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Dec 09: Job 11 | Micah 7 | James 3,4

Reading 1 - Job 11:5

Zophar (who speaks in Job 11; 20) is content with mere assumption, and dogmatism (Job 11:6; 20:4). He also has a too rigid view of providence (Job 11:13-20; 20:5): that is, that "the triumphing of the wicked is short" (Job 20:5).

"Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you" (Job 11:5).

"Zophar was agitated that Job said that he hadn't sinned and that he was pure in God's sight. Zophar was sure that Job was wrong -- after all, he thought, God must be punishing Job for his sin. So Zophar voiced a wish. He said, 'Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open His lips against you and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides.'

"Zophar's wish did eventually come true. But the result wasn't what he had expected. God did answer Job and he put him back in his rightful, humble place. But God also told Job to pray for his friends -- including Zophar, so that He would not deal with them as their sins deserved. He told them that He was angry with them because they had not spoken the truth about Him as Job had.

"God can see the big picture. The men in the story of Job may have thought they could see the whole picture of what was going on, but in actual fact their view was very lopsided. We too can have the same problem when we judge another person and wish a judgement on them. But beware: If we haven't seen the big picture that same judgement might fall on us as it did to Zophar" (Robert Prins).

Reading 2 - Mic 7:3

"Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire -- they all conspire together" (Mic 7:3).

BOTH HANDS ARE SKILLED IN DOING EVIL: They were "ambidextrous" when it came to sinning!

THE RULER DEMANDS GIFTS: "Gifts" is not in original: this may mean: "demands a sign" -- and could answer to Herod's asking for a miracle or a sign from Jesus.

THE JUDGE ACCEPTS BRIBES: Again, at the trial of Jesus, Pilate was probably seeking a bribe.

THE POWERFUL DICTATE WHAT THEY DESIRE: Caiaphas utters his own mischievous desire: "It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish" (John 11:50,51).

THEY ALL CONSPIRE TOGETHER: "And so they wrap it up" (KJV) -- as if in a neat package! "There have been men who have been indolent in the performance of God's work and have praised themselves for their love of peace. There have been others who have done evil with both hands earnestly, and have said, 'See how zealous I am.' In either case the deceitful human heart furnishes them with ample disguises, and 'so they wrap it up' " (Islip Collyer, "Principles and Proverbs").

Reading 3 - James 3:18

"Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness" (James 3:18).

James' simile of the fruit trees (v 12) and his allusion to the "fruit" of righteousness (v 18) are echoes of the Lord's figure of speech in the Sermon on the Mount: Mat 7:15-17. As did Christ, James foresaw that men would sow destruction and confusion in the field of God. The damage that such men would cause by their schismatic tendencies, born of jealousy and pride, would have to be counteracted by the pure and peaceable and gentle actions of others. With this in mind James speaks of the tree. There is a tree which is righteousness, and righteousness is its fruit. It is firmly planted, rooted in the truth, and nourished by the soft showers of heavenly wisdom. Its fruit is harvested and then sown by the peacemakers who are pure in heart. The product will be many "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified" (Isa 61:3). But there is a condition for this planting in which God works with and through men: it must be done "in peace", for strife is destructive of the very seed of righteousness.


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