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 281: Comfort in the church

Job 13-14; Ephesians 4

In Ephesians 3, Paul revealed a “mystery” (3:4-6). This mystery is the church where Jews and Gentiles can co-exist in peace.

In Ephesians 4, Paul expands upon this concept of “church” and gives all sorts of practical ways to improve church life…

  • Be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love (4:2),
  • Keep the unity of peace (4:3),
  • Exercise spiritual gifts for the building up of the body (4:11-12),
  • Put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor (4:25),
  • In your anger, do not sin (4:26), and
  • Earn an honest wage so that you might have something to share with those in need (4:28).

And finally,

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).

So what do we do when we encounter the depth of suffering that Job experienced in our own churches? Job is in utter despair because not only has he lost everyone and everything dear to him (apart from his wife)… he also thinks he has lost God’s favor. He doesn’t understand why God would strike him with such hardship, so he assumes that God has turned on him. The assumed loss of God’s favor is so devastating to Job that he longs for death – but fears the lack of renewal and the loneliness of death without God (Job 14:12; 18-22).

We have the privilege of knowing why Job is suffering. We hear the heavenly conversation between God and Satan where God repeats twice, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8; 2:3). We know that Job is suffering to prove to Satan that one can love God even when all the blessings are removed (Job 1:9-11). Job’s suffering has a higher purpose that he cannot see.

And even though we can’t know for sure why people within our churches suffer – or why we, ourselves, suffer, we can apply the principles of Ephesians 4 to these relationships. We can be gentle and bear with one another in love. We can speak truthfully and serve the church in ways that builds it up, instead of tearing it down. We can use our words in ways that build each other up according to their needs that it may be a benefit and not a curse.

I pray that no one in our churches has to endure the hardships of Job… suffering, alone, without a friend to offer the truths of the gospel. May we be a friend to the suffering. May we comfort the “Jobs” in our midst.

Day 280: The God of all Comfort

Job 11-12; Ephesians 2-3

In many ways, the book of Job teaches us how to comfort those who are experiencing great suffering, specifically by NOT following the example of Job’s friends!

We read Zophar’s, “comfort” in Job 11, and it is filled with rude accusations that Job is foolish to claim he is blameless, and that if Job would just repent, his life would be all hunky-dory again. Humph.

On so many levels, Job’s friends say the most horrible things. They are judgmental of Job and presumptuous of God.

We don’t have the power of God to judge a man’s heart! We have no idea if the suffering is because of sin or not. And moreover, our sins have been forgiven!! Listen to what Frankie Bennett writes in her bible study on Job…

God may prune me (John 15:1-5), discipline me as His child (Hebrews 12:7-11), test me (Job 1-2), or have any number of other purposes for my trials, but I need never again wonder if my sufferings are His retribution for old sins or His condemnation of my failure to achieve perfection (Job, Lessons in Comfort, Frances Bennett, CEP, 2009, pg 46). 

This is the gospel! That all of our sins have been forgiven! That Christ took the punishment we deserved and God’s wrath has been satisfied. It is finished. No more punishment. We are accepted!

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

This is where comfort is found…in the grace of God. God’s comfort is deep and profound. It makes it way deep into our hearts and assures us that we are loved and accepted. In fact, his love is so vast that we need the Spirit’s help to understand it!! I’ve prayed Paul’s prayer at the end of Ephesians 3 so many times… for myself and for others who need the strength of God’s comfort…

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,

from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21).

Now that’s comfort! The kind of comfort that seeps into your bones and quenches your thirsty soul. That’s the power of truth, offered graciously in love.

Day 277: God of all Comfort

Job 1-3; Galatians 6

For my sighing comes instead of my bread,
and my groanings are poured out like water (Job 3:24).

This, friends, is grief. Job has lost everything.

When he lost his possessions and children, he said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

When he lost his health, he said, “Shall we receive good from God and not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).

But now, after time has settled in, and the reality of his loss becomes heavier, Job curses the day he was born (Job 3:3).

This was it. This was all he could bear. And Satan waited – and watched – and hoped that he had taken away the thing Job cherished more than God.*

But that was impossible, because Job loved God above all else. And because of Job’s love for God, the thought that God, Himself, might have forsaken him… well this was Job’s hardest trial.

For Job didn’t suffer because of his sin. And Job didn’t suffer because of someone else’s sin. He suffered to prove his loyalty to God.

How do we reconcile God’s goodness with the heavenly conversations recorded in Job 1 & 2? How does Job wrestle with these same doubts? This is the crux of Job.

But sprinkled through Job’s test of faith in God’s goodness are lessons in comfort. The word “comfort” finds its roots in the Latin words meaning “with strength.” So we must not mistake comfort for removing the pain. Sometimes the best comfort comes from finding truth in the midst of the pain. For instance, God knew Job’s limits. And he refused to let Satan overstep those limits. This is a comforting truth. Job’s friends come and sit in comforting silence (Job 2:11-13). Even Job offers comfort to his wife, in the form of a gentle rebuke (Job 2:9-10). But ultimately, it is Job’s hope in God that provides him the most comfort (Job 3:23).

Paul, in his final words to the Galatians, gives specific ways to comfort those around us who are suffering…

restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1).
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).

Do you see God’s comfort in the pages of Job? I do. I am comforted that God limited Job’s afflictions. I am comforted that God gave room for Job to grieve. I am comforted that all suffering doesn’t come from sin – but that my response in the midst of it could thwart the plans of Satan and bring glory to God! I’m comforted that God had a purpose for Job’s suffering that transcended Job’s lifetime and ripples into our hearts today. I’m comforted by God’s sovereignty, his authority over evil, and yes, His goodness. For even in the midst of suffering, God is still good.

*Job, Lessons in Comfort, by Frances Poston Bennett, pg 24