Onesimus

Vector illustration of a man lock up in prison

And we make the point it is necessary for those who are believers to expect to be walking as their Lord and not as kings in authority unwilling to associate with ordinary people.

3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace we know is undeserved favor. Peace is also something we rarely achieve but a blessing nonetheless and given by God. It broke down all the walls and made peace with people not normally united because of difference in rank and class. The challenge was not for those of low estate but those of high station.

4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers. Paul expresses his confidence in Philemon and the work he is doing by thanking God that he is in Colossae and able to look after the ecclesia.

5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints. All reports of them are good, and the important matters attended to by Philemon and the other members of the ecclesia, so Paul has no concern about them as long as their love extended to all.

If you take verse three to refer to Messiah’s ministry, which lasted a little more than three years, then he walked naked and barefoot before the Egyptians and Ethiopians, or the establishment as a witness to them. He had no place to lay his head, and no possessions of his own. He walked naked and barefoot before them.

Jesus did not discriminate between young and old, rich or poor, male or female, for they were all “one” captivity, and this is the point Paul wanted to make to Philemon. Whether Philemon was an Egyptian and Onesimus an Ethiopian is not clear. What we do know is Philemon was master and Onesimus the slave, so their station in life carried by those two classes of people.

6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. There is a matter that needs attention but it is a matter Paul feels compelled to put in the form of a request. He might have put it in the form of a reprimand, because Philemon made a difference between members of the ecclesia and his own servants.

7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. Again he softens the impact of what he thought would be a shock to Philemon because it shows up his neglect. In no way was Paul going to infer Philemon had done something wrong.

The position had changed. Led into captivity to Christ. The glory of the Egyptian, which was their wisdom and power, would mean nothing as captives. No expectation of high office and standing, and the slave in their house taught the truth. Because of the position they had in common one was no better than the other, as all walked barefooted with their buttocks uncovered and in need of salvation.

The Egyptian might expect to hold more sway than the Ethiopian, but they would be afraid to exercise that authority in the presence of the new master.

8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient. The language exaggerated with Paul careful not to offend, though he makes the point he has a right to insist.

9 Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. But he would not do this because of the closeness. Remember they have not met personally. Paul has not been to Colossae and we have no record of them meeting. He in no way invokes his authority as an Apostle, but makes his request based on seniority that age gives.

Note that Paul starts his letter to Philemon claiming to be a prisoner of Jesus Christ. From that time onward the whole world will have only one expectation to escape and that is through Messiah. So Philemon had a duty to teach Onesimus, but he did not. Onesimus ran away, for reasons which left Philemon with complaint against him, but of which we have no detail. That he ran away at all was grounds of complaint in that era, for slaves were the property of their master. Paul tells slaves to do their duty to their masters even more earnestly if their masters believe as well. So Onesimus might well owe Philemon service Paul says he will pay if Philemon insists. But the point is that they all walk naked and barefoot in this world if they are to follow their Lord.

The letter to Philemon

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1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer. Those who want to know how to get someone to do something important for them ought to take note of the way Paul approaches Philemon. Philemon is not a mean man, and he is doing an important work already. Paul reminds him that he is in prison, that Timothy is with him, and both of them building the ecclesia. There is no conflict, nor issue between them.t is written by Paul who is in prison in Rome and sent to Philemon by Onesimus to Colossae.

We know from The Acts of the Apostles Paul did not go to Colossae but sent his fellow soldiers to teach the truth to that Gentile city. Colossae is the place where Philemon lived.

Paul sent believers to Laodicea and Colossae described in the letter he wrote as his fellow soldiers. They were the ones to besiege those cities. Epaphras reported to Paul that all was well, but the ecclesia suffered as all others, from confusion about the law. So a letter was sent from Rome to Colossae which Paul wrote while Timothy was with him. Tychicus obviously was the scribe and Onesimus the one who carried it (see Colosians 4:18). The Circumcision claimed Paul’s doctrine allowed all kinds of ungodly behavior with which only the law could deal. Paul points out that all believers are called to glory and virtue. The way they were before they believed left behind. And law is not the way to deal with the change, only faith in the son of God. The godly things they do are works of faith, not obedience to law. You do not do them because you have to do them, but because you believe they need doing and want to do them.

The letter to Colossae is about trusting in men and sorting out the issues of law and grace. The letter to Philemon, though sent at the same time, was another matter of a personal nature, and yet important for the correct understanding of what the truth is. In it Onesimus is introduced as a brother in the meeting.

2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house. Calling them soldiers is odd, but not since we connected with Isaiah 20. Since they were fellow soldiers then Paul was a prisoner of war captured by the enemy. He was not a criminal offending against the state as other prisoners. He was upholding the cause of his master.

We take Tartan to refer to Arphia and Archippas or Epaphrus or others of the soldiers of the Lord under Paul’s command. Then Paul, who was king of the Gentiles and sent them we can accept that Ashdod refers to Colossae in the time of the second missionary journey. Then we accept the king of the Gentiles besieged the city and set up an ecclesia in it by taking captive the people of that place, and we begin to connect this chapter with the book of Philemon.

If we say it is an odd way to speak of these, it is as well to accept the progress of the Apostles reported in the Acts as victory after victory of the truth over enemies. It was a war they fought to take captives to the new teaching. Paul reminds them often they are bought with a great price and not their own, they belong to Christ and the Truth. There is a classic quote in Psalms 68:18 where it says of Messiah “that he led the captivity captive.” Used many times to describe those taken by the Lord and his army in the battle for the minds of men.

When writing it would not be fitting to use names of places not yet settled as cities, then we have the need to carry this prophetic information in a code. Therefore Tartan and his armies refer to the first wave of soldiers to the battle. Sargon was busy elsewhere and content to leave this battle to those under him. Ashdod connects to the Gentile city besieged which in this case is Colossae.

It was only a decade before this time that Messiah, the one of whom their teachers spoke, walked for three years naked and barefoot in Palestine. Isaiah was Messiah in the parable. He was father of two sons. The first is Shearjashub, whose name means “A remnant will return” speaking of the elect who survive the seventy years in Babylon or the Jewish ecclesia. The second named Maher-shalal-hash-baz means, “Speed the spoil and hast the prey,” which is exactly what the Gentiles did when the Jews rejected Paul’s words, they rushed to pick up the spoils left by the Jews. So the second son speaks of the Gentile ecclesia. They were Messiah’s seed.

Isaiah 20

roman chariot racing

1 In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it; Do we know the year Tartan came to Ashdod? It would have to be around the time of the siege of Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah. The Assyrian became a mighty conqueror and his power evolved into the Empire of Babylon ruled over by Nebuchadnezzar. Egypt, Ethiopia and Israel were a small part of what became a World Empire. Sargon was king of Assyria at the first, and Tartan was the one to conquer Palestine. This information is given in the second book of Kings which tells us Tartan came against Palestine when the king of Assyria sent him, so we assume he took Ashdod at the same time.

There is no record of this siege, or of the victory. Then my question is “why mention it here?” We have a chapter in Isaiah devoted to this event, so what is so important about capturing Ashdod.

There has to be something significant about that city. It belonged to the Philistines and never in Israel’s hands unless the Philistines became the subjects of Israel. In Samuel it does say  Dagon the God of the Philistines had a large center in Ashdod. This is where Dagon fell on his face.

I have to say it is strange to have the overthrow of a Philistine city recorded in such detail, because God showed little interest  in the welfare of Philistines.

2 At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. Sackcloth is a course fabric you wear when you intend to afflict yourself. You put it on to express desolation and despair. So in certain circumstances rich and poor would wear it.

In a story about the conquest of a Philistine city by Assyria Isaiah is told to walk naked and barefoot in Israel. How do you read this, does it mean he had no clothes on at all? He does it voluntarily, so he is not compelled by anything other than his need to tell a prophet’s message.

He had to take his shoes off and take the girdle from around the sackcloth and expose his buttocks. He did this for three years in Israel. This is confusing, because he had to do this for a witness to Egypt and Ethiopia. How can walking in Palestine be a witness to the Egyptians, when the Egyptians are not in Palestine? I would have thought he should be walking naked and barefoot in Egypt to witness to Egyptians.

3 And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years [for] a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia; Prophets do not walk around with their buttocks uncovered for fun. And they do not do it for three years unless God insist this is necessary. So what is it about?

It has something to do with Assyrians taking them captive. We know the Assyrian took their captives away from their land and placed them in other countries to reduce the chance of an uprising against their control. The captives forced to walk great distances. This would make sense of no shoes and little clothing. They were captives after all. They did this to their captives to let other cities know that they were next, and the same would happen to them. So word would get round to the Egyptians and Ethiopians that it would not be long and they too would hit the road.

The idea here is the other peoples would surrender and negotiate a way to go without the shame, and Assyria would pick up their treasures with a minimum of effort.

4 So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with [their] buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. Egyptians and Ethiopians are going to become captives. While no one is surprised Ethiopians are shamed, for they have no power to resist the mightiest nation in the world. The Egyptians being wealthy and powerful themselves have their pride and do not like parading as captives. Why do you suppose Isaiah focuses on them, for they are not God’s people?

5 And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory. People thought Ethiopia or Egypt might stop the progress of the army of the Assyrian but they did not. The Ethiopians are not powerful fighters but populous and poor and downtrodden. Egyptians in the old-world  the wise and prosperous and powerful. So the two contrast, and that is the reason they are together here.

Ethiopia is an expectation but Egypt is their glory, so they are put at two ends of the spectrum. They could hope to be absorbed by the many Ethiopians and escape that way, or turn to Egypt with all their wealth and power and escape that way.

6 And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such [is] our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape? We should correct the sense of the word “Isle” here. The margin says “country” and this makes more sense, because neither Egypt or Ethiopia or Palestine is an Isle. Although you cannot escape from an Isle because the water surrounds and you are captive.

You will notice the words “Naked and barefoot” occur in verse two, verse three and verse four. The expression appearing three times in three verses is unusual, and it draws attention to these words. There are only six verses in the chapter and three of them have this expression. We can decide whatever Isaiah 20 is talking about, the burden of the message is the plight of those who walk this way. The idea a prophet in Israel was to do this for three years makes it an important issue, and connecting as it does with the ministry of Messiah we need to understand it.

That is all there is to the record. If you are going to make anything out of it you must make it out of what you have. The first verse of Isaiah twenty says Sargon did not go to Ashdod himself. It tells us clearly he sent another to fight on his behalf. It also tells us the city besieged was a Gentile city.

The simple way to go is to give you a list of connections between Isaiah chapter 20 and the book which is Paul’s letter to Philemon. The first connection involves:

  1. The size of the chapter and the size of the book. Both are small and this is consistent with other chapters like the ones for John’s letters.
  2. Paul did not go himself to besiege Colossae even though he was on a campaign in those parts. Colossae is the city where Philemon lived.
  3. He sent his fellow soldier Epaphrus. And Apphia and Archippus were either part of the siege or among the captives.
  4. They fought against Colossae and took it. The proof of this is an ecclesia formed in that place.
  5. Colossae was a Gentile city, as Ashdod was a Gentile place. So reference to Ashdod makes sense in Isaiah 20 if this connection is the point. Philemon was a captive. We know this to be true because he became the leader of the ecclesia and they met in his house.
  6. In verses 2-3 of the Isaiah chapter it speaks of the message carried to those taken captive. Told this is the way Jesus walked in Israel, and this is the way they must go as well. It was a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, since status as it applied in this world was to change forever. No more would the Egyptian boast as lord of the Ethiopian, and the Ethiopian would realize he is no less honorable than the man with the money.
  7. Verse 4 points out they are together as captives and treated the same. They had no status to boast about. They had no possessions to call their own. They shared the shame and scorn of all who were not captives, who viewed from afar.
  8. Verse 5 tells us in Christ they would become ashamed of the difference they made. To be racist and class conscious in Christ is inconsistent with the message.
  9. In verse 6 the words “how shall we escape” have a haunting ring to them because of what happened to Onesimus. He did not learn the truth in the house of Philemon where it first came. That accounts for the implied rebuke Paul does not deliver. But when he escaped this house, he became Paul’s captive and taught the truth in Rome.

Philemon

fresh caught tuna

The extent to which the 66 Books challenge us is interesting, especially this letter to Philemon. Every nation today has legislated to enforce with serious penalties those who ignore this issue. It is so universally supported you dare not disagree. But only a few years ago nobody cared. It has to do with discrimination against another for reason of race, color, religious persuasion or any other form of this behavior. Today battles rage in Ethiopia and the Sudan, and many refugees flee heavily armed militia groups, and few in the Western World worry because the argument is over there. When these refugees make their way to our society and try to integrate or survive with a semblance of their culture, then they test us. But the law is specific and will not allow what they tolerated before the end of the Second World War. The Slave Trade is an example of the problem, and genocide practiced by the Germans against the Jews and gypsies in Europe shamed the world into action.

It is not about the world’s standards here, but those upheld in the believer community, because we want God’s view of the issue. We want to keep step with godly ways and change to stay in harmony with what God claims is true. In the end we want to be true. We do not believe being untrue is of any use.

We will start as we always do with the verse that represents the subject of the book. This would be the middle verse of Isaiah 20 that reads: 3 “And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years [for] a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia.” We must read it with verse four because they both represent the middle of the chapter. 4 “So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with [their] buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.” We have shortened the subject to “Walking naked and barefoot with their buttocks uncovered” for convenience and because it says what we need to register here. Nobody wants to be walking in a line of people chained together without shoes and their clothing torn and their buttocks uncovered, but this is how it is when taken captive by the Assyrian army

Isaiah 20 is the chapter in Isaiah that matches Philemon the book. Each chapter of Isaiah has a book to which it refers. I have chosen to include this chapter here because it introduces the issue Paul would deal with in his letter. All we need to say at this stage is the issue is essential to understand what is true.

We know what happened when Tartan came to Israel and we know Sargon sent him. And we know how those people led away their captives. Those who have understood the battle recorded in The Acts of the Apostles will accept the believers took on the world in a battle for the hearts and minds of all people, and they won. So it is not a stretch to liken the battle in Acts to the one of Israel taken captive by Assyria.

We would normally cite the first and last verses of the chapter of Isaiah to show how they identify the book, but in this case the chapter is short, only six verses. We have already highlighted two of those verses so we will go straight to the exposition.

Philemon – Introduction

Listen up!

Philemon is just one chapter. You may ask why one of the sixty six most important books in the world (written by God) is so small when others have many chapters. And when you read the letter to Philemon it appears as a trivial request from Paul to Philemon about a runaway slave. It is apologetic and not an assertive letter, which makes you think we do not have all the facts.

There is information you should notice. It is only one side of the correspondence. But we can read many different things into the words of Paul.

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO) started after the Second World War, called a World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance. Designed to address the issues raised in this letter by Paul, it has taken two thousand years for our world to accept the wickedness of discrimination against human beings. This includes race, religion, class and disability, making all men and women equal before God, and discrimination unacceptable.

We discover in our reading of the letter it was a problem Paul noticed in the believer community of the first century and tried to address. It affected what was true in the things we do and the way we behave toward one another. If they claimed to hold “the truth” this matter had to be fixed.

In the same way as we have done in other books I have put Isaiah chapter 20 that agrees with the letter to Philemon, into the book as a Preface. It clears up most of the questions, and leaves us with a clear message of how we ought to behave in the community of God. The importance we now give to this matter, and the time it took to realize what it means, answers the question we asked at the start about it being one of the sixty six books.

The end of Job and the beginning of a new book

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Job took us one hundred and twenty days to cover. That was a long time and we plan to do the smallest book of them all which is Paul’s letter to Philemon. To those who read our daily blog we say thank you. We have covered eight of the 66 books so far and commence a new one tomorrow. I hope to show even the small books of “The 66 Books” have a big message.

What we promise is we will only tell you what God says. We read the text of the book and give the sense. This way everyone gets to know what God wants us to know. Anyone can challenge what we say. Just send an email to the66books@bigpond.com and I will answer every one when I get time. Be patient, it is one of the important lessons to learn.

The letter from Paul to Philemon is our new subject. We say we do not discriminate. We do not allow our prejudice to show. I wonder how careful we are to get it right. We want to be godly so we must get it right. This may mean we re-think many of our thoughts because our measure of what is right and acceptable is not what God thinks is right and proper.

We wish you all happy reading and I hope you join me every day for this is a trip of pure enjoyment.

God blessed the latter end of Job – Job 42:12-17

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12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.

13 He had also seven sons and three daughters.

To confirm the double portion we are told that instead of seven thousand sheep he was given fourteen thousand sheep. Instead of three thousand camels he was given six thousand camels. Instead of five hundred yoke of oxen he was given one thousand. And instead of five hundred she asses, he was given one thousand. The end the Lord was pitiful and of tender mercy.

The strongest signal in the book that God approved of the children of Job is given in the next few verses, because seven sons and three daughters were given to him. These were seven other sons and three more daughters to combine with the ones who will be raised to make up Job’s double portion in the kingdom age.

14 And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch.

Jemima means a Dove, that is the most innocent virtuous and faithful creature in the creation of God. Keziah is a word related to the Cassia, an ingredient in the spices that were a sweet savor to God, and Keren-happuch an adornment for the eyes, that spoke of the beauty to be found in the bride of Christ.

15 And in all the land were no woen found

[so] fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.

Every hint is given to carry the impression they all will be raised in the end. They lived out their lives as we do, in hope of the resurrection of the dead and the change to eternal life.

16 After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, [even] four generations.

The promise of the law was that you can live to see four generations. And this is the most fulfilling promise one can expect in this age.

17 So Job died, [being] old and full of days.

It was not known in their day that daughters inherited with the men, but you see it was not related to their day at all, but to a time when there would be no difference made between male and female.

On what basis did God allow this shocking thing to happen to Job? God is doing a work in the earth, the breadth and length and depth and height of which we can hardly grasp. It is a work of love toward all of his creatures, because he would not have any of them perish but have all of them come to repentance. Job suffered so God through him might reach out to a man. Job was the innocent victim who suffered for the sake of the guilty. So the adversary’s mouth was stopped and he realized his guilt before God, and sought mercy.

Who was the adversary? He is every one of us who present ourselves each first day of the week at a regular communal gathering of the sons of God, before the mercy seat to ask God to accept the offering we place there. We claim the right to be numbered among the sons of God. As we do, he says, “where have you been and what have you been doing?” As Paul said of a similar event “Let a man examine himself and so let him eat of this bread and drink of this cup.” Or “hast thou considered my servant the Messiah that there is none like him in all the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God and avoids evil. And still he holds fast his integrity even though thou move me against him to destroy him without cause.”

So then we ask the question. Has man any rights that must be protected? Does he have any right to complain? Not because of what we know now, we simply despise ourselves and repent in dust and ashes. What can we say? Where is wisdom found? It cries out to us from everywhere, if we can but see it, hear it, touch it.

We are the ones who question God’s right to demand our service. We are the ones deciding to do what we must to provide what we need, and leave service to God to the end of the day. We are the ones who ignore the obvious, and argue till the cows come home, in our own defense. We are the ones who need to change.

God’s judgment on the three friends – Job 42:7-11

Woman with vertigo. Young patient suffering from dizziness

7 And it was [so], that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me [the thing that is] right, as my servant Job [hath].

The thing to notice here is that Elihu is not mentioned as one who should be rebuked. He spoke under inspiration and had no need to answer for it, because he spoke on God’s behalf as the mediator between God and man. Now Job becomes the one whom God accepts, who acts on behalf of the three friends, so they may reconcile with God.

8 Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you [after your] folly, in that ye have not spoken of me [the thing which is] right, like my servant Job.

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar are reprimanded by God, because what they said about God was wrong. We know from Elihu’s speech that many of the things Job said were wrong, and a correct balance of his approach had to be made. But the difference between them was clear, because the friends claimed their position in the face of the evidence. Reason was offered by Job but it was rejected by them, because of this idea they refused to abandon. Job insisted on truth and waited for God to fill in the parts of the jigsaw that were missing. The friends for their own convenience, presented the completed picture, and said this is the way things ought to be, in our opinion. This is not an uncommon thing. Men invent their own way of reunion with God.

Job assumed the role of mediator for his friends. He was justified in their presence. He witnessed his own vindication, and while he had warned them that when this happened they would be condemned, he was the one who was expected to show mercy to them. And this he did in a fitting way.

9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite [and] Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the LORD commanded them: the LORD also accepted Job.

The result was the friends changed their view of the ways of God. It is hoped we can see the difference as we must, because it is necessary to get it right. They abandoned ideas they held for a lifetime, because they were false.

10 And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.

He was healed of his leprosy and given a double portion, all of which we can easily recognize as a resurrection to the inheritance of the redeemed. Because Job had confessed God’s truth before men, God confessed Job before all his fellows.

His vindication was important to him because it meant his witness was true, but what concerned him most was his hope. That was restored to him, and that included resurrection to glory in a world at peace.

11 Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, nd every one an earring of gold.

His vindication was complete. No doubt Job delighted in explaining the whole experience, and you can imagine they listened to his impression with rapt attention.

But now mine eye seeth thee – Job 42:1-6

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YOU HAVE HEARD OF THE PATIENCE OF JOB

Chapter 42

This last example has shaken Job. He is willing to admit he has no answer to a man like that. God is the only one who can turn such a man around.

1 Then Job answered the LORD, and said,

2 I know that thou canst do every [thing], and [that] no thought can be withholden from thee.

3 Who [is] he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.

I spoke out of ignorance, and I am sorry for that. Now I understand the problem, I can only marvel at what has been done to solve it. The whole creation revolves around the need to teach, and to say you have not told us is a lie, because everything made, shouts at us to consider our ways.

4 Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.

Give me one more opportunity to speak and let me say what I feel now. Job was silent throughout the speech of Elihu and God, but he is compelled to say something now.

5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.

What I knew about God then, was as different as hearing and seeing. It was as if the knowledge I had of you came from reports from others. Now it is different. I understand you because I have seen it with my own eyes. It will not be the same again. I will not challenge you as before.

6 Wherefore I abhor [myself], and repent in dust and ashes.

I just wonder how many readers are prompted to react in a similar way. Does it make you feel sick in the stomach, to know the trouble God has gone to, to make you understand? Does it purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?

The words we quote in the title of this section are found in the letter James wrote to the Jewish brethren scattered throughout the Roman World. They faced enormous pressure, and James knew many would feel God should be doing more for them than he was.

When you suffer you become emotional about your circumstance and think only of yourself. You are apt to compare your position with those around, and feel God has abandoned you to a hostile world that takes everything you have, and gives nothing back. The world will treat you like hirelings, and your only course is to agree to the tyranny. The wealthy survive on the misfortunes of the innocent, and there is no reasonable distribution made. “On the side of the oppressor there is power and you have no comforter.”

The just can take heart in the knowledge the God of armies will eventually have the victory, and those who cry out will be delivered, and their enemies condemned. They lived there lives as an end in themselves and that is their portion. And the whole question of survival is a matter of faith.

“Ye have heard of the patience of Job and have seen the end of the Lord, the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” His suffering was great, but he waited for the answer of God, and when it came it was a blessing beyond all his hopes and dreams.

It is a question whether we believe the report that God’s servant will prosper in the end, even though it would appear during their life that God has abandoned them to hardship.

Out of his mouth go burning lamps – Job 41:19-34

Mother and daughter

19 Out of his mouth go burning lamps, [and] sparks of fire leap out.

People imagine we are talking about a mythical animal here, but the image is from those who have seen him in the mist in the morning and describe what they saw in their terror. The movement is like an explosion of unbelievable force.

20 Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as [out] of a seething pot or caldron.

His breath turns to vapor as it leaves his nostrils and appears like smoke. When he moves it is like the deep is boiling from beneath him.

21 His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.

It is unnecessary to imagine we are dealing with the supernatural simply because the things spoken of do not happen. Some think it refers to the dragon of mythology, but we are dealing with impressions and imagination. It is what you think might be, that creates the fear and doubt. People who know are not in fear or doubt. It is what you do not know, that creates the fear.

22 In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.

“In his neck remains strength, and terror dances before him.” We do know he is extremely powerful. We do know he terrifies all in his way. We do know we cannot defeat him in battle, because our weapons are useless against his defenses.

23 The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.

It comes back to the skin that forms his protective skeleton as if this is something we cannot deal with. With bullets the pendulum swings in our favor. But the point is made. God made him to draw attention to those who will not yield whatever they face. So far from threatening them with calamity to change their mind, it needs another approach.

24 His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether [millstone].

You need to change his heart. The millstone at the bottom is particularly hard and everyone knows that. It must force the wheat to yield so it must not yield itself. God is not suggesting you can change the heart of a crocodile, nor that you should try, but the degree of difficulty in getting a proud man to change is about the same. While the crocodile remains supine with stomach resting on the ground, you can only imagine what he is thinking. When he lifts himself up on his four legs it is to take the prey.

25 When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.

A mighty man’s bowels turn to water and their clothes are soiled by the involuntary rush. You can predict his next move, and it would pay to move as quickly yourself. A tree would be a good place.

26 The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.

Man knows how to prepare for war. He has many defenses, but they do not prepare him for this battle. Whatever you do will be inadequate. Choose a weapon. Whatever you like, it matters not to him.

27 He esteemeth iron as straw, [and] brass as rotten wood.

You can shake your spear all you like, it does not interest him. Part of the ritual is to make him aware of the threat, so he becomes unhinged. This one has no idea about your rituals. It is no use playing mind games with him.

28 The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble.

He will not flee because he is afraid of you. He will move to get a better shot at you, but that is all.

29 Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.

He has everything going for him on land or sea. Choosing a place for the battle does not help either. To run is not an alternative the sheer terror is just as likely to present imagined obstacles that trip you, and place you in a worse position than if you stood your ground.

30 Sharp stones [are] under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.

You would not fight him in the water because he has a distinct advantage. But choosing the land does not solve your problems either. He can handle rough terrain, so it does not represent a challenge to him.

31 He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.

When he moves in the water you hear and see the turmoil. He can move with stealth, when the pool is as flat as a pot of ointment. He is just getting himself into striking distance.

32 He maketh a path to shine after him; [one] would think the deep [to be] hoary.

He walks with a slow ungainly swagger as if he has all the time in the world. He drags his belly along the ground leaving his mark. When he goes it is usually down to the water or at least it seems that way because all the marks lead to that place. They all go down there to confer. It seems to be the place where the old and wise gather. Old men know they are wiser than the young, because they know more about important things than the young. You will often see them gather in a special place to argue about this and that. You can only argue in a sensible way with those whose opinion you respect. The place where they do this is a hoary place, so young men do not bother to come. It is a place of rampant human pride.

33 Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.

I need to make the point again he is a character in our world. We will meet him. His powers were beyond any we are aware of, but this is because we do not spend time in his domain. He is the best example of the self-sufficient man. He is like a man who has designed all his defenses, and is convinced no one can touch him.

34 He beholdeth all high [things]: he [is] a king over all the children of pride.

Do you think by force, terror or calamity, you can make him yield? Proud people do not budge an inch. So it will achieve nothing to apply your set of rules and try to enforce them. He has a way to deal with your enforcement strategy.

Things are a little more complicated than that. This simplistic approach may satisfy your need for justice, but it leaves matters unresolved. Behemoth and Leviathan are the climax of the argument. They are the best examples of the problem. They are designed and made by God to explain the point. How do you deal with the proud and arrogant man?

God has exposed the proud, whose skillful arguments would otherwise suggest they are right. He has made a parody of the aggressive, self-confident megalomaniac, so the wise see through their little act. He has shown it is sheer arrogance, that insists God account for all his moves, to a man who does not know right from wrong. And he has shown the innocent are sometimes expected to suffer for the sake of the guilty.

This last matter answers all Jobs questions about his suffering. God brought Job’s suffering on him to convince another that Job’s worship was not a sham. His service sprang from a genuine love of God, and was not linked in any way, to rewards he was given to comply.

God expected Job to suffer to make a point to a guilty person who needed to change. His mouth was stopped and there was nothing he could present in his defense. Jesus Christ is placarded before the world to make them guilty before God and it does not matter what they claim, they do not have a leg to stand on. What happened to him must purge our conscience from dead works, and we must be compelled to serve the living God. When you see what has been done to change us, you cannot remain your ignorant, arrogant self.