Monday, January 31, 2005

Oh that I may find Him: Job 23

Job is being troubled by a God whom he cannot see. "Behold, I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; when He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him." (Job 23:8-9) He cannot see Him, yet he knows that He's there. Job knows that God is real and that He is actively involved in the affairs of men. To Job, God is not someone who is afar off but one who is very near, though unseen. Job also knows that God is not indifferent when it comes to His creation. God actively watches over all we do. And Job is convinced that his suffering is from God. "For He performs what is appointed for me, and many such decrees are with Him." (Job 23:14)

Deep down, Job knows that the things he is saying against God are wrong. Job himself testifies, "Even today my complaint is rebellion." (Job 23:2) Job knows his words are wrong, yet his suffering has blinded his reason. Yet in the midst of his pain and confusion, Job still has a glimmer of hope. "Oh that I knew where I might find Him, That I might come to His seat!" (Job 23:3) Job's hope was that he might find God. Job's hope was in God.

When we face difficult times, its tempting to run here and there looking for help. We talk to our friends, our pastor, and anyone who will listen. Sometimes we even visit the Christian Bookstore to find a book that might help us. While all these things may be good, we sometimes fail to go to the one place where we can find true help in our time of need. Why is it that "God" is often the last place we try? Paul reminds us that we should go to God first. "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Job understood that only God had the answers to his questions. Job knew that God alone had the help he needed in his difficult time. Job's hope was that, in the midst of his difficulty, he might find God, for Job knew that if he could find God, then everything would be alright. Peter also reminded us of this when he said to "fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:13) When we face times of trouble and difficult, what we need is a revelation of Jesus. We need to see Him high and lifted up. He need to see that He is in control of our circumstances. And we need to hear from Him His words, that we might have strength in our struggle.

When were hurting, let us remember where our true help lies. Let us not be quick to look for help here and there, but let us go straight to the source, let us seek the Lord and, when we find Him, all will be made well.

David Robison

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Eliphaz indicts Job: Job 22

Eliphaz speaks for a third time and, in his rebuke, he asks Job this question, "Is it because of your reverence that He reproves you, that He enters into judgment against you?" (Job 22:4) Eliphaz is convinced that what was happening to Job was God's punishment for his sins. Job, by his lack of reverence and his sin, has brought this calamity upon himself. Eliphaz even accuses Job of some very specific sins:
"For you have taken pledges of your brothers without cause, and stripped men naked. To the weary you have given no water to drink, and from the hungry you have withheld bread. But the earth belongs to the mighty man, and the honorable man dwells in it. You have sent widows away empty, and the strength of the orphans has been crushed." (Job 22:6-9)
This is quite an indictment from someone who, most likely, had no first hand knowledge of Job's life (nor his sin). We know that Eliphaz and his partners each came from their own place to comfort Job. If Eliphaz lived so far from Job, how could he know personally of his sins? Yet Eliphaz condemns Job as being full of wickedness. "Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquities without end?" (Job 22:5). He refutes Job's claim that he is righteous and, instead, accuses Job of walking in the way of the wicked, "Will you keep to the ancient path which wicked men have trod?" (Job 22:15) To Eliphaz, Job is an evil man, and he is receiving his just reward for his wickedness. Job's only hope is to repent and turn from his wickedness, "Yield now and be at peace with Him; thereby good will come to you. Please receive instruction from His mouth and establish His words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored." (Job 22:21-23)

Yet, for all his "wisdom", there were two things that Eliphaz failed to see. First is that God's testimony of Job was quite different from Eliphaz testimony of Job. Eliphaz saw Job as a wicked sinner, while God testified of Job, before the angles in heaven, that he was an upright and blameless man (Job 1:8). Job's afflictions came upon him, not because he was wicked, but because he was upright. They were the testings and trials of the righteous, not the punishment of the wicked. Eliphaz judged Job from his own perspective. He failed to find God's perspective; to find out how God felt about Job. We are limited in our sight, but God sees it all. Out judgment is flawed, but God's judgment is perfect. Jesus reminds us, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." (John 7:24) The only way we can do this is to get God's perspective for every situation. We need to hear what God is saying, what He is judging, and then we can make since out of what is going on around us.

Secondly, Eliphaz tells job to "receive instruction from His mouth", however, God had not spoken concerning Job's sin. Before someone can heed God's words, God must first speak. Why is it that, when God is silent, we first conclude that it must be due to sin. If we have sinned, would not God speak so that we might know we have sinned and so that we might repent of our sins? One thing that the testimony of the scriptures tells us is that God is not silent concerning sin. He even has sent His Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning sin (john 16:8). God cares too much for us to be silent about our sins. God does not enter into judgment with us without first showing us our sin and giving us an opportunity to repent of it. If God is not convicting someone of their sins, that does not mean that it becomes our responsibility to convict them. Eliphaz jumped to conclusions. He failed to get God's heart on the matter and, later, he himself would be called into judgment for his rash words. Let us learn from Eliphaz and think twice before being quick to judge.

David Robison

Friday, January 28, 2005

Of what use is man to God? Job 22

"Can a vigorous man be of use to God, or a wise man be useful to himself? Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous, or profit if you make your ways perfect?" (Job 22:2-3)
Eliphaz asks the question, "of what use or benefit is man to God?" Eliphaz's view is that man is insignificant to God. Man, at his best, offers little to God and man, at his worst, does little to harm Him. We are just a small part of creation and so far beneath God, that He hardly ever takes notice of us.

The Shakers had a saying that, true beauty was only found in utility. That is why Shaker furniture is plain but very useful. They felt that the beauty of the furniture they produced was demonstrated in its utility. It is from this point of view that Eliphaz ask his question. Eliphaz assumes that, since man has nothing to offer to God, then he must be of little value to Him. The truth is, however, that we are of great value to God. Conceder what Jesus said,
"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" (Matthew 6:26)
Here, and in many other places, Jesus reminds the disciples of how important they are to the Father. He reminds them of their value before God. What Eliphaz did not understand is that our value to God is not found in our utility but in our relationship with Him. God values, not our usefulness, but our relationship. God is not looking for someone who can help Him get things done, but someone who will be his friend, brother, and child.

When God created Adam and Eve, it was not for the primary purpose of tending the garden, but it was to have fellowship with them. "They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day" (Genesis 3:8) While they were given authority to tend the garden, Adam and Eve were created to have fellowship with God. God would often visit them and walk with them in the garden in the "cool of the day." God enjoyed those times of fellowship with them. They were valuable to God because of their fellowship, not their great garden tending skills.

We are not just slaves of God, His for His commanding. But we are His sons and daughters. My children are of great value to me. Not because the do the dishes and mow the lawn (when they're forced to), but because they are mine. I love them, not because they do great things, but because they are my children. No matter what they do or become, they will always be loved and greatly valued by me. Even if they choose wrong, while it may grieve me, it could never decrease my love and value for them. In this same way we are to God. God does not love us for what we do, He loves us because of who we are, His children.

David Robison

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The wicked flourish and prosper: Job 21

The debate between Job and his friends centered around this idea, how does God treat the wicked in this life. Job's friends believe that God universally rewards, in this life, the righteous with good and the wicked with evil. In their way of thinking, God would never let the wicked go to the grave in peace. His wrath would be pored out on them and they would suffer the punishment for their sins. While Job may have at one time believed this, his recent experience with suffering caused him to rethink the idea. He begins to ask some very probing questions:
"Why do the wicked still live? How often is the lamp of the wicked put out, or does their calamity fall on them? Are they as straw before the wind, and like chaff which the storm carries away?" (Job 21:7, 17-18)
Job looks around and observes that, sometimes, the wicked are not punished while, at other times, the righteous suffer unbearable affliction. Job himself is suffering intense hardship and, while he longs for death, only day after day of suffering are his. Yet, he sees that, even in death, the wicked are blessed, "They spend their days in prosperity, and suddenly they go down to Sheol." (Job 21:13)

Job sees life on this earth as futile. The wicked are blessed, the righteous suffer, and in their end, they are both together in death. Speaking of the wicked, Job says "While he is carried to the grave, men will keep watch over his tomb. The clods of the valley will gently cover him; moreover, all men will follow after him, while countless ones go before him." (Job 21:32-33) Not only does God not harass the wicked, but even in his death he finds peace, comfort, and rest.
"One dies in his full strength, being wholly at ease and satisfied; his sides are filled out with fat, and the marrow of his bones is moist, while another dies with a bitter soul, never even tasting anything good. Together they lie down in the dust, and worms cover them." (Job 21:23-26)
The truth of the mater is, that good things happen to wicked people and evil things happen to the righteous. But what Job did not understand is that, while the wicked may escape judgment in this life, they cannot escape it in the life to come. This life is a vapor and what matters is not our rewards in this life, but rather our rewards in the life to come. Jesus told a parable that teaches us this very fact. In the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Jesus tells about two men who both died. One, the Rich Man, enjoyed abundance in his life while the other, Lazarus, suffered from poverty and disease. However, when they died, their state was reversed.
"Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.' " (Luke 16:22-25)
Paul reminds us that "The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after." (1 Timothy 5:24) The point is, that we must not judge someone's "righteousness" by the state of their present conditions. Just because someone prospers, does not mean that they are righteous nor that they will prosper in the life to come. We need to live, not for the momentary (and fleeting) blessings of this life, but for the reward that is to come in the life after death.

Job thought that we received all our rewards, and punishments, from God in this life. Yet the truth is that the greatest of rewards (and punishments) are left for the life to come. Job may be suffering now, but one day, when he stands before Jesus, he will receive his true reward. No reward we can ever receive in this life will ever be able to compare to the rewards yet to come. The following story always helps me to keep this all in perspective:
When General Dwight D. Eisenhower returned to the United States after destroying the German army in Europe, he was given a hero's welcome. When his plane arrived, signs saying "Welcome Home Ike" greeted him. A ticket tape parade in New York City gave him a grand reception. At the same time that General Eisenhower came home, a missionary returned from Africa. He had spent many years there. His wife died and was buried in Africa. Now, because of broken health, the missionary society would not send him back to Africa.

"Boy," he said to a friend, feeling a little sorry for himself, "when I came from Africa no one greeted me." Then his friend turned and said, "Yes, but you're not home yet!"
We may feel like we are being short changed in this life, but the truth is that we are not home yet. When we are finally at home with the Lord, all things will be made right and we will share in the abundance of our Father.

David Robison

Monday, January 24, 2005

Console me with your silence: Job 21

Job is not impressed, or comforted, by the words of his friends. As far as Job is concerned, it would be better if they just kept silent. At least then, he could imagine that they were sharing his grief and empathizing with his pain. "Listen carefully to my speech, and let this be your way of consolation. Bear with me that I may speak; then after I have spoken, you may mock." (Job 21:2-3) Specifically, Job has the following things to say to his friends:
  1. "As for me, is my complaint to man?" (Job 21:4) Job reminds his friends that his complaint is with God and not them. Why then do they feel compelled to respond and defend themselves. Job is struggling with God, yet his friends are the ones getting offended and indignant at Jobs words. What Job is going through has nothing to do with them, its between him and God. When we try to kelp people, it helps not to inject ourselves into the middle of their problems. After all, its not all about us.
  2. "And why should I not be impatient?" (Job 21:4) Job's friends had become so centered around their offence at Job not agreeing with them, that they have lost sight of the tremendous pain and suffering that Job was going through. They needed to stop and take a step backward. They needed to get their eyes off themselves and conceder what Job was going through. They needed to focus on trying to help comfort and console Job in his pain rather than on trying to prove to Job that they were right.
  3. "Behold, I know your thoughts, and the plans by which you would wrong me." (Job 21:27) Job charges his friends that, instead of looking at the evidence and then coming up with a verdict, they first judged Job as having sinned and then looked for evidence to prove their judgment. Job sees his friends as using their arguments to merely prove their judgments. They judged Job to be wrong, and now they are simply trying to prove their "case".
  4. "How then will you vainly comfort me, for your answers remain full of falsehood?" (Job 21:34) People need truth, not our opinions. People need something sure, something they can hold on to. They need the truth of God's word. God's word never fails. All else is empty hope.
David Robison

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Zophar, Take 2: Job 20

Finishing up round 2 is Zophar. It seems that Zophar got his talking points from both Eliphaz and Bildad. "Therefore my disquieting thoughts make me respond, even because of my inward agitation. I listened to the reproof which insults me, And the spirit of my understanding makes me answer." (Job 20:2-3) Zophar feels compelled to respond. In part, because he disagrees with Job, and impart because he feels insulted by him. Either way, his compulsion to respond comes from his own emotions, not the prompting of the Lord. His chief concern is to defend himself (and his beliefs) rather than to comfort Job.

Soloman had this to say, "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." (Proverbs 18:2) Solomon says that, when we feel like we just have to "speak our mind", then we are moving into the territory of the fool. We need to learn to listen before we respond. To conceder before we speak. And to commit to sharing only that which would be for edification and encouragement. "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)

David Robison

One for the promise box: Job 19:17

Every now and again, I run across a scripture that I wish, just once, it would be included in a scripture promise box. In Job 19 is such a scripture:
"My breath is offensive to my wife, and I am loathsome to my own brothers." (Job 19:17)
I have known this scripture to be true. Every morning, when I roll over in bed to kiss my wife, I experience the truth of this scripture. Men, let me encourage you. The next time you wake up with morning breath and go to kiss your wife, if she complains about your breath, just tell her that your living out the scriptures and that your breath is scriptural. Try that and see if it helps...

David Robison

Friday, January 21, 2005

God has wronged me: Job 19

Job leaves no doubt as to who he blames for his misfortune, "Know then that God has wronged me and has closed His net around me." (Job 19:6) Job goes on to further describe the "injustice" he has received from the Lord:
"Behold, I cry, 'Violence!' but I get no answer; I shout for help, but there is no justice. He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass, and He has put darkness on my paths. He has stripped my honor from me and removed the crown from my head. He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone; and He has uprooted my hope like a tree. He has also kindled His anger against me and considered me as His enemy. His troops come together, and build up their way against me and camp around my tent." (Job 19:7-12)
Job bristles at his circumstances and sees God as their author. Yet, in the midst of his anger towards God, we still find that there is faith left in him. After describing all the horrible things that are happening to him, his mind returns to faith and he speaks of God as his redeemer:
"As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another." (Job 10:25-27)
Many scholars believe that Job was one of the first books of the Bible to be written. Yet, even in this ancient book, we see evidence for our resurrection and eternal life with God. Job was able to look forward with prophetic eyes and see the ministry of Jesus.
  1. Job was able to look forward to the first coming of Jesus when He would make atonement for his sins. Job saw the Lord as his redeemer. Job understood that, one day, God would come to pay the price to forgive us and redeem us from our sins.
  2. Job also foresaw the second coming of the Lord, when Jesus will return to once again stand on the earth. And in that day, He would make all things right. In that day, His kingdom and rule would be established over all the earth.
  3. Job also believed that there was life after death. He talks about time after "his skin was destroyed". In this he is speaking of his death. But he goes on to say that, in that day, he would see the Lord.
  4. Job also understood that there would be a bodily resurrection from the dead. Notice that he does not say that he will see God with his spirit, but "from my flesh". Job looked forward to a bodily resurrection and a life with God after this life was over.
When Jesus knew that Simon Peter was going to be greatly tested after His crucifixion, he prayed that Peter's "faith may not fail." (Luke 22:32) Its easy to see the reactions of people as they go through times of trouble, but its not always easy to see their faith. Even though Job came to some wrong conclusions regarding God, his faith in God still remained. Perhaps, as important as it is to comfort the afflicted, it may be even more important to pray that their faith may stand.

David Robison

Monday, January 17, 2005

My friends have wronged me: Job 19

Ten times Job's friends responded to Job and his complaints and ten times Job was unimpressed. For all their words of wisdom, Job was no better off. In fact, in many ways he was worse off then before on account of their "help". Their words only seemed to add to Job's pain. Job asks them, "How long will you torment me and crush me with words?" (Jon 19:2)

Job's friends were so certain that the cause of Job's calamity was his sins, even though they could not identify the sins in question. They accused Job of having sinned against God but could not show him how or where he had sinned. Job, in his own defense said, "Even if I have truly erred, my error lodges with me." (Job 19:4) What Job was saying is that, even if there was some deep, dark, hidden sin in his life, it was even hidden from him.

Sometimes, there is a fine line between conviction and condemnation. Conviction, which is the work of the Holy Spirit, is the process by which we come to understand that something we have done is contrary to God's law and is offensive to Him. Condemnation, on the other hand, is the sentence of judgment for what we have done. The problem comes when we feel condemned (or judged) for something, yet we do not know for what. This condemnation is not from God but from the Devil. When the Holy Spirit brings conviction, it is always for a specific act, thought, or attitude. Conviction is never vague or uncertain. Job's friends brought condemnation, assuming that Job had sinned, but were unable to bring conviction for any specific sins.

Job challenges his friends saying, "If you say, 'How shall we persecute him?' and 'What pretext for a case against him can we find?' Then be afraid of the sword for yourselves, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, so that you may know there is judgment." (Job 19:28-29) We must be careful not to judge based solely on our suspicions. We must never judge someone's heart based on their outward circumstances. It is wrong to first assume someone is guilty and then dig around in their life looking for what they are guilty of.

Finally, Job ask for pity from his friends, "Pity me, pity me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has struck me." (Job 19:21) However, pity helps little. Pity is simply feeling sorry for someone's state. Compassion, however, includes the desire to aid and to alleviate another's pain. Compassion literally means to "suffer with". More than pity, we should have compassion on the hurting. We should be willing to suffer with them, to enter into their world, and to help them carry their cross. Job's friends neither had pity for Job nor compassion for his pain. They were very willing to point out his faults, but had no desire to walk with him and help him in the midst of his suffering. Let us learn from the example of Job's friends and not be afraid to "suffer with" those who are hurting. Let us be those who show compassion rather than condemnation.

David Robison

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Bildad, Take 2: Job 18:1-4

"How long will you hunt for words? Show understanding and then we can talk. Why are we regarded as beasts, as stupid in your eyes? O you who tear yourself in your anger -- for your sake is the earth to be abandoned, or the rock to be moved from its place?" (Job 18:2-4)
Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks. Here, Bildad shows us some of the issues in his heart.
  1. In Bildad's eyes, Job had become foolish. Yet, instead of helping Job understand and come to grips with what was happening to him, Bildad chides Job for his foolishness. Bildad felt no compassion for Job, after all, Job was the author of his own fate. Bildad basically says that, until Job can get it together and start thinking "rationally", there was little use in talking to him. Bildad saw his responsibility towards Job not in comforting him, but rather in correcting him, and the sooner Job realized this, the sooner Bildad could help "fix" Job.
  2. Bildad was offended at Job's lack of respect for his "wisdom". Sometimes, people who are hurting can also be prickle. But we must remember that, in situations like Job's, it's not about us, it's about the other person. I'm so glad that, when Jesus came to deliver us from our sins, he didn't go home and pout that "His own received Him not." Sometimes it takes sacrifice to help others. Sometimes we need to lay aside our own egos for the sake of others. Like Jesus, we need to be willing to empty ourselves and lay our lives down for our friends.
  3. Bildad saw that Job had become self absorbed. It seemed to Bildad that Job felt that his problems were more important than anything else. He also judged that Job's anger was only making his pain worse. Yet instead of trying to help Job, he was content to merely judge him. Bildad's remedy for what he saw were Job's errors was to shame Job into changing. Yet forgetting all the time that it is not the shaming of the Lord but the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance.
Jesus said rightly that before we help others we should, "first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye." (Luke 6:42) We must remember that it's not all about us. We must be willing to lay aside our own lives that we might help others. We must genuinely care for the needs of others and not allow our own needs, hurts, and hangups to cloud the issue. After all, it's not all about us.

David Robison

Friday, January 14, 2005

I wish God was like my neighbor: Job 16:21

"O that a man might plead with God as a man with his neighbor!" (Job 16:21)
Job was not really saying that he wished God was like his neighbor Jeribobman (yes, I did make up the name to protect the innocent). But, from Job's perspective, God was a far off, God was unapproachable, and God was out of reach. Job was wishing that God was like his neighbor, in the sense that he could lean over the fence and work out this issue that has come between he and God. Job was wishing that God was a man like himself, that he and God were as equals. But God was God. So how could Job plead his case before a high and exalted God? Would God even pay attention to his cause and listen to his plea?

When we are going though a difficult time, last thing we need is a God who is like us. What we need is a God who is bigger than ourselves and bigger than our problems. David said, "From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalms 61:2) When David's heart was faint, he looked for something that was bigger than his heart. He wanted something that was sure, something steadfast, something he could anchor his life to. When we face our most difficult times, its nice to know that there is nothing too big for our God. After all, if God was just like us, we would all be doomed.

But just because God is God, it does not mean that He is out of reach. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalms 46:1) At times it may not seem very apparent, but it is none the less true. Even if we cannot see it, God is always near and ready to help in our time of need.

David Robison

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Comforters with Contempt: Job 16:4-5

"I too could speak like you, if I were in your place. I could compose words against you and shake my head at you. I could strengthen you with my mouth, and the solace of my lips could lessen your pain." (Job 16:4-5)
It is so easy to find fault with other people, especially when they are not doing well. It usually does not take a "gift of discernment" to see the problems in other peoples lives. Often, the gulf between us who are at ease and those who are in pain is so great, that it's hard for us to understand what others are going through. We view their situation through the lens of our present ease and wonder why they are having so much trouble. It is so easy to view with contempt those who are having a more difficult time than ourselves.

Job reminds his friends of this very fact. He reminds them that, if the situations were reversed, he too could judge them for their failings and find all kinds of faults in their lives. But Job also shows us something very important about helping others in difficulty. What is important is the motivation behind our help; why we are helping. Is our motivation to show someone where they have failed, to show them their faults? Is it to place upon them blame and shame in hopes of getting them to turn their own situation around? Or is it for the genuine care and comfort of those who are afflicted. Job says he could have attacked his fiends with cruel words, or he could have comforted them, given them solace, with his words. What we say is determined by what our motivation is.

This reminds me of what James said, "For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God." (James 1:20) What James is saying is that if, when there is an issue in one of our relationships, our goal is to "blow off steam" and make ourselves feel better, then anger may be the right prescription. If, however, our goal is to see the righteousness of God come into our life and our relationships, then perhaps we need to find another remedy. The same is true when we are trying to comfort the afflicted. If our goal is to prove our righteousness (as evidenced by our blessing) and their sin (as evidenced by their calamity) then judgment and accusation are the way to go. If, however, we truly care about the other person and desire to show them the love, compassion, and mercy of God, then we must think of others before we think of ourselves.

David Robison

Monday, January 10, 2005

Comforters of trouble: Job 16-17

Job is not impressed with the council he is getting from his friends. He refers to them as "sorry comforters". (Job 16:2) In the original Hebrew language, it is literally, "comforters of trouble". Job is complaining that, for all their attempts at comforting him, they are only making his problems worse. Job would have been better off if they had just sent a Hallmark card and stayed home. Job asks them, "what plagues you that you answer?" (Job 16:3) Job would have been happy if they had been content to leave him alone. Job didn't ask for their help, so why do they feel compelled to respond and to contend with him?

"They have gaped at me with their mouth, they have slapped me on the cheek with contempt; they have massed themselves against me." (Job 16:10) Instead of their words helping, instead of them being "seasoned with grace", their words stung as a well placed slap on the cheek. "My friends are my scoffers... Surely mockers are with me" (Job 16:20, 17:2) Instead of compassion, Job says that his friends treat him with scorn, derision, contempt, and ridicule. Job looked for help and was disappointed.

Job make two specific charges against his friends. "He who informs against friends for a share of the spoil, the eyes of his children also will languish." (Job 17:5) Zophar actually wanted God to confront Job for the folly of his words. Instead of interceding for Job before God, he was actually looking for and expecting Job's punishment. When we become the accuser of our brother, then we are working in agreement with the Devil who is the "accuser of the brethren". When we, however, stand in the gap for our friend, then we are partnering with Jesus in His work on our behalf.

"They make night into day, saying, 'The light is near,' in the presence of darkness." (Job 17:2) Secondly, Job complains that his friends did not take seriously his trouble. All they had to offer were empty cliches. "The light is near" sounds nice, but for Job, this was no guarantee. Job's friends minimized his trouble and discounted his pain and then wondered why their words of wisdom failed to help. We often do this when we say things like, "cheer up, it can't be that bad." But in some cases it is, and in others, it may even be worse. Our problems are not helped my minimizing them, but rather by facing them head on at full strength. Job needed friends who, even knowing the full magnitude of his sufferings, were still willing to be his friends. Oh that we might be such friends.

David Robison

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Eliphaz, Take 2: Job 15

Eliphaz takes a second shot at Job and, again, he suffers from a lack of hearing. Here is what he had to say:
"Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge and fill himself with the east wind? Should he argue with useless talk, or with words which are not profitable?" (Job 15:2-3)
Once again, Eliphaz fails to see that the issue is not who among them is the wisest. Job is not "arguing" over issues of philosophy. Job is not trying to debate his view of God against their view of God. Job is hurting and he is trying to express his pain to his friends. Job is not trying to get his friends to see his point of view. He just wants someone who will understand and who will help him make it through his difficult time.
"Indeed, you do away with reverence and hinder meditation before God. For your guilt teaches your mouth, and you choose the language of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; and your own lips testify against you." (Job 15:4-6)
Eliphaz is correct in that Job had lost some of his reverence (fear) for God, however, it was not his guilt that taught his mouth, but rather his pain. People who are hurting often say things that, in a more reflective frame of mind, they might have thought better of saying. Job needed someone who would hear past his words and into his heart.
"Were you the first man to be born, or were you brought forth before the hills? Do you hear the secret counsel of God, and limit wisdom to yourself? What do you know that we do not know? What do you understand that we do not? Both the gray-haired and the aged are among us, older than your father." (Job 15:7-10)
Call me crazy, but Eliphaz seems a little insulted that Job did not agree with him. Eliphaz seems more upset that Job disagreed with him then he does about all the evil that has come upon Job. Eliphaz has moved from trying to help Job to trying to defend himself as being right. When trying to help others, we should check our egos at the door.
"Are the consolations of God too small for you, even the word spoken gently with you? Why does your heart carry you away? And why do your eyes flash, that you should turn your spirit against God and allow such words to go out of your mouth?" (Job 15:11-13)
Here Eliphaz has some delusions of grandeur. He sees his wisdom as the consolations of God for Job. Eliphaz thinks more highly of himself then he aught. Eliphaz also does not seem to understand what is going on. He talks about the "words spoken gently" with Job. What channel has he been watching? The truth is that he and his friends have been falsely accusing Job of sin, an accusation that God does not make. Eliphaz and his friends, at least to some degree, share responsibility in provoking Job against his God and in speaking what is not proper.
"What is man, that he should be pure, or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? Behold, He puts no trust in His holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in His sight; how much less one who is detestable and corrupt, man, who drinks iniquity like water!" (Job 15:14-16)
Eliphaz may see man as detestable, but that's not how God views man. "What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field." (Psalms 8:4-7) We are not mere animals nor simple beast before God. We are beloved and cared for by Him. We alone are made in His image and we are special to God. Perhaps Eliphaz should have concentrated more on reminding Job how special he is to God, not on how detestable he is.

David Robison

Friday, January 07, 2005

Job puts God on notice: Job 13

In Job's response, he declares his intentions to take on God, to call God into court, to plead his case against God. "But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue with God... Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I will be vindicated." (Job 13:3, 18) Job outlines his case against God:
  1. God is punishing Job for his sins without letting Job know what those sins are. (Job 13:23)
  2. God is treating Job like an enemy and has turned His face away from him. (Job 13:24)
  3. God is pursuing Job when He must have more important things to do. (Job 13:25)
  4. God is bringing into judgment Job's youthful sins, even though now he is an upright man. (Job 13:26)
  5. God's punishment of Job is unrelenting, even as he waists away from his affliction. (Job 13:27-28)
Job has made a fatal mistake. He has forgotten the greatness of God. He thinks he can take on God and win. He thinks he can stand equal to God and question Him. "Only two things do not do to me, then I will not hide from Your face: remove Your hand from me, and let not the dread of You terrify me. Then call, and I will answer; or let me speak, then reply to me." (Job 13:20-22) Job is basically asking that he might stand next to God as one being equal. If God would just stop oppressing him, and remove the fear that God has brought on him, then he can stand equal with God.

We relate to God in many ways. God is our friend: "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15) Jesus is our brother: "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren," (Hebrews 2:11) God is our father: "I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God." (John 20:17) And He is our Lord and our God: "Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!' " (John 20:28)

While God is our friend, brother, and father, He is also our Lord and our God. Job had lost some of his reverence for God, some of his fear of God. While God wants to know us intimately, He is still to be feared and reverenced. Familiarity with God should never breed contempt. Job was moving from wisdom to folly in his thinking. Solomon said, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10) When we lose our fear of the Lord, we lose our wisdom. Our minds become foolish and we lose site of the wisdom of God.

In the end, Job will get His wish, God will meet with him and speak with him. Then he will realize how foolish he has been. More on that later.

David Robison

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Worthless Physicians: Job 13:3-12

Job chides his "comforters" saying they are "worthless physicians" (Job 13:4). As physicians, they are worthless because, though they come up with many remedies to Job's problems, none of them heal his hurts. They are like people who always are ready to give their advice, yet their advice never seems to help. Sometimes we are so sure we have all the right answers, when often we haven't a clue what we are talking about. Job makes some specific observations about the "help" he was receiving from his friends.

"Will you speak what is unjust for God, and speak what is deceitful for Him?" (Job 13:7) We need to be careful to give our opinions as opinions and God's word as God's word. Job's friends were counseling him according to their wisdom but crediting it to God. It is dangerous to confuse our wisdom and opinions with God's word. If we speak for God, we should speak His words not our own.

"Will you show partiality for Him?" (Job 13:8) God does not make distinctions between people, and neither should we. Job's friends were making value judgments of Job, judgments that God was not making. God loves all people and is no respecter of persons. We should be careful not to judge the hearts of other people, for only God knows the heart of a man or woman.

"Will you contend for God?" (Job 13:8) God is a big God. He doesn't need us to defend Him. And if we think we can defend Him, then we are thinking more highly of ourselves than we aught. Besides, Jesus did not come so that He could defend God to us, but rather that He might pay the price to defend us before God. We should be the advocates of others before God, not try to contend with other people for God's sake.

"Your memorable sayings are proverbs of ashes, your defenses are defenses of clay." (Job 13:12) The best wisdom we have to offer is just proverbs of ashes. Our own wisdom and opinions count for very little when someone is hurting. They need the wisdom, love, and encouragement that comes from God. Our words might impress some people, but it would be far better if they would actually help someone. By dispensing God's word, we will.

David Robison

Monday, January 03, 2005

Though He slay me... Job 13:15

Over the past few days, I have been meditating on this verse, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him." (Job 13:15) This scripture is not new to me, but I think, for the first time, I understand it better in its context. I always understood this scripture to mean that Job would hope in God no matter what He brought his way. The context of this verse, however, is that Job is requesting an audience with God that he might argue his case before Him, "But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue with God." (Job 13:3) Job was saying that he was going to take his chances with God, "Why should I take my flesh in my teeth and put my life in my hands?" (Job 13:13) Job was angry with God. Job wanted to argue his case before Him. And Job knew that the outcome could very well be that God would strike him dead. Nonetheless, Job was willing to take his chances with God.

I'm not implying that Job's intentions were pure and that there was no sin in the thoughts of his heart. Job was convinced that he was right and God was wrong. What I do find interesting is that, even in his present state of mind, Job was driven to God. Some people, when they go through hard times, withdraw from God. It would have been very easy for Job to withdraw and sulk and wallow in self pity. But instead, he pursued God. Job's life was bound to God, for better or worse. His fate would be determined by God. And, deep down, in his heart of hearts, he knew that God was good and that God was right. Job knew that if there was anything good and right, it would be found in God. So he took his chances with God.

For sure, Job said some things that God would later hold him accountable for. Job's words were wrong, but the direction of his walk was right. This reminds me of the story of the demoniac that Jesus healed. The story says, "And when Jesus came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, 'What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.' " (Luke 8:27-28) This man ran to Jesus, but when he got there he could not speak, only the demons spoke. His words may have been from demons, but his choice of destinations (the feet of Jesus) was his.

I think there is something to be said for continuing to engage our Lord even if we are not sure of our words or motives. I think it better to find ourselves wrong while we are in the presence of the Lord rather than when we are far from Him. I think this applies, not only to the Lord, but to all our relationships. Even in a marriage, when disagreements arise, it is far better to engage each other, even if we are eventually found wrong, than to withdraw and never talk about what's bothering us. Let us engage the Lord and trust that he is Good. Though he slay me, yet I will hope in Him.

David Robison