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Job 4:1-7:21; 1 Corinthians 14:18-40; Psalms 37:30-40; Proverbs 21:27 (The Voice)

Job 4-7

Standing with Job and his other two friends in the trash heap, Eliphaz the Temanite tried to convince Job his suffering was temporary.

Eliphaz: Could you bear it if someone were to speak?
        Ah, but who can hold his tongue in such a situation?
    Look back, and think on the many you have taught;
        you have strengthened the weak hands of the suffering.
    Your words propped up the tottering;
        you have strengthened mourners’ wobbly knees.
    May my words help you in that way, now that trouble arrives and you despair.
        It extends its hand, crushes you, and you are overwhelmed.
    Isn’t your fear of God true confidence
        and your unswerving commitment genuine hope?

    Take pause; scan your memory:
        Who ever died among the innocent?
    And when have the righteous ever met with destruction?
    The way I see it, those who pull the pernicious plow,
    Who sow sorrow’s seeds, reap the same at harvest.
    By God’s breath, they meet destruction;
        when His anger explodes, they meet their end.
10     O the bluster of humanity!
        The lion roars! The king of beasts thunders!
    Still the young lions’ teeth are shattered.
11     The old lion dies for lack of prey,
        and the whole pride is scattered.

12     Now, listen: a secret word was delivered to me;
        my ears caught hold of a whisper.
13     In the anxiety of a nightmare—
        while deep sleep falls on humans—
14     Fear took me by my right arm, terror by my left,
        and they shook me, they did!—made my bones rattle.
15     Then a wind blew through, a divine breath skimming my face.
        Every hair on my body stood on end.
16     It came to a stop, but I couldn’t make it out—
        some form there before me, then a hushed voice breaking the silence:
17     “Can a mortal stand innocent before God?
        Can a man or even a hero be pure before his Creator?”
18     If God is unsure of His own servants,
        and in His holy attendants He finds fault,
19     How much more those whose bodies come from clay,
        whose skeletons are dust, are crushed like a moth.
20     From morning to evening, their bodies are broken to pieces,
        ground back into dirt, unseen, gone forever.
21     When the cords of their tents are pulled up,
        don’t they die, none the wiser?

Eliphaz: As for you, Job, feel free to call, but will anyone reply?
        Among His holy attendants, to whom will you turn?
    Remember, anger kills off the foolish,
        and jealous indignation closes in on the simple for the kill.
    I have seen a fool putting down roots, apparently succeeding,
        and immediately I cursed his house, knowing this brings destruction.
    His children are far from safe,
        crushed in full view of the city’s gate with no defender nearby.
    Hungry raiders consume his crops,
        harvesting even where the thorns stand guard[a]
        while drifters and con-men target his wealth.
    You see, sorrow is not a natural product of the soil,
        nor is trouble known to sprout up from the earth itself.
    Still humankind is born into trouble,
        just as embers break loose and fly from the fire.

    This is why, if I were you, I would appeal to God;
        I would lay my cause at the feet of the Lord.
    He does wonderful things that confound,
        infinite numbers of miracles.
10     He gives rain to the earth,
        sends down water to the fields;
11     He lifts up the downtrodden, bolsters the bereaved,
        raising them to safety.
12     He thwarts the plots of the devious
        and ties their hands to failure.
13     He catches the clever in their deceitful plotting[b]
        so the plans of the crafty are swept away.
14     Their day turns to darkness;
        they grope at noon as they do in blackest night.
15     He saves the needy from the cutting sword,
        and from the perilous grip of the powerful.
16     So there is still hope for the helpless;
        and the mouth of injustice is muzzled.

17     Remember, a happy man accepts God’s correction,
        so don’t despise the discipline of the Highest God.[c]
18     For the Lord may cut, but He stitches up;
        He may wound, but His hands also heal.
19     In six different perils, He will rescue you;
        even in seven, evil will not touch you;
20     In famine, He will save you from starvation;
        and in war, you won’t be run through with the sword;
21     In slanderous situations, you will go unharmed;
        in the face of chaotic destruction, you won’t tremble;
22     In violence and famine, you will laugh;
        in the presence of wild animals, you won’t quiver.
23     The stones of the field will sign a treaty with you,
        and you’ll enjoy a truce with the ravenous beasts.
24     You can rest knowing your tent is invincible;
        for when you visit your pastures, nothing will be missing.
25     Your children and their children will be abundant,
        as the blades of grass in the fields.
26     You will arrive hearty and undiminished at the grave after a long life,
        like a pile of grain harvested at its peak ripeness.
27     We’ve all thought this through. It’s true, and you should hear it.
        So hear it well, and know it completely.

The first of Job’s three wise friends, Eliphaz, is a man guided by strong convictions and a belief in the accumulated knowledge of his ancestors. Because he thinks Job is suffering due to his own unintended sins, Eliphaz dwells on God’s responses to the wicked and the righteous, believing he will encourage Job to accept God’s correction of his sins. Although his intentions are good, Eliphaz does not realize that Job will have a different perspective on his words. Eliphaz’s intended encouragement instead upsets Job more. These powerful convictions are expressed in the wrong place and time.

Job answered Eliphaz.

Job: Would that my anguish were weighed,
        laid on a scale together with the disaster I’ve suffered!
    For there is not enough sand in the seas to outweigh it!
        It’s no wonder my untamed words are but incoherent stammering.
    The arrows of the Highest One[d] have sunk deeply into me;
        my spirit drinks their poison.
        The terrors of God assemble like soldiers marching against me.
    Does a wild donkey bray in hunger in a field of fresh grass?
        Does an ox low with pangs over plenty of feed?
    If I were served a tasteless mush,
        how could I eat it without at least adding salt?
        Or is there even any sense of taste in the slime of a plant?[e]
    I refuse to eat, and I gag at the thought of it.
        This vile food sickens me.

    If only my one request were answered,
        if only God would grant me the fulfillment of my only hope:
    That God would be willing to crush me, to kill me,
        that God would release His hand and cut me off.
10     At least then I would have a crumb of consolation,
        one source of joy in the midst of this relentless agony:
    I never denied the words of the Holy One in my pain.

It is possible to imagine God’s creation as fabric on a loom and God as a weaver. The threads of the world are stretched out vertically on a large loom, creating the warp of the fabric; and God weaves the threads of our lives horizontally, pushing them back and forth quickly around the vertical threads with His shuttle, creating the weft of the fabric. Job pictures his life ending when the thread runs out (7:6), but here he asks God to release His guidance on Job’s life and cut him away from this world prematurely. To do so, God would cut across the warp, thus affecting all of creation and not just Job himself. Even though God does not grant Job’s wish, Job has no thought of suicide; he knows only God has the right to begin and end life.

11 Job: What strength do I have, that I should persist in this life?
        And what is my life’s end, that I should forestall it?
12     Is my strength like that of stones?
        Is my flesh like bronze?
13     Can I even hope to help myself,
        or has any chance of help been driven away?

14     A despondent person deserves kindness from his friend,
        even though he strays from the fear of the Highest One.
15     But you, my brothers, are unpredictable
        like an unexpected flood of the wadi that quickly rises and then falls,
16     That contain dark, muddy swirls of thawing ice
        that swell in the melting snow,
17     But whose flow is stopped in the summer heat
        and that vanish in their gullies under the heat of the sun.
18     The path of their course winds along,
        goes out into the desert and disappears.
19     You travelers have heard
        how the experienced caravans from Tema searched for water,
        how the travelers of Sheba expected to find it;
20     But their confidence turned to frustration and shame;
        for when they arrived, they found no water, only disappointment.
21     Now you, too, have come to nothing.
        You see my terror and are afraid for yourselves.
22     Have I ever asked you to give me anything,
        or from your means to offer a bribe on my behalf?
23     Have I ever asked you to rescue me from my enemies’ hands,
        or to deliver me from the clutches of powerful adversaries?

24     In all seriousness, teach me, and I will be silent.
        Where I have erred? Help me understand.
25     True, honest words are painful,
        but what does your chiding confirm?
26     Was it your intent to correct me?
        Did you imagine that, desperate as I was, my words were nothing but wind?
27     Yes, it seems you’d have no qualms about sending an orphan into slavery
        or selling out a friend.
28     Now do me the favor of looking at me;
        look me in my face; I will not lie to your face.
29     Turn back; don’t let any more harm be done.
        Turn back to me now; my reputation and integrity are at stake.
30     Is there any wickedness, any poisonous word on my tongue?
        Don’t you think I can tell when I’ve tasted a ruinous lie?

Job: Don’t we humans struggle long and hard in our time on earth?
        Don’t we live our lives as common laborers?
    As slaves longing for shade,
        as workers pining for wages,
    So I am destined to receive only months of meaninglessness,
        and nights of nothing but misery.
    When I lie down at the end of day, I wonder,
        “How soon till morning so I can arise?”
    But the night stretches on,
        and I toss and turn until sunrise.
    My putrid skin is covered with maggots and a dirty crust.
        It hardens and cracks and oozes again.
    My days whisk by swifter than the shuttle in a weaver’s loom—
        back and forth, and back and forth—
        and then they come to their hopeless end.
    My life, remember, is just a breath;
        in death no more good will reach my eye.
    Whoever sees me now, will not for long;
        you’ll look for me, but I’ll be gone.
    As clouds thin and finally vanish,
        so it is when people enter the land of the dead.
    Never will they come back up.
10     Never will they return to their homes
        or will the place they lived recognize them anymore.

11     Like Eliphaz, I will not keep silent.
        In the agony of my spirit, I will speak;
    In the bitterness of my soul, I will complain.
12     Am I the raging sea, or the monster of the deep,
        so threatening you must appoint a guard over me?
13     When I think my couch will comfort me
        or my bed will soften my complaint,
14     You, Lord, intimidate me with dreams
        and terrorize me with visions.
15     I’d rather be suffocated, even dead,
        than live in these aching bones of mine.

Job compares his treatment to God’s defeat of two mythic enemies of creation: Yam and Tannin. Ancient Near Eastern legends say that before God created the world, the “formless void” that existed was called “the deep.” When God separated the heavens from the earth, He divided the formless void with the horizon, leaving the waters of the earth below (the oceans) and the waters of the heavens above (the blue skies and clouds). Yam the sea god and Tannin the sea monster tried to interfere in this separation. God of course defeated them, imprisoning them in the sea with sandbars. Job’s reference to this myth shows he believes God is treating him unfairly, punishing him as brutally as He did these subhuman, rebellious creatures. Job, on the other hand, has not been rebellious to God.

16 Job: I hate my life. I have no desire to keep on living.
        Leave me alone, God, for I have only a short time left.
17     What are these human beings, that You make so much of them—
        that You shower them with attention?
18     You examine them morning by morning;
        You test them moment by moment.
19     How long will You stare at me?
        I can’t even clear my throat of spit without an audience.
20     I have sinned. What have I done to You,
        You who watch after humanity?
    Why have You targeted me, a man whose life is just a breath?
        Am I really such a heavy load for You?
21     So I’ve sinned inadvertently: can’t You pardon me?
        Are my crimes such You can’t forgive my sins?
    After all, I will lie in the dust, and it won’t be long
        until You will look for me, but I’ll be gone.

Footnotes:

  1. 5:5 Meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.
  2. 5:13 1 Corinthians 3:19
  3. 5:17 Hebrew, Shaddai
  4. 6:4 Hebrew, Shaddai
  5. 6:6 Meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.
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1 Corinthians 14:18-40

18 I thank God that I speak in unknown languages more than the rest of you; 19 but when the church gathers, I would rather speak five words with my mind so I can be understood and train others than utter 10,000 exotic words.

20 Brothers and sisters, don’t think like children. Be innocent of malice but mature in understanding. 21 In the law, it states:

“I will send My message to this people
    with strange languages and foreign lips.
And even when that happens,
    they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.[a]

22 So speaking in unknown languages is not a sign to the believing but a miracle to the unbelieving; prophecy, though, is not a sign to the unbelieving but for the believing. 23 Imagine what would happen if the entire church gathered together speaking in different languages, one foreign to the next. Then people who have never heard of such a thing or unbelieving people walk up on all that’s going on. Would they not think each and every one of you were raving lunatics? 24 But let’s say an outsider or unbeliever walks in on a different scene: all are speaking for God with great power and insight in a language they know. What then? Well, the outsider would come under the conviction of his own sins and be called to accountability by the words of all the prophets. 25 The very secrets of his heart would be revealed, and right there—mystified—he would fall on his face in worship to God, proclaiming all the while that God most certainly dwells among you.

26 What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each person has a vital role because each has gifts. One person might have a song, another a lesson to teach, still another a revelation from God. One person might speak in an unknown language, another will offer the interpretation, but all of this should be done to strengthen the life and faith of the community. 27 But if any do speak in an exotic language, limit it to two or three people at the most, and have them speak one at a time, while another interprets for the rest. 28 If there is not an interpreter present, then the one should stay silent during the gathering, speaking only to himself and God. 29 Have two to three prophets speak, and let others with discerning gifts evaluate the messages they hear. 30 Now if in the course of things a message comes to another who is seated, then the first one speaking should be silent until this new message can be spoken. 31 To avoid confusion and create a space where all can learn and be encouraged, let only one prophet speak at a time without interruption. 32 You see, the prophetic spirits are under the control of the prophets 33 because God is the author of order, not confusion. This is how it is in all gatherings of the saints. 34 Wives should be respectfully silent at the gatherings, as they are not allowed to speak; and they should yield themselves to those in authority just as it is written in the law. 35 When they want to learn anything in particular, they should ask their husbands when they get home. It creates a shameful situation for them to speak at church. 36 Do you think the word of God came to the world by you? Or that it came only to you?

Paul clearly wants to correct the excessive use of speeches given in these exotic, unknown languages, but he doesn’t want them banned either.

37 Let any person who thinks he is a prophet or a spiritual person affirm that these things I write to you are the commands of the Lord. 38 Whoever chooses to be ignorant of this will be treated as ignorant. 39 So, my dear brothers and sisters, passionately desire to prophesy; but don’t ban the gift of speaking in unknown languages. 40 Just maintain the proper order in all things.

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Psalm 37:30-40

30 Wisdom fills the mouth of the right-living;
    justice and truth roll from their tongues.
31 The True God’s law is imprinted upon their hearts,
    and they do not stumble.

32 The wicked stalk God’s good ones,
    looking to kill them,
33 But the Eternal will never leave them to the dogs of evil,
    nor will they be found guilty when the verdict is read.

34 Wait for the Eternal. Keep to His path. Mind His will.
    He will come for you, exalt you; you will inherit the land.
    Before your very eyes you will see the end of the wicked.

35 I passed by a wicked man with a cold-blooded nature;
    I looked, and he seemed as large as a cedar of Lebanon.
36 But then again, I passed that same way and there was nothing left of him.
    I went out looking for him, but he was nowhere to be found.

37 Keep your eye on the innocent. Model your life after the blameless.
    Everyone who loves peace has a future.
38 But sinners will be doomed.
    The forecast for the wicked: utter destruction.
    There will be none left, not one child of darkness.

39 The Eternal saves His faithful;
    He lends His strength in hard times;
40 The Eternal comes and frees them—
    frees them from evildoers and saves them for eternity
    simply because they seek shelter in Him.

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Proverbs 21:27

27 The offerings of wrongdoers are despicable to God;
    it’s even worse when they bring them with evil motives.

Read More
The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

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