Monday, April 10, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 36, Job's Lecture On Wisdom

Chapter 28 is an intermission, a break in the action. Some scholars doubt whether Job actually spoke this discourse at this point in the story, because he has been too upset to speak as calmly as he does in Chapter 28. Others think he has reached a mood of quiet introspection and is calm enough to discuss the nature of wisdom and where it can be found. Still others feel that the author of the book, whether Job or someone else, went back and inserted this passage at a later date. The authorship of the book of Job has been debated for centuries, whether it was written by the man himself, or whether the story of his life was put down on paper by someone like Moses or Solomon. Either way, whether Job wrote his own autobiography or whether it was written by another, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)

"There is a mine for silver and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from ore." (Job 28:1-2) Before Job discusses man's search for wisdom, he uses the example of man's search for precious metals. Our efforts to obtain wisdom should far exceed our efforts to obtain wealth, as Solomon pointed out, "How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!" (Proverbs 16:16) Fortunes are made and fortunes are lost, but wisdom is a treasure no one can take from us.

"Mortals put an end to the darkness; they search out the farthest recesses for ore in the blackest darkness." (Job 28:3) We go deep into the earth on our quest for precious metals and gemstones. In Job's day they would have used lamps and torches; in our day we would run electric lights. We must bring in artificial sources of illumination to light our way, but there is a source of light that comes from no human invention, as the author of Psalm 119 once said to the Lord, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105)

"Far from human dwellings they cut a shaft, in places untouched by human feet; far from other people they dangle and sway." (Job 28:4) Miners risk their lives. They dangle in harnesses to get to veins of ore in the rock. They leave their families at home, in the light of day, to crawl down into the dark bowels of the earth to make a living. Job feels we should labor as diligently in seeking the words of life as we do in seeking a living.

"The earth, from which food comes, is transformed below as by fire; lapis lazuli comes from its rocks, and its dust contains nuggets of gold. No bird of prey knows that hidden path, no falcon's eye has seen it. Proud beasts do not set foot on it, and no lion prowls there. People assault the flinty rock with their hands and lay bare the roots of the mountains. They tunnel through the rock; their eyes see all its treasures. They search the sources of the rivers and bring hidden things to light." (Job 28:5-11) It takes human ingenuity to dig tunnels deep in the ground. Of all God's creatures, only man is driven to hunt constantly for new adventures. Humans are set apart from the animal kingdom not only by intelligence but by greed. What use is a gold nugget to a falcon? What would a lion do with a diamond? Man alone covets the riches that are hidden deep in the ground. Job, however, feels there is something better to be coveted: the wisdom of the Lord.

In all these tireless pursuits, man does not find wisdom. "But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? No mortal comprehends its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says, 'It is not in me'; the sea says, 'It is not with me.' It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed out with silver. It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir, with precious onyx or lapis lazuli. Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it, nor can it be had for jewels of gold. Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies. The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it; it cannot be bought with pure gold." (Job 28:12-19) Job compares wisdom with the finest gemstones and metals known to the ancient world, and he finds wisdom superior. Solomon agrees with him, "For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:11)

"Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds of the sky. Destruction and Death say, 'Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.'" (Job 28:20-22) Wisdom, like precious metals and fine gemstones, is hidden in a rich vein. We have to mine for it. Like one who digs deep into the earth to find the vein of gold, we must be willing to do whatever it takes to gain the wisdom of the Lord. "Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold." (Proverbs 3:13-14)

There is only one source of wisdom, the treasure that is greater than all others. "God understands the way to it and He alone knows where it dwells, for He views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When He established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, when He made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm, when He looked at wisdom and appraised it; He confirmed it and tested it. And He said to the human race, 'The fear of the Lord---that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'" (Job 28:23-28) Wisdom comes only from the God who created it, the One of whom the Apostle Peter said, "You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68b) The unnamed author of Psalm 111 said of this great treasure that comes from the Holy One, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise." King Solomon concurred, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge...For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." (Proverbs 1:7a, 2:6) The book of Proverbs advises us that the wisdom of the Lord will dwell in our hearts, with knowledge being pleasant to our souls. (Proverbs 2:10) It will keep us from falling in with wicked schemes. (Proverbs 2:12) It will prevent us from engaging in illicit relationships. (Proverbs 2:16) Godly wisdom will protect us and watch over us. (Proverbs 4:6) It will keep us on the right path. (Proverbs 4:11)

This world offers us many things in place of God, but there is no substitute for godly wisdom. In seeking a relationship with our Maker, we are seeking the greatest treasure of all. In the end, what good will covetous and greed be to us? What use is it to our eternal souls to follow after worldly things and leave the Lord behind? The Lord Jesus asked the same question in Mark 8:36, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"

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