The Trouble with Evil

Job 14-16

Job 16 11 12a

I am (generally) a rule follower.  I love a good list of rules so I know exactly what I can and cannot do – and exactly what YOU can and cannot do.  I vividly remember having a long fuzzy imitation lion tail pinned to my rear end as punishment from my 2nd grade teacher for being a classic “Tattle Tail”.  For some reason she didn’t think she needed my help in sorting out who broke what rule when.  For some reason she thought the whole class would function smoother if everyone focused on their own behavior and sins – rather than rushing to point out and wait for punishment on everyone else’s sins.  For some reason I was the person suffering when my classmate got away with murder  – well, I don’t even remember what he or she got away with, but I know it didn’t include the loss of life.  I would have made a pretty good police officer, but I am not that brave, so I run a home daycare instead.  Even better – I make the rules AND I police them.

 

While Job is suffering from his huge losses he is also tormented by his questions for God regarding why am I the one suffering when I have worked hard to be righteous and follow your rules?  Why do the wicked get away with anything and everything – sometimes even murder.  Does God need me to point out to Him who broke what rule when?  Job and I echo the psalmist who wrote one of my favorites – Psalm 119 – “It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken” (vs 126) & “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” (vs. 136).  Get THEM God!  Not me.

 

In today’s reading we begin a second round of “counsel” from Job’s friends.  In the first round Eliphaz was a bit sympathetic with Job, but he has become edgier and less patient with Job and his questions.  However, rather than answer why the righteous suffer while the wicked get away with evil, Eliphaz spends his whole chapter arguing (quite incorrectly) that indeed, “All his days the wicked man suffers torment” (Job 15:20).  He would like to believe that the wicked never prosper – when in fact, we all know better. Eliphaz began with some truth: “Let him (the wicked) not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless, for he will get nothing in return.” (Job 15:31).  There will indeed be judgment and payback for those who do evil, but not on our time schedule – on God’s.  He is insinuating that since God pays back the wicked (now), and Job is suffering, Job must have been wicked and deserving of the trials.

 

Job’s rebuttal begins in painful chapter 16.  He starts by saying “Miserable comforters are you all” (Job 16:1).  And then he shares several nightmare images of how he feels God has attacked him: “God tears me in his anger and gnashes his teeth at me” (Job 16:9), “He has made me his target; his archers surround me” (Job 16:12,13), “Again and again he bursts upon me, he rushes at me like a warrior.” (Job 16:14).  And, Job goes on.  The only encouraging tidbit is at the end of the chapter when he alludes again to an intercessor who could plead with God on behalf of man and he also realizes that at least at death his suffering will end.  Not too cheery.

 

It’s really a depressing few chapters as we fail to see the big picture, but just get a snippet of the erroneous arguments, poor examples of comforters and a picture of a man deeply struggling with loss, grief, evil and his vision of God.  If only Psalm 73 had already been written – it would have been a perfect interlude for Job that offers real truth and hope.  It’s like a mini book of Job, all in one Psalm.  I encourage you, even though it is not part of today’s reading – turn there and read the Psalm.  The writer, Asaph, begins with similar questions as Job – after all, who hasn’t asked them?  Why do the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer (sometimes with a tattle tail pinned to their behind, pointing finger still in the air)?  Take special note of verse 16 & 17.  What made the difference in Asaph’s understanding?  How, where, when can we do what Asaph did?  Does verse 21 & 22 remind you of Job, or maybe even yourself at some point? What did Asaph gain from his new perspective and understanding?  How can we put ourselves in a position that is near God? (verse 28).

 

Today I will leave you with just one more final question.  This one comes from the NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups which is chock full of great discussion questions.  In a reflection section relating to Psalm 73 they ask, “How would you explain to a child why God does not knock down bullies and troublemakers at school?”

 

God Bless Your Seeking with Growth & Love,

Marcia Railton

Recovering Tattle Tail Seeking God’s Sanctuary

 

 

Here’s today’s passage to read or listen to – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+14-16&version=NIV

And – here’s Psalm 73, your bonus chapter for the day https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+73&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 17-20 as we follow the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Twisting Truth

Job 6-9

Job 9 19 NIV

This week we will be reading through the bulk of the book of Job, from chapter 6 to 31.  Job has already been struck with monstrous trials: the loss of his material goods and livelihood, the loss of all 10 children at once, a painful disease that affects his entire body from his head to his toes, and a wife who tells him to curse God and die.  We know that these ordeals were not a result of God’s judgement on Job for some large, grievous, hidden sin because in Job 1:8 we heard God’s description of Job – “he Is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” However, in this week’s reading we will hear many conversations between Job and his friends who came to console him, but then turned to some questionable counsel instead.

 

I admire his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, for coming alongside their suffering friend.  Job 2:11-13 says when they heard of Job’s distress they made a plan to meet together to visit Job to sympathize and comfort.  When they saw him they wept – and then they sat with him in silence for seven days and seven nights.  To think, how often do I have trouble finding the time to send a card to a hurting friend?  These friends had the best intentions and were giving of themselves in a time of crisis.  But, good intentions are not always enough.

 

Along with their good intentions, they also were armed with some very true and accurate knowledge of God.  Throughout the passages this week there will be many times where Job’s friends – and Job himself – will share solid truths about God, His majesty, sovereignty, love, justice and faithfulness.  My favorite passage in today’s chapters of the truth of God’s majesty is from chapter 9, verses 4-12.  I didn’t know that the constellations (the Bear, Orion and Pleiades) were named so long ago.

 

But sometimes, even starting with good intentions and a knowledge of the truth (or some truth), is not enough.  This week I want us to look for instances where his friends (and sometimes Job) begin with their good intentions and a truth about God and mankind – but come up with false conclusions – such as – God is just and loving – so if you are suffering you must have done a terrible sin God is paying you back for.  And, while we search for those truths that were then twisted in the ancient book of Job, let us also search our society, our community, our church, ourselves.

 

And – two verses that are a beautiful nugget too good to not repeat:

“He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him,
that we might confront each other in court.
33 If only there were someone to mediate between us,
someone to bring us together”

Job 9:32 & 33

The older NIV version in place of “someone to bring us together” says “to lay his hand upon us both”.  I love the imagery.  Thank you, God, for the gift of your Son Jesus who has a hand on us and a hand on you, that he sees us in our suffering and speaks to you on our behalf.

 

Stay in His Word as you Seek Grow & Love in 2020!

Marcia Railton

 

You can read or listen to Job 6-9 here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+6-9&version=NIV

And you can print our Bible reading plan here – 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Accepting Adversity

Job Chapters 1-5

job 2 10

Job is considered a book of wisdom literature, and it speaks to us today as much as it did thousands of years ago, bringing us great wisdom in our hardest moments. Job was placed under a pressure test of faith, one which many of us can empathize with. In a test of faith, Job lost his home, his income, his children, and suffered from physical ailments. The only thing that Job had left was a wife who told him to “curse God and die” – hardly a blessing to him. Job goes through a roller-coaster of emotions after this, at some points blessing God for his predicament, and at others, challenging God’s goodness. Job’s “friends” try to assist him and give him an answer for why these things have happened to him, but are not helpful in the slightest.

 

Many of us can relate to Job’s predicament. If you have ever lost a loved one, it is very easy to blame God for “taking” them. Through times of severe illness, one wonders where God is and what He is doing to help me. When someone goes through a time of serious financial crisis, it is difficult to see God’s provision through the struggle. However, as we read through the story of Job, we become encouraged that God hasn’t gone anywhere; sometimes difficult situations are used to test our faith in God, making us stronger than ever.

 

You may be going through a difficult situation right now, for which there may be no answer. If you aren’t going through a situation like this currently, you will go through one eventually. It is important to remember that our situations and struggles do not define us, and they do not define God’s character. God is good all the time, even through the most difficult times of life. We are also still valuable in His sight, and have not gone unnoticed, through our struggles. Jesus encourages us that we are the most valuable creation that God has made, and that “every hair of our head is numbered.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

 

I wish to challenge you today to consider your challenges as a joy, since God is testing your faith in Him, making you stronger (see James 1:2-4). Through every struggle, you will eventually make it through to the other side. God has not abandoned you in your hurt and suffering, but is waiting on you to call out to Him. It is okay to be upset and not understand what is happening, but we must never lose our faith in the Creator. He is perfect, even when we cannot see it.

 

Talon Paul

 

You can read or listen to today’s passage at  – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+1-5&version=NIV

Most scholars believe the book of Job was written in very early history – so we will pause with our reading of Genesis and spend the next 12 days in Job, and then return to Genesis. You can consult or print the yearly chronological Bible reading plan here 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

James 1 12

The Struggle with Sin Continues

January 3 – Genesis 8-11 

Genesis 9 20 NIV.png

Genesis 8-11 is a story of great hope and promise, and also a tragedy that reminds us all of our brokenness before God. After the great flood that God brought on the earth to remove all the sinful people, He is now ready to start over with Noah and his family. God gives them the same commands that He gave to Adam and Eve: “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (9:1) The story appears to have taken care of humanity’s disobedience; unfortunately, that’s not the case. Noah apparently is just as sinful as everybody else, falling into a drunken stupor, and then something suspicious happens with his son, Ham. While we don’t know exactly what happened in this scene, we do know that it was sinful, as Ham’s son is cursed because of what took place.

 

This story should remind us all of just how broken we truly are. Although we have been redeemed by God through Jesus’ sacrifice and have escaped from the Final Destruction through his death, we still fall short and sin against our God. (Romans 3:23) The apostle Paul tells us his own struggle with sin, by stating that “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) He continues and says that, although his status is “in Christ”, his body still struggles to do the right things and falls into sin (Romans 7:18-25).

 

If you have accepted Christ, you are now experiencing a tension within yourself: the battle between the Spirit and the flesh (see Romans 8). Although you know that you have been saved by Jesus Christ, and desire to do the right thing, your “flesh” still struggles with sin. This is a constant struggle that we will face until Jesus comes back to finally deal with sin completely, in our hearts and in the world. This is a struggle that is painful and reminds us daily that “no one is righteous” before God (see Romans 3:9-12). However, it is a blessing, since God’s Spirit is working within us to clean up the areas where we are still dirty with sin.

 

Today, I challenge you to be aware of the decisions that you make. Is this something that is in line with God’s Spirit, or is it something that would be considered a “deed of the flesh”? (Galatians 5:16-25) Does the action I am about to take bring life or death? Does it build others up, or does it tear them down? Is it beneficial to my faith, or is it a barrier?

 

As you struggle along this journey of the Christian path, I want to encourage you that the hardship is absolutely worth it in the end! God loves you and is with you through this!

 

Talon Paul

 

 

Print your yearly reading plan here –  2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read, or listen, to today’s passage here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+8-11&version=NIV

The Cure for Death

January 2 – Genesis 4-7

Genesis 6 11 niv

The tragedy of the Garden of Eden continues, as we see the effects of the humans’ disobedience played out in a very real way. Brothers begin to kill each other, women are taken as “prizes to be won”, destruction throughout God’s creation grows exponentially, and even angels begin to break their commitment to God, coming down to mate with human women! (Depending on your interpretation of Genesis 6) God’s solution is to “clean the slate” and destroy humanity with a flood, starting from scratch with Noah and his family. It is surprising that things got this bad, right? Well, maybe it’s not as surprising as we may think…

 

We are told in 2 Peter 2:4-10 that this event happened “as an example” of what will happen when God returns to earth again; sinful humanity will be destroyed again, leaving only “the righteous” left on earth to inherit God’s Kingdom. In 1 Peter 3:18-22, we are told that we have the opportunity to be saved from this destruction through the sacrifice of Jesus and responding in faith by being baptized. Thankfully, we are also told in 2 Peter 3:3-9 that God is being patient with us all about bringing this destruction, desiring that everybody in the world come to repentance and faith in Jesus, so that they can be saved.

 

While this may seem like a very dark devotion, it should motivate us and make us appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus made even more. It is only because of Jesus’ willingness to die on our behalf that we have the opportunity at salvation in God’s Kingdom (see Ephesians 2:8-10), not because of anything we have done. God has been gracious and provided us a way out of destruction through His son, all because He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us.

 

This story should also motivate us to share this message with our loved ones, giving them the opportunity to be saved as well. If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep that information to yourself, or would you share with everybody that you came into contact with? This message is even greater than that; it is the cure for death itself, and a promise for immortality. Why are we not sharing with people every chance we get?

 

As you go about your day today, I want you to remember three things from this story:

  1. Your actions have real consequences, so think before you act
  2. God loves you and has provided a way for you to spend eternity with Him
  3. You need to love someone enough today to share the gospel with them, giving them a chance at salvation

 

As you consider and act on these three things, I will be praying for you!

Talon Paul

 

Day 2 of 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Today’s passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+4-7&version=NIV)

 

Believing the Lies

January 1 – Genesis 1-3

Genesis 3 4 (NIV)

The opening chapters of Genesis play out like a graphic novel, presenting us with the dream scenario where the world is perfect, God is dwelling among His creation, and human beings are in perfect relationship with each other and their Creator. Unfortunately, the scene does not last very long, as the human beings forget their Creator and disobey, bringing an end to God’s perfect world. They start to blame each other, are ashamed of the way that they look, and are separated from God’s presence. It is a terrible tragedy, but one that we still experience today.

 

At the very core of this story, and the reason that the humans disobeyed God, is because they believed a lie rather than the truth of their Creator. The serpent in the garden promised the humans that if they ate of the forbidden fruit, that they would “be like God, knowing good and evil.” What is tragic about this story is that the humans are already like God, being made in His image (1:26-28)! They did not believe the words spoken by their Creator, and instead, let the lies spoken by the serpent define and destroy them.

 

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a story of the past, but a daily struggle that every human being faces today. The teenage boy is told that he isn’t worth anything because he failed to perform well at a sporting event. The young girl is told that she is ugly because she doesn’t match what the pictures show in the magazines. The elderly man is told that he is no longer useful since he can’t operate the same way as he could in his youth. The barren woman is told that she has no purpose because she struggles to bear children in this world. And the list continues to go on and on…

 

These are all lies that the serpent still tells God’s creation, in order to drive them into despair and death (see John 10:10). We see and feel this on a daily basis; we all buy into the lies of the serpent, forgetting the truths that God pronounces over each of us. Scripture tells us that God loves us (John 3:16), that He has plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), that we are chosen in Christ (Ephesians 1:4), that we are forgiven of our sins in Jesus (Romans 8:1), and that God made each and every one of us in a very special, personal way (Psalm 139:13-14).

 

Today, I want to encourage you to listen to the truths of your Father and forget the lies you’ve been told. You are valuable. You are precious. You are loved. You belong to Him. God cares deeply for you, and wants you to come into a real relationship with Him like our ancestors had in the Garden of Eden. Come before Him through the blood of Jesus and rest, knowing that your Creator tells you the truth.

 

Talon Paul

 

Day 1 of the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Here’s a link to BibleGateway.com where you can read, or listen to, today’s passage:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+1-3&version=NIV