When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
‘Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity. ‘(Psalm 51v7-9)
Now, while many people believe the psalm to be David’s confession to God having sinned with (Uriah’s wife) Bathsheba, the thing that I take from this is how reflective the king becomes in the light of the mistake he has made.
Almost instantly, David recognises he has done wrong and he identifies the problem: that being that David has a wayward heart. One that is prone to wander and lust for things that are neither glorifying to God nor himself. And what is David’s solution to the problem?
- He asks God to (re) create in him a pure heart that will make him obedient in future.
- He requests God renew a steadfast spirit within him so he won’t be inclined to wander in future.
David’s request of God tells us something about his contrition and sorrow at his mistakes. Moreover, his desire to change and become wiser from the events that have come upon him. Something that all of us can learn from in order to be more obedient to God.
verses indicate that David is in meltdowne realise how
This is a familiar scripture – I wonder how you read it? I think all of us can relate to those times in our lives when we have been brokenhearted or weighed down by circumstance so much so that it felt like our spirits were being crushed beyond repair. Interestingly, the verses that come before it in v13-16 carry this instruction and insight:
‘Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;
Does this mean that God is promising that if we turn away from evil that tragedy will never befall us?
No! The very fact we live in a world where people have freewill means that they will misuse this freedom to make choices that affects both themselves and others. This alone should be evidence enough why this world is never going to be a harm-free place. Moreover, it explains why God’s heart is directed towards that are brokenhearted – who, through no fault of their own, have been crushed and disregarded by others.
So what does this mean for us?
Well…in v19 we read that ‘The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them, he delivers them from all their troubles.” Here, what is most important to recognise is that for us to be delivered from something, necessitates that we are in a place or circumstance from which we cannot save ourselves. Here, we understand the insidiouness of sin in which ‘all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’
In summary, it has never been a case of them and us – just those people who recognise they have sinned and need of a saviour and those for whom it never crosses their mind.
‘Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.’ (Psalm 31v5)
Okay, back to Elihu who is still trying to instruct Job on the way God operates. Having explained the neccessity of God’s Spirit to breath life into the lifeless, Elihu turns his attention to God and the inevitable demise of humanity should God ever choose to withdraw His Spirit away from Creation.
Now, while Elihu’s explanation is intended to show that life is fragile and dependent on God to sustain it, he does not really answer Job’s questions about what has befallen him. Instead, he chooses to sidestep the issue by focusing on the nature of existence and non-existence rather than deal with Job’s more pressing need to understand what has happened to him.
Indeed, many humans in the world still struggle with understanding the tragic outcomes that befall them and their loved ones. However, what is now needed from the Church is for God’s People to show the same generosity of love towards the grieving, irrespective of whether the person continues to love God or turn his face away.
male and female he created them.’
that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know.
But it is the spirit in a person,the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.” (Job 36v6-9)
‘Who has helped you utter these words? And whose spirit spoke from your mouth?’ (Job 26v4)
I don’t know how you read this but presumably the answer God is expecting of Job is for him to reply that it was the Divine who gave him words to speak: that God Himself placed the spirit within Job’s mouth to help him find voice. And yet, I imagine that at this moment as Job stands before God – broken by the death of his family – giving an answer to the obvious does not come high on Job’s agenda (even when the question is asked by God).
Job is hurting. True, God will provide the ultimate help but Job needs time to grieve. Words may pour forth from his mouth but Job can barely understand what he’s saying right now as he tries to make sense of all that has happened to him – or put another way, the nonsense of existence and and its unfair outcomes.
Now – at the risk of upsetting some – I would be less then professional with this passage if I did not address the elephant in the room. That is, when God grants permission to the devil to test Job? Why would a God of love grant permission to a fallen angel – who is seeking to overthrow creation – to do this to Job, especially when it goes against the nature and love of God?
And here, we must return to the question of who is the author of Job? Who is this unseen eavesdropper who is privvy to the discussion between God and Satan and then feeds it back to us. Moreover, is the character of God – as portrayed in the Book of Job – in anyway reminiscent to the God revealed in the person of Jesus who is God incarnate? For God not to be consistent is for us to accept a dualistic rendering in which the God in the Old Testament is wholly different to the one revealed in the character and person of Jesus Christ.
On the one hand, we have that which looks back to the throes of courtship in which the person remembers the kindness and providence shown to them by their loved one. Then – tragedy – as they consider the depressing future that awaits them now that their spirit has been broken, their days cut short and the grave their solace.
Clearly, in this context, the term ‘spirit’ is perhaps better rendered as ‘heart’ in the sense of the conduit through which our emotions are displayed. For Job – caught up in the raw emotion of remembering better time – grieving, bereavement and reflection are hard for him to engage with…yet do it, he must!
In summary, Job enters into his angst, asking questions, reasoning the meaning of what he has experienced and exits no less hurt if not perhaps slightly wiser. However, if there is one practical lesson that can be learnt from Jonb’s travails it’s that he did not run away from his emotions or bury them. Instead , he engaged with what was happening to him and grew out of the experience.