The title phrase is attributed to both Socrates and Corrie Ten Boom. Regardless of who said it first, I can attest to its truth. I’ve long been one who makes detailed to-do lists, manages my calendar closely, and focuses on getting things done. If being busy is good, then I am awesome! That all sounds great, right?
To whom have you told [new] words? Whose breath has gone out from you? Will the dead spirits, who are underneath the water, be stirred, or those who dwell there? (Job 26:4,5 Artscroll Stone Edition Tanach)
Here Job retorts to Bilad (after his third speech in which he belittles Job) by asking him whose breath he speaks with. Certainly, it cannot be God’s, for neither the living nor the dead are stirred by Bilad’s wisdom. In essence, Job is telling Bilad that he is unqualified to judge because he lacks the wisdom and yieldedness to do so. He speaks from the heart of man, not as from God.
The lesson for us today is the same as in ancient times. Man’s wisdom is folly in God’s eyes and lacks the authority needed to change what is wrong with our condition. The power is in God’s breath, not our own. What He says sets creation in motion, what we say is carried away by the winds. The difference is in the spirit that blows the breath, ours or God’s.
I’ve been reading the Bible a good portion of my life, but feel I’ve only recently begun to read it the way it was written and intended for us to read. There are reasons for this change of perspective. In recent years I’ve been focusing on my relationship with Yahweh with more intent and seriousness, and as a result I’ve had experiences that I never had before. The kinds of experiences that show me that God is watching and responding to my approach. Along the way I have been drawn closer to Hebrew thought, learning the basics of the Hebrew alphabet and studying God’s Word through it, again at a basic level. Even this small change makes a difference in how I understand and what I perceive in the Word.
The third chapter of Exodus ends with these words, “…and you shall empty out Egypt.” In Ezekiel 39:10 we find this instruction expanded with explanation: “They will plunder those who had plundered them and despoil those who had despoiled them – the word of the Lord HASHEM / ELOHIM.” Finally, in Exodus 12:36 we find the fulfillment of God’s instruction, “HASHEM gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians and they granted their request so they emptied Egypt.” (all passages quoted from the Artscroll English Tanach, emphasis mine).
We know that this instruction was given to the Israelites just before their exodus from Egypt, and we know that the Israelites were faithful in following the instruction, as their Egyptian captors gave them the riches of their personal possessions and land as they departed. From this Israel was established as a nation of wealth from its very beginning, a blessing of HASHEM drawn from the spoils of those who had enslaved them.
We understand the history of this word, but what does this instruction mean to us today? How is this ancient scripture alive today, and what are we to do about it?