Tag Archives: Bitterness

What is Man? (Job 40; Job 41)

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Scripture reading – Job 40-41

A note from the shepherd: Today’s devotional is the second to the last in our study of the Book of Job. I congratulate you for completing a difficult journey. Indeed, one of the great disciplines of a chronological reading schedule is it disciplines us to consider subjects that are not appealing. Certainly, a study of troubles, trials, sickness, sorrows, and death is unattractive, but necessary. I trust a study of Job’s life has challenged each of us to accept life in this sin-cursed world will be characterized by times of sorrow, as well as fleeting times of joy.

Job 40

Today’s Scripture reading (Job 40-41) is a continuance of the Lord’s discourse with Job. Perhaps God’s question to Job is one He has brought to you and me.  Ultimately, it is the question of authority. The Lord asked Job: Shall he that contendeth [strives with] with the Almighty [Shaddai] instruct him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it (40:2).

Frightened by the reality of God’s majesty, power, and sovereignty, Job saw himself for what he was as a man, and replied: Behold, I am vile [cursed]; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth [have nothing to say]. 5  Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5).

Humbled by the presence of God, Job yielded to the LORD. He no longer attempted to justify himself, and had nothing more to say.

Then, the LORD questioned, “8Wilt thou also disannul [dispute] my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be [i.e., appear to be] righteous?” (40:8) Will you dare to question the ways of the LORD (40:6-14)? Will you challenge My majesty? (40:10)

To demonstrate His power, and sovereignty over nature, God proved His dominion over creation with two great beasts that roamed the earth in Job’s day: The behemoth (40:15-24), and the leviathan (41:1-34).

The Behemoth, and God’s Sovereignty Over Nature (Job 40:15-24)

The identity of the “behemoth” (40:15) is uncertain; however, the prevailing opinion among scholars is he was either a hippopotamus, elephant, or water buffalo. I am, however, of the opinion the behemoth may be an extinct beast. Perhaps a great dinosaur that roamed the earth following the flood.

Physical characteristics of the behemoth (40:15-24)

The behemoth was a vegetarian, for we read, “he eateth grass as an ox” (40:15b). He was a powerful beast, with great “strength…in his loins [hips, and] …his belly” (40:16). The movement of his tail, described “like a cedar” (40:17a), was like the movement and swaying of a cedar tree.

The description of the behemoth continued in Job 40:18-24. His bones were like brass and iron (40:18). He had a voracious appetite for mountain pastures (40:20), and when he quenched his thirst it was as though he “drinketh up a river” (40:23). The behemoth was described as “the chief [greatest] of the ways [works; creatures] of God,” and yet the Creator had power over him and could “make his sword to approach unto him” (40:19).

Before we consider the question, “What did all this mean to Job, and why should it matter to us?”, let us ponder another great beast…the Leviathan.

Job 41 – The Leviathan, and God’s Sovereignty Over Nature

The LORD invited Job to consider a second great beast, the “leviathan” (41:1). Once again, the identity of this great beast is uncertain; however, scholars suggest it might have been a giant saltwater crocodile, one that is probably extinct today. Whatever its identity, the analogy between the “behemoth” (Job 40) and leviathan was meant to draw Job to conclude he was foolish to question his Creator. After all, man paled in size and strength to the majestic leviathan God created (41:1-9).

Job was asked to ponder if a man could tame a leviathan? Of course, the implication was absolutely not; therefore, what right did Job have to question or stand before God (41:10-33).  We read how the leviathan “beholdeth all high things [for no man is his master]: He is a king over all the children of pride [and retreats from none](41:34).

Closing thoughts – Having considered the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, and the great creatures over whom He reigns supreme, we must ask, “What is man?” 

Job 7:17What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?”

Job 15:14What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”

Psalm 8:4 – “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

Psalm 144:3 – “LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!”

Hebrews 2:6aWhat is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

Man is an eternal soul, and was created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 18-20). Because of sin, we are physically feeble, sinners by nature (Romans 3:10, 23), and bearing the weight and curse of sin (Romans 6:23). Yet, in spite of our sins and failures, God loved us and demonstrated His love “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

God is our Creator. He is majestic in His glory, and sovereign of His creation. The LORD is omnipotent, holy, just, and forgiving. Yet, He is willing to save all who come to Him by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and accept His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 5:13).

Hebrews 2:9 – “9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Is He your Savior? If so, have you given Him authority over your life?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Don’t Trifle with God! (Job 37)

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Scripture reading – Job 37

Job 37 brings us to the final chapter in Elihu’s protracted admonition of Job. Like his other friends, the younger Elihu suggested Job’s troubles had come because he had provoked the wrath of God. Humiliated by his sorrows, and troubled by friends who showed him no pity, Job remained silent throughout Elihu’s indictment.

Consider the Majesty of God Displayed in Creation (Job 37:1-5)

Speaking figuratively, Elihu encouraged Job to “hear attentively the noise [rumbling] of [God’s] voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth. 3He [God] directeth it [the thunder] under the whole heaven, And his lightning unto the ends of the earth” (37:2-3). Elihu observed, the sound of thunder was the voice of God, and He “thundereth marvellously with his voice; Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend” (37:5).

God is the Director of the Snow, Ice, Rains, and Wind (Job 37:6-13)

Not only is the majesty of God displayed in thunderstorms, but in them He displays His power and authority over nature. The LORD guides the snow, ice, rain, and winds where He wills. He controls winter weather, and sends spring showers (37:6). He is able to stop all human activity with a storm, and “He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all may know His work” (37:7a).

Speaking allegorically, Elihu suggested frost was “the breath of God” (37:10), and the clouds a reminder of His presence and providence (37:11). The movement of storms and winds accomplish God’s will, and “do whatsoever He commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth” (37:12b). Some storms come as a manifestation of divine judgment (“correction”), and others as an expression of God’s mercy (37:13).

Elihu’s Parting Admonition: No Man Dare Judge Divine Providence (Job 37:14-20)

After he illustrated the nature and power of God in His creation, Elihu challenged: “Hearken [Listen] unto this, O Job: Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God” (37:14). Man cannot know why God sends the lightning, nor why He distributes the clouds as He does (37:15-16). Irrespective of a man’s attempt to control nature, he is nothing for God orders nature, and spreads out the sky as He wills. The sky above is like a metal mirror, displaying the glory of God (37:18; Psalm 19:1).

Earlier, Job had complained, if he were he given opportunity, he would ask God to explain the reason for all he suffered (Job 13:8, 18-22). Therefore, Elihu, having described the majesty of God revealed in His creation, remembered Job’s complaint, and challenged him, “19Teach us what we shall say unto Him; For we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness” (37:19). In other words, Elihu suggested, should any man be so foolish as to question God’s providence, “surely he [would] be swallowed up” and destroyed by Him (37:20).

Closing thoughts – The Majesty of Almighty God (Job 37:21-24)

Some scholars suggest, as Elihu concluded his speech, he saw and felt an unusual stirring in nature, a “a bright light…in the clouds,” and a rising wind coming out of the north (37:21-22).

Elihu observed, no man can measure, define, or find El Shaddai, “the Almighty” (37:23). God is all powerful, and just, and “He will not afflict” or oppress for the purpose of doing evil (37:23b). He is Sovereign, and to be feared and revered (37:24a). The LORD respects no man who thinks himself wise (37:24).

Seeing the approach of a great storm, Elihu and Job’s friends fell silent. Even Job, who boasted he would have a word with God, did not speak. It was “then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (38:1).

Our next devotional study will consider God’s counsel to Job and his “friends” (Job 38-41). For now, let’s conclude with a warning from LORD:

Matthew 10:2828And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him [the LORD] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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The God of the Scriptures is Just, Merciful, Gracious, and Good (Job 35; Job 36)

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Scripture reading – Job 35; Job 36

Elihu, the fourth and youngest of Job’s friends, began lecturing him in chapter 32, and his denunciation continued to chapter 37. Our devotional continues with today’s Scripture reading, Job 35 and 36.

Job 35 – Elihu’s charged Job with three libelous accusations.

The first, that Job misrepresented spiritual piety as unprofitable (35:1-8). In fact, Elihu suggested he had implied his “righteousness [was] more than God’s” (35:2). Of course, Job had not expressed such an outrageous claim. Elihu’s judgment was flawed, for he supposed Job’s statement of innocence was a declaration of sinlessness (35:3-8).

A second inflammatory, judgmental statement was Elihu’s suggestion Job was motivated to pray, not out of a desire to draw nigh to God, but because he sought relief from his sorrows and afflictions (35:9-13).

Now, Job had complained he did not understand the cause of his plight, and had confessed he despaired of ever again enjoying God’s favor (35:14). Elihu, however, condemned Job, saying he was guilty of opening “his mouth in vain…[and multiplying his] words without knowledge” (35:15-16). Stated simply, in Elihu’s opinion, Job said a lot, but failed to humble himself before God.

Job 36 – Elihu’s Proposal to “Speak on God’s Behalf”

Continuing to evidence youthful zeal without wisdom, Elihu proposed to “speak on God’s behalf” (36:2), and impart uncommon “knowledge” (36:3). He confessed God “is perfect in knowledge,” and promised his words would be true (36:4a). He assured his small audience, he would say only what the LORD would have him speak (36:4b).

Elihu then returned to a rationale that was espoused by Job’s friends. He declared God was just, and always rewards men according to their works (36:5-15). He testified, “God is mighty… in strength and wisdom” (36:5), and declared He “preserveth [prolongs] not the life of the wicked: But giveth right [justice] to the poor” (36:6). In that statement, Elihu failed to make allowance for God’s grace and mercies.

He did not acknowledge the LORD is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In fact, the LORD not only prolongs the life of the wicked, He graciously provides them opportunity to repent of their sins. (Another misrepresentation of Elihu was a suggestion the poor always receive the justice they are due in this earthly life (Job 36:6b).

Elihu proposed “hypocrites in heart heap up wrath…They die in their youth” (36:13-14a). In a perfect, sinless world, less God’s grace, that statement would stand as just, for there are many instances when wicked men die young. Nevertheless, it is also true the LORD is patient, and His grace is freely-offered to the worst of sinners.

Elihu also suggested Job’s sorrows had come upon him owing to his pride. He implored Job to humble himself and repent, assuring God would give him a “table…full of fatness [rich foods]” (36:16). Should Job refuse to repent, Elihu warned, the “judgment of the wicked” had befallen him (36:17), and no amount of riches would deliver him (36:18-19).

Job 36 concluded with Elihu attempting to inspire Job to concede the sovereignty and omnipotence of God (36:22-33); and that the LORD is supreme, and “exalteth” (sets up) whom He pleases (36:22a). He is omniscient, and no man can teach Him (36:22b). He is perfect, and none dare accuse Him of “iniquity” or wrong doing (36:23b). Then, Elihu invited Job to consider the greatness of the LORD displayed in creation (36:24-25; Psalm 19:1).

Closing thoughts – God is eternal, and “the number of His years [cannot] be searched out” (36:26b). His power and wisdom sustain His creation, and He even determines where the clouds drop their moisture (36:27-28). The clouds that a canopy, and shelter man from the sun (36:29-30), bring judgment on the earth in the flood, and bear life-giving water which “giveth meat [food] in abundance” (36:31). Contrary to Elihu’s assertions, God is not only just, He is gracious, merciful, and kind, for He “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

In light of Elihu’s youthful, hypocritical zeal, I close with a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26thpresident of the United States:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Elihu: An Exhibition in Youthful Zeal (Job 32)

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Scripture reading – Job 32

Job 31 recorded Job’s final reply to the allegation that his troubles were those prescribed to wicked men. When Job finished his retort, his friends were silent, and “ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). In chapter 32, we learned there was a younger man who had listened to the dispute between Job and his friends.

“Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram” (32:2b), had deferred to his elders. Finally, the silence of Job’s “friends” stirred him to no longer hold his tongue. Exhibiting the zeal of youth, he confessed he was stirred to indignation, not only by Job, whom he observed, “justified himself rather than God” (32:2c), but “also against his three friends…because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” (32:3).

Seeing the conversation between Job and his friends ended with no resolution, Elihu determined he would no longer be silent (32:4-8). He observed a profound and enduring truth: “Great men are not always wise: Neither do the aged understand judgment” (32:9). Then, he demanded his elders would listen and weigh his opinion in the matter of Job and his afflictions (32:10).

Elihu’s words were lofty, but his spirit was negative (32:12). Though young, he boasted he had discernment in the matter of Job’s afflictions that was not yet expressed (32:14-17). Elihu spoke allegorically in terms every man would understand. His enthusiasm, coupled with likening his spirit to a new wine skin that was ready to burst (32:18-19), resulted in boasting when he proclaimed, “For I am full of matter [words], The spirit within me constraineth [compels] me. 19Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; It is ready to burst like new bottles” (Job 32:18–19).

Unable to contain himself any longer, Elihu asserted: “20I will speak, that I may be refreshed [relieved]: I will open my lips and answer. 21Let me not, I pray you, accept [favor] any man’s person, Neither let me give flattering titles unto man. 22For I know not to give flattering titles [puff up others]; In so doing my maker [Creator] would soon take me away [seize by force]” (Job 32:20–22).

Though the youngest of the men, Elihu’s youthful zeal demanded a hearing. Although young, he was wise in much he observed. He then began a monologue of judgment and condemnation that would last for six of the remaining chapters in the Book of Job. Yet, as we will see, when the LORD addressed the contention between Job and his “friends,” He will disregard everything Elihu said.

Closing thoughts – Elihu’s assessment was correct when he said, old age is not indicative of spiritual maturity, wisdom, or understanding. However, let us also observe how religious zeal, without godly wisdom and understanding is injurious. I close with Solomon’s challenge that all believers would be wise to heed:

Proverbs 4:77Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: And with all thy getting get understanding.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Singing the Desert Blues (Job 30-31)

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Scripture reading – Job 30-31

Our previous devotional found Job recalling the way life used to be (Job 29). He had enjoyed the blessings of God’s favor, as well as the esteem from family, friends, and fellow citizens. In former years, young men shied from his company, while elders stood in his presence (29:8). His counsel was valued (29:7-17), and he supposed he might forever be the benefactor of God’s grace (29:18-23). Of course, those were the “good old days,” before Job experienced catastrophic losses and afflictions.

Job 30

Disdained by Lesser Men (30:1-14)

Job’s circumstances were now changed, and instead of esteem, he was mocked by lesser men (30:1-14). They were young men, whose fathers he would not have entrusted with the care of sheep dogs. Those men openly disdained Job (30:1). They were slothful, and Job loathed them (30:2-4). They were “children of fools” (30:8), who sang ballads deriding his afflictions (30:9). They spat in his face (30:10), and Job’s sorrows (30:11) served as a “righteous reason” for them to treat him spitefully (30:12-13).

Wrecked by Physical Disease (30:16-18)

Grief took hold of Job (30:16), as the toll and pain of his afflictions pierced him to the bone (30:17a). His muscles ached (“my sinews take no rest”) beneath his skin, while open oozing sores exposed the extent of the infection above. Job felt as though his flesh had been exchanged – that he had swapped healthy flesh for loathsome (30:17b-18). He was well-nigh hopeless, and felt God opposed him. When he prayed, it seemed God refused to hear his cry for pity and compassion (30:19-20). He had come to a place he accused the LORD of cruelty (30:21), and felt abandoned (30:22-24).

Job complained, for the compassion he formerly extended to others was forgotten, and it seemed his good deeds were rewarded with evil (30:25-26). He moaned and groaned (30:27-30), and in the words of the late preacher J. Vernon McGee, sang “The Desert Blues” (30:31).

Job 31 – Job’s Finale and Defense

Job 31 recorded the conclusion of Job’s deposition of his righteousness, and his assertion of innocence. I invite you to consider eleven virtues stated by Job in his defense.

Personal chastity is the first virtue. Declaring he was not guilty of lusts, Job stated, “I made a covenant [vow; agreement] with mine eyes; Why then should I think [i.e., lust after] upon a maid?” (31:1)

The second virtue suggested was an assertion of innocence. Though his “friends” accused him of lies and deceit, Job demanded he be “weighed in an even balance.” He believed God would find him a man of integrity (31:5-6).

Job’s commitment to purity and uprightness was his third virtue. He declared his hands were clean of wrongdoing. In fact, he suggested, should a stain be found on his life and character, he would relinquish the fruits of his labor (31:7-8).

Marital fidelity was the fourth virtue claimed by Job. He professed he was innocent of adultery (31:9-12).

A fifth virtue was a claim to have been a faithful master, and a kind employer. Believing all men are created in the image and likeness of God, Job believed he was no better than his servants. He understood God was Creator of both the servant and his master (31:13-15).

Sixthly, Job declared he had been charitable to the poor, widows, and fatherless (31:16-20). His friends accused him of being an oppressor and abuser of the less fortunate. Job, however, wished his arm would fall from his body, had he taken advantage of the less fortunate (31:21-22).

Closing thoughts (31:23-40) – In quick order, consider five remaining virtues claimed by Job as evidence of his righteous character. While he lived in the midst of an idolatrous people, Job declared he was innocent of idolatry, for his faith and trust were in God alone (31:23-28).

He had been kind to his enemies, and never took satisfaction in their misfortunes (31:29-30). He was a man given to hospitality, and known for generosity to strangers (31:31-32). Unlike Adam, the first man who sinned and sought to hide his transgressions from God (31:33), Job declared he was innocent of hypocrisy, hiding no secret sins (31:33-37). Finally, Job stated he was honest in business (31:38-40). He had not leased another man’s field, and failed to pay him what was owed when harvest time came.

Job’s longest speech concluded (Job 31:40) with him being like most men: He boasted his virtues, but was blinded by pride, and unable or unwilling to see his flaws.

* Note – Our next devotion (Job 32) will introduce Elihu, a fourth “friend” of Job’s. His youthful zeal will heap upon Job sorrow upon sorrows.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Remember the Good Old Days? (Job 29)

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Scripture reading – Job 29

Job’s answer to Bildad’s accusations (Job 25) is continued in today’s Scripture reading. Unable to find reprieve from his sorrows, and bearing the disappointment of friends who assailed him, Job reflected on what we might label, “the good old days.” He remembered better days, and happier times.

Job 29

Job’s Complaint (29:1-6)

Having lost everything, the sting of feeling abandoned by God pierced Job’s soul day and night. He was grieved by friends who alleged he must be guilty of some wickedness. He felt God was turned against him, and bemoaned that his dreadful state had given cause for others to ridicule and scorn him.

Job then remembered the security and communion he once enjoyed with his Creator (29:2-6). He said, Oh that I were as in months past, As in the days when God preserved me [watched over him] (29:2). He had lived what some call in our day, “the charmed life.” As a young man, he enjoyed the light of God’s favor (29:3). Comforted by the “secret of God” (His friendship and fellowship, 29:4), and the presence of his children (29:5), Job’s life had overflowed with plenty (29:6).

Job’s Prominence in Former Days (29:7-17)

There had been a day when he was esteemed in all quarters of his realm (29:7-17). He was numbered above the elders and judges of the city (29:7). When he passed in the streets, young men shied from him, and aged men rose in his presence out of respect (29:8). When he spoke, men listened and none questioned his wisdom (29:9-11). Contrary to the charges of his friends, Job had been beloved for his charity and compassion for the less fortunate (29:12-13).

Job’s Reputation (29:14-17)

He was hailed for his character and good deeds, and distinguished as a righteous judge (29:14). His charity for the less fortunate was known among his neighbors, for he served as eyes for the blind, and feet for those unable to walk (29:15). To the needy, he had been a father (29:16), and a foe of the wicked when men sought justice (29:17).

Job’s Delusion (29:18-23)

Like some in our day, Job had believed his prosperity would last forever. He supposed God would favor him for his righteous deeds, for he reasoned the days of the righteous are multiplied (29:18-19). He relished the approval of his peers, and they valued his counsel (29:20-21). When he spoke, lesser men were silent. To those who sought his counsel, his words were like dry soil that opens its “mouth wide” for spring showers (29:22-23).

Closing thoughts (29:24-25) 

For Job, times had changed, and he was left with only memories of better days. He remembered when he was much-loved, and all men sought his company (29:24-25). He had not been proud, or haughty as he was accused (29:24). Though he had been chief and sovereign in his realm, he was a comfort to those overcome with sorrows.

Friend, the day may come when you will be embroiled in trials and troubles. When sorrows come, remember God’s grace and favor is the only solace in your darkest hour. I close with a promise that has sustained believers down through the centuries:

2 Corinthians 1:3–4 – “3Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Ever wonder, “Where is Justice?” (Job 24)

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Scripture reading – Job 24

Eliphaz, the third of Job’s friends to argue Job’s troubles were like those of the wicked, evoked a response from Job that began in chapter 23 and continued to chapter 24. Having slandered Job’s character, Eliphaz accused him of some great evil and urged him to repent promising God would restore him (22:23-27).

Nevertheless, though he suffered overwhelming afflictions and felt abandoned by God, Job maintained his innocence (Job 23). He lamented, if God would give him a hearing, he would maintain his troubles were greater than his sins (23:1-7). Yet, though he was wrongly accused by his friends, Job was confident God knew he was a man of integrity, who desired to walk according to His commandments (23:8-12).

Job 24

Accused of gross wrongdoing, the accusations brought against Job by his “friends” left him wondering why he suffered, when the wicked prospered and went unpunished? Job’s reflections on the sins of the wicked was recorded in Job 24:2-17.

Wrongs Committed by the Wicked (Job 24:2-17)

Tyrannical Thieves (24:2-8)

Job first considered the company of thieves, and their wiles, deceptions, and effronteries  against God and humanity. (Remember, as you read verses 2-8, the setting was an agrarian society, and the perspective was rural and agricultural. Of course, thievery and robbery are the same, though the coveted objects of the thief change with the culture). Times have changed, but the nature of man is as wicked as ever!

Before making an application to 21st century society, let’s consider Job’s observations. The first were land thieves who removed “landmarks,” essentially physical stakes, that designated the boundaries of a family’s lands (24:2a).  Not surprising, but the same criminal activity continues in our day. (Note – Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17; Proverbs 23:10-11). There were thieves who would seize a neighbor’s sheep, and move them to graze in his pastures, thus robbing a man of his livelihood (24:2b).

Tragically, the wicked have always preyed upon the most vulnerable of a society, the poor and the weak (24:3-8). In Job’s day, evil men would steal the donkey of an orphan (24:3a), and demand a widow’s ox for surety or collateral (24:3b). They would abuse the poor, and mislead them (24:4), and leave them to forage for food and shelter like wild beasts (24:5-8).

Cruel Oppressors of the Weak and Defenseless (24:9-17)

Job described children taken from their mothers (24:9) as collateral for debt (tragically, the 21st century has revived this abuse with “human trafficking,” and the mass movement of humanity across international borders). The wicked would take the robes of the poor (a symbol of the bare necessities for life) as collateral for debt (24:10). Such is the way of the wicked. While a farmer would reward an ox with the grain he treads, the wicked would leave the poor destitute, hungry, and thirsty (24:11-12; Deuteronomy 25:41 Corinthians 9:91 Timothy 5:18).

Murderers and Adulterers (24:14-17)

The rise of violent crimes and murder in 21st century society is akin to the observations of Job. He observed murderers who plotted and preyed upon the poor and needy (24:14). Numbered among the wicked were adulterers who disguised their faces to avoid recognition (24:15). Rounding out the society of the wicked were thieves who marked houses in the day, and enjoyed the guise of darkness to break into them and steal at night (24:16-17).

The Character and Fate of the Wicked (24:18-25)

Having considered the character and sins of the wicked, Job agreed with his friends, for the wicked will not go unpunished. The wicked are swift to steal the fruits of other men’s labor, because they are unwilling to toil in their own vineyards (24:18). Nevertheless, the end of the wicked is akin to “drought and heat [that consumes] the snow;” they will go the way of all sinners, to “the grave” (24:19).

Closing thoughts (24:20-25) – Describing the fate and destiny of the wicked, Job graphically detailed his end, writing: “20The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him; He shall be no more remembered; And wickedness shall be broken as a tree” (24:20).

Rich or poor, famous or infamous, powerful or weak, the bodies of the dead eventually become the diet of worms. While the most stately of trees will eventually be broken and fall, the bodies of the powerful will inevitably decay in their graves. We might ponder with Job, why the LORD is patient with the wicked, and his pernicious ways; however, we are assured, “His eyes are upon their ways” (24:23).

Warning: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). 

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Keep Hope Alive: God Knows You! (Job 22; Job 23)

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Scripture reading – Job 22; Job 23

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we are in the midst of the Book of Job. What a powerful book and reminder that no one is spared the troubles and trials of this earthly life. Job served as a memorable example of a spiritual man who faced not only the hardships of catastrophic losses, but the erroneous, harsh judgments of some who purported to be his friends.

Yet, we should remember Job was not aware his afflictions were a consequence, not of God’s judgment, but His confidence there was “none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (1:8). The LORD gave Satan liberty to assail Job, and spared only the man’s life, from that evil one’s assault. In spite of his sorrows, Job’s faith did not falter, even as the evil insinuations of his friends increased.

After listening to Job maintain his innocence, and refute the allegations that he had committed some sin that warranted God’s judgment (Job 21), Eliphaz, obviously offended, spoke up.

Job 22 – Eliphaz’s Rebuke of Job

Eliphaz the Temanite disputed Job for his third and final time (his first two challenges were recorded in Job 4-5, and Job 15). Though claiming to be Job’s friend, Eliphaz accused him of supposing he was righteous, and God was obligated to him (22:1-4).

Impatient with Job’s pleas of innocence, Eliphaz unleashed a torrent of accusations against the man whom God said, “there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man” (1:8). He alleged Job had exploited the poor (22:6), refused water to the thirsty, and denied bread to the hungry (22:7). He suggested he had taken advantage of the most vulnerable, sent widows away wanting (22:9a), and crushed orphans (22:9b). Eliphaz dared suggest Job thought God must be blind to his wicked ways, and warned all the troubles that had befallen Job was God’s punishment (22:12-14).

Eliphaz’s diatribe (22:15-30) against Job’s character continued through the balance of Job 22, as he recapped for Job concerning the wicked, and God’s judgment (22:15). Understanding the Book of Job is believed to be the most ancient of the books of the Bible, we are not surprised to find the worldwide flood still fresh in the minds of the men of Job’s day (22:16). Eliphaz reminded Job how the wicked were destroyed in the flood, for they had rejected the LORD (22:17). Yet, men in Noah’s day, as in our day, enjoyed God’s common grace, and their houses were “filled…with good things” (22:18).

Then, Eliphaz proved the callous, heartless man he was and boasted the righteous rejoice when the wicked are afflicted (22:19), and the righteous are “not cut down” (22:20). Once again, the implication was only the wicked suffer in the manner Job was afflicted, and called upon Job to repent and “return to the Almighty” (22:21-23). Perhaps the first to preach a “prosperity gospel,” Eliphaz promised God would prosper Job (22:26), and answer his prayers if he confessed his sin and repented (22:27-30).

Job 23 – Job’s Appeal for God to Hear His Plea

Job’s reply to Eliphaz’s harsh inferences was recorded in Job 23 and Job 24; however, today’s devotional will conclude focusing solely on Job 23.

Once again, Job employed the scene of a heavenly courtroom, and God being his judge and he the victim advocating for compassion and understanding (23:1-2). Job complained it seemed God was distant, and were he to find Him, he would come to His throne and petition the LORD to hear his appeal (23:3-4). Knowing the LORD to be just, Job confessed, “I would know the words which He would answer me, And understand what He would say unto me” (23:5). He believed God would not only hear his cause, but would favor him in His judgment (23:6-7). Job complained, he searched everywhere for the LORD, but felt he was abandoned by Him (if only he had known, God was ever watching and attentive to him (23:8-9).

Closing thoughts (23:10-17) – Our devotion concludes with Job giving us a wonderful truth regarding God’s omniscience, mercy, and providences. Job 23:10 presents us with one of the great statements of faith in God’s providences: “He knoweth the way that I take: When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (23:10).

Though his friends misjudged him, Job was comforted knowing the LORD knew his ways and motives (23:11-12). Though men are given to urges, Job knew the LORD was immutable, and not given to whims. Our God is of “one mind” and does as He pleases, and His plan will be accomplished in our lives (23:13-14).

Job was confident, regardless the accusations brought against him by others, he was sure God knew him to be a man of integrity. While friends slandered and misjudged him, he believed God’s judgment was righteous and perfect.

Take comfort and trust in God: The LORD is not given to whims, for “He is one mind…and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth” (23:13).

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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The Tragic Consequences of Generational Sins (Job 20; Job 21)

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Scripture reading – Job 20; Job 21

Our study of the trials and troubles of Job continues with today’s Scripture reading (Job 20-21). Admittedly, the text is dark, but the insights we gain from our study are illuminating. The chapters before us are lengthy, and at best, time and space permit only a brief commentary. As you read chapter 20, remember Zophar (the third of Job’s friends) is coming from an earthly, human vantage. His purpose was not to impart spiritual wisdom, but to assert that Job’s afflictions were the reward of the wicked.

Job 20

Job 20 is the record of the second and final response of Zophar the Naamathite (his first speech was recorded in Job 11). Zophar was offended by Job’s admonition in the closing verses of chapter 19. Job had maintained his innocence, and warned his “friends” would face God’s wrath for their harsh judgments (19:28-29). Zophar’s rebuke came swift and furious (20:1-3).

Job 20:4-29 – The Fate of the Wicked

Like his friends, Zophar inferred Job’s afflictions were to be expected by those who are wicked. His contentions revealed three erroneous opinions concerning the state and reward of the wicked.

First error: The wicked always come to destruction. (20:4-11)

Zophar suggested the rejoicing of the wicked is brief (20:4), the honors bestowed on them perishes with them, and they are soon forgotten (20:5-8). Neither of those statements are necessarily true. In fact, the wicked often live out their lives enjoying ill acquired wealth, and their funerals and tombs are often grand spectacles to behold.

Second error: The wicked do not prosper. (20:12-23)

Continuing his erroneous observations, Zophar suggested the prosperity of the wicked is brief (20:12), inevitably bites like a poisonous viper (20:13-16), and he dies in want.

The error in Zophar’s observations is evident when we remember the LORD’s parable of a rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). Beguiled with the pleasures of his riches, the rich man ordered his barns be torn down to build greater barns, and said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). Rather than die in want, the rich fool died as he lived, enjoying his wealth until he heard in eternity that he was the poorest of men: “20But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20–21).

Third error: Only the wicked suffer devastating sorrows, and catastrophic losses. (20:24-29)

Zophar maintained the wicked are struck down (20:24-25), and all he has is destroyed (20:26).  He declared the wicked feels everything is against him, until his riches are consumed by God’s wrath (20:27-28). (While it may be argued how the wicked often suffer loss; I suggest it is more often true they are rewarded by the system of this fallen world, and hailed for their ill-gotten gains, John 15:19a).

Of course, the implication of Zophar’s argument was that Job’s sorrows were a wicked man’s afflictions, and such is the lot or “heritage” God has “appointed” for the wicked (20:29).

Job 21 – Rather than Suffer, the Wicked Prosper

Job 21 recorded Job’s response to Zophar’s fallacies. He demanded his friends be silent that he might speak, and challenged them, sarcastically, after he had spoken, “mock on” (21:1-2). Job confessed his struggle was with God, and not with men (21:3-6).

Contrary to Zophar’s assertions, he observed the wicked and their children often live long lives, and enjoy prosperity (21:7-13). He contended the riches of the wicked cause their hearts to be calloused, and “they say unto God, Depart from us; For we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. 15What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” (21:14-15) The wicked fail to acknowledge they deserve nothing. Indeed,  all they have is a testimony of God’s grace and longsuffering, and the prosperity of the wicked moves them to reject God (21:16).

Closing thoughts (21:17-34) – Warning: Do not assume the wicked go unpunished.

The consequences of sin are inevitable, and the wicked are “as stubble before the wind, And as chaff that the storm carrieth away. 19God layeth up his [the wicked’s] iniquity for his children: He rewardeth him, and he shall know it” (21:18-19).

Generational Sins: Children are not punished for the sins of their parents; however, they often suffer the influence of their sins (Jeremiah 31:29-30; Deuteronomy 24:16). Three times the Law stated: “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18; Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9).

Warning: The consequences of your sins may be borne by your children.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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“Overcoming Bitterness: I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” (Job 19)

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Scripture reading – Job 19

The sad drama between Job and his friends continued in Job 19, as he responded to the callous, unloving reproofs of Bildad the Shuhite (Job 18). Though Job might have anticipated his friends’ arrival would bring some comfort and pity, he soon realized they had come with one opinion – that Job’s afflictions were characteristic of the troubles that befall wicked men.

With that fabricated premise, Bildad assailed Job for being long-winded in his protests (18:2), and too proud to receive counsel (18:3). According to his estimation, the wicked have a hard life, characterized by calamity (18:5-18), and go to their graves with none remembering them (18:16-20). The implication was that Job’s troubles were such as should be expected of the wicked (18:21).

Job 19

An old English adage reads, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Alas, life experiences teach us that sticks can leave scars, and stones may indeed break bones; but eventually the body will mend and heal. However, the effect of cutting words from a loved one, or friend, sometimes result in sorrows that follow us to the grave. Such is the protest we read from Job in chapter 19.

Job’s Complaint Against His Friends (Job 19:1-5)

Job answered the scorn of his friends, and challenged them, saying, “How long will ye vex my soul, And break me in pieces with words?(19:2) The harsh judgments of his friends had left Job wounded and despairing of life. He protested, they had treated him reproachfully, and should be ashamed of how they humiliated him while in the throes of sorrows (19:3). Though wronged by groundless judgments, Job fell into the well-worn rut commonly found among the embittered: He kept a tally of the wrongs committed against him. Job declared, “These ten times have ye reproached me (19:3). His heart was turned from the LORD, to those who wronged and accused him. Frustrated by meddling, Job suggested if he was wrong, let it be his business, and his alone (19:4).

“Not Fair!” – Job’s Complaint Against God (19:6-12)

Job then raised a complaint against the LORD, for he believed he was unfairly entangled with sorrows exceeding his failures (19:6). He cried to the LORD, but it seemed heaven was silent (19:7). He felt entrapped (19:8), humiliated (19:9), and his world destroyed (19:10). He complained, it seemed the LORD had become his enemy, and his life under siege (19:11-12).

A Crisis of Alienation (Job 19:13-20)

God’s Word gives us an insight into the human psyche, for in Job’s afflictions, he retreated into the seclusion often sought by those who suffer. If you have known rejection, endured personal attacks, or been dealt a setback, you might have known the temptation to retreat into solitude like a wounded soul.

Job had experienced the alienation of family and friends. He wrote, “[God] hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me” (19:13). He understood God was author of his troubles, but the response of his family, friends, and acquaintances wounded him. Job felt alone, forsaken by family (19:14a), and forgotten by friends (19:14b). Even the servants of his household dishonored him (19:15-16), and his wife abhorred his “breath [life, spirit]” (19:17). “Young children,” the picture of innocence, disdained him (19:18), and his most intimate friends turned against him (19:19).

A Plea for Pity and Vindication (Job 19:20-25)

His body physically wasted (19:20), Job turned his thoughts from self-pity, and plead with his friends for pity and understanding. He asked, “Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?” (19:21-22). He begged for the vindication of his innocence to be recorded for future generations to consider, and pity him (19:23-24). Though he was overwhelmed by sorrows, and did not know the cause of his afflictions, Job declared his faith saying, 25For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth”(19:25).

Closing thoughts (19:26-29) – Though he was looking through the lens of inexplicable sorrows and losses, Job’s faith remained unshaken. He was confident the LORD was his Advocate and Redeemer, and believed He would rescue and ransom him out of trials. Job reasoned, even if his afflictions ended in death, and worms destroyed his body, he believed his Redeemer would raise him from the dead, and he would see God (19:26-27). Job’s rebuttal of Bildad concluded with a warning we should all consider: God is the final judge, and the day of his judgment will come (19:28-29; 42:7-9).

A word of invitation – Don’t be guilty of keeping a tally of wrongs committed against you (19:3). An angry, unforgiving spirit will eat at your soul and make you a slave to bitterness! Follow Job’s example, answer your enemies (Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8), and turn to the LORD (Ephesians 4:30-32).

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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