Now that Satan is permitted by God to take good things from Job, he first takes his children and wealth. Chapter 2 begins by another scene where Satan and some angels (“sons of God” always refers to angelic beings) present themselves to God. God again presents Job as a pillar of uprightness in the world. Even with the loss of Job’s children and wealth, Job refused to blame God. Yet, Satan believes that if he is permitted to take Job’s health, Job will break. Again, God permits Satan to do his worst, with the exception of taking his life. When Job breaks out in painful sores, his wife thinks that he can find relief only in blaming and cursing God, which she knows will result in his death. He rightly calls her perspective foolish. Believing that God is responsible for all that takes place is not the same as blaming him for the actions of others.
We must reckon with the fact that Job is pleased to accept both good and evil at the hand of God. God is of course not the doer of evil, but what do we make of Job expecting evil to take place in God’s good providence? This is a good question for reflection: what is it you deserve? Has God been unfair? Even in the midst of pain, temptation, difficulty, and persecution, do you still believe that God is good? Why or why not?
Job’s friends are now introduced, and the majority of the book is a series of back-and-forth’s between Job and his friends. They bring a variety of perspectives to Job’s situation, some good and some bad. But in the end, they are all “worthless physicians (13:4) and “miserable comforters” (16:2).
Though he never curses God, Job does not relent of his despair. He regrets ever having been born (ch. 3). Eliphaz speaks first, claiming that Job must not actually be innocent of any wrongdoing if all this has happened to him, because “who that was innocent ever perished?” (4:7). On its face, that is a ridiculous notion. The innocent perish all the time, which the Psalms make plain.
If Job really loved the Almighty, then he should be glad to be undergoing God’s discipline (5:17), so says Eliphaz. We see a glimpse of why Job’s friends are miserable comforters; they speak the truth but without compassion. “Are you grieving the loss of your children? It’s just proof that God loves you!” Is that something that you would ever tell a grieving parent? It’s easy to see the foolishness of that on this side of the story, but how often have we said reckless things to those in the throws of grief?
After each of his friends’ speeches, Job takes an opportunity to respond. If God is going to pierce him with arrows, then Job would rather that God simply crush him (6:9). He even calls out his friends for their lack of sympathy at such great loss (6:14-16). Life is just a breath, or a vapor as Ecclesiastes might say. So Job is not going to hold back in asking God the hard questions. Why does God send him such grief? Why has Job become such a burden to God, that God would seize him as such?
As Bildad begins his first speech, he simply urges Job to repent. God is gracious, so why would Job not seek that grace? Again, we have truth without compassion. Failure to repent is just proof that we do not love God, which is true. But is that the root of Job’s pain? Remember, only we have the insight into the heavenly council, not Job or his friends. If Job would just repent, God would bless him again.
But Job replies that no one can be right before God. Who can approach the throne of God and live? Job knows that he is not guilty of something to warrant such pain (9:15). In his pain, Job doesn’t even believe that God would listen, anyway. Otherwise, where is this coming from? Job’s problem is the human condition; we only see into the divine realm as far as God permits. In a prayer, Job asks God to explain himself. If he is guilty of sin, then God is just. If he is guilty, then he wants God to explain what his sin is.
Zophar, the third friend, begins to speak. Again, there is truth without compassion. We cannot understand the deep things of God, but a wise man will still seek God. This is a form of the always helpful, “Maybe you just don’t understand what God is doing.” Promote that man to Major Obvious.
Job insists he is not an idiot. Just look at the evildoers of the world; they seem to get by just fine. Why doesn’t God judge them? Why has he decided to take his wrath out on Job? Of course God has done this to Job; there is no one else to do so. God is sovereign, building up and taking down princes, has full knowledge of the depths, and he gives and takes away. But still, throughout the tearing down and taking away, Job knows that God is the one who gives life and takes it away. In the end, God will make all things right. There is great comfort in the fact Scripture models for us two great truths: our grief is legitimate, and God will right every wrong in the end. Sin is so wicked, how could we not grieve its consequences?
In Eliphaz’s second speech, he argues that Job’s problem is that he talks too much. Job thinks too highly of himself, and if he thought soberly, he would understand God’s will. Job’s response? What a miserable comforter he is! What evidence is there that Job is proud? In the midst of his grief, when he should be learning about the providence of God with the help of his friends, all they do is scorn him.
Bildad speaks again, and he reminds Job that what has happened to him looks an awful lot like how God punishes evildoers. Zophar will then remind Job that wickedness is what brings suffering, not righteousness (ch. 20). Eliphaz pulls out all the stops and just calls Job a wicked man. Might he think again about his innocence? In response to Zophar, Job says that, actually, the wicked have the appearance of success in this life. How does that relate to his situation? He reminds his friends that his grief is directed at evil, and that he knows God is responsible for all that happens in this world. His friends are searching for every possible way to blame Job for his misfortune.
We are so prone to cast blame when that’s the wrong premise. We so need to see the reason behind the pain and suffering. But are we so investigative when it comes to the good in life? Job is a wise man, because he can accept both. Shall we not receive good and evil?
Job needs to know that God is listening, which is why he wishes he knew were God was in all of this. Do you see this fine distinction? Job never blames God; he just wants answers. Job knows that God is good, but it’s hard to see the good in all of what he’s experiencing. After all, why do the wicked, those who move landmarks to steal land, steal livestock, and throw the poor off of their land, seem to go on in life without reprimand?
Bildad’s short speech of chapter 25 recalls what he’s already said: who can be right with God? Job, you’re a maggot! Just admit it! But Job just mocks him. “You’re such a great helper, Bildad!” God is so great that the things we see, the observable universe, is just a whisper of who he is (26:14). Job is telling his friends to shut up. He doesn’t want their answers; he wants God’s answers. For all the nonsense his friends are spewing, Job will not stoop to their level of thinking.
It’s time for them to listen to him. Mankind knows all about digging to find precious jewels and metals, but what about wisdom? Clearly, it’s not found in his friends or in the mind of man. Wisdom comes from God. Only God understands the way to wisdom. Instead of listening to these three men, Job wants to hear from God.
It is not a coincidence that Paul moves from how Christians deal with evil and vengeance at the end of chapter 12 on to government at the beginning of chapter 13. A just civil government is a rarity in human history. But the governing body of a nation or a state is the appointed means by which God deals with evil. In Israel, one purpose of the king was to mete out justice. The various institutions of Israel worked closely together, but they were still separate entities. Everywhere else in the world, God appoints governments to keep mankind from seeking vengeance. Therefore, it is good to support those in civil offices. If we pay everything we owe, then we should owe no one anything. By keeping the commands, as summarized in the great commandments, the only thing we should ever owe anyone is more love and respect.
Chapter 14 is incredibly helpful in matters we call adiaphora, or matters of indifference. There are many matters where there can be no disagreement, such as in the doctrine of God and of justification. To deny or to re-define those doctrines is to call in to question a person’s confession of faith. But other matters, such as we would call opinions, are nothing worth dividing over.
The two most important distinctions for Israel, what set them apart from the rest of the world, was the Sabbath and their dietary restrictions. It should come as no surprise that Paul mentions food and holy days in a letter written to a church comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. We should all be convinced of our position, which means two things: 1) we should not be tossed here and there but should do the hard work of understanding; and 2) we should not make our position the litmus test for faithful Christianity. On these matters, we leave the judgment in God’s hands.
If we insist on matters of indifference, we pass judgment on others who disagree with us. In fact, we might make a brother or sister stumble in their faith by raising tertiary matters to primary matters. So, while we do not value a weak conscience, neither do we use our freedom of conscience to make another believer falter. Paul’s context is almost surely the Jewish rites concerning food and holy days and the consciences of the Gentiles.
Make no mistake, Paul calls those who with soft consciences weak. As those who believe in objective truth, we should strive for a strong conscience, molded by the word of God. But our great exemplar is Christ himself, who withstood far worse than minor discord. Even in our sin, Christ welcomed us. Therefore, we welcome the weak in faith, as we once were. In fact, it was to the weak that Christ became as a servant.
As Paul begins to conclude his letter, he reminds the Roman believers once more of his purpose for writing. The Gentiles are a welcomed addition to the people of God. Christ has won them through his obedience, therefore, they should be as dearly loved as Israel themselves.
Paul intends to get to Spain in his journeys. But it seems as though, tradition tells us, that his exploits end in Rome with his martyrdom. He wants several of dear associates and fellow believers greeted in his name. And as Paul concludes such a beautiful letter of divine truth, he simply cannot help but worship God with his pen one last time—to the only wise God be glory forever more through Jesus Christ!
1 Corinthians 1-3
Paul first lands in Corinth in Acts 18. Corinth was a metropolitan area, so it was a strategic ministry point. It was full of idolatry, so it was also ripe for preaching of the one, true God. Paul stayed there fore a year-and-a-half (Acts 18:11). As Paul left to plant churches and preach elsewhere, he received word that all was not well in Corinth. Sexuality immorality had crept in. Paul actually wrote (at least) four letters to the church at Corinth of which we have the second (1 Corinthians) and the fourth (2 Corinthians). You can see references to the other letters to Corinth in both of the letters we still have.
There are several problems in Corinth. The first problem Paul addresses is division among believers. There were those who were claiming that the teacher they followed was the real deal, and other teachers were half-pints. There is one gospel, but people were beginning to act as though there were versions of it that were better than others, making themselves better than other people. There is no reason to argue for this-or-that teacher if they’re preaching the same gospel! It’s the age-old trope that everyone thinks they need to just stand out.
One way we prop ourselves above other people is by appearing smarter than them. But the gospel is preached through the foolish and weak. If you understand the actual message of the gospel, you realize your own foolishness in seeking your own way to God. There is only one way to God, and he made it, not you. God has demolished the wisdom of this world.
The only message that Paul preached was simple gospel of Christ crucified. That is the root of true wisdom, not worldly wisdom. In our flesh, before the Spirit indwells us, we do not accept the things of God. We see and understand them as foolish. If we still insist that we are wise, then we are infants in Christ.
It is good to have many Bible teachers, but we should not prop them up as the ones who created the gospel. The Lord himself assigns people as Bible teachers. And regardless of the effort and success of the ministry of those teachers, it is always God who causes the growth. A farmer could scatter seed, water it, and harvest at all the right times, but if he scattered the seed on concrete, there’d be no reason to hope for any growth. God must prepare the heart.
Paul planted the church in Corinth, established elders, and he is content to let them build upon what he has left. Whatever those teachers do will be judged on the last day. Some of what they have done is gold, and it will withstand the fire. Some of it is hay, and it won’t last for a moment. So don’t deceive yourself; we will all face that day, even our teachers.