Friday, December 31, 2004

The hand of the Lord has done this. Job 12

It is Job's contention that, of all that has happened to him, the hand of the Lord has done it all. Job believed that God holds the breath of every living thing in His hand and all that happens, good or evil, comes from His hand.

It strikes me odd that neither Job nor his friends ever attribute anything to the working of the devil. Even though Satan had a significant role in Job's suffering from the very beginning, Job nor his friends perceived Satan's hand in Job's sufferings. To Job, good and evil were both from the hand of the Lord, and God doesn't have to have a good reason for either. To Job's friends, good was God's reward for the righteous and evil was God's reward for the sinner.

To be sure, God is sovereign and does as He pleases. "He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away." (Job 12:23) God does appoint the rise and fall of nations, this is true. "Behold, He restrains the waters, and they dry up; and He sends them out, and they inundate the earth." (Job 12:15) This is also true, God does send famines and floods, but the question remains, are all famines and floods the direct work of God's hand? The insurance industry refresh to natural disasters as "acts of God", but is this fair to God? I believe that most meteorological and geologic disasters are simply the after shocks of Noah's flood. Noah's flood permanently changed the earths weather patterns. Prior to the flood, there had never been any rain. The flood also changed the geological stability of the earth. During the flood, the fountains of the deep were released. Vast underground stores of water were released upon the earth. Storms, floods, and earthquakes (in most cases) are simply the left over effects of Noah's flood.

The point is, there are three sources for events in our lives. God, Satan, and the decay of this world. Somethings are the direct result of God's hand in our lives. Somethings are the result of Satan's attacks against us. And somethings are simply the decaying away of this present world.

So, if God is sovereign, why does He allow evil things to happen to people? Why did God not bring a quick end to Job's suffering? Why doesn't God bring a quick end to evil in this world? The answer is complex and, in part, a great mystery. But Peter does tell us one reason, "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation" (2 Peter 3:15) God's patience in dealing with evil is so that more may be saved. God is not willing that any should be lost and He is willing to wait that as many as possible may be saved.

We must realize that God has many reasons for what He does and what He allows. While we may not understand all His reasons, we know he has a reason, and His reason is for our certain good.

David Robison

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The contempt of those at ease: Job 12:5

"He who is at ease holds calamity in contempt, as prepared for those whose feet slip." (Job 12:5)
This scripture has become a very important scripture to me. It has caused be to rethink how I look and judge the misfortunes of others. In the midst of calamity, we are often so consumed with our own suffering, that it is hard to consider the suffering of others. When we are at ease, it is easy to have contempt for the suffering of others. It is easy to look at the misfortunes of others and think, "they deserve it", "it's there fault", "why can't they just get over it", or "it could never happen to me". When we are at ease, it is hard for us to put ourselves in the place of people who are suffering and to identify with their pain and to muster genuine concern for them. This scripture has caused me to pause and to judge my own motives and to see if my judgements of others are coming out of a heart of contempt, rather than a heart of compassion.

I have found, in my own experience, that at times when I am experiencing difficulty in my life, it is often hard to find someone who understands. This scripture reminds me not to judge them too severely, for after all, I too am subject to the same temptation and might judge another wrongly if the situation was reversed. One fact that does bring me encouragement in those times is that, even if no one else understands, there is one who does. "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings." (Hebrews 2:10) Even if no one else understands, Jesus does. God became a man and dwelt among us and experienced the same suffering that we experience in this life. Jesus not only knows the pain that we are experiencing, but He is also interceding with the Father on our behalf. When others hold us in contempt, we can always find comfort in the Lord.

David Robison

Zophar on Evolution: Job 11:12

"An idiot will become intelligent when the foal of a wild donkey is born a man." (Job 11:12)
This scripture always makes me laugh. Believe it or not, there is a variation on the theory of evolution that believes that one species lays an egg, and a completely different species is hatched. This theory of evolution is called "Punctuated Equilibrium". In this passage, Zophar is trying to describe something that is, not improbable, but impossible. To do this, he turns to evolution. In Zophar's mind, this form of evolution was impossible. Zophar recognized that all that was scene was created, not evolved. I concur with him.

David Robison

Monday, December 27, 2004

God knows a false man. Job 11

Batting third is Zophar. Zophar seems content to speak the same mantra as Eliphaz and Bildad, "Shall a multitude of words go unanswered, and a talkative man be acquitted?" (Job 11:2) We have talked enough about this in the previous posts. Zophar does have one thing to add, he reminds Job that "sound wisdom has two sides." (Job 11:6) What Zophar means is that there is what we understand with our wisdom, and there is what God understands. We see wisdom in part, the part God reveals to us, but God sees it all. If we rely on only what we can understand, then we will miss what God doing. In judging any situation, we need to find out what God has in mind, not just what we can understand.

Unfortunately, Zophar needs to take to heart his own advice. Based on what he can see, Zophar judges that Job's problems are the result of his sins, "If you would direct your heart right and spread out your hand to Him, if iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and do not let wickedness dwell in your tents; Then, indeed, you could lift up your face without moral defect, and you would be steadfast and not fear." (Job 11:13-15) Zophar judged by what he could see and understand, but he did not take time to hear and understand Job's situation from God's perspective. In Zophar's eyes, if Job would just get right with God then all his problems would vanish, "For you would forget your trouble, as waters that have passed by, you would remember it. Your life would be brighter than noonday; darkness would be like the morning." (Job 11:16-17)

Zophar's lack of understanding was compounded with his lack of patience. Zophar grew weary of Job's complaining and Job's seeming inability to just "go on" and "get over it". So insensitive was Zophar's heart, that he actually wished that God would come against Job Himself and set him straight, "But would that God might speak, and open His lips against you, and show you the secrets of wisdom!" (Job 11:5-6) Zophar did not understand that God and Job were not adversaries, but Father and son. Zophar wanted God to "take Job on". Zophar was more interested in being right, and having God prove to Job that he was right, that he was interested in Job's heart and soul. We need to be people who are truly concerted with the state of others and less concerned that we are viewed as being right. Far better that God shows his mercy to one, even if it makes us appear to be wrong, than God show His judgment and we appear to be right.

David Robison

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Leave me alone and let me die in peace: Job 10:18-22

When our walk with the Lord takes us through difficult times, it is tempting to ask ourselves, "Is it all worth it?" Job asked himself, "Why then should I toil in vain?" (Job 9:29) As Christians we are appointed for suffering. All who desire to walk with God will experience times of suffering along the way. And when the suffering hurts the most, we may being to wonder if our walk with the Lord is worth all the pain in our lives.

Job decided that, if all God had for him was pain, then it wasn't worth it. He pleads God to let him alone and to let him die in peace. "Would He not let my few days alone? Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer before I go -- and I shall not return -- to the land of darkness and deep shadow" (Job 10:21-21) Job desires to be out from under the hand of God. He believes that if God would just turn His attention away from him, then his affliction would ease, and he would enjoy a few fleeting days of peace, before he dies and passes away.

I have know people who, in the midst of very difficult times, withdrew from God, hoping to find some place of rest from their pain. Hoping that, if they didn't pursue God so hard, that maybe it wouldn't hurt so much. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what we really need. In our times of trouble we need to draw closer to God rather than drift away. Our only hope for survival is found in the mercy and grace of God. The world can not offer anything that can bring lasting relief from our pain, only God can.

Jesus has given us an invitation to come unto Him. An invitation for the hurting, burdened, and weary. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) What is often not very apparent, during our times of trouble, is that Jesus is in the yolk right next to us. He is there with us, helping us to pull the load and to make it through. His invitation is to come to Him, to let Him help us with our burdens, and to find out that his burden is light. In times of trouble, let us draw near to Him.

David Robison

Monday, December 20, 2004

God is unfair and there nothing I can do about it. Job 9:32-33

"For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, that we may go to court together. There is no umpire between us, who may lay his hand upon us both." (Job 9:32-33)
In Job's bitterness of soul, he speaks without regard to his words. He says, "I loathe my own life; I will give full vent to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul." (Job 10:1) In expressing his pain, Job's mind is drifting from sound truth. His understanding is succumbing to three common errors.

First, in his heart, he believes that God is wrong. He knows that his pain is not the result of his own sins, yet God is still afflicting him. How can God afflict the righteous? Job begins to believe that God does not need a reason to afflict anyone, even the righteous. Job questions God, saying "Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands, and to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked?" (Job 10:3) Job sees his cause as just and God's treatment of him, at best, as arbitrary.

Secondly, Job begins to feel like the victim. God is oppressing him and there is nothing he can do about it! "God will not turn back His anger; beneath Him crouch the helpers of Rahab. How then can I answer Him, and choose my words before Him? For though I were right, I could not answer; I would have to implore the mercy of my judge." (Job 9:13-15) This since of being the victim, only fosters feelings of self pity and despair. If we are the victim of God's malevolence, then we are, more than all others, people without hope.

Third, Job is loosing his awe of God. He is loosing his reverence for God. "Let Him remove His rod from me, and let not dread of Him terrify me. Then I would speak and not fear Him; but I am not like that in myself." (Job 9:34-35) Job is desiring that his righteousness and God's treatment of him could be weighted and judged. He is sure that, if he could go to court with God, that he would be acquitted. His challenges of God become more and more daring as God is reduced in his sight. The scriptures say that we are to magnify God, but Job is magnifying is trouble and diminishing God. Job's problems are becoming larger in his eyes while God is becoming smaller.

In normal circumstances, most of us would never consider such things, but in times of great distress, we can easily be tempted to believe the lie and not the truth about God. The truth is that God is love. That God carries us on His wings. That He walks with us and holds our hand as we pass through the water and the fire. God is a very present help in our time of trouble. These are the truths about God. We need to remind ourselves, and others, about these things. Its not important to show someone where their thinking is wrong, deep down they already know that, but we need to remind them of the truth. After all, it is the truth that will set us free.

David Robison

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I fear my pain: Job 9:27-28

"Though I say, 'I will forget my complaint, I will leave off my sad countenance and be cheerful,' I am afraid of all my pains, I know that You will not acquit me." (Job 9:27-28)

Sometimes we go through difficult times and it's just a matter of girding up our faith and pressing on. Sometimes we just need to endure to the end. But other times, we get caught in our affliction and cannot just walk away from it. For Job, it was not just the pain and affliction he was experiencing, it was the fear that it would never end. Job looked forward, and all he saw was more pain and suffering. He could not just walk away because, where would he go that his suffering would not follow?

Job's problem was not a matter of will or lack of understanding. Job was in a spiritual fight. Fear is spiritual in nature. Paul said, "God has not given us a spirit of timidity [fear], but of power and love and discipline." (2 Timothy 1:17) Job's problems were spiritual and he needed a spiritual answer. There are times when we don't have what other people need. Our encouragement, insight, and wisdom are not enough to deliver them from their affliction. As humans, we don't always have the answer. Job did not need an answer from his friends, he needed God; he needed God to intervene and to invade his experience and to set him free.

There are times when we over value the help we can provide, and even the help other can give us. I've meet people who believe that, if they could just meet the right person, their life would be complete, not understanding that our true need is not for other people but for God. There is no one, other than Jesus, who can fill all the needs in our lives. I have also meet others who believe that, if someone who is suffering would just follow their advice, they would soon be free of their suffering. Not realizing that many people need what we cannot give; a direct encounter with God.

As fiends, our job is to support, encourage, and strengthen each other in our trials; and to pray. We should lift them up and ask God to intervene on their behalf. We should not think of ourselves as "god" to them, but as brothers. We should be like the four men who lowered their friend through the roof to Jesus. We should help our friends to Jesus, for only He can provide what they truly need.

David Robison

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The earth has been given over to the wicked: Job 9:24

Job does not see the world as a paradise; a place where order, harmony, and justice dwell supreme. Instead, in Job's eyes, he sees a world where wickedness triumphs over righteousness and where justice is discarded by indifference. Job says, "The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, then who is it?" (Job 9:24) Job asks a very poignant question, "if not God, then who?"

Man was originally given authority over the earth while he was still in the garden of Eden. But when man sinned, he fell under Satan's domain and became subject to his authority. Man opened the door and provided a foot hold for Satan to spread his influence across the whole earth. In that day, man and the earth, passed into the hands of the Devil. John reminds us, "We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." (1 John 5:19) The delivering of the world into the hands of the wicked was the result of man's doing; the result of his sins. It was never part of God's plan or design for this world, nor for mankind.

Peter says that we have "escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust" (2 Peter 1:4) The corruption he is talking about is that of a dead body rotting away. The world, and the things in it, are rotting away. Corruption has entered the world because of man's sin and it is now decaying as any dead thing would. Part of the Gospel is that Jesus came to deliver us from this decay and to translate us from the dominion of Satan into His dominion. We are in the world, but we are not of the world. Jesus, in praying to the Father, said, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (John 17:14-16)

The truth is that the world is decaying and those in the world are under the authority of the Devil. This was not God's doing, but man's. But through Jesus Christ, we can escape this corruption and, as citizens of God's kingdom, find life, peace, and joy in His kingdom. We are in the world, and at times are afflicted by the suffering of this world, but we are not of the world. We are as sojourner in a foreign land and, one day, Jesus Himself will return to take us home. Thanks be to God...

David Robison

Saturday, December 11, 2004

God wounds me without cause: Job 9:13-18

In Job's response to Bildad, we see Job's struggle with that which he cannot explain. Job cannot understand why God is afflicting him. If he were wicked, then he could understand how and why God would treat him with such anger. Yet Job is innocent (even according to God's own testimony of him), yet he still suffers the affliction of God. How can God treat him the same as He treats the wicked? Job's only conclusion is that God destroys the innocent and the guilty alike. Job states, "Though I am righteous, my mouth will condemn me; though I am guiltless, He will declare me guilty. I am guiltless; I do not take notice of myself; I despise my life. It is all one; therefore I say, 'He destroys the guiltless and the wicked.' " (Job 9:20-22)

Job was raised to believe that, with God, there was either only reward for good or punishment for evil. Yet, in Job's eyes, he was receiving punishment even though he was righteous. Therefore, Job concludes, "For He bruises me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause." (Job 9:17) Job's only possible conclusion was that God does not need a reason to send suffering upon mankind. God can chose to send suffering at will, and there is nothing that man can say or do about it. "Were He to snatch away, who could restrain Him? Who could say to Him, "What are You doing?' " (Job 9:12)

Job's problem was that he saw his relationship with God as that between a king and his subject. The king commanded, and the subject must obey. If the kings favor is towards his subjects, then they are blessed. But if the kind decides to turn his face against them, then who can answer him or restrain him. What Job didn't understand is that, while God is our king and the King of kings, He also wants to relate to us as our father, and we to Him as His sons. Job only saw reward and punishment, he did not perceive that God would deal with us as a father; to raise us up to become children of God. God was dealing with Job as a son, not just a subject. And as a son, sometimes we must endure the discipline of our Father, but we are never without His love. Paul reminds us, "and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, 'MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.' It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?" (Hebrews 12:5-7) God longs to know us as sons and for us to know Him as our Father. We must recognize that, when the Father brings discipline into our lives, it is proof that we are His children and that we are loved by Him.

David Robison

Friday, December 10, 2004

Tragedy is the cup of the wicked: Job 8

Next up to bat is Bildad the Shoe-height (Shuhite), and apparently he has learned nothing form Eliphaz. He starts out saying, "How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a mighty wind? " (Job 8:2). Bildad shares the same zeal for weighing and judging Job's words as Eliphaz had and, like Eliphaz, he heard Job's words but missed his heart. We've covered this attitude in several of the previous posts.

One thing that Bildad does contribute to the discussion is his analysis of why Job's sons and daughters died such a tragic death. He says, "If your sons sinned against Him, then He delivered them into the power of their transgression." (Job 8:4). Bildad's conclusion is that their deaths were due to the abundance of their sins. They were delivered into the "power of their transgressions" and suffered the tragic consequence of their sins.

Besides being an incredibly insensitive thing to say, we must ask ourselves if Bildad's conclusion is correct. Do bad things only happen to transgressors, or do they befall the righteous as well? I find that in myself, I sometimes want to believe that tragedy belongs to the wicked alone, because it provides some level of comfort to me. When I see someone else's suffering, if I can convince myself that they are suffering because of their sin, the I can pretend that such suffering will never come my way because I am not a sinner. But if we admit that tragedy can happen to the wicked and the just alike, then we must also accept that it can happen to us as well. We want to believe that we are immune to the suffering experience by others because we are better them they, but this belief is not founded in the word of God.

Jesus said, "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:4-5). What Jesus is saying is that our current circumstances do not necessarily reflect on the degree of our righteousness. Just because we are at ease does not mean we are righteous, and just because we are afflicted does not mean that we are wicked. Tragedy is in the world because the world is fallen, and it falls upon all mankind because mankind too is fallen. What marks a Christian as being different from an unbeliever is not the absence of tragedy, but rather how they can endure through the difficulty by the grace and strength that God provides.

David Robison

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The answer is blowing in the wind: Job 6-7

One of the things I appreciate about the book of Job is that Job not only tells us how he feels but, is some cases, why he feels the way he feels. Job exhibits a great deal of self awareness in regards to his emotions and feelings. In chapter 6, Job makes a statement that, in my opinion, is extremely insightful. He says, "Oh that my grief were actually weighed and laid in the balances together with my calamity! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the seas; therefore my words have been rash. " (Job 6:2-3) Job recognized that, at times, his words were rash and that they were the product of his pain. Job tells us that, when people are under tremendous pain, they often say things that flow out of their pain; things they might not say under normal circumstances. It could be said that Job, at times, was not in his "right mind". Job goes on to say, "therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul." (Job 7:11) Job was "driven" to give expression to the pain that was in his life and sometimes that expression was rash and not the product of quality mental reflection.

Unless we understand this propensity to rash speech, we will be tempted to criticize and challenge what hurting people say and our counsel to them will not address the real needs of their heart. Job rebuffs Eliphaz saying, "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?" (Job 6:25-26) Love covers a multitude of sins and, in the case of those who are suffering, we should show them grace in regards to their speech. We must be willing to look beyond their speech to the issues of their heart.

As we read the words of Job, we see a conflict raging in Job's soul. A conflict between his feelings and his faith. At times he gives vent to his feelings and his words "belong to the wind". At other times he stands on his faith, for example, when he says, "But it is still my consolation, and I rejoice in unsparing pain, that I have not denied the words of the Holy One." (Job 6:10) We need to be people who know how to over look words of rashness and encourage words of faith. We need to affirm and confirm the faith that is in the heart of hurting people and let God forgive the words of their soul. In doing this, we will strengthen well those in need.

David Robison

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Fair weather friends: Job 6:14-23

"for the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; so that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty" (Job 6:14) Job describes his friends as a wadi. A wadi is a river that flows during the rainy season, but soon dries up until the next season. Job talks about the disappointment of those who, traveling long distances, come to the wadi, hoping to find water, only to find it dry. Job had hoped to find some kindness from his friends and, for a while he did. For the first seven days of their silence, Job received the kindness of his friends. But their kindness soon dried up like a wadi. They began to speak and criticize Job. He needed their kindness but instead got their judgment.

The problem was not so much their lack of concern as it was their lack of patience. For a while they grieved with Job, but now there were ready to move on. None of us like to walk in the valleys. We live for the mountain top experiences. But sometimes compassion requires us to walk with others as they go through the valleys. Many of us do not have the patience to walk with them there. We want to get back to the mountains. Our impatience can cause us to try and "hurry them along" so we can get back to our blessed lives. It painful when we go through the valleys, but sometimes Jesus calls us to bear that pain of others as they pass through the valleys of life.

King Solomon put it this way, "A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity." (Proverbs 17:17) When you are on top of your game, everyone wants to be your friend. But when hard times come, you find out who your true friends are. I've seen this in relationships, in business, and even in the church. When someone is succeeding, the have an ample supply of people wanting to be their friend. But when success turns to struggle, many so called friends turn on them. You hear things like, "I always knew something like this was going to happen" and "They should have taken my advice then none of this would have happened."

Friends, true friends, love at all times and they are a gift from God to us to help and aid us in times of adversity. Do you want to know who your true friends are? After God has brought you through some difficult time, and after the dust has settled, look around. Those still standing with you are your friends. Let us be true friends to each other, not fair weather friends.

David Robison

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

What is my strength, what is my end? Job 6:11-13

In Job's response to Eliphaz, he recounts the enormity of his suffering, "Oh that my grief were actually weighed and laid in the balances together with my calamity! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the seas" (Job 6:2-3) Because of the weight of his affliction, Job has been brought to the end of himself. When he considers what he has been through, and the possibility that tomorrow will be more of the same, he is at the point of despair. He asks, "What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should endure? Is my strength the strength of stones, Or is my flesh bronze? " (Job 6:11-12) What Job is saying is that he is unable to see how he is going to continue to endure through another day of suffering. In his eyes, his strength is unequal to the suffering he is asked to endure. I have been in such a place, wondering how I will ever go on.

Over the past couple of years I have begun lifting weights as part of my strength training routine at our local YMCA. I remember one particular time, just after I had increased some of my weights, that I was especially tired after a workout and remarked to the Lord that I felt very weak. What the Lord reminded me of was that, while I may feel weak, I was actually getting stronger. It wasn't that I was weak, but I just felt weak. I began to understand that, the more I lifted, the more weight I had to lift as part of my training. I also understood that, the amount of weight we must regularly lift, is dependent on what we are training for. If we are just trying to increase muscle tone, and to improve our health, we need only lift a modest amount of weight. But, if we are training to be a world class weight lifter, then we need to life more weight more often.

I believe that the same is true in the spirit. That people who are called to endure great suffering, are often in training for great purposes. The degree of our suffering is not an indication of the degree of our weakness, but rather of our strength, and the special purposes that God is preparing us for. Job suffered greatly because God had great plans for his life.

So, what is our strength and what is our end? Our strength is in Christ and He has promised us that He will not press us beyond our ability to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). We can trust God that, if he has asked us to walk through something, He will also give us the strength and ability to make it through. As for our end, it is ultimately in God's hand. The Father reminds us that, "'I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" (Jeremiah 29:11) God's plan for our lives is a plan for good; a plan full of hope. When our present circumstances appear to us to be bleak, we must remember that God sees then end from the beginning. He not only sees present suffering, but He also sees how He is going to redeem the suffering for His glory. When we understand this, the we will be able to walk in faith in what God is working in our lives and not walk in the sight of our current suffering.

David Robison

Ps. If you are enjoying these thoughts, I would very much like to hear from you. You may click on the "Comments" link to leave a public comment on any posting, or you may click on the envelope icon to send me e-mail. God Bless...

Monday, November 29, 2004

A hard and austere man: Job 7:11-21

God testifies of Job, that he was a righteous and upright man. This did not mean, however, that he was perfect in his knowledge and understanding of God. In Job's response to Eliphaz, he reveals a common misconception of the character of God. Job, in his calamity, sees God as hard, austere, and exacting. Job's view is that God, for some unknown reason, has set him as the focus of His attention. Job knows that no man can be completely justified before God and, if God chooses to search deep enough, He will surly find some iniquity worth punishing. Job feels trapped in the exacting gaze of God. Job pleads, "will You never turn Your gaze away from me, nor let me alone" (Job 7:19) Job's hope is that God would seece His search of Job's hidden sins and just let him peacefully "go the way of all the earth."

Job's view of God is similar to the servant in the parable of the talents. Jesus tells this parable in which two of the three servants use the talents given them to gain increase for their master. The third servant did nothing, but hid his money in the ground, so that he would not lose it. His excuse before his master was, "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours." (Matthew 25:24-25)

Both this servant and Job misunderstood the nature and character of their God. God, when he passed before Moses, declared His own nature, saying "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." (Exodus 34:6) The truth is that God is loving and kind. Job should have known that God was not simply "out to get him". Even when God does bring calamity, it is always for redemption and in it there is always the grace of God. If we truly understand the nature and character of God, then we will find it easier to bear under any difficulty and affliction. We can trust that God is good and, even if it doesn't seem so right now, in the end we will "see the goodness of God in the land of the living."

David Robison

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Why we suffer: Job 5:17

"Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. " I have learned many times in my own life that this statement is true. While I can say that I do not always enjoy being reproved by the Lord, the fruit of it in my life is always good. Many times we suffer as a result of our own sins. Often, the pain we bare is self inflicted. But there are many other reasons why we suffer. Eliphaz assumed that, if a person is suffering, it must be the reproof of God for something they did, but this is not always the case.

Sometimes we suffer because of other people's sins. I think of Joshua and Caleb, who had to endure the forty years in the wilderness because of the unfaithfulness of the other ten spies. They had faith, but because the rest of Israel lacked faith, it was forty years of wandering for everyone. There is also the case where one parent in a family is an alcoholic and the whole family suffers. The innocent along with the guilty. Sometimes out pain is caused by others.

Sometimes we suffer for the sake of others. Paul said, "For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen." (2 Timothy 2:10) Sometimes, our suffering is not for our own direct benefit, but for the benefit of others. Paul often suffered many things, not because of his own sins and not because of the sins of others, but simply so that others may be benefited. Paul suffered so that others may come to know the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. Paul goes on to say, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." (Colossians 1:24) There are suffering and afflictions that remains for the sake of Christ's church.

Finally, we sometimes suffer that God's power may be made known. Remember the story of the blind man, when the disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" (John 9:2) It is interesting that the disciples first thought, upon seeing the man born blind, was that his blindness had to be due to someone's sin. This is the same assumption Eliphaz made regarding Job's suffering. Jesus responds that it was not because of anyone's sin that the man was born blind, but rather, "it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3) What an incredible privilege that our suffering may be used to show the mighty works of God! I have heard many reasons why God brought this suffering upon Job. The truth is that God never tells us why. But the more I study the book of Job, the more I an convinced, that Job suffered that God's grace, mercy, and power may be seen in him. And, through his story, we might also find hope and faith.

We must learn not to be quick to judge others, especially those going through rough times. We must not assume that the root cause of their pain has to be sin. It may be that God is about to show His mighty power in and through their lives. What a privilege!

David Robison

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

If I were you... Job 5:8-9

Eliphaz continues his council to Job by advising him on what he would do if he were in Job's shoes. He says, "I would seek God, and I would place my cause before God." (verse 8) While this is great advice, the problem is that Eliphaz is not Job. Eliphaz had never been through what Job was going through. Eliphaz had never experienced the suffering that Job was experiencing. It is very easy to stand on the outside and reason about what we think someone else should do, or what we would do in a similar situation. However, none of us really know how we will respond to difficult time until we are in the midst of them.

Before I had children, I was a great parent. I could look at anyone's kids and instinctively know what their parents were doing wrong and what they needed to do to in order to correct the situation. Everything was so clear to me. After I had children, I realized how little I really knew about raising children. All of a sudden, I wasn't as sure about raising kids as I had once been. Actually having children was a lot different than just imagining that I had them.

People need to hear what we know, not what we think. Paul put it this way, "But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer." (2 Corinthians 1:6) What Paul is saying is that, if we are comforted by God in our affliction, then we can use that same comfort to comfort others in their affliction. This is a sharing of those things that we have come to know to be true by our experiences with the Lord. We need to keep our speculations to ourselves, but share our lives with those around us. Share what we know, not what we think.

David Robison

Monday, November 22, 2004

Close Encounters of the Scary Kind: Job 4:12-21

In the sited verses, Eliphaz recounts an encounter he had with a spirit. He also recalls the message he received from the spirit. Every time I read this scripture, I think to myself, "what kind of spirit was it?" Was it a spirit from God? Was it the Holy Spirit? Or was it something else? I am convinced that this was not a spirit sent from God. There are two basic reasons why I believe this. First is the way the spirit presents himself. Eliphaz recalls, "Dread came upon me, and trembling, and made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed by my face; the hair of my flesh bristled up." (Job 4:14-15) For sure, people in the scripture who meet an angle often express fear. However, in most cases, there was also a pronouncement of peace from the angle. Second is the message itself. While there is a thread of truth in what the spirit said; "Can mankind be just before God?" (vs 17), the spirit misrepresents God's care for mankind; "unobserved, they perish forever." (vs 20). The truth of the matter is that we are all precious to God. We are not insignificant and our lives are not spent hidden from the loving eyes of God. Not even a sparrow falls without God noticing, how much more us? Eliphaz may have received a message from a spirit, but that spirit, and his message, was not from God.

What people in pain need is hope and substance. By substance I do not mean material substance, but a hope and truth that they can hold onto. Something that they can trust in and place their hope in. People who are suffering do not need empty platitudes, meaningless cliche, or cute sayings. They need something that is real. Even our supposed spiritual insight is useless unless it is grounded in something that is known to be true. Peter said that "we have the prophetic word made more sure." (2 Peter 1:19) People who are hurting do not want to know what we think, they what to know what God thinks. They need the word of truth to which they can anchor their souls during their times of trouble. Let us be people who minister God's truth and not just our own ideas.

David Robison

Saturday, November 20, 2004

How the Mighty Have Fallen: Job 4:3-5

"Behold you have admonished many, And you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have helped the tottering to stand, and you have strengthened feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; It touches you, and you are dismayed." You can almost hear Eliphaz's contempt for Job's suffering, and to some degree, his pleasure at Job's demise. When someone who seems to have it all together falls, we sometimes think, "see, they are not so great after all." In their fall, we can be tempted to judge ourselves better then they are. After all, we are the one still standing. We feel better about ourselves; that some how they are not as great as we once thought and that we are not as inferior as we may have once feared. We may even begin to believe that their calamity is God's exoneration on us and our ways. King Solomon reminds us that, "he who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished." (Proverbs 17:5) Instead, we should remind ourselves that, except for the grace of God, their calamity could have fallen on us.

Eliphaz's comments also show us that he did not understand that God has created us to need each other. Growing spiritually does not mean that someday we arrive at a state where we no longer need the help and support of others. Job, an upright and just man, was able to help, strengthen, and encourage others. But that didn't mean that Job would never need the help, strengthening, and encouragement of others as well. We are all able to give love and support to others, and at times, we all need to receive the same from other as well.

When Paul (and company) were sharing the Gospel in Asia, he talks about the pressures and burdens they were under. Paul records that, "we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life." (2 Corinthians 1:8) Paul, the great apostle; Paul, who's writings bring hope and encouragement to many; this Paul was is the pits of despair. We all have times where we need other people. For Paul, this help came in the arriving of Titus from Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:6).

What Job needed was hope and encouragement. Unfortunately, he was judged for not being strong enough; for not "pulling himself up from his boot straps". "If Job would just do what he told others to do..." We need to be people who are quick to help and slow to judge. We need to be very willing to give grace and comfort to others because, some day, we will need it from them in return.

David Robison

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Quick to Speak, Slow to Hear: Job 4:1-2

The Apostle James says that we should be, "quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger." (James 1:19) Unfortunately, most of us get this verse backwards. We are quick to speak, slow to hear, and quick to anger. I must admit that many times, when someone is talking to me, I'm spending more time trying to figure out what I'm going to say back to them then actually listening to them. "Listening" has been replaced with "waiting to talk". This is true about Job's friend Eliphaz the Temanite. Before he has a chance to understand Job, we find him already talking.

Eliphaz, after listening to Job, felt a compulsion to respond to Job and to correct him. His response to Job was "who can refrain from speaking?" (Job 4:2) Who can refrain? The answer depends on why you are speaking. If your goal is to support, comfort, and encourage then you will find it easer to refrain. If you goal is to correct and/or prove yourself right, then you'll find it harder to refrain. King Solomon said that, "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." (Proverbs 18:2) A man of wisdom considers what he says and why he is saying it, but a fool just likes talking. Eliphaz's problem was that he was more interested in talking than understanding.

When we are quick to speak, we often end up responding to a person's words but missing their heart. In chapters 4 and 5, Eliphaz dissects what Job said and lays out his argument for why Job was wrong. While he heard Job's words, he unfortunately failed to hear his heart. Communications is more than just speaking words. It is an attempt to share with someone else the thoughts and emotions of our heart. The words are but containers for those thoughts and emotions. Real communications is when we can hear someone's words and then understand their heart.

I have seen it many times in marriages, where the wife might say to her husband, "You never tell me you love me." And then the husband argues with her and recounts the last ten times he told her, "I love you." He argues over words but missed her heart. Its not that she is really saying, "you never say I love you" but what her heart is saying is that she needs to hear from her husband of his love for her. Job may not have spoken exactly right, but he was trying to conveys the bitterness in his soul. He wanted someone to understand what he was going though. Unfortunately, Eliphaz missed that. Let us learn to hear people's hearts and not just their words.

David Robison

Monday, November 15, 2004

Better Off Dead: Job 3

Several years ago, there was a comedy titled, "Better Off Dead." It was a story about a teen age boy who was obsessed with his girl friend. When she dumped him for someone who would better improve her social standing, his life was over. The rest of the movie depicted his attempts, and failures, at ending it all. Yes I know it sounds morbid, but it really was a comedy. While I'm not trying to recommend the movie, Job often felt like this young man, that he would be better off dead. Unfortunately, what was happening to Job was no comedy.

The suffering of the past weeks, if not months, had crushed Job. Job, speaking of his own life, asks, "why is light given to him who suffers, and life to the bitter of soul... I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes." (Job 3:20,26) No matter how hard Job tried, there was no escaping his bitter affliction. There was no peace or rest for his soul. So Job begins to look beyond his suffering to the life that lies beyond the grave. Speaking of this life, he notes that, "there the wicked cease from raging, and there the weary are at rest. The prisoners are at ease together, they do not hear the voice of the taskmaster." (Job 3:17-18)

Was Job suicidal? No, I don't think so. It wasn't that Job wanted to end his life, but he did long for the rest that would be his on the other side of the grave. For people who have suffered greatly, it is not uncommon for them to look forward to the release of their suffering when they finally stand whole and complete before the presence of Jesus. This is not a death wish, but an acknowledgment of what lies in store for them.

King David said, "I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him." (Psalms 142:2) It does us no good to store up inside our pain and discomfort. We need to release it, but to whom? Job, and David, poured out their complaint to the Lord. They were in pain, they were suffering, and they told the Lord about it. Jesus said that those who worship God must, "worship is spirit and truth." (John 4:24) If, when we are suffering, we come before God and pretend that all is well, then we are not worshiping Him in truth. We are pretending before God and not being honest with Him. We need to learn to pour out our soul before God; the good, the bad, and the ugly. To tell him of our trouble. In exchange, God will give us his grace, love, and comfort to help see us through. Let us be honest with God, after all, He already knows what we are going though.

David Robison

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Accepting Adversity: Job 1:22, 2:10

While I do not want to belabor my thoughts on these first two chapters of Job, I do think there are two additional things worth considering about Job's attitude towards his suffering. The first thing worth noting is that Job accepted his affliction. Job says in chapter 2 verse 10, "shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" It is hard for most of us to think about accepting adversity. For some, the acceptance of adversity is a sign of a lack of faith. I know people who, when faced with difficult times, simply say "I don't receive that." But Job knew that he had already received what he had received. To deny it or claim to not receive it would not change what he in fact had receive, it would only serve to promote a form of self deception. To be sure, there are schemes and activities of Satan that we must resist and not yield to. When Satan persists in trying to get us to doubt the truth of what God has given us, we must stand firm in our faith, even a faith in what is not seen. But sometimes, there is a fine line between resisting the will of the devil and living in denial of reality.

I thing what Job understood was that times of affliction in ones life is not necessarily a sign of a lack of faith or of failure. All of us go through difficult times in our lives irregardless of the level of our faith or our spirituality. Job understood that a man's spirituality is not judged by the ratio of blessing to affliction in his life, but rather by how he walks in faith through times of blessing and times of affliction. The Apostle John speaks of a victory that overcomes the world. He says that this victory is our faith (1 John 5.4). What he is saying is that victory is not a state where your life is no longer touched by difficult circumstances, but rather, that victory is when you can go through difficult times without loosing you love, faith, and devotion to Jesus. When you can walk through adversity and continue to believe and trust in God, then you have true victory.

The second thing worth noting is that Job did not blame God (Job 1:22). I have heard some people say that we must forgive others, forgive ourselves, and forgive God. However, God has never done anything that needs to be forgiven. God does not sin, nor does he treat us with injustice. All of God's ways are righteous and true. The truth of the matter is that, if we are angry with God, it is not God who needs forgiveness but we ourselves. We need to ask God to forgive us for incorrectly judging Him for all the bad things that have happened in our lives. There are many reasons why things happen to us, but God is not to blame. Anger towards God only serves to further separate us from God and make our situations even worse. We must humble ourselves and recognize that God is just and ask Him to forgive us for our anger and our faithlessness. Only then can we find faith to believe that God will bring us through all our circumstances with grace and victory.

David Robison

Friday, November 12, 2004

Send in the Clowns: Job 2:11-13

Ok, I know calling Job's three friends a bunch of clowns is a great misrepresentation of their character. However, it makes a great title!

As I read the scriptures, I sometimes fall into the trap of assuming that events recorded in the scriptures follow one after another with little or no time in between. It is easy to read the book of Job and assume that the whole store happened in a relatively short period of time. But under closer inspection, we can see that the story covers a significant period of time. For example, it is likely that quite some time transpired between Satan's first attack on Job and Satan's second attack. There is also the time it took for Job's three friends to find out about Job's afflictions, to communicate with each other, to travel to meet together, and to travel together to meet with Job. All this without the aid of phones, e-mail, and jet airplanes. It is quite likely that Job had been suffering in his affliction for weeks, if not months, before his three friends arrived to comfort him.

When Job's friends did finally arrive, they were astonished at the toll Job's afflictions had taken on him. They came and sat in silence with him in silence for seven days because, "they saw that his pain was very great." For seven days they ministered to Job and supported him in his pain. And in their silence they proved the proverb that says, "even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise." (Proverbs 17:28) unfortunately, their silence did not last long. Eventually, their patience wore out.

A few years ago, I head about a study of elderly couples who had been married for a long time and then one of them died leaving the other person alone. The study showed that, for many of them, the grieving process took 18 months or more for the spouse that was left behind. Unfortunately, the support of those around them lasted only for about six weeks. After which, they kept trying to encourage the remaining spouse to "move on". Not realizing that it will take much longer for them to "move on" from their loss. After seven days, Job's friends were ready to move on, but Job wasn't. One of the things I think we can learn from this is to have patience with those who are suffering. Not to rush them to get past their pain. To let them move through the grieving process in their own time. To trust them to the healing hands of God who can and will bring them through. Compassion means, "to suffer with", even if this takes quite some time.

David Robison

Thursday, November 11, 2004

And Job Worshiped: Job 1 & 2

I think we can learn a lot from how Job responded to the loss of his possessions, his children, and his health. It says that, after hearing the reports of his losses, that he "tore his robe and shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped." (Job 1:20). The first thing to see is that Job grieved over his losses. Job felt the pain of his losses very deeply. In fact, at the end of chapter 2, it says that Job's "pain was very great." When we suffer affliction, God does not expect us to put on a happy face and pretend like nothing has happened and everything is all right.

Paul talks about, "suffering the loss." Loss is always accompanied with pain. This is true for both the believer and the unbeliever alike. But what separates Job from many people today is how he handled that pain and where he turned for strength and comfort. In the midst of his pain, Job worshiped God. Job understood that ultimately God was in control. That even when he could not understand his circumstances, God understood them. He was able to release his questioning and wonderings to a God whom he knew was good and just.

I believe that there are some lessons we can glean from Job and his response to his suffering:

Some things are worth more than riches
Job realized that riches are temporary; the come and they go. He reminds us that "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away." But Job possessed something that he considered of greater value than all his riches, something eternal. When Job lost all that he had, he still had his relationship with the Lord. Job valued his walk with the Lord above all things and, when he lost all his earthly possessions, he still counted himself rich because of his relationship with God. Paul writes about us who believe saying, "We are as poor, yet making many rich." (2 Corinthians 6:10). How we handle our losses in life depends on where our riches lie. Are our riches found only in this life or do they lie in the eternal Kingdom of God?

Somethings are too valuable to surrender
Job's wife asked him a very interesting question. She asked, "Do you still hold fast your integrity?" (Job 2:9). We all have things in our lives that are negotiable. We all have things that we are willing to give up or do if the price is right. To see the truth of this we need only to turn on one of the many reality shows on TV. It amazes me to see how far people will go and what they will give up just for the chance to will $1 million. But for Job, there were things that were not negotiable. He possessed things that he was not willing to sell or depart with. Job's integrity mattered more to him than his possessions and his own personal comfort. What are the non-negotiable items in our lives? For Job they were things like integrity, uprightness, and fidelity. Psalm 15:4 says that the righteous, "swears to his own hurt and does not change."
What David is saying is that the righteous live for what is right, even if it means that their own personal comfort must suffer. Proverbs 22:1 says that, "a good name is to be more desired than great wealth." It is better to have character than wealth, and good character is work holding onto.

Life is for living, not quieting
Job's wife's counsel to him was to "curse God and die." Her council to Job was to "take the easy way out" and to "give up on life". To be sure, Job's present condition was not very pleasant. In fact, later on in the book, Job even begs God to let him die. But one thing Job never considered was ending his life on his own. Job never considered suicide. For Job, life was for living, right up till the very day that God would call him home. It is God who decides our lot in life and it is God who determines our length of days. Life is sacred, and no matter how difficult our life may be, we do not have the right to end it prematurely. That is God's job.

David Robison

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Good verses Evil: Job 1 & 2

I have greatly enjoyed the 3 movies in the Lord of the Ring trilogy. These movies tell an epic story of good verses evil. Throughout the movies, there are many battle scenes where the conflict between good and evil are graphically portrayed. In most of these battles, the outcome often seems uncertain and it is only at the last moment when good rises up and overcomes evil. This theme of good verses evil is common in our culture and is often expressed in our media.

However, the picture drawn for us in the opening chapters of Job is not a battle of good verses evil. It is not a picture of God and Satan battling it out for supremacy. It is a picture of one who is supreme (God) and one who is subservient (Satan). These chapters tell of times when the sons of God (the angles) were required to appear before God, and this included Satan. In these encounters, Satan is always the subject and God the supreme.

What is important to understand is that there is no real battle between good and evil, at least in the classical sense. Good has already won. Evil has already been defeated. The battle is not between two equally powerful forces for dominance, but rather it is a battle for possession. The battle that rages is the battle for the hearts, minds, and souls of mankind. Good and evil are warring, but they are warring over men.

The battle in the book of Job was not over who was more powerful, God or Satan, but rather who would win possession of Job. God was boasting to Satan, and all the other angels in attendance, about Job's righteousness and how he was one who "turns away from evil," while Satan insisted that he could easily turn Job's heart if God would give him access to Job. In the end, we find that God's boasting in Job was not empty.

The point is that we can have confidence and good hope as we face each day knowing that God has won the victory. The future of the kingdom of God is not uncertain. We know who wins in the end. At the same time, however, we must be aware that there is a battle in the spirit realm for our soles. This is why Jesus says to "devote yourselves to pray, keeping alert in it" (Colossians 4:2). We must not be unaware of the battle that rages around us, but we must be watchful over our own lives and the lives of our brethren in this world. Along with being vigilant in prayer, we must also encourage ourselves in the Lord and not let our hearts become faint. We must remember that, though the battle is great, the Lord is greater. We must remember the scripture that says that, "To his own master a servant stands or falls, and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4). We can have confidence that, no matter how sever the affliction and pain, God is able to make us strong and help us emerge victorious with Him.

David Robison

Monday, November 08, 2004

Thoughts on Job

This is my first blog and an experiment in sharing my thoughts on the scriptures. I've always wanted to teach the book of Job but never found the right forum. My goal is to post my thoughts on Job as I study it so that others may read along and share their own thoughts as well. I do not know where all this will lead, but I thought I would give it a try and see if these thoughts are a blessing to others on the web.

Why Job?
Why did I choose the book of Job? Well, for a number of reasons. Job has been one of my favorite books in the Bible. There have been many times in my life where I have been able to identify with Job, both in his affliction and his pain. Reading Job's account of his suffering has helped me to understand my own suffering and how and why I react to pain the way I do. It has also helped me to know how to help others who are going through pain and suffering. In the book of Job, we see Job at his best and at his worst. God does not hide Job's humanity from us in this book. But we also see the end result of God's dealing with Job, that, "the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful." (James 5:11).

I hope you will enjoy this blog and that these thoughts will be a blessing to your soul and spirit. If you enjoy this blog, please share it with a friend!

David Robison