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Archive for Job

Mar
15

Out of the Ashes

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After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite did as the Lord commanded them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring. So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. He named his first daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land no women were as lovely as the daughters of Job. And their father put them into his will along with their brothers. Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life.

(Job 42:7-17, NLT)

I heard a story about a man who left his house one day for exercise. As he jogged down the street, he was approached by a man in a mask who had a knife. The man cut the jogger and took his money. Moments later the jogger was found on the sidewalk. Emergency Medical Services soon arrived and took him by ambulance to the nearest hospital. After a brief evaluation in the emergency room, he was rushed into surgery, where he was approached by a man in a mask with a knife who cut him and took his money.

Suffering is a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

I believe the purpose of the Book of Job is to help us frame our questions about suffering. Is God fair? Is God just? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do the righteous suffer? But the answers to those questions are incomplete in this story, especially when everyone lives happily ever after. I’m happy for Job and others whose suffering concludes with a sigh of relief, but for many, if not most people, it doesn’t end that way.

Job helps us frame the questions, but the real answers we seek come from Jesus.

Think about some interesting parallels.

Jesus faced a test from Satan following his baptism.
Jesus met popular acclaim in the early days of his ministry, which was short lived.
Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, while his three friends slept.
Jesus was betrayed, then denied.
Jesus was falsely accused.
Jesus was offered up to the crowds in a popularity contest with a felon, which he lost.
Jesus was beaten, then crucified.
Jesus was buried.

Surely there are one or more items on that list that you can personally identify with. But for the Christian, Jesus rose from the “ashes” of death to proclaim his victory over sin, death and the grave. And because he is risen, we know that we, too, shall rise from the ashes of our suffering. Our happily ever after may not come in this earthly existence, but we can be confident that in eternity, we will indeed rise from the ashes.

There is no singular answer as to why people suffer. Bad things do happen to good people. But the story of Jesus is the ultimate good news story. Bad things happened to him so that good things can happen to us!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series from the Book of Job. My prayer for you is that you maintain hope in the midst of whatever you’re facing today, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith!

Categories : Job, Unfair
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Mar
13

Out of the Whirlwind

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Affixed atop my county courthouse is a statue of Lady Justice. She presides over those who enter each day, reminding them of two important things. There are the balance scales which symbolize fairness and equity, promising that all judgments will be based on the evidence. Then there is the blindfold, suggesting that justice is impartial.

Throughout the story of Job the reader sees the challenge that Job wrestles. He desired justice. He went so far, in fact, that he requested that God appear in a court room and present his case so that he could defend himself.

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)

After about 35 chapters of banter between Job and his “friends,” God had enough. Chapter 38 begins with God speaking to Job out of a whirlwind. If Job had an iPhone, the text message would have included an angry emoji. God posed 67 unanswerable questions about creation, the rhythms of creation, and the restraint of evil. God’s questions were so powerful that Job was left speechless. God had no interest in hearing Job’s challenges. Neither was he interested in telling Job why he was suffering.

God’s line of questioning revealed Job’s problem, pride. God said, “Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right?” (Job 40:8) I believe that Job was so good he could no longer see the goodness of God. But when God speaks, you listen. And you learn. And Job learned three important lessons.

First, he learned that God is sovereign. “Then Job replied to the LORD: ‘I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.” (Job 42:1-2)

Second, he learned that he had spoken from ignorance. “You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” (Job 42:3-5)

Finally, Job learned that he needed to repent of his pride. “I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (Job 42:6)

It is important to recognize that Job repented before his restoration, leading the reader to believe that Job would have been content to live the rest of his life in his current state of suffering and never utter another argumentative word in the direction of God again. The good news for Job is that he will soon rise from the ashes. The bad news? He would never know why he suffered as he did.

Categories : Job, Unfair
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Mar
07

Searching for Wisdom (part 2)

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God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”
(Job 28:23-28, NLT)

When we evaluate our suffering through the lens of justice, we are left with questions that focus on fairness, equity, and whether or not we are deserving of such pain. How could a good and loving God allow such tragedy? Why do bad things happen to good people? Those discussions are endless and unsatisfying.

It should be pointed out that some of our suffering may be the result of poor judgment or wrong behavior. And I believe that when those cause and effect relationships are in order, they are recognized. The majority of our questions are directed toward those instances when we cannot establish the cause and effect, such as in the case of Job.

There is an alternative, and that is the way of wisdom. When we look at suffering through the lens of wisdom, three things become evident that may be helpful to the righteous sufferer.

First, there is the consequence of creation. When God created the universe he set forth laws that are immutable and absolute. The creation account of Genesis 1-2 describes an ordering of creation, complete with these laws of nature that have been in place from the beginning. Take, for example, the law of gravity. Sir Issac Newton is the scientist credited with its discovery. And each of us is fully aware of the absolute truth of gravity. What goes up will, without a doubt, come down.

Second, there is the consequence of free will. Not only did God create the universe with laws that are immutable and absolute, he also gave the power of free will. In the same creation account, Adam and Eve, securely situated in the Garden of Eden, are given just one rule with outlined consequences. Don’t eat from the one tree. That was it. They had one rule, and they broke it.

Which brings me to number three, the consequences of the fall. Things went sideways at a breath taking pace following Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey. And the repercussions of that choice impacts each one of us today. The “fall” continues to make its presence known in our lives on a daily basis, and ultimately results in our physical deaths.

So how do we move forward in a positive fashion?

We begin by acknowledging the wisdom of God at work in the world. God is the source of all wisdom, and he is the place to begin. In addition to that, we can cultivate awe and wonder. Contemplating God’s vastness helps our hearts to know that the God who created all things also is the God who sustains all things. God is great enough to hold the universe in his hands, and personal enough to call me by name and know the number of hairs on my head. Which means he can be trusted. And when I learn to trust God, I can then come to him in my moments of pain and suffering and be loved by him.

Think of a small child who falls on the playground and skins his knee. He hobbles to his parent with tears in his eyes and reaches his arms to the sky, signifying his desire to be picked up and held. The parent sees what has happened and immediately sweeps the child up and holds the child. Few, if any words are spoken. The child is in pain and comes to his parent knowing that he will find comfort, compassion and strength to carry on. Healing will take place, but there may be a scar to serve as a reminder of the hurt. But the deepest memory will not be the pain. It will be the comfort felt in that deep and profound moment of suffering.

I am aware that large books have been written about suffering and that this is merely a blog post from a sermon I delivered. For me, though, the lens of wisdom is a valid way to approach our personal pain, and I hope you find it helpful.

Categories : Job, Unfair
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Mar
06

Searching for Wisdom (Job 28:1-28)

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In the middle of Job we find the wisdom chapter, Job 28. It serves as an intermission between Job’s dialogues with his three friends and his debates with a fourth friend named Elihu. In this chapter you will find Job searching for some sensibility as he evaluates his suffering. He cannot grasp why his calamity has happened, so he searches for wisdom.

I grew up in an era where a popular phrase was, “They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t (fill in the blank). For Job, the modern scientific and technological advance was mining for ores and gemstones. The first 11 verses of this chapter is a wonderful description of what human kind could accomplish through brains and brawn, tunneling deep into the earth to discover and retrieve the natural resources hidden from the surface. He states, “But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding? No one knows where to find it, for it is not found among the living” (Job 28:12-13, NLT). In other words, “They can mine the depths of the earth for natural resources, but they can’t explain why I’m suffering!”

Job noticed that this elusive wisdom cannot be discovered in the skies nor beneath the surface of the waters. “It is hidden from the eyes of all humanity. Even the sharp-eyed birds in the sky cannot discover it. Destruction and death say, ‘We’ve only heard rumors of where wisdom can be found'” (Job 28:21-22, NLT). Job had searched high and low, and was left empty.

But then there’s God.

God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”
(Job 28:23-28, NLT)

The story of Job shows his struggle to find justice. In this chapter, however, he is concerned with wisdom. What if we took the old narrative about justice and fairness and instead, looked at our suffering through the lens of wisdom? I’ll take that question up in my next post.

Categories : Job, Unfair
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Mar
04

Job’s Complaint (Job 3:1-26)

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1 At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said:
3 “Let the day of my birth be erased,
and the night I was conceived.
4 Let that day be turned to darkness.
Let it be lost even to God on high,
and let no light shine on it.
5 Let the darkness and utter gloom claim that day for its own.
Let a black cloud overshadow it,
and let the darkness terrify it.
6 Let that night be blotted off the calendar,
never again to be counted among the days of the year,
never again to appear among the months.
7 Let that night be childless.
Let it have no joy.
8 Let those who are experts at cursing—
whose cursing could rouse Leviathan—
curse that day.
9 Let its morning stars remain dark.
Let it hope for light, but in vain;
may it never see the morning light.
10 Curse that day for failing to shut my mother’s womb,
for letting me be born to see all this trouble.
11 “Why wasn’t I born dead?
Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb?
12 Why was I laid on my mother’s lap?
Why did she nurse me at her breasts?
13 Had I died at birth, I would now be at peace.
I would be asleep and at rest.
14 I would rest with the world’s kings and prime ministers,
whose great buildings now lie in ruins.
15 I would rest with princes, rich in gold,
whose palaces were filled with silver.
16 Why wasn’t I buried like a stillborn child,
like a baby who never lives to see the light?
17 For in death the wicked cause no trouble,
and the weary are at rest.
18 Even captives are at ease in death,
with no guards to curse them.
19 Rich and poor are both there,
and the slave is free from his master.
20 “Oh, why give light to those in misery,
and life to those who are bitter?
21 They long for death, and it won’t come.
They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure.
22 They’re filled with joy when they finally die,
and rejoice when they find the grave.
23 Why is life given to those with no future,
those God has surrounded with difficulties?
24 I cannot eat for sighing;
my groans pour out like water.
25 What I always feared has happened to me.
What I dreaded has come true.
26 I have no peace, no quietness.
I have no rest; only trouble comes.”
(NLT)

After sitting in silence for seven days with his friends, Job broke the silence with a powerful and disturbing monologue. Picture him sitting in the dirt. His past is lost, his future is empty, his present is painful. How did Job arrive at this dark, emotional state?
Think about it for a moment.

Time had passed and he has had time to think. As kids say today, “he’s stuck in his own head.”

His friends demonstrated they believed his situation was hopeless. Seven days, after all, was the ancient period of silent grief for one who had died.

Maybe he thought his wife was right after all. She had encouraged him to “curse God and die.” Maybe?

The memory of his past was gone. There was no sign of reflection about any of the good he experienced before his profound losses.

Finally, heaven was silent. Where was God? Where is God?

Job conveyed an image of complete and total hopelessness regarding his present state.

Reflecting on these piercing words of grief, what can we apply from his words as we think about our own suffering? I think we’ve all had our moments of feeling lost, helpless and hopeless.

First, his story and his words are a strong reminder that Christians are not exempt from suffering. Jesus, the man of grief, acquainted with sorrows, experienced suffering. And if Jesus wasn’t exempt from suffering, who are we to think we should not have to suffer in life? (Isaiah 53:1-10)

Second, Christians are not exempt from questions and feelings during suffering. Again, Jesus expressed some strong words himself when from the cross he cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Finally, though Job does not know his end, we know ours, and because of Jesus’ resurrection we shall rise again! We have hope, not because we are good, but because Jesus is God and was raised to life on the third day, obtaining victory over sin, death and the grave!

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus understands our suffering because he suffered.
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus understands our questions because he had a few of his own.
And the good news of the gospel is that Jesus understands our final outcome in life because he is risen!

Categories : Job, Unfair
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Feb
27

With Friends Like These…

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His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. (Job 2:9-13, NLT)

What do you say to someone who is suffering? Often, people tend toward two extremes. Some will say wrong things, while others will say nothing out of fear of saying wrong things. Job’s suffering was great, and the conclusion of chapter 2 provides some helpful advice that we can put into practice.

Let me begin with the positive responses. First, Job’s friends came to be present with him. They didn’t avoid him and the suffering he experienced. Second, they were authentic. They threw dust in the air and demonstrated concern by tangibly showing their grief. Rather than exhibiting the stiff upper lip, they tangibly mourned alongside him. Third, they were silent. They didn’t speak a word. After all, what could one say? Finally, they stayed. For a full seven days they sat with him.

If you know the story of Job to any degree, you already know that the silence would eventually be broken and words would be spoken. Job’s wife and his three friends would all respond to his suffering in four unique ways, none of which proved helpful.

Take Job’s wife, for example. Her response was accusatory. In so many words, she demanded that Job either give up his claim to righteousness or give up his life. Blasphemy was viewed in ancient culture as punishable by death. They believed God would strike one down for cursing his name.

Job’s three friends spoke as well. There is Eliphaz, the prophet. His response to Job was based on experience and observation. He said, “My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same” (4:8). Next is Bildad, the traditionalist. He surveyed Job’s suffering based on the traditions handed down from previous generations. “But those who came before us will teach you. They will teach you the wisdom of old” (8:10). By far, Bildad the traditionalist was the most vicious speaker of the three. That leaves the third friend, Zophar the rationalist. He believed that the answers to suffering are found in reason and logic. His words are pragmatic, redundant, and cliche. “Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty? Such knowledge is higher than the heavens—and who are you? It is deeper than the underworld—what do you know? It is broader than the earth and wider than the sea” (11:7-9). Sounds like a bumper sticker, doesn’t it?

Job’s wife and friends shared the same conviction expressed from different angles. That is, the belief that Job was being punished for some sin he committed. They also believed that if he would appease God his suffering will end. And Job refused to have anything to do with any of it.

Which left Job with one final loss–his relationships. He is alone in his suffering.

It’s always easier to diminish God than it is to increase faith. Job is grasping for faith which is hard to do when you are suffering. It’s even harder to do when you are alone.

Categories : Job, Unfair
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Feb
13

Would You Rather?

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When my kids were younger we’d play a simple game called “Would You Rather?” The point of the game is simple. You’d be given two options and would have to choose one over the other. For example, would you rather lose your eyesight? Or your sense of hearing? Another example might be, would you rather be the poorest person on earth with excellent health? Or be the wealthiest person on earth with terrible health?

As I read Job chapter 2, I think Job would rather be the poorest person with excellent health. In chapter 1 he lost all of his material possessions and all ten of his children in a quick and sudden series of tragedies. But he still had his health, and he still maintained his faith. But check this out:

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. (Job 2:1-8, NLT)

Job’s suffering had reached unparalleled levels. In the first “test,” he experienced external loss. But in this second test, his loss touched him physically. Those who have experienced loss will acknowledge that there is a big difference between tolerating loss and tolerating pain.

The accusation of Satan was relentless. Having lost the first round, Satan redoubled his efforts by claiming that deep down, Job (or any of us, for that matter) only cared for himself. The idiom “skin for skin” can be understood as “life for life.” In other words, Satan wagered that if Job had to pick between his personal faith and physical suffering, he would pick himself. Guaranteed. Furthermore, he inferred that Job had not really been tested, given his clean bill of health.

So Satan was released to harm Job with the limitation of taking Job’s life.

A careful reading of the text reveals at least three ways Job suffered. First, and most obviously, he suffered physically. Scholars have debated for centuries what this illness may have been. Some suggest leprosy, others elephantiasis. No one is certain, but Job is described as covered with boils, which would have inflicted a great deal of pain and discomfort.

He also suffered materially. If you think about it, the medicine of choice in ancient times was olive oil. But like today, medicines cost money. Having lost everything financially, Job is reduced to “self-medicating” and does so by taking the refuse of the common man, broken pottery, and using that broken shard to lance and scrape the boils hoping for relief. Think for a moment how your suffering could be compounded without access to health insurance!

Finally, he suffered socially. Job is pictured as sitting in ashes. I believe these were the ashes of the local landfill which served as the location of burning piles of garbage as well as the home of those declared “unclean” due to their physical disease.

Its hard to identify with such suffering. But Jesus can. There is no mistaking the amount of physical suffering Jesus endured on the cross, where he is pictured as stripped of the only earthly possession he claimed–the clothes on his back. Jesus not only suffered in destitution, he suffered alone, having been crucified on the outskirts of Jerusalem near the local garbage dump. (Hebrews 12:12-13)

Jesus identified with Job’s suffering, and he identifies with your suffering, whatever that may be. No one is comforted by stories of those who have it worse than you, for your suffering is your suffering and it is difficult. But we can all be helped by the stories of those who have walked similar roads, for it is in knowing those stories that we are reminded that we are not alone.

Categories : Job, Unfair
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Feb
11

Give and Take

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Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”
In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
(Job 1:20-22, NLT)

In one day, within a matter of moments in fact, Job went from one of the greatest men on earth to the least of men. He lost his entire wealth, his servants and his family. The loss Job experienced in incomprehensible. We know people who have lost material possessions. And we know people who have tragically lost a child. But to lose all one owns plus all of their children in quick succession is beyond anything we can imagine.

How would you respond?

How did Job respond?

Job responded by defaulting to his spiritual preparation. The man who was noted for his close relationship with God turned to Him for comfort in an act of worship. Job had invested in spiritual resources throughout the course of his life, and had spiritual resources to draw from in abundance when the bottom fell out of his life.

If you closely examine his worship, you’ll see that Job came to God authentically. His body language speaks of his sincerity. There were no masks, no cliches, and no “pat answers.”

In his expression of worship he also acknowledged God as the source of his blessings. He didn’t take credit for what he possessed. Neither did he indicate that his wealth and family was the sum of his identity. The blessings he enjoyed came from the hand of a generous God.

At the same time, Job affirmed God’s right to repossess the possessions and blessings he had bestowed. He didn’t blame God, nor did he call God unfair or unjust. The Lord who had given is the same Lord who reserves the right to take.

Job’s vulnerable act of worship reveals his belief that when life is hard, God remains the same. That’s a powerful lesson for those of us who experience loss. Job worshiped as sincerely during the dark night of his soul as he did when all was right with the world.

If I were to offer a takeaway from this portion of Job it would be this. Don’t let all that’s wrong with life keep you from worshiping all that’s right with God. He may not have understood. But he didn’t abandon faith. His bank account may have been depleted, but his spiritual reserves would carry the day.

Categories : Job, Suffering
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Jan
27

One Day:: 2

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One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news: “Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

(Job 1:13-19, NLT)

Even though Satan is the chief mischief maker in the universe, he cannot operate beyond the boundaries established by God. Having established the boundary of Job’s physical life, Satan left the presence of God and began reeking havoc. In one given day, Job lost everything. His flocks, his servants and his children were all swept away by bad guys and bad weather. None of those forces would have been perceived uncommon in Job’s day, but to happen all at once would have left him devastated. Through it all, the hand of God was concealed and the hand of Satan unsuspected.

What do we make of Job’s situation thus far? What lessons can be applied?

First, life should be lived with a profound sense of humility. Life is a gift that we cannot afford to take for granted. We are not entitled to any of the blessings God has granted. We didn’t earn them and we certainly cannot guarantee that they will remain a part of our lives by our own efforts. As the famous holocaust survivor Corrie TenBoom once remarked, “I have learned to hold on to the things of this world very loosely because it hurts too badly when God has to pry my fingers apart.”

Second, we must cultivate the spiritual resources we need today so we will have those resources available to draw from when tragedy strikes. Think of it as retirement planning. Those who are wise have and continue to plan for retirement by putting resources away for the future. When retirement comes, they are able to do so because they have prepared in advance. The same principle is true of spiritual principles. Job had cultivated a life of character and integrity, fearing God and turning from evil. Because of the spiritual resources he developed as a routine part of his life, he had those resources to draw from during his time of devastating loss. Not even God can draw something from you that you have not intentionally invested. If we have not made those investments into our spiritual lives, we will find ourselves spiritually destitute if and when we need to make a significant withdrawal. We’ll see more evidence of Job’s spiritual investments in the next section of this story.

Categories : Job, Suffering
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Jan
24

One Day

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One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan. Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”
Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”
Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.
(Job 1:6-12, NLT)

On May 1, 1915, nearly 2,000 passengers boarded a luxury ocean liner at Pier 54 in New York destined for Liverpool, England. People were anxious, because Great Britain and Germany were at war, and the charted course would call for the Lusitania to navigate dangerous waters. Germany had placed ads in American newspapers warning them not to travel on British ships, and many heeded the warning. However, approximately 200 Americans chose to take the risk and make the trip. The first several days of the journey were uneventful, but on the morning of May 7, the ship found itself in dense fog and 100 miles from its destination. As the fog lifted around noon, a German U-boat spotted the Lusitania and fired a torpedo into the starboard side of the ship. The explosion triggered a second explosion, and within 20 minutes the ship turned on its side and sank. The tragic event was instrumental in the United States decision to enter what we now refer to as World War I. And it all happened as the result of one day.

The story of Job begins by introducing him as a man who was, in the words of God, “the finest man on earth.” This introduction is followed by a conversation that is staged at the throne of God in the heavenlies. We are presented with “the Satan,” who is pictured as wandering the earth. Though he wanders, his wandering is not aimless. This adversarial accuser stands poised to create mischief throughout the earth. The reader is reminded of Peter’s description in 1 Peter 5:8 where he reminds us that Satan “roams the earth, to and fro, seeking whom he may devour.”

As the conversation unfolds, God points out his servant Job. Satan immediately flung his arrows of accusation, claiming that the only reason Job is devout is because God has blessed him and protected him from harm. Inherent in this accusation is the finger pointed at God, suggesting that God has blessed Job in exchange for his devotion. So a challenged is proposed: take all that he has and Job will no longer worship God. The challenge is accepted, with limitation. Satan is released to undertake his work, but forbidden to touch Job himself.

The essence of the challenge is this. Is God so good he can be loved for himself? Will a person hold on to God when there are no benefits attached? The test of Job is a good question for us. Do we love God for who he is? Or do we love him for the gifts he bestows?

Several years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a mission trip to the rural regions of Haiti. It was less than primitive. We were 100 miles from a telephone. The nearest power outlet was the same distance. The terrain was so rugged it took nearly 17 hours and 5 tire changes just to get to the orphanage where we would stay. It was third world conditions.

To our surprise, the first morning we were awakened at dawn by the local villagers having choir practice. These men and women sang in full voice, brimming with joy and enthusiasm. My friend Greg, who was on the trip, made an observation I’ll never forget. He said, “If these people, living in these conditions, can sing like that at 5:30 in the morning, I’ll never complain about singing in church again!” These Haitian men and women loved God for who he is, no strings attached. And we will soon find that Job did too.

Categories : Job, Suffering
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