Friday, November 07, 2003

Job 38: The Whirlwind

This essay is #44 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

The Lord

Job 38 begins this way:

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: (Job 38:1)

I have several comments at this point in the story.

1. Elihu has provided Job everything that he needs to repent and change. 

Elihu has pointed to the character, wisdom, and broader purposes of God. He spoke from the Spirit of God within him and he spoke correctly. The Spirit of God would have given force and authority to his words and make them effective. He also spoke kindly and compassionately about the purposes of pain and suffering that a beyond mere punishment. The story could have ended here with Job repenting from a clearer knowledge of God and moving on in life. This is most often the case for us. We have troubles and we have friends who exhort and comfort us. A personal visit from the Lord is not typical and the life and story of Job does not require it for a satisfactory conclusion.

I would go so far as to say that if Job had not changed his heart from Elihu's words, the Lord may not have come. This is not to say that Job did not change further.

2. The Name of God has suddenly shifted from "God" to "Lord." This is highly significant at this point in the story and here is why:

  • Whenever you see the word "Lord" in the Old Testament spelled with the letters "ord" in small capitals, it is telling you that the Hebrew behind the word is God's personal Name: YHWH. Some English Bibles will translate this as Yahweh or Jehovah.
  • The usage of the word God (Hebrew: Elohim) and Lord (Hebrew YHWH) in the Old Testament is interesting and consistent. To illustrate consider Genesis 1. It uses Elohim throughout. Elohim is creating the universe without a hint that He has any personal interest in the Creation. He makes mankind in His image and commands them to fill the earth. In Genesis 2, the name of God switches to Lord, He forms Adam from the dust of the earth and breathes into his nostrils the breath of life. The Lord walks in the garden in the cool of the night and speaks with Adam. This is covenant and personal. Side Note: The whole nonsense of there being multiple authors of Genesis signaled by the name switching between God and Lord is explained by noting that the use of God is in sections where His actions are universal and the use of Lord is in sections where He is up front and personal.
  • In the first chapters of Job, Job called God by His personal name, Lord. Once he was stricken he refers to Him as God. This illustrates the separation that has occurred between Job and God. 

In all of chapters 3-37, the personal name of God, Lord, is only used twice. The first (12:9, 10) contains Job's comment,  “Who among all these does not know That the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?" The second is Job 28:28, “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”  The first is practically a quote from Genesis 2, "the breath of all mankind." The second comes from the great chapter on wisdom and uses the personal covenant name to underscore that it is the fear of the Lord--God in personal relationship--that is the beginning of wisdom.

Other than these 2 references the use of God's name in Job moves from Lord in chapters 1 and 2 to God in chapters 3-37 and returns to Lord here in chapter 38. The significance is clear. The Lord is getting up from and personal. It tells from the first lines that everything is going to be all right. If "God" had spoken from the whirlwind, we could not have been sure of the results.

3. The whirlwind theophany appears in two other Old Testament passages. 

Here is 2 Kings 2:1-11

And it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; be still.” Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be still.” Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. (2 Kings 2:1-11)

Here is Ezekiel 1:4-14

As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire. Within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. Each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides were human hands. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward. As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies. And each went straight forward; wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they went. In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. And the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning. (Ezekiel 1:4-14)

It is my contention that Job, 2 Kings, and Ezekiel describe the same thing. What Ezekiel sees as creatures and wheels, Elisha saw as chariots and horsemen. In all three cases, this was "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Lord."

And so the Lord has come to speak with Job person to person.

This is grace and mercy. He had provided everything that Job needed through Elihu. But His appearing and speaking will add additional dimension to our place in the Creation. It will reveal truths about Him that are important for us, because they will help us live our lives in right relationship with our Creator.

It also answers the question, "But what would have happened if Job got the audience with God that he kept asking for?"

I guess we will see.

Monday: The Lord speaks.

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

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Job 36, 37: Elihu Praises God

This essay is #43 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Elihu's Praise

A storm cloud has appeared and is heading in the direction of Job and the company of people around him. Elihu sees it and uses its imagery to offer praise to God's goodness and power and control. I will have more to say about this storm when we get to chapter 38.

Here is the beginning of Elihu's praise:

Yes, God is great—beyond our knowledge! The number of his years is unsearchable. He draws up drops of water; they distill the rain into its mist, which the clouds pour down and shower on mankind abundantly. Who can understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion? See how he scattered his lightning about him; he has covered the depths of the sea. It is by these that he judges the nations and supplies food in abundance. With his hands he covers the lightning, and directs it against its target. His thunder announces the coming storm, the cattle also, concerning the storm’s approach. (Job 36:26-33)

There is the description of the storm clouds approaching. "By these he judges the nations and supplies food." Weather works to the blessing and judgment of mankind, and it is the Lord that directs its ways. It is a tool in His hands. Notice the complete description of the water cycle here. Evaporation to clouds to precipitation. This is placed side by side with anthropomorphized imagery of hands that seemingly grab lightning bolts and hurl them. Note the reference to cattle announcing the coming storm. Often the animal kingdom have sensing abilities beyond the humans.

The coming storm is a metaphor for the storm in Job's life. Until recently, Job's life has been watered by the hand of God, but now he is in the midst of the storm. 

Elihu continues:

At this also my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen carefully to the thunder of his voice, to the rumbling that proceeds from his mouth. Under the whole heaven he lets it go, even his lightning to the far corners of the earth. After that a voice roars; he thunders with an exalted voice, and he does not hold back his lightning bolts when his voice is heard. 

God thunders with his voice in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. For to the snow he says, ‘Fall to earth,’ and to the torrential rains, ‘Pour down.’ 

He causes everyone to stop working, so that all people may know his work. The animals go to their lairs, and in their dens they remain. 

A tempest blows out from its chamber, icy cold from the driving winds. The breath of God produces ice, and the breadth of the waters freeze solid. He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through the clouds. The clouds go round in circles, wheeling about according to his plans, to carry out all that he commands them over the face of the whole inhabited world. 

Whether it is for punishment for his land, or whether it is for mercy, he causes it to find its mark. (Job 37:1-13)

As with the weather so it is with all things. God is sovereign. His understanding is beyond ours. I love this comment especially, "He causes everyone to stop working, so that all people may know his work." Sometimes weather shuts down our regular lives and gives us a day off. Like an enforced Sabbath, mankind should take such times and get to know the Creator behind the universe, weather, and their very lives.

What is the weather outside your window like today. Give thanks to God for it. He is working some of His purposes through it.

Elihu continues:

Pay attention to this, Job! Stand still and consider the wonders God works. Do you know how God commands them, how he makes lightning flash in his stormcloud? Do you know about the balancing of the clouds, that wondrous activity of him who is perfect in knowledge? You, whose garments are hot when the earth is still because of the south wind, will you, with him, spread out the clouds, solid as a mirror of molten metal? Tell us what we should say to him. We cannot prepare a case because of the darkness. Should he be informed that I want to speak? If a man speaks, surely he would be swallowed up! (Job 37:14-20)

Elihu here foreshadows the questions that Job will face when the Lord speaks to him. The point is simple. If you cannot understand and direct the ways of the weather, how can you claim the upper hand when dealing with God. "You, Job, get hot when its hot and cold when its cold. Who makes it cold or hot?" We must understand that God is righteous and that He will work things according to wisdom. His purposes and ends are good. We must trust. Elihu has provided a proper ground for Job's humility.

The sun will come out after the most powerful storm:

But now, the sun cannot be looked at— it is bright in the skies— after a wind passed and swept the clouds away. 

From the north he comes in golden splendor; around God is awesome majesty. As for the Almighty, we cannot attain to him! He is great in power and justice, and abundant righteousness; he does not oppress. Therefore people fear him, for he does not regard all the wise in heart.”  (Job 37:21-24)

Elihu with these final lines of his speech tells Job that there is a bright sun that will appear when the storm is over. But let us understand that God is:

  • Full of glory
  • Awesome in majesty
  • Almighty
  • Great in power and justice
  • Abundant in righteousness
  • And he does not oppress.

No matter what in the storms of life, these are the things about God that we should remember.

Friday: Introducing the final speaker

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

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Job 36: Elihu Speaks of God and Job

This essay is #42 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Elihu's Fourth Speech

Elihu has the confidence and somewhat harmless conceit found in young adults:

Elihu said further: “Be patient with me a little longer and I will instruct you, for I still have words to speak on God’s behalf. With my knowledge I will speak comprehensively, and to my Creator I will ascribe righteousness. For in truth, my words are not false; it is one complete in knowledge who is with you. (Job 36:1-4)

Elihu speaks of his complete and comprehensive knowledge. He has not yet learned how little knowledge one can actually acquire in a lifetime. But his heart is good and the knowledge that he has is at least correct. He continues to speak on God's behalf and ascribes righteousness to his Creator. In ascribing righteousness, Elihu counters Job's claim to the high moral ground and suggests that we must approach the puzzles and conundrums of life with a perspective that God will not violate His character. In speaking of his Creator, Elihu establishes the Creator/creature relationship. The Creator is autonomous, but we are totally dependent. He is the potter and we are the clay. By pointing to the Creator, Elihu points to an accepting humility on the part of the creature. The beauty of the diamond comes from repeated and well directed blows on an otherwise ugly rock.

Indeed, God is mighty; and he does not despise people, he is mighty, and firm in his intent. 

  • He does not allow the wicked to live, but he gives justice to the poor. 
  • He does not take his eyes off the righteous; but with kings on the throne he seats the righteous and exalts them forever. 

But if they are bound in chains, and held captive by the cords of affliction, then he reveals to them what they have done, and their transgressions, that they were dealing proudly. And he reveals this for correction, and says that they must turn from evil. If they obey and serve him, they live out their days in prosperity and their years in pleasantness. But if they refuse to listen, they pass over the river of death, and expire without knowledge. 

The godless at heart nourish anger, they do not cry out even when he binds them. They die in their youth, and their life ends among the male cultic prostitutes. 

He delivers the afflicted by their afflictions, he reveals himself to them by their suffering. (Job 36:5-15)

"But if they are bound in chains..." To whom does Elihu here refer? Is it not the the righteous poor and righteous kings? "He reveals ... that they were dealing proudly." Elihu hints that a person can have a righteous exterior and a proud heart. Uncorrected, this proud heart will eventually turn to evil. God will bring correction and we should respond to the correction with a change of heart--yielding to the chains and affliction while acknowledging the right and goodness of the Creator to use such means. This is the surest way of getting to the other side.

Elihu's comment about the "godless at heart" and their end among the "male cultic prostitutes" is not easily understood. We do not know much about Job's days and culture, which would give us a firmer understanding. We have to infer the meaning. Rather than guess wrongly, I will connect some dots in modern culture. The first dots are the Humanist Manifestos of 1933, 1973, and 2000. You can find them online or in the public library. Read them and note that they map out cultural change along the lines of atheism, socialism, and complete sexual freedom. The second dot is the ACLU. If you track the case work that they defend, you will see that it correlates to the agenda of the manifestos--and this is not a coincidence. The third dot is the growing hostility against Christianity and growing anti-Semitism in the world as secular humanist forces gain strength and power. There is an historical connection between godlessness and unconstrained sexuality and there is a connection between unconstrained sexuality and anger against God and those who know Him.

Concerning death among male cultic prostitutes, unconstrained sexuality has always had dangers. it is dangerous for the unwanted children that are destroyed. It is dangerous because of sexually transmitted diseases, which in Elihu's day could do nothing but run their course and spread and kill.

The next verse is transitional, "He delivers he afflicted by their afflictions, he reveals himself to them by their suffering." Elihu says that to yield to the affliction as coming from the Creator who gives songs in the night is to find both deliverance and more intimate knowledge of God. 

With this transition, Elihu gives a brief history of Job's life and direction:

And surely, he drew you from the mouth of distress, to a wide place, unrestricted, and to the comfort of your table filled with rich food. 

But now you are preoccupied with the judgment due the wicked, judgment and justice take hold of you. 

Be careful that no one entices you with riches; do not let a large bribe turn you aside. Would your wealth sustain you, so that you would not be in distress, even all your mighty efforts? Do not long for the cover of night to drag people away from their homes. Take heed, do not turn to evil, for because of this you have been tested by affliction. 

Indeed, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed his ways for him? or said to him, ‘You have done what is wicked.’ Remember to extol his work, which people have praised in song. All humanity has seen it; people gaze on it from afar. (Job 36:16-25)

I see the remarks about Job being drawn from the mouth of distress as an historical comment. It tells me, however briefly, that Job's life was from rags to a "table filled with rich food." Job came to a wide and unrestricted place--the freedom that comes from wealth and public acclaim.

"Be care that entices you with riches; do not let a large bribe turn you aside." Elihu could mean this either literally or figuratively. In the literal sense, Elihu may be saying that before Job's troubles began, he was beginning to think of taking bribes. In the figurative sense, he is saying that Job should avoid wanting to return to his former estate so badly as to turn aside to evil. I prefer the figurative sense. Job has been moving in the direction of selling his integrity for the life of a godless man, because there was no benefit to living righteously. In either case, Job's sufferings have revealed a flaw in him. The wide unrestricted places were turning his heart from the Creator. This is what the Lord was seeing in Job when Satan came before Him. This is why He asked Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?" The Lord needed to reveal and turn Job's heart before it changed direction.

According to Elihu, God is doing exactly in Job's life what needs to be done for Job and for the creation. Who is a teacher like the Lord?

Thursday: Elihu Praises God

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

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Mini Book of Job Post

I am still working through the fallout from the car accident. I am tracking down insurance companies, renting cars, and making chiropractor appointments. In addition, I had a downturn with a customer over code quality, and I misplaced paperwork that I needed to fill out to help a friend. In the broader picture of peoples' troubles, these do not add up to much. Nevertheless, in my bed as the night closed in I began to fret.

"But no one says, 'Where is God, my Creator, who gives songs in the night?'" -- We cannot seek the song, we have to seek the Creator. As I tossed in my bed, I kept wanting the song and needed to keep directing my soul to the Creator. This entailed a willingness to forego the song and keep the pain, because He is the one thing of value above it all. He is God, my Creator. If the song in the night is to be a gift, we cannot demand it as a right. The song is a gift, only if He is free to not give. We are to ask "Where is God?" not "Where is the song?"

He gave me the song. Today, I still have insurance issues and customer issues and friendship issues. I have much humility to wear today. But I have the song.

Monday, November 03, 2003

No book of Job post to today.

Last night on the way to work, as volunteers, at a ballet performance, my car was smashed in a very unusual accident. The driver of the other car had a prosthetic leg. He was parked in a lot across the street. He put his car in reverse, gently pressed the accelerator, and something about the prothesis caused him to be unable to get his foot off the gas. He came barreling backwards at high speeds, over a busy sidewalk and traffic in the left two lanes, and creamed me in the right. I believe the insurance company will total my car.

There is much to be thankful for. He was parked at a popular restaurant near a university. It was a beautiful day and people were out and about all over. He could just as easily hit a pedestrian or motorcycles as my car. With seat belts fastened a car is armor plating. No one was hurt in this accident, and it could have so easily been otherwise. Please pray for the other driver. He is very shaken and upset.

Between still having to work at the ballet--it was fun and we got to see the show for free--and handling towing and getting a ride home, I had not blogging time. I will pick it up tomorrow.