Bildad and Zophar speak to Job. Job's friends plead their case that Job must have sinned. Job stays steadfast for God

Day 21 (Jan. 21): Bildad accuses Job, Job reveres God’s power, Job pleas to God, Zophar calls Job to repent and praise

Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Job 8-11
(Before 2100 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

O. (Job 8:1-7): In 1:8, God held Job in high regard.  Yet, after you read what Bildad is saying in 8:4, you think, maybe Job is being punished for these sins.  But, this sounds like the devil working his way in to get Job to turn and believe his friend.  Yes, Job’s sons apparently partied.  We don’t know if they actually sinned.  Job was looking out for them by offering sacrifices for them.  We know that God was pleased with Job.  Yet, this friend is acting like he knows God’s reasoning and trying to get Job to question his own righteousness.

O. (8:20-22): Bildad is putting words in God’s mouth.  Bildad says that God sends nothing but good things to believers.  Through this devastation, Job has learned otherwise.

Q. (9:14-20): Wow.  Rob, the guy who is answering these questions, told me that we would get into deep stuff in Job, he was right.  This passage says EXACTLY what I’m feeling as I’m doing this blog.  I want to know God’s reasoning, but I get so scared to ask about it.  It’s hard to fathom just how powerful God is.  I think about that we are spinning on a sphere in the middle of nowhere and yet we don’t think twice about our existence.  That, not to mention the seas, mountains and everything else that Job mentions displays his power, so how dare we question him.  I do feel though to try to understand the world that I have to ask these questions.  I’m beginning to think that understanding the world is like an “in” box, there is no end to it.  So, just seek guidance and stop asking so many questions.  I will try.  I am really enjoying studying it so far.  For me, Job offers more things to glean from than any of the Genesis stories.  Rob, can you talk about questioning God?

A. I certainly can.  While we must never forget our reverence for God and who He is, I for one have always believed that God can handle our tough questions, especially about His will.  In the person of Jesus Christ, we have the way that God shifted the relationship between Himself and human beings, and we should remember that this story long predates that relational shift.  Since we are in Christ, God sees each of us as sons and daughters (rather than servants), and one of the advantages of sonship and daughtership is that we can approach our Father in prayer with what is on our mind.  The Bible strongly encourages us to do so, in fact.  So when we have tough questions, we can know that the power of Christ has made it possible for us to (reverently and humbly) approach the throne of our Heavenly Father and present our tough questions.  We do not have to fear God when we do not understand or even question His will, what a privilege of being a child of God!

What we must keep in mind, however, is that God does not answer to us (one of the major themes of this book), and ultimately one of our jobs as followers of Christ is to trust that His way is best.

O. (9:22): Job is struggling here.  He’s flip-flopping between being faithful to the Lord and irate.

Q. (9:33): Job is foretelling Jesus?  Anything else?

A. I honestly don’t think even Job knows what he is asking for here, but in his statement we see the great truth of the Incarnation.  Job is asking for a being that can bring together God and man and force mediation (if you will).  This is one of the ways that the Church throughout the ages has come to see Jesus: as the only being who was both fully God and fully human (Hebrews 1:3 and 2:17), Jesus is the way that brings us together with God.  Job, I think, would not have understood the Incarnation, but the longing that he expresses: to be able to approach God, is a deep human longing that we all share.

O & Q. (10:2): I think getting answers from God — patience — is one of the hardest things to handle as a Christian.  As the leader of a past Bible story pointed out: We have a book, the Bible, to read and learn from.  The people in Bible times were living out the stories.  Their direction was from what God told the leaders.  Luckily, we can learn from their experiences.  What does the Bible say about having patience toward God?

A. I’m not sure I would use the word “patience” toward God, but would rather use words like “trust” and “faith”.  Isaiah 40 reminds us that those who trust in God will endure, and one of the central ideas from our discussion today is that we have to have faith in God’s ways (something Job is having a hard time doing), even when things are not going well for us.

O. Again, another of Job’s friends, Zophar is saying Job must have sinned to be receiving so much devastation.

For further interest
— Is it OK to question God? https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/is-it-a-sin-to-question-god.html
— Are you into philosophical reasoning about the existence of God? https://gradresources.org/evidence-for-gods-existence/

Blog: Putting all the evidence together points to Him! https://livinlight.org/blog/proof-is-in-the-pudding/

Tomorrow’s reading: Job 12-14:22

Book of Job. Photo by Leigh An Coplin

Day 19 (Jan. 19): Job — Satan challenges God, Job tested, Job’s friends offer “help”

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Job 1-4
(Before 2100 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible
The book of Job may be out of chronological order, but that is because its timeframe is uncertain.  According to the NLT The One Year Chronological Bible, p. 72: “The account of Job is traditionally thought to have taken place around the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (2200-1800) BC), or shortly thereafter.  However, it could have occurred as late as the Exile (during the sixth century BC). 

Questions & Observations

O.  How can anyone possibly own this much property?  He has all these riches and still praises God.

Q. (Job 1:5): After his children had been celebrating for several days Job made it practice to purify them by offering a sacrifice for each one in case they had sinned against God.  How does God view routinely sinning and then asking for forgiveness — taking Him for granted?

A. What you are describing in your question is what Bonheoffer (a church father during the Nazi rule in Germany) called cheap grace: the idea of taking God’s forgiveness for granted, and going on to make bad decisions.  This, frankly, is a very tempting option for a lot of people, and it also can be hard to avoid, since many of us have “pet” sins that we struggle with.  But part of what it means to be a maturing Christian is our gradual efforts to change our bad habits and to be increasingly repulsed by our defiant sin choices.  It should be a daily part of our walk with God to ask for His guidance in the ways that we are taking advantage of His grace and working to remove them.

As it relates to the story, I honestly don’t think this is what the author is talking about.  The writer is trying to show that Job is such an upright man, that he even offers up sacrifices for things his kids MIGHT have done.

Q. (1:6): Can you tell us anymore about this meeting?  Who is the heavenly court?  What is Satan doing with them?

A. While this is not the only glimpse into heaven that we get in the Bible (at least that’s what it appears to be), this is the only time that such a description is given to us.  My assumption is that the heavenly court is made up of angels (including at least one fallen one), but it doesn’t exactly tell us the “roll” of who is there.  The word Satan means “accuser”, which is exactly what he is doing in this scenario: accusing God of protecting Job, and accusing Job of being a “fair weather” person who only loves God because God has been so generous to him.  This is not the last time in the OT that we will see Satan accuse.

One other note that warrants mentioning here: there is a fair degree of variation between what Christians and Jews have to say about Satan and his “role”.  Many Jews do not see Satan as the great enemy of God, but rather an angel who serves the important role of “testing the mettle” of God’s faithful: he does so on God’s side, so to speak.  Passages like this one can point in that direction: the passage does not make God and Satan to be completely antagonistic.  Satan is testing Job, but only with God’s permission.  This image of Satan being a servant, rather than an enemy of God, varies greatly from the picture that is painted by the New Testament.  Keep in mind: much of what the Bible says about the devil (and hell, by the way) comes directly from Jesus Himself (see John 8:42-47 for example), and this obviously would lead to a very different interpretation of Satan’s role between Christians (who follow Christ) and Jews (who reject Jesus as Christ or Messiah).  We will continue to get glimpses into the spiritual realm of angels, demons, and Satan, so see how these two visions line up with what you’ve been taught.

Q. (1:20): I know there is a larger question to ask here.  I’ll get to it.  But, I want to ask about the tearing of clothes.  We have seen Jacob do this, Joseph’s brothers, and here Job tore his robe and shaved his head in despair.  Is there symbolism here?

A. Tearing (or rending) one’s clothes was a way of showing great distress, in this case mourning for Job’s dead children and servants.  Shaving the head would have also been seen as a sign of mourning: it was very uncommon for a man to shave his head (which probably included shaving off facial hair) in this period, and it would have made the man stand out.  If you wanted to bring attention to the fact that you were in mourning, shaving your head and beard would have been a great way to do it.

Q. (1:13-2:10): After reading this, I just said “whew.”  How could anyone take this and why would God test Job so harshly?  In 2:4, it says “you (Satan) urged me (God) to harm him (Job) …” saying God did the harming.  But in 1:12, God said he would allow Satan to test him.  So, who tested him?  Is this a slip of translation?  I bet you’re going to say that what we need to glean from this is that Job was faithful to God no matter what happened to him or who harmed him.  So, here we are again at: “Does God cause bad things to happen?  Or just know about them and allow them to happen?”  I think it’s clear here that God made the bad things happen.  What significance does this have in God’s battle of strength with Satan?  To me, this is a battle between God and Satan and Job is the pawn.  Again, I feel like I’m going to get struck for saying that!  Just trying to understand.

A. Lets pull back a bit.  Job is basically an extended narrative essay on the eternal question of theodicy: basically, if a loving, all-powerful God exists, why do bad things happen?  So in the first few chapters, we already have one part of the answer: part of the reason that we suffer is that God is not the only powerful entity in our universe.  There are other entities whom desire to harm God’s children because doing so harms the God who loves them.  If Satan cannot confront God directly, he surely can target God’s children to gain (in his mind) some measure of revenge.  So, God does not choose our suffering, but allows it for us to be tested just as Job is being tested here.

I think the verse you are pointing to does not say that God harmed Job directly, but as you clearly state, He does allow the harm of Satan.  Is that exactly the same as saying “God harmed Job” because He allowed it to happen?  Well, that’s up to you to decide.  Part of what this story builds up to in the late chapters is that we must be VERY cautious in assuming anything about the mind of God.  We make a lot of presumptions about God’s justice (or lack there of as we see it), but ultimately, God does not have to answer to us, as we shall see.

O. (1:1-26): Job is obviously beside himself, hurt to the core.  He seemed calmer when he told his wife that we need to accept the good and the bad — all that comes from God.  Here, it finally hit him.  His ranting reminds me of when something is troubling me and I have crazy thoughts running through my head as I struggle to see the light of it.  His problems are much more devastating than anything I have faced, but I can still relate.

Q. (4:9, 4:19):  When I first read this, I thought it was God talking.  Then, I looked back and was relieved when I saw that it was Eliphaz.  I imagine most people listening to this response of his friend and thinking, “He’s got a point.”  However, we learn that Job does not forget who his Creator is.  We are told that God is loving, yet he can come down on people severely.  We are merely dust, purely disposable.  From my perspective, it seems that the Old Testament is harsher, but the New Testament is the new law and shows much more affection.  Do you feel God can have a change of heart?

A. That is, of course, a classic debate that has been going on for centuries.  Certainly the relationship between man and God changed through the actions of Jesus in the New Testament, but I do not feel that the OT paints God as any less loving and faithful to His chosen people.  It’s just that in the NT, everyone — Jew and Gentile alike, becomes His chosen people if they are in Christ.

Book recommendation: I have this great book called Grace in a Tree Stump by one of my professors at Asbury (Ellsworth Kalas — one of my favorite writers), that talks about the many ways that God shows mercy and grace to people throughout the Old Testament.

We should be careful about saying God is more or less “harsh” in the Old or New Testaments.  One thing to remember that frequently gets cast aside in such discussions: while the Old Testament certainly comes across as harsh, it is the New Testament that has the most to say about hell, its reality, and the reality that people will end up there if they do not trust Christ for their salvation.  The Old Testament has a some instances of God striking people down or “causing them suffering” as we’ve been talking about, but the New Testament has a lot more to say about the ETERNAL destiny of sinners.  Is that ultimately more harsh and cruel?  Something to think about.

For further study: If I follow God, won’t He protect me from bad things? Look at this article on syllogism.

Blog: Want to build your life on a solid foundation? See https://livinlight.org/blog/give-yourself-a-solid-foundation/

Shop: The source of true wisdom doesn’t come from your friends, family, celebrities or scientists, it comes from above!

Tomorrow’s reading: Job 5-7:21

Dispelling Doubts of Christianity

In talking to close friends about why they don’t believe in God, I discovered several causes for their unbelief, which are fairly rational.  Christianity has been a foundation in my family for many generations, so it is easy for me to believe the Bible is the Word of God.  On the contrary, the many who are not raised knowing God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit have a high hurdle in trying, or even desiring, to grasp such an existence.  Consequently, we, who are in the know, should help them!

Easier said than done, right!?!  Avoidance of awkward conversation is my biggest although invalid — reason, that has kept me from telling others about Christianity.  But, probably like most Christians, the Holy Spirit nags at me until I do what He says.  It has taken me several years to dial up the courage to talk to many nonbelievers.  But, I have realized that I have nothing to lose and many to try to save.  A big nudge from my pastor motivated me when he said, “If we don’t tell people about the Gospel, we must not like them very much.”  Ouch!

The facts are there!

For so many, a Bible was nowhere to be found in their childhood home, so they don’t give It a second thought.  And, they may have had a bad experience with a church or churchgoer and have written off God entirely.  They may have heard a few of the Biblical accounts — Creation, Noah, David and Goliath — and think of them as just made-up, entertaining stories to teach morality.  Or, they may consider the Bible just a collection of children’s stories.  

But when you dive into Scripture, you can see how the material is amazingly interwoven and cross referenced forward and backward over many centuries.  God foretelling our unbelief is apparent, as He included facts: genealogies, names of historically well-known kings and government officials, and precise geographic locations.  Our doubtful minds can say, “Hmm, there is a lot of evidence that points to the Bible being true.” 

To further support the idea that God desires to squelch our disbelief, in the New Testament, Jesus says things happen so that the Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled, and the reader can inherently believe the Bible is true. After studying God’s Word — which many scientists (Albert Einstein, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, and even more including Charles Darwin) have discovered — you will see that it is undeniable!

The Bible stands the test of time

The Bible is the oldest text known to man, making it an extremely ancient historic work which may seem archaic when reading it, especially the older versions of the Bible.  Keep in mind that the oldest book was written over 3,000 years ago and the newest 1,900 years ago, when obviously, the culture and writing style were way different.  Thus, critiquing the Bible according to today’s standards is not a fair comparison.  (However, most of the benchmark actions that are viewed as evil in today’s times, will also be scorned by God.)  So take your time reading and researching those rabbit-trail questions and God’s wisdom will pour into your soul.  

My best friend from college recently told me about her experience with first opening up the Bible.  At a very low point in her life, she fell to her knees and felt a call to read the Bible.  She was out of options.  She started at the beginning in Genesis and thought, “What in the world?”  But, God spoke to her and said, “It’s OK.  Keep reading.”  Now she is a firm believer!

Thankfully, we have new versions that bring old text to today’s use of language, which makes the Bible much easier to comprehend.  It has been around for over three millennia and has been confirmed to have held on to original meaning after all those translations.  It’s importance is evident in the fact that it’s the No. 1 selling book of all time at 5 billion copies sold, with the next one in the far distance, selling around 1 billion.

God is good.  People, not always

If you put a blindfold on to God’s existence, then you are missing out on a fulfilled life!  If you sit back and think everything there is to learn about Christianity will just come to you, like on the news or tidbits here and there, you couldn’t be further from the truth.  Recently, I was talking to a long-time friend who said she doesn’t see a reason to believe because so many church leaders commit wretched acts.  Unfortunately, most of those reports are probably correct.   

The Bible addresses these transgressions.  The Old Testament features God’s own people, the Israelites, whom He chose as an exemplary nation to show others how blessed they were because of their faith.  However, with human’s inherent nature, they still fell to sin following other gods and doing despicable acts.  Nonetheless, they would return to God time and time again, repenting their sins and realizing His way gives them a more satisfying life! 

God’s knowledge of our sinful ways continues in some New Testament letters that encourages churches to cleave to righteousness or scolds them about corruption among members.  Thus, church leaders falling into sin is not a new issue.  In fact, sin even happened in heaven, which is how Lucifer, aka Satan, was kicked out (Isaiah 14:12-15)!  Jesus, the perfect teacher, would never do such evil acts, nor does He condone it — but He still loves us even when we sin — as you can read in the Bible.  He is our model of a perfect human that we can strive to be more like.  He is love and goodness!   

Many churches are amazing and follow Jesus’ example whole-heartedly.  They serve as missionaries and support mission work all over the globe helping thousands, if not millions of suffering people.  They also serve the community through homeless shelters, food bank donations, community outreach programs such as Vacation Bible School, and service projects like home repair, yard cleanup and meals.  Without our churches today, the world would be a much sadder place.

Seen as another fantasy

Yet another friend just sees Christianity as a fantasy, much like Greek mythology.  I just have this to say, “Look closer!”  The Bible is an impeccable historic account of events, prophecies, proverbs, poetry, parables, miracles, teachings and more that all relate to one another.  And, we have the Dead Sea Scrolls to support the Bible’s legitimacy.  Because the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the New Testament and the NT references the OT, there HAS to be an overseeing/directing creator, which God, in fact, says that the Bible is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17), meaning the words came from Him.

That same friend argues science.  But, in fact, the Bible and science work together.  For every scientific dispute he introduced, the Bible has an answer.  There’s a good reason why it’s the best-selling book of all time — it goes deeper into history than any other book and it’s full of truth!  And, guess what?  You can be a scientist and a Christian at the same time!

Dig in!

If you still think Christianity is nonsense, all you have to do is talk to a Christian friend, call a pastor or check out a grounded church online or in person.  You can also go online and research articles.  Beware of this though, because you will find information that tries to unravel Christianity at its core.  But, I challenge you to take on those articles and find the holes in their arguments.  I have done this and it strengthens my faith even more!  Have an open mind.  Think of theology as a subject to study, just like history or science, and you will be able to better absorb what you are reading.  

In reading the Bible a while, you will discover that the whole text points to Jesus saving us from our sins.  He came to earth to show us love and that we can have eternal life if we believe in Him and follow Him.  If you have that stirring in you that lets you know when you have done something wrong and also gives you joy when you do something out of love, then that is the Holy Spirit working in you to awaken you to the Way.  After you accept Christ as your Savior — meaning because of His love for us, He came to save us so we can live eternally in heaven — then you belong to Him and will desire to tell others the Good News!

So, what have you got to lose?  Well, you have your life and potentially many more lives around you.  You have NOTHING to lose and EVERYTHING to gain!