Reverence, humility, and helping others

Recognizing how Job’s friends interacted with him should help us be better friends.

Core of the Bible podcast #64 – Reverence, humility, and helping others

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and the duty of believers to humbly reach out to others in respect of reverence of God, or the fear of Yahweh.

Now this idea is based on an interesting verse in Job which has several different meanings depending on which English version one is using, or how one places the emphasis in the original language.

The NIV relates Job 6:14 in the following manner:

“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”

This is pretty straightforward, and even contains a nice moral theme of demonstrating that those who are not kind with their friends are demonstrating that they themselves have forsaken the “fear of the Almighty.”

Now, we’ll talk more about the fear of God in a little bit; but want I want to focus on for the moment is comparing this translation of this verse with a more accurate one from the NASB. It reads like this:

“For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend so that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.”

The Holman CSB reads in a similar way:

“A despairing man should receive loyalty from his friends, even if he abandons the fear of the Almighty.”

These types of translations are closer to the text and the context, and express a different emphasis of conveying that friends should extend kindness to their friends even when (or specifically so the friends don’t) abandon the fear of God.

Now, truth be told, I had written a whole article last year on this verse, focusing on the first type of translation, how not extending compassion to one’s friend could be an indication that someone has lost the fear of God. When we don’t recognize how God wants us to reach out and help others, we are negating our reverence for God. I said it this way:

“If we do not have the fear of God, Job says, we have no motivation for expressing compassion to those less fortunate or those who are going through rough patches in their lives; we withhold kindness. We instead focus on our personal agendas which end up being relatively insignificant by comparison.”

This is not an untrue statement. We are typically self-centered by nature, and if we do not have the fear of God in our lives, we typically spend little time caring for the needs of others.

However, this is not what this verse actually says when it is viewed in its entire context. Contextually, the secondary versions from the NASB and the Holman CSB are more accurate. These focus on the friends providing compassion to a friend in need so that the needful friend does not abandon all hope and reject the fear of God altogether.

Let’s look at the context to show how this bears out.

In this passage, Job is bewailing the struggle and grief he is experiencing.

Job 6:2, 4, 8-10 – “Oh that my grief were actually weighed And laid in the balances together with my calamity! … “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, Their poison my spirit drinks; The terrors of God are arrayed against me. … “Oh that my request might come to pass, And that God would grant my longing! “Would that God were willing to crush me, That He would loose His hand and cut me off! “But it is still my consolation, And I rejoice in unsparing pain, That I have not denied the words of the Holy One.”

This is the recurring theme of Job: how he maintains his innocency and yet God is afflicting him.

Then, in his continuing monologue, Job becomes dismissive of his friends who, rather than building him up, are instead accusing Job of some wrongdoing that has resulted in his condition.

Job 6:25-27 – “How painful are honest words! But what does your argument prove? “Do you intend to reprove my words, When the words of one in despair belong to the wind? “You would even cast lots for the orphans And barter over your friend.”

Job is saying they are not acting as true friends who should be comforting him; rather they are providing arguments of why he is wrong during his time of suffering. They are not acting as true friends, but as judges, trying to outdo each other to provide the correct assessment of why he is in the predicament he is.

So, understanding the fuller context can now help us determine which of the translations of verse 14 are more accurate. Is Job saying that forsaking a friend means one has lost the fear of God themself, or is he saying that real friends would comfort a friend in need to prevent him from abandoning his fear of God?

Notice what Job says:

Job 6:26 – “Do you intend to reprove my words, When the words of one in despair belong to the wind?

Job is upbraiding them for reproving him when they should recognize instead that someone who is in despair is likely uttering words with no meaning. They should be comforting him in his affliction rather than trying to prove to him why he deserves to be afflicted. They should be doing everything they can to make sure that Job does not lose his fear of God in his despair.

This type of textual analysis really drives home to me the importance of good, comprehensive Bible study. It is very easy for us to arrive at faulty conclusions when we are pulling verses out of context for the sake of proving some point we are attempting to make. It’s kind of like Job’s friends who grasped at anything to show Job why he was in the wrong; we have a tendency to create our own type of meaning where there really isn’t any, and we miss the bigger picture of our responsibility toward others.

This, I believe, is one of the main reasons the apostle James could write the following:

James 3:1-2 – “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways…”

Teaching about the Bible is a humbling challenge that requires constant re-evaluation and sometimes a readjustment of perspective. Seeing how this verse can be slanted in different directions reminds me of how I need to humbly and prayerfully ensure I am also always trying to convey the correct context at all times to derive the greatest application.


Now that we understand a bit more about the context of Job 6, we can look at verse 14 as helping us understand how and why we should be interacting with our friends who may be struggling.

“A despairing man should receive kindness from his friends, even if he abandons the fear of the Almighty.”

This aligns most closely with the literal rendering of the original Hebrew which reads: “To him who is afflicted, by his friend, kindness, even though the fear of the Almighty he forsakes.”

This admonition of Job for all believers drives us to the conclusion that we should always extend kindness, not judgment, for those we know who may be suffering. In doing so, we are helping to keep them from losing their reverence for God in their despair. Or if they have no reverence for God, we demonstrate God’s love to them in simply caring for their needs without judgment.

This was recently brought home to me by reading an article by Allie Brosh, the creator of the “Hyperbole and a half” blog and books. In it, she describes in a humorous, yet poignant and profound way, how people she knew found it almost impossible to relate to her while she was battling severe clinical depression.

She relates it this way: “They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it’s frustrating for them when that doesn’t happen. From their perspective it seems there has got to be some untapped source of happiness within you that you’ve simply lost track of…”

This is almost the exact situation Job found himself in. His friends were trying so hard to analyze why he was afflicted, they just kept attacking his problem from their perspective, when all he really needed was some affirmation that they were there for him.

Allie continues how it appears from the perspective of the one who is afflicted: “The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren’t necessarily looking for solutions.” She then goes on to describe how the most helpful things would have been for her friends to say things like, “Sorry that you are going through this,” or “Wow, that seems really difficult, but I still like you.” In this way, they would be affirming their concern without laying down judgment on why she was suffering. That type of compassion goes a long way toward providing real comfort to those in need, even if it doesn’t solve their problems.

The good news is, Allie was able to overcome her deep depression and regain her sense of purpose. And, while I don’t personally know Allie or her spiritual state before God, if she had been a believer during her affliction, and her friends had acted in a godly, supportive and non-judgmental way, she would likely have been encouraged to not lose all hope in her reverence for God, her “fear of the Almighty,” as Job says.


So, as promised earlier, let’s explore this phrase a little further. “The fear of the Almighty” or “the fear of the Lord” are phrases that have fallen out of use in our modern religious vernacular. Rarely is God represented as a being who is to be feared; rather, his mercy and forgiveness are emphasized above and beyond all of the qualities of his being.

To better understand this admonition to fear God, we would do well to investigate the word that is translated in our English versions as “fear.” In regular vocabulary, that word to us means to be frightened or scared of something or someone who might do us harm. However, in biblical terminology, the term goes beyond that into a broader usage of “reverence” or “awe.”

If we have the fear of God, we have the deepest respect and reverence for God, recognizing just how awesome and powerful he really is. Whether we read of his power in the creation of all things, or the separating of the Red Sea, or in the resurrection of Yeshua, we are glimpsing the majesty and glory that sits outside of our natural understanding into the supernatural realm of God’s character and abilities. When we incorporate that perspective of the other-ness of God into our daily lives, we cannot help acting and working differently than others around us who have a physical-only worldview.

This concept of perspective-changing awe is a known commodity, even outside of religious environments. Marina Koren, writing in the The Atlantic periodical under their science category, relates the following assessment of awe. She dubs it “galaxy brain,” and conveys that it is a concept that has demonstrable effects in the lives of those who experience it:

“Imagine yourself at a scenic vista somewhere on Earth, such as the rim of the Grand Canyon or the shore of an ocean stretching out past the horizon line. As your brain processes the view and its sheer vastness, feelings of awe kick in. Looking at a photo is not the same, but we might get a dose of that when we look at a particularly sparkly Hubble picture of a star cluster. The experience of awe, whether we’re standing at the summit of a mountain or sitting in front of a computer screen, can lead to “a diminished sense of self,” a phrase psychologists use to describe feelings of smallness or insignificance in the face of something larger than oneself. Alarming as that may sound, research has shown that the sensation can be a good thing: A shot of awe can boost feelings of connectedness with other people.”

Having the larger perspective of awe can help us realize that the things we value as important to us in the short term of our temporary lives pale in contrast with the more important things that the God of the universe expects of us, such as helping others.

When someone receives a kind gesture from another person, have you ever heard them say something like, “This helped me regain my faith in humanity?” This implies that everyone is so used to being treated negatively by others that one kind action can have a big impact on them. As believers, though, our purpose through kindness is not to have others regain their faith in humanity (although that is a good start), but it is to have them recognize how the God of the universe is reaching out to them through our kind and helpful actions. We should be helping others to maintain their fear of the Almighty, or to recognize it if they have never experienced it.

This involves a large level of humility. Describing the “galaxy brain,” Marina Koren said when we experience this sense of awe it results in “diminishment of self.” Taken as a whole, the Bible is really all about instilling in us a sense of diminishment of self.

Proverbs 15:33 – “The fear of Yahweh is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.”

Proverbs 29:23 – “A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.”

Yeshua even spoke about the obedience of humility in this way:

Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Paul, in writing to the Philippian congregation, says:

Philippians 2:3-4 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

As we have seen, humility can be accomplished through a sense of awe and wonder for the God who created all things and who placed us within his creation to make a compassionate difference in the lives of those around us. Our kindness toward others not only reveals our reverence for God, but for those who are in desperate situations, it can revive or even create a kindred sense of awe for God.

When we operate within that sense of big-picture reverence for our Creator, we are not only encouraged but compelled to express his compassion. In this way, the two greatest commands, to love God and love others, can be fulfilled in us.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Caring for those who are distressed and scattered

God’s people are a precious possession to him.

Matthew 9:35-38 – Yeshua continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and helplessly dispersed, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”

The compassion of Yeshua for the condition of his people is a burden that still lays upon the hearts of those who are his followers today. Everywhere one looks today, people who are sincerely trying to follow God’s ways are distressed and scattered among the masses of false teachings, like sheep among so many wolves.

The compassionate heart seeks to encourage and build one another up in the the common things of the faith once for all delivered to God’s holy ones, not to tear down the feeble faith that they may have. In Matthew’s gospel, quoting the prophet Isaiah, it is said of Yeshua:

Matthew 12:20 – He will not break a bruised reed, and he will not put out a smoldering wick, until he has led justice to victory.

Yeshua did not desire to further damage the bruised reeds nor snuff out a wick that was at least smoldering with the remnants of faith. His care and concern for the lost was evident in his tireless teaching and healings throughout the crowds of people.

Matthew 15:29-32 – …Yeshua passed along the Sea of Galilee. He went up on a mountain and sat there, and large crowds came to him, including the lame, the blind, the crippled, those unable to speak, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he healed them. So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the crippled restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they gave glory to the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.”

Yeshua demonstrated compassion on the people because of their lost condition. Those who cannot help themselves deserve our compassion, as well.

However, those who should know better, the leaders of the people, are the ones whom Yeshua confronted.

Matthew 23:13 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.

In this extended passage in Matthew 23, Yeshua delivers a scathing denunciation of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In this way, he demonstrated that the recipients of doctrinal debate are deserved to be those false shepherds who are continuing to deceive and lead astray, but not the flock members themselves.

When encountering individuals who may be sincere but are not fully conveying the truth of the Way of God, we should privately encourage them and gently offer correction, as Priscilla and Aquila demonstrated with Apollos.

Acts 18:24-26 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.

Following the example of Yeshua, we should demonstrate compassion by praying to the Lord of the harvest for the safety and care of his people, that they would have their eyes opened and come out from under the overbearing error of hypocritical and false teaching. We should likewise reach out by offering assistance where we can to meet the needs of those who are unable to help themselves in those situations. God’s people are a precious possession to him, and we should show the same respect and care for them as he does.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Compassion springs from a deep bond of unity

Understanding our connections with others can provide motivation for care and concern.

And Joseph made haste; for his heart yearned over his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.

Genesis 43:30

When Joseph had become ruler of Egypt, he had not seen his brothers for approximately twenty years. Although they were sons of different mothers, his affinity over Benjamin was immensely magnified due to the fact that he and Benjamin had the same mother. He felt a deep kinship with Benjamin due to this bond.

The word used here to describe this deep connection is the Hebrew word racham, which has its root in the concept of the womb. The close kindred feeling that Joseph and Benjamin felt for each other was because they were from the same womb of one mother.

Throughout the Bible, this word is used as a way of conveying a deep, shared connection with another, and is many times translated as compassion.

When Solomon is faced with deciding a case between two women who are both claiming the same baby as being theirs, the real mother expresses racham over her child.

1 Kings 3:26 Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.”

The deep connection of the womb caused the real mother to try to preserve her son’s life, even if she had to give him up to another.

In like fashion, and quite often, this word is used of God’s care and concern for men.

2 Kings 13:23 but the LORD was gracious to them, had compassion on them, and turned toward them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was not willing to destroy them. Even now he has not banished them from his presence.
Psalm 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
Psalm 116:5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.
Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the LORD is a just God. All who wait patiently for him are happy.

Isaiah goes so far as to attribute this characteristic to God so strongly, he names him the Compassionate One.

Isaiah 49:10 They will not hunger or thirst, the scorching heat or sun will not strike them; for their Compassionate One will guide them, and lead them to springs.

As we have seen, one of the deepest relational connections is one of racham. The blessing for all believers is that the God of the Bible is compassionate toward them. In like fashion, God inspires us to have racham towards others, as exemplified among his own ancient people:

Zechariah 7:8-10 The word of the LORD came to Zechariah: “The LORD of hosts says this: ‘Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another. “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the resident alien or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another.’

It is only when we recognize our bond with others as being of the same hand of a loving Creator that we can truly express racham towards them. The “womb of God,” figuratively speaking, is that shared connection. At a very basic level, all existence is the result of one Creator. Psalm 116:5 reminds us that, “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.” This should encourage us to be truly mindful of our larger familial relationships with others, and to mimic our Father’s characteristic of compassion as we seek to represent him faithfully in this world.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.