Study 6 : Job 26-28
falls into 2 parts. First there are the chapters after number 23 and up to chapter
28. But I am going to skip over these. They do not add a great deal to what we have
already thought about and, indeed, appear somewhat muddled. So much so that many
scholars think they have got scrambled somewhere between Job and us. Two bits are
worth reading. The first is as much for amusement as anything else! Job has already
called his friends “miserable comforters” and he now unleashes a real blast of sarcasm
against them in 26:1–4..
positively Job once again states that nothing will make him give up his faith in
the Lord and his righteousness. Theses are words worth hearing in these days when
so many are prepared to give up their faith and thus their integrity for the thinnest
of reasons. Hear that in 27: 1 – 6.
But then the
steady progression of argument between Job and his friends is suddenly interrupted
by a beautiful poem in chapter 28. At first sight it seems to cut across the main
argument of the book and not to be about the same sort of things at all, but in
fact it takes us back to and reminds us what the whole book is really about. This
is indicated by the last verse of this chapter repeating the main points of the
very first chapter of the book. The argument in this chapter 28 is so subtle we
reach v 12 before we are told what the subject of the poem, and therefore of the
book really is. Though even before we learn that we can still understand the writing
as an extended metaphor of all the to-ing and fro-ing that has occurred so far.
Here are those first 11 verses of chapter 28.
magnificent? Just like miners, Job and his friends have been hacking away in the
dark hoping to find some precious idea that will light up the gloom that surrounds
Job. Neither the lion nor the eagle can get anywhere near what the miners are after.
It is only mankind that has any interest in things like this.
learn what it is all about in v12. And this is expanded on in the rest of the chapter:
first with a great statement of praise of how important it is and then the statement
that it is ultimately a spiritual attribute and can therefore only be obtained from
the Lord. Here is the rest of this chapter.
a very important Biblical concept that is much neglected so we will explore it in
some detail. The word ‘wisdom’ is used in several different ways in the Bible of
which we are interested in three:
- living well in the practical life
of every day, equating to the Way of the NT,
- God’s knowledge and creative power,
- the personification of this second
meaning of Wisdom, with the NT revealing Jesus is that personification.
associated concepts of: the Sage, the Wise Man (or Woman), and the books of Wisdom
(Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and some Psalms; also Sirach and the
Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha).
We, like Job,
are most interested in the first of these: how can we live well in this difficult
world. There is plenty of wisdom, knowledge and understanding all around us. We
use it everyday when we watch the TV or go out in a car, but none of that sort of
wisdom says anything about the meaning of life and how we can best navigate all
the difficult situations, which are an inevitable part of living. In short, that
sort of wisdom is not about what I have called living well. To reach that goal,
i) in my list, will mean that we have to understand ii) God’s knowledge in Creation
and iii) the role of Jesus in imparting wisdom to us. None of this is being wise
in any sense of becoming a graduate, or getting a Master’s, let alone gaining a
Doctorate, in either a secular field of study or even a Biblical one. No, it is
something well within the reach of each and everyone of us. It may be a little old
lady, like my lovely, long dead, grandmother, who is the wise person in this Biblical
definition of Wisdom. It is all about something difficult to describe but easy to
recognize when you meet a truly wise person. It is about living well, living contentedly,
making good decisions, fitting into one’s world well, and relating well to other
people. We can all do all those things but we can also all fail horribly to do them!
of the people you know well, who lives wisely? Try to work out what it is about
those people that made them go to the top of your private list of wise people.
live well by accident. Living well doesn’t just happen. We have to think out what
our aims and objectives in life are before we will get anything right. It is really
sad that so much of western culture refuses to do so. We are like Israel in the time
of the Judges when ‘everyone did what was right in their own eyes’. In the ancient
world Jewish scribes and Greek philosophers argued about what was the best way to
live. We don’t. We just try to accumulate more and better material things, thinking,
quite wrongly, that a bigger pile of toys will bring us true satisfaction and contentment
in life. They won’t.
Let me reread
what the author of the poem said in v12 – 22. He asks himself, and us, where can true wisdom
be found – how can we learn to live well. His answer to his own question is – I
can’t find it! I don’t know how to live well. And I am sure we can all say ”amen”
to that. Here are those verses.
But then he
realises what the answer to his question is: it is found in God, the Lord, and only
in him. That is what he says in the remainder of the chapter, v 23 – 28. Here it
phrase is “the fear of the Lord” in the last verse, a surprisingly ordinary common
phrase in the OT. But it is easy to misunderstand in our translations. It has nothing to do with being frightened. It
means respecting, honouring, obeying the Lord. To borrow, and change slightly, a
NT phrase it means to walk in step with the Lord, with Jesus.
And we do
need to consider the NT here. In the eyes of the NT writers Jesus was the personification
of the Wisdom of the OT, Wisdom actually walking this earth along the dusty tracks
of Galilee and Judea. OT wisdom says “I was there
when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of
the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains
of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep
his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly
at his side. I was filled with delight day after day rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
in mankind.” So the hymn writer was right when he talked of Jesus “flinging stars
announced that he was Wisdom. Matthew reports in 11: 19 that he said, in a way very
reminiscent of the OT wisdom literature, “To what can I compare this generation?
They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: We
played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance; we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’ For John the
Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son
of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom (that is me, Jesus) is proved
right by her deeds.”
that the Colossian Christians “ may have the full riches of complete understanding,
in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” This is where Wisdom has got to – it
has come into full view in the person of Jesus.
6 Paul says “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his
death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too
may live a new life.” And then goes on in v8 “if we died with Christ, we believe
that we will also live with him”.
To live with
him is to fear the Lord, to use Job’s language. To use more modern language: it
is to be plugged in to him so that all his Spirit power and, in particular, all
his wisdom can flow into us - you and me - an endless and bottomless resource for
living well. We are plugged in if we pray, read, worship and keep the ways and calls
of Jesus constantly active in our lives. Wow!
Are you plugged in? Do you live well? Do you know this great resource, which will
take you through life, living well, even if your life looks desperately difficult
from outside? I do hope so.
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