he wrestles with the nuance that God does sometimes support the righteous and punish the wicked. But sometimes he doesn't. He also declared that wisdom can only come directly from God. Job grieved his old life that was gone and his new life that is full of suffering. One last time, he called out to God to hear him and point out any sins in him, and then Job stopped talking.

Elihu then joined the conversation. Younger than the rest, we got a sense of Elihu's puffed up pride. He rebukes Job for his complaints and the friends for not being able to answer Job. After spending a lot of time not saying much, he starts to build an argument that sometimes God allows people to suffer. Not to punish them, but to keep them from sinning. He tried to answer Job's question but either didn't say much of anything, or inadvertently supported Job's position. 

Job 38-39

God bursts into the scene in a storm. He tells Job to prepare himself like a man, because God will be asking the questions now. And so God begins, taking Job on a tour of creation, asking Job if he knew about any of this. He is lifting Job out of his personal circumstances and giving him a wider perspective.

God starts with the creation of the earth. Was Job there when it was made? When God laid the foundations and all the angels celebrated its creation? Next comes the sea. Was Job there when God made the sea and decides its boundaries? At this time, the sea was seen as powerful and chaotic, and yet God created it and controls it.

Is Job in charge of the order of the earth, with its day and night, and dealing with the wicked? What about the bits that you can't see? Has Job seen the depths of the sea, or the deep pits of the grave? Does Job know where light and darkness live? Surely you must do Job, because you were alive back at the beginning of time. God is teasing Job here.

What about the weather? Does Job know where the storehouses for hail and snow are? What about rain and thunder, with one bringing life and the other death? Next comes the stars. Is Job able to reshape the constellations? Would he even know where they all go? Going back to the weather, what about clouds? Is Job able to get clouds to open up and water the earth to produce life and plants?

But enough of the earth and stars and weather. What about the life on the earth? Is Job able to make sure that animals like lions and ravens have enough to eat? What about mountain goats? Is Job there to help them when they give birth and give strength to their young?

Maybe Job is familiar with the ways of the wild donkey, who does not have to deal with being put to work like his tamed brothers, but does have to wonder the wilderness finding food? Does Job care for those too?

How about the wild ox? Is Job able to tame one and work them just like he would a tamed ox? God then moves from one of the most useful animals (when tamed) to one of the silliest. God points to the ostrich, a land bird who lays their eggs on the ground and then leaves them, not thinking about if it will get crushed or taken. These animals have no wisdom, and, bizarrely, can run faster than horses. Why? Why did God make this animal? What purpose does it serve?

Back to more useful animals, the warhorse. Did Job give the warhorse its strength, its hair, or its ability to jump high? Completely different to the ostrich that is easily scared, these animals can be around the clanging of spears, shields, and arrows and not be afraid. Did Job make that happen? And what about the hawk? Was Job the one that designed hawks so they could fly or give them incredible eyesight to see their pray?

You may be confused by all these questions. What on earth is God doing? Very simply, he's showing Job how much there is that he doesn't know. This entire time, Job has been complaining that he doesn't understand why he is suffering. Now God reveals to him how impossible it would be for him to understand. There universe has so many parts, both big like the stars, and small like hawks feeding their young.

There is no way Job could ever fully appreciate what it is like to balance all of those and keep the world spinning. In short, yes Job, you don't understand why you're suffering, you never will be able to. It's too much for you to grasp.

Psalm 144

This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of royal psalm. It was likely a prayer by the king over military battles and for the flourishing of the nation.

Psalm 144:1-2 - The Lord my stronghold and deliver

Psalm 144:3-4 - O that you regard us Lord

Psalm 144:5-8 - Come down and defeat our enemies

Psalm 144:9-11 - I will sing of your rescue

Psalm 144:12-15 - May we flourish under your blessing

The psalmist starts with praise for the Lord. He is the one that prepares his people for battle. He is a rock, fortress, stronghold, deliverer, and shield. The Lord subdues the enemies of the king before him.

This causes the psalmist to marvel that the Lord pays them that much attention. What are humans in the grand scheme of things? They are a passing breath.

The psalmist then calls tot he Lord for military victory. They ask the Lord to come down from heaven and intervene in the battle by demonstrating his power. Cause volcanoes to erupt and lighting to flash so these enemies might see your power, O Lord. May they run in fear. Rescue me from my enemies who surround me. The psalmist looks forward to after the victory. They will sing praises to the Lord, as long as the Lord rescues and delivers them.

Next comes a prayer for the nation. May their children grow strong and be established well. May there be much food in the barns and the livestock multiply. The psalmist asks that there be no breach in the wall, no exile, and no cry of distress in our streets.

This prayer seems to be drawing on Deuteronomy 28. Deuteronomy 28:4 talks about the fruit of your womb (children) the fruit of your ground (food that goes into a barn) and the increase of your cattle and flock (livestock multiplying. Deuteronomy 28:36 talks about the people being exiled. The psalmist is praying, may we have all the blessings that come from obedience, and may we avoid the curses of disobedience. Because ‘Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall; happy are the people whose God is the Lord.’

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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