Psalm 51 Commentary

Psalm 51 Commentary

Psalm 51 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Psalms

 
 
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Psalm 51 Commentary: The Bible tells us that sin is deceitful. And with its deception, it can harden us.

But every once in a while – or hopefully sooner than that – God breaks in on our lives and helps us recognize the gravity of our sin.

And that’s the attitude of David in Psalm 51. God has caused David to once again be sensitive to spiritual realities and to confess his sin openly and honestly to the Lord.

So, let’s turn our attention to Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Superscription

Now, in many cases it seems that the superscription to individual psalms is not all that helpful for the sake of interpreting the content of the rest of that psalm. But Psalm 51 is not like that at all. Because in Psalm 51, we are given one of the most informative superscriptions that appears before any psalm.

KJV Psalm 51:1

<[To/For] the [chief Musician/Choir Director/Music Director],
A Psalm of David,
[and we’re then told the circumstances surrounding the setting of this psalm…] when Nathan the prophet [came unto/confronted] him, after [he had gone in to/his affair with] Bathsheba.>

So, our minds hearken back to the story told in 2 Samuel 12 where David is confronted by the prophet Nathan about his adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder of her husband.

Nathan – as you recall – sets David up with a story about a wealthy man who steals the one beloved sheep that a poor man had. And naturally, David gets stirred up by this story and declares the death sentence on this rich man. And then of course Nathan declares to David that he himself is that rich man.

By extension – then – David deserves the fate that he declared for that rich man from Nathan’s story. David deserves to die.

But David humbly confesses his sin. And Nathan declares that God has declared that David would not die.

So, there was forgiveness – great forgiveness from God for great transgression. And then the story in 2 Samuel moves on from there quickly.

But as we read through Psalm 51, it’s almost as if the psalmist doesn’t want to leave that scene. He wants to linger in that moment in which David was confronted by Nathan and then responded to God’s rebuke.

The way that 2 Samuel 12 portrays it, Nathan rebuked David – David repented – and then the story moves on. David’s repentance there is presented as very brief.

Psalm 51 though elaborates on David’s feelings. It gets into David’s mind as he laments his own awful sin to the Lord. It captures the moment of David being confronted by God through Nathan.

And so, for us, it’s an example of repentance – brought into focus. How does a person who loves God respond when he comes to realize the enormity of his sin?

This psalm will fill-out for us what it can look like to practice 1 John 1:9 – to confess our sins and find God to be faithful and just to forgive us all our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 1

So, as we begin to study this psalm, we start with David’s initial plea for mercy from God.

[Have mercy upon/Be gracious to] me, O God, [according to/because of] thy [lovingkindness/loyal love]:
[according unto/because of] the [multitude/greatness] of thy [tender mercies/compassion] [blot out/wipe away] my [transgressions/rebellious acts].

So, David is asking for mercy. He’s asking for his transgressions to be blotted out.

What’s the basis for this? How can David feel justified in asking for God to have mercy on him?

Well, it’s certainly not the cleanness of David’s hands – or the purity of his life. That’s gone forever for David at this point.

No – David doesn’t come to God asking for mercy and forgiveness on the basis of his own character and actions. Instead, David appeals to God’s lovingkindness and tender mercies.

God’s lovingkindness is his loyal covenant love that guarantees that he will never let go of one with whom he enters into a covenant – a relationship that’s based on a promise.

David was in such a relationship with God. And, so are we – if we trust Jesus Christ. And for both David and for us, when we fall and fail morally – we appeal to God on the basis of the fact that he’s entered into a covenant with us and we with him.

And of course, God inaugurated that covenant when he put Jesus on the cross to pay for all of our sin. Jesus’ blood in the New Testament is called the blood of the covenant. It’s Christ’s blood that allows for us to enter this relationship with God that’s based on his promise of eternal life.

So, when we sin – we appeal to God’s covenant love for us. We appeal to his mercies – his compassion. And we certainly never mention our own merits – we have none. We rest on the merits of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 2

Well, David continues to make request to God in verse 2.

2 Wash [me throughly from/away] mine [iniquity/wrongdoing],
and cleanse me [from/of] my sin.

And this cleansing and washing is exactly what’s promised to us New Testament believers in Jesus Christ as we confess our sin to God.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 3

And interestingly enough – David immediately in the next verse begins to do just that – to confess his sin to God.

3 For I [acknowledge/know/am aware of] my [transgressions/rebellious acts]:
and my sin is ever before me. [I am forever conscious of my sin…]

Now, sometime in July of 2015, the president of our country who was at that time a candidate for that office attended a family-values kind of forum in Iowa. And, while there he was asked whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions. This was his response:

“I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.” (https://www.cnn.com/2015/07/18/politics/trump-has-never-sought-forgiveness/index.html)

And I by no means desire to disparage our president. I’m actually thankful – in a way – for his honesty in this situation – which is something that most politicians probably wouldn’t reveal in a forum that was set up by conservative Christians. They might do better at pretending at least that they’re really humble before the Lord.

But I do want to draw a contrast between the ruler of Israel that we’re talking about here in this psalm and the ruler of our nation – when it comes to dealing with sin.

For David – and for true believers in Christ – when we sin, it’s not a matter of just trying to do better. We certainly must never have the sense that we ought to leave God out of the situation. No – when we sin we need God more than ever!

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 4

And that’s because our sin is ultimately directed against God alone, as David acknowledges in verse 4.

4 Against thee, thee [only/above all], have I sinned,
and done [this/what is] evil in thy sight:

And so, here is the way to consider sin. It’s not just an offense against others – other men and women – your family or friends or enemies for that matter. No – your sin is ultimately against God alone. It’s a personal offense to him. He takes note of it. And he is not happy about it.

And because of David’s sin – against Bathsheba and against Uriah – being ultimately against no one but the Lord – David admits that God is right to speak judgement against him at the end of verse 4.

[that/so that/so] thou [mightest be/are] justified when thou [speakest/confront me],
and [be clear/be blameless/are right] when thou [judgest/condemn me].

Here then is another example of reacting to our sin. We need to acknowledge that whatever consequence God chooses for it is right.

David is not arguing that the punishment for David’s sin was too heavy or unjustified. He’s saying that God is totally justified as Nathan confronted him and condemned him.

I believe that David is probably also looking past the immediate situation of Nathan confronting him – and David has in mind even the subsequent punishment that God declared on David’s house – that his family would be torn apart and constantly at war with one another.

David looks at all of the consequences of his sin – and he humbly admits, “I deserve what I have coming to me. God is right. I am wrong.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 5

And what a contrast the holy, righteous, right God is to us weak frail humans who are – as verse 5 admits – sinners from conception!

5 Behold, I was [shapen in iniquity/brought forth in iniquity/guilty of sin from birth];
[and in sin did/a sinner the moment] my mother conceive[d] me.

And this is what the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 5. We all sinned in Adam. We are all sinners from conception – and actually – however it works – sinners before conception! Sinners as soon as Adam sinned. Retroactive sinners. In Adam’s sin, we sinned.

And it’s not that David is justifying himself by admitting that he – and everyone, really – was a sinner before he was even born. But he is pointing to the utter hopelessness of humanity as we are naturally.

And if that’s all we had to work with – the fact that we’re hopeless sinners and there’s not a thing we can do about it – if that’s all we had – then the situation is totally bleak and we have absolutely no chance of ever relating to God in a positive way.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 6

But, that’s why it gives great comfort that God hasn’t given up on us. In fact, God has desires for us to transcend where we start at birth. He wants us to be people of integrity and wisdom – according to verse 6.

6 [Behold/Look], thou desirest [truth/integrity] in the [inward parts/innermost being/inner man]:
and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. [you want me to possess wisdom…]

And so, how gracious God is to not let us remain in our awful state of sinfulness. He’s working in those with whom he’s entered into a covenant so that we would grow to be people who – not only don’t sin externally – but that even our inner man would be full of truth and wisdom.

We praise him for this merciful desire that he has for us – and his working it out in our lives. His being in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 7

And that’s what David’s getting at in verse 7. He wants God to continue this work in him by purifying him.

7 [Purge/Purify/Sprinkle] me with [hyssop/water], and I shall be [clean/pure]:
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Because if our sin is ultimately against God only – then if God cleanses us – we’re truly cleansed. It’s not as if we need someone else’s cleansing in addition to God. Or – as Jesus says in a slightly different context – if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 8

And of course, if God is really able and even willing to forgive us our sins that we’ve committed against him only – to almost pretend as if we’d never sinned – then he’s able also to restore our emotional and even physical status, according to verse 8.

8 [Make/Grant] me [to hear joy and gladness/the ultimate joy of being forgiven];
[that/may] the bones which thou hast [broken/crushed] [may rejoice/rejoice].

And it makes sense that if God breaks bones, then he’s also able to heal them. He’s the source of all joy – and so if he takes it from you, it’s gone. But, he’s also the one that can give it back to you. And that’s what David is pleading with the Lord to do for him. To give him back his joy.

And of course, some sins we commit in this life will never be lived down. If a man gets drunk and crashes his car, killing an entire family – that family is gone and there’s nothing that can be done to bring them back to life right now. The damage is permanent.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 9

And yet, in terms of our relationship with God as a result of our sin, David is convinced that God is able to act as though we’ve never sinned, according to verse 9.

9 Hide thy face from my sins,
[and blot out/wipe away] all mine [iniquities/guilt].

So, David is anticipating that God will show a willingness to – as it were – pretend that David had never sinned.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 10

But David isn’t looking to be restored by God so that he can go back to doing evil. David wants God to change him from the inside out.

10 Create [in/for] me a [clean/pure] heart, O God;
and renew a [right/steadfast/resolute] spirit within me.

And of course, the sins of murder and adultery would indicate that a person is very much in need of a clean heart and a spirit that is right and resolute – that isn’t looking for the next thing to lust after. And David’s asking for that – an internal change that would fortify him against doing evil of this nature ever again.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 11

And as David contemplates the kind of spirit he wants God to give him – he also considers the Spirit that he insists that God not take away from him in verse 11.

11 Cast me not away from thy presence; [don’t reject me!…]
and take not thy holy spirit [from/away from] me.

Because David had seen the Lord take his Holy Spirit away from his predecessor – King Saul. And God did that because Saul didn’t obey Samuel the prophet. Instead, Saul sacrificed animals when he really should have waited for Samuel to come and do that.

And that’s why God took his Holy Spirit from Saul.

But then consider the evil that David had done. He committed adultery. He murdered someone indirectly. He lied and deceived.

Now, which do we tend to think is a worse crime – Saul’s or David’s?

I think we’d tend to say that David’s sins were far graver than were Saul’s. There are clear statements in Scripture that tell us that people who do those things – in the Old Testament – deserve death – and in the New Testament will not inherit eternal life. They will be damned.

On the other hand, what’s the penalty for killing an animal and burning it? I can’t think of any clear statements regarding that off the top of my head.

And yet, God stays with David and rejects Saul. And I think part of what contributes to that outcome is David’s heart that he expresses in this psalm.

Saul wanted God’s blessing so that he wouldn’t be humiliated in front of his people. David wants his relationship with God restored because he doesn’t want God to leave him.

Do you see the difference? David is concerned for a rupture in his relationship with God. Saul is concerned that people not think poorly of him.

And consequently – even though David is hounded by problems until the day he dies – the Lord never leaves him like he left Saul.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 12

And David continues in this psalm begging for a restoration of joy and the granting to him of a desire to obey the Lord in verse 12.

12 [Restore unto me/Let me again experience] the joy of thy [salvation/deliverance];
and [uphold/sustain] me [with thy free spirit/with a willing spirit/by giving me the desire to obey].

So, David wants to be able to rejoice again in God’s delivering him from problems. And David also wants God to uphold or sustain him by God giving David a free spirit – or one that is free to obey the Lord.

Why?

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 13

Well, David tells us in verse 13 that he wants joy and a renewed desire to obey the Lord so that – here’s the reason – he can teach others.

13 Then will I teach [transgressors/rebels] thy [ways/merciful ways];
and sinners [shall be converted/will turn] unto thee.

So, as this awful sinner teaches other transgressors of God’s merciful ways, these sinners – David hopes – will turn to this merciful Lord.

The goodness of God leads us to repentance.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 14

And, verses 12 and 13 are the first in a series of verses in which David asks God for something – in order that some other thing might happen. We see this in verse 14 as well.

14 [Deliver/Rescue] me from [bloodguiltiness/the guilt of murder],

O God,
thou God [of my salvation/who delivers me]:

[and/Then] my tongue shall [sing aloud/sing joyfully/shout for joy] [of/because of] thy [righteousness/deliverance].

So, David wants deliverance from the guilt he experienced as a result of murdering Uriah. And if God does this for him, he declares that he would sing of God’s deliverance.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 15

And then David follows up that promise with an additional request that God would give him the words for this song that he plans to sing.

15 O Lord, [open thou my lips/give me the words];
and my mouth shall [shew forth thy praise/declare your praise/praise you].

And we need to remember that praise is elsewhere – in both Old and New Testaments – as a sacrifice. That’s what David is saying that he will do when God is merciful to him – he will offer the sacrifice of praise to the Lord.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 16

And David is convinced that in his case, God’s desire for a sacrifice of animals – which he does require in the Old Testament – pales in comparison to the sacrifice that God truly desires.

16 [For/Certainly] thou [desirest/delight/want] not sacrifice; [else/otherwise] would I [give/offer] it:
thou [delightest/are pleased/desire] not [in/with/a] burnt offering.

Well, if God doesn’t want the sacrifice of animals in response to David’s grave sin, then what does he want?

We already saw that David plans to offer praise to the Lord.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verse 17

But he also mentions additional aspects of the praise that God requires in verse 17.

17 The sacrifices [of/desired by] God are a [broken/humble] spirit:
a [broken/humble] and a [contrite/repentant] heart, O God, thou wilt not [despise/reject].

So, when we sin – God doesn’t want us to ramp-up our external religious devotion. He’s not wanting us to offer animals. No amount of verbal witness to lost people will cause God to be impressed with you after you sin.

What God really wants is for you in your inner being to bow to him. He wants you and me with spirits that are not high and proud. He wants us in our hearts to be lowly and repentant.

Psalm 51 Commentary: Verses 18-19

And then the last two verses of this psalm turn from David’s own personal issues to a broader concern for all of God’s people.

18 Do good [in thy good pleasure/by your favor/because you favor Zion] unto Zion:
[build/fortify] thou the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then shalt thou [be pleased with/delight in/accept] [the sacrifices of righteousness/righteous sacrifices/the proper sacrifices],
with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: [which we were told earlier that God really wasn’t all that interested in…]

then shall they [offer/sacrifice] [bullocks/young bulls/bulls] upon thine altar.

And some have noted that these last two verses were perhaps inserted here by Jews after the Babylonian exile – the timeframe recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

These people of God had experienced the chastening of God for seventy years – much like David experienced God’s chastening for his sin with Bathsheba.

The post-exilic Jews knew that they had been justly punished by God for awful sin. So did David.

And so, I think it’s an intriguing idea to imagine that some of the Israelites who were going to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild her walls and reinstitute her sacrifices – they look at David’s psalm of repentance to the Lord – and they publish it in the book of Psalms. But under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – they append two verses that express their complete identification with David’s feelings toward God and – at the same time – toward their own sin.

They are sick of their sin. They are desiring God. They are seeking him to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and to reestablish the sacrificial system – even the one that David said doesn’t take the place of one’s inner man being broken and contrite.

So, that’s likely how the post-exilic Jews were using this psalm of David – to express their own remorse for sin and their strong desire for God to once again bless them.

And so, I think it’s appropriate for us to examine our lives to see if there’s any way in which David’s words and the spirit that they express match something in our lives at this moment.

Have you had a Bathsheba incident? Have you sinned against both man and ultimately God in a notoriously scandalous way?

Even if that’s not the case – have any of us been guilty of adopting an attitude contrary to David’s concerning our sin? Do we want to leave God out of the picture? Do we just try to do better?

So, let’s now just take some time to examine our hearts and to communicate with God privately along the lines of how David did in Psalm 51.

Job 28 Commentary

Job 28 Commentary

Job 28 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Job

 
 
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Job 28 Commentary: It must have been a few years ago that I lost my wallet for over a week. I thought it was in the car, but I searched there several times with no luck.

I was about to start calling my financial institutions and having them cancel my cards and things like that – when I checked one last time thoroughly and systematically that car. And I found it – there it was – under the passenger side seat.

I had looked there before. But apparently not hard enough.

Certain things in this life are easy to find. While, others are quite difficult.

But in Job, chapter 28 we’re going to have Job tell us that there’s one thing that’s utterly impossible for mere mortals to find. And that thing is wisdom.

So, let’s turn our attention to Job, chapter 28.

Now, we saw in the last chapter that Job was in agreement with his friends that – indeed – God does show his power against wicked men by punishing them.

But that causes Job to consider that he himself is receiving the fate of these wicked men – but he himself is righteous.

Job – a righteous man – even by God’s testimony – is suffering like the wicked are supposed to. And that makes no sense. He can’t understand God’s ways.

And as the message of this book goes, When We Can’t Understand God’s Ways, We Must Trust His Wisdom in Our Circumstances.

But in this chapter that we’re going to be studying now, Job admits that God’s wisdom is really difficult to find.

Job 28 Commentary | Mankind can find some amazing things…

And what’s really interesting is that humankind has shown an amazing ability to find things that would seem to be nearly impossible to discover.

And so, this is what Job marvels at for the first 11 verses of this chapter – that there’s very little that’s hidden from human endeavor to discover it.

Job begins by speaking of mining precious metals.

KJV Job 28:1 Surely there is a [vein/mine] for [the silver/silver],
and a place for gold [where they fine/to refine] it.

Yes, there is a place for silver and gold. And what we need to recognize is that that place is not usually out in the open. You usually need to search for it and dig it up.

And Job goes on to highlight human endeavor to excavate these metals.

2 Iron is taken [out of/from] the [earth/dust/ground],
and [brass/copper] is [molten/smelted] [out of the/from] [stone/rock].

And so, verses 1 and 2 are Job pointing to the existence of hard-to-find metals.

And now, he’s going to focus on mankind’s ability to find these metals in the earth.

3 [He/Man] [setteth/puts] an end to darkness,
and searcheth out [all perfection/to the farthest limit/the farthest recesses]:

the [stones/rock/ore] [of darkness/in gloom],
and [the shadow of death/deep shadow/the deepest darkness].

This is describing the darkness that’s found in caves and other places in which mining activities are carried out. It’s dark down there – but mankind puts an end to that darkness and finds what its looking for.

And Job goes on to speak more of spelunking in caves as people search for previous metals.

4 [The flood breaketh/He sinks a shaft] [out/far] from [the inhabitant/habitation/where people live];
[even the waters forgotten of the foot/in places forgotten by travelers]:

they [are dried up/hang and swing to and fro/dangle and sway],
[they are gone away/far] from men.

Now, the word behind “flood” is translated elsewhere as “valley” 23 times. It’s then something like a rift or break in the earth. And the word behind “breaketh out” is also translated as “break in” or “break down.” And one more – “dried up” some other versions take to be describing the mining process of men dangling by ropes in the mine.

Whatever the particular details, Job is talking about mining and how amazing it is that humans can do this.

And then Job goes on to state that the appearance of the earth can conceal all this activity that he’s been saying goes on inside of it.

5 [As for the earth/The earth], [out of/from] [it/which] cometh [bread/food]:
and under it is [turned up/overturned] as it were [by…] fire.

And this could be speaking of the reality that we know of as plate tectonics – how the earth is made up of moving sliding plates gliding apparently on molten rock. That could be what Job is describing.

Otherwise, he’s just comparing the peaceful appearance of the earth above ground to what he’s been describing regarding what happens underground.

And then Job wants to point to the fact that the earth – and especially the area under the top soil – contains noteworthy treasures!

6 [The stones of it/Its rocks] are the [place/source] of sapphires:
and it [hath/contains] dust of gold.

The “it” in this verse of course is speaking of the earth. The earth contains sapphires and gold.

Then Job is going to – for several verses – emphasize the fact that what humans are able to discover within the earth is really quite unknown to most of the animal kingdom. Humans are in a unique position to access this exquisite treasure.

7 [There is a path/The path/A hidden path] which no [fowl/bird of prey] knoweth,
and which the [vulture’s/falcon’s] eye hath not seen:

So, no bird has seen the treasure hidden in these mines.

Further, no beast has seen it either.

8 [The lion’s whelps/Proud beasts] have not [trodden/set foot on] it,
nor the fierce lion passed [by/over/along] it.

And then Job turns from considering the fact that the treasure within the earth is hidden from animals. And he now is going to meditate on the ability of mankind to do this kind of work – of digging down into the earth and finding amazing treasures.

9 He putteth forth his hand upon the [rock/flint] [to work…];
he overturneth the mountains [by/at] the [roots/bases].

And so, in a sense, man is being like God here. God can overturn mountains in his power. And on a very smaller scale – mankind can do that, too.

And here’s more of what Job is marveling that man can do with the earth.

10 He [cutteth/hews/has cut] out [rivers/channels] [among/through] the rocks;
and his eye [seeth/have spotted] every precious thing.

And finally, mankind is able to hold back and conceal – and to reveal.

11 He [bindeth/dams up/has searched] the [floods from overflowing/streams from flowing/sources of the rivers];
and [the thing that is hid/what was (is) hidden] bringeth he [forth to/out into the] light.

So, Job is asserting that humans are able to discover the most fascinating and hidden things in this creation. That’s his point in verses 1 through 11.

Job 28 Commentary | But mankind is unable to find wisdom…

But Job isn’t merely concerned about gold and sapphires and mining. He’s not marveling at mankind’s abilities just to marvel.

No – Job has led us through all that people can find on this earth in order to magnify one thing that none of us can find. And that’s wisdom.

12 But where [shall/can] wisdom be found?
and where is the place of understanding?

Because we know where to find gold. You just dig with your hands and your tools in the right place in the earth and there it is. But where would you direct someone to find wisdom if you were Job with no Bible as we have it today? You can’t direct people to a location on earth where they can dig out or even buy wisdom and understanding.

And that’s because it’s not from “around these parts”!

13 [Man/Mankind] knoweth not [the price thereof/its value/its place];
neither [is/can] it found in the land of the living.

So, wisdom is not found in this world – and certainly not within the earth – like with jewels and such.

And so, who can discover how much it’s worth? If you want to figure out how much a certain piece of jewelry is worth, you bring it to an appraiser. He’ll look at it, examine it, and tell you based on his experience how much it’s worth.

But how do you get wisdom appraised? It’s real. And it’s incredibly valuable. But you can’t bring it in to your local jewelry store and let the man behind the counter estimate its value. You can’t appraise the physical value of something that you can’t find.

And it’s not just that mankind cannot find wisdom – Job even presents inanimate locations on the earth as testifying to the fact that even they can’t find wisdom and understanding within themselves.

14 The [depth/deep] saith,
It is not [in/with] me:

and the sea saith,
It is not with me.

And even if someone did know where it could be found, you would never have enough money to purchase it.

15 It cannot be [gotten/given] [for/in exchange for] [pure/fine…] gold,
neither [shall/can] silver be weighed for the price thereof.

And then Job is going to go on about how there’s nothing that can help you purchase wisdom – not even the precious metals and jewels that he’s already discussed.

16 It cannot be [valued/measured out for purchase] with the gold of Ophir,
with the precious onyx, or the sapphire.

And that’s because wisdom is unrivaled in value to anything else that a man can get.

17 The gold and the crystal cannot [equal/be compared with] it:
and the exchange of it shall not be for [jewels/articles/a vase] of fine gold.

And we just celebrated Mothers’ Day and were reminded of the virtuous woman whose worth was far above rubies. But a woman who fears the Lord is to be estimated in that way because the thing that she possesses – wisdom – is also valued like that.

18 No mention shall be made of coral, or of [pearls/crystal/jasper]:
for the price of wisdom is above [rubies/pearls].

And Job goes on to extol wisdom by telling us what cannot purchase it.

19 The topaz of Ethiopia [shall/cannot] [not equal/be compared with] it,
neither shall it be [valued/purchased] with pure gold.

And then Job utters what seems to be a refrain in this chapter because we saw a statement that was very similar in verse 12.

20 [Whence/From where] then cometh wisdom?
and where is the place of understanding?

Only in verse 12, Job asked where wisdom can be found. Here in verse 20, he asks from where it comes. But every other word is exactly the same – and really, even the two ideas of finding something and knowing where it comes from are almost identical.

And Job’s question is legitimate – because according to Job, no one knows the answer.

No creature or bird knows where wisdom comes from.

21 [Seeing/Thus/For] it [is hid/has been hidden] from the eyes of [all/every] living [creature…],
and [kept close/concealed] from the fowls of the air.

And not even destruction and death know where wisdom comes from – where its source on the earth is.

22 [Destruction/Abaddon] and death say,
We have heard [the fame thereof/a report of it/a rumor about where it can be found] with our ears.

So, mankind can find awesome things in this world. But no one can find wisdom. That’s what we’ve been taught by Job so far through verse 22.

Job 28 Commentary | Only God has wisdom…

No one can find wisdom. That is, no one – except for God.

And so, Job is going to make that point from verses 23-28 – God alone has wisdom.

23 God understandeth the way [thereof/to it],
and he [alone…] knoweth the place thereof.

He knows wisdom’s way and place. He knows how to access it.

Why? How can God know this when no one else does?

24 For he looketh to the ends of the earth,
and [seeth/observes] [everything…] under the [whole heaven/heavens];

So, God sees the whole picture. He’s not ignorant of anything. There’s nothing he doesn’t see.

God alone knows and perceives and sees everything. And therefore, he alone knows wisdom.

And so, Job seems to be using the terms wisdom and understanding to describe the ability to see the whole picture and act accordingly. Or to be in tune with reality – as only God knows it.

Job doesn’t have this ability. He doesn’t know what’s going on. God’s ways are confusing and making no sense to him.

God has wisdom – and Job feels like he himself is totally lacking it.

And then Job wants to go back to the beginning of creation and recall how God established wisdom.

God did this when he created the winds and the waters.

25 [To/When he] [make/imparted/made] [the weight/weight/the force] [for/to/of] the winds;
and he [weigheth/meted out/measured] the waters [by measure/with a gauge].

And that’s the same time in which he created the rain and thunder.

26 When he [made a decree/set a limit/imposed a limit] for the rain,
and a [way/course/path] for the [lightning of the thunder/thunder bolt]:

And what did God do at the time he created these forces – wind, water, rain, and thunder? He did what no man can do – he assessed the value of wisdom and scrutinized it.

27 Then did he see [it/wisdom], and [declare/assessed the value of] it;
he [prepared/established] it, yea, and [searched it out/examined it closely].

And so, that’s how Job pictures God coming to be acquainted with wisdom.

And then God communicated that to his human creatures.

28 And unto [man/mankind] he said,

Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to [depart/turn away] from evil is understanding.

So, as humans we can’t find wisdom as we find other physical things. We need God to give it to us.

And that’s when God says – you want wisdom? Fear me. You want understanding – a rough equivalent of wisdom? Then turn from evil.

And we bring that to Job’s situation. Job is having great difficulty recognizing what reality even is anymore. Reality as Job knew it was that if he lived right, God would bless him. That’s what Job believed and its apparently what many others believed – at least if his three friends are any indication of the popular thinking of the time. Everyone was thinking that God rewards moral goodness with blessings. That was reality in their minds.

But Job is still doing good. But he’s not being blessed. It seems like God’s angry with him and punishing him. Job still is fearing the Lord and departing from evil. Why is this not seeming to help Job live in light of reality anymore?

And the answer to that of course is that reality is bigger than Job’s small view of how God works in the world. God is bigger than that. Reality is broader than any of our human minds can comprehend.

And while Job is ready to admit that in creation at-large, he’s not ready to trust that God is acting according to wisdom – the broad and complete view of things – in Job’s situation.

And that’s why next time we’re going to see Job wistfully relive all the blessings that once were his as he sought to fear the Lord.

Job 27 Commentary

Job 27 Commentary

Job 27 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Job

 
 
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Job 27 Commentary: The late Stephen Covey in his popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People tells of his own personal experience giving a perception test to numerous audiences.

His test involved showing a picture of an old woman to half of the group and a young woman to the other half. But neither half knew what he showed the other half of the audience.

Then he would show a composite picture of both a young woman and old woman together where both images are on the page.

And then he would have individuals from each half of the audience speak to each other about the picture and try to come to some consensus on what they saw in the picture.

He says that the results were predictable – the people who were shown the old woman before saw her in the composite picture. And the people who were shown the young woman saw that in the composite picture.

And what’s interesting is that sometimes these individuals would become angry at one another. Sometimes there would even be name-calling. And this is among adult professionals.

And we see a very similar situation occurring with the biblical character Job and his three friends. So, let’s turn our attention to Job, chapter 27.

We’re going to see eventually in this chapter that both Job and his friends are in close agreement as to how God treats the wicked in this world. We’ll see him state that toward the end of this chapter.

And yet – you would have no idea that these men agreed about anything with how they’re talking to each other. And that’s how this chapter starts – with some more harsh words from Job directed against these three men who had come originally to comfort him.

Job 27 Commentary: A Defiant Response

So, in verses 1 through 6, Job gives a defiant response to his friends’ attempt to prove that he’s wicked.

KJV Job 27:1 [Moreover/Then/And] Job [continued/took up] his [parable/discourse (again)], and said,

2 As God liveth, who hath [taken away/denied] [my judgment/my right/me justice];
and the Almighty, who hath [vexed my soul/embittered my soul/made my life bitter];

And let’s stop there for a moment. Job is starting this chapter with an oath. “As God liveth…” That’s an oath formula.

And so, what’s to follow is then what Job is sure is or will be the case. As surely as God lives, this or that will be the case or won’t be the case.

But the problem is what he says about God. Yes – positively Job recognizes that God is living. He’s real. He’s not an idol. He lives.

But what does he accuse God of doing?

Of denying Job justice. And of vexing his soul or making his life bitter.

And while it’s true that God has made Job’s life difficult – it can hardly be said that God has denied Job justice. But Job is thinking that God is acting out of character – that he should only be punishing the wicked – and because he’s punishing Job who isn’t wicked – God is doing something wrong. God is being unjust, says Job!

And while we can understand why Job thinks the way he does, it doesn’t mean that he’s right. And in this case, he’s actually very wrong.

OK – but Job is making an oath as I say. So, let’s see what Job is giving an oath to – what he is swearing will or will not be the case…

3 [All the while/For as long as/For while] my [breath/life/spirit] is [still…] in me,
and the [spirit/breath] [of/from] God is in my nostrils;

4 My lips shall not speak wickedness,
nor my tongue [utter/mutter/whisper] deceit.

So, as long as Job lives he asserts that he will not lie. He’s not going to be wicked by saying things that are not true. He refuses to do that.

Well, but is there something in particular he has in mind? Is Job really just promising to not lie and that’s all? Or is he focusing in on one particular area where he especially refuses to say things that aren’t true?

And it becomes apparent that Job does have one area in mind. And that is that Job will not lie about his integrity simply to justify his friends and their assertions that Job is suffering because he’s an evildoer.

5 [God forbid/Far be it from me] that I should [justify you/declare you to be in the right]: [I will never do it!…]
till I die I will not [remove/put away/set aside] mine integrity from me.

And here’s how Job is thinking. His friends are promising him blessings like he had before his trials started – if he only turns from his sin and starts praying to God.

But Job knows that he’s not suffering because of sin. He’s remained righteous and is not at all involved in what his friends are claiming.

Now, a lesser man would cave in and just confess some fake sin in order to be back on God’s good side – if that were even possible.

But Job isn’t going to do that. The righteousness in his own life that assures him that his friends’ accusations against him are totally baseless is the same righteousness that will not allow him to pretend to repent just so that he can get all of his blessings back from God.

So – no – Job is not going to justify his friends and help them to prove their point. Because they’re totally wrong. Job is not suffering because of personal sin.

And that’s what he says to end this sub-section of this chapter.

6 My righteousness I [hold fast/maintain],
and will not let it go:

my heart [shall/does/will] not reproach me
so long as I live.

And some of this can sound almost self-righteous. But we need to recognize the power of polarization that Job is experiencing here.

You know what polarization is – it’s when there’s an issue that you’re either totally for it or completely against it. There’s no middle ground. There’s no moderate position.

Issues that tend to polarize groups of people in America would include abortion, homosexuality, race relations, the size and function of the federal government, and a whole host of other topics. You have a lot of people who are either totally for or against whatever issue it is and very few in between.

And for Job and his friends, the issue of why Job is suffering is very polarizing. The friends are completely convinced that Job has been involved in some very heinous – yet secret – sin. And that’s why Job is suffering – God is punishing him.

And so, as Job is simply trying to maintain what God has already said of him – that he’s righteous – Job is forced to emphasize that fact to the point of it sounding almost like ungodly boasting. And yet, he’s right in what he’s saying, I think.

Job 27 Commentary: Curses on Job’s Enemies (Friends!?)

So, after uttering an oath to maintain his righteousness and integrity in the first six verses of this chapter, now Job turns to utter a curse against his enemies in verses 7-10. And in the context, I do believe that Job is directing this curse at these three men who originally came to comfort him.

7 Let mine enemy be as the wicked,
and [he that riseth up against me/my opponent/my adversary] as the unrighteous.

So, Job is distinguishing a bit between his enemy and the wicked. Or he that rises up against Job and the unrighteous.

He’s not saying that his friends are wicked and unrighteous – and so in that way he’s being a bit more courteous to these men than they’re being to him.

But at the same time, Job is cursing them. He’s calling on God to do something negative to them. He asks God to cause these men to meet with the fate of the wicked – the fate that they keep associating with Job himself.

So, he wants these men to have no hope in this life or the next.

8 For what is the hope of the [hypocrite/godless], [though/when] he [hath gained/is cut off],
when God taketh away his [soul/life]?

Further, Job wants God to not hear the prayers of his friends.

9 Will God [hear/listen to] his cry
when [trouble/distress] [cometh upon/overtakes] him?

And finally, Job wishes that these friends never know the reality of having God to delight in and call upon – for eternity.

10 Will he [delight himself/take delight/find delight] in the Almighty?
will he [always/at all times] call [upon/out to] God?

So, once more we realize that this is serious business for Job and these men. These four men are not calmly debating the theology of suffering. They’re at each other’s throats! Job is at the point where he’s actually cursing them and praying for very bad things to happen to them.

Job 27 Commentary: Job Teaches the Friends

And part of Job’s reason for this is that these men have continued to take it upon themselves to teach Job as if they knew more than he does.

And yet, now Job is wanting to teach them a thing or two.

11 I will teach you [by/about] the [hand/power] of God:
that which is [with/on the mind of] the Almighty will I not conceal.

So, Job wants to teach these men about God’s power.

And Job really marvels at how they could miss it and not understand it as they ought.

12 Behold, all [ye yourselves/of you/of this you have] have seen it;
[why then/why in the world] [are ye thus altogether vain/do you act foolishly/do you continue this meaningless talk]?

So, Job says that if these men knew God’s power they would have stopped talking a long time ago.

Job 27 Commentary: The Wicked

And so, for the rest of the chapter Job is going to focus on the punishment that the wicked receive from God.

But what does that have to do with the power of God? And how can Job say that if these men knew this then they would stop all their incessant talking?

Because, really, this is most of what they’ve been saying for a long time now. They’ve said what Job is going to say to the end of this chapter.

But I think that’s what Job is getting at. These friends have not needed to continually belabor this point that God punishes wicked men – because Job absolutely agrees. Yes, God does punish people who do wrong – who sin against him and others.

Now, Job is also willing to recognize times when God doesn’t immediately punish sin – he made that point a few chapters ago. But Job is going on the record in this chapter as saying that he believes that God really does punish evildoers.

And so, Job wants these three to feel as though they never ever need to speak of this topic again.

13 This is the portion of a wicked man [with/from/allotted by] God,
and the [heritage/inheritance] of [oppressors/tyrants/evildoers], which they shall receive of the Almighty.

And so, now Job is going to tell the friends what wicked men receive from God.

First, they might have a lot of children – but these children will ultimately die and/or starve.

14 [If/Though] his children [be multiplied/are many/increase], [it is/they are destined] for the sword:
and his offspring [shall not be satisfied with bread/never have enough to eat].

15 Those that [remain of/survive] him shall be buried [in death/because of the plague]:
and [his/their] widows shall not [will not/are not able to…] weep [for them…].

So, the family of a wicked person has a very hard and dangerous life. And ultimately, if any members of the man’s family survive him, they won’t miss him all that much. That’s what Job is claiming – and he’s claiming that this is how God’s power is displayed against evil people.

Next, Job states that an evil person may be rich – but ultimately that will all be taken from him and given to those who are more deserving.

16 [Though/If] he [heap/piles] up silver as the dust,
and prepare [raiment/garments] as [the/mounds of] clay;

17 He may prepare it,

but [the just/a righteous man] shall [put it on/wear it],
and the innocent shall [divide the/inherit his] silver.

Furthermore, Job asserts that wicked people are temporary in this life without a solid foundation.

18 He buildeth his house as a moth[‘s cocoon…],
and as a [booth/hut] that the [keeper/watchman] maketh.

And not only is the dwelling place of wicked people temporary – so is his very life.

19 The rich man shall lie down, [he goes to bed rich…]
but he shall not be gathered: [and will never do so again…]

he openeth his eyes,
and [he/it] is [not/all gone].

Then Job pictures evildoers as being terrified by God’s onslaught against them.

20 Terrors [take hold on/overtake/overwhelm] him as [waters/a flood],
a [tempest/whirlwind] stealeth him away in the night.

21 The east wind carrieth him away, and he [departeth/is gone]:
and as a storm [hurleth/it whirls/it sweeps] him out of his place.

22 For [God shall cast upon/it will hurl at(against)] him, [and not spare/without pity]:
he would [fain/try to] flee [out of/from] [his hand/its power].

So, that’s how God treats these evil people.

But now Job is going to mention how men treat them in response to God’s punishing them.

23 [Men/It] shall clap their hands at him [in derision…],
and shall hiss him out of his place.

But I’ll just mention as well that the word “Men” is in italics in the KJV which means that that’s not there in the Hebrew text. It’s something the translators did to aid in understanding – but they’re acknowledging that they were making an interpretational decision.

So, there’s also the possibility that “Men” should be read as “it” – that is, the east wind or storm that Job was talking about as overtaking the wicked and being sent by God.

Either way, Job paints a really bleak picture for wicked people in this chapter. Job is not soft on those who hate God. And he really believes this. And he’s trying to show his friends that this really is how he thinks.

And yet – several of these things that Job has mentioned sound a lot like how God is treating him. And God treating him like this would be fine – if he were evil. But Job is actually righteous.

And that’s why in the very next chapter that we’ll study next time Lord-willing – Job is going to speak of his inability to find wisdom. He’s having no success in making God’s ways make sense to him. Everything is confusing.

And we’ve seen Job trust God’s wisdom. Yes – Job trusts God’s wise dealings in nature all around him. He’s testified to that fact in this book – even in recent chapters.

But where Job needs to grow and mature is in the matter of trusting God’s wisdom – not solely regarding how he runs the creation – but regarding how he’s dealing in Job’s life.

So, we’ll see Job wrestle with this reality next time.

Psalm 50 Commentary

Psalm 50 Commentary

Psalm 50 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Psalms

 
 
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Psalm 50 Commentary: From the beginning of man’s relationship with God – after Adam sinned – sacrifices became commonplace among humans. The taking of an animal’s life in place of your own is a feature of many ancient religions. And it was certainly a feature of the one true religion revealed in Scripture.

But almost as common in the pages of Scripture is reference to the fact that God isn’t interested in sacrifices from a person who in all other ways is alienated from God.

And you can summarize that idea in a number of sayings – “God wants your heart and not just your hands” – or “God wants a relationship over external religious activities” – or as Jesus Christ said – quoting from the Old Testament, “I desire mercy and not a sacrifice.”

And the psalm that we’re going to study right now is just one more piece of testimony to the fact that God is after more than just sacrifices. So, let’s turn to Psalm 50 to see this.

And in Psalm 50, we’re given this theme: that “Praise and godly living is more important to God than external religious activity.”

Psalm 50 Commentary: 1-7 | God is Coming to Judge His People

And at the opening of this psalm, the psalmist pictures a time when God is going to come to judge the world and in particular his people Israel in verses 1-7.

<A Psalm of Asaph.>

KJV Psalm 50:1 The mighty God, even the LORD, [hath spoken/speaks],
and [called/summons] the earth from the [rising of the sun/east] unto the [going down thereof/west].

And so, God is calling the whole earth here. From east to west – the mighty God will summon everyone.

And God will do this judging from a specific place. Verses 2 and 3 tell us that he will judge from Zion – from Jerusalem.

2 Out of Zion, the [perfection of beauty/most beautiful of all places],
God [hath shined/comes in splendor].

3 Our God [shall come/approaches],
and shall not keep silence:

a fire shall devour before him,
and [it shall be very tempestuous/a storm rages] round about him.

And in verse 4 we finally get to the purpose for which God is going to summon the whole earth.

4 He [shall call to/summons] the heavens [from/which are] above,
and to the earth, that he may judge his people.

So, he’s going to gather those who identify as his people to judge them from heaven and earth.

And this is what God will say..

5 Gather my [saints/godly ones/covenant people] together unto me;
those that [have made/ratified] a covenant with me by sacrifice.

So, God first of all will call to him those who have shown their relationship to him by sacrifice.

Now, God makes it clear in the Old Testament – and even later in this psalm – that he’s not interested in sacrifice that is void of a holy lifestyle that reflects the relationship that the worshipper has with God. So, this is not teaching that a person’s attempt to sacrifice to God is the way to be accepted by him.

Rather, God will accept those who have made a covenant with him through sacrifice. Who have demonstrated that they are in a covenant – a relationship based upon a promise – with God by sacrificing.

And for us living after Christ has come and died and rose again – his sacrifice is what brings us into covenant with God. It’s through Jesus that we have a saving relationship with the mighty God who is coming to judge.

And – praise be to God – we who have accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf are saved from the wrath to come – which this psalm is focused on thus far.

And that’s amazing that anyone will be accepted by God in the judgement. You might think that since God is so holy and man is so sinful, there’d be no way that anyone would be accepted. But God has found a way to be just and at the same time the justifier of those who have believed in Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins.

And so – because of this blessed reality – the following will be true in the judgement…

6 And the heavens shall declare his [righteousness/fairness]:
for God is judge himself.

Selah.

God’s treatment of the righteous will be shown to be totally righteous and fair. How could it be otherwise?? God is the judge – you know things will be perfectly right.

So, that’s a happy fate for the righteous.

On the other hand, all the rest of humanity – and especially of those who identify themselves as part of “God’s people” – they’ll have a terrifying confrontation awaiting them, as God speaks again…

7 Hear, O my people,
and I will speak; O Israel,

and I [will testify against/am accusing] thee:

I am God,
even thy God.

So, some individuals – who have made a covenant with God by sacrifice – will experience God’s mercy. The rest will experience God’s testifying against them.

Psalm 50 Commentary: 8-13 | What God Doesn’t Want/Need

Now, the beginning of God’s testimony against his rebellious people is that he doesn’t really need anything from them. God’s existence doesn’t in any way depend upon his people.

8 I [will/do/am] not [reprove/condemning] thee [for/because of] thy sacrifices
or thy burnt offerings, [to have been/which are] continually [before/offered to] me.

So, if the people are wondering what God is going to say as he testifies against them – he wants to make it clear that it has nothing to do with sacrifices – whether they offered them or not.

Yes, the people whom God will receive at the judgement did make sacrifices. But that was showing something. It was showing that they had entered into a covenant with him. They had and have a personal relationship to God. Sacrifice demonstrated that reality – but it didn’t create that reality.

And so, God continues to emphasize that sacrifice isn’t the focus of his judgement of his people.

9 I [will/do not need to] take no bullock out of thy house,
nor he goats out of thy folds.

So, God doesn’t need these things from the houses or fields of the Israelites because he has plenty of such animals…

10 For every beast of the forest is mine,
and the cattle upon a thousand hills.

11 I know all the fowls of the mountains:
and the wild beasts of the field are mine.

So, if God needs an animal, he’s more than capable of fetching one for himself. He created them all and ultimately owns them all!

And so, God continues to express his self-sufficiency and total lack of dependence upon anyone…

12 If I were hungry,
I would not tell thee:

for the world is mine,
and the fulness thereof.

And when it comes down to it, do the sacrifices of God’s people really do anything to sustain and provide for God? God’s answer: No…

13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?

So, God makes the point that it’s not even as if he gets any nourishment from these sacrifices. He doesn’t eat and drink what his people offer in their religious ceremonies – even the ones that God himself commanded them to participate in.

Psalm 50 Commentary: 14-15 | What God Really Wants

Now, that last statement – that God commanded his people to offer sacrifices to him – along with the fact that God already mentioned in this very psalm that one aspect of the people that he’ll receive at the judgement is that they sacrifice to him – all of that points to the fact that God really did want sacrifice.

But God through the psalmist goes on to assert that there is something far greater in God’s mind that he’s looking for. And in comparison to that, sacrifices by themselves when not offered from the right heart – are worse than worthless – both to God and to those who participate in such activities.

And so, God now is going to point to two things that he wants his people engaged in that will trump outward religious activities.

The first thing that God prefers over sacrificing animals is actually itself a sacrifice. It’s the offering of a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

14 Offer unto God [thanksgiving/a sacrifice of thanksgiving/a thank-offering];
and pay thy vows unto the most High:

So, I’ll just say this – as Christians – as God’s people – if we enter our church building and meet with God’s people and sing songs and give money and do all of the things that are expected of church-goers – and yet our hearts are not full of thanks to God – you have God’s word right here telling you that that’s not what he’s looking for.

And the second activity that God wants us to be engaged in is to genuinely call on God when we’re in need and then glorify him when he answers and delivers us…

15 And [call upon/pray to] me [in the day of/when you are in] trouble:

I will deliver thee,
and thou shalt [glorify/honor] me.

Now, we might tend to think that this would be boring for God at best. At worst, maybe calling on God when we’re in trouble is irritating to him.

And yet, God would rather have you humbly call out to him for help and then glorify him once he answers – than to have your sacrifice.

And this sounds so selfish and counterintuitive – perhaps so hedonistic and even maybe ungodly! But we have God’s word here urging us to not think of what we can do for God – but what he can do for us.

I know – I’m almost shocked to be saying this. But this is exactly what this psalm is saying.

God started by testifying that he doesn’t need a thing from his people. He basically heaps scorn and ridicule on the thought that his people can do anything to sustain him in any way. He’s emphatically declaring to us that he needs nothing that we can give him.

Oh – except thanksgiving. That one thing is what he wants.

And beyond that, what God really desires is that we would pray to him when we’re in trouble. And then when he mercifully answers and gives us what we so desperately need – he simply wants us to glorify him.

So, those are the two activities that God wants from us – thanking him and glorifying him for answered prayer.

Psalm 50 Commentary: 16-20 | God’s Message to the Wicked

So, now we all know God’s will – he wants thanks and glory from his people instead of their carrying out wrote religious duties.

But now God is going to turn to the wicked and give them a message. In the context, these are God’s wicked people – rebellious Israelites. And God has a message for them.

16 But unto the [wicked/evildoer] God saith,

[What hast thou to do to/How can you] declare my [statutes/commands],
[or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth/and talk about my covenant]?

So, God is addressing his people who are wicked and yet they declare God’s statutes and commands. They talk about his covenant with duplicity.

The righteous enter into a covenant with God through the sacrifice of his Son. The wicked merely talk about God’s covenant. And God doesn’t want them to do even that.

And here’s why it makes no sense to God for the wicked to speak of him and his commands and covenant…

17 Seeing thou hatest instruction,
and castest my words behind thee.

And it seems really strange that some of God’s people who take it upon themselves to declare God’s commands – themselves hate God’s instruction and words.

But the reality is that any town in this country is full of such ministers. When it comes down to it, if they’re not truly born-again – having entered into the New Covenant through Christ’s sacrifice – they are as Paul the apostle said enemies of the cross of Christ.

They hate God’s word. And yet, that’s what they work with all the time. It doesn’t make sense. And that’s why God is rebuking such people.

And yet, this message is to God’s people – not just to those who would identify as God’s people outside of our church. It’s not just for the Catholics and the Lutherans and the Charismatics. It’s for us, too.

We need to really examine our hearts.

Are there any among us who just outright “hate” God’s instruction? You’re openly defiant when you hear what God wants about this or that thing. I mean, you might want to spin it as if “that’s not what God wants – that’s just what my parents say” or whatever else. And yet – despite this – you somehow manage to consider yourself a Christian.

Or maybe your response to God’s word isn’t quite that openly hostile. Maybe you’ve just simply become very skilled with ignoring God’s word – “casting them behind you.” I mean, you’ll keep speaking of God – his covenant and his word – but you’ve become skilled in ignoring what that word and covenant command you in terms of your actions and thoughts.

God help all of us to not be hypocrites. To not play-act as if we love God’s word when we really hate or ignore it practically…

Well, God gives the wicked some examples of how he knows that they hate his commands and throw his word behind their backs.

First, they love and accompany thieves and adulterers in their evildoing.

18 When thou sawest a thief, then thou [consentedst with/are pleased with/join] him,
and [hast been partaker/associate] with adulterers.

And so, we’d do well to search our hearts and consider whether any of us loves dishonest gain. Are there any of us who would steal?

Or are there any who commit adultery – even in your heart – as a common practice? Do we forget that even to look at a woman with lust is to commit adultery? Or maybe we don’t forget – but we just don’t care anymore…

But, God doesn’t stop the indictment there. He continues to furnish evidence that a person hates his word.

19 Thou givest thy mouth to evil,
and thy tongue frameth deceit.

So, consider whether or not your practice is to lie. Do you deceive intentionally as a habit?

We might be fooling our fellow-man. But God is not fooled and he’s ready to testify against us…

And, another sign that you hate or despise God’s word is the way that you use your tongue to speak of others.

20 Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother;
thou slanderest thine own mother’s son.

So, how do you speak of others in your church? In your family? At the workplace?

Do you slander others – say what’s not true of them?

To the extent that we do any of these things – we are proving – despite all appearances to the contrary – despite our standing in front of an audience and giving God’s word – despite boldly proclaiming God’s word to lost neighbors and friends – our relationship to God’s word is in total disarray.

We find ourselves in the situation that God wants us in according to this psalm. He wants us to call on him when we’re in trouble. Are there any of us who are in trouble after reading this list of qualities that prove that you hate God’s word? We can call upon him in this trouble and glorify him for his mercy and life-changing power.

Psalm 50 Commentary: 21 | God’s Responds with Silence

Well, you know what can be so confusing to this kind of person – to one who is a supposed member of God’s people – but who hates God’s word and will be rebuked by God – what is so deceptive to these people is that oftentimes God doesn’t punish them immediately for their misdeeds.

21 These things hast thou done, [that’s what they did – what is God doing?] and I kept silence;
thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself:

but I will reprove thee,
and set [them/the case/“these things”] in order before thine eyes.

And so, God set before perhaps several of us “these things” that demonstrate that we might speak well of God’s word but that truly we hate it. And if we continue in these practices we prove ourselves to be wicked and deserving of judgement – the likes of which this psalm has been speaking of.

But if this message from God has been bothering and upsetting to you, well – God has a follow-up that you will want to pay close attention to.

Psalm 50 Commentary: 22-23 | A Possibility to Change

Because God isn’t going to just leave you where you are. He’s giving you another chance.

22 Now consider this,
ye that forget God,

[lest/Or I will/Otherwise I will] I tear you in pieces,
and there be none to deliver.

And that will happen if you ignore what God’s saying here. He will judge you and tear you to pieces like a wild animal.

But here’s the blessed remedy to that dreadful outcome. Consider this…

23 Whoso [offereth praise/offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving/presents a thank-offering] [glorifieth/honors] me:
and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I [shew/reveal] [the salvation of God/my power to deliver].

Now, the message here is not to be misunderstood. God is not saying that by living right you will be accepted by God in the judgement.

Because he already said back at the beginning of this psalm that those who will be accepted by God are those who have demonstrated that they have entered into a covenant – a relationship based upon a promise – with God through sacrifice. We enter that relationship with God through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.

But then we do need to take very seriously God’s words here. What does God want from you now that you’re in a relationship with him?

Not merely external religious activities. He wants your thanksgiving. He wants your prayers and glorifying him when he answers those prayers. And he wants you and me to live right – to live in light of his word and covenant with us.

Because, the Judge is coming. He will come someday. But he is also merciful and is giving you a second chance.

So, let’s go to prayer full of thanksgiving and calling upon God in our troubles with every intention of glorifying him for answers.

And perhaps right now it would be an appropriate time to deal with the Lord. Has he convicted about some sin that you’re indulging in? Confess that to him. He promises to be faithful and just to forgive you every sin for Christ’s sake.

Job 26 Commentary

Job 26 Commentary

Job 26 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Job

 
 
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Job 26 Commentary: Have you ever been party to an argument in which both people are making the same points – but somehow amazingly both are in disagreement?

Well, this is exactly the situation that the biblical character Job finds himself in – in Job chapter 26. So let’s turn our attention to Job 26.

And in this chapter, Job is responding to the last short speech by his friend Bildad. And in that speech, Bildad basically pointed to God’s power and to the inability of a person like Job to be viewed as righteous by God.

And we’re going to see Job being very frustrated in chapter 26 partly because he and Bildad basically see eye-to-eye on the matter of God’s power. Job’s not at all disagreeing with Bildad on that point. And he’s going to make that abundantly clear a few verses into this chapter.

But before he gets to that, Job wants to express his utter disgust for his friend’s unhelpful speech to him in the last chapter.

Job 26 Commentary: Job’s Not Happy With Bildad’s Speech | 1-4

And so, Job begins his response to Bildad’s last speech with biting sarcasm that’s meant to inform Bildad that his words were no help whatsoever to him.

KJV Job 26:1 [But/Then] Job [answered and said/responded/replied],

2 [How hast thou helped/What a help you are to/How you have helped] [him that is without power/the weak/the powerless] [?/!]
[how savest thou/How you have saved] [the arm/the person] that hath no strength [?/!]

So, Job is the one without power. He’s the arm that has no strength. He needs to be helped. He needs to be saved – rescued – delivered from his problems.

But instead of helping and saving Job, Bildad’s speech did nothing of the sort.

And, we also need to note that Job’s not asking questions here – like how did you do that? He’s pretending to marvel – like what an excellent wonderful job you just did there!

And taken at face value, Job is being very complimentary to Bildad. But that’s the force of sarcasm. The listener will try to process it like normal communication and it makes no sense – because it’s just the opposite of what the communicator really thinks.

And surely Bildad knew that Job was not pleased with what he said in the last chapter. And to have Job basically extol his words would be unexpected, to say the least. And when Bildad figured out that Job was not literally truthful in his statements, he would have been very insulted.

Job 26 Commentary: More Sarcasm

Well, Job continues with his sarcastic statements in verse 3.

3 [How hast thou counselled/What counsel you have given to/How you have advised] him that hath no wisdom [?/!]
[and how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is/what helpful insight you have abundantly provided] [?/!]

Now, Job does not consider himself to be without wisdom. He’s made that clear throughout this book as he’s been trying to defend himself against the accusation of his friends that he’s secretly wicked.

But Job is saying here that if he was one of those who lacked wisdom, Bildad’s speech was so incredibly helpful! It was fantastic counsel to him. Bildad plentifully declared the thing as it is. He gave wonderfully abundant and helpful insight…

And of course, Job truly means none of this. His real feelings concerning Bildad’s speech are just the opposite.

Job would believe that Bildad proved himself to have no wisdom. His counsel was worthless. His plentiful declarations were plentiful – but not helpful at all to Job.

Bildad’s whole point in chapter 25 seemed to be that no one can possibly be righteous in God’s estimation. The friends had tried to catch Job in some particular sin. And as a last-ditch effort, Bildad as the final speaker for the friends throws out the idea that it’s just not possible to be innocent before God and so basically every punishment for sin we receive is just to be expected. Because no one’s ultimately innocent.

But this line of reasoning doesn’t help Job. He’s receiving bad from God for absolutely no cause that he’s aware of. Job has done nothing to prompt God to bring this supposed punishment on him – except for being what Bildad says is impossible for man to be – righteous before God.

Job 26 Commentary: Questions for Bildad

And so, Job moves on from sarcasm to questioning Bildad. And in verse 4, Job wants to know two things: 1) Does Bildad know whom he’s speaking to and 2) Does Bildad know what he’s saying?

4 To whom hast thou uttered words?
and whose spirit [came from/was expressed through/has come forth from the mouth of] thee?

So, Job wants Bildad to think both about who Job is and about who Bildad is.

As for Job – we know he’s righteous. God said so in the first two chapters of this book. Job is also wise. He’s thought through his situation and his theology. He’s not one to whom Bildad should feel obliged to utter simplistic and unhelpful sayings.

And as for Bildad himself – when Job asks whose spirit came from him, I wonder if he’s getting at the fact that Bildad pretty much lifted most of what he said in chapter 25 from one of Eliphaz’s earlier speeches.

So, Job doesn’t need rehashed speeches from Bildad.

And that’s how Job ends his initial volley of responses to Bildad’s short and unhelpful speech.

Job 26 Commentary: God’s Wisdom | 5-14

And so, for the rest of this chapter, Job starts to speak wisdom as he knows it. The friends keep trying to correct Job on his understanding of how God works in this world. And so now, Job wants to show them that he’s not ignorant of at least some of the ways that God works in this creation.

And Job starts to speak of God’s awesome ways in verse 5 by noting how even the dead tremble before God.

5 [Dead things/The departed spirits/The dead] [are formed from/tremble]
[under/those beneath] the waters, and [the inhabitants thereof/all that live in them].

So, dead things or dead people and all creatures who are in the waters tremble before God.

The reference to those beneath the waters is probably to dead people for two reasons. First, it’s parallel to the reference to dead things or people in the first line of verse 5.

Job 26 Commentary: Sheol

And second, Job continues in verse 6 to speak of the place of the dead – Sheol.

6 [Hell/Sheol/The underworld] is naked before [him/God],
and [destruction/Abaddon/the place of destruction] [hath no covering/lies uncovered].

So, those things that are so fearful to mortal men – those things actually fear God.

And I wonder if Job is responding here to Bildad’s first statement from the last chapter. Bildad in chapter 25 said that “fear” belongs to God – it’s owed him – he deserves people and creatures and all things to quake and tremble before him.

And Job is now saying – That’s right! I agree with you on that point! But I’ll tell you that this isn’t the case for the living only – no – even the dead tremble before God.

Job 26 Commentary: Things Above

And so, Job was just considering those below and under. But now in verse 7 he changes the direction of his thinking to those things that are above.

7 [He/God] [stretcheth/spreads] out the [north/northern skies] over [the empty place/empty space],
and [hangeth/He suspends] the earth upon nothing.

So, Job pictures God’s awesome power in that he – as it were – takes the northern sky and just stretches it like a blanket.

But if you’re going to spread a blanket out you need to have something to lay it on.

But that’s where God is so superior and awesome. He takes the blanket that is the northern skies poetically – and he stretches it out alright – but he doesn’t need anything to lay it on. It’s literally laying on nothing – absolutely nothing. Amazing.

And it’s not just the sky that God so easily manipulates in amazing ways. Think bigger – not the sky – but the earth God just hangs or suspends out in space.

But usually when you hang something – a picture or clothing – you have something to hang them on. But Job says that in God’s case, he hangs the earth on absolutely nothing.

And have you ever really thought about that? That the ground on which you live and rely on is anchored to absolutely nothing that’s visible or apparent in any way.

How does this happen? How did this come to be? Who decided that it should be this way?

It’s God who made this so. And – truth be told – we don’t understand it and never will fully. We can only marvel at this God who is so wise and powerful.

We might not understand his ways, but we must trust his wisdom. Job is starting to adopt this posture – but he’s not there yet.

Job 26 Commentary: Clouds and Rain

And so, Job keeps his focus upward in verse 8. His head is – as it were – in the clouds. Or at least his mind is.

8 He [bindeth up/wraps up/locks] the waters in his thick clouds;
and the cloud [is not rent/does not burst] [under/with the weight of] them.

And I wonder if you’ve ever noticed how heavy liquid really is.

I learned this lesson when I worked for Pepsi over a summer while I was in college at UW-Whitewater. I was amazed at how much strength it took to lift those 2-liter bottles of soda! It wore me out.

2 liters of liquid is heavy.

But have you ever thought of how much rain comes down in a typical storm? It’s enough to flood mighty rivers!

And yet, how does God – in his awesome wisdom – choose to hold that heavy abundant rain until he’s ready for it to fall?

If you were trying to figure out the best material to hold such an enormous quantity and weight of water – I’m guessing that your first choice would not be to use… a cloud!

Because – despite all appearance from here on earth – clouds are not at all solid. They’re basically floating water vapor.

So…holding water within… water? Would you have thought of that? God did!

Job 26 Commentary: Clouds Obscure the Moon

And God doesn’t use clouds only to hold rain. He has another purpose for them, according to verse 9.

9 He [holdeth back/obscures/conceals] the face of [his throne/the full moon],
and spreadeth his cloud [upon/over] it. [thereby shrouding it…]

So, God fills clouds with rain in his wisdom and in his wisdom, he doesn’t let the weight of the rain burst the clouds.

But also, God uses clouds to hold back the face of his throne.

Now, we need to realize that two words in that line seem to have another possible meaning.

The word behind “holdeth back” is also used by the KJV to mean “enclose.” So, God encloses something with his clouds. And if you look at the parallel statement – when we speak of God enclosing this something with clouds, he’s doing that when he “spreadeth” that cloud upon it.

OK, but what is the “it” that God is spreading his cloud upon? The KJV here says that it’s God’s “throne” that he’s enclosing with a cloud. And so, perhaps Job is saying that God’s throne is up in the heavens and then sometimes God in his wisdom covers the heavens – where his throne is – and thereby he covers that throne.

But there’s another issue. And that is that the word translated as “throne” is very similar to the word for “moon.” And in that case, this phrase still makes sense. God spreads clouds over the moon so that we can’t see it.

Job 26 Commentary: The Ocean

So, Job’s train of thought as he considers God’s wisdom started with dead things and things “below.” Then it moved to the heavens and things “above.”

And now Job’s mind shifts to consider the ocean – and in particular, the way that light and darkness meet there.

10 He [hath compassed the waters with bounds/has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters/marks out the horizon on the surface of the waters],
[until the day and night come to an end/at (or as) the bounday of (or between) light and darkness].

So, Job says that God sets boundaries on something – and that this boundary is visible on the waters – the vast oceans of this world.

So, picture the globe in your mind. And imagine that the Sun is shining on this globe. But of course, the Sun can’t be shining everywhere on that globe at once – right? If the Sun is on the left side of the globe, then the right side will be dark. And vice versa.

But here’s what I’m getting at. There’s a boundary on that globe for light. It goes so far and then it stops. And when the light stops, what begins? Darkness.

Where light ends and darkness begins – and vice versa – that’s a boundary.

And that’s what Job is talking about. God in his awesome wisdom made it so that this kind of thing happens on the face of this world. And since so much of this world is water, often this boundary line is found right there – on the waters. That’s where both day and night come to an end. That’s their boundary.

Job 26 Commentary: Earthquakes and Mountains

And from there, it seems that Job goes on to discuss the effect that earthquakes have on mountains.

11 The pillars of heaven tremble
and are [astonished/amazed] at his [reproof/rebuke].

Now, I’m taking the “pillars of heaven” to be speaking of mountains – as if the mountains are so tall that they appear to hold the heavens – the sky – up [H. H. Rowley (Job [NCBC], 173)].

And – by the way – this is not how Job literally thought this worked. Job didn’t think that the heavens were held up by mountains.

How do I know that? Because in this chapter he already said that the sky is hung on nothing.

So, Job is poetically portraying what it seems like the mountains do – hold up the heavens.

But these mighty structures – which seem to be utterly immovable – have a certain reaction. They tremble. And they’re astonished.

When? Under what circumstances? When God reproves or rebukes them.

Well, when does he do that?

So, let’s think of what would cause a mighty mountain to tremble – to move back and forth… How about an earthquake? I think that’s it.

So, God is so awesomely powerful that he can bring about a natural disaster which makes one of the mightiest features of this earth – a mountain – to tremble.

Job 26 Commentary: Calming

But then Job wants to give a contrast to that picture. God doesn’t just cause fear and trembling. He also calms and stills with his wisdom.

12 He [divideth/quieted/stills] the sea [with/by] his power,
and by his [understanding/wisdom] he [smiteth through/shattered/cut to pieces] [the proud/Rahab/the great sea monster].

Now, when the KJV says “divideth” in verse 12 – we also need to recognize that that word is used elsewhere in the KJV as “rest” (5x) and “ease” (1x).

So, God gives rest and ease to the sea. And he does this with his power. God’s power doesn’t simply cause panic and dread. It can also have a calming effect.

But then that second line. The KJV makes sense when it communicates that God smites through the proud. And he does it with his understanding.

And this is a contrast to the first line. Yes, God calms the sea with his power. But at the same time, God uses his understanding to strike the proud. Sometimes God needs to strike the proud in order to achieve calm in this world.

Now, that word “proud” is the Hebrew word Rachab. And that has nothing to do with the biblical character who lived in Jericho – just in case you were wondering. No, this Rachab is apparently a mythological sea monster – in addition to being the word to label people as “proud.”

So, it could be that Job is talking about God shattering or cutting to pieces or smiting through this mythological sea monster. But, I think we’d have to recognize that God doesn’t believe in or subscribe to mythology. He’s not tricked by myths. But this isn’t God speaking here – it’s Job – who was not an Israelite and who – as we’ve seen already – had some flawed ideas in other areas of life.

So, Job could very well be speaking of a mythological sea monster. But even if he is – he’s telling these friends of his that God can kill this kind of monster if it even existed.

So, whether God is destroying the proud or a make-believe sea monster, the message is the same. God’s wisdom is not just bent on calming things and it’s not focused solely on destroying things. God is nuanced in his use of his own understanding and power.

Job 26 Commentary: The Sky

And then Job moves on from considering the sea to once again considering the sky.

13 By his [spirit/breath] he hath [garnished/cleared/made fair] the [heavens/skies];
his hand hath [formed/pierced] the [crooked/fleeing] serpent.

So, once again, the first line of this verse is fairly straightforward and the second line leaves us scratching our heads.

God clears the skies with his breath. That word translated in the KJV as “garnished” occurs only once in the Old Testament – right here. And there’s consensus nowadays that this word means “clearness.”

So, God clears the heaven or the sky with his spirit – which is the same word as is used to speak of breath – ruach. Simple enough.

But then we’re told that God formed the crooked serpent.

That word “formed” is translated elsewhere in the KJV as “pain” (6x), “pained” (4x), “grieve” (2x), and “wounded” (2x). So, God caused pain and grief and wounds to this serpent.

And the fact that Job speaks of this as if it were a historical event makes some believe that here again he’s speaking of some pagan myth. This crooked serpent is perhaps a sea monster. In fact, there’s some thought that this might be referring to Leviathan (W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan; idem, BASOR 53 [1941]: 39.)

And even though God later on portrays Leviathan as just an animal, perhaps Job is saying that God has power over even these pagan mythological beings.

Whatever he’s saying about this serpent, I think once again – like in the last verse – Job is pointing to the fact that God can use his wisdom – even his spirit – to clear the sky and make some beautiful weather. But at the same time, God can do violent actions – like wound this serpent – whatever it is.

Job 26 Commentary: We Know So Little of God

And finally, Job ends this chapter with an admission that though he’s spoken of several areas of God’s ways that display his awesome wisdom – Job knows that he hasn’t even scratched the surface!

14 [Lo/Behold/Indeed], these are [parts/the fringes/the outer fringes] of his ways:
[but how/and how/how] [little/faint] a [portion/word/whisper] is heard of him [?/!]
but [the thunder of his power/his mighty thunder] who can understand?

And so, I think that Job is implicitly advocating some measure of humility here. He’s praising and extolling God’s understanding that causes him to act in certain ways. And he’s admitting that neither he nor these friends of his really even get more than a glimpse of all of God’s ways.

And as an example, he ends the chapter with a mention of thunder – like how does that even work?!

And what’s so interesting is that Job speaks of God’s ways. And he implies that there are times in which humans just can’t understand God’s ways.

God’s ways…

And that should remind us of the message of this book – when we can’t understand God’s ways, we must trust his wisdom.

Job is getting to this point where he will trust God’s wisdom. He’s marveling at God’s wisdom right here – but he hasn’t yet just rested in God to do the wise thing in his life. Job sees and praises God’s wisdom all around him in nature. But he has yet to show an ability to see and praise God’s wisdom in his own circumstance.

He’s getting there. But he’s not there yet. And so we’ll see Job next time continue speaking – and he’ll start with defending his righteousness and integrity.