Entering the Ring of Debate Differently

Scripture Focus: Job 33.6-7
6 I am the same as you in God’s sight; 
I too am a piece of clay. 
7 No fear of me should alarm you, 
nor should my hand be heavy on you.

Reflection: Entering the Ring of Debate Differently
By John Tillman

Elihu comes in at the end of Job thinking he has the solution to the puzzle. He doesn’t. 

Some chalk it up to Elihu’s cockiness or youth but that doesn’t make that much sense to me. We just listened to Job and his other friends rant at one another for over 30 chapters and they didn’t solve anything either. Plus, Elihu is almost excessively apologetic about his youth and apologized for even daring to speak up. Cockiness doesn’t seem an accurate reading.

Elihu talked more than all the other friends combined, but the “knowledge” that he expressed didn’t untangle the knot of the arguments that came before. However, there is much to learn from him. Elihu’s patience, his excellent listening skills, his intentions of being gentle with Job are all lacking in today’s world. Elihu tenderly told Job not to fear him and that he would not make his hand “heavy” upon Job.

When modern theologians exchange ideas (especially on public forums like Twitter) a heavy-handed smackdown is often what their words aim for. (I’ve made this error myself.) Like wrestling performers, grandstanding to the crowd, we swing exaggeratedly even when our actual logic or argument has little real punch. Our intentions are to smack someone down rather than lift them up.

We fail to listen. We rush to judgment. We disdain patience. We double-down on our points when proved wrong. We insist on our infallibility, sometimes confusing our infallibility with that of scripture. We refuse to interpret our foes charitably. We throw around accusations of heresy with no regard for the historicity of the terms or of confessions of faith. 

Elihu isn’t soft in what he believes but he’s gentle with those he confronts. He’s passionate about defending God against Job’s accusations. He’s passionate about defending Job against the treatment of the other friends. It’s not like he has no convictions or lives in some mushy middle ground of non-commital faith. Elihu just enters debate in a different way. A more compassionate way. He’s not perfect. None of us are. Some of his arguments are not that different than what came before but his attitude brings much needed refreshment and hope.

May we enter the ring of debate more like Elihu—more like referees than combatants. More patient. More measured. More deferential. More compassionate. Humble.

I confess in my own life I could learn from Elihu.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “If your brother does something wrong, rebuke him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I am sorry,’ you must forgive him.” — Luke 17.3-4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 33 (Listen – 3:00)
Psalm 44 (Listen – 2:44)

Join us! Walk through the Bible with us…
Share this subscription link with friends, family, or your community of faith. Find meaning in the Bible this year!


Read more about A Generational Lament
Young Christians can identify with the crisis of faith in this pleading psalm. For many Millennials and Gen Z, prior generations of prosperity have melted into scarcity…

Help That Brings Hope—Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Job 30.24-28
​​24 “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man 
when he cries for help in his distress. 
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble? 
Has not my soul grieved for the poor? 
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; 
when I looked for light, then came darkness. 

Reflection: Help That Brings Hope—Guided Prayer 
By John Tillman

One of Job’s complaints is that no one is willing to do for him what he has done for others. 

Job’s hands helped the weak and struggling. He wept with the weeping and had compassion on the suffering. He acted, resisting evil with good and bringing light to darkness.

But when Job cried out for help, rough hands gripped him and added to his distress.
When Job wept, others jeered him rather than joined him.
When Job mourned, his friends soon laid accusations at his feet rather than compassion.
Salt, rather than salve, was rubbed in Job’s wounds.
The good Job expected from others turned out to be evil.
The light Job longed for was only more darkness.

Job experienced enmity rather than empathy and hurtfulness rather than helpfulness. Few have experienced Job’s level of loss, but all of us have had times when bad news or bad experiences seemed to pile on one another. 

Let us pray this weekend, a prayer that we would be the kind of help that Job hoped for in the lives of those around us.

Prayer to Be Help that Brings Hope
Lord, let us see those suffering and bring them good things.

Help us follow Job’s model of righteousness and justice, bringing light to darkness and resisting evil with good.

Job lifted up the broken. 
Strengthen our arms for lifting.
He answered cries of distress.
Sharpen our hearing. May no plea go unanswered.
He had compassion on the hurting.
Soften our hearts.
He wept for the troubled.
Open our eyes to weep.
He grieved for the poverty-stricken.
Let grief move us to action.
He brought hope to the hopeless.
May our hope be tangible.
He worked good things for those oppressed by evil.
Empower us to overcome oppressive powers.
He brought light to those in darkness.
Make us shine with your light.

May we become the kind of help that brings hope.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 30 (Listen – 3:14)
Psalm 39 (Listen – 1:49)

This Weekend’s Readings

Job 31 (Listen – 4:16), Psalm 40-41 (Listen – 3:57)
Job 32 (Listen – 2:12), Psalm 42-43 (Listen – 2:32)

Join us! Walk through the Bible with us…
Share this subscription link with friends, family, or your community of faith. Invite a friend to join you reading God’s Word!


Read more about Convicted by Job’s Righteousness
May we run to Christ, the mediator that Job prophesied, with this confession…

Righteousness Sets Things Right

Scripture Focus: Job 29.2-3, 12-17
“How I long for the months gone by,
    for the days when God watched over me,
when his lamp shone on my head
    and by his light I walked through darkness!…
…Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
    and those who saw me commended me,
because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
    and the fatherless who had none to assist them.
The one who was dying blessed me;
    I made the widow’s heart sing.
I put on righteousness as my clothing;
    justice was my robe and my turban.
I was eyes to the blind
    and feet to the lame.
I was a father to the needy;
    I took up the case of the stranger.
I broke the fangs of the wicked
    and snatched the victims from their teeth.

John: This rewritten post from 2020 looks again at the relationship of righteousness and justice. For Job, they are of the same substance. We can’t have one without the other.

Reflection: Righteousness Sets Things Right
By John Tillman

When we think of righteousness, we tend to think first about righteousness via elimination. We think of avoiding sin, abstaining from certain food and drink, abjuring the company of certain people, or censoring our experience of the world. These may be wise measures for avoiding temptation but they are not marks of righteousness. 

Limiting exposure to certain things to remain righteous is a confession of our unrighteous state. Light does not avoid darkness to remain light—it pierces the darkness and the darkness cannot overwhelm it. Job acknowledges that the light of righteousness that used to be his was not his own, but came from the presence of God shining through him. Rather than focus on righteousness by omission, Job describes the righteousness of commission. 

In Job’s example, righteousness is connected to and related to justice. The word sedeq, translated “righteous,” also means “just” or “fair.” It also is often paired with mispat, which is translated as “justice,” in this passage but can mean “law,” or “judgment.” Job’s righteousness and justice are his robe and turban—cut from the same cloth.

Righteousness, as Job describes it, is marked by formidable, positive actions on behalf of justice. Righteousness sets things right. Job defines his righteousness by his use of power, wealth, and influence to benefit the weak, the marginalized, and the victimized. 

When Job walked in, the powerful trembled. They recognized an enemy who would break their “fangs” which were their means of holding onto prey and exerting their poisonous control.

When Job walked in, those taking advantage of the poor would lose their control and investment. When Job walked in, abusers knew their time was up. 

When Job walked in, the needy rejoiced and the outcast celebrated. When Job walked in, the fatherless felt the power of a father on their side. When Job walked in widows knew that they would no longer suffer indignity or disregard.

When the church and Christians walk in righteousness, the powerful will tremble at our approach. Oppressors will pray that we do not show up. Swindling money-lenders will dread us setting their debtors free.

Do you walk in righteousness? Ask yourself this question. Who gets nervous when you approach? Do the powerful pat you on the back? Or do the oppressed consider you a friend?

Righteousness may not be righteous if it makes the wrong people nervous.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. — Psalm 118.26

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 29 (Listen – 2:26)
Psalm 38 (Listen – 2:14)

Join us! Walk through the Bible with us…
Share this subscription link with friends, family, or your community of faith. Find joy reflecting on God’s Word!


Read more about Justice Brings Joy
Would we bury the tasks of righteousness and justice in the ground and dig them up, undeveloped and unimproved, to hand back to Christ?

Mining for Wisdom

Scripture Focus: Job 28.23, 28
God understands the way to it
    and he alone knows where it dwells…

And he said to the human race,
    “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
    and to shun evil is understanding.”    

Reflection: Mining for Wisdom
By Erin Newton

In Tolkien’s tale of Middle Earth, Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves venture toward the Lonely Mountain to recapture the dwarf kingdom. The movie elaborates on the dwarves mining for the “heart of the mountain,” the Arkenstone. Once possessing this stone, the owner gained the right to rule under the mountain. However, the king was corrupted by intense greed and the dragon destroyed the kingdom.

The interlude in dialogue between Job and his friends describes similar mining expertise. Iron, gold, and lapis lazuli are all found within dark caverns explored by humans. The author of Job indicates that not even animals can fathom the root of these precious minerals and stones.
Wisdom is placed in parallel to gold, silver, jewels and gemstones. They are all precious, valuable, and rare. Although one with dwarf-like accuracy can locate and extract veins of gold in the depths of the earth, the location of wisdom is evasive.

Wisdom is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Wisdom is not “among the living” (v13). Wisdom is not in the primordial depths (v14), a term reminiscent of creation where the Spirit hovered over these waters. Wisdom is not among death and destruction (v22), terms echoing ancient cosmology about the underworld. From primordial creation to cosmological death, wisdom is absent.

“Where then does wisdom come from?” As all other options are exhausted, the conclusion is that wisdom resides with he who is outside of time and space, God. The fear of the Lord is the apex of spiritual mining. Just as the miner studies the formations of the earth to search for a starting point, we are told that all pursuits of wisdom begin with a relationship with God.

Some prefer to seek wisdom through intellect, looking to become wise through a series of academic degrees. Some prefer to seek wisdom through prestige gained through wealth or popularity. Some seek wisdom through rebellion, going against the grain of typical society. The age-old Edenic pursuit was to seek wisdom from anything outside of a relationship with God. Like dwarves, we often dig too deep into pursuits that bring about our destruction. 

It can be frustrating for such a worthy, invaluable asset such as wisdom to be summarized in simple terms. Although difficult to find, wisdom is freely given. The difficulty is not in its availability but in our pride. Wisdom is from God. To gain it is to know Him. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us make a vow to the Lord our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared. — Psalm 76.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 28 (Listen – 2:44)
Psalm 37 (Listen – 4:21)

Join us! Walk through the Bible with us…
What will you hear in God’s Word this year? Share this subscription link with friends, family, or your community of faith.


Read more about Where is Wisdom :: A Guided Prayer
Ask God to open to us the true and timeless wisdom that comes from one unlimited source.

Learning from the Suffering

Scripture Focus: Job 27.8-12
8 For what hope have the godless when they are cut off, 
when God takes away their life? 
9 Does God listen to their cry 
when distress comes upon them? 
10 Will they find delight in the Almighty? 
Will they call on God at all times? 
11 “I will teach you about the power of God; 
the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal. 
12 You have all seen this yourselves. 
Why then this meaningless talk? 

Reflection: Learning from the Suffering
By John Tillman

Job, prior to his experiences, believed similarly to his friends—bad things happen to bad people. Despite being an exception to this rule, Job still expresses this view in verses 13-23.

Despite experiencing things he thought only happened to the wicked, Job still believed God faithful. Job testified to the benefits of his faith. Unlike the godless, Job had hope even in death.  While the godless cried out to nothingness, Job expectantly waited for God to hear his cry. Job had a source of delight in God at all times. Job realized that others had something to learn from him about God. 

Job’s suffering did not change the core of what he believed. If anyone had reason to walk away from faith, it was Job. Were we in Job’s place, it’s easy to imagine we’d remain faithful. It is more realistic to imagine responding as Job’s wife did: “curse God and die.” It is wiser to pray that in any test of faith we will be sustained by God’s grace, not our own grit. It is also wise for us to extend grace to those experiencing suffering from which we have been spared.

In our world, there is debate about how to treat Christians who, for various reasons, are deconstructing their faith. Many “deconstructors” are spurred into this process by suffering. Some experienced sexual abuse or abuse of power. Many witnessed the defense and covering up of these kinds of abuse. Some were run out of their churches over politics. Some were cast out for being whistleblowers. Their stories are numerous and varied.

When people, like Job, have had fire fall on their lives, they have reasons for doubt. Do we treat them as Job’s friends treated him? With pointless moralizing and self-righteous condemnation?

Deconstructing people are not wolves to be hunted but fellow sheep—often attacked and wounded sheep. And even if they do choose to completely reject the faith…how are we supposed to treat unbelievers? With disdain? No. With accusations and attacks? No.

Like Job, may we maintain our faith in the face of whatever fire may fall in our futures. May we be gracious to those in crises of faith, not treating them as enemies but as those wounded by our great enemy. They are worthy of any effort we can make to rescue them and we may have something to learn from them about God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For who is God, but the Lord? Who is the Rock, except our God? — Psalm 18.32

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 27 (Listen – 2:21)
Psalm 36 (Listen – 1:29)

Join us! Walk through the Bible with us…
Share this subscription link with friends, family, or your community of faith. Immerse yourself in the Bible this year!


Read more about The Ever-Patient Agriculturalist
The purpose in deconstruction is reconstruction.
The purpose in uprooting is to replant.
May we rejoice in being pruned and replanted.