John T. Willis

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Job Loses His Wisdom [Fear of God]

As in Job 1:6-22 and 2:1-10, the composer of the book of Job NOW relates a third sequence with: (1) an earthly council--2:11-13; and (2) the effects of Job on this council--3:1-26. In the first two "scenes," the council was a "heavenly council" recorded in 1:6-12 and 2:1-6 respectively. The third council is an earthly council. In this blog, we will work through Job 2:11-3:26.

I. The Earthly Council. Job 2:11-13.
A. Three of Job's friends "hear" [learn from a great distance] about Job's many afflictions. These people are from different countries: Eliphaz from Tema, Bildad from Shua, and Zophar from Naamah. Verse 11.
1. One must ask HOW these three men had become friends of Job. Later, in the book of Job, we will discover that Job traveled widely, and apparently was an ambassador or diplomat or envoy of the land of Uz, where he met with ambassadors of other countries for international conferences. [Just for beginners, see Job 29:7-10, 21-25, but there will be additional texts on this]. On such occasions, Job became friends with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.
2. Somehow, the information about Job got to these three men independently, and THEN they had to agree to MEET TOGETHER to go to Job in his land of Uz. This would take quite a bit of time--several months probably.
3. When these three men met together, they PLANNED to go to Job to CONSOLE and COMFORT Job. NOW, when they finally arrive, watch what happens!!!
B. When Job's three friends arrived: Verses 12-13.
1. They saw Job from a distance and did not recognize him. If you have ever gone to a hospital room of a friend you have known for many years, and you have not seen your friend for awhile, and your friend has suffered tremendously for several weeks or months, you may very well know what it meant when Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did not recognize him after all of Job's suffering.
2. Job's three friends did six things:
a. They raised their voices [apparently loudly].
b. They wept.
c. They tore their robes.
d. They threw dust in the air on their heads.
All of these are common mourning customs in the ancient Near East, including Israel. See Exodus 9:8, 10; 2 Samuel 1:11; 3:31; Isaiah 28:25; and very often.
e. They sat with Job on the ground for 7 days and 7 nights, a common ancient Near Eastern custom for mourning the dead. See Genesis 50:10; 1 Samuel
f. They did not speak a word.
Obviously, this behavior of Job's friends certainly did not "console" and "comfort" Job. As a matter of fact, they deeply IRRITATED and AGITATED Job. And THIS explains the effects of Job on his friends as related in Job 3:1-26.

II. Job's Reaction to His Friends. Job 3:1-26.
*Just as Job's friends were about to get up and leave silently after seven days, Job cannot take it any more. Job BURSTS out violently in response to his friends' obvious behavior that they KNEW Job was as good as dead--thus we are hereby and forthwith giving his funeral, because we cannot return from our countries.

*Job's speech in essence is a BITTER PLEA that he will DIE. Job's speech falls naturally into three parts.

A. I wish I had died at birth. Job 3:1-15.
1. Verse 1 SAYS that Job "cursed the day of his birth." Some think this is different from the statement in Job 2:9: "Curse God and die." But, is there REALLY any difference between the two? WHO gives life? Who brings a person into life by BIRTH? Is it not God? Here, in my opinion, Job is "cursing God." Now, this sounds very harsh, and many will disagree. But, be patient with me, and give me several blogs to think through this with you. The bottom line here is: Job loses his wisdom [his fear of God]. One might respond--So, [the] Satan won!!! Maybe so. But there may be another way of looking at this. BE PATIENT here.
2. Job wishes he had never been born--verses 2-10. The terminology here is very similar to Jeremiah's complaints about his own situation, which is very similar to Job's situation, as described in Jeremiah 20:14-18. These verses are fairly clear, so need little comment. "The Sea" and "Leviathan" (verse 8) are sea monsters well known in the ancient Near East and the Hebrew Bible--see for example Psalm
74:14; Isaiah 27:1. Job refers to these mythical creatures in poetic language.
3. The expression "receive the knees" in verse 12a probably refers to the custom of the father taking the newborn child onto his lap as the recipient of the new babe into the family. See Genesis 48:12; 50:23.
4. In verse 13-15, Job years to be with kings and counselors and princes who had already died and had been commemorated by exalted ruins and houses like the Pharaohs who were entombed in pyramids.
B. I wish I had died in his womb before he was every born. Job 3:16-19.
If Job had never been born, the wicked would not have troubled him; he had never been tired; he would never had been in labor as a prisoner in jail; and he had never been a slave hardly treated by a harsh master.
C. I wish I could die now. Job 3:20-26.
1. Job, in great suffering, cries out: WHY do I have to suffer like this? Verses 20-22.
2. In Job 1:10, [the] Satan complains because God had put a "fence" around Job to PROTECT Job. Now, Job complains because [from Job's present perspective] God has "fenced" Job in, and Job is miserable. Verse 23.
3. Job declares: "The thing that I FEAR comes upon me, and what I DREAD befalls me." Verse 25. The synonymous parallelism here shows that FEAR in this context is DREAD--NOT the "fear of the Lord" in the sense of "standing in awe of," "reverencing," "honoring," "holding in the highest regard," "highly respect" God. Verse 25 indicates that all the time Job was "enjoying" great wealth and health, Job was "AFRAID" in his heart of hearts that at any moment, affliction and disaster and suffering might fall upon him. NOW, Job says, what I feared, what I dreaded, has happened.

As one reflects on this passage, it should become quite clear that Job, in his inner heart and mind and thinking, is STRUGGLING between the ongoing issue between REASON and FAITH. At this point, REASON is winning the day in Job's mind. Job has lived a long life of faithful service to God, and what does he get from this? NOTHING!!! Only great losses of wealth and health. It is not worthy all the effort!!! I wish I had never born. But, since in reality I am still alive, I wish I could die.

Anybody out there felt that way? If you ever have, you can EMPATHIZE with Job. That is where he is right now. Let us follow the story in future blogs.

The Past and the Future

No matter how young or how old we have lived; no matter what we have done; no matter where we have lived; no matter who our ancestors or descendants have been; no matter how tall or how tall; no matter how intellectual or how dumb; God has created us and continues to "move" us in human life from the past to the future. We talk about the present, BUT we are constantly moving from the past to the future--and WE CANNOT DO ANYTHING TO CHANGE OUR SITUATION!!!

I want to make a few personal observations, and I hope many of you will respond to me to give me greater insights.

A. We can learn from the courage and achievements and progress of the PAST. In my own life, many things have changed from a worse to a better situation: like means of travel, means of communication, facilities, etc.
B. GOOD practices or traditions from the PAST establish us in stable living. In my opinion, good parents, a loving church family, a well-established society, beliefs rooted in biblical teaching, etc., are fundamental to PRESENT and FUTURE living.
C. IF we will pay attention, we can learn by SINS and MISTAKES of the PAST, and not foolishly REINVENTING the old bad habits of humanity. Some people "get this message," and unfortunately we often miss that message. Proverbs 26:11 is a good reminder about a very revulsive figures:
"Like a dog that returns to its vomit
is a fool who reverts to his folly."
It is a FACT of human life that BAD HABITS destroy lives.

A. Human life has always built on DREAMS and DESIRES and ASPIRATIONS. The Bible repeatedly reports "God's PROMISES," the fulfillment of which were fulfilled over centuries, like the conquest of Canaan or the coming of Jesus Christ.
B. There is something in the heart of everyone that, whereas life in the past was good, and life in the present is all right, there are things that are BETTER yet to come and happen in life. This is true on a small term, like wanting to get married, or wanting to have children, or wanting to get out of college and start a REAL JOB, etc. This is also true one a large term, like wanting to land on Mars or solving THE problem of cancer, or finding ways to have peace on earth, etc.

III. THE PRESENT. In one sense, we can talk about THE PRESENT, even though in reality, we are ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD IN TIME a second at a time, a minute at a time, an hour at a time, a day at a time, a month at a time, a year at a time, a decade at a time, a lifetime at a time. In this sense, EACH DAY is VERY PRECIOUS. We rejoice with the biblical words in Psalm 118:24:
let us REJOICE and BE GLAD IN IT."

Having said all this, it seems to ME that the proper situation in which we stand is presented beautifully in Paul's words in Philippians 3:13-14:
"This ONE THING I do: forgetting what lies BEHIND and straining FORWARD to what lies AHEAD, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus."

How is YOUR life? Your past? Your present? Your future? How do YOU view life? Share with others. PLEASE send me YOUR insights.

John Willis

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Job Loses His Health

The second scene involving Job depicts Job's loss of his health--portrayed in Job 2:1-10. This little paragraph falls naturally into three parts.

I. The Second Heavenly Council. Job 2:1-6.
*This section is very similar to Job 1:6-12, and thus does not need to be repeated. However, there are a few significant details which call for discussion because new events in Job's life "move forward" and "change" the situation.
A. In Yahweh's initiative question to [the] Satan: "Have you considered by servant Job?", Yahweh gives an additional statement: "He [Job] still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason."
1. The question: "Have you considered my servant Job" intentionally IRRITATES Satan. Satan "pulled out all the stops" AGAINST Job, AND YET, Job did not budge--Job persisted.
2. Yahweh's additional statement reinforces previous observations: SATAN [not Yahweh] is the one who incited God AGAINST Job, AND SATAN's purpose or intention was to DESTROY Job--and Satan had no reason to do this--except that Satan WANTED to harm or destroy or overthrow Job. If Yahweh ACTS in these events, Yahweh's intention is not to DESTROY Job or acts AGAINST Job.
3. The statement: "YOU [Satan] incited ME [Yahweh]" obviously does NOT state or even imply that Satan has power over God. Instead, Satan can do nothing without God's first permission to act.
B. Satan's response this time is that human beings, including Job, will do ANYTHING to save their lives. SO, it is not big deal for a person to lose his or her "possessions" as long as they are still in tact. "Skin for skin" is a trading term. Probably the thought is: a person is willing to trade ANYTHING "up to" an equivalent skin, up to his life.
C. Satan then proposes that Job will curse or reject God if God "touches" [attacks, harms, overthrows] Job's "bone and flesh," his very being. Note that Satan tries to leave the impression that GOD will "touch" or harm Job.
D. Yahweh agrees with Satan's proposal. But Yahweh makes two significant changes in his response to Satan.
1. Yahweh ALLOWS Satan to have the power which Yahweh gives to him ["YOUR" power]. Yahweh said the same thing in Job 1:12.
2. Yahweh will NOT ALLOW Satan to put Job to death. THIS is important, because the composer of Job emphasizes that Satan has God's given power, but ONLY within God's stated LIMITS.

II. Satan afflicts Job. Job 2:7-8.
A. Satan, out of his own decision and volition, DECIDES that the most powerful "touch" on Job is to "inflict loathsome sores on Job from top to bottom." Job is so miserable that he scrapes himself and sits among the ashes.
B. Scholars propose a wide variety of "diseases" or "maladies" that Job had: leprosy, elephantiasis, the Oriental sore or Biskra button, extensive erythema, smallpox. pemphicus foliaceus, chronic eczema, etc., etc. Such an academic pursuit makes me think of trying to determine "the fish" that swallowed Jonah--and here, too, there all kinds of proposal. Here, I am going to take a stab at a proposal: Job's affliction is a harsh, unique, otherwise unknown malady that Satan concocted JUST TO harm Job. Whatever this disease was, it is horrible, painful, destructive.

III. Two Individuals Respond to Job's Malady: First, Job's Wife; then, Job Himself. Job 2:9-10.
A. Job's Wife--Job's wife begs Job to curse God and die. This SOUNDS very harsh and very ungodly. In my opinion, not so. I think Job's wife is expressing GREAT LOVE for Job in this set of circumstances. Here are some thoughts:
1. How long was it between that Job initially receive his affliction and the time that Job's wife proposed that Job curse God and die? Of course, we do not know. But, my guess is that Job suffered under this affliction for many weeks or even many months before Job's wife finally begged Job to curse God and die.
2. If YOU have ever sat beside the bed of a suffering loved one for weeks and months, and just cannot take it any more to let your loved one continue to suffer, YOU can identify with Job's wife. I have seen husbands and wives, children, parents, friends, and others say to each other and to the doctors and nurses: It would be much better if this suffering person were dead. Then, that person could have a little peace. It LOOKS LIKE that the LOVING THING to do is not something that we desire, but seems to be best.
B. Job.
1. Job replies that his wife SPEAKS LIKE a FOOL. "Fool" here does not mean "stupid" or "ignorant." As we have already discussed, this is the antithesis of "wise." "Fool" means "NOT to fear God," while "wise" means "to fear God."
2. Much like Job's response to the losses of his "possessions," Job says that a servant of God must be willing to RECEIVE bad things as well as good. Think of the reality of life. Is this not correct? Everything and anything we HAVE is BECAUSE we RECEIVE it. We LOVE to "receive" the good, but maybe we also need the bad.
3. The last line of Job 2:10 is significantly different from the comment of the composer of the book of Job in Job 1:22.
a. Job 1:22 makes two statements about Job: "In all this Job did not sin [I think--in his heart] or charge God with wrongdoing" [I think--in his outward actions].
b. BUT, Job 2:10 says ONLY: "In all this Job did not sin with his lips." Yes, Job did not SAY anything wrong in his response to Satan's assault. BUT, what was Job now thinking in his heart? The Talmud says: "Job did not sin with his lips; but in his heart he did" (b. Baba Bathra 16a]. Others think this difference is an exaggeration, and that Job 2:10 actually MEANS the same thing as Job 1:22. Of course, one cannot know for sure!!! Scholars will take opposite views. In the flow of the book of Job, it seems to me that NOW, Job is beginning to DOUBT whether God is actually faithful to Job. [As we move on through the Book of Job, we will keep returning to this issue].

Before leaving this important paragraph in the book of Job, allow me to make a parting observation:

God is the ONLY SOURCE of all power. Any power that any human being or any animal or any heavenly being is a gift of God. God COULD FORCE all his creatures to do what God FORCE each one does. BUT, according to the Bible, God has DECIDED to ALLOW all his creatures to make decisions within God's limits.

Here is a simple example. An individual decides to murder another human being. God COULD prevent that person from committing murder. BUT, often, God ALLOWS a murderer to kill another person. Is God responsible? I think not. Is GOD responsible for Job's losses of "possession" and/or "health"? I think not. This is the work of [the] Satan. BUT--Job will soon ACCUSE GOD for doing these very things. This is KEY to understanding the message of the Book of Job.

How do YOU respond to Job 2:1-10? Share your thoughts to others. Let me hear from YOU. I need all the help I can get.

John Willis

Monday, September 07, 2009

Authentic Communion

For over 60 years, I have attended church and taken "the Lord's Supper." To tell the truth, much of the time, people [sometimes myself, I must confess] take a piece of unleavened bread and drink a sip of grape juice ritualistically. WE DO THIS BECAUSE THE BIBLE COMMANDS US TO DO THIS AND THUS WE MUST OBEY GOD.

In my opinion, biblically, in the eyes of God, this totally misses the point. "The Lord' Supper" is a REAL MEAL, a REAL FEAST. Actually, this has very little to do with "eating" and "drinking" physically. This is a deep spiritual heart to heart experience--between human beings and God; between the entire family of God and God; between each other. "The Lord's Supper" is a COMMUNION.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a SHARING in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a SHARING in the body of Christ? Because there is ONE bread, we who are many are ONE body, for WE ALL PARTAKE of the ONE bread."

AUTHENTIC COMMUNION requires that we have deep fellowship with God and with one another. Last Sunday at Highland, we shared the Lord's Supper in a way which we do every two or three months. Several designated members of the church [usually a couple or a whole family] serves at the front of the church building, and every member comes to the front and receives the bread and the fruit of the vine. Marvelous miracles occur on these days. As people come forward, we talk, we hug, we share our needs, we pray one on one, we ask our needs, we bless each other. Receiving the bread and the fruit of the vine is PART of the custom, but much deeper COMMUNION is taking place. Old and young, men and women, boys and girls, all SHARE together under God with one another. This constantly builds our church. And we grown and we received strength, and we bear one another's burdens, and we send our families to missions sites around the world, and God our heavenly Father blesses us.

I hope you SHARED in God's eternal family. We rejoice daily and weekly when we sing, when we pray, when we talk, when we have our shepherd meetings, when we work together as we attempt to serve others. I hope this is the way YOUR church family is.

Tell me your experiences. Tell me your situation. Let me hear from you.

John Willis

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Job Loses His Wealth

As we journey through the book of Job, we turn now to the RESULTS of the prior HEAVENLY COUNCIL related in Job 1:6-12. The RESULTS appear in Job 1:13-22.

One may divide this little paragraph into two parts for convenience:
A. The Losses of Job's Wealth [Possessions]. Job 1:13-19.
B. Job's Response to His Losses. Job 1:20-22.

Three important observations come to mind in studying Job 1:13-19.
A. GOD is NOT the personality who concocts the pain inflicted on Job as described in this passage. Job 1:12 makes it very clear that [the] Satan is the one inflicting pain on Job here. Yes, God ALLOWS [the] Satan to do this, BUT God is not the one who desires or executes these calamities. Keep in mind, that God LIMITS [the] Satan's activities. [The] Satan CAN wreak havoc on what Job HAS [Job's wealth=possessions], BUT God forbids [the] Satan to attack Job's health at this point in the story.
B. [The] Satan dumps ALL of his hurt and hatred and pain and destruction and overthrow on Job. [The] Satan holds back nothing.
1. At this point in Job's life, Job is approximately 60 years of age, as demonstrated by the fact that he has 10 children and all of them are grown and have moved out into their own respective homes. See Job 1:4-5, 13. After living a "full" life of service to God and good health and prosperity, it was a horribly "blow" to destroy all of Job's "possessions."
2. [The] Satan acts in "rapid-fire order." All of this occurs on the same day--Job 1:13. No sooner did one messenger come to Job and relate the first calamity than a second messenger comes and relates the second calamity, then the third, then the fourth. ONE calamity would have been abundant, but [the] Satan mercilessly fires a volley of calamities in "rapid-fire order" like a tommy gun.
3. Each calamity REVERSES ALL the blessings related in Job 1:3-4. [The] Satan omits nothing that "belongs to" Job=Job's possessions, Job's wealth.

I. Job 1:13-19. The ORDER of these calamities is in ABAB structure. The first and third calamities are due to attacks by enemies, while the second and fourth calamities are due to tragedies in nature.
A. Sabeans [People from Seba or Sheba] attacks Job's oxen and donkeys and the servants, carried off all the livestock and killed all the servants but the one who escapes. Verses 14-15.
B. "The fire of God" falls from heaven, burns up the sheep and the servants, only one servant escaping. In the Hebrew Bible, "the fire of God" is LIGHTNING [see Genesis 19:24; Numbers 11:1; 1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:12]. Hence, [the] Satan can and does some times use LIGHTNING to execute Satan's purposes. [People often think that God is responsible for death from lightning, but the Bible teaches that at least some times Satan may do this]. Verse 16.
C. Chaldeans [Babylonians] attack Job's camels and carries them off, and kills all the servants except one who escapes to carry the message to Job. Verse 17.
D. A great wind [a sirocco] comes across the desert, strikes down the house in which Job's 10 children are holding a family feast, and they all die, and only one of Job's servants there escapes to report to Job. Verses 18-19. [Again, the Bible teaches that "tornadoes" or horrific winds causing people to die may be due to the destructive work of [the] Satan and not God at all].
*Close study shows that each loss is MORE EXPENSIVE or DEAR to Job than the former calamity. Certainly, Job's children his most "possessions" of all.

II. Job 1:20-22. Job's response is in two stages.
A. First, Job ACTS. His ACTS are CUSTOMARY GESTURES demonstrating great loss and mourning. Job tore his robe, shaved his head, fell on the ground, and worshipped. Verse 20. These gestures occur often in the Bible. See for example, Genesis 23:7,
12; 37:34; Joshua 7:6; 2 Samuel 1:11; 3:31; Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 7:29; Ezekiel
7:18; Amos 8:10.
B. Then, Job SPEAKS. Job acknowledges that EVERYTHING he HAS is from God--it is ALL a GIFT from GOD. So Job, as painful as all these losses are, recognizes: "THE LORD GAVE and THE LORD has taken away." Verse 21. Recently, we have learned a song which declares this truth: "You give and take away . . . Blessed be the name of the Lord." This is so hard to accept. BUT this reality is true--and Job recognizes and accepts this reality. Too often, we assume that WE DESERVE all of God's gifts. This is not true. Everything we have is FROM GOD. Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 4:7: "What do you HAVE that you did not RECEIVE?" The reception of this concept can change God's whole life upside down.
C. The NRSV [and I am convinced this translation is correct] reads:
"In all this Job (1) did not sin or (2) charge God with wrongdoing." Verse
22. Many scholars will say the emphasis here is misdirected. But I think not. Here is my point.
1. Job 1:22 states that Job DID NOT SIN. This is a heart matter. At this point, Job did not sin in his heart in his attitude toward God.
2. Job 1:22 states that Job DID NOT CHARGE GOD WITH WRONGDOING. Surely, it must have crossed Job's mind about the possibility that GOD was WRONGING Job in these calamities. But Job restrained his thoughts, and did not charge God with wrongdoing.
The bottom line here is that Job valiantly resists [the] Satan's volley of assault on Job, and Job prevails. I wish could and would be the end of the story. But this is only Job 1. There are 41 chapters yet to go.

What are YOUR thoughts? Share your ideas with your friends, your family, your church, your community. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


If YOU are feeling RIGHT NOW that YOUR world is falling apart and everything is in SHAMBLES, PLEASE hear this message from God in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:9:

"We do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live is is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling--if indeed, when we have take it off we will not be found naked. For while are are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident; even though we know tha while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord--for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him."

Walter Brueggemann captures some of these feelings in this prayer:

You are the God who makes all things new.
We gladly raise our voices and move our lips
to acknowledge, celebrate and proclaim your staggering newness.
As we do so, we hold in our hearts
deep awareness of all the places where your newness
is not visible, and has not come.
Our hearts link to many places of wretcheness short of your newness.
We picture our folks at home, sick in pain, disabled, paralyzed
and yet no newness yet.
We know up close the deep wretchedness
of poverty, of homelessness, of hunger,
and yet no newness yet.
Move our hearts closer to the passion of our lips.
Move our lips closer to your own newness.
Work your newness in hidden, cunning ways among us.
Move us closer to your bodied newness in Jesus,
newness of strength come in weakness,
newness of wisdom come in foolishness.
Draw us from the wretchedness we know to his scarred, bloody wretchedness,
that is your odd entry of newness into our life.
We pray in the new of his suffering newness. Amen.

With shambles all around, I pray for God's Extraordinary Power to give you hope, courage, and a new day.

John Willis