Monday, February 28, 2005

God speaks, yet no one notices it: Job 33

Elihu begins to refute Job's arguments:
"I am pure, without transgression; I am innocent and there is no guilt in me. Behold, He invents pretexts against me; He counts me as His enemy. He puts my feet in the stocks; He watches all my paths." (Job 33:9-11)
Job contends that he is pure, without sin and without transgression, yet God still finds a pretext for punishing him. Even though Job is righteous, God still finds a reason to be hostile towards Job. Job has become God's enemy, the object of His wrath, and this for no good reason. Elihu's rebuke of Job is direct and clear, "Behold, let me tell you, you are not right in this, for God is greater than man." (Job 33:12)

God is a God of purpose, and all that He does, He does for a purpose. And even though we might not see or understand that purpose, God's ways are never arbitrary or without a reason. Job could not see or understand God's reasons for his own affliction, but that did not mean that God did not have one. Because Job could not understand God's purpose in his suffering, he became angry at God. Angry because God would not defend His own purposes to Job.

Elihu asks Job, "Why do you complain against Him that He does not give an account of all His doings?" (Job 33:13) God is not obligated to tell us why He does what He does. God does not need to defend His reasons to us. So why was Job so angry? I think in part that it was because Job felt that if God would reveal His reasons for afflicting him, then he would be able to refute those reasons and show God why his punishment was undeserved. Job was so certain that he was right, that he knew he could refute any reason God might give for his suffering. Often when we cry out "Why me Lord, why me?" we really do not want to know why. What we are really saying is, "God you are unfair to me. I don't deserve this." When our hearts are so bent on our own justification, even if God were to speak, would we hear him?
"Indeed God speaks once, or twice, yet no one notices it." (Job 33:14)
Elihu reminds us that God is always speaking to us. Sometimes in night dreams (Job 33:15-18), sometimes though painful circumstances (Job 33:19:22), and sometimes through the counsel of friends (Job 33:23-28). Yet how often do we fail to notice that God is speaking to us? Elihu tells us that God is always speaking to us to restore our souls and to enlighten our hearts, "Behold, God does all these oftentimes with men, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life." (Job 33:29-30)

God was speaking to Job, but Job was so self absorbed that he couldn't hear Him. Job was so focused on his own justification, that he couldn't hear the voice of God. His obsession with being right blinded him to the work of grace and redemption that God was working in his life. He only wanted to hear God say that he was right, he was deaf to all else that God might say. How often have we been guilty of the same fault? In our pain and disappointment we become so self absorbed that, even if God were to shout, we wouldn't hear Him. And yet, in the midst of our pain and disappointment, God is working His work of grace and redemption in our lives. If we could just repent of our anger against God and lay aside our demands on God as to how He should respond, then perhaps we would hear Him speak of His love and care for our lives. After all, does it really matter why we go through the things we go through, or is it enough just to know that God loves us and that He has our best interests at heart. If we could just quiet our hearts long enough, perhaps we will hear God speak what He wants to speak, and in hearing God speak, we will receive strength for what ever God may ask us to go through.

David Robison

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Elihu, meek and Mild: Job 32-33

Elihu's approach to ministry was quite different from that of Job's other three friends. In many ways, Elihu showed more of the heart of Jesus in his ministry to Job then the other three did.
"Do not say, 'We have found wisdom; God will rout him, not man.' For he has not arranged his words against me, nor will I reply to him with your arguments." (Job 32:13-14)
In their "ministry" to Job, the other three quickly became indignant when Job questioned the soundness of their wisdom. Elihu implies that they were more concerned with being right than with helping Job. They were more concerned that their "wisdom" should triumph over Job's arguments than whether Job's affliction was eased by their "wisdom". Elihu, however, understood that Job's argument was not with man, but with God. There was no reason for Elihu to take Job's arguments and complaints personally. Elihu didn't care if Job affirmed him as being right. Elihu's ministry was not conditional upon Job agreeing with him. Elihu just wanted to help Job.
"Behold, I belong to God like you; I too have been formed out of the clay. Behold, no fear of me should terrify you, nor should my pressure weigh heavily on you." (Job 33:6-7)
Elihu did not consider himself better than Job. When we are doing well, it is easy to look down on those who are experiencing difficult times. It is also easy to have contempt for those who experience difficulty in areas where we personally do not suffer. Yet we are all the same. We are all brothers, we are all created by God, we are all His children.

Elihu also did presume to act as God to Job. Elihu was not Job's master, nor was he Job's judge and jury. Elihu did not come as "the man of God", as one full of authority and judgment. Elihu did not attempt to intimidate Job with his righteousness, spirituality, or superior wisdom. Elihu was meek and mild before Job. He acted as Job's brother, as his friend, as one of whom Job did not need to fear.
"Then if you have anything to say, answer me; speak, for I desire to justify you." (Job 33:32)
Elihu was on Job's side. Elihu wanted the best for Job. He wanted what was right and just for Job. Elihu was concerned with Job's interests more than his own. The other three men sought to justify themselves; to justify their wisdom and their theology. They were more concerned with themselves than with Job. Such an attitude is nothing but arrogance. Elihu's attitude, on the other hand, is very reminiscent of how Jesus came that He might justify us, "for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47)

Elihu brought more than sound counsel and wisdom to Job, he brought the heart of the Father. Elihu ministered not only the Word of God but also the Heart of God. And in such, he provided himself to be a true servant of God.

David Robison

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Elihu enters the fray: Job 32

As I write this post, I'm sitting with my laptop on Waikiki Beach and finding it hard to concentrate on anything other than the beauty of God's creation. This is the final day of a five day business trip to Hawaii and, if your trying to imagine what it might be like to be here on the beach, I can tell you that Hawaii it is all that and more. Aloha.

Job and his three friends have finally finished speaking. And for the first time, we are introduced to Elihu the Buzite. The whole time that Job and his three friends have been arguing, Elihu has sat by quietly in the shadows, listening and weighing their words. Compared to the other men, Elihu was young of age. He waited to speak because he thought that age should be honored above youth. He said, "I am young in years and you are old; therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think. I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom." (Job 32:6-7) Yet his silence only caused his anger to burn. Listening to Job and his friends, he became angry with them all. He was angry with Job because "he justified himself before God" (Job 32:2) and he was angry with Job's friends because "they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job." (Job 32:3)

Elihu believed that wisdom came with age, but after listening to these four aged men, he realized that this is not necessarily the case. Elihu realized that just because you are advanced in years does not automatically mean that you've gained wisdom and insight. "The abundant in years may not be wise, nor may elders understand justice." (Job 32:9) The gaining of wisdom is not automatic, but wisdom must be sought. Elihu tells us two important things about wisdom and how it is gained:
"But it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding." (Job 32:8)
First, Elihu tells us that wisdom has nothing to do with the intellect, and secondly, Elihu tells us that wisdom comes from the Lord. Many people seek to understand wisdom with their intellect. They read books and listen to learned men. They ponder the mysteries of life and debate life's meaning with those thought to be wise. But wisdom is not something that can be learned with the mind, it must be imprinted upon our spirits by God Himself. It was said that Jesus was "the exact representation of His [God's] nature." (Hebrews 1:3) In the original Greek, it says that Jesus was the exact "character" of God's nature. This term refers to an engraving or the mark left when a character is stamped onto something. Jesus was the exact engraving of God's nature in human form. In the same way, we come to understand wisdom when we allow God to engrave His nature into our own spirits. There is no shortcut to gaining wisdom, we must come before the Lord and ask Him to engrave His ways on our hearts.

David Robison

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Can't God see that I'm right? Job 31

"And what is the portion of God from above or the heritage of the Almighty from on high? Is it not calamity to the unjust and disaster to those who work iniquity? Does He not see my ways and number all my steps?" (Job 31:2-4)
Job is reaching the end of his speech. And he wonders out loud, "Can't God see that I'm right? God is suppose to punish the unjust and the sinner, not the righteous. Can't God see my way? Doesn't He take notice of how I walk? Can't He see that I'm righteous? If so, then why is He still punishing me?"

Job then sets out, in great detail, to prove his righteousness. He list many sins for which, if he had committed them, he would gladly accept God's punishment for them. Yet, he insists that he is innocent of all these sins. In the end, he cries out to God, that God might hear him, that he may be granted to present his case before Him, that he might have the opportunity to prove his righteousness to God.
"Oh that I had one to hear me! Behold, here is my signature; let the Almighty answer me! And the indictment which my adversary has written, surely I would carry it on my shoulder, I would bind it to myself like a crown. I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him." (Job 31:35-37)
Job assures us that, given a chance, and because of his righteousness, he would be justified and would be able to approach God as a prince would approach his king. Job trusts his righteousness, that it would grant him access before God, that God would find him acceptable due to his righteousness and that his righteousness would earn him the place of a prince. Unfortunately, trusting in our righteousness is a dead end, "for all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment." (Isaiah 64:4) This scripture, in the original Hebrew, literally says that all our righteous deeds are like a "menstruation cloth" before him, wholly defiled and unacceptable.

The truth is, that we can never approach God on the basis of our own righteousness, because we can never be good enough. If we are to approach God, we must do it on the basis of our relationship with His Son. Because of faith in Jesus Christ, we can approach God as a prince because Jesus has made us princes in His kingdom. We are His son's and daughters and we can boldly approach His as such. Sadly, like Job, we often spend too much time trying to justify ourselves before God when the truth is that we have already been justified. Let us learn to approach God on the basis of our sonship and not our righteousness.

David Robison

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Job on boundaries: Job 31:1

"I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?" (Job 31:1)
Boundaries are the limits we impose on ourselves to keep us from wandering too far from home. They set the limit of our behavior and conduct, especially as it relates to others. Boundaries act as a safe guard, protecting what's inside.

In an effort to protect his marriage, Job established a boundary, "I have made a covenant with my eyes." Job set a boundary for his behavior that, when he saw an attractive woman, he would turn his eyes and not "gaze" on her. Job's gaze belonged to his wife and not to another. He would not allow himself the pleasure of gazing upon other women. This self inflicted boundary kept his heart pure before his wife and before his God.

A boundary is not legalism, rather it is a form of self control, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Boundaries are a way we discipline ourselves, a way we say no to our flesh. Boundaries protect us from sin. Consider King David when he saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof top. The scripture says that, "Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance." (2 Samuel 11:2) How different the outcome of that moment might have been if David turned his eyes and refused to gaze upon her. But instead, he gazed upon her and he sent to inquire about her and took her as if she was his wife.

I have talked with several Christians who failed morally in relationships with the opposite sex. One thing I have found that they had in common was that most of them had no sense of boundaries. I would ask them, "How far is too far? Holding hands? Kissing? Making out? Being alone together?" In most cases, they could not tell me what their boarders were. When we have no boundaries, we are easy prey to temptation. The time to decide what to do with temptation is before it comes, not when we are caught up in the heat of the moment. When we set boundaries, we decide what we are going to do when temptation comes, before it comes!

Boundaries can cover almost every area of our lives. And one person's boundaries may be different from another's. But what is important is that we decide for ourselves, and before God, what the limits of our behavior will be. For example, here are two simple boundaries I have for myself in relating to the opposite sex:
  1. Never have a friendship with a woman that is not a friend of my wife.
  2. Never have a friendship with a woman that is greater than the friendship I have with her husband.
While these boundaries may not be universally accepted by others, they have proven to offer safety and security in my relationship with my wife and in my walk with my God. Boundaries may at first seem restrictive, but what I have found, and what I think Job understood, is that boundaries are actually freeing. With boundaries, we are no longer place in a position of having to make difficult choices when the temptation of the moment is its greatest. With boundaries, we have already made those decisions and, when tempted, we need only be true to the boundaries we have already set.

David Robison

Friday, February 18, 2005

God is cruel to me: Job 30

"He has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You turn Your attention against me. You have become cruel to me; with the might of Your hand You persecute me. You lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride; and You dissolve me in a storm. For I know that You will bring me to death and to the house of meeting for all living." (Job 30:19:23)
Job continues his complaint against God. According to Job, it is as if God came down and plucked him up and dashed him into the muddy pit. God's treatment of Job was unexpected and mean spirited. Further more, Job cried out to God for help, yet He turned His head and pretended not to hear. Job believed that God's hand had become evil towards him and, in the end, it would pursue him even to the grave. Job was angry and miserable, "Therefore my harp is turned to mourning, and my flute to the sound of those who weep." (Job 30:31)

There have been many times when my children have viewed my wife and I as being cruel and unreasonable. We restrict what they can do and watch and, in their minds, we are being extremely cruel. We discipline them, yet they fail to see the benefits of that discipline, they only see the pain of it. We do these things out of love and with their best interest in mind, yet they do not always see this, to them, discipline is painful and hard.

In the same way, Job misunderstood the intentions of God. God was not being cruel with Job, we only have to read the end of the book to find out how God restored Job and blessed him beyond his earlier days. God wasn't punishing Job as a master might punish one of his slaves. But God was disciplining Job as a father would discipline his son. If we fail to see God's hand in our life as the loving hand of a father, then it will become easy to despise the Lord when He comes to discipline us. "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." (Hebrews 12:5-6) We must never loose sight of the fact that God is for us and, no matter what we may have to endure along the way, He always has our best interests in mind.

David Robison

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The things I miss the most: Job 29-30

Job begins to recount the things that he misses the most from his former days. Interestingly, the things he seems to miss the most relate to how people received him and treated him.
"When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square, the young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men arose and stood." (Job 29:7-8)
Job missed the respect he had with the others in his city. The young men feared him and the old men respected him. He was welcome at the place of prominence, the city gate, and all who gathered there waited to hear what he had to say.
"To me they listened and waited, and kept silent for my counsel. After my words they did not speak again, and my speech dropped on them. They waited for me as for the rain, and opened their mouth as for the spring rain." (Job 29:21-23)
Job's words, and his wisdom, were counted as valuable and were sought for by those who were in need. Job was not insignificant, rather he was counted as a leader among men, one whom men sought after and followed, "I chose a way for them and sat as chief, and dwelt as a king among the troops, as one who comforted the mourners." (Job 29:25) The praise and adulation of his fellow countrymen affected how Job saw himself,
"I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. My glory is ever new with me, and my bow is renewed in my hand." (Job 29:14,20)
Job saw himself as one who embodied righteousness and justice. Job received glory from his fellow countrymen, a glory that he valued greatly, and a glory that he hoped would never pass away. But all this had changed. Now, Job was despised and rejected by the ones who previously had revered him. He was no longer sought after, nor did people search him out to hear his wisdom and counsel. Job had gone from being popular to being alone. And even the lowest of the land mocked him, "But now those younger than I mock me, whose fathers I disdained to put with the dogs of my flock." (Jon 30:1) No one honored him and no one gave him any glory.

I have a friend who wrote a lot in high school. In time, he became acknowledged as a writer. People respected him for what he had to say and, as a writer, he became "special". But one day, he realized that he had come to enjoy being a "writer" more than writhing. He came to enjoy the respect and honor of people who viewed him as a writer more than the actual work of writhing. His reputation as a writer became more important to him than his writings.

I think Job suffered a bit from this same problem. Job was in love with the honor and glory he received from others who saw him as both wise and just. He enjoyed the reception at the city gate more then the responsibility of sitting at the city gate. Job wanted people to see him as wise, but he was balking at God's work in his life that would, in the end, impart to him greater wisdom. If only he could be seen as wise without having to endure the process of becoming wise...

As Christians, we often fall into the same trap. We want people to see us as "spiritual" but we are often unwilling to endure the process that makes us "spiritual". We like people to think we "have it all together" yet we balk at the spiritual disciplines that help us to "get it all together". We enjoy it more when people seek after us as one who has the word of the Lord, than the effort needed to enter into God's presence to get the word of the Lord. In short, we enjoy being seen as Christians more than the work of being a Christian. The truth is, however, that it does not matter much what others think or say about us, what matters most is what God has to say about us. The praise of men is like mammon, you cannot live for the praise of men and the praise of God at the same time, you must choose one. Therefore, let us live for the praise of God and concern ourselves not with what others might think.

David Robison

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The good old days: Job 29:2-6

"Oh that I were as in months gone by, as in the days when God watched over me; when His lamp shone over my head, and by His light I walked through darkness; as I was in the prime of my days, when the friendship of God was over my tent; when the Almighty was yet with me, and my children were around me; when my steps were bathed in butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!" (Job 29:2-6)
(Say what you want, Job was living an Atkins friendly life; no low fat, low calorie life for him; he was enjoying the low carb lifestyle that was bathed in butter!)

Job was reminiscing about the former days of his life, when times were good. When everything seemed to go his way. Life was easy, God was near, and every work of his hand was blessed. We can hardly blame Job for longing for the former days. Times were now hard, and there seemed to be no end in sight. Job wished he could return to better days. He wished none of this hardship and suffering had ever come upon him. If only his blessings had continued without interruption...

But King Solomon warns us about trying to live in the past. He said, "Do not say, 'Why is it that the former days were better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this." (Ecclesiastes 7:10) Solomon reminds us that we cannot live in the past, no matter how wonderful that past was. During our lives, we experience both good times and bad. But we must live in the present, not longing for happier times in the past. The truth is that, as long as we hang onto the past, we can not enter into the blessings God has for us in the future. Job had a wonderful past, but he had to let go of it so that he could experience the better future that God had prepared for him.

The life of Job tells us something very important about our lives. Sometimes the path between blessing and greater blessing passes through the valley of sorrows. Sometimes we get so comfortable with where we are, that we resist going on, fearing that difficult times may come upon us. This was the case for the children of Israel at Mount Horeb. The had spent almost 18 months living there in the shadow of the Almighty. God feed them, His cloud shaded them by day, and His fire warmed them by night. They were content to spend the rest of their lives there on the mountain with God. But God had other plans. One day, God came to them and said, "You have stayed long enough at this mountain." (Deuteronomy 1:6) They had been there long enough. It was time for them to move on.

There are times in our life when God comes to us and says, "It's time to move on." Many times, our moving on will involve seasons of suffering, even as it did for Job. But if we can see beyond the suffering to the greater reward that God has before us, then the seasons of suffering will become a little more bearable. Jesus left us such an example looking forward, beyond the suffering, "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross , despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus life was not easy, and His death was almost unbearable, but it was the joy that was before Him, on the other side of the cross, that gave Him the strength to endure the cross. The truth is that suffering is never an end in our lives. Rather it is a pathway to something greater in God. And though, while in the midst of it, there may seem to be no end in sight, our patient endurance will one day earn us the reward of God that waits on the other side of our sufferings.

David Robison

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Where can wisdom be found? Job 28

In the proverbs of King Solomon, we are admonished to acquire wisdom and to gain understanding. Man has sought to find wisdom since the dawn of time. Many have come claiming to be wise, others have purported to know the way of wisdom, but few there are who have found true wisdom. Job asks, "But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?" (Job 28:12)

Job recounted how that men in his day had traveled to the ends of the known earth and returned without finding the source of wisdom. In his day, men even explored the depths of the earth, tunneling deep beneath its surface, and they returned with great treasures, yet without finding the source of wisdom. Even in our day, man has traveled the length and breadth of the earth. We have even explored the depths of the seas and the expanses beyond our own atmosphere, yet in all those places, we have not found the place of wisdom.

We can search far and wide, but wisdom is not found in a place, yet it is very near to all of us. Nor is wisdom some commodity that may be bought or sold. Even a man with great wealth can not purchase wisdom, yet it is available to even the poorest among us. Wisdom is not always found among the aged (as Job's friends proved) yet even the youth can find and understand wisdom. So where is the place where wisdom may be found, and where may understanding be gained? Job tells us, "God understands its way, and He knows its place." (Job 28:23)

Wisdom is not found in a place, nor is it bought and sold in the market. Wisdom is found in a person, in the Lord. If we want wisdom, we must come to the one who embodies all that is wise; we must come to the Lord. We must grow in relationship with Him; to learn and understand His ways. Then we will begin to understand wisdom. Then understanding will begin to be ours. All our efforts to obtain wisdom apart from the Lord will end in futility. Paul tells us of the wisdom of man,
"For it is written, 'I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.' Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." (1 Corinthians 1:19-21)
We have two choices, the wisdom of the world or the wisdom of God. James tells us that the wisdom of this world is "earthly, natural, demonic." (James 3:15) Yet the wisdom from above is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy." (James 3:17) And the most amazing thing about the wisdom of God is that it is available and accessible by all. We just need to know where to go and whom to ask, "if any of you lacks wisdom , let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)

Let us lay aside the wisdom of this world. Let us cease searching for wisdom on our own, in our own way. And let us come to God, who gives liberally, that we may become wise indeed.

David Robison

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Almighty had embittered my soul: Job 27:2-6

"As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has embittered my soul, for as long as life is in me, and the breath of God is in my nostrils, my lips certainly will not speak unjustly, nor will my tongue mutter deceit. Far be it from me that I should declare you right; till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go. My heart does not reproach any of my days." (Job 27:2-6)
Let there be no mistake, Job is wrong in his assessment of God. God had not taken away his right. God was still maintaining Job's right and, though it did not seem immediately apparent, in the end God's justice would prevail and Job would be restored. Nor is God to blame for Job's bitterness of soul. Job had suffered greatly. His pain took its toll on him and his emotions. However, Job's response was to blame God for his suffering. Job's anger towards God led to his bitterness of soul. In blaming God, Job spoke what was wrong, and soon he would be required to give an account for his words which he spoke in his folly.

However, though Job's anger and his words against God were wrong, he was none the less innocent of the things of which his friends had accused him of. Job was a righteous man. Even though, in his suffering, he uttered words he should not have, he was still the boast of God, "Have you considered My servant Job?" (Job 1:8) When it came to the accusations of his friends, Job's stance was to stand firm and to reject their judgments. "Far be it from me that I should declare you right; till I die I will not put away my integrity from me." (Job 27:5) Job knew that he was innocent of their charges and would not take their condemnation upon himself.

We need to be careful to not let the judgments of others affect our lives. Some people are "guilt magnets". Every time they hear a message on sin, they are sure it applies to them. They easily accept condemnation from others, whether its warranted or not. Paul was not such a person, he said,
"But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself . For I am conscious of nothing against myself , yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord." (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)
It really does not matter what others think of us, what matters is what God thinks. Whether people approve or disapprove of our lives is immaterial. What counts is if God approves of our life. We walk before God and it is God who judges us and it is before God that we must give account.

Does this mean that we can summarily reject the counsel of others as not coming from the Lord? By no means. God speaks to us in many ways: in His word, by His Spirit, through our circumstances, and through the counsel of others. What we need to do is to learn to hear the voice of the Lord in what ever way He is trying to speak to us. Then, once we have discerned His voice, we must become obedient to what He is saying. If we have erred, then God will tell us. If not, then we need not be concerned with the judgments of others. If we are sincere in our desire to hear and obey the voice of God, it will be clear when He is seeking to bring conviction of our sin and when He is not. If God is not judging us, then we need not concern ourselves with the judgments of men.

David Robison

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A God of mystery: Job 26:14

Job describes the all seeing and all powerful nature of God. Job declares that all things on earth, and under the earth, are visible before the eyes of God. He also describes God's power and greatness as revealed in nature. Yet he reminds us that, for all we can see and know and understand, it is but a small part of who God is. "Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; and how faint a word we hear of Him!" (Job 26:14) Job reminds us that, no matter how much we think we know God, there is still much more to be known. Much of the nature and operations of God remain a mystery.

The Apostle Paul put it this way, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:9-10, 12) The truth is that there is a lot about God that we do not know, and will not know until we stand before Him face to face. At best, our knowledge of God is in part. This thought alone should humble us and remind us that we do not know it all. As we seek to understand God, our lives, and the world around us, we need to leave room in our understanding for the unknown. Not everything can be known to the nth degree. We must always leave room for the mysteries of God.

For as much as Job asked God "why" he had to suffer what he suffered, God never answered him. We are never told why God allowed Satan to afflict Job and to suffer him with the loss of his possessions, his family, and his health. I've heard many good guesses as to the "why" of Job's suffering, but in truth, it still remains a mystery. Unfortunately, Job's friends had no category in their theology for the unexplained of God. The couldn't just admit that they didn't know why Job was suffering. The had to find a reason, any reason, and the only reason they could come up with was that Job must have sinned against God. We like "neat" theology. We like everything to have a reason and an explanation. And while there is always a reason and an explanation, God does not always elect to share that information with us. We must be willing to admit that somethings we just don't know. We must not let our desire to have a reason to force us to come up with one, even if God is not sharing His reason with us. We must never presume a reason just to have a reason. Sometimes, we must simply yield to the mysteries of God.

David Robison

Monday, February 07, 2005

Job on Creation: Job 26:7

"He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing." (Job 26:7)
Job provides an accurate picture of how God has "hung" the earth on "nothing". I find it amazing that Job understood this. The earth is not being held up by Atlas. There are no strings holding the earth in space. But literally the earth is hanging in "nothing". God's creation is truly amazing.

David Robison

Job begins his final retort: Job 26

Job begins his final response and defense before his friends, his God, and himself. Job rebukes his three friends as being useless. Their wisdom and counsel had failed to help Job or to provide an answer for his sufferings. For all their many words, Job was no better off. In his rebuke, Job ask this question of his friends:
"To whom have you uttered words? And whose spirit was expressed through you?" (Job 26:4)
Whenever we set out to help someone in need, we should ask ourselves these two questions.

To whom have you uttered words?
Job's friends were so eager to give their advice and counsel, that they lost sight of the person they were trying to help. Their "help" soon turned into a contest as to who was right and who was wrong. They debated with Job in an attempt to convince him that they were right and, somewhere in the process, they forgot that they came to help Job. They became absorbed in their arguments and lost sight of Job.

This reminds me of the story where Mary Magdalene came into the Pharisee's house and anointed Jesus' feet with costly perfume and washed His feet with her hair. The Pharisees' bristled at this because she was a harlot. Jesus asked the head of the house, a Pharisee named Simon, an interesting question. Jesus asked Simon, "Do you see this woman?" (Luke 7:44) But of course he "saw" her, but did he really "see" her. The truth was that Simon could only see her sin. To him, she was not a woman but a harlot. Simon could not see past her sin to see the woman of value that God had created her to be. In truth, Simon never really saw her.

We too can easily fall into this same trap. We can become so focused on someone's problems, that we loose site of the person. When this happens it is easy to become impatient with them; with their struggles and wrestling over their problems. We allow our judgments to blind us to their intrinsic value as children of God. In our zeal to "set them straight", it is easy to forget that they are also one for whom Jesus died. We must never allow ourselves to loose sight of the person in our attempts to help them.

Whose spirit was expressed through you?
We can read to the end of the book and find out that Job's friends were not moving in the Holy Spirit. Their words were the expression of a spirit, but it was not a spirit from God. Our lives can be animated by the spirit of this world, our own human spirit, or the Spirit of God. The trick is to identify the spirit we are moving in at any given time. When we are giving our opinions, counsel, and judgments, are we moving in our own spirit? Are we partnering with an unclean spirit? Or are we manifesting the Holy Spirit. We should never presume to speak for God just because our counsel seems right to us. If we are unsure, the best thing to do is to keep quiet. Better to comfort our hurting friend with silence than to unwittingly be used by a godless spirit to further hurt and confuse them. When people are hurting, they need the Word of God. Our own words simply will not do. If we do not have God's word for a given situation, we should keep quiet and pray and ask God for such a word, and if given, share that word in a spirit of love and humility.

David Robison

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Man, a maggot and a worm: Job 25

"How then can a man be just with God? Or how can he be clean who is born of woman? If even the moon has no brightness and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, that maggot, and the son of man, that worm!" (Job 25:4-6)
How can man be special to God? How can man gain God's attention? Can he be acceptable to God? Can he be found clean and just before God? Can man ever be anything more than a worm and a maggot to God? These are the questions Bildad raises against Job's faith. Job believed that, if he could just appear before God, that God would acknowledge him and acquit him of all charges. However, Bildad responds that man can never be anything more than a lowly creature and can never become worthy of God's attention.

But can man be special to God? The biblical answer is yes! The record of the scriptures, both old and new testament, is that many men and women were deemed special before God. For example:

  • Abraham: In Isaiah 41:8, God refers to Abraham as His friend.
  • Moses: In, Exodus 33:11, God says that he speaks to Moses "face to face" as a man speaks to his friend.
  • David: In 2nd Samuel 7:27, God declares that He will build David a house; speaking of his descendants and their rule over Israel.
And there are many others. Even in the New Testament we find examples of people who found favor before God. Consider Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian cohort. His became so valued by God that God sent angels to expedite the coming of the Gospel to Cornelius and his household. As a result, he and all his family were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit.

How did all these people find favor with God. The answer is in Hebrews 11, where it says that it is "by faith". When man walks with God by faith, he finds favor with God. Consider what its was said about Abraham, "Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6) Abraham believed God and God credited his faith as righteousness. Man cannot endear himself to God by works of the law, but only by faith. "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, 'THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.' " (Galatians 3:11) When we live by faith, God takes notice and he lifts us up from our "worminess" to sit with Him in heavenly places.

David Robison

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Life is unfair: Job 24

I have four kids ranging from a freshman in college to a third grader. As each of them were growing up they went through a phase where the worst possible thing that could happen was for something to be "unfair". They would complain that it was "unfair" that their older sibling got to stay up one hour later then they did. They protested that it was unfair that everyone else in their class got to see a certain movie that we did not let them see. In there mind, the world had to be "fair". Over and over we would have to explain to them that, "life isn't fair," at least not from our perspective of what is "fair".

As Job examines the life of the wicked and the righteous he observes that life isn't always fair. Sometimes the blessings go to the wicked and affliction to the righteous. Job complains that there are times that the wicked oppress the poor, yet "God does not pay attention to folly." (Job 24:12) Similarly, Job notices that for some who reject God, "they are exalted a little while, then they are gone." (Job 24:24) They come and go, and yet seem no the worse for the wear.

Looking at life from his frame of reference, Job poses this question, "Why are times not stored up by the Almighty, and why do those who know Him not see His days?" (Job 24:1) What Job is asking is, "Why doesn't God give the wicked their just desserts in this life?" Why does God allow the wicked to go to their grave in peace. Its simply not fair! Fortunately, Jesus answered this question for us,
"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, 'First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.' " (Matthew 13:24-30)
We live in a world where evil and good live side by side. In this world there are both sons of the devil and sons of God. And in God's wisdom and grace, He delays the judgment due to the wicked for the sake of those to be saved. While I do not claim to fully understand it, what Jesus is saying is that sometimes God reserves judgment for a later time if the immediate execution of that judgment could harm the faith of His children. Peter reminds us of this same truth when he says, "regard the patience of our Lord as salvation." (2 Peter 3:15)

Does this mean that the wicked will get off scott-free? By no means! The truth is that we must all appear before the judgment Seat of Christ and give an account of our lives. This life we live is but a vapor. It is the life to come that we should be concerned about. Irregardless of the blessings and/or afflictions we receive in this life, in that day there will be judgment for the wicked and rewards for the righteous. Life may seem unfair, but in the end, God will make all things right. God is a God of justice, and in the end, His justice will reign.

David Robison