Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Job's Reflection, part 1

The Old Testament book of Job is not one we may intentionally turn to unless it is the next book in our Bible reading, or we are facing some sort of deep difficulty and we flip though it looking for a measure of consolation. I am now reading through it yet again as part of my regular course of Bible reading—but this one passage has arrested my attention, and I would like to spend some time doing what Job does in this passage: reflect. I can honestly say I don’t know how many times I’ve read through the book and it never impacted me this way before—and it’s always been there.

The book of Job contains many clues that indicate the man himself lived long before Moses. This may not seem important at first, but the passage holding my attention is all the more intriguing because of this fact. Moses received the Moral, Civil and Ceremonial laws of God while on Mount Sinai, long after Job lived and died. Just hang on to that thought.

A quick survey so we have the passage in context (it is a long book):

  • Chapters 1-2 give us the setting and circumstance of Job
  • Chapter 3, Job speaks.
  • Chapter 4-5, Eliphaz speaks (one of his friends who come to visit).
  • Chapters 6-7, Job answers Eliphaz.
  • Chapter 8, Bildad (another friend) answers Job.
  • Chapters 9-10, Job answers Bildad.
  • Chapter 11, Zophar (another friend) answers Job.
  • Chapters 12-13, Job responds to Zophar.
  • Chapters 14-15, Eliphaz responds to Job.
  • Chapters 16-17, Job answers Eliphaz.
  • Chapter 18, Bildad responds to Job.
  • Chapter 19, Job responds to Bildad.
  • Chapter 20, Zophar answers Job.
  • Chapter 21, Job answers Zophar.
  • Chapter 22, Eliphaz responds.
  • Chapters 23-24, Job replies.
  • Chapter 25, Bildad answers Job.
  • Chapters 26-31, Job answers Bildad.
  • Chapters 32-37, Elihu (yet another friend) speaks up.
  • Chapters 38-41, The LORD answers Job.
  • Chapter 42, Job answers and is restored.
Our passage of interest is Chapter 31, where Job is nearing the end of his rope under the poor counsel of his so-called “friends.”

Many of us are familiar with the first verse of Chapter 31, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” This actually comes at the tail end of Job’s answer to Bildad, which includes a prayer to God for help (chapter 30). Despite all that has happened to him and all that he is lost, there can be a temptation to find a quick-fix kind of comfort.

Consider what happened to Jacob and his response when the news came that Joseph had been killed (Genesis 37). Truth was, Joseph was not killed but was sold into slavery—Jacob had been deceived by Judah, another of his sons, and was made to think Joseph had been killed. Notice Genesis 37:35, “Then all his sons and daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted.” There was no end to his mourning!

Contrast what happened to Judah in the very next chapter (Genesis 38). Judah not only lost two sons to death, but lost his wife to death also. Notice that he did not mourn his losses the way his father Jacob did. Instead, he went to visit some friends and sought out a woman outside of marriage!

Perhaps Job had this scene in mind when he was thinking about what was going on in his life: he lost seven sons and three daughters, 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 female donkeys, all his servants. Then his body was covered in sickness. His wife? Apparently she survived and turned against him (Job 1:7-9).

Wouldn’t it be nice for a man to get a little pampering at the end of a hard day? A little fantasy, some “me” time, something to tickle the fancy? A little “release” . . .

Job is not going to do it, and there is a reason. Actually, there are two reasons and the first is because of a promise that he made to himself, and he is a man of integrity (no matter what his wife says—and where is she, anyway?). The other reason is more important because it has eternal significance, and we will visit that in the next post.

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