A Bible Lesson on Isaiah 52:1-12

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is a lesson about a piece of Isaiah’s prophecy that precedes the 4th “Servant Song.” In the short run, it probably had reference to the return of the nation of Judah from captivity in Babylon. Remember that as Isaiah is given and speaks this prophecy, it’s more than 100 years until the captivity, let alone the release from it. The Assyrians have done away with the northern kingdom, but Judah and Jerusalem are still intact politically speaking. In the long run, this surely points to Christ’s deliverance of His people, the church.

Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean.

God speaks to His people Judah and tells them to shake off their lethargy and put on their “strength.” That can only refer to what God provides. He provides both strength and “beautiful garments.” The allusion is likely to the robes of the priests. Jerusalem is the home of the temple of God and is the “holy” city because of God’s presence with His people. God promises that ultimately His people will no longer be run over or influenced by those with no regard for the God of the Universe. Israel has been laid waste by the Assyrians and Babylon will sack Judah. But ultimately, God’s people will be set apart to Him, righteous and undisturbed.

2 Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

The picture is one of the people of Judah slaves in chains, captives of a conquering nation. They are to see themselves punished, but now redeemed, not sitting in the dirt but rising to sit in a proper chair and freed from bondage.

3 For thus says the LORD: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.”

Neither Israel nor Judah were given into the hands of conquering nations because those nations had made some proper deal with God and somehow paid Him off. God’s people don’t belong to others. They belong to God. Despite any human appearance, it was the work of God alone that brought judgment through conquering nations. And God then has every right to reverse the situation and grant relief to His people. “Redeemed” often has the connotation of paying a proper price. Here it does not. This instead says clearly that God simply claims (and has every right to do so) those who are His.

4 For thus says the Lord GOD: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing.

The experience of God’s people to this point includes oppression both by the Egyptians, and then most recently by the Assyrians. These things happened in the great plan and providence of God, not because He was defeated or somehow bribed.

5 Now therefore what have I here,” declares the LORD, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,” declares the LORD, “and continually all the day my name is despised.

This is a great mystery in the grand salvation plan of God. In His inscrutable ways, He’s willing for a time to suffer indignity and reproach for the long term good of His people and the eternal glory of His name. The misery in Egypt, the destruction of Israel, the captivity in Babylon, the crucifixion of the Son of God, all stand as parts of the amazing redemptive plan of God. At the time, who knew what eternal weight of glory was being worked as the soldiers and crowds abused and mocked and killed the Savior of the world? Indeed, as the first part of the verse essentially asks … “What in the world is going on?”

But God’s promise is that in the end, it will all be clear who is who and what is what.

6 Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.”

In that day … God’s people will in eternity truly know Him, have fellowship with Him, and see His awesome glory. In the short run, captives from Babylon will see His saving deliverance from exile. In the long run, at the end of time, the whole universe will wonder at His merciful redemption of the church from sin, hell, and the grave. It’s the I AM who speaks! Here He is.

This is cause for great rejoicing.

7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Most likely, here is a runner carrying news of freedom from captivity in Babylon back to the remnant left Jerusalem. But more profoundly, here is the evangelist, the preacher of Christ proclaiming that contrary to all foolish human expectation and judgment, the King reigns and His apparent “foolishness” is great wisdom. Here’s the Gospel preacher bringing the good news of peace with God in Christ, bringing news of salvation.

8 The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion.

Those who are watching, who care about the things that matter, see the runner and hear the news, lift up their voices and sing. The idiom “eye to eye” is not our English idiom. It’s not about agreement, but rather means that they see it as clearly as if they were staring the runner in the eye. They understand and rejoice at the coming of the Kingdom of God.

9 Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.

Life is tough and full of misery. Believing people can faint and begin to lose heart. I’m sure that before Cyrus completely unexpectedly declared the release of the Babylonian exiles, the remnant of Judah considered themselves “waste places of Jerusalem” abandoned by God. But not so. The LORD comforts His people, and in the long run all is well.

10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

The astonishing works of God in the Exodus, in the return from Babylon, and in the resurrection of Christ are known not only to His people, but to the ends of the earth. The humiliation of Christ and the despising of the God of the Jews was public. But His final triumph and glory will be universally known and acknowledged. It may be mourned by God’s enemies, but it will be seen by all.

11 Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.

Speaking ahead to the returning Babylonian exiles, they are admonished to bring home with them none of the pagan influence of where they’ve lived. Cyrus sends them home with articles from the temple. It would simply be incongruous to carry both the utensils of the temple of the one true and living God, and baggage of paganism. That was true for the Jews living in Babylon, it’s true for Christian people awaiting the consummation of the Kingdom of God, the return of Christ the King.

12 For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Return from Babylon wasn’t like the flight from Egypt. It wasn’t a hasty getting on the road before Pharaoh changed his mind. There was dignity and even ceremony in it. So too the final redemption of Christ’s church. But just as WAS true in the Exodus, He who guarantees it is God alone. He stands at the front and the rear. It is the LORD’s doing, all of it. Indeed, as in verse 6: “Here I AM.”

Here is a .pdf of this post.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Ezekiel 47:13-23

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Last half of Ezekiel 47 describes the division of a future restored land of Israel among a complete people of God (including tribes that have already in Ezekiel’s time passed out of existence–having been carried off and dispersed by the conquering Assyrians–and even believing gentiles). The details of the exact boundaries are probably not so important except that they are concrete and exact and at God’s choice alone. (They are different from boundaries of the tribal regions given to Moses.)

Ezekiel 47:13 Thus says the Lord GOD: “This is the boundary by which you shall divide the land for inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions.

The Levites are given no land, and to keep the number of portions at a full/complete “12” portions, Ephraim and Manasseh are given separate allotments.

14 And you shall divide equally what I swore to give to your fathers. This land shall fall to you as your inheritance.

The word “equally” is important in the eternal scheme of things. God’s future provision will not be subject to the politics and gerrymandering that is standard human fare. All will be treated on the same basis. And what is done will be consistent with God’s oaths to the patriarchs. We ought to hear something bigger and beyond division of land here. This is the nature of a future eternity. All who are saved will come to God on the same basis of Christ.

15 “This shall be the boundary of the land: On the north side, from the Great Sea by way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, and on to Zedad,

16 Berothah, Sibraim (which lies on the border between Damascus and Hamath), as far as Hazer-hatticon, which is on the border of Hauran.

17 So the boundary shall run from the sea to Hazar-enan, which is on the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north. This shall be the north side.

18 “On the east side, the boundary shall run between Hauran and Damascus; along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel; to the eastern sea and as far as Tamar. This shall be the east side.

19 “On the south side, it shall run from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribah-kadesh, from there along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea. This shall be the south side.

20 “On the west side, the Great Sea shall be the boundary to a point opposite Lebo-hamath. This shall be the west side.

21 “So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel.

Ethnic Israel was the original people of promise. To this point, it seems that God has been speaking of future provision for that people. But in a way goes way beyond anything most devout Jews would have expected, God goes on.

22 You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.

The provision, the promise, the future is not just for the ethic people, but also for sojourners who “reside among you and have had children among you.” This is gentiles who come to God as do Jews who properly worship Him, who love Him and have faith in Him. This is more than just hanging around, this is participation in the genuine spiritual life of God’s elect. And those who come to the light have the same place in eternity as those “born into” real Faith.

23 In whatever tribe the sojourner resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, declares the Lord GOD.

So, consistent with His eternal promises God will in the end treat with equity His peoples that to human reckoning are completely obliterated. His people will be complete, figuratively speaking all 12 tribes will be there. And outsiders, sojourners, ones not originally counted among the chosen people will have a part! Gentiles like most of us, will be in the number of true Israel. There will be religious purity but ethnic diversity.

The apostle Paul saw this and gloried in it.

Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The last sentence of the book of Ezekiel is a definitive description of the final state of the redeemed.

Eze 48:35b And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD Is There.”

The end of history, the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him eternally. God is eternally with His people. This is the Bible story from beginning to end. God will have a people who are His and reflect His glory, and He will dwell eternally with them.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Ezekiel 47:1-12

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This lesson concerns the first 12 verses from Ezekiel 47. It’s important to hold them in perspective regarding Ezekiel’s prophecy, regarding the short run situation, regarding the New Testament, and regarding eternity.

In Ezekiel 11 the prophet spoke of God’s judgment on the leaders and prominent people of Israel. That word came to Ezekiel in Babylon on September 17, 592 BC. On that day, Ezekiel was given a vision of the glory of the LORD passing out, first of the temple area through the east gate (where the movers and shakers were busy discussing real estate), and then out of Jerusalem to hover over the Mount of Olives. In intervening chapters and years Ezekiel has prophesied to the exiles, promising a real shepherd for them, promising new hearts, hearts of flesh not stone, for God’s own glory, not theirs. He’s prophesied about new life to dead bones, to dead dead bones, this, while the exiles are in Babylon and Jerusalem and the temple have been laid waste, the destruction coming in 586 BC.

The vision that begins in Chapter 40 comes April 28, 573 BC, some 19 years after Ezekiel sees the glory of the LORD leave the temple by the east gate. It’s not until 539 BC, yet some 34 years after this vision we’re looking at, that Cyrus the Persian takes Babylon and tells the Jews to go home to rebuild. And the rebuilding of the Temple isn’t finished until 516 BC. There were rough days in the 23 years between the decree of Cyrus and the finishing of the temple. Even the ones who returned to build despaired and were ready to throw in the towel. Haggai on October 17, 520 BC said

Haggai 2:6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.

7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.

8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts.

9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.'”

So surely on the date of this vision, there is absolutely no evidence to the natural mind that anything good is in store for God’s people. The remnant is in Babylon and Jerusalem is in ruins. But in Chapter 43 we’ve seen the LORD send him an angel to show Ezekiel a future Jerusalem and a future temple, and Ezekiel has seen the glory of the LORD come from the east and fill the temple. There can be no doubt that ultimately Ezekiel was seeing what John spoke of in Revelation.

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

It’s in this context that we consider the verses of chapter 47. The angel has been showing Ezekiel around a future temple, perhaps in the short run and concretely, a rebuilt Jerusalem temple, but most truly and fully, a heaven in which God is in the midst of those who truly love Him.

Ezekiel 47:1 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.

So Ezekiel is at the temple and sees this spring of water, flowing east. It’s flowing from the near the altar, from where man is made right with a holy God by sacrifice. And there is a stream originating there. The “sons of Korah” saw this stream before Ezekiel:

Psalm 46:1 To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

John the apostle saw this river long after Ezekiel.

 Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

Jeremiah knew that God alone is the fountain of living water.

Jeremiah 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.

In John 4, Jesus told the woman at the well that He is the source of living water.

Ezekiel 47:2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.

Ezekiel has been led out the north gate because the east gate is shut, because the LORD has entered by it.

Ezekiel 44:1 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut.

2 And the LORD said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut.

Presumably the implication is that His entry is final. Neither He nor another will exit by that gate again. Ezekiel sees the water flowing outside the city. The first appearance may be that the source is not so big. The water only trickles. But that’s not really the way things are.

Ezekiel 47:3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.

The angel leads Ezekiel away from the city toward the east. And 500 meters from the city he’s ankle deep in water. What seemed like a trickle is really a substantial flow.

4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep.

500 meters further, it is up to Ezekiel’s knees. 500 meters further, it’s up to his waist.

5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.

2 km away from the city, the river is both deep enough and fast moving enough that it’s impassable. It’s more than a human can negotiate on his or her own. What initially seemed small is a torrent. Notice that there are no tributaries here. There is only once source, and that is God Himself.

6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river.

7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other.

In revelation John sees the tree of life on both sides of the river. Ezekiel sees many trees on both sides. It’s reminiscent of the Garden before the Fall.

8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh.

The water is flowing out of Jerusalem through the dry region between it and the Dead Sea, and it’s no ordinary water. Ordinary water doesn’t make salt water fresh. But this is the work of God alone, to make what’s dead live.

9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.

Everything will live where the river goes. The picture is one of superabundance, things as they were meant to be from creation.

10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.

The Dead Sea will be productive like the Sea of Galilee.

11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt.

This too has no natural explanation. While the water is fresh, yet there are salt marshes.

12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

There will be constant fruit. John saw 12 kinds, yielding every month. Ezekiel saw “much” fresh fruit every month. All of this is flowing from the presence of God. There is plenty and healing, things as they were meant to be from the beginning of time. This is God’s doing.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Ezekiel 43:13-27

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the second of four lessons from the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel has seen a vision of the return of the LORD to a future perfect temple, to dwell in the midst of His people. He’s next given a vision of the altar in this future temple and instruction concerning it.

Ezekiel 43:13 “These are the measurements of the altar by cubits (the cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth): its base shall be one cubit high and one cubit broad, with a rim of one span around its edge. And this shall be the height of the altar:

14 from the base on the ground to the lower ledge, two cubits, with a breadth of one cubit; and from the smaller ledge to the larger ledge, four cubits, with a breadth of one cubit;

15 and the altar hearth, four cubits; and from the altar hearth projecting upward, four horns.

16 The altar hearth shall be square, twelve cubits long by twelve broad.

17 The ledge also shall be square, fourteen cubits long by fourteen broad, with a rim around it half a cubit broad, and its base one cubit all around. The steps of the altar shall face east.”

This is pretty big, probably somewhat bigger than the altar of Solomon’s temple and much bigger than the original altar of the tabernacle. Unlike the original tabernacle altar, where steps were specifically forbidden (see Exodus 20:26) this is big enough to require steps to reach the top. These steps are “to face east,” the direction from which the LORD has entered Jerusalem and the temple in Ezekiel’s vision. It seems likely to me that this detail is a reminder that all of is God’s doing. It’s all at His initiative. He’s the only One really qualified to make sacrifice (to Himself) for mankind at such a perfect altar.

Now Ezekiel is given instructions for purification of this altar. What he’s shown stands in contrast to the impurity of the worship that led to the fall of Judah and the Babylonian captivity. There is to be a means of effective acceptable sacrifice, and that means will be utterly pure.

18 And he said to me, “Son of man, thus says the Lord GOD: These are the ordinances for the altar: On the day when it is erected for offering burnt offerings upon it and for throwing blood against it,

19 you shall give to the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who draw near to me to minister to me, declares the Lord GOD, a bull from the herd for a sin offering.

20 And you shall take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the ledge and upon the rim all around. Thus you shall purify the altar and make atonement for it.

This is a bloody thing. It is serious. It is life and death. Hebrews 9:22 says that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. In this vision, the altar is to be marked and purified with blood, and in its function there are to be burnt offerings and blood thrown against it.

The “horns” are on the corners at the top of the altar and such are mentioned specifically in the consecration of the tabernacle altar. When Adonijah rebels against Solomon and fears for his life, he runs to the altar and hold onto the horns, pleading for mercy. It seems like they may represent the very focus of atoning work done at the altar.

21 You shall also take the bull of the sin offering, and it shall be burned in the appointed place belonging to the temple, outside the sacred area.

22 And on the second day you shall offer a male goat without blemish for a sin offering; and the altar shall be purified, as it was purified with the bull.

23 When you have finished purifying it, you shall offer a bull from the herd without blemish and a ram from the flock without blemish.

24 You shall present them before the LORD, and the priests shall sprinkle salt on them and offer them up as a burnt offering to the LORD.

25 For seven days you shall provide daily a male goat for a sin offering; also, a bull from the herd and a ram from the flock, without blemish, shall be provided.

26 Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it, and so consecrate it.

These sacrifices are a one time matter. Again, they stand in contrast to the impure unacceptable “worship” that ended in judgment and exile for God’s people. They represent a purity that is completely “other.” What Ezekiel is seeing is not just a vision where humans get it right if they get another chance and follow proper ritual. It simply has to be more than that, since it is plain that such will never suffice for any of us individually or for a people corporately. We need a purity from outside.

Christ is all of this that we desperately need. He is the Sacrifice. He is the Priest and Intermediary. He is the pure and perfect Atonement for our sin. All that is pure and acceptable about Ezekiel’s vision, about this altar He is.

27 And when they have completed these days, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer on the altar your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, and I will accept you, declares the Lord GOD.”

Here is the most precious and important phrase “I will accept you.” This breath-taking vision Ezekiel is having is surely one of awesome holiness and “otherness.” But God is not there simply to remind His people of their unacceptability in and of themselves. He’s there to be with them, to have fellowship with them. Christopher Wright, in his commentary on Ezekiel says of this phrase, “This is the language of love, of welcome, of warmth and of invitation. This word smiles at us and greets us with open arms. The altar was the place that actualized that invitation.”

How it is that this awesome holy God will bring this to pass must be a mystery to Ezekiel. But the real and effective altar that he sees is a picture that by His initiative, the Lord God will provide righteousness for His people and be permanently among them. Thanks be to Christ!

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Ezekiel 43:1-12

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the first of four lessons from the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet to the people of Judah in exile in Babylon. In the first parts of the book, he has “bad news” for the people regarding the necessity of judgment and the fact that there will be no immediate relief from exile. He records several awesome visions of God, beginning with his call in Chapter 1, and a vision of the LORD leaving Jerusalem in Chapter 10. The LORD instructs him in a number of very public symbolic prophetic acts (including the famous lying on his side for 390 days as a picture of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem). He speaks prophecies against the evil of both God’s people and the surrounding nations.

Chapter 37 is then the famous “dry bones” chapter and a vision of God’s restoration of His people, bringing life where there is none. Chapters 38-48 describe God’s setting things right and revealing His glory both among the nations and more specifically again among His chosen people.

Chapter 43 describes Ezekiel’s vision of God’s return to the Jerusalem temple and some of its implications.

Ezekiel 43:1 Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east.

Ezekiel has been having a tour of a future new and more perfect temple in Jerusalem (Solomon’s temple having been destroyed by the Babylonians) guided by an angel. Now that angel takes him to the east gate.

2 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory.

This is 19 years or so after Ezekiel’s call and his vision of God leaving Jerusalem. It’s 12 years or so after the arrival in Babylon of the news of the destruction of the fall of Jerusalem. This has surely been a trying time for Ezekiel, but here in this vision, God comes in awesome majesty and power, returning to His people. The misery of exile and Jerusalem in rubble must seem completely swallowed up in glory.

3 And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face.

This is the same God that called Ezekiel and he’s overwhelmed at His awesome presence and complete holiness. Humans are not in God’s class, and Ezekiel is acutely aware of that truth and he prostrates himself on the ground.

4 As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east,

5 the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

As the visible presence of the Creator and Sustainer of all that is returns to Jerusalem, Ezekiel is given an aerial view of a new perfected temple and courtyard, and sees and hears what had been seen when the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40) and Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 5). He sees and hears very much what was seen and heard on the Day of Pentecost when the Glory of the LORD came to rest on Christ’s church.

6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple,

God interprets for Ezekiel the significance of the vision. The promise is that God will dwell permanently among a holy people. He’s not seeing here Zerubbabel’s temple (built after the exile). He’s seeing something far more lasting and far more important and far more grand.

7 and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places,

This permanent dwelling will be characterized by the holiness of the people. There will be no more coming short of the holy character of God. There will be no more idolatry. There will be no more false religion.

Some of the kings of Judah had been buried on Mount Zion and it seems that there may even have been idols raised to some of them. That’s inconsistent with a right understanding of the real grandeur of the God of the Bible. Ezekiel is promised a “temple” and a time and a people where none of that will be present.

8 by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger.

The royal palaces had encroached on the temple space on Mount Zion. That physical situation was a symptom and picture of the reality that the hearts of God’s people were not wholly His. They were trusting as much in politics and international alliances as in God. They cared more for wealth and comfort than for holy religion and obedience to the real King.

9 Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.

If God is to dwell with His people, these things can’t be. God will not abide apostasy. He will be with His people forever, but not under these standard human conventions. There is a real problem here outside of the saving and sanctifying work of Christ. This future temple (that can only be Christ’s church) must be holy. And we don’t have it in us to live up to or generate this perfection in and of ourselves.

10 “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan.

The necessity is complete holiness. We ought to have grief and shame for our unholiness. Ezekiel can’t know at this point the full plan of God for the salvation of humanity. But he is to preach repentance.

11 And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out.

Ezekiel is to let the people know the glorious holy nature of God’s dwelling with man. Where there are soft hearts and is sorrow for sin, the people will have to throw themselves on His mercy.

12 This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.

And the extent of this is even beyond what Ezekiel has seen. It’s not to be that only the Holy of Holies is most holy. Rather all of it, what was temple territory and what was “secular” territory, all of it is to be most holy. God’s dwelling with His people will not be some thing limited to very special locations and circumstances, it will be pervasive. All of existence for His redeemed people will ultimately be most holy and full of His Glory.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Job 38-42

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the third of three lessons on Job. The official ISSL text covers the first verses of Chapter 42. It seems to me that one is better off to read most of 38-42 and get the feel of the passage and say less about it, than to say more, and miss the awesome sense that it conveys about who God is and what is our place as humans. This is God’s answer to Job. Remember that Job has maintained his innocence in spite of the fact that conventional wisdom of his time would be that his sufferings could only be explained in terms of God’s punishment for some sin. In Chapter 31 he asked for a bill of indictment or else public vindication. Job wants an explanation. He wants a hearing. That, he doesn’t get. What he does get is a much deeper understanding of who God is and God’s loving care for him. And that is what he in all reality needs. Job’s pain began with the loss of his kids in a great wind in Chapter 1. Now God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind.

Job 38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

This sentence is apparently not absolutely clear in Hebrew. Another (quite possibly better) reading is more like “Who is this who is speaking without having right counsel or knowledge?” Job is in the dark because of lack of counsel and knowledge.

3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

We hear this as harsh, and almost surely shouldn’t. It is the gentle challenge of a loving father to a foolish child, to think through a silly position that the child has taken. There’s probably a wry smile on the face of the Almighty as this conversations begins. Job is going to the school of God’s wisdom here. God takes Job on a tour of the world. This is not God slamming Job into his place, this is God gently talking to friend and helping see what really is. If Job is going to criticize God’s management of the world, he needs to first think through

4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?

Surely you know! Indeed! Were you there at creation, helping out? If so, perhaps you have a basis of criticizing or questioning how things are going at the moment.

6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,

7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Do you control the sea?

8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb,

9 when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band,

10 and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors,

11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

Well, then if we grant that you really haven’t been around too long, since coming onto the scene, have your duties included making sure the sun rises, marking off the days of your life?

12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place,

13 that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?

14 It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment.

15 From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.

Have you been deep into the earth? If you have, I’d like to hear about it.

16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?

17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?

18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.

In the beginning God said “Let there be light.” Job, do you know where it came from?

19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness,

20 that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?

21 You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!

Really, to have a proper perspective on how things ought to run, shouldn’t one be able to look under the hood and know how things work? How is one to fix a car engine if one has never seen one before?  Job, are you in charge of the snow and hail?

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

23 which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?

24 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

25 “Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt,

26 to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man,

27 to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass?

Job (with the rest of us) is fixated on only his world. But God not only sends rain on the just and the unjust, He waters parts of the world where there are no humans! We think in terms of only ourselves. If we’re worthy to call shots in the universe, shouldn’t our vision and powers be a bit wider? God’s providence is bigger than just Job’s situation.

28 “Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew?

29 From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?

30 The waters become hard like stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.

What about the heavens?

31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?

32 Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children?

33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?

34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you?

35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?

37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,

38 when the dust runs into a mass and the clods stick fast together?

What about the animal kingdom? The implication of Job’s suffering being unfair or unjust could be that God doesn’t care for Job. But God cares for the animals … or, is that Job’s job?

39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,

40 when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in their thicket?

41 Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, and wander about for lack of food?

Job 39:1 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the does?

2 Can you number the months that they fulfill, and do you know the time when they give birth,

3 when they crouch, bring forth their offspring, and are delivered of their young?

4 Their young ones become strong; they grow up in the open; they go out and do not return to them.

Job, if you don’t feed the animals, do you at least control them? How about something as simple as the wild donkeys or wild oxen?

5 “Who has let the wild donkey go free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey,

6 to whom I have given the arid plain for his home and the salt land for his dwelling place?

7 He scorns the tumult of the city; he hears not the shouts of the driver.

8 He ranges the mountains as his pasture, and he searches after every green thing.

9 “Is the wild ox willing to serve you? Will he spend the night at your manger?

10 Can you bind him in the furrow with ropes, or will he harrow the valleys after you?

11 Will you depend on him because his strength is great, and will you leave to him your labor?

12 Do you have faith in him that he will return your grain and gather it to your threshing floor?

No, Job, you don’t completely control the animals. Do you understand their purposes or even their behavior? How about a creature as silly as the ostrich? What do you make of it? Why does it do what it does? What utility does it have for you, if you are the center of all things?

13 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are they the pinions and plumage of love?

14 For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground,

15 forgetting that a foot may crush them and that the wild beast may trample them.

16 She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers; though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear,

17 because God has made her forget wisdom and given her no share in understanding.

18 When she rouses herself to flee, she laughs at the horse and his rider.

What about the horse? That’s a pretty tame creature, but did you make it? Are you altogether sure that even one that has been broken for riding will always do what you expect?

19 “Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?

20 Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying.

21 He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.

22 He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword.

23 Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear and the javelin.

24 With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.

25 When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

How about the birds?

26 “Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south?

27 Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?

28 On the rock he dwells and makes his home, on the rocky crag and stronghold.

29 From there he spies out the prey; his eyes behold it afar off.

30 His young ones suck up blood, and where the slain are, there is he.”

Job has been given a quick tour of creation. He’s walked with God through His garden. He’s now given an invitation.

Job 40:1 And the Lord said to Job:

2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

Job, if you understand creation better than God, He’s ready to be instructed.

3 Then Job answered the Lord and said:

4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.

5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

Job has nothing to say. He spoke earlier, but given a walk through God’s garden, he’s now got less to say. The problem of “undeserved” human suffering has very few “logical” solutions. One might be that God isn’t wise enough to work it out that our circumstances match what we deserve. God has just pretty much demolished that possibility. Another might be that God isn’t really just or moral. That’s the “How could a good God let bad stuff happen?” school of human silliness. God turns to the question of His justice.

6 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

7 “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

8 Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?

Job is innocent of the charges his friends assume him to be guilty of. Does that then make God unjust if he is in misery? Is it necessary to question God’s morality in order to maintain that it’s possible for innocent people to suffer? Here comes another challenge to Job. But it is really a very gentle rebuke from a loving parent. G.C. Morgan said there is here “satire as gentle as the kiss of a mother when she laughs at a child.”

9 Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?

10 “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor.

11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.

12 Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand.

13 Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below.

14 Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.

If Job is going to charge God with treating him unjustly, then perhaps it’s time for him to put on his judicial robes and take care of punishing all evil in this world. Only if he’s up to that, does Job have any logical place to claim that he’s been done an injustice by God. Only then will God grant that he has a perspective from which to demand a change of circumstances. But, of course, he’s not equipped to handle God’s role as judge.

If God is wise (and the tour of nature has convinced Job of that) and moral/just (and there is surely no vantage point for a human being to contradict that), then the only logical “out” that remains for “explaining” innocent suffering is that He lacks the power to see that things go the way they should. God closes that possibility in the balance of Chapter 40 and Chapter 41 by describing two of His creatures: Behemoth and Leviathan. Commentators don’t agree as to whether these are real or symbolic creatures. If it is the former, the hippo is usually mentioned as the likely meaning of Behemoth and the crocodile the likely identity of Leviathan. The gist of the chapters is that God is the Maker of these creatures that a mere human would be foolish to even think about messing with. There is no question about His overwhelming power, should He choose to turn it on humanity.

15 “Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox.

16 Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly.

17 He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together.

18 His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron.

19 “He is the first of the works of God; let him who made him bring near his sword!

20 For the mountains yield food for him where all the wild beasts play.

21 Under the lotus plants he lies, in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh.

22 For his shade the lotus trees cover him; the willows of the brook surround him.

23 Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth.

24 Can one take him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a snare?

Job 41:1 “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord?

2 Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook?

3 Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words?

4 Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever?

5 Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your girls?

6 Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him up among the merchants?

7 Can you fill his skin with harpoons or his head with fishing spears?

8 Lay your hands on him; remember the battle—you will not do it again!

9 Behold, the hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him.

10 No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. Who then is he who can stand before me?

11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

12 “I will not keep silence concerning his limbs, or his mighty strength, or his goodly frame.

13 Who can strip off his outer garment? Who would come near him with a bridle?

14 Who can open the doors of his face? Around his teeth is terror.

15 His back is made of rows of shields, shut up closely as with a seal.

16 One is so near to another that no air can come between them.

17 They are joined one to another; they clasp each other and cannot be separated.

18 His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.

19 Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth.

20 Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.

21 His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.

22 In his neck abides strength, and terror dances before him.

23 The folds of his flesh stick together, firmly cast on him and immovable.

24 His heart is hard as a stone, hard as the lower millstone.

25 When he raises himself up the mighty are afraid; at the crashing they are beside themselves.

26 Though the sword reaches him, it does not avail, nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin.

27 He counts iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood.

28 The arrow cannot make him flee; for him sling stones are turned to stubble.

29 Clubs are counted as stubble; he laughs at the rattle of javelins.

30 His underparts are like sharp potsherds; he spreads himself like a threshing sledge on the mire.

31 He makes the deep boil like a pot; he makes the sea like a pot of ointment.

32 Behind him he leaves a shining wake; one would think the deep to be white-haired.

33 On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.

34 He sees everything that is high; he is king over all the sons of pride.”

In the end, Job has no place to go trying to discern a logical reason for his suffering. He is never told of the initial dispute between God and Satan about the nature of the relationship between God and Job. He’s never made aware that the ultimate test is whether God is to be loved for who He is, without buying human loyalty. But what he does know is that God is wise, just, powerful, and cares about him so much that He’s responded to Job’s cries and visited him. And that changes his heart and makes him content in God.

Job 42:1 Then Job answered the Lord and said:

2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’

5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;

6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job realizes that he’s come close to impertinence. He ceases with his “I must be told why this is happening to me” routine. He doesn’t even presume that God will have to answer him in the afterlife. He simply throws himself on God’s mercy and grace in the hard things of life. It is absolutely sufficient that he’s loved by the Holy One. And this knowledge is new and deep and fresh. It was no fun coming, but it’s now as if he sees for the first time. He repents. Of what? Surely not of what his friends accuse him of. Rather, of foolish self-sufficiency, the sin of his friends and us all.

7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

This is interesting. Those who had indicted Job are called on to seek his help. It is also interesting that Job is called on to forgive. And it’s interesting that it’s after he behaves graciously to those who maligned him that his circumstances are restored.

9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

11 Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.

12 And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.

13 He had also seven sons and three daughters.

14 And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch.

15 And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers.

16 And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations.

17 And Job died, an old man, and full of days.

The end of this Gospel story is good. It is one that only makes any sense for those who know and love the Sovereign of the universe. But a good end awaits all who come to the place that Job did.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Job 24

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the second of three lessons from the book of Job, and frankly it’s an uncomfortable chapter to consider, in that it doesn’t wrap everything up into a complete statement about the full nature of divine justice (that Job can’t in any case know). We see Job struggling to understand life in this broken world, repudiating the wrong mechanistic view of his friends, but not at this point completely articulating the whole picture. Essentially what he says very passionately and effectively is “The fact that the wicked are NOT always judged in this life is convincing evidence that your theory of how God’s moral justice works is just wrong. It is wrong in the case of many of the obviously wicked. (And it is wrong in mine too!)”

The claim that evil behavior always results in unpleasant life outcomes and good behavior always results in pleasant ones has been the explanation of Job’s friends for his suffering. That is shallow, obviously untrue, and completely unhelpful/unkind in Job’s situation. It would again have been far wiser if the friends has treaded more carefully and humbly as they spoke with Job.

Here is part of what Job says to them about their theory.

Job 24:1 “Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days?

Job (and every other thinking believing person) longs to see the fullness God’s righteous rule. He wonders why it is not constantly evident in his experience. He looks and sees terrible social injustices.

2 Some move landmarks; they seize flocks and pasture them.

3 They drive away the donkey of the fatherless; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.

4 They thrust the poor off the road; the poor of the earth all hide themselves.

5 Behold, like wild donkeys in the desert the poor go out to their toil, seeking game; the wasteland yields food for their children.

6 They gather their fodder in the field, and they glean the vineyard of the wicked man.

7 They lie all night naked, without clothing, and have no covering in the cold.

8 They are wet with the rain of the mountains and cling to the rock for lack of shelter.

Job (and the God he serves) cares especially for the downtrodden and helpless. That the powerful and wealthy abuse them is an outrage. It breaks Job’s heart (and that of his God) to see the misery that the powerful think nothing of inflicting upon the fatherless and poor. Sometimes what is done is just outright violent. They make slaves of the helpless.

9 (There are those who snatch the fatherless child from the breast, and they take a pledge against the poor.)

10 They go about naked, without clothing; hungry, they carry the sheaves;

11 among the olive rows of the wicked they make oil; they tread the winepresses, but suffer thirst.

12 From out of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries for help; yet God charges no one with wrong.

In this broken and fallen world, wrongs aren’t always made right. Evildoers aren’t always punished and the weak don’t always or even often have an advocate. In His providence, God doesn’t always balance the books in this life.

13 “There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths.

14 The murderer rises before it is light, that he may kill the poor and needy, and in the night he is like a thief.

15 The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight, saying, ‘No eye will see me’; and he veils his face.

16 In the dark they dig through houses; by day they shut themselves up; they do not know the light.

17 For deep darkness is morning to all of them; for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness.

Murders, adulterers, house-breakers get away with their stuff under the cover of night. What they do is awful, genuinely and deeply evil. But God doesn’t always bring retribution to them in this life.

The next few verses are apparently hard to render. The ESV makes them to be the words of the friends spoken back to them by Job, words indicating there is some measure of visible justice coming to evildoers. It seems that it’s also possible to render them as Job’s thoughts, and make them descriptions of the more or less ordinary non-violent passing and forgetting of evildoers. That understanding would again indicate that there is no sure retribution for serious evil in this life.

18 “You say, ‘Swift are they on the face of the waters; their portion is cursed in the land; no treader turns toward their vineyards.

19 Drought and heat snatch away the snow waters; so does Sheol those who have sinned.

20 The womb forgets them; the worm finds them sweet; they are no longer remembered, so wickedness is broken like a tree.’

21 “They wrong the barren, childless woman, and do no good to the widow.

22 Yet God prolongs the life of the mighty by his power; they rise up when they despair of life.

23 He gives them security, and they are supported, and his eyes are upon their ways.

24 They are exalted a little while, and then are gone; they are brought low and gathered up like all others; they are cut off like the heads of grain.

25 If it is not so, who will prove me a liar and show that there is nothing in what I say?”

We would like, but don’t get a clear statement from Job that though he is speaking here of this life only, he’s sure that in eternity, an all-powerful, holy and just God will set all things right. That we know to be true. But this chapter is more limited in its argument and intent, simply repudiating the “life outcomes will of necessity be pleasant exactly in proportion to the moral behavior of a person” theory of his friends.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.