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February 5, Day #36 – Judged More Strictly

Today we read Job 33-34 which continues Elihu’s lengthy discourse directed at Job. At first glance, it seems that Elihu is a more friendly ally toward Job than the others. He hasn’t seen where the other three friends have proved Job to be wrong (cf., Job 32:12), and he tells Job, “I am just like you before God” (33:6). However, when Job asserts that, in all these troubles, he is “pure and without sin” (verse 9), Elihu says, in verse 12, “in this you are not right.” Ouch! Like the other three friends, Elihu’s words also sting. We have seen that all of these men – in the absence of written Scripture – have excellent insight and knowledge about God, but all of them are also insensitive to Job regarding what has happened to him. From the Scriptures, we have the benefit of knowing the background of these events – that only with God’s sovereign permission has Satan attacked Job. God is not complicit, but these men all imply that He is punishing Job for some sin. Elihu concludes chapter 34 as follows: “Job speaks without knowledge … to his sin he adds rebellion …” (verses 35-37). Like the others, Elihu will continue to find fault with Job. If we learn anything about human nature from the book of Job, may we recognize that we simply cannot know the actual torment of other people’s suffering. That is probably the first step to real empathy.

In Psalm 18:25-36, again we read of the many different things that God does for us every day - He is “faithful, blameless, shrewd” (in this sense, “shrewd” means more discerning than his opposition). God also “saves; keeps our lamps burning, turns our darkness into light; helps and shields us; arms us with strength; keeps us secure; makes our feet to stand; trains our hands; sustains us; and provides us with a broad path” (verses 25-36). This passages lists more than ten things that God does effortlessly for us every day, and we seldom bear them in mind. If we are not mindful of them, then we are likely unthankful for them. We need to express our gratitude to the Lord for everything every day - even for those things that He does for us behind the scenes about which we are totally ignorant. I often wonder how many times my life was exposed to dangers about which I knew nothing and from which God had already protected me? In our Job 34 passage for today, we saw that if God were to “withdraw His Spirit and breath” from us, “all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust” (verses 14-15). Our sophisticated “scientific” culture ought to think about that.

In Matthew 23, we are now drawing near to the end of Jesus’ public ministry. Earlier, in Matthew 5, we saw that Jesus began His public ministry with blessings – the beatitudes – which present us a picture of the behaviors that will prevail in His coming kingdom. However, please note how He closes out His public ministry – with eight denunciatory woes. Here, his woes are proclaimed against the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, “who sit in Moses’ seat” (verse 2) – meaning that they are the recognized leaders of Israel with heavy responsibility for the welfare of the people. But Jesus denounces them for their lack of humility … “everything they do is done for men to see” (verse 5). Seven times Jesus calls them “hypocrites” (verses 13 [twice – some manuscripts add “who devour widow’s houses]; 15; 23; 25; 27; and 29). Three times, in verses 16-19, He calls them “blind” – “blind guides; blind fools; and blind men.” He also calls them “snakes” and “vipers” (verse 33). Jesus condemns them in the strongest terms – “Upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth” (verse 35). Why? Because these so-called leaders and teachers of the people have misled the people in the face of eternal consequences – “Jerusalem’s house has been left desolate, and Luke 19:41-45 informs us that Jesus wept over this city’s desolate condition. No wonder James tells us, “not many of you should presume to be teachers … who will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).

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