Friday, October 17, 2003

Job 28: Not for Sale

This essay is #32 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Not for Sale

In the first part of his call for wisdom, the author compares the efforts of mankind to dig into the earth for the things his finds precious. In the next section, he states that all such efforts are worthless in the pursuit of wisdom:

Mankind does not know its place; it cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not with me.’ And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ Fine gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can its price be weighed out in silver. It cannot be measured out for purchase with the gold of Ophir, with precious onyx or sapphires. Neither gold nor crystal can be compared with it, nor can a vase of gold match its worth. Of coral and jasper no mention will be made; the price of wisdom is more than pearls. The topaz of Cush cannot be compared with it; it cannot be purchased with pure gold. 

But wisdom—from where does it come? Where is the place of understanding? (Job 28:13-20)

In answer to the question posed before, "Where can wisdom be found." The author tells us that mankind cannot discover it. It is not to be found in any of the places on earth: land, deep, or sea. You cannot buy it and it cannot be measured.

And yet the crisis at this point in the book of Job cries out for wisdom, but no one has it. All the speakers are hung up on the relationship between righteous behavior and creature comforts. They see material blessings as flowing from a moral principle that the Lord must obey. This chapter on wisdom is to wake us up and to realize that such a notion is not correct. 

Twice now, the author has asked the whereabouts of wisdom and understanding. Yet it seems that we are no closer to knowing where to find them, and the crisis of the book still looms. The author concludes his interjection this way:

For it has been hidden from the eyes of every living creature, and from the birds of the sky it has been concealed. 

Destruction and Death say, ‘With our ears we have heard a rumor about where it can be found.’ 

God understands the way to it, and he alone knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and observes everything under the heavens. When he made the force of the wind and measured the waters with a gauge. When he imposed a limit for the rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, then he looked at wisdom and assessed its value; he established it and examined it closely. And he said to mankind, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:21-28)

Wisdom and understanding have been hidden from all living things except man. We as men and women made in the image of God have abilities for language, art, music, and things of the Spirit that are incalculably higher than all other living creatures on the earth. Later in Job, the author records Elihu as saying, "But no one says, ‘Where is God, my Creator, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the wild animals of the earth, and makes us wiser that the birds of the air?’ (Job 35:10-11)"

Death and destruction have heard a rumor of its place. This is a poetic way of saying that anyone brought to the point of death and destruction are often those who begin to ask directions. But it is important to know that they are not place that wisdom is to be found. If this were so, then all who face death would find wisdom, but many do not. Death and destruction only suggest that it exists.

And so the author gives this answer, "God understands the way to it." He knows this by way of His omniscience. He knows this by way of His creative activities. And God tells to fear Him and to turn away from evil.

Job lost the fear of God. Rather he sought vindication. He called for another to arbitrate the dispute between himself and God. Job left the path of wisdom. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar never feared God enough to really investigate Job's situation by which they could have discerned his innocence and sought to better understand the new wisdom needed. The fear of God would have changed the all direction of the questioning from Job and his friends:

  • God is great--We know this
  • God is good--Dare we say otherwise
  • Job seems to be a good guy--There is no evidence to say otherwise.
  • What are His purposes in all this?

With this line of reasoning, I have given you the entire foundation from which Elihu spoke when he addressed Job.

Wisdom to live life is of inestimable value to us. Job 28 appeals to us to understand this. So does the opening 9 chapters of proverbs. These contain appeal after appeal for us to understand and embrace the path of wisdom. The following verses dovetail with this section of Job very well:

My child, if you receive my words, and store up my commands within you, by making your ear attentive to wisdom, and by turning your heart to understanding, indeed, if you call out for understanding, and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver, and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand how to fear the Lord, and you will discover knowledge about God. 

For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up effective counsel for the upright, and is like a shield for those who live with integrity, to guard the paths of the righteous and to protect the way of his pious ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity—every good way. For wisdom will enter your heart, and moral knowledge will be attractive to you. (Proverbs 2:1-10)

Seek wisdom. Learn and live.

Beginning with Elihu, whom we will meet in chapter 32, we will begin to see Job's situation from a new perspective. But before we get there, a dynamic in Job's heart must surface. We will begin that next.

Monday: Job Revealed

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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