google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Job - Why God? - Part 6
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Study 6 : Job 26-28

Glorious Wisdom.

This study 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..

 

Much more 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.

Isn’t that 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.

 

We finally 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.

 

 

Wisdom is 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.

There are 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!

 

Question: 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.

 

We cannot 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 is.

The crucial 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 and delighting in mankind.” So the hymn writer was right when he talked of Jesus “flinging stars into space”.

 

Jesus, himself, 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.”

 

Paul hopes 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.

 

In Romans 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!

 

Question: 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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