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!

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 279: The value of Truth

Job 8-10; Ephesians 1

Job needed Ephesians 1. Seriously.. he desperately needed the truth found in Ephesians 1.

For Job misinterpreted his sufferings and chose to believe that God was angry with him. Job feared that God’s anger would cause him more and more pain…

And were my head lifted up, you would hunt me like a lion
and again work wonders against me.
You renew your witnesses against me
and increase your vexation toward me;
you bring fresh troops against me (Job 10:16-17).

Job’s friends were no help. In fact, they should be lifted up as an example of what not to do when someone you know is suffering. Today, in Job 8, Bildad theorized that Job’s children were destroyed because of their sin (8:4), and that God had rejected Job because he was not blameless (8:20). Encouraging, eh? But even more damaging, Bildad’s words were just not true!

What Job needs is truth. Healing, refreshing words of truth to pour over the bitterness of his heart. He needs the truths found in Ephesians 1….

That before the creation of the world, God chose us to be adopted as his children. And because of His great Love for us, we have been redeemed and forgiven.

Job longs for an arbitrator to stand between him and God (Job 9:32-33). He needs to know that Christ is our mediator! That God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus on the cross… that his wrath has been satisfied – that we are not to fear His anger.

Job needs…

the Spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of God…He needs to have the eyes of his heart enlightened, that he may know what is the hope to which God has called him, what are the riches of the glorious inheritance in the saints (adapted from Ephesians 1:17-18).

How thankful I am to have God’s word to guide me when trials strike! God will reveal Himself to Job in time, but for now, Job’s thoughts about God’s purposes and plans are distorted. Consequently, he is left hopeless, despairing for his life. He needs truth. He needs Christ!

Day 278: The “Who” outshines the “why”

Job 4-7

The first of Job’s three friends speaks in Job 4-5. It would have been much better if all three of them would have just kept silent (as they did in Job 2)!

Eliphaz clearly believes in God and understands glimpses of God’s character. I’m sure he means well, but his words are filled with false assumptions and presumptuous claims. But most damaging, he places his own observations and dreams above the truth of God’s word.

For example, in Job 4:7-11, Eliphaz makes sweeping generalizations when he says that the innocent never suffer – only the evil are destroyed. Later he presumes that God is “disciplining” Job (5:17-18) and promises that God will restore all of Job’s blessings if Job learns from the Lord’s reproof. Eliphaz even goes so far as to suggest that Job is a “fool” (5:2-6)!

Poor Job. He has lost everything, and now he must deal with disappointment in his friends (Job 6:14-21).

But the hardest thing that Job has lost is his belief that God loves him.

The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God’s terrors are marshaled against me (Job 6:4, NIV).

Ironically, it is because of God’s great love for Job that God has entrusted him with this trial! Satan suggested that Job’s love for God was really just love for his blessings – not for God, Himself. So God has entrusted his beloved Job to stand firm in this test to prove to Satan that God, alone, is worthy of our love.

And Job’s only comfort through this trial is that he has not “denied the Holy One” (Job 6:10).

So even though Job has sunk into complete despair and is devoid of all hope, he is standing firm in his faith in God. Satan has not won!

But here’s where I relate to Job the most… Job magnifies his pain because he seeks to know the “why” behind the suffering. How many of us have echoed Job’s question to God in the midst of suffering?? “Why me, Oh Lord??!!”

Why have you made me your target? (Job 7:21)

In Frances Bennett’s bible study on Job, (Job, Lessons in Comfort; CEP, 2009), she asserts that we must not seek after the “why” of suffering but the “Who.” She writes, “God teaches from Genesis to Revelation that all we really need to know is Who.”

Job has temporarily misunderstood God. He has assumed that God doesn’t love and care about him. This false belief has led him into hopeless despair. He needs to remember Who God is – and then the why of suffering will fade in the splendor of God’s character!

*Anything I’ve written about these chapters in Job, I have learned from Frances Bennett’s excellent teaching in her bible study on Job. I highly recommend her to you: Job, Lessons in Comfort.

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

Day 229: Has God rejected His people?

Psalm 106, 123, 137; Romans 11:1-24

Today’s Psalms must be read in the context of history. They were spoken by a people in exile… A people who probably wondered the same question with which Paul opened Romans 11… “Has God rejected His people?”

We know from Psalm 106 that the exiles looked backward in time to gain the answer to this question. As they contrasted Israel’s consistent rebellion with God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, they trusted that God had not rejected them, but rather, planned to restore them!

Paul also looked back through history to prove that God had NOT rejected his people, but, had preserved a remnant of faithful Jews who trusted in Jesus as their Messiah (11:5). But God has now opened the door of the Kingdom to the nations, so that we, Gentiles, have been given a great mercy from God!  We have been grafted into the family of Abraham and enjoy the same covenant promises given to the Patriarchs of the faith!

But Paul warns us that we must not become arrogant (11:18). There is no room for antisemitism among Christians. For if the “natural” branches (Jews) could be cut-off from the root – how much more could the “unnatural” branches (Gentiles) be cut-off (11:21)! Paul exhorts us to persevere in the faith by looking at both the kindness and judgment of God (11:22).

Paul is not teaching that we can lose our salvation. But he is encouraging us to continue in the faith – by running toward God’s kindness and away from his severity.

So consider the context of history if you are ever tempted to believe that God has rejected you. We, as objects of God’s mercy, must look backward to the saving work of Christ – and forward to the fulfillment of all of God’s Redemptive History – where the full number of Israel and the Nations will stand together in the enduring fellowship of the glory of our King!

Day 228: A Conundrum

Psalm 89, 102; Romans 10

Yesterday, in Romans 9, Paul taught that God predestines some people to be saved.

Today, in Romans 10, Paul teaches that God longs for ALL people to be saved (10:21) – AND saving faith comes through hearing the gospel (10:17)!

Even though these teachings seem to contradict one another, the Bible emphatically teaches both. We can’t say that God couldn’t have predestined some to be saved because He wants all to be saved. That argument goes against what the Bible teaches. And similarly, we can’t say that it doesn’t matter if we share the gospel because He has already determined who will be saved – or that God doesn’t desire all people to be saved just because He has only predestined some.

Somehow, Romans 9 AND Romans 10 are both true. And mysteriously, God has involved us in the blessing of “speaking” the gospel so that others will “hear” the gospel and be saved. Reconciling Romans 9 &10 is another area where our human perspective limits our understanding!

The Israelites also experienced a conundrum. As you read Psalm 89, the people were trying to reconcile God’s covenant promises with their dire circumstances of invasion and destruction. You can imagine their confusion! God had promised to establish David’s throne FOREVER. Solomon built God a house that was supposed to last FOREVER, Listen as they recounted God’s promise:

I will not violate my covenant
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David.
His offspring shall endure forever,
his throne as long as the sun before me.
Like the moon it shall be established forever,
a faithful witness in the skies” (Psalm 89:34-37).

The irony is thick as the people turn to describe their circumstances.

But now you have cast off and rejected;
you are full of wrath against your anointed.
You have renounced the covenant with your servant;
you have defiled his crown in the dust.
You have breached all his walls;
you have laid his strongholds in ruins (Psalm 89:38-40).

The people could not reconcile the truth of God’s covenant promise with the truth of Jerusalem’s destruction. Their limited perspective couldn’t possibly imagine how God would keep his promise. That God had not cast off or rejected them, that David’s crown was not defiled in the dust. It was impossible for them to look forward in history to see God establish His Kingdom with His only Son at the helm. Their only choice was to trust in God’s word and character in the midst of their conflicting circumstances.

When we are faced with what seems like conflicting information… When it is hard to reconcile God’s truths with our reality, we must give God the benefit of the doubt. Surely He knows something we don’t and surely we can trust that He knows what He is doing…. even if we don’t always fully understand. His word assures us that His will is always done – for His glory and for our good!

Day 206: A costly misstep

1 Chronicles 12-13; Acts 21:1-14

Chapter 13 begins the saga of returning the ark to Jerusalem. This act was significant because all Israel agreed to it (continuing the theme from chapters 10-12 of David unifying the nation), and it was an act of spiritual renewal. By bringing the symbol of God’s holy presence back into the assembly of the people, David was acting as both their military and spiritual leader.

The idea was great, but, unfortunately, the execution was poor… David did not ensure the ark was carried according to Mosaic law – that is – carried by the Levites via poles. Instead the ark was transported on a cart – similarly to the way the Philistines transported the ark when it was in their possession.

This was a costly oversight – when the oxen stumbled and the layman, Uzzah, reached out his hand to protect the ark, Uzzah was killed instantly by God.

This has always been a difficult passage for me. Why would God execute such severe judgment for an unintentional breach of the law when it seems He offers grace for far worse offenses?? This is a difficult question, but looking at the context for this and other similar instances can shed some light…

God acted in a similar fashion with Aaron’s sons (Leviticus 10) and against Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). In both cases, God was in the process of establishing His people.

  • In the case of Aaron’s sons, the tabernacle had just been built, and Aaron’s first sacrifice had just been accepted. On the same day, his sons “offered unauthorized fire before the Lord” and they were killed instantly. God would not let the impure actions of Aaron’s sons pollute the sacrificial system that had just been established.
  • In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, the church was in its infant stages. The Holy Spirit was working mightily among the people, and God would not tolerate the lies of this couple polluting his earliest congregation.

Similarly, the context of Uzzah’s death was during an essential “establishment period.” David was bringing the ark into his city to be the centerpiece of worship, attempting to unify the people around the Mosaic law. God would not tolerate impurity. Especially not in the beginning stages of re-establishing His people under the rule of David.

Finding a pattern to make sense of God’s actions might be helpful… but I think the bigger issue lies within my own heart… When I react to God’s actions in a toddler-type fashion, (i.e. “That’s not fair!”), I know that my perspective is askew. God has every right in his holiness to kill any of us in our sinfulness at any time. But because he is gracious and doesn’t do it very often, I can slip into an attitude of entitlement.

I need to be more like Paul… His perspective is more in line with reality. He knew he had no claim on his life (Acts 21:13)…that his life belonged totally to Jesus. Why has God granted us the privilege of life? To bring him glory in all that we do! Our lives were bought with the precious blood of the Lamb. Who am I to clutch my life tightly as if it were mine to lose? The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Day 103: Mysteries of the Kingdom

1 Samuel 10-12; Luke 13:22-35

Jesus’ teaching in Luke 13 is difficult for me.

And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ (Luke 13:23-25)

I’ve always been uncomfortable that there will be people left out of the Kingdom. Did God not choose them or did they not choose God? It’s one of the great mysteries of the faith…

There is a great tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. How can God be 100% sovereign AND man be 100% responsible for his choices? Herein lies the mystery.

1 Samuel 10 makes it very clear that God was sovereign over Saul and chose him to be king of Israel. Saul had nothing in himself to qualify him for king except God’s grace and anointing. But Saul failed to live a life worthy of his calling. Later, God removed the kingship from Saul because of his disobedience and failure to repent. Ultimately, Saul was held accountable for his decisions.

Did God make a mistake by choosing Saul? Absolutely not!  Then why did God choose Saul when He knew that Saul would disobey?? When I can’t untangle the mysteries of God, I look to God’s character for insight… Who is God? He is Sovereign over all, All-Powerful and the final Judge of all mankind. But what else is God? He is compassionate and kind. He is Good.

Listen to the compassion in Jesus’ words…

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Luke 13:34)

He is sovereign AND we are given the freedom to choose. Somehow, God uses our sinful choices to bring about the good of his big plan. God uses Saul’s disobedience and pride to mold David into a godly leader. And God uses Israel’s rejection to open the door for Gentiles to enter His Kingdom.

When all is revealed at the end of the age – we will see that all things were weaved together for GOOD!

Day 60: The man who tried to outwit God

Numbers 22-24; Mark 8:1-21

The King of Moab was scared. He watched as his neighbors were destroyed by those people – the Israelites. He knew he couldn’t defeat them in battle because He had heard of the power of their God. Instead of doing physical battle, he chose to do spiritual battle… He called upon the great pagan seer, Balaam. Surely, the seer could curse those people, and he, Balak, King of Moab, would stand victorious….

Ha! This king actually thought he could outwit the living God as he tried to manipulate the circumstances to his favor. The story that follows in Numbers 22-24 mirrors the absurdity of the Moabite king!

What do we learn from reading about God opening the eyes of the donkey and closing the eyes of the seer? Or opening the mouth of the donkey and watching the seer grovel on the ground? What do you think about God using the pagan seer, Balaam, to speak truth and blessings upon Israel?

Now contrast Balaam’s spiritual insight to the disciples in Mark 8. Their eyes had not yet been opened! They failed to see the spiritual truth in Jesus’ words about the leaven. How do we make sense of all this?

I’ll tell you what I learn… God can and will do whatever he wants whenever he wants. God also has ultimate control over spiritual understanding. He opens eyes to see and ears to hear. He does this in His own time and in His own way to accomplish His own purposes.

I’ll be frank… I’m sympathetic to the Moabite king… because just like Balak, I don’t like my circumstances! My days are spent caring for my brain-injured daughter. This is not the life I signed up for – but what can I do about it? Can I outwit the living God? No. The only thing I can do is throw myself at his feet and beg for mercy. I ask him to open my eyes to see his purposes. I ask him to give me ears to hear his Word. I ask for spiritual understanding and grace to serve my daughter with patience and compassion. I am at his mercy. And thankfully, He is a merciful God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones (Proverbs 3:5-8).