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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Job 5

In the second part of his speech (Job 5), Eliphaz presupposes the stance he adopts in the first part (see yesterday’s meditation), yet adds several new wrinkles to his impassioned presentation.

First, he says that Job’s approach to God in this crisis is fundamentally flawed. By all means call on God (Job 5:1)—but why imagine that someone as exalted as God will answer? Meanwhile, Job’s attitude is what is killing him: “Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple” (Job 5:2). Eliphaz speaks out of his own observation: he has seen such fools prospering in the past, but suddenly they are uprooted. The implication is that Job’s former prosperity was the prosperity of a “fool,” and his current loss is nothing but his due. Somewhat inconsistently, Eliphaz adds that human suffering is a function of the human condition: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).

Second, rather self-righteously Eliphaz tells Job what he would do if he were in a similar situation (Job 5:8–16). He would appeal to God and lay his case before him—not with Job’s attitude, which Eliphaz finds insufferable, but with humility and contrition. After all, God reigns providentially and is committed to humbling the arrogant and the crafty and exalting the poor and the needy. So Eliphaz would approach God as a suppliant.

Third, Eliphaz insists that at least one of God’s aims in bringing about loss and disaster is discipline: “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal” (Job 5:17–18). Those who recognize this point discover that God quickly restores their life and prosperity. They find themselves secure in every trial. Job cannot miss the implication: if he feels he has suffered unjustly, not only is he insufficiently humble, but he fails to recognize the gracious, chastening hand of God Almighty, and therefore he remains under God’s rod instead of finding mercy. “We have examined this,” Eliphaz concludes rather pompously, “and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself” (Job 5:27).

What Eliphaz says carries some measure of truth. God does indeed chasten his children (Prov. 3:11–12; Heb. 12:5–6). But this presupposes that they need it; God certainly does not chasten his children when they do not need it. Eliphaz thus presupposes that Job deserves God’s chastening; readers of chapter 1 know he is mistaken. True, God saves the humble and abases those whose eyes are haughty (Ps. 18:27); but Eliphaz mistakenly assumes that Job must be haughty, or he would not be suffering. So here is a lesson: false or improper application of genuine truth may be heartless and cruel—and, as here, it may say false things about God.

Related Resources

How Not to Help a Sufferer

When you’re with someone who’s hurting, remember these four things.

Devotional: Genesis 39

It is entirely appropriate to read Genesis 39 as a lesson in moral courage, a case study of a God-fearing man who rightly perceives that an attractive temptation is in reality an invitation to sin against God (39:9), and who therefore cares more for his purity than his prospects.

Nevertheless, Genesis 39 must also be read in several broader dimensions, each with important lessons.

First, this chapter begins and ends very much the same way. This literary “inclusion” signals that the themes in the opening and the closing control the entire chapter. At the beginning, Joseph is sold into the service of Potiphar. God is so very much with him that in due course he becomes the head slave of this substantial household. We must not think this took place overnight; the chronology suggests eight or ten years elapsed. During this time Joseph would have had to learn the language and work his way up from the bottom. But all of this was tied to the blessing of God on Joseph’s life, and Joseph’s consequent integrity. At the end of the chapter, Joseph has been thrown into prison on a false charge, but even here God is with him and grants him favor in the eyes of the warden, and in due course becomes a prisoner-trustee. Thus the chapter as a whole demonstrates that sometimes God chooses to bless us and make us people of integrity in the midst of abominable circumstances, rather than change our circumstances.

Second, Genesis 39 serves as a foil to Genesis 38. Judah is a free and prosperous man, but when he is bereaved of his wife he ends up sleeping with his daughter-in-law. He deploys a double standard and shames himself and his family. (The fact that initially he wants Tamar executed for a sin he himself has also committed shows that he is less interested in punishing the guilty as a matter of principle than in punishing those who are caught.) Joseph is a slave, yet under the blessing of God retains his sexual purity and his integrity. Which one is happier in the eyes of the world? Which one is happier in the light of eternity?

Third, Genesis 39 is part of the march toward Joseph’s elevation to leadership in Egypt. By the wretched means described in Genesis 37, 39–40, Joseph eventually becomes “prime minister” of Egypt and saves many from starvation—including his own extended family, and therefore the messianic line. But Joseph could not know how all of that would work out as he was going through his misery. The most he knew were the stories passed down from Abraham, and his own youthful dreams (Gen. 37). But Joseph walks by faith and not by sight.

Genesis 39

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife

39:1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master's wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. 13 And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. 18 But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.”

19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.

(ESV)

Mark 9

9:1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

The Transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one1 on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,2 it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son;3 listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

Jesus Heals a Boy with an Unclean Spirit

14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out4 and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”5

Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Who Is the Greatest?

33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Anyone Not Against Us Is for Us

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name,6 and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

Temptations to Sin

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,7 it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell,8 to the unquenchable fire.9 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire.10 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Footnotes

[1] 9:3 Greek launderer (gnapheus)
[2] 9:5 Rabbi means my teacher, or my master
[3] 9:7 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved
[4] 9:24 Some manuscripts add with tears
[5] 9:29 Some manuscripts add and fasting
[6] 9:38 Some manuscripts add who does not follow us
[7] 9:42 Greek to stumble; also verses 43, 45, 47
[8] 9:43 Greek Gehenna; also verse 47
[9] 9:43 Some manuscripts add verses 44 and 46 (which are identical with verse 48)
[10] 9:49 Some manuscripts add and every sacrifice will be salted with salt

(ESV)

Job 5

5:1   “Call now; is there anyone who will answer you?
    To which of the holy ones will you turn?
  Surely vexation kills the fool,
    and jealousy slays the simple.
  I have seen the fool taking root,
    but suddenly I cursed his dwelling.
  His children are far from safety;
    they are crushed in the gate,
    and there is no one to deliver them.
  The hungry eat his harvest,
    and he takes it even out of thorns,1
    and the thirsty pant2 after his3 wealth.
  For affliction does not come from the dust,
    nor does trouble sprout from the ground,
  but man is born to trouble
    as the sparks fly upward.
  “As for me, I would seek God,
    and to God would I commit my cause,
  who does great things and unsearchable,
    marvelous things without number:
10   he gives rain on the earth
    and sends waters on the fields;
11   he sets on high those who are lowly,
    and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
12   He frustrates the devices of the crafty,
    so that their hands achieve no success.
13   He catches the wise in their own craftiness,
    and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.
14   They meet with darkness in the daytime
    and grope at noonday as in the night.
15   But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth
    and from the hand of the mighty.
16   So the poor have hope,
    and injustice shuts her mouth.
17   “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
    therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.
18   For he wounds, but he binds up;
    he shatters, but his hands heal.
19   He will deliver you from six troubles;
    in seven no evil4 shall touch you.
20   In famine he will redeem you from death,
    and in war from the power of the sword.
21   You shall be hidden from the lash of the tongue,
    and shall not fear destruction when it comes.
22   At destruction and famine you shall laugh,
    and shall not fear the beasts of the earth.
23   For you shall be in league with the stones of the field,
    and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.
24   You shall know that your tent is at peace,
    and you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing.
25   You shall know also that your offspring shall be many,
    and your descendants as the grass of the earth.
26   You shall come to your grave in ripe old age,
    like a sheaf gathered up in its season.
27   Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.
    Hear, and know it for your good.”5

Footnotes

[1] 5:5 The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain
[2] 5:5 Aquila, Symmachus, Syriac, Vulgate; Hebrew could be read as and the snare pants
[3] 5:5 Hebrew their
[4] 5:19 Or disaster
[5] 5:27 Hebrew for yourself

(ESV)

Resources

How Not to Help a Sufferer

When you’re with someone who’s hurting, remember these four things.

Romans 9

God's Sovereign Choice

9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,1 my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,2 but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

  “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
    and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26   “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel3 be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

  “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
    we would have been like Sodom
    and become like Gomorrah.”

Israel's Unbelief

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness4 did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

  “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
    and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Footnotes

[1] 9:3 Or brothers and sisters
[2] 9:16 Greek not of him who wills or runs
[3] 9:27 Or children of Israel
[4] 9:31 Greek a law of righteousness

(ESV)