Monthly Archives: August 2017
“Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
God had to bring Abraham to the end of his own strength, and to let him see that in his own body he could do nothing. He had to consider his own body as good as dead, and then take God for the whole work; and when he looked away from himself, and trusted God alone, then he became fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able to perform.
That is what God is teaching us, and He has to keep away encouraging results until we learn to trust without them, and then He loves to make His Word real in fact as well as faith. – A. B. Simpson
I do not ask that He must prove
His Word is true to me,
And that before I can believe
He first must let me see.
It is enough for me to know
’tis true because He says ’tis so;
On His unchanging Word I’ll stand
And trust till I can understand.
— E. M. Winter
So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly. – Job 1:5 (NKJV)
In the previous blog, I mentioned that the word ‘barak’ was translated as ‘curse’ in four verses in the Book of Job. The first instances is in Job 1:5, when Job said that probably his sons had sinned and cursed God in their hearts. The literal translation must read as: “Perhaps my sons have sinned, yet blessed God in their hearts” (YLT). So how do we understand that?
First let us see why the translators changed the meaning of ‘barak’ from blessing to curse, based on the context. Since Job was worried about his sons committing sins while being drunk, we won’t imagine that the sin would involve blessing God. Most of the drunkards curse God, or take the Lord’s Name in vain. So, changing the meaning of ‘barak’ from blessing to curse fits into our simple understanding of sin.
Simple understanding of sin is quite ‘simple, it is white and black in nature. This is sin, this is not. So, we group curse with sin, because both are dark in nature. We won’t group blessing with sin, because they are polar opposites. But, true Christians, who have battled with sin, like Apostle Paul writes about in Romans chapter 7, would know that sin is not that easy to define. It is not a simple – “they were drunk, they had sinned, therefore they would have surely cursed God”.
Sin makes people stupid. It blinds their eyes. Now, let us read the Young’s Literal Translation again.
“Perhaps my sons have sinned, yet blessed God in their hearts.”
Can we bless God while sinning? Can we give thanks to God, while doing something unholy? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. In my Christian life, I have seen three types of people thanking God while sinning.
1. The flippant ones: I have seen some rich kids, who are Church-goers, brought up in good Christian family, getting wasted on one of those days, spending so much money on sin, and say, “Thank God, my old man is loaded.” Did they really thank God? No. But deep in sin, in a flippant manner, they thank God for giving their parents so much money.
2. The guilty ones: This is the majority crowd. I have seen young believers thanking God so profusely, if we don’t know why they were thanking God, we would be easily deceived. I have spoken with some of them, and have found that they were leading a double life. They have committed sin knowingly and all the time, they have been praying, “Lord, please let no one know about this sin. Please. If You have to punish, You punish me. But, let no one else find out.” And when they are not caught red-handed in their sins, they actually thanked God for the ‘mercy’ He has shown them. I mean, they sincerely pray to God while sinning, and thank God for His mercies. It took me a while to make them understand that sin is an abomination to God and instead of asking Him to cover your sins, next time pray that you do not sin.
3. The ones with no chance: Many years back, I had this Christian friend who used to visit me during weekends and we would go to the Church together. One weekend, he was a no-show. But when I came back from the church, there he was, with a guilt-ridden face. I found out that he had a sexual encounter with a woman he did not even know, and hence did not feel like coming to the church. When I heard this, I just asked, “What were you thinking?” And he blurted out his answer and it sort of stunned me. His answer was, “I guess, I was really thanking God for this.” He was sincere in his response and when I probed further, he explained. He was from a strict Christian family, where even looking at a TV ad was considered a deadly sin. Because of his upbringing, he had trouble talking with girls, and hence had no friends from the opposite sex. Boys also had avoided him, because he was considered “a walking woman repellent”. So, he was very sure that he was never going to marry and that he would be die as a virgin. So, when he got a chance, though he knew it was a sin, he was grateful that God had given him a chance after all. He was genuine in his thanksgiving.
Now, I know it is stupid. Blessing God for a chance given to sin. But, sin makes us stupid. It makes us to do stupid things. I had seen people doing stupid things because of sin, was astonished how could they be that stupid, and then went and did those very stupid things because I had fallen in sin. Is it hypocritical? Yes, it definitely is. Is it inappropriate? Without any question. Yet, people keep doing that, because sin makes us hypocritical and stupid.
Now stop and think about Job’s sons. They had everything to live a luxurious life; yet, the Bible tells that on his appointed day (Job 1:4), each would arrange a feast in their houses. The appointed day refers to their birthdays. These were rich kids. Their day to day life could have been a feast. But once a year, on their birthdays, they had feasts. Even then, the next morning, they had to wake up early, so that they could be sanctified by their righteous father. In such an austere life, Job had every reason to believe that they might have blessed the Lord while sinning. And it is worse than sin itself – thanking God for giving a chance to sin, implies that God is the reason for sin. It is against the nature of God Most Holy. It is blasphemy and scandalous. It is also hypocritical. In every way, blessing while sinning is worse than sinning and cursing. That was why Job called his sons early in the morning to sanctify them.
Job had understood human nature better than us, and knowing how sin would make us do stupid things, like blessing God for a chance to sin, he said: “Perhaps my sons have sinned, yet blessed God in their hearts.” It is our limited understanding which changed the meaning of the word ‘barak’ so that we understand the verse as we wanted to. Sin makes us stupid. Let us accept and praise the Holy Spirit for opening our eyes so that we can see the price of our stupidity, the Savior Who was crucified for our iniquities.
He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it. – Numbers 23:20 (NKJV)
In one of the previous blogs, I mentioned that to really get what Job’s wife said, we need to understand one of the well-known words in the Bible, a word we all know well, thanks to the American politics. And, that word is the Hebrew word, “barak.” I remember when Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee, beating Hillary Clinton, everyone I talked to, knew the meaning of the word “barak’ – “to bless” or “a blessing.” Yes, this Hebrew word means either “to bless” or “a blessing”. In that form, we have other derivatives, like “giving thanks to”, “to kneel down”, etc. But the word is associated with only beneficent connotations.
In Job 2:9, the last few words that Job’s wife are translated as thus: “Curse God and die!” These are the words that have made Job’s wife being compared to Jezebel, Michal and other unsavory women in the Bible.
Almost all the translations have these words – except two translations. They have a slightly different, but very significant translation, when I first saw those translations, I was actually very confused. One is Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) and the other one is Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV). And both these translations have translated that verse like this:
“Bless God and die”. – Job 2:9 (YLT, LITV)
Now, for one translation to differ from another is not new; everyone looks at each word from a different context. But here the translations are not just different, they are exact opposite to what we generally have read in the Bible. That’s not something we often see in the Bible. Also note that these two translations are “literal” translations. That means, they translate the words as they are, and do not change the meaning of the words based on other considerations.
So, what did Job’s wife actually say? If you look at the Hebrew word used by Job’s wife, you will surprised to see that she had used the word “barak” here. That is, what she actually said was “Bless God and die!” Except, it has been translated into “Curse God and die” for so many years. Why?
In the KJV translation, the word ‘barak’ is used 330 times. Out of which, 324 times, it refers to “blessing” or one of the positive connotations. Twice it is translated as “to blaspheme”, both used in the account of Jezebel murdering Naboth in 1 Kings chapter 21. We will not worry about that translation for now. But out of 330 times, 4 times, the word ‘barak’ is translated as “to curse” or “curse”. That is 1.21%, and any student of Science would tell you to ignore that translation. However, we cannot apply such logistics to the Word of God. So, let us go a little deep into this particular translation.
All the 4 times, where the word ‘barak’ is translated as ‘curse’ occurs in the Book of Job and all those 4 occurrences are in the very first two chapters. Those four verses are:
1. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. (Job 1:5, NIV, emphasis mine)
2. “But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” (This is Satan telling God what would be Job’s response if he lost all his fortunes, Job 1:11, NIV, emphasis mine)
3. “But stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” (Once again, Satan telling God about how Job would react if the Lord touches his flesh and bones, Job 2:5, NIV, emphasis mine)
And finally, we have the ‘infamous’ words of Job’s wife.
4. His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9, NIV, emphasis mine)
So, why would the interpreters translate ‘barak’ as ‘curse’ only in these four incidents? Something surely is lost in translation. We will see these verses individually and may the Spirit of the Lord help us in understanding the Scriptures as it is written. When God has blessed, it is not right for us to reverse it. (Numbers 23:20)
David, who was taking care of his sheep, was called one day to his home, where the prophet Samuel anointed him as the next king of Israel, before the eyes of his entire family. David realized that an anointed life was good and praised the Lord.
David killed Goliath with one shot and delivered the nation of Israel from the rampaging Philistines. He recognized that a life that overcame evil was a good life and praised the Lord.
On his return, they sang a song, praising his victory: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7, NKJV). David realized that a life where others were praising your accomplishments was a good life and praised the Lord.
David was made the captain and he behaved wisely and won victory after victory. He understood that a victorious life was a good life and praised the Lord.
David became best friends with Jonathan, the prince of Israel. Jonathan was ready to give his life and title for his friend. David recognized that a life that was nourished with a good friend was worth living and praised the Lord.
David married Michal, the daughter of king Saul and became the son-in-law of the king of Israel. Everything was moving in the right direction. David saw that a life that moved in the right direction was good and praised the Lord.
Then one day, he lost everything. He had to run into wilderness to save his life. He had to leave his parents in the kingdom of Moab, as he was not even able to protect his own family. He had no food or proper clothing. When he ran away, the captain of Israel’s mighty armies did not even have a sword with him. Those who gathered around him were not the best of man. Suddenly an anointed life, an overcoming, victorious life, a good life was turned upside down.
And it was there in the wilderness of Judah, as he was hiding as a fugitive, he realized that there was something much better than life itself, and he praised the Lord.
Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. – Psalm 63:3 (NKJV)
Dear friend, why are you praising the Lord? Is it because your life is good? Is everything going fine, as you wanted it to be? Is it because you are succeeding in whatever you do? There is nothing wrong in that. But have you been to the wilderness of Judah? Have you found out that the loving-kindness of our Lord is better than life itself? Are you praising Him because of our Lord’s wonderful mercies and grace? Unless you have wandered in the wilderness of Judah, you will never realize that there is something infinitely better than life. If not, your praises will be shallower than you can imagine. Don’t despise the wilderness of Judah. Become a part of Judah – the tribe that praises the Lord. And realize that His loving-kindness is better than life. And you shall be a man or woman after God’s own heart. Oh, what a great reward awaits you! A man/woman after His own heart!
Who can bear a broken spirit? – Proverbs 18:14 (NKJV)
Imagine the life of Job’s wife just a day before calamity struck her family. Her husband was prosperous, well-respected – both in this world and in the presence of God, and he was the greatest of all the people of the East. She had seven sons and three daughters, who lived in such a unity. Each son’s birthday was celebrated by all the brothers and sisters together. From what Job said later, we understand that they treated their servants well, and in turn they were respected well. From the outset, it would look like that she would be the poster woman for “The Virtuous Woman” from Proverbs 31. Life was good. Serene. Blessed.
Then 24 hours later, she had lost everything. All her children were killed; all their valuable were raided by the enemies and all their servants were dead. Just in 24 hours, her life changed from being perfect to completely void. Yet, the Scriptures do not record her of wailing, or cursing God, or berating Job for their losses. Even when Job said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21, NKJV), she did not rail against him. She suffered her losses stoically, reflecting that she was, indeed, noble in nature.
Then one day, she saw her loving husband covered with boils, from bottom to top, sitting in the middle of the ashes, scarping himself hard with a potsherd. It is one thing to suffer a sudden loss, but to suffer a war of attrition, where you are witnessing your loved one suffer, right before your eyes, without an end in the sight, is entirely a different thing; such an attrition will break even the strongest of the spirits. And who can bear a broken spirit?
If you have seen your loved one suffering in pain every day, withering away daily, right before your eyes, with no hope whatsoever, you already know how difficult it is.
Our Immanuel, Jesus Christ, knew that the death and the eventual burial of Lazarus was going to bring great glory to our Father, that the Son of God also would be glorified, and that Lazarus would come back alive and his entire family was going to rejoice. Yet when He saw Mary and Martha were weeping, John records that the Lord groaned in the spirit and was troubled (John 11:33) and eventually, the Lord Himself wept (John 11:35). If our Lord, knowing what He was about to do, groaned in the spirit and was troubled, and if the Lord Himself wept, then imagine how much He understands how brittle our hearts. Jesus knows our weaknesses more than we do. And He sympathizes with us and is compassionate towards our broken spirit.
Suffering and afflictions are at times hard. But waiting without any sliver of hope is also equally hard. If afflictions affect our body and mind, attrition breaks our spirit. It is with a broken spirit, Job’s wife uttered those six words. But, even then, she did not speak against the Lord or even against her husband. As they say, something was lost in translation. God willing, may the Spirit of our Lord lead us to the Truth as it is in the Scriptures.
“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” – Luke 2:35 (NIV)
If we read the first two chapters of Luke carefully, we will notice how many times and how many different people called Mary, the mother of our Lord, as blessed. Imagine the joy she would have felt with so many people blessing her and her Child. Also, imagine how jubilant she would have felt when Simeon took Child Jesus in his withering hands, and blessed God, and finally blessed Joseph and Mary. But, he did not stop there, did he? He went on to add that one last line: And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
Now, the passion of Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of the Lord’s just nature. Our Lord is a Righteous Judge and Jesus had to pay the price for our sins. That is why He came as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. But why must a sword pierce Mary’s soul? What part does her suffering have in our salvation? None whatsoever. Yet, she had to suffer silently as she saw her Divine Son being crucified, as a sword pierced her own soul.
Yes dear friends, whenever God chooses someone to be His chosen vessel, when God decides someone must go through the furnace to be purified, there would be a silent sufferer whose very soul is pierced by a sword. People will be focussing on those who are the clay in the Great Potter’s hands, but no one will notice the silent sufferer who is standing by side, with tears and prayers in their hearts. People will looking at the molten silver in the crucible, the bright shiny gold being melted in the furnace, but no one will notice that sword piercing the soul of the loved ones of those vessels.
I noticed that many commentators had pointed out that the devil spared Job’s wife so that he could use her to torment Job and aggravate his suffering. Did the devil really spare Job’s wife? The Scriptures says otherwise.
In Job 2:5, the devil asks the Lord “to stretch out His hands, and touch Job’s bone and flesh, and then Job would surely curse God to His face!” Since it was Job who was suffering, we assume that his wife was spared. But compare carefully what Satan tells… Job’s bone and flesh… with another part of Scriptures, which we are very familiar with, what Adam tells about his wife: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23, NKJV, emphasis mine).
No, dear friend, the devil did not spare Job’s wife. For he knows better than us, that when we are afflicted by him, a sword will pierce the souls of our dear ones. It can be our spouse, our parents or our children. But, don’t forget that as you are suffering openly, there is a silent sufferer nearby, whose soul is pierced by a sword, because of what you are undergoing. And dear friends, if you are blessed to witness someone being formed by the Great Potter, spare a thought for the silent sufferer who is nearby; they may have a gentle smile in their face, but surely their very soul is pierced by sword. And may the Lord of Job’s wife bless those silent sufferers, just like He blessed Job’s wife.
The Lord our God created us. There is nothing in us that would surprise the Omniscient God. In His infinite wisdom, the Lord knows everything about us. We cannot hide anything from our Creator. Everything is naked before His eyes. Even from far off, He understands our thoughts. Even before we speak a word, even as it is formed in our tongue, the Lord knows. That’s why David says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (Psalm 139:6, NKJV).
In His mercies, our Father in Heaven also understands depression. Whether it was Moses, the great prophet or David, the man after God’s own heart, they had suffered depression. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, declares Solomon (Proverbs 13:12, NKJV). Even the great heroes of faith suffered from depression, as things did not turn out as they expected. As time ran out, they had to endure their hearts losing their confidence.
In his utter depression, a broken-hearted Elijah pleaded with God to take his life as he was not better than his ancestors (1 Kings 19:4). And there is something we need to notice here. Though Elijah said that prayer in depression, the Lord never reprimanded him for that. More importantly, He did answer Elijah’s prayer: the Lord did take away Elijah, except not in the way the prophet wanted. This is our God. This is our Father in Heaven.
The Lord understands depression. When we utter certain things because we are depressed, He knows the broken heart behind those utterances. When we say few things that we would not normally say, our Father in Heaven knows that we are saying such things because we are downcast. What the Lord does not like, what He hates is murmuring against Him. But a broken-heart, the Lord does not despise. In face, the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Our Great Physician binds those who are heart-broken, and heals them.
Of course, the greatest depression we see is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Our Savior Jesus Christ came for one purpose – to die on the Cross, so that we are saved. Yet the night before, He suffered so much in his anguish, he sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Our Teacher’s soul was so deeply grieved to the point of death, in His depression, He asked the Father “to remove that cup from Him.” But regaining His composure, He added, “Yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). Again God our Father did not reproach His Son for that prayer. Since we know that our Lord Jesus is without sin, His utterance “to remove that cup from Him” was not a sin.
It is in this light, we need to look at the utterance of Job’s wife. By the Spirit of God, hopefully, before we finish this series, we will be able to see that her ‘irate’ directive to Job was actually very similar to the prayer of Elijah, and to an extent, and I am saying this with utmost humility and trepidation, is similar to our Lord’s prayer asking that the cup be removed from Him.
But to reach that point, we need to understand one of the well-known words in the Bible; a word we all know well for nearly a decade now, thanks to the American politics.
Often Job’s wife was subjected to vituperative language, based on those six words (in Hebrew) she spoke in Job 2:9.
The Geneva Study Bible remarks that Satan used the same instrument against Job, as he used against Adam – his wife.
Matthew Poole in his commentary writes that the devil spared Job’s wife, so that she could be used as an instrument of temptation and the aggravation of Job’s misery.
The Pulpit commentary says that she became Satan’s ally and Job’s worst enemy. That she was rather a hindrance than a help to Job.
Matthew Henry suggests that she was spared by Satan so that she could be a troubler and tempter to Job.
Augustine of Hippo called her Diaboli adjutrix. That is “Devil’s accomplice.”
Calvin wrote that she was “an instrument of Satan” and as “a Diabolical fury.”
Benson writes that it is Satan’s policy to send temptation by those that are dear to us, and thus used Job’s wife as his tempter.
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges comments that the weaker Job’s wife fell first into the snare of the devil and used her influence, like Eve did, to draw her husband after her.
“All the Women of the Bible” has its title for Job’s wife as “The Woman who urged her husband to commit suicide.”
I am sure if I keep on digging I will get more and more adjectives, none of them flattering, I presume, to talk about Job’s wife. But, there is something of an anomaly in the last chapter of Job. Job himself confesses and repents for his words. God rebukes the three friends of Job, for they did not speak right of God. But the Lord God was not angry with Job’s wife at all. Not only that, she also enjoys the double blessings that Job receives after this. More importantly, she became the mother of Job’s 10 children – again.
So, we need to ask this question. If all of us are finding fault with what Job’s wife did, how come the Righteous Judge, Who did not spare Eve in the Eden Garden, did not find fault with her? How did she end up being a part of the blessings and how come the Lord used her to be a blessing to Job, by giving birth to 10 children?
Of course, it will be easy to dismiss this question as a feministic point of view. And yes, I am a feminist. But when it comes to the Bible, I do not support any –istic view point. It is the Word of God and it is congruous throughout. And that is all that must matter.
So, to understand Job’s wife, her words and how the Lord dealt (or did not deal) with her, we must take heed to the utterance of the man who knew the knowledge of the Most High, fallen, but having his eyes open… Balaam. And he says, “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?” – Numbers 23:8 (NKJV). Yes, let us not be in haste to curse someone whom God has not cursed; let us not rush to denounce someone whom the Lord has not denounced.
From early April 2016 till today, I have been suffering from water retention and while the physicians have tested me as extensively as possible, including performing a needless biopsy, and have concluded that there is nothing wrong with my body, I am still not completely healed. The Lord in His mercy and grace, is giving me the strength needed on a day to day basis.
But in all these sufferings and afflictions, there is someone who has suffered more than I did. Okay, physically I have suffered a lot, but emotionally and mentally, my wife has suffered a lot more than I can imagine or I can endure. However, whenever someone talks about my suffering, they always talk about how my wife behaved on the day I was taken to the emergency ward.
By July 8th, 2016, my wife had suffered a lot, mentally, emotionally and physically. She had to take care of me, and I mean, I needed her care 24/7, as I could not even lift my hands to drink some water. Even in the middle of the night, she had to wake up if I wanted some water to drink. Because my throat was swollen so much, I could not drink water easily. I had to take a sip, wait, and then another sip. So, she had to wait by my side. Once the morning dawned, she had to work non-stop and she had no rest at all. This went on for nearly 50 days without any break for her. She had lost lots of weight as her eating habits had become erratic.
On the day I was taken to the hospital, initially I was taken to a nearby physician. I was not able to get into the car and as my breathing became very labored, my wife broke down finally. She refused to say good bye, and went inside and cried. So, she was not there when I left to see the physician. When the physician informed us that I had only two hours left to live, we came home to take more money to go to the nearby hospital, and by then she had regained her composure and came with me, strong as ever.
In the entire 16-month period, that was the only time she broke down. Yet, that is the only thing our believers remember about her. Whenever they talk about that morning, they keep telling about how she broke down and cried. I was even getting irritated by such talk. It was then the Lord moved me to meditate on someone very similar in the Bible.
The wife of Job. Who is known only for that one verse: Curse God and die! – Job 2:9 (NKJV).
Isn’t it sad that we often remember the worst of people, but nothing else about them. God willing, let me talk about the wife of Job in coming days. Hopefully it will help us appreciate the sacrifices our spouses have made for our sake! May the Name of our Lord alone be glorified. Amen.