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The Message



Job 13:3-17; Job 13:21-27 (Redacted verses: 13:18-20)

17 “Listen closely, then, to my words;
pay attention to what I am saying.

18 Here, now, I have prepared my case;
I know I am in the right.
19 If anyone can contend with me,
I will be quiet and die!
20 “Only grant two things to me, God;
then I won’t hide myself from your face —

21 take your hand away from me,
and don’t let fear of you frighten me.

Acts 12:1-17

Going out, Kefa (Peter) followed him but did not realize that what was happening through the angel was real — he thought he was seeing a vision.

13 He knocked at the outside door, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer. 14 She recognized Kefa’s voice and was so happy that she ran back in without opening the door,

John 8:33-47

43 Why don’t you understand what I’m saying? Because you can’t bear to listen to my message.

Job:
I’m still annoyed about the redactions in Job. This one in particular changes the message drastically. The redacted version goes like this: (I’ve added verses 15, 16 and 22 to demonstrate how the meaning changes when the verses are left out.)

15 Look, he will kill me — I don’t expect more,
but I will still defend my ways to his face.
16 And this is what will save me —
that a hypocrite cannot appear before him.
 

17 “Listen closely, then, to my words;
pay attention to what I am saying.

21 take your hand away from me,
and don’t let fear of you frighten me.

22 Then, if you call, I will answer.
Or let me speak, and you, answer me!



The censored version doesn’t make it clear that Job switches from talking to his friends, to addressing God. It muddles the meaning inexcusably. It makes it sound like Job is groveling before God and begging: 

“Listen, please, really listen! Stop scaring me and I will answer if you call! Or let me talk, and you answer me.” 

The accurate meaning of the passage is more like this:

(Job talking to his friends)—“Listen to me, and pay close attention! I’ve thought this through and I know I’m right. If anyone knows better than me, I’ll shut up and just die.”
(Job switches here, and starts talking to God)—“If you don’t want me to turn my back on you, God, then you’ll stop torturing me, and stop turning my awe of you into gutless terror!”

Could there be a more drastic difference in the meaning? I don’t want to speculate about the possible reasons for changing the portrayal of Job from a bitter, sarcastic, and eloquent advocate of human integrity into a sniveling whiner. Yes, I know that’s strong language, but if you read the whole book, that’s what Job’s misguided friends keep on accusing him of being, a sniveling whiner. And those are the same friends that God rebukes at the end of the book for being rude and boorish! I can’t help it, but the manner in which the readings are censored seems to imply that the editors (whoever they are) secretly agree with Job’s obnoxious friends.

Acts:

Visions, dreams and miraculous escapes. Is the whole story a metaphor? Was there really an angel of God? I don’t know, but I do know that my heart went out to Rhoda, who was so excited about hearing Peter’s voice at the door that she got flustered and ran off without letting him in. Nobody believed her, but that was probably because she was jumping up and down and flapping her hands and squeaking. It just occurred to me that she knew it was Peter, because she recognized his voice. I recognized that phrase! There’s a parallel passage about recognizing voices: John 10:4— “After taking out all that are his own, he goes on ahead of them; and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.” There’s another related verse a bit later: John 10:27— “My sheep listen to my voice, I recognize them, they follow me,”.

That’s what I think this verse is about— that sure recognition; that absolute certainty; that total confidence.  I’ve made a mental note to pay close attention whenever I feel that familiar sense of discerning familiarity. It’s like when you hear a little sound in the kitchen and you know that the dog is on the counter. Or you start to smell the cookies in the oven, and that’s when you know they are done. We are all pretty confident in that sort of perception. Our faculty of recognition is pretty dependable, and it’s even more reliable when the feeling is mutual. When it comes to God, there’s no need for us to even ask, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” We recognize one another.

John:

Well that pretty much speaks for itself! It’s a tidy little proof that even in first century Palestine, people were really good at denial. As a cop, I ran across that same human foible over and over again when I was faced with somebody’s absolute inability to accept reality. Sometimes it was because they were drunk, but quite often they were not impaired in any way, and they didn’t appear to be below average in intelligence. They just couldn’t accept reality; they literally couldn’t stand to think that things weren’t the way they wanted them to be. They couldn’t bear to listen to the message, and so they just couldn’t understand what was happening. We’ve all heard someone say that exact thing: “I don’t understand what’s happening!” I’ve made another mental note— to look out for this kind of obtuseness in myself.

I think I might be able to recognize the smell of denial in time to keep from missing the message.

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