Day 292: The final days of Job

Job 40:6-42:17

And Job died, an old man, and full of days (Job 42:17).

I think Job 42 has to be one of the most satisfying chapters in all of Scripture. It begins with repentance and ends with restoration. And not just a small restoration, but an overflowing, abounding with grace and mercy restoration!

What is most encouraging to me is not how God vindicates Job before his friends or how God doubles Job’s possessions or even how God gives him a new family. All of these things are wonderful, but… what most encourages me is that God does not rebuke Job. God rebukes his friends, but not Job, himself.

Job’s anger against God never tipped the scales to “sinning against God.” That’s encouraging to me. I guess through all of Job’s questions and tantrums, he continued to seek and pursue God relentlessly. And we can see Job’s great love for God in the anguish he experienced when he (wrongly) concluded that God had abandoned him. Through Job, I learn that God can handle my anger. He will not leave me or forsake me. This is a great comfort!

I’ll conclude our study of Job with one last question…

Did Job ever learn the why behind his suffering? No. In the end, knowing the who was enough. Like Job, we typically will never fully understand the why’s of our suffering. We must be content with knowing the Who!

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Day 291: Where is God’s wrath?

Job 38:1-40:5Colossians 4

God’s wrath… all of Job’s friends expected it. In fact, all three of their first references to God spoke of his wrath!!

Eliphaz’s first mention of God referred not to His holiness, His love, His mercy, or His goodness, but to His anger toward “those who sow trouble:” “At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of his anger they perish” (Job 4:9).

Bildad’s first reference to God touched on one of Job’s deepest griefs, the deaths of all ten children. Did BIldad refer to the God who heard “Rachel weeping for her children” (Matthew 2:18)? No! To the heartbroken father, Bildad said of God: “When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin” (Job 8:4).

Zophar’s first reference to God was not a prayer on his friend’s behalf, but a wish for God’s wrath to rebuke Job: “Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you…” (Job 11:5).

(Frances Bennett, Job, Lessons in Comfort, CEP, 2009, pg 89-90)

So when God finally speaks, and says to Job, “Brace yourself like a man,” (Job 38:3) we expect God to unleash his wrath…but he doesn’t.

God talks about creation and how “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (38:7).

We see his grace as he creates the dawn to limit evil (38:12-15)…and as he sends the stored-up snow to slow or cease wars and catastrophes (38:22-23).

We see his care and concern for his creatures… providing food to the raven (38:41), watching the birth of the does (39:1), freeing the donkey (39:5) and releasing the ox from its burden (39:9-12). He gives the horse its might (39:19-25) and even the ostrich is given joy (39:18).

Where is God’s wrath? I only see grace. And how does Job respond?? 

Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:3-5).

Job sees his smallness in the face of God. He recognizes that He does not understand his small role in God’s big plan, and he vows silence. No more questions. No more demands for justice. Just a quiet, humble trust.

Day 290: Building to the Climax of Job

Job 35-37Colossians 3

Today we read the conclusion of Elihu’s lengthy diatribe. Elihu has a few good points, but he delivers them in an extraordinarily insensitive way. He assumes Job needs to repent of some hidden sin (34:34-3735:14-16) and mistakenly describes God as unapproachable (37:19-24). We have to consider Elihu’s contribution in light of the whole context of Job…

In the history of God’s dealings with his people, the question of the apparently undeserved suffering of faithful individuals recurs again and again. The book of Job reminds God’s people that they have an enemy who will denounce them (Satan), and, through the ignorance of Job’s friends, it helps the faithful to remember at all times how small a part of any situation is the fragment that they see (ESV Study Bible, Introduction to Job, History of Salvation Summary, Crossway, 2008).

Elihu lashes out at Job with logic devoid of compassion and kindness. His concern is his own desire to talk and to advocate on “God’s behalf” (36:2). In so doing, Elihu reveals that he cares more about speaking his mind than comforting Job. And in light of Job 1-3 and the rest of revealed Scripture, we see how little Elihu actually understood of the reasons for Job’s suffering.

When we approach the suffering in our midst, we need to lay aside any temptation to judge or correct. We are not privy to the inner-workings of the heart or the hidden purposes of God. We should stick to encouragement in love.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12-14).

Tomorrow we read the climax of Job…when God finally speaks!! “Brace yourself like a man!” Are you ready?

Day 289: The comfort of Christ

Job 32-34; Colossians 2

Elihu speaks today. You might be wondering… Eli-who?  After all, he just appears out of nowhere and speaks unabated for six chapters! But Elihu’s goal is neither to comfort or rebuke Job. His goal is to defend God’s justice.

In many ways, Job’s friends offer simplistic answers to Job’s complicated questions. Elihu is no different; however, he does reorient the conversation away from Job and back to God! But like Job’s friends, Elihu’s understanding of God is limited. They live before the written revelation of Scripture and are thus limited to their own human understanding.

Paul warns the Colossians against human logic and arguments in today’s text from Colossians.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8).

The gospel goes against all human logic. Every other world religion provides a path for man to merit his own salvation. The specifics of how to earn salvation vary from religion to religion, but the system is universal… Man works his way up to God. Jesus came and turned human logic on its head. The gospel says that God came down to us because it’s impossible for us to reach the heights of Him.

Forgiveness, Mercy, Grace, Restoration, Redemption… These are God’s ideas…not man’s.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).

Elihu’s words might have shifted Job’s heart by refocusing his eyes to God. But Elihu’s words offered Job no comfort. For comfort is found in the gospel. Real comfort is found in Christ.

“God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

Day 288: The sufficiency of Christ

Job 30-31; Colossians 1

Considering Job lived before the written revelation of Scripture, Job and his friends deliver man’s best attempts at wisdom, and in so doing, reveal the insufficiency of man to offer comfort in the midst of suffering. They are limited by their false assumptions about God.

Today we read Job’s final lament (Job 30) and his final appeal (Job 31). His final lament reveals he is still consumed with anger at God’s apparent injustice. And while his final appeal for justice is impressive, Job shows his great need for wisdom and understanding by assuming he can approach God’s throne “like a prince” (31:37).

For we know the only way to approach God’s throne is as a pauper, poor in Spirit, leaning on the sufficiency of Christ!

[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:15-20).

Day 287: The fear of the Lord

Job 28-29; Philippians 4

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

This verse has always been meaningful to me…but it has become especially meaningful in the wake of my own personal suffering…

The morning of April 13, 2010 began in its normal way with me caring for my three healthy children. By noon, a truck had plowed into the side of our van, inflicting its permanent damage on our family. My middle child, Anne, came very close to death. By God’s grace, she survived…but lives with a debilitating brain injury. Our family is very different. In many ways, our lives have been split in two – we talk about life in terms of “before the accident” and “after the accident.”

Job’s life has also been split in two. His whole view of the world has been scarred by his immense loss. Yet the foundation of Job’s life remains “the fear of the Lord” (Job 1:1; 28:28). Job manages to land on this solid foundation briefly at the end of Job 28. This chapter is a bright ray of hope as Job describes his desperate search for wisdom. And in the end, he remembers that “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom” (Job 28:28)!

But in the very next chapter we see Job looking back at his life as it was “before.” This is a dangerous trap…one that I have fallen into so many times. After the initial shock of tragedy faded and my new reality began to unfold, I longed for life to be as it used to be… easier and lighter.

But I found that these kinds of thoughts only sent me deeper into despair. And similarly for Job, we will read of his deep anguish in his final lament, tomorrow, in Job 30.

Job needed the truths of the gospel….the kind of truths found in Philippians. He needed the peace of God described in Philippians 4! He needed to stay on his life’s foundation. He needed to dwell on the “fear of the Lord”!

Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
and to turn away from evil is understanding (Job 28:28).

Day 286: Knowing Christ

Job 25-27; Philippians 3

Knowing Christ…isn’t this the heart of every believer? This is Job’s heart! If you peel away all the layers of confusion and anger over his circumstances, Job’s greatest desire is to be accepted by God. Job’s desire for God is so strong that he refuses to forsake Him and he continues to choose the righteous path…

As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit (Job 27:2-4).

Job longs for Christ – even though he doesn’t even know Christ exists! This should be the longing of every believer… to know Him and to rest in the assurance of His care and strength.

Paul was willing to sacrifice any earthly treasure for the sake of knowing Christ.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (Philippians 3:8-9).

Paul goes on to write that he longs to know Christ by sharing in his sufferings. Isn’t this God’s purpose for Job? Satan meant Job’s sufferings for evil – to tempt Job to curse God. But God had a higher purpose – for Job to know Him more deeply!

Job’s anguish enables him to see God in a way he never could have in more prosperous circumstances. Even through all of Job’s false beliefs that God has rejected him in anger, he holds fast to his longing for God. Ultimately, suffering is the conduit through which God reveals more of Himself to Job (Job 42:1-6)!

Knowing Christ…this should be the motivation of our life. Like Paul, we should “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). In other words, we press on in our faith so that we might see Christ face to face!

Day 285: Comfort to Endure & Overcome

Job 22-24; Philippians 2

I think one of the most disturbing aspects of all of the speeches from Job’s “friends” is that they teach a “prosperity gospel.” In other words, they believe that if you do good works for God, he will make you prosperous. And if you sin against God, God will make you suffer on earth. This just isn’t true!

The best defense against this position is Christ, himself. Christ was absolutely sinless! Yet, he suffered greatly. He was born in poverty and lived in Egypt to avoid being murdered by Herod. As an adult, he had no home, no income and was unjustly arrested, flogged and murdered. Christ knew suffering – just as Job knew suffering.

But Job seems to have gathered himself and can think more objectively about his suffering in Chapters 23-24. He is able to articulate God’s sovereignty and understands that he is being tested (23:10).

But he is still confused by the apparent lack of justice in this world. He spends Chapter 24 wondering when and if the wicked will ever be judged. The question of why do the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer has been asked for centuries.

Job cries, “If this is not so, who can prove me false and reduce my words to nothing?” (Job 24:25). God, rather than “reduce [Job’s] words to nothing,” preserves them in Scripture and lived them thirty-three years in flesh. After the Fall of Adam and Eve, we live with evil and suffering and temporary injustice. We do not understand entirely why, but God himself has endured with us and has overcome it in the resurrection (Frances Bennett, Job, Lessons in Comfort, CEP, 2009, pg 68).

Paul talks about Christ’s suffering in one of the most profound passages on Christ’s incarnation in Scripture (Philippians 2:5-11). But Paul was using Christ as an example of how to serve others in love. He had just commanded the Philippians to “count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3).

Isn’t this the key to offering comfort to the suffering AND receiving God’s comfort in the midst of our own suffering?? 

It’s all about humility…laying down our idols of “entitlement” and looking to Christ’s example of pouring ourselves out for others.

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

If Christ wasn’t spared from suffering, then why would we? God expects and endures our questions, but it is our faith that brings God delight. Just as Paul instructed the Philippians…enduring suffering without grumbling or complaining is like a bright light in a “crooked and twisted” world (Philippians 2:14-16).

Lord, through the preservation of these questions and through the recorded pain of Christ’s life, You seem to say You know suffering exists, but You have a purpose in permitting it to remain until the Day of Judgment. Because Job endured and Christ overcame, You offer comforting assurance: those who look to You can also endure and overcome. Thank you Lord…” (Frances Bennett, Job, Lessons in Comfort, CEP, 2009, pg 68).

Day 284: The power of Purpose

Job 20-21; Philippians 1

I love Philippians. From our reading in Acts, I feel like I know the church well, and the book is especially meaningful knowing that Paul wrote it during his house-arrest in Rome…described in the closing chapter of Acts.

Philippians is hopeful and full of joy. Paul sees a greater purpose for his imprisonment and suffering; consequently, he can rejoice. The contrast to Job is stark. Job doesn’t have the written word of God to give him hope in the midst of immense suffering.

In today’s reading, Job asks some tough questions…Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (Job 21:7-15)? Why do the wicked seem to go unpunished (Job 21:17-21)? What is the purpose of following God if both the righteous and the wicked die in the end (Job 21:22-26)?

Job doesn’t have God’s written word for encouragement. Job is left in despair because he sees no purpose for his pain.

Paul, on the other hand, knows the ways of the Kingdom…that this life is not the end, that at the end of the age, ALL will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and the wicked will be punished and the righteous will have their reward. Paul knows that suffering in this life will not compare to the glory of our eternal home (2 Corinthians 4:17)!

Like Job, Paul also wants to escape his suffering through death…but for a far different reason!! Paul knows that he will see Christ!

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account (Philippians 1:21-24).

Paul has a purpose that helps him endure the suffering. His purpose is to further the gospel, equip the churches and bring glory to God. Job is crushed under the weight of his suffering because he sees no purpose. And his friends’ false ideas about God and judgment in this life only serve to increase the weight of his burden (Job 20).

If you are suffering, do you suffer in hope or despair? Seek God’s comfort in the truths of His word. There is a good and loving purpose for your pain! Look to Christ and find hope!

Day 283: The weapon of Truth

Job 18-19; Ephesians 6:10-24

Yesterday’s reading in Job marked the beginning of another round of “speeches” from Job’s “friends.” Eliphaz spoke in Job 15, and it’s Bildad’s turn in Job 18. Both men continue their assault on Job – accusing him of being wicked, vile and corrupt (Job 15:16; 18:5).

Job laments in Job 19:13-20 that he is utterly alone – that everyone has abandoned him. And Job still struggles with the false notion that God has rejected him in anger (Job 19:11)…

BUT.

There are hints of hope in Job’s laments. The first we find in Job 16:19-21, “Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high.” This hint of hope is stronger in Job 19…

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me (Job 19:27)!

Oh, this is the grace of God!! That Job could lift his eyes and find a glimmer of hope – a truth to sustain him. The Lord has upheld Job (Psalm 37:24). He has given him hope. And because Job continues to find his only hope in the Lord, Satan has been defeated!!

Job didn’t know that his true adversary was Satan!

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

Ephesians 6 instructs us how to stand against Satan’s schemes. We are to put on “the whole armor of God.” Everything in this armor is held together by the “belt of truth” (Ephesians 6:14).

Truth was Job’s defense against Satan’s attack and it is our defense as well. We are to remember God’s truth… that He loves us and is Sovereign and Good. The righteousness we receive from Christ shields our hearts (6:14). Our faith in God’s truth is what extinguishes Satan’s attacks (6:16). And our salvation protects our minds from believing a false gospel (6:17). Our only offensive weapon against Satan is God’s word (6:17), which is…TRUTH. Satan is the father of lies. Truth is both our protection and weapon against him.

I pray God’s truth becomes as precious to me as my very life. So that I might say with Moses, “They are just not idle words for you – they are your life!” (Deut. 32:47).