Job 1:6-22

Key Verse(s):

Job 1:22 (CSB)
22 Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.

Reflection/Application:

In this passage we quickly get to the event that sets the stage for the rest of the book. We are also presented with a number of curious scenes, as well as one of the greatest pictures of obedience in scripture.

We are first introduced to a presumably heavenly scene, in which the “sons of God,” and the Satan, come before God. We could immediately stop here and get hung up on who the “sons of God,” and the Satan are. Suffice it to say, it seems that God has a sort of council which he presides over, and is comprised of at least one member who seems to be opposed to God, or at least God’s created people. This opponent, “the Satan” (in the Hebrew, which I do not speak, but there are enough commentaries and notes that we can be assured there is a definite article there, or a “the”), may or may not be the Satan, the Devil, or simply another divine being (angel?). For an interesting book that dives into this spiritual council, and the nature of divine beings in general, I would refer you to The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser.

But we do not need to be hung up on that point right now, as a general understanding of the scene is sufficient to move along. The Satan, or the accuser, lives up to his name and challenges God by suggesting Job has been protected and blessed by God, and this is the only reason Job remains loyal and obedient to God. And in response, God gives the accuser carte blanche with job, with the one caveat that he cannot touch Job.

What happens next is a whirlwind of calamity and disaster. Job goes from being a great and rich man to being childless and destitute in seven verses. All his livestock is either stolen or burned, his servants are killed with the exception of the four that manage to escape the calamity and report back to Job, and his children, while feasting together, are killed in one fell swoop.

So who is responsible for these disasters? We saw in Job 1:12 that God said the accuser ad “power” over “everything [Job] owns.” So it seems logical that these disasters are the direct result of the accuser. This has significant ramifications though: it suggests divine beings other than God have some sort of power to manipulate and control people (in this case the Sabeans and Chaldeans), as well as, at a minimum, control fire and cause it to be a “great” blaze, and possibly even call fire, or lightning, itself, and to control (and cause?) wind. We can bog down here as well, but we will press on since whether it is the work of the accuser, or God, Job’s response stands either way.

Job’s reaction is a tremendous picture of faith and obedience that all believers should be inspired by. We certainly pray to never be in the same circumstances, but when we do experience calamity and disaster in our lives, we hope to have the same reaction as Job does here. We see Job express his grief through tearing his robe and shaving. But then we something amazing: Job falls to the ground and worships God! Rather than cursing God, or at least questioning God, Job recognizes God’s sovereignty and worships him. And Job is unaware that he is a “test” of sorts, the subject of this divine challenge taking place, yet he recognizes that God is in complete control, and whatever happens is up to his sole discretion, whether he initiates it or not. And just to be sure, the passage ends with the clear statement that Job places no blame on God, and that he avoided the sin of being disobedient, or coming against God. What a tremendous picture in the middle of unimaginable tragedy of where to turn and place trust!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the picture of Job’s complete and total recognition of your complete and total sovereignty! I pray that we would be saved from the experience of Job, but even more importantly, I pray we would submit to your authority to do as you will, at all times, no matter the impact it has on our world. Amen.

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Job 1:1-5

Key Verse(s):

Job 1:1 (CSB)
1 There was a man in the country of Uz named Job. He was a man of complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil.

Reflection/Application:

The beginning of the book of Job starts with a quick view of Job’s home, where he is from, his belongings, and his character. In just a few verses we learn much about Job.

  • Job is in the “country of Uz.” Apparently it is unknown, for sure, where this area was, with the two most likely options being Syria or Edom, and Edom being more likely. We also see in Job 1:3 that Job is referred to as “the greatest man among all the people of the east.” The point is not so much where Job is from, or located during this story, but that he is not an Israelite. That may not seem significant, but when we remember that this setting is old covenant times, we should see this as more significant. It speaks to the fact that God’s plan has always been to have a people that extends beyond the literal, physical, bloodline of the Israelites, and he can be, and is, known by all peoples.
  • Job was a wealthy man. The counts of his livestock, and the size of his servant staff, seem to obviously point to this fact, along with the title of “greatest man” in the entire “east”. We will see that this initial wealth plays an important role in Job’s candidacy for what is to come.
  • Job 1:4 gives us a glimpse of the family of Job, and how the members interacted. We can see that they are intertwined, each of the brothers taking turns having their sisters over for a banquet. We get the idea that this is a large, happy, family, that spends time together and is somewhat close-knit.
  • Finally, we see the character of Job. We first see what kind of man Job is in Job 1:1, where he is  referred to as “a man of complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil.” So we have a non-Israelite, who fears, or worships, God! Again, we see a big picture preview here in that God’s plan extends well beyond the natural bloodline of Israel. Then, in job 1:5, we see a habit of Job’s: presenting offerings, sacrifices, to God, in case one of his children had sinned. Notice that Job is not bringing an offering to a Levite, to a priest. Instead, Job is the priest of his family. And this “was Job’s regular practice.” We see the character of Job here, he is a man who worships God and, at a minimum, is serving his kingdom among his family.

 

Might we, today, learn from this gentile man? Do we find ourselves among the world, seemingly separated from God, yet we are firmly entrenched in him? Do we exude the character of Job: praying for our family and friends just because they may have sinned?

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the example of Job. I am sorry I fall short so often, and so far. Instead of caring for others, even my family at times, through prayer and petition before a need is known, I wait, as though you are only a fallback plan in case things cannot get handled without you. Too often I find myself immersed in the world, instead of immersed in you. I pray that Job would an example, that I would learn from him, and grow closer and stringer in you. Help me to have just a sliver of your compassion and love for the world around me. Amen.

Joel 3:17-21

Key Verse(s):

Joel 3:17 (CSB)
17 Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. Jerusalem will be holy, and foreigners will never overrun it again.

Reflection/Application:

The previous events that Joel has prophesied will be evidence of who God is, and this is stated in the beginning of this pericope. The great judgment of God has proven his sovereignty. God will “dwell in Zion”, he will be among his people again. Jerusalem will be holy, no longer will God’s people be disobedient and unclean. Further, God promises that “foreigners”, surely meaning those opposed to God, will never “overrun” the city again: God has secured eternity, the struggle with sin is over, God is victorious.

Again we see the contrast of what it will be like in God’s presence and what was described as a result of the locust plague. Abundance and life flows from God. Note in Joel 3:18 that the source of a spring is God’s house: again we see God dwelling amongst his people, the source of life.

In Joel 3:19, Egypt and Edom are probably not meant to be the only literal nations that will become “desolate”, but instead are a picture of the rest of the pagan nations. Both Egypt and Edom would have been good candidates to represent the world: enemies of God’s people, the Israelites, and, by extension, God himself. This is the contrast with the future of the pagan nations and God’s people: one lives forever, one is empty.

The first part of Joel 3:21 is difficult to understand. As is, “I will pardon their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned,” seems to suggest that God will pardon some previously unforgiven sin of his people. This seems odd here at the end of Joel. As it turns out, the Septuagint actually has this part as “I will avenge their blood and I will not pardon,” which seemingly makes much more sense and fits nicely with the previous verse and the second half of v21. Ultimately, either reading “works,” and neither detracts from, nor changes, the impact of Joel’s prophecy.

Finally, “the Lord dwells in Zion,” closes the prophecy with a reiteration of God dwelling amongst his people.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the promise of your redemption, judgment, and renewal of your creation. We look forward to the day when we can commune with you as intended! I pray that we would always remember that great work you have promised, and are working out daily. Help us to join you, and worship and praise you alone. Amen.

 

Joel 3:1-16

Key Verse(s):

Joel 3:16 (CSB)
16 The Lord will roar from Zion and make his voice heard from Jerusalem; heaven and earth will shake. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the Israelites.

Reflection/Application:

This passage provides a description of a coming final “battle” between God and the disobedient nations of the world. As it turns out though, the “battle” isn’t much of one. The one true God is in complete control, and the “battle” is actually his sovereign judgment upon those who reject him. Yet his chosen people, Israel, not literal Israel, but spiritual Israel, remains in him, the great, and gracious, stronghold.

Joel 3:1-3

Seems this is either referring to the surrounding nations, the enemies of Israel at the time, or literally all nations, the whole world, in the final judgment. I think the latter seems more likely. The idea of God gathering all these nations for judgment only makes sense in that context.

Joel 3:1

God’s people will no longer be “prisoners” of the world. In v2 we see that one of the tribulations of god’s people is to have been “scattered” by the nations.

Joel 3:2

“Jehoshaphat” = “Yahweh judges”

God gathers the nations, God is the initiator and in control.

The nations are to be judged, and they will be judged of their opposition to God as demonstrated by their division of his land and people.

Joel 3:3

“Cast lots” brings a reminder of Christ at his crucifixion.

The other two symbolic examples are of children (innocence) being traded for wicked, sinful lusts: sex and drunkenness.

Joel 3:4

The mentions of the ancient peoples of Tyre and Sidon, and the Philistines, seems more likely a representation of examples of the enemies of God, not that these are literally the nations to be gathered.

The rhetorical question is interesting though, and maybe suggests a spiritual struggle going on between the divine enemies of God and the Almighty.

Joel 3:5-8

Again, it seems that the crimes outlined here are again examples of the nation’s opposition to God, not a laundry list of what is to be judged. Likewise, it seems improbable that the judgment of the nations is solely a reversal of fortune, or just a case of giving them “a taste of their own medicine.” Instead, I think, it outlines the reversal, and setting right, of the obvious power and glory of God, and his favorable grace for his people. The phrase, “for the Lord has spoken,” put s finality upon this as well.

Joel 3:9-12

These verses outline a call to the nations to gather everyone to come face God in “battle”. And the call is comprehensive, “even the weakling,” is called to join as a warrior. Certainly this is not a literal, physical, battle, but the imagery is clear in the oppositional nature of the conflict.

The reversal of Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 to convert plows into swords and pruning knives into spears, again emphasizes the conflict.

The end of v11 is somewhat confusing, as it doesn’t seem to fit the surrounding verses, but the meaning of the section remains clear.

Joel 3:12 reminds us of the nature of the gathering though, not a literal battle, but the judgment of God upon the nations.

Joel 3:13

The imagery here is interesting. Joel is clear that the “abundance” of the harvest and the grapes are a sign of the “fullness” of wickedness in the nations, they are “overflowing” with wickedness. But we would have expected, following the destruction of the locust plague and it’s tie to agriculture, that this reference would have been a boon to Israel. It would seem that there is a twist here and the abundant harvest if of God’s wrath through judgment instead.

Joel 3:14

Tons of people, countless, stupendously numerous, exceedingly bountiful… the emphasis here is the sheer number of people present at judgment. “Valley of decision” is not a suggestion that there is still time to “make a choice” for God… it is too late at this point, the “decision” is the execution of God’s judgment.

“For the day of the Lord is near,” does not suggest that at this moment in the valley it is still not yet the day of the Lord. This scene is the day of the Lord. Instead, it is the reminder that this day is close.

Joel 3:15

Darkness suggests death. The final moments are upon the earth.

Joel 3:16

The power of God comes through here, his “roar” shaking both earth and heaven. There is a finality here, that the earthly and heavenly disobedience against God will come to an end at the exertion of his almighty power, through his judgment, culminating in this roar that Joel has recorded.

But Joel does not leave it there, he reminds us that amidst this great judgment of sin and evil, on earth and in heaven, that God remains the solid, protective, stronghold for his people.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your sovereign judgment. It seems odd to be thankful for it, but it is who you are, our nature, you are just. And no truly great God could be anything but just! And we also thank you for your grace! Unearned grace, applied to those who place their hope and faith in you alone. And you are our stronghold, saving us from your wrath. I pray that your kingdom would continue to expand, that the valley of decision has less and less people as they come to you. Help us to reach them, speak through us to save lives. Amen.

Joel 2:28-32

Key Verse(s):

Joel 2:32 (CSB)
32 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, for there will be an escape for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, as the Lord promised, among the survivors the Lord calls.

Reflection/Application:

Joel’s prophecy switches now to provide a picture of what is to come following the locust plague and the Israelite repentance. Although there is no specific time frame given, it would seem the prophecy covers the broad time frame of sometime following the end of the plague (starting at Pentecost perhaps?), until the final judgment.

Joel 2:28

  • “After this” – This section is to occur at some later point in time: separate and distinct from the previous passage.
  • Although the term “all humanity” is used, the remainder of the verse frames this in the context of God’s people through the use of term “your”: “your” sons, “your” daughters, “your” old men, and “your” young men.

Joel 2:29

  • There is no discrimination about who will receive God’s Spirit: male & female, wealthy & slave… all believers.

Joel 2:30

  • The destructive nature here seems counter to the previous two verses. But, it would seem Joel is prophesying about the coming of God to judge, which means life for some, and death for others.
  • The fire and smoke imagery recall the fire and smoke of the Exodus. Blood would seem to be simply a sign of death?

Joel 2:31

  • Darkness and blood again appear to symbolize judgment and death. And note that it comes “before” the day of the Lord, before his return.

Joel 2:32

  • Joel makes an inclusive statement of “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It seems unlikely he speaking only of Jews (see v28). So the escape from the “terrible day of the Lord” (i.e. judgment) is this faith in God.
  • Surely the reference to those who would be saved as “those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,” is symbolic, having a spiritual meaning rather than literal physical presence. Mount Zion being the seat of God, and Jerusalem being his city. So the picture here is of those spiritually present with God, or saved.
  • The phrase “among the survivors the Lord calls,” has a ‘predestination’ feel to it, but certainly can fit into a simple foreknowledge theology as well. The real point being that those who are saved are those who have responded to the call of God in faith.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your saving grace, that you work through faith. Thank you for calling us yours, your people, and providing the escape from your righteous judgment. I pray that your Spirit will continue to work to save those that belong to you. I am sorry for the times I’ve stood in the way of your mission, and I ask for the vision to join you. Amen.

Joel 2:18-27

Key Verse(s):

Joel 2:27 (CSB)
27 You will know that I am present in Israel and that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other. My people will never again be put to shame.

Reflection/Application:

This passage outlines God’s response to the Israelites repentance. We see God’s sovereign power, and how he can, and sometimes does, relent from the judgment and calamity he sends in response to the outcry from his people.

We read that God “answered his people,” in Joel 2:19. This seems to suggest that the previous corporate prayer should be viewed as a literal occurrence, and that God hears such please, and recognizes such true heart change.

God’s response is to not just alleviate the destruction that was send, but to reverse it fully. Although Joel 2:20 could be taken to refer to the locust swarms, it seems almost assuredly to refer to a human enemy. We see the total destruction now being turned upon the enemy of the Israelites. A noteworthy point here is to recognize the phrase “he has done astonishing things,” relating to the enemy and his terrible actions.

This is followed up by outlining the restoration that God is to bring. Again we see the phrase, “has done astonishing things,” but this time in reference to God, and his mighty and wondrous works. It is also noteworthy that we see an order of restorative actions, and commands, that are in the order (i) the land, (ii) animals, and (iii) man. Is there a loose parallel to the creation story and this restorative account?

Both the land and the animals are commanded, “do not be afraid.” The reason for this lack of fear is that God will have restored things, and the land and animals no longer have to endure desolation and starvation. And we cannot miss the fact that the restoration is the good work of God alone: all good flows from God.

The Israelites, or “children of Zion,” are exhorted to “rejoice and be glad,” rather than “don’t be afraid.” Perhaps the difference is that God’s people should not just exhibit and absence of fear, but instead exude a joy and reverence in God and his love, grace, and mercy.

Joel 2:23-26 relays the promise of God to restore the abundance that was taken by the locust swarm. We see the agricultural rains return, abundance of grain, wine , and oil, and hunger satisfaction. All a direct response to the calamity previous wrought upon his people: hunger, agricultural decimation, and drought.

Finally we see that God’s people will not be shamed again, stated in both Joel 2:26 and 27, meaning that they would no longer be known as a people whose God has turned his back on. And not only will they not be put to shame, but God is “present in Israel.” And most remarkably, and possibly most significant, is the monotheistic confirmation that God is alone in his “kind”: “there is no other.” Perhaps another direct response to a previous condition, namely Israel’s failure to worship God alone, but chase after other gods. Yet those false gods could not do anything before the one true God, hence his sovereign supremacy, and deserving of worship alone.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your relenting in judgment upon us. Despite our failures, our chasing after idols and false gods, you are gracious, you hear our please, the call of our changed hearts, in the midst of the trials brought upon us, and you respond. You provide for us, dwell among us, and under your new covenant, within us, and you alone are the unique and true Savior. I pray we would worship you alone and by wrapped up in your grace. Amen.

Joel 2:12-17

Key Verse(s):

Joel 2:12 (CSB)
12 Even now— this is the Lord’s declaration— turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.

Reflection/Application:

Joel’s prophecy to this point has been dark and dismal. But now he offers a picture of another side of God’s nature: mercy.

First, and critical to note, is that this is God’s declaration, his desire, not mans. The scenario that is about to be laid out is not the plan of Israel, but that of God. In other words, the judgment that his rebellious people have more than “earned” is not the desire of God, but instead he urges them to turn back to him.

And this “turning” back to God is not one of outward displays. Despite the list of outward actions: fasting, weeping, mourning, and tearing clothes (vv 12, 13), the real turn is one of the heart. We see it first in v12 with God’s declaration to “turn to me with all your heart,” and it is confirmed, and the true nature of this repentance made clear, in v13 by the command, “Tear your hearts, not just your clothes.” The order is this: repent and have a heart change to return to God, then the outward confirmation of such a heart change is the fasting, weeping, and mourning. Without a changed heart, all those other displays are just that displays, they have no meaning.

Then we see the merciful side of God. I love the second half of v13 and v14. First we see the absolute statement of who God is: “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and he relents from sending disaster.” This is who God is, no ambiguity in the statement, and no dependence on anyone or anything else… it is an aspect of God’s nature. And then we read v14… and rather than this idea that God can do nothing other than withhold his judgment, we see that there is a chance that he might. I think this is on purpose, the two juxtaposed representations of God’s mercy. I think maybe it reminds us of two things: 1) God is not just merciful, but he is just, and judgment is required in order to be just, and 2) God is in control, and if he exercises his mercy it is his decision and will, uncoerced by anything we might do, including our repentance.

We also should take note of the second half of v14. We might expect the blessing that God might leave to be something spectacular on a worldly scale… but instead it is something spectacular on a spiritual scale: the hope of receiving grain and wine in order to offer it back to God! What are our prayers filled with, requests for blessings that we can hand right back over to God?

The remainder of the passage is a call to the Jews to gather together to worship God, to corporately return to him. We see in v16 that this calling transcends all ages and states, as both the elderly and infants are called to gather, as well as traditions, shown through the calling together of the groom and bride prior to their marriage. Repentance and a return to God trumps everything else!

Finally, we see in v17 that this return to God by the people is to be spearheaded by the priests. Who are the priests today (see 1 Peter 2:11)? Are we spearheading the return to God? We might find our answer in the last question of the passage, “Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘here is their God?'” Isn’t this the question of the world today? And if the world is asking this, is it a sign of God’s absence, or our rebellion?

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your mercy and grace, for being a God that desires to hold back destruction. I pray for our corporate repentance, and each of our individual return to you via a changed, a torn, heart. Help us to be your priests, to lead your people back to you. Amen.