Friday, February 10, 2012

RBV: Job 30:13

They break up my path,
They promote my calamity;
They have no helper.
--Job 30:13

This verse appears in the midst of a long response from Job, answering the final argument proffered by Job's three "friends," Bildad's short, six-verse diatribe in Job 25. In the intervening chapters Job has told off Bildad (what a miserable counsellor he was), averred that he has remained righteous, and become sentimental about his happy, prosperous past. Here in chapter 30, he is letting everyone know just how deeply his present circumstance was humiliating him.

The chapter begins with Job describing his tormentors, the youths who taunt him as he sits in the dust, scraping his painful boils with a potsherd. He paints a picture of a group of outcasts, young men of no reputation and no lineage--as he says in verse 1, "whose fathers I disdained to put with the dogs of my flock," meaning that he thought less of them than even dogs, which were considered to be the basest of creatures in that part of the world. These low-lifes are gaunt and feeble from living off the land, and they dwell in caves or whatever shelter they can find. The townspeople drive them off when they wander too close.

Yet, in his miserable state, Job has become even lower than they--to the point that the off-scourings of the earth belittle him! They do not consider him to have fallen to their level, not by a long shot! No, they stand aloof, as if they are his betters, and spit in his face (verse 10)!

In Job 30:13, the verse in question, Job is illustrating the method of their assault upon him by using the metaphor of attacking a stronghold. In the previous verse, he says that "they raise against me their ways of destruction." By this, he means that they are building their engines of war and throwing up their own earthworks to enable them to destroy his defenses, thus they are plotting and planning his ruin.

Verse 13 continues the comparison to a siege. "They break up my path" suggests that they have blocked or demolished every escape route he might have taken to avoid destruction. He has nowhere to run.

He next says, "They promote my calamity." The NASB renders this, "They profit from my destruction." The NET Bible translates this as, "They succeed in destroying me." Keil and Delitzsch say it is more like, "They minister to my overthrow." The idea seems to be that these social and economic outcasts, who have no skills and never do anything well, are actually succeeding in bringing him down.

Thus the next phrase becomes more explicable: "They have no helper." They may be otherwise helpless, but in this matter, they do not need anyone to aid them. They are doing quite well on their own, thank you very much! Another idea may be in this phrase also: that it generally means that they are worthless persons, and no one from general society would stoop to help them--but in this case, the helpless need no help!

And so, Job goes on to say, he is ruined. He has no defenses against them, so he must succumb to their assault. His honor is gone, as is his prosperity. He has nothing and is nothing. How miserable Job must have been!

A Unique Blog Idea

I have a new idea for blog postings to set this one apart from the crowd. I'm a fair hand as an exegete, so I thought I would find a random verse generator--one that would pop up a random verse from anywhere in the entire Bible, not just from a selected list of verses--and utilize it to pick a verse to comment upon. I would take the first verse that came up, no matter how obscure, no matter what the topic, and explain it in context.

This seems pretty challenging to me, and might make a fairly interesting set of comments. It may also be a good way to come up with sermon topics and article ideas, which are just about the hardest part of my job, week in and week out. After so many years of speaking and writing, coming up with something "new" is an arduous task (not quite as tough as those of Hercules, but near enough). So, if I can use this means to spark ideas for my real work, I come out ahead.

In addition, this will also be a way of studying the Bible more thoroughly in areas that I would not normally be attracted to. I tend to gravitate toward the gospels and the historical books of Scripture, so the fact that the choosing would be random and quite out of my hands makes this a bit of a prod to venture outside my comfort zones.

Perhaps this is the answer to my questioning blog a few weeks back. I did get the idea as I was praying last night, so that may be a clue that this is a direction God wants me take.

Anyway, here goes!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"Sipping" God's Word Through a Firehose

Since the end of 2011, I have been engaged in following a Bible-Reading Plan developed by Professor Grant Horner in 1983. Unlike other plans in which a person reads, say, a chapter from the Old Testament and one from the New, this system has one read ten chapters each day. The Bible is divided into ten "lists" of books, and each day one chapter from each list is read. So, one reads a chapter from the gospels, a chapter from the Pentateuch, a chapter from the Psalms, a chapter from Paul's epistles, etc.

What a challenge this is! Even a speedy reader like me has to devote a good half-hour or more to this task each day. I am not looking forward to the day I have to read Psalm 119 in addition to nine other chapters! However, it does allow one to make connections between ideas in various sections of the Good Book, and if a person reads from his regular Bible, he quickly comes to recognize where certain verses or passages are.

But it is sometimes almost overwhelming. As someone once said, it is like trying to drink the water of God's Word through a firehose! It can seem to be too much, especially on busy days when the stresses of life are pressing down on the mind to get to other matters that must get done!

It is good that Professor Horner recommends that a person should simply read the chapters, neither skimming them or trying to glean too much from them. The idea is just to read God's Word to familiarize oneself with its content, and our amazing minds, a wonderful gift of God, does the rest. Without our realizing it, our subconscious is working with the material we have gone over, and that knowledge is stored away for use later. As we read it again and again, it becomes more firmly fixed and more easily used.

Even though it is a struggle at times, it is well worth the effort! There is no one standing over us with a whip if we miss a day or only have time to read a few chapters. We can always catch up when we have the time to do so.

So come join me by the fire hydrant for a good soaking in the Word of God!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Forty Days and Forty Nights

I heartily recommend The King's English blog as an excellent commentary on the various phrases from the King James Bible (also known as the Authorized Version) that have become part of our cultural vocabulary over the last 400 years (although I do not agree with some of the theology). I found this one on the phrase "forty days and forty nights" especially intriguing due to the author's highlighting of the outcomes of these periods of testing and trial. Here is the main point from the blog entry:
There are seven prominent periods of 40 days in the Bible.
The first “40 days” was the time of the flood-waters that fell in judgement on the earth. (Genesis 7:4)
Moses fasted 40 days on the mountaintop before entering God’s presence.
Israel sent 12 men to spy out the land of Canaan. They spent 40 days doing reconnaissance of the promised land.
Goliath taunted Israel for 40 days before David stepped forward to bring victory.
Jonah came to Nineveh with a message – in 40 days the city would be destroyed. But, because they repented, God visited not with judgement but with salvation.
For 40 days Jesus entered the desert (a place of trials and temptations) and emerged victorious.
Finally, there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and the time of His ascension to heaven. It was a time when He proved Himself to His followers, showing them tokens of the resurrection life He promises to all.
40 days seems to be a time of testing and transition. For those who pass the test there is a new world to enjoy:
A world washed clean.
Face to face with the LORD.
A land of milk and honey.
Victory over the enemy.
The defeat of the devil.
The new creation.
This just shows that we should not despair if we find ourselves in a long spate of trouble, particularly if we come to realize that it is from God (and not necessarily something we have brought on ourselves by stupidity or rebellion). There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and the world we will see when we finally come out into the sunshine again will be one of great reward. So do not despair! A trial is not forever, and if we pass it in good order, we will really enjoy the result!