Over the course of three chapters, Job defends himself one last time against his friends. He is in great pain, emotionally and physically, and they are of no help. All he wants is a word from God, and so far, he has received nothing. Job’s friends have nothing more to say, because as far as they’re concerned, he’s self-righteous. They’re not going to get through to him, they think.
We then turn to chapter 32, and a new speaker is introduced, Elihu. He’s quite a bit younger than Job and his friends, so he has waited for an opportunity to speak. But because the friends have proven useless in identifying Job’s real problem, he thinks it is his time to speak up. Those men have little to no wisdom to impart. But Elihu doesn’t only go after the friends; he also has something to say to Job. Who is Job to demand anything at all from God?
Man cannot understand in totality the justice of God. We will never have a complete grasp on what why he does what he does. That is not to insinuate there is any injustice in God. But what he has revealed is for us and our children; the secret things, however, belong to God (Deuteronomy 29:29). There is both a curiosity and a freedom in leaving ultimate things in the mind of God.
In the same way a parent may not disclose all of his or her reasons for why things must be a certain way to a child, God does not disclose all of his reasons for why things are the way they are. That may frustrate proud creatures who think we’re entitled to certain knowledge, but it does not mean that God is cruel or unjust. As Elihu tells us, God is far greater than our puny, finite minds can comprehend. God may be our Father as believers, but there is still room to tremble in his presence. At the end of his speech, Elihu presents us with the only responses available to use when it comes to the justice of God: the wise will fear God, and the foolish will pretend to be wise.
It may surprise us since God has been silent since chapter 2, but Job gets what he’s asked for. Beginning in chapter 38, God answers Job, but it’s not to give him the reasons for his suffering. It’s to shut him up and remind him of who created all of this.
God begins by presenting himself to Job, demanding that Job stand up straight and listen. The book of Job began with God insisting how righteous Job was, and that has not changed. But God is not going to stand for insinuations that there is injustice on his part from one of his created beings.
It’s telling that God is called YHWH in chapter 38, which is the covenantal name used by the Israelites. It’s the personal name God chose for himself that his people were told to use. So God is still in a relationship with Job, but he also speaks from a whirlwind, a sign of power and might. God loves Job and will not destroy him, but neither will God permit the charges of Job’s friends stand unquestioned.
Chapters 38 and 39 are awe-inspiring reminders of God’s creative and providential power. He rules and controls all things, from animals to people to climate. After God’s first speech, Job does the only thing someone in his position should do—stop talking and put your hand over your mouth. But God tells him no, keep standing and answer my questions. God continues to remind Job that when he addresses Job, they are not in a relationship of equals. Imagine in your mind a man covered in sores and boils, who has no earthly possessions, on his knees with his hands over his mouth as the creator of everything speaks to him. The wise will fear God. All modern hesitation about such a spectacle is rooted in the ridiculous notion that we are in a relationship of equals with God.
God concludes all he has to say to Job. What can Job do but repent? He demanded from God what God was not required to give him. God scolds Job’s friends for speaking lies about God in their speeches. What’s most incredible is that God tells Eliphaz that Job has spoken what was right about God. In all his frustration, Job never cursed God or blamed God for his suffering. He did in fact what answers and reasons, but in his pain, he never wanted vengeance against God. As Job was a priest for his family, he will now offer prayers and sacrifices on behalf of his friends. We see in Job a mediator for his friends so that God will judge the three men for their sin and folly.
Before there is any restoration for Job, he makes his peace with the justice of God and restores his friends’ standing before God. Job does not love God any more or worship him any differently because of his restored family and wealth. God only restores those things after reconciliation takes place, and there is no sense in which Job’s restoration is caused by his repentance. It was simply God’s good pleasure to show Job that kindness.
The book of Job teaches us that the justice of God may very well take place behind the scenes of reality. Therefore, there is often little that we will understand of it. God does in fact reveal much of his reasoning in his law and in his word. But that should not be seen as exhaustive. There is plenty which God does not communicate, the secret things. So the proper response of the believer is to seek God in suffering, knowing that all things work for his glory and our good. Knowing that God is responsible for all things is not the same as blaming him for evil. Sometimes suffering is clearly caused by our own sin and idiocy; sometimes there is more at work than we can ever realize. In those moments, place your hand over your mouth to keep yourself from saying too much.
The book of Proverbs is written as a father imparting wisdom to his son. All truth, all wisdom, is founded upon one great truth: fear the Lord. It’s good to see the Mosaic law and the wisdom literature as two sides of a coin. The Mosaic law sets up the religious life and civil society of Israel. It’s tied to the old covenant because the Mosaic law is a series of stipulations and conditions of keeping the covenant. On the other hand, the wisdom literature of the Bible shows how being in a covenantal relationship with God, restored through forgiveness, changes the way a person lives. The Proverbs still call people to turn from sin, to seek wisdom, and to fear God. What one part of Scripture commands, another part illustrates.
Often when we think of the Proverbs, we think of one-liners with good advice. There are in fact many of those. But there is also plenty of text that moves us to think more deeply about what wisdom really is in a fallen world. We should also not take a Proverb as a promise. When Proverbs 22:6 tells us that raising a child in the way of Lord prevents a child from turning from it, we should not then think that if our child backslides that we failed in raising our child. In general, when parents insist upon Christian education, model godly living at home, and equip their children to think wisely, they will see the beauty and majesty of God and the things of God, and they will not turn from him in the final chapter of their lives.
The book opens by noting how enticing sin can be. Because of how deceptive temptation is, wisdom is all the more necessary. Training in wisdom should start as young as possible. At no point in life do we stop having temptations of any kind, so we must train hard. Wisdom brings blessing, not only because of the negative it brings, in that we do not yield as often to temptation. But it also brings positive change, such as greater success in what we do. If that does not mean financial wealth, it means a greater satisfaction knowing that we do is done in the service of God’s kingdom in his way. Once we start reading chapter five, we still begin to receive wise teaching it accordance with specific temptations, primarily sexual immorality.
1 Corinthians 4-9
Paul insists that apostles are called to build the foundation of the church, of which Christ is the cornerstone, but apostles are not worthy to be elevated to kingly status. Apostles were simply messengers of the gospel, not the gospel themselves. He goes so far as to say that it seems as though God has sentenced his apostles to death. Not just men, but even angels, laugh at and mock the apostles. The apostles are “scum”, but because the Corinthian Christians heard and believed Paul’s message, he hold them in high honor. Paul urges them, and us, to imitate him, but only so far as he imitates Christ.
He now gets to the bad news in Corinth. There is a man who is sleeping with his stepmother, something that even the pagans hold in disrepute (though they surely practiced it, considering everything else they did). It appears the church had not dealt with this unrepentant man. Instead of holding him accountable though church discipline and calling him to repentance in order that he might be restored, they have turned a blind eye. Paul says that this unrepentant man ought to be removed from the church. This removal might very well be the means by which God calls him to repentance, so that on the day of the Lord this man might be spared.
Like Jesus taught, a little leaven changes the whole lump of dough. Just a teaspoon can radically change the size of a loaf of bread. How much more, then, will a little sin tolerated in the church affect the rest of the people? Paul uses the gospel to show how the old ways that these former pagans celebrated is no longer permissible. The immorality of the temple cult cannot be used to worship Christ.
In 5:9 we read about a previous letter that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, which means 1 Corinthians is at least the second letter between them. But he laments that they are still struggling with sexual immorality. These things simply cannot be tolerated in the church. Let the sexual immorality of the world stay out there.
Not only that, but brothers and sisters in Christ are bringing lawsuits against each other. Paul uses eschatology to determine how believers should settle disagreements. Why would believers bring their disagreements before pagans to let them decide? Don’t you know that believers will judge the world? So why are you letting them what is, by comparison, so trivial? Instead, like Christ, suffer some wrong instead of being defeated by the world.
Besides, how often are we guilty of defrauding someone, even our fellow believers? That’s who we used to be. So if we feel defrauded, simply deal with your brother or sister personally. Don’t humiliate them and involve third parties in those trivial matters. And really be discerning in what is “trivial”. Remember, we were all cleansed from our past sins in the blood of Christ. Therefore, we flee those things that used to describe us.
Since sexual immorality was (and is) such a problem, not only in the world, but in the church, Paul gives some principles for a Godly marriage. He again comments on a previous letter they wrote to him arguing that it is better for people not to marry, or at least be sexually intimate. Instead, Paul says to get married and save yourself from temptation. Our bodies are not our own, anyway. Some philosophies of the day said that the material world, including sexual intimacy, was evil. Paul corrects this misguided view and says that sexual intimacy is good and should be enjoyed between believing spouses.
He does, though, argue that singlehood is not all bad. There are, in fact, benefits to being single, as there are to marriage. But marriage should be the normal, de facto way of life for most people. But however God calls you to live, live gladly in that calling.
In 7:10 and 7:12, he includes these notes that he is giving this command, not Christ. Some have argued that his is evidence that not every word of Scripture is inspired. Some of the words are God’s, some are Paul’s, and we have to figure out which belong to who. Christ’s words carry more weight that Paul’s. This is a modern problem invented by modern skeptics. Paul is simply arguing from his own authority as an apostle. It is the same spiritual authority to write Scripture. Inspired means inspired, whether they come from Christ or from Paul.
Paul continues addressing the concerns of the Corinthian Christians as he addresses food sacrificed to idols. What Paul is really addressing is conscience. Christians know in the mind that food sacrificed to idols is food sacrificed to nothing at all. There is only one, true God. While everyone should know this, there are Christians that Paul describes as weak who still have difficulty making peace with eating that kind of meat. The strong in the faith should never offend the weak in the faith just to prove a point. He then expands this thought to say that we do not use our freedom to satisfy ourselves.
In fact, this is what Paul did in his apostleship. He did abuse his rights to offend new believers. Apostles, maybe above all people, have a right to earn their keep through their work. They can receive support from churches with a clear conscience. Instead, he rejected these things so that no one would see it as an obstacle in the way of the gospel. In general, those who preach and teach the gospel should be supported by those who receive the gospel in the same way that temple priests made their living through tithes and offerings. Paul, though, refused his right to ensure no one thought he was a swindler. Paul served as an example to the Corinthian church in this way. He urges them, then, to continue in their spiritual race. Don’t just meander through the race track, but run like you want to win.