ON THE NAUGHTY STEP
Lord God, giver of life and grace and love, I thank you that you can fill my heart with joy each day.
Read JOB 33
“But now, Job, listen to my words;
pay attention to everything I say.
2 I am about to open my mouth;
my words are on the tip of my tongue.
3 My words come from an upright heart;
my lips sincerely speak what I know.
4 The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
5 Answer me then, if you can;
stand up and argue your case before me.
6 I am the same as you in God’s sight;
I too am a piece of clay.
7 No fear of me should alarm you,
nor should my hand be heavy on you.
8 “But you have said in my hearing—
I heard the very words—
9 ‘I am pure, I have done no wrong;
I am clean and free from sin.
10 Yet God has found fault with me;
he considers me his enemy.
11 He fastens my feet in shackles;
he keeps close watch on all my paths.’
12 “But I tell you, in this you are not right,
for God is greater than any mortal.
13 Why do you complain to him
that he responds to no one’s words[a]?
14 For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they slumber in their beds,
16 he may speak in their ears
and terrify them with warnings,
17 to turn them from wrongdoing
and keep them from pride,
18 to preserve them from the pit,
their lives from perishing by the sword.[b]
19 “Or someone may be chastened on a bed of pain
with constant distress in their bones,
20 so that their body finds food repulsive
and their soul loathes the choicest meal.
21 Their flesh wastes away to nothing,
and their bones, once hidden, now stick out.
22 They draw near to the pit,
and their life to the messengers of death.[c]
23 Yet if there is an angel at their side,
a messenger, one out of a thousand,
sent to tell them how to be upright,
24 and he is gracious to that person and says to God,
‘Spare them from going down to the pit;
I have found a ransom for them—
25 let their flesh be renewed like a child’s;
let them be restored as in the days of their youth’—
26 then that person can pray to God and find favor with him,
they will see God’s face and shout for joy;
he will restore them to full well-being.
27 And they will go to others and say,
‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right,
but I did not get what I deserved.
28 God has delivered me from going down to the pit,
and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’
29 “God does all these things to a person—
twice, even three times—
30 to turn them back from the pit,
that the light of life may shine on them.
31 “Pay attention, Job, and listen to me;
be silent, and I will speak.
32 If you have anything to say, answer me;
speak up, for I want to vindicate you.
33 But if not, then listen to me;
be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Lord, ‘we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.’1 Thank God for the richness of his mercy and grace.
Elihu compares himself to a new wineskin ready to burst2 and here he detonates spectacularly. He attributes his message to the Spirit of God (v 4) yet his questioning of Job is darkly reminiscent of that of the other three friends. There is nothing new here, despite his high sense of calling and inspiration. He clearly has a grasp of truth, however: God is greater than any human being (v 12) and does speak in lots of different ways, not all of which are perceived by us (v 14). God might even use suffering and pain as a chastening experience (vs 19–22) and Elihu has even grasped something of the concept of God’s redeeming power (v 28).
Yet, much is missing here. Job is accused of claiming to be sinless, although he has said the opposite.3 Elihu complains that Job accuses God of always being silent (v 13) whereas Job’s point is that God is not speaking to him yet in his present experience. In fact, he longs for God to speak.4 The last three verses expose the problem. Elihu is short on mercy and treats Job like a child: ‘Pay attention, Job, and listen to me’. After a lifetime of devotion and service Job is being scolded like a naughty schoolboy – and by a beginner! Paul taught his young trainee Timothy not to rebuke an older man harshly, but to ‘exhort him as if he were your father’.5
There is a glimpse of providence, though. God may allow desperate circumstances to afflict an individual, sometimes more than once, to ‘turn them back from the pit’ (vs 29,30). That was not Job’s situation and it may not be yours, but our eternal destiny must take priority over our short-term comfort. Only God can make those decisions.
Read Romans 8:18 and 2 Corinthians 4:17, asking God to reveal the wonder of your future. A glimpse of the glory ahead may help you get through today.
Dear God, what a joy to know that when we confess our sins, you are “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9).
1 Ps 66:12 2 Job 32:19 3 Job 7:21 4 Job 31:35 5 1 Tim 5:1
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