Psalm 55:16–20; Job 34:1–28; 1 Corinthians 7:25–40

Psalm 55:16–20: Now we come to the imprecation section of this psalm of supplication. Our psalmist has been wounded in some way possible both physically and emotionally. The betrayal by his best friend weighs heavily, as well. So he sets up the usual binary model of evildoers and his wishes regarding their fate, contrasting this how he himself seeks after God:
May death come upon them.
May they go down to Sheol alive.
Fir n their homes, in their midst, are evils.
But I call to God,
and He hears my voice.” (16, 17)

The most interesting part of this section is the psalmist’s apparent self-awareness:
I complain and I moan,
and He hears my voice.” (18)

What’s striking here is that God is still listening through our grousing. We do not have to put on some sort of pious act to get God’s attention. In fact, I dare say God is listening more intently than ever when we are feeling bitter and can only come to him with our complaints.

Our poet goes on to give God complete credit for his rescue from his enemies:
He has ransomed my life unharmed from my battle,
for many were against me.” (19)

Unlike many other psalms of supplication, our poet lists his enemies and makes sure we understand that they are apostate and will never turn their hearts to God:
Ishmael and Jalam and the dweller in the east,
who will never change and do not fear God.” (20)

Should we be as specific in our own prayers? I’m pretty sure we should not make conclusive judgements such as “who will never change.” Although once again, we need to realize that our poet is writing in a state of intense emotion. I certainly know I’ve made pronouncement like this one when I’m in a state of emotional outrage. Unfortunately, unlike the psalmist, I tend to make judgements about people I love rather than on my enemies.

Job 34:1–28: Elihu is not finished with his speech, although he seems to have softened his attitude somewhat toward the people he earlier called stupid: “Hear my words, you wise men.” (2) (or perhaps he is just being sarcastic.) He poses the choice we all must confront:
Let us choose what is right;
    let us determine among ourselves what is good.” (4)

He then goes on to forget about choosing and spends his time castigating Job’s declarations of innocence, basically accusing Job of rejecting God altogether:
For [Job] has said, ‘It profits one nothing
    to take delight in God.’” (9)

Elihu’s position is that it is God who is right, not Job. After all, he exclaims, “far be it from God that he should do wickedness,/ and from the Almighty  that he should do wrong.” (10) He then states the deuteronomic quid pro quo that was the basis of Jewish law and the widespread evidence around us that we reap what we sow:
For according to their deeds he will repay them,
    and according to their ways he will make it befall them.
Of a truth, God will not do wickedly,
    and the Almighty will not pervert justice. (11, 12)

But I think this is where Elihu goes off the tracks. I certainly agree that God is incapable of doing wrong. However, that does not answer the core question of this entire book question about a God who allows wrong to occur—which of course is exactly the deal God reached with Satan concerning Job.


But Elihu forges onward anyway, using an argument based on the logic that God rules all creation and therefore by definition is just:
Shall one who hates justice govern?
    Will you condemn one who is righteous and mighty,” (17)

Moreover, God is all-seeing and therefore cannot not allow evil to fester:
For his eyes are upon the ways of mortals,
    and he sees all their steps.
There is no gloom or deep darkness
    where evildoers may hide themselves.” (21, 22)

God shows no partiality, Elihu continues, and as far as the wicked are concerned. They, including Job, are simply receiving their just desserts:
Thus, knowing their works,
    he overturns them in the night, and they are crushed.
He strikes them for their wickedness
    while others look on.” (26, 27)

Elihu’s unstated conclusion is that there is no question that Job is wicked before God, that he remains in complete denial about that fact, and therefore has deserved the punishment he received. After all, a just God cannot do otherwise. Of course Elihu has no concept of a loving God, only a just God who cannot abide wickedness.

1 Corinthians 7:25–40: Once again, Paul makes it clear that he is expressing his opinion regarding male/female relationships of various kinds. Most famously, he advocates a status quo approach to marriage: “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” (27) Which also makes it clear that bachelor Paul has a rather dim view of the institution of marriage, which to me anyway, seems somewhat contrary to Jesus’ view.

I think it’s also important to realize that Paul was writing in a context that assumed Jesus’ return to earth was imminent and all this relationship business was a temporary situation at best: “in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are.” (26) And, “For the present form of this world is passing away.” (31)

Nevertheless, Paul puts his finger rather precisely on a deep truth regarding marriage: “Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life.” (28) But as we know, Paul’s own life was not exactly distress-free either. He pretty much sums up his world view at verse 38: “So then, he who marries his fiancée does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.”  And if a woman becomes a widow, she is free to marry again, but as far as Paul is concerned, “in my judgment she is more blessed if she remains as she is.” (40)

Paul’s low view of marriage is one of the animating principles underlying the Roman Catholic view that priests must be celibate. But I also think one should never forget that like Paul, that the advice celibate priests give regarding marriage is based on theory, not experience.

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