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