Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

Job: The World Is Unknown and Inscrutable to You

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 38-39

Asking

Job opens with God bragging to Satan about Job’s righteousness. When Satan argues that Job only loves God for His gifts, God allows Satan to take everything from Job. Although Job initially praises God, his faith in God’s goodness wanes as his misery continues through his friends’ judgment, his wife’s repulsion, and children’s disdain. Thus, Job defends himself, testifies falsely about God, and demands a reason for his suffering.

Answering

God appears in a storm with a simple message – that Job that is not God (“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” [1]) and that, unlike God, Job is surrounded by things that he does not understand and over which he has no control. God communicates this message by exposing Job’s ignorance about and impotence over the world, e.g., “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? … Who marked off its dimensions?” [2]. He then draws attention to how little Job knows about or has power over the world’s billions of events, e.g., “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?” [3].

Sympathizing

Although it is absurd to think that Job could tell God how to run the world or his life, we sympathize with him because we, too, want to know the reason for our suffering. Moreover, like Job, our childlike inquiries often become angry indictments when do not get answers. Thus, Job reveals our great sin – not trusting God.

Unlike Job, however, we have little reason not to trust God because we know His promises under the new covenant that has been sealed by Christ’s blood. We know that, although God is doing a million things each moment, He has freely promised to work everything out for our good [4], to never stop doing good to us, and to rejoice in doing good to us with all His heart and soul [5].

Praying

Lord, You stand apart from us and we are in awe of You. We confess that, although we know little of the world and its events, we often arrogantly indict You when we feel that things do not go our way. Forgive us for thinking the world exists to serve us. Open our hearts to trust You, even when we do not know the reason for our suffering. Amen.

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[1] Job 38:2-3 NIV  |  [2] Job 38:4-5 NIV 2011 (He addresses the earth, the sea, the dawn, the depth and breadth of the sea and earth)  |  [3] Job 39:1 NIV  |  [4] Romans 8:28   |  [5] Jeremiah 32:40-41

January 28, 2011

Job: Clouds to Punish and Rain to Love

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 35-37

Purpose of Suffering

Human beings are resilient. We can put up with a great deal of suffering, as long as we know the reason for it. If we don’t know the reason, however, we can be impatient and frustrated. As Nietzsche argued, “What really raises one’s indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering” [1]. Yet, life is full of seemingly purposeless suffering. The suffering of Job, from his perspective, seems senseless. He does not know the backroom deal between God and Satan and he is caught in the wrong belief that the righteous prosper and the wicked suffer [2].

Source of Suffering

Job may not know the purpose of his suffering, but he knows its author. Although it is fire that consumes his livestock and wind that kills his children, Job knows [3] that God is behind the natural disasters: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” [4]. Elihu pushes Job beyond seeing God as merely the cause and into seeing Him as the source of mercy in his suffering: He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water his earth and show his love” [5]. Thus, Job finds comfort, security, hope and truth in God’s sovereignty over suffering and His mercy behind it.

Trust in Suffering

Knowing that our loving and merciful God is the source of our suffering, we can be patient in our suffering as we trust Him – even if we do not understand or agree with Him. As James later wrote, “ … as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy [6]. We can endure suffering because we know that God is full of compassion and mercy – through and in our suffering.

Prayer

Lord, You are the author of mercy – whether it comes in the form of prosperity or adversity. We confess that we do not have eyes to see as you do in the midst of our suffering. Yet, because we trust You (and we long to trust You more and more every day), we will wait for Your goodness in our lives and patiently persevere in Christ. Amen.

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[1] On the Genealogy of Morals  | [2] Moreover, since Job is limited in his own time, he does not know that, through the testimony of his suffering, God is preparing a people ready to receive the righteous and innocent Messiah who would suffer greatly.  |  [3] Job 1:22 NIV (“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing”)  |  [4] Job 1:21 NIV  |  [5] Job 37:10-14 NIV  |  [6] James 5:11 NIV

January 27, 2011

Job: For God Does Speak – Now One Way, Now Another

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 32-34

Elihu’s Break

Although Elihu has heard the entire conversation between Job and his friends, he has not yet spoken. He has merely listened to the protestations of innocence by Job and the accusations of guilt by his friends. At the end of Job’s final defense, however, Elihu cannot remain silent anymore. He is angry that Job has justified himself rather than God [1] and that his three friends have condemned Job without refuting him [2].

God’s Speech

Although Elihu is young, he is wise. He critiques Job’s lament: “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer” [3]. Elihu says that Job is wrong; God does hear and speak to him: “But I tell you, in this you are not right, … Why do you complain to him that he responds to no one’s words? For God does speak – now one way, now another – though no one perceives it” [4]. He clarifies that God speaks in two ways: (1) words and speech [5] and (2) pain and strife [6]. Although Job is only looking for words and speech, Elihu emphasizes that God uses both ways to bring His people back to Himself and to bless them: “God does all these things to a person – twice, even three times – to turn them back from the pit, that the light of life may shine on them” [7].

Christ’s Cross

On the cross, the words of Elihu are reborn. Although Jesus remained silent in words and speech before His accusers, God spoke mightily through pain and strife. When His blood flowed and He was accursed, He caused the light of life to shine on all those who would believe in Him. With the cross as his foundation, Paul writes – in the midst of trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness and danger – the greatest and most magnificent promise in all of Scripture: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” [8].

Prayer

Lord, Not only do You speak to us through words, You also speak to us though suffering. Your great and merciful design is to save us from being forever miserable and to bring us to be forever happy. Although some of Your means to bless us may be painful and difficult, we know that You are blessing us. Thank you for using our pain and strife as instruments of Your mercy. Amen.

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[1] Job 32:2  |  [2] Job 32:3, 12-14  |  [3] Job 30:20 NIV  |  [4] Job 33:14 NIV  |  [5] Job 33:15-18  |  [6] Job 33:19-28  |  [7] Job 33:29-30 NIV  |  [8] Romans 8:28 NIV

January 26, 2011

Job: The Words of Job Are Ended

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 29-31

Then

In the midst of his suffering, Job understandably longed for better times: “How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone on my head and by his light I walked through darkness!” [1]. During those times, everyone admired him: “Whoever heard me spoke well of me … because I rescued the poor … and the fatherless … I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth … People listened to me expectantly” [2].

Now

Now, however, things were different. Everyone derided him: “But now they mock me … And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me” [3]. Moreover, God Himself seems to be his enemy: “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me. You snatch me … you toss me about in the storm. I know you will bring me down to death” [4]. Thus, he longed to hear God’s indictment against him to defend himself: “Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defense – let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing” [5].

Calvary

Job never saw Calvary. He did not know that God does not see our suffering as we do. The Lord can take the greatest suffering and injustice known to man and turn it into the greatest glory and display of His mercy. Although the cross was the most shameful and horrific death, Jesus did not pray as Job did. He did not pray, “Heal me. Take this away.” Instead, He sweat drops of blood and prayed, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” [6].

Prayer

Lord, In the midst of our suffering, we often ask You to swoop in and take away our pain. Yet, we know that You work for our good – even when it may not seem like it. Give us eyes to see our suffering as You do and hearts rooted deep in Christ, who suffered to bring us to glory. Amen.

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[1] Job 29:2-3 NIV  |  [2] Job 29:11-21 NIV  |  [3] Job 30:1, 16 NIV  |  [4] Job 30:20-23 NIV  |  [5] Job 31:35-37 NIV  |  [6] Mark 14:26 NIV

January 25, 2011

Job: Technology and Wisdom

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 27-28

Our Wisdom

Over Christmas, I went with my family to Disney World and my parents and I visited EPCOT, where we had not been since 1987. When we arrived, we immediately went to Spaceship Earth (The Golf Ball), where we learned about the evolution of communication technology – from papyrus to Morse code to telephones to typewriters. As we saw computers with large beige monitors, I realized that we were approaching the “new” part of the ride. Yet, there was nothing more. There were no MP3s or cell phones or e-readers – there was not even the Internet.

As I considered the gap between where we thought technology would be and where it actually is, I wondered about our expectations. How far have we really come? What has technology added to our lives? Although we have so many time-saving devices, do we have more time? Although we have so many ways to access news and information, do we have more wisdom and learning?

True Wisdom

As Job looked at his suffering and considered his friends, he wondered the same things. He acknowledged the technological advances of his fellow man: “ … Mortals put an end to the darkness … People assault the flinty rock with their hands and lay bare the roots of the mountains … They searchthe sources of the rivers and bring hidden things to light” [1]. Yet, where were the advances in wisdom?: “But where can wisdom be found? … No mortal comprehends its worth … God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells … And he said to the human race, ‘The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding’” [2].

Unlike Job, we have a picture of wisdom. It is the cross. As Paul wrote, Where is the wise person? … Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? … [W]e preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” [3].

Prayer

Lord, Your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom – we would never have imagined that victory could come from the cross; yet, You chose the way of glory to be the way of suffering. Mold our hearts to long for advances in wisdom more than advances in technology. Cause us to seek You as our source of wisdom. Amen.

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[1] Job 28:1-11 NIV  |  [2] Job 28:12-13, 20, 23, 25-28 NIV  |  [3] 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 NIV

January 24, 2011

Job: The Outer Fringe of His Work

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 25-26

Maggot

As his friends continue advising him, their speeches get shorter and ruder. In their final conversation, although Zophar does not mutter a word, Bildad briefly offers his unchanged position. Yet, since he still cannot connect his theology with Job’s suffering, he continues to argue that Job is an obstinate and unrepentant sinner: “Dominion and awe belong to God … How then can a mortal be righteous before God? … If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less a mortal, who is but a maggot – a human being, who is only a worm!” [1].

Whisper

In his final reply to his friends, Job sarcastically thanks his friends for their help [2] and then turns in awe to the greatness and majesty of the Lord: “He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight. He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it. He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness … And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!” [3]. Job sees the grandiose character of God and is lost in His distance.

Word

Although Job saw only the outer fringe of His work and heard only His faint whisper, we have seen the glory of the Lord in the person of Jesus Christ: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth … No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” [4].

Prayer

Lord, Although You are not distant, sometimes it feels like You are. When we suffer, our hearts can be like that of the Psalmist, who simultaneously trusted and doubted You: “You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me?” [5]. Yet, we pray that You would send us Your light and Your faithful care to lead us to You, our joy and our delight. Give us undivided hearts that we may fear Your name [6]. Amen.

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[1] Job 25:2, 4-6 NIV  |  [2] Job 25:2-3 NIV  |  [3] Job 25:7-14 NIV  |  [4] John 1:14, 18 NIV  |  [5] Psalm 43:2 NIV  |  [6] See Psalm 86:11

January 21, 2011

Job: When God Seems Oblivious and Distant

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 22-24

DOES GOD CARE

As Eliphaz continues to consider Job’s suffering, he says two things. First, he tells Job that, since God is exalted, He doesn’t care about Job’s righteousness: “What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous?” [1]. Second, he insists that Job repent: “Is it not your wickedness great?” [2]. He furthers his argument by fabricating [3] evidence against Job: “[Y]ou stripped people of their clothing … You gave no water to the weary … you withheld food from the hungry … you sent widows away empty-handed and broke the strength of the fatherless” [4]. He concludes with the prosperity gospel: “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come” [5].

IS GOD NEAR

Unlike his friends, who argue from their own fearful insecurity as they refuse to change their faulty theology, Job knows that God is holy and that his Redeemer lives [6]. Yet, he has a problem – he cannot find Him: “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!” [7]. Although he longs for a face-to-face confrontation with his living God, he cannot seem to get in touch with Him – no matter how much he tries: “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread … God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me” [8].

IN JESUS CHRIST

Some say that getting through to God is easy in suffering. Yet, this is not everyone’s experience. Jesus, for example, did not easily reach His Father when He was on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the cries of my anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest” [9]. Yet, the Father heard the Son’s deepest cries to reconcile His people: “For … he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help … Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord” [10].

PRAYER

Lord, Since Jesus experienced ultimate separation from you when he was on the cross, You are never far from us. Yet, since we cannot see You, sometimes it feels as though You are far away. Hear the prayers of those who mourn today. Close the gap between their grasping hands and Your full heart. Amen.

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[1] Job 22:3 NIV  |  [2] Job 22:4-5 NIV  |  [3] See Job 1-3  |  [4] Job 22:6-9 NIV  |  [5] Job 22:21 NIV  |  [6] Job 19:25  |  [7] Job 23:3, 8-9 NIV  |  [8] Job 23:12, 16 NIV  |  [9] Psalm 22:1-2 NIV  |  [10] Psalm 22:24, 30 NIV

January 20, 2011

Job: The Suffering of the Innocent

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Job 20-21

ZOPHAR

At this point, Zophar only cares about making sure that Job agrees with him: “My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer because I am greatly disturbed” [1]. His entire theology is still wrapped up in making sure that Job admits that he has sinned greatly and deserves his suffering: “Surely you know how it has been from of old … [that] the joy of the godless lasts but a moment [2] … Such is the fate God allots the wicked” [3].

JOB

Yet, Job looks around and sees the prosperity – not failure – of the wicked: “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? … They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace. Yet they say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways …’” [4]. Although he agrees with Zophar in theory, he does not see its reality: “Have you paid no regard to their accounts – that the wicked are spared from the day of calamity … ? Who denounces their conduct to their face? … They are carried to the grave … The soil in the valley is sweet to them; everyone follows after them … ” [5].

JESUS

Ultimately, however, Job foreshadowed Jesus. Although innocent, He was mocked by those who presumed His guilt: “Those who passed by hurled insults at him … saying, ‘[S]ave yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’ In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘ … Let God rescue him now if he wants him’” [6]. Yet, unlike Job, Jesus bore the reproach because He knew that He would gain eternal joy by bearing our wickedness: “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” [7].

PRAYER

Lord, Our faith wavers when we see the wicked prosper. They have no struggles, saying, “Does the Most High know anything?” They are carefree, amassing wealth. Oftentimes, it seems that we have obeyed You in vain. Yet, in Your presence, we see rightly. We are always with You; You hold and guide us and You will take us into glory. Whom have we in heaven but You? Earth has nothing we desire besides You. Our flesh and hearts may fail, but You are the strength of our hearts and our portions forever [8]. Amen.

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[1] Job 20:2-3 NIV  |  [2] Job 20:4-5 NIV  |  [3] Job 20:27-29 NIV  |  [4] Job 21:7, 13-16 NIV  |  [5] Job 21:29b-33 NIV  |  [6] Matthew 27:32-44 NIV  |  [7] Hebrews 12:2-3 NIV  |  [8] This prayer is taken from Psalm 27 (NIV).

January 19, 2011

Job: I Know that My Redeemer Lives

by Bethany

Today’s Reading: Job 18-19

As his friends repeated platitudes, Job moved to God. He recognized that he needed more than a vindicator; he needed a redeemer. By faith, he proclaimed: I know that my redeemer lives” [1].

REDEEMER

A redeemer bought back the heritage of a kinsman who lost an estate. According to Spurgeon, the body is “the heritage of the soul” and becomes alienated in death. Thus, in Christ, we say, “I know that my [Redeemer] liveth, and he will redeem this heritage. I have lost it; thou takest it from me lawfully, O Death, because my sin hath forfeited my right … but there lives one who will buy this back.

LIVES

Spurgeon saw Job’s hope as the resurrected Christ: “If I saw no fountain from which life could stream to the dead, I would yet believe the promise when God said that the dead shall live; but when I see the fountain provided, and know that it is full to the brim and that it runneth over, I can rejoice … Since there is one who can say, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life,’ it is a blessed thing to see the means already before us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

MY

Spurgeon saw Job’s relationship with God: “[C]an … you say, ‘I know that MY Redeemer liveth?’ … I charge you rest not, be not content until by faith you can say, ‘Yes … I am his, and therefore he is mine’ … He is the only piece of property which is really ours. We borrow all else … But Jesus, we can never leave, for even when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord …”

KNOW

Spurgeon saw Job’s certain faith: “‘I hope so … ,’ is comfortable; and there are thousands in the fold of Jesus who hardly ever get much further. But to reach the marrow of consolation you must say, ‘I KNOW.’ Ifs, buts, and perhapses, are sure murderers of peace and comfort. Doubts are dreary things in times of sorrow … [I]f I know that Jesus is mine, then darkness is not dark; even the night is light about me.”

PRAYER

Lord, I know that my Redeemer lives and that, in the end, He will stand on the earth. After my skin has been destroyed, I will yet see You in my flesh. I myself will see You with my own eyes. How my heart yearns within me! Amen.

 

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[1] Job 19:25-27 NIV |  All quotes from Spurgeon come from his sermon I Know that My Redeemer Liveth, which was preached on 12 April 1863. If you would like a better and longer meditation on this single verse in the life of Job, I strongly recommend reading the entire sermon.

January 18, 2011

Job: Who Will Be Our Surety?

by Bethany

Today’s Reading: Job 15-17

Unreasonable Evidence

In the second round of conversation between Job and his friends, the tension grows. Eliphaz is even more convinced that Job has done something sinful to deserve his suffering. Since he cannot find any sin that prompted the suffering, however, he points to his response: “Your sin prompts your mouth … Your own mouth condemns you, not mine” [1]. He arrogantly warns Job to avoid the fate of the wicked: “Listen to me and I will explain to you … All his days the wicked man suffers torment … because he shakes his fist at God and vaunts himself against the Almighty” [2].

Special Insight

Eliphaz missteps, however, when he asks Job: “What do you know that we do not know? What insights do you have that we do not have?” [3]. Yet, Job has special insight – since he knows that he has no secret sin, he knows that there must be something missing with their theology about suffering. Thus, prays: “Surely, God, you have worn me out … All was well with me, but he shattered me” [4]. He knew that, although there were intervening causes, God was the proximate cause of his suffering.

Friendly Advocate

In spite of his frustration and confusion, Job knows that the Lord is his only hope: “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend” [5]. He looks up to heaven and begs, “Give me, O God, the pledge you demand. Who else will put up security for me?” [6]. That for which Job longs is Jesus. He is the pledge of the Father’s love for us and our friend. He is our intercessor and advocate: “ … if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” [7].

Prayer

Lord, Thank You for correcting our improper view of suffering through the life of Job. Although Your ways are mysterious and we will never fully understand suffering, we know that we have an advocate on high in Jesus when we suffer. We thank You that, though His own suffering, He has taken away the threat of eternal death by putting up His life as a pledge for our hope of eternal life. Amen.

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[1] Job 15:5-6 NIV  |  [2] Job 15:17, 20, 24-26 NIV  |  [3] Job 15:9 NIV  |  [4] Job 16:10, 12 NIV  |  [5] Job 16:18-21 NIV  |  [6] Job 17:3 NIV  |  [7] 1 John 2:1-2 NIV. See also Charles Finney, Christ Our Advocate (16 January 1862).

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