As I have been writing these notes, and “living” in the world of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, I have been totally caught up in all the anticipation of Jesus’ coming into the world. It reminds me of the excitement of the days before Christmas that I experienced as a child. But in these notes we’re not quite ready for Luke’s Christmas story. There are two other gospel stories to look at first.Read More
Joseph? In Luke’s gospel we read a lot about Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Mary. Joseph was mentioned only in 1:27 as the man Mary was engaged to. It is very fitting that Matthew focuses on Joseph. He had a very difficult part to play! But God cared about Joseph too, and made sure that this story was recorded in Matthew.Read More sin, salvation, genealogy, Emmanuel
Sometimes when we read the Old Testament we forget that the people living then did not have the New Testament with the full revelation of God that we have in Jesus. Still less did Job and his contemporaries, who did not even live in Israel and were probably not Jewish. There is no evidence that they had access to any of the Old Testament. So how did they know about God?Read More theology, Ancient Near East, revelation, suffering
Did you notice? Where Eliphaz, in the last chapter, had challenged Job on the basis of his theology, Job’s response is of a different order. He doesn’t even bother with Eliphaz’ theology. It is God himself that Job is seeking.
But God is nowhere to be found. Job is sure that if he could lay his case before him, God would pay attention to him, and acquit him.Read More suffering, honesty
Faced with all this, Job asks the question we have all asked at some time. Why doesn’t God do something? Why does he let injustice go on and on? Job’s list of crimes is perhaps a conventional one. We can come up with a contemporary list, and ours is more extensive. TV coverage makes us aware, night by night, of the immeasurable evil all over the world. To the sins of individuals in Job’s list we can add the wars taking place, government corruption, atrocities in countries like the Congo, terrorism, genocide . . .Read More evil, revelation
Job’s response to Bildad is pure scorn. 26:1-4 are to be read as sarcasm: “You have really been helpful to someone weak and weary” (CEV). Bildad is silenced and we don’t hear from him or his friends again.
It is tempting to read the verses that follow through 21st century Western eyes, especially 26:7, which seems to indicate that Job understood the earth, as we do, as suspended in space.Read More honesty, Ancient Near East, reason
In the midst of Job’s despair comes this “jewel” of a poem about wisdom.Stop and think for a moment about the most beautiful jewellery you have ever seen, perhaps in a museum. Think about how much these jewels are treasured. For centuries men have tunnelled underground to bring these things to light. Savour the description of vv 1-11.Read More suffering, wisdom
This whole chapter is one of nostalgia for the good times of the past. It is the first part of a train of thought that carries through to the end of chapter 31. The past is contrasted with the pain of the present (chapter 30) and a plea of innocence (chapter 31).Read More wisdom, success, priorities
This is a chapter of utter despair! Job is now mocked by the homeless rejects of society, perhaps criminals, driven into the desert to scratch out an existence in the parched land. The young men whose parents showed him deference in the last chapter now make up jokes and songs to taunt him. They attack him physically. He is overwhelmed by terror. Everything that gave meaning to life in chapter 29 has vanished.Read More despair, honesty
When I was in Scotland, working on this chapter, I saw a BBC program on the tomb of Kha and Meryt in Egypt. In it was found a papyrus which listed 42 sins, which the dead person would swear that he had not committed. There is a picture of his heart being weighed in scales. I was amazed, because the idea of a checklist of sins, which the “accused” either confessed or denied, is so similar to Job’s protestations in this chapter.Read More sin, Ancient Near East, self-examination