Friday, October 03, 2003

Job 22: The Accusation

This essay is #27 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.


"Yes, Richard. The hardest part about gaining any new idea is sweeping out the false idea occupying that niche. As long as that niche is occupied, evidence and proof and logical demonstration get nowhere." [Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, (New York: Ace Books, 1988, 228)]

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar remained locked into the idea that Job suffered, because he had sinned. It did not matter that Job declared his innocence. It did not matter that he pointed to other innocent people who suffered. It did not matter that Job pointed to wicked people who got along famously. For these three men, Job's suffering was the only evidence that they needed.

Job 22 contains Eliphaz's last speech and it is very troubling. Remember that the opening chapters identified Job as upright, blameless, God fearing, and one who turned from evil. In this light, the next words of Eliphaz were astounding:

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered: “Is it to God that a strong man is of benefit? Is it to him that even a wise man is profitable? Is it of any special benefit to the Almighty that you should be righteous, or is it any gain to him that you make your ways blameless? 

Is it because of your piety that he rebukes you and goes to judgment with you? Is not your wickedness great and is there no end to your iniquity?

For you took pledges from your brothers for no reason, and you stripped the clothing from the naked. You gave the weary no water to drink and from the hungry you withheld food. 

Although you were a powerful man, owning land, an honored man living on it, you sent widows away empty-handed, and the arms of the orphans are crushed. 

That is why snares surround you, and why sudden fear terrifies you, why it is so dark you cannot see, and why a flood of water covers you. (Job 22:1-11, The Net Bible)

Eliphaz declared Job's wickedness to be great, "there is no end to your iniquity." He then proceeded to make specific accusations. They were quite interesting and can be boiled down to this, "God is striking you because you did not do all you could to help the poor." If pressed for details, Eliphaz could not have provided a specific incident. Rather he would have said that Job did not do such things directly, but allowed them to happen. He could have intervened, but did not.

The interesting thing about a faulty world view is what happens to it when actual facts challenge its very foundations. The pressure will build until something changes. Either the world view will change to accommodate the new data or the facts will distort to accommodate the world view. Very often, it is the latter, and many have died because of it. During Jesus' day, everything needed to recognize Jesus as the coming Messiah was in place. He taught truth and He performed miracles. No one could deny this evidence, but the unconvinced authorities distorted the miracles by saying that Jesus performed them by the powers of darkness. Job's friends needed sin, so they found it.

Eliphaz could not take Job's situation at face value, so he dealt the be-guilty-about-poverty card. This card can be and has been dealt to just about anyone who has accumulated wealth. Judas played it against Jesus:

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was going to betray him) said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?” (Now Judas said this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money box, he used to steal what was put into it.) So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She has kept it for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me.” (John 12:4-8)

Balancing compassion and prudence is hard. Job seems to have achieved a proper balance, but we are given no insight into what that is. Even so, Eliphaz must have implied that Job was ruthless in his dealings with the poor.

Eliphaz then again made issue of Job's complaints to God.

Is not God on high in heaven? And see the lofty stars, how high they are! 

But you have said, ‘What does God know? Does he judge through such deep darkness? Thick clouds are a veil for him, so he does not see us, as he goes back and forth in the vault of heaven.’ (Job 22:12-14)

For which reason, Eliphaz then said the righteous had cause to rejoice over Job's sufferings:

Will you keep to the old path that evil men have walked— men who were carried off before their time, when the flood was poured out on their foundations? They were saying to God, ‘Turn away from us,’ and ‘What can the Almighty do to us?’ 

But it was he who filled their houses with good things— yet the counsel of the wicked was far from me. 

The righteous see their destruction and rejoice; the innocent mock them scornfully, saying, ‘Surely our enemies are destroyed, and fire consumes their wealth.’ (Job 22:15-20)

The interjection, "But is was he who filled their houses with good things--yet the counsel of the wicked was far from me." was a parody of Job's defense and Eliphaz went on to assert that that such a view was incorrect.

So since Job was a wealthy man and did not use his wealth on behalf of the poor, the answer for Job then must be to divest himself of his assets. This was Eliphaz's final answer:

Reconcile yourself with God, and be at peace with him; in this way your prosperity will be good. Accept instruction from his mouth and store up his words in your heart. 

If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; if you remove wicked behavior far from your tent, and throw your gold in the dust— your gold of Ophir among the rocks in the ravines— then the Almighty himself will be your gold, and the choicest silver for you. 

Surely then you will delight yourself in the Almighty, and will lift up your face toward God. You will pray to him and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows to him. Whatever you decide on a matter, it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways. When people are brought low and you say ‘Lift them up!’ then he will save the downcast; he will deliver even someone who is not innocent, who will escape through the cleanness of your hands.” (Job 22:21-30)

The charges Eliphaz brought against Job are almost indefensible. Who can ever say that he has done all to help the plight of the poor? What could Job do, but assert his innocence yet again? I will begin to examine this on Monday.

SIDEBAR: There are those who would like to say that the first two chapters and the last chapter of Job are a later addition to the work. How different would be our understanding of Job 22 were this the case. We might have to conclude that Eliphaz had finally made a point that Job needed to hear. The problem, though, is the book becomes quite trivial without the backdrop of our privileged information. It is Job's righteousness that creates the tension and drama in these exchanges. As you will increasingly appreciate, all the anomalies in this book serve a literary purpose.

Monday: The Big No-Show

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

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Sawdust & Two-by-Fours

This is part 6 of series of essays on what Jesus says about judging others. To start from the beginning, click here.

Protecting What is Valuable

This brings us to the last section of Jesus' teaching on judgment:

Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6)

This is an important section, because it says that mercy, kindness, forgiveness, and other nice things are insufficient to deal with all situations. There are dogs and pigs out there and we need to identify them and protect our valuables and ourselves from them. I understand dogs to represent those who are opposed to the gospel. Pigs represent unclean things. We must discern both.

Let's take a simple case. In the section on removing specks from other people's eyes, I quoted the following verse:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. (Matthew 18:15)

Here is the rest of the passage:

But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or tax collector. (Matthew 18:16-17)

You can begin with mercy and keeping issues private. But if that does not work and the situation warrants it, you bring in others to help. Eventually you notify the entire body. If that does not provide a satisfactory resolution, the individual must be asked to leave. In other words, mercy has its limits. Paul's letter to the Corinthian church gives us an example:

It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you? For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit. And I have already judged the one who did this, just as though I were present. When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus, turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)

It seems that the Corinthian church was proud of its mercy and tolerance. The problem is that unlimited mercy to those who do not respond will corrupt the entire church. The pearls get trampled under foot.

Besides protecting the body from un-repented sin, we need to protect the body from the unmerciful among us. This is illustrated by this story:

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pick the grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry— how he entered the house of God and they ate the sacred bread, which was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that the priests in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are not guilty? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what this means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. (Matthew 12:1-7)

We need to protect people from wrong doctrines, especially concerning salvation:

But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell! (Galatians 1:8-9)


Here are Jesus' words one more time:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:1-6)

I think that it is safe to say that we should emphasize, along with Jesus, that we avoid judging others. This especially true of judging that leads to gossip or creates divisions in the church. Judging pushes people away and places them beyond hope. We are to mature through a study of the Scriptures and the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit, and then we are to help others along. Unfortunately, there are the dogs and pigs that we must recognize and protect ourselves and others from.

I began this series with a story from John Wimber. You may remember the woman who was coming to him a third time to be healed of a sexually transmitted disease. When he saw her approach, he said to himslef, "Not this time. Not again." However, as that thought formed another voice in him said, "Do not place limits on God's mercy." He repented and prayed for the woman. God healed her this third time. As I recall, she then began attending John's church, heard the gospel, and found salvation.

Friday: Reconnecting with Job

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

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Sawdust & Two-by-Fours

This is part 5 of series of essays on what Jesus says about judging others. To start from the beginning, click here.

Getting the Specs out of Other's Eyes

If the word "judgment" is to be little on our lips and in our hearts, then what how do we proceed with helping others? I will be presenting several verses to answer this question and I think that you will agree that they maintain the thrust of mercy and kindness that the rest of this study has shown.

Since it just occurred to me that some may be thinking that I am working to present a theme of universal salvation with this emphasis on mercy and kindness, please remember that there is upcoming a section on not giving holy things to dogs and pearls to pigs. This study must emphasize the mercy and kindness of God in order to show how we should live our lives. We are people in trouble, which is why Jesus came and died. Salvation and mercy are open to all, but many have hard hearts and will not receive the offered mercy.

To get back on course, although we are not to judge, we are to have discernment:

On this topic we have much to say and it is difficult to explain, since you have become sluggish in hearing. For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food. For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14, The Net Bible)

Milk is for those who do not heed the message of righteousness. They are saved, but they are not mature. They have not learned to read and apply the scriptures to their own lives. Solid food is for the mature. These have practiced and learned to live righteously. By the study of the scriptures, an examination of their lives, and by the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit, these believers have learned to discern good and evil. The primary application of this discernment is towards the individual, but the context also makes clear the need to become teachers: to help others do the same.

Hebrews also tells us:

But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception. (Hebrews 3:13)

Instead of judging others' bad deeds, we are to exhort one another to fight against our sin and press on towards righteous living.

Paul chimes in with these words:

I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

Hebrews tells us to gain discernment and exhort one another. Paul adds preaching the Word, reproving and rebuking. We can see this in action with the following two passages:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. (Matthew 18:15)

Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. (Galatians 6:1)

Note the privacy in Jesus' words. We are to rebuke and reprove a brother or sister when we "are alone." Paul directs those "who are spiritual"--i.e. full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit--to restore those caught in some sin. Note the caution in Paul's words about that ever problematic beam in one's own eyes.

The following instruction emphasizes again the underlying principle of kindness and gentleness in this speck removing business:

But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed fights. And the Lord’s slave must not be a fighter but kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:23-26) hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing. Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not burn with indignation? (2 Corinthians 11:27-29)

The heart in the above verses continues the theme of patience, kindness, and mercy. It adds personal grief and concern over the sin of others. This is so different from the attitude in a judging heart. Our approach to others is to be kind, able to teach, gently correcting, and full of prayer.

Judging condemns and pushes others away. Reproving, rebuking, and exhorting draw close, seek change, weep at failure, rejoice with improvement, and is inline with the gospel.

Reproof will go to the person and say, "You did not tell the truth. You should strive to live a truthful life." It has collected and sifted facts. It has come to the individual. It is specific. It promotes a better path. It seeks the good of the other and promotes maturity and health.

Judgment is prone to believe the bad report. It goes to someone other than the guilty party and generalizes. It says, "He is a liar." It assumes the sinner is beyond hope. It fails to love.

Judgment leads to gossip and is a pleasing activity. Discernment, caring, reproof, and so forth is hard work, requires heart, and grieves at failure. But is is the way that we should follow.

Thursday: Protecting what is valuable

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

No post today

I had a troublesome application issue yesterday that kept me going past midnight. See you tomorrow.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Sawdust & Two-by-Fours

This is part 4 of series of essays on what Jesus says about judging others. To start from the beginning, click here.

Getting the Wooden Beam out of Our Eyes

Let's look at another of Paul's lists:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God! (Galatians 5:19-21)

As you have realized by now, it behooves us to look for the things that apply to us personally. We tend to see those things that apply to others. But Paul includes strife, jealousy, envy, dissensions. These are all common maladies among people, but he still says that those "who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." This is not an exhaustive list, as Paul makes clear, and the wooden beams of judgment, I believe, are among the things we should not practice.

The good news is that Paul immediately follows this list with a solution:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another. Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. (Galatians 5:22-6:1)

As we abide in Jesus Christ by the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit, we will become people characterized by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Please note that the Holy Spirit is not a tree from which we receive love, joy, peace, and so forth. Rather these are things that the Holy Spirit grows and produces in us. Note also how these words of Paul connect with the words of Jesus that we are studying. Jesus commands us to remove the beams so that we can see clearly to remove the specks from a brother or sister's eye. Paul talks of "those who are spiritual" helping to restore those caught in sin. More on this later.

So the Holy Spirit is the means by which our natures are changed. By Him we can become people of mercy.

The other step to removing the wooden beams from our eyes is to read the Scriptures and let them judge us. The Bible, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, can correctly diagnose our hearts and lead to change. We can never accurately do this for someone else. Look at what Paul does with this list of sins:

But we know that the law is good if someone uses it legitimately, realizing that law is not intended for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious people, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, sexually immoral, practicing homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers—in fact, for any who live contrary to sound teaching. This accords with the glorious gospel of the blessed God that was entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:8-11)

Here Paul tells us that the Law is there to identify sin. Furthermore, the goal of the Law is to bring people to the "glorious gospel." Paul hammers this home a few verses later:

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them! (1 Timothy 1:15)

Paul shows us that he read the Scriptures and fault in himself rather than others. By understanding the depths of his sin, he better appreciated the length, height, width, and depth of God's grace through Jesus Christ.

By the Word and Holy Spirit, we see the beam. By Jesus' death and resurrection and the new life in the Spirit, we pluck it out. We can go to the Beatitudes to see what the beamless eye looks like:

  • It is poor is spirit. It does not have an exalted view of self.
  • It mourns over sin and its effects. It does not take pleasure in the failings of others.
  • It is meek. Like Jesus it will teach and hold to a high standard of righteousness, but through an attitude mercy and kindness, sinners will be able to draw near and hear the gospel.
  • It is merciful, on which I have written much in this paper.
  • It is peacemaking. More human relationships are healed by mercy than by judgment.

Tuesday: Removing Specks from the Eyes of Others