Job 1 sketches out both the prosperity and the downfall of the title character. The first eight verses paint him as a man who has everything in both a physical and spiritual sense. He is as righteous as he is wealthy. However, his prosperity and righteousness attract the attention of Satan, who claims that the second is the result of the first. Satan seeks and receives permission from God to take away all of his blessings without harming his health. Satan does precisely this, using various means to destroy not only Job’s flocks and herds, but also his children.
Job 2 is more of the same. God and Satan have another conversation. God points out that Job, despite having lost his prosperity, has not ceased to be righteous. Satan promises different results if he is allowed to up the ante, attacking Job’s health as well. God gives Satan permission, and now Job has a plague of boils to go along with his other problems.
Job’s calamities begin to draw notice from others. His wife tells him to curse God and die. Job righteously refuses. Then, three of Job’s friends, named Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, show up. They sit in mourning with him for a week, saying nothing.
Job 3 contains the first of Job’s poetic speeches. He begins it by calling a curse down on the day of his birth and the night of his conception. In Job’s view, both the day and the night have betrayed him because they allowed him to exist. He would have been far better off if he had never been born. He considers the dead with longing because they no longer have to suffer.
Instead, he wants to know why he continues to exist. For him, there is no joy in life, only suffering. The key question appears in v. 23, in which Job asks why life continues to be granted to him when God clearly is set against him.
Job 4 is the beginning of Eliphaz’s first speech. Eliphaz accuses Job of being ready to dish out spiritual correction but not so ready to take it. He then maintains that the innocent are never oppressed by God. Instead, God only makes the wicked suffer. Eliphaz then relates a vision that he saw. In this vision, a fearsome specter points out that it is impossible for man to be right in the sight of God. Even angels transgress, and we’re nothing next to them! People perish because of their sins.
Job 5 continues Eliphaz’s narrative. He points out that in his experience, it is the wicked and foolish who suffer. They bring it on themselves. He encourages Job to turn to God, who rescues the poor and needy while bringing down the proud. He thinks that Job needs to accept God’s rebuke, implying, though not saying, that he thinks that Job’s problems are sin problems. Once Job is willing to do that, all of his difficulties will clear up. Repent, Job. It’s for your own good.
Psalm 11 is David’s appeal to God in a time when he fears that God has abandoned him. He feels that even if he flees like a bird to the mountain of God (which is where the hymn “Flee as a Bird” comes from), the wicked will shoot him down. He is helpless and powerless.
However, despite his powerlessness, he still trusts in the ultimate justice of God. He appeals to God to punish his wicked enemies according to their wickedness. He concludes by expressing the contrasting hope that the Lord will reward the righteous in His presence.
Psalm 12 sets out the spiritual struggle of David with people who are lying about him. In vs.1-2, he sets out the problem: flattering and double-tongued people who trust in the power of their lies. Vs. 3-4 appeal to God to judge those who sin with the tongue. In vs. 5-6, David predicts God’s rescue of the poor and needy from the liars who oppress them. He also contrasts the lies of the wicked with the pure speech of God. The psalm concludes in vs. 7-8 with an expression of hope in the protection of God and a condemnation of the wicked whose continuing presence makes God’s help necessary.
Psalm 13 is another psalm of lamentation from David in a time when God seems absent and his enemies are all too present. He wonders is God is going to forget and abandon him forever, giving glory to David’s enemies by default. David predicts that if things keep going in the same direction, his enemies will kill him and boast in his death. However, in the conclusion of the psalm, he remembers the graciousness of God’s past dealings and expresses the confidence that God will give him reason to rejoice this time too.
Psalm 14, also by David, presents a pessimistic perspective on the foolishness and wickedness of humankind. People everywhere doubt God’s existence and give themselves over to sin. God looks down from heaven, searching for one righteous man, but He can’t find even one. It’s enough to make one wonder if David was writing this in 2019!
However, David points out a problem with the wicked. In their oppression of the poor, they aren’t reckoning with God, who protects the poor. Sooner or later, God is going to make things right. The final verse of the psalm expresses the hope that He will do so soon.
Psalm 15 presents David’s take on a much more optimistic subject: what it takes to dwell in the presence of God. He tells us that God favors those who a) live righteous lives, b) are honest with themselves, c) don’t betray others, d) love the righteous and despise the wicked, e) keep their word under all circumstances, and f) don’t oppress the poor. Do these things, and God will sustain you.
Unlike many of its neighbors in the early part of Psalms, Psalm 8 is an apparently straightforward song of praise to God. In vs. 1-2, it points out His power, revealed both in the glories of creation and in His exaltation of the lowly over the wicked.
The key question of the psalm appears in vs. 3-4. Given that God is so great, why does He have any regard for mankind ("the son of man" in v. 4), which is much less important than He is? The rest of the psalm points out that God's regard is evident in His blessings. He has made mankind the most exalted of the earthly beings, crowning us with glory and honor, and given us dominion over all other earthly creatures.
Makes sense, right? However, in Hebrews 2, the writer reveals that the psalm has a hidden meaning. It isn't only about the lower-case-s son of man, us. It's about the capital-s Son of Man, Jesus. Even though Jesus was not originally lower than the angels, He was made to be so.
Like us, He tasted mortality, but after His death, He was crowned with glory and honor and given dominion not only over the creatures of the earth, but over all of God's creation. However, we still await the time when everything will be put under His feet. Death has yet to be subjected to Him.
All of this might seem like a subversion of Psalm 8's original point, but in truth it confirms it. It is ultimately Jesus' death on our behalf, not our earthly preeminence, that proves how much God cares for us. In Hebrews 2:10, the writer observes that Jesus brought many sons to glory. Our salvation is the greatest way that God crowns us with glory and honor, all by causing His Son to become one of us and die for us.
In response to this, we can only echo Psalm 8's closing thoughts: "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!"
Last week, we observed that the early part of Proverbs is dominated by four characters/groups of characters. One of these is the woman of folly, the adulteress. Though she is female because the original audience of Proverbs was male, her characteristics can be applied to evil people of either sex, both married and unmarried. Here are some of the big ones:
- She preys on the naïve. The adulteress doesn’t go after the wise old father of Proverbs. Instead, in the words of Proverbs 7:7, she pursues “a young man lacking sense”. Though Christians of any age or level of spiritual attainment can be vulnerable, the young and immature are especially so. Young disciples who think they know it all had better be very, very careful in avoiding sexual sin!
- She is flattering. All of us want to be pursued. All of us want to be wanted. The adulteress provides that. As Proverbs 7:10-13 reveals, she doesn’t wait to be sought. She goes out seeking. She provides the naïve young man with validation that he is special. Of course, there is nothing special about being sought out by sin. The devil eagerly seeks all of us.
- She is religious. According to Proverbs 7:14, she has come straight from worshiping God to seek sexual immorality. She’s got that worship box checked; now she can pursue her desires. From this, we should learn that our friendships with other Christians are not 100 percent safe. Even Christians who desire to be righteous can lead each other astray through foolishness. How much more dangerous are those who desire to be wicked! When we are surrounded by brethren, we still can’t let down our guard.
- She is sensually alluring. Even thousands of years later, the come-on of Proverbs 7:16-18 is provocative and powerful. Luxurious fabrics, beautiful colors, exotic scents, and the sultry whispers of the seductress combine to overwhelm the senses of the young fool. What could be more appealing?
Today, of course, sexual temptation appears in forms that are no less alluring. Whatever our buttons may be, Satan knows where they are and how to push them. We may have such a high opinion of our spiritual maturity that we think we’re immune. We aren’t.
- She is crafty. In Proverbs 7:19-20, she tells her foolish lover-to-be that their sin together will be completely safe. The husband is long gone. He will be nowhere to be found. Nobody is going to catch us. What could possibly go wrong?
In the same way, the devil wants us to believe that our sexual sin is perfectly safe. We aren’t going to get caught. We aren’t going to get found out. There will be no consequences. All of these comforting promises are, in fact, lies.
- She is deadly. Proverbs 7:22-23 reports the sad fate of the young fool: passing pleasure, then death. Today, sexual immorality is one of the most common ways for Christians, especially young Christians, to wreck their lives. Sexually transmitted disease, unexpected pregnancy, divorce, and heartbreak all wait for the sinner.
All of this is to say nothing of the most significant consequence: spiritual death through separation from God. The practice of sexual sin ensures that God will be against us, and if He is against us, who can be for us? Seductive though the adulteress may be, the penalty for sin is more than any of us can afford.
Much of the book of Proverbs is made up of one-shot epigrams without any obvious connection to their context. However, the first portion of the book isn’t like that. Instead, it’s dominated by four imaginary characters, all of whom make speeches that frame the rest of the book. Each one of them personifies some kind of wise or foolish behavior. In the order in which we encounter them, they are:
The Wise Father. Whether or not we have earthly fathers who said and did foolish things, the father in Proverbs does not. Instead, he embodies the wisdom that comes from experience. In his time, he’s seen it all. He’s watched as other young men have gone down inviting paths that ended in disaster. He doesn’t want his son (the reader of Proverbs) to meet the same wretched fate, so he’s instructing him in both wise and unwise choices.
In Proverbs, listen to Dad. He’s right, though the wisdom of his advice may not be obvious. Even if you don’t get it, do what he says. In time, you’ll look back and be glad you did.
The Evil Companions. In Proverbs 1, Dad’s first warning is about some wicked friends who have a speech of their own to make. They want the son to come with them and become a highway robber. They’ll waylay passersby, kill them, and take their stuff. Everybody will be rich!
Don’t listen to these guys, the father says. You might think you’ll end up rich, but really you’ll end up dead.
There is more literal value in this advice than we might think. A young man I once taught in Bible class is currently up on charges for robbery and murder. However, for most of us, other applications are more relevant. First, we have to beware of peer pressure. If we run with the wrong crowd, they will lead us to do the wrong thing.
Second, we must watch out for all the ways that the love of money can distort our conduct. In God’s eyes, Bernard Madoff isn’t any better than Jesse James. If we seek dishonest gain, sooner or later, it will wreck us.
Lady Wisdom. She has the next speaking part in Proverbs 1, and is neither more nor less than a feminine personification of wisdom and its consequences. If you listen to Lady Wisdom, she is very generous. She will see to it that you are rewarded with wealth and honor.
On the other hand, if you ignore her, she turns into a hag. She will watch as you ruin yourself, and she will laugh at you the whole way down. How many of us have known the sting of looking back, seeing what we should have done, and regretting that we did not do it?
The Woman of Folly. Though the woman of folly (my mother would have denied that she was a lady) doesn’t get a speaking part until Proverbs 7, we’re warned about her from Proverbs 2 on. She is the stereotypical seductress: eager to get her hands on naïve young men and destroy them.
From her, all of us, whether male, female, old, or young, have much to learn. She represents the attractions and dangers of sexual sin. The woman of folly lurks in schools and workplaces, at parties, and even on the Internet. Whether we give our bodies to her or merely our hearts, the consequences will be brutal.