Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Monday, June 5, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jun 6, Job 17-20

Today's readings are Job 17-20.

Many of today’s followers of Christ are familiar with the popular worship song, "I Know My Redeemer Lives." How many know the lyrics were based on Job 19:25, an Old Testament passage? What's going on here? Christ, the redeemer will not show up for another 12 centuries or so! How can Job speak of a redeemer that will not appear for centuries?

Job's trials have driven him further into the depths of despair. As he slowly begins to turn to God for his answers, we see glimmers of hope rising up in Job. He is not yet, as we will see, ready to accept his situation and be reconciled with it but, at least at this point, he has a level of trust in God that, one day, he will be redeemed. His confidence is founded in a heart that longs to please and trust God, even if it doesn't understand all that is happening and appears to be somewhat confused.

In the complaints asserted in Job 17:1-16, we see the titanic inner struggle Job is experiencing. His pain is real, his loneliness is nearly palpable (Job 17:6-9). The emotions of Job and his counselors begin to fray at the edges as the friends stubbornly hold to their position while Job steadfastly maintains his. They’re trying to help their friend, but the pressures of Job’s circumstances and the enormity of his problems are weighing on all of them.

Job’s lament in chapter 17 is coupled with an outburst of frustration in Job 19:1-22. His complaints and lament are contrasted with the hope we hear at the end of chapter 19 (Job 19:22-29). Ironically, Job wishes his circumstances would be written down so that others could learn from his plight (Job 19:23-25).

Sandwiched in between are the comments of Bildad, who has now joined Eliphaz and Zophar in accusing Job of outright sin in Job 18. Job has already accused his friends of being miserable counselors (Job 16:2). Even as we watch Job slowly turn to God and away from his friends, we can see their frustration and anger with Job growing. Bildad rails on Job with a long string of accusations, all of which are designed to expose Job’s alleged wickedness (Job 18:5-21).

As passions continue to heat up, Zophar now openly confesses he is insulted by Job's comments and demeanor (Job 20:1-3). Along with his accusation, Zophar begins to levy his own insults against Job (Job 20:4-29).

Job is insisting on his innocence, pleading for God to show him why he is unjustly treated, even as he proclaims trust in Him. His friends are getting more and more angry at him. Job is frustrated. His friends are devoted friends but appear to lack any compassion for Job’s grief and pain. They are so bent on trying to convince Job of his wickedness that they are no longer grieving with him. Of course, according to the timeline in the Book of Job, they have been with him at least seven days, perhaps more. So, due to exhaustion and frustration, this little assembly is turning into a knock-down-drag-out argument between friends.

We have to pause for a moment and ask if this ever occurs in our own lives. Are we ever Job's comforters, getting frustrated to the point of anger with the apparent sins of our close friends and loved ones? Likewise, are we ever Job, believing God has a purpose but getting equally frustrated because God is not allaying our sufferings or openly responding to our prayers? Is Job justified in his impatience? Are we ever justified in ours (1 Cor 13:4)? Is it possible that God is still teaching Job and being far more patient with Job than Job is with God? Do we ever find ourselves in much the same station as Job?

As we continue in this fascinating narrative, note Job's developing attitude and the hearts of his friends. As his friends escalate in their anger, Job retreats further from them and gradually turns toward God for his answers. Keep in mind, we haven't heard from God since Job 2. He has been silent since then. Yet, it is God who has set all these events in motion by pointing Job out to Satan, twice (Job 1:8; 2:3), then giving Satan explicit instructions as to what may or may not be done with Job (Job 1:12; 2:5).

So, how does Job speak so confidently of a redemption that will not come for another millennium or so? Somewhere deep inside Job, God has placed an echo of faith that led him to walk as a blameless and upright man (Ecc 3:11-14). This God-given faith (Eph 2:8) endures, despite unimaginable suffering. Job and his dreadful situation are a faint shadow of the One who will suffer and sacrifice once for all (Mk 8:31). Job's faith is imperfect, but he trusts that God will, one day, provide the redemption Job so desperately needs (Job 19:25). God will -- in His only Son, Jesus Christ.

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