Posted: 11 Feb 2011 11:00 PM PST
I SHALL COMMENT BRIEFLY on the two readings set for the day.
Zophar's speech (Job 11) carries forward the unfolding drama of the book of Job. Like Bildad, Zophar begins by condemning Job's addresses (Job 11:2–3). To him, it sounds as if Job is claiming personal perfection: "You say to God, 'My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight' " (11:4). Job has been wishing that God would answer him. Well and good, responds Zophar: "Oh, how I wish that God would speak" (Job 11:5). No less than Job, he would love it if God would reply—and he is quite certain that, were God to do so, he would powerfully rebuke Job.
Just for a moment, Zophar seems to take a healthy turn. He begins to deal with the fathomless knowledge and wisdom of the Almighty, far beyond human capacity. If that had been all Zophar had said, he would have anticipated part of the answer of God himself later in the book (chaps. 38–41). Sadly, however, Zophar immediately turns this in a mischievous direction, following the same path as Eliphaz and Bildad: a God so great in knowledge can certainly recognize deceitful men, "and when he sees evil, does he not take note?" (Job 11:11). Once again, the argument degenerates to a fairly mechanical theory of recompense. There is no category for innocent suffering. Job must be very wicked, for he is suffering much; the only reasonable option for him is to turn from the sin that must obviously be engulfing him (Job 11:13–20).
The second passage is of a very different sort. Consider the way Paul here exhorts the Romans to pray: "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen" (Rom. 15:30–33). Note: (a) What Paul asks for is prayer for himself. (b) If the Romans respond by praying, they will by their prayer be joining Paul in his struggle. (c) The particular struggle Paul has in mind is his relationship with unbelievers in Judea; he wants his service for the poor there to be so acceptable that he will be able to leave quickly and make his way to Rome. (d) Within the context of the chapter, this trip to Rome is part of his plan to evangelize Spain. In short, Paul asks for prayers that will further the Gospel in various ways.
What do you characteristically pray for?
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