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

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