But it is Fleeting – so Live Wisely!
Just who are the wicked? What does it take to wear that label? The three friends have talked much about the fate of the wicked – and they have even placed Job among the ranks of the wicked. Job often speaks of the wicked – and hotly contests that he is NOT one of them. How do you know? How can you tell? What is the criteria for wickedness? Is it possible there are many who will be surprised to learn they fall within God’s wicked classification? We don’t ask these questions to play judge and jury on the rest of the world – but for the very real task of keeping ourselves where we need to be. On the wicked-righteous continuum we have some strong candidates for either extreme, but what about everyone else? It gets quite muddled in the middle. It’s a big question for a little devotion – but let’s see what we find here in the pages of Job.
First of all, let’s restate from previous days that we can’t tell who is evil by seeing who is suffering – as Job’s friends are arguing. Yes, sometimes our sins bring very real consequences of suffering. And, yes, wicked people will ultimately be judged and pay for their wickedness. However, suffering does not necessarily equate with wickedness. In Job’s case we know that God was pleased with Job’s righteousness, but still allowed Satan’s attacks against him, even though He would be blamed for them. There are many reasons one may be experiencing suffering (more on that another day soon), but we cannot assume that all suffering people must be wicked people.
We can find some truth regarding the wicked in Zophar’s speech in chapter 20. He says, “For he (the wicked) has oppressed the poor and left them destitute” (Job 20:19). We know this is true of the wicked from many other passages, including the separating of the sheep (the righteous) and the goats (the unrighteous/wicked) in Matthew 25. In this parable how well you do – or do not – care for others, especially the disadvantaged/least of society (those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers in need of being invited into your home, the cold and underdressed, the sick, the prisoner) will determine whether you are ultimately saved with the righteous or doomed with the wicked. I don’t know about you, but this convicts me. I have some work to do on regularly seeing the needs around me and adding these commitments and opportunities to my calendar – actually making them a priority not just an intention. In this parable many believers were surprised by their placement with the wicked – and I believe that will be true in the day of judgment as well. Seriously take the time to evaluate and challenge yourself regularly.
Some people may be feeling pretty comfortable right now because they do make it a priority to care for others. But, there will be more than that required as well. In Bildad’s speech in chapter 19 the evil man is synonymous with, “one who knows not God.” (Job 18:21). Looking ahead to chapter 21 Job says of the wicked: “They say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?’ ” (Job 21:14,15) To know God and know His ways – so you can serve. Faith and deeds. How do we know God and know His ways? Reading His Word is the best way I know. I fear there are many today who would much rather create their own god with their own ways. So they create a god who condones their actions and attitudes and beliefs. It is a trap we could all fall into – unless we are grounded in seeking out and knowing the One True God and His ways which are revealed for us in His Word.
It is that grounded faith in God that is keeping Job going even as his world is falling apart. He is hurting. He is questioning. He is still believing. He knows that his Redeemer (the one who will care for him) lives and he can not wait for the day he will see him face to face (Job 19:25-27). May we too look forward to that day – and not be caught by surprise.
Know Him and His Ways and Serve,
Today’s reading of Job 17-20 can be read or listened to here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+17-20&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 21-23 as we progress through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan
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,
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
Luke Chapter 12
So much in this chapter keeps pointing back to the Kingdom. It’s no accident. I have heard some Christians describe life as one big test. Are you going to live your life in a way that honors God, and thus reap the reward? Or are you going to live your life for yourself, and be judged accordingly?
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.
A young girl that was alleged to have been asked if she believed in God during the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, with the knowledge that answering in the affirmative could end her life, comes to mind when I read those last two passages. She said yes. Around the world today, people are still being put to death for refusing to deny their faith in Jesus Christ. What would you say in these same circumstances?
A bit later, worriers (like me) are advised and encouraged NOT to worry. Your Heavenly Father will provide what you need. You don’t need to be rich or famous, and in fact, those are huge detriments and distractions from your real purpose anyway. Don’t let the worries and distractions of this world, which have no impact on your future inheritance, get you off track. Verse 31 says, “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” God WILL take care of your basic needs. I know there are plenty of things to worry about in this life, but much of our worry ends up having been completely needless. Even when you do have very serious things to be concerned about, remember that no one and no thing can take away your inheritance in the Kingdom. You need not worry about that.
Lastly we are encouraged to be vigilant, always ready to take ownership of the parcel designated as yours in the Kingdom, for we do not know the exact hour Jesus will return, or the exact hour that our time in this world will end. NOTHING in this temporary world is worth risking your place in the coming eternal world.
As we approach chapter fourteen together, John sees four, possibly five, more visions, all depicting the fates of those who are allegiant to the Lamb (Jesus) and those who aren’t. In our world today, people want you to just let people believe what they believe and not challenge their worldview. However, if we trust what Revelation is telling us, it would not be loving for us to allow people to continue living in sin and falsehood. We need to speak up into the lives of our loved ones, because according to chapter fourteen, their fates will not be good if they don’t join the Lamb’s army (the Church). Ultimately, the letter of Revelation is meant to call people to repent and follow the Lamb before time runs out, and we need to do the same.
John sees the same 144,000 from chapter 7 that have the “mark” of God on their foreheads, standing on top of Mount Zion, looking ready for a battle. These are those who have been purchased by the blood of the Lamb; in other words, these are Christians. We learn that their fate is sealed, and their future looks bright! However, John moves forward to describe what awaits everybody else…
An angel is seen, calling people to “fear God and give Him glory”, or repent of their ways (14:7). Another angel warns that “Babylon the great” has fallen, which will be described later on in chapters 17-19. This Babylon, in my interpretation, is a vivid description of Rome once again, as those are the only two nations to ever destroy the Jerusalem Temple. However, those that are within Babylon the great, or those that have worshiped the beast, they will drink the “wine of the wrath of God”, going through torment in fire and brimstone, just like Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 19). These people will eventually be burned up with this fire, but it will be an extremely painful experience.
John then uses the illustration of a grape harvest, in which grapes are thrown into a winepress and squeezed out, causing blood to flow everywhere. It is a graphic image, but a powerful one nonetheless. Those who refuse to worship God and the Lamb will face His wrath, being destroyed completely when Jesus returns. Why would anyone choose to go through this? Unfortunately, many choose to do so.
This message should motivate us to speak up to our friends and family about what Jesus has done. He has saved us from this coming wrath, and now offers that same salvation to anyone who would come follow after him. Of course we love our friends and family and don’t want them to go through the terrifying judgment to come. So speak up! Live out your faith today! Share the good news with whomever you come across! Jesus is coming, and we don’t have much time left.
When I graduated high-school and went to my Prom I was invited to several ‘after-prom’ parties. I knew that there would be drinking and other activities at these parties that I didn’t care to participate in. I declined several invitations and have never been sorry for that decision. What I did instead , was go with a few friends after prom to Dairy Queen and have ice cream sundaes and then back to my house where we watched a movie until the wee hours of the morning. My classmates all knew that I was a Christian and I most of all wanted to stay true to my Christian values as would be pleasing to Christ. In 1 Peter 4 the apostle Peter reminds the early Christians to stay true to their righteous values in a world that did not promote those values, amongst a people who would not understand or value their decision to behave righteously.
Our culture today is filled with sensuality (notice how little clothing some people and models wear), lust (always wanting more), and a constant appeal to the senses that drinking alcohol will make you popular, relaxed, fun to be around, etc. Now I’m not proposing that everyone go around in turtlenecks and never have a glass of wine here – But by being sensuous , lusty, or intoxicated we dishonor God and his good desires for our lives. People and friends may make fun of you for not choosing to participate in these activities but the apostle Peter reminds us in verse 5 that everyone will have to give an account before the Lord about what they chose to do, and how they conducted themselves in this life.
He goes on to encourage the early believers and us to lead lives of righteousness exercising good judgment, being diligent in prayer, loving others, being hospitable and doing what God has gifted us to do by His spirit for the encouragement and uplifting of others. In verse 11 he reminds us that God will give us the strength to do these things so that He will be glorified through our lives of righteousness.
We all one day will stand before the Lord to be judged for our actions. In the last part of the chapter we are told that we should not be found suffering for sins committed but rather that if we are found suffering it should be for the cause of following Christ in an ungodly world. We can trust God to be the righteous judge, for He is our creator and we can entrust our souls to Him.
Today’s chapter starts off with some details about how the tabernacle was set up. It gives some great descriptions of exactly what it would look like and makes it very tangible for readers. I love the little aside that the author gives at the end of verse 5 when they write “But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.” It makes me smile because I imagine someone who is so excited about sharing everything they have with the Hebrews, but has to contain themselves because they know they have more important things to discuss.
Now on to the “more important” things! At this point people would’ve known what priests had to do when going into the Most Holy Place and recognized the sacrifice that was required. The author here is giving the background information for the rest of the message to show the significance of Christ. It is explained that priests no longer had to go to a place made by humans that required continuing sacrifice of animals for forgiveness; Christ was able to enter the Most Holy Place by one sacrifice to obtain eternal redemption (vs. 11-12). This would’ve been a big deal in this time!
Verse 14 and 15 are great verses to meditate on for this chapter! “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” What a great verse to give us some perspective! We have a Savior who offered himself as a completely perfect sacrifice ONE TIME for the redemption of our sins that should’ve led to death. And why? So that we can not only serve the living God, but also so that we can be set free from our sins and receive eternal inheritance (vs. 15). That is simply amazing, friends!
There is so much more in this chapter that we could really unpack, but I don’t need to write a whole book so we’ll finish off with the final verses 😊
When we look at verse 27 there are two really big pieces that we need to recognize. The first is in verse 27 which reads “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” This key factor on the morality of humans is one of the many reasons Christianity differs from other religions. Here it says that people get one life to live, they die one time, and after will face judgment. The second piece shows me that people have a lifetime to seek forgiveness for their sins. It doesn’t say that we will face judgement after we do that one really bad sin, or that by the time we reach a certain age, etc. We will face judgment after death. With that in mind, we aren’t all guaranteed a long lifetime to seek that forgiveness. Are you living each day as if you could be judged the next moment? Are you continually serving the living God and asking for forgiveness when you fall short? Those can be some sobering questions to ask yourself.
Finally, in verse 28, we get a glimpse of that hope we have. “…And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Jesus is coming again! I want to be one of those who are waiting for him, and I hope you all do too! Today, how can your actions, thoughts, words, and choices reflect that you are waiting on Jesus’ return? Or, how can you encourage a brother or sister in Christ and remind them of his second coming?
If you had a chance to look into the future and see what was going to happen, would you want to? If you had a chance to get a peek at God’s throne room in Heaven, would you want to? John is given that chance. While he’s physically in exile on the Island of Patmos in the middle of the Mediterranean sea around 90 A.D. during a time of great persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, he is given a vision of the throne room of God Almighty. He is able to see God seated upon His throne, surrounded by angels. He sees seven scrolls that have been sealed by God. The question is, who is worthy to unseal the scrolls and reveal their contents? The answer is: the Lamb that was slain. Jesus is the only one worthy to unseal the royal scrolls and reveal their contents. The scrolls reveal what is about to happen.
Notices that there are 7 scrolls just as there were 7 churches. In the Bible, 7 is the number of completion. It took God 7 days to finish creating the earth (including a Sabbath rest). The number 7 will keep occurring through the book of Revelation. It’s completion, God is finishing the new creation, bringing this creation to an end. 7 scrolls reveal God’s plan to bring this world with it’s evil to a close.
As the scrolls are opened they reveal war, famine, earthquakes and other disasters resulting in wide scale death. God is beginning to bring His judgment upon the earth, and He is vindicating his people who have died as martyrs at the hands of the evil empire. (it sounds a little bit like Star Wars- Empires and those who suffer at the hands of the empire).
Imagine that you are a Christian living in this time and you want to be faithful to God, but it’s hard when you see a powerful empire destroying your fellow Christians by the sword, or burning in the fire, or throwing them to the lions or the gladiators in the arena. It might be tempting at times to give up and give in to the seemingly overwhelming force of the empire. But then you are permitted to look into the future and see that, eventually, the empire is destroyed, and those who died the death of the martyr are brought back to life and end up the true victors. That is what is happening here. The Christians are given a boost of confidence by seeing the ultimate victory of God and his people.
The trials and temptations that you and I face today may be different from those of 1st century Christians in the Roman empire. We may be tempted to turn away from our faith in order to be popular among our peers at school, or to fit in at the university. We may be tempted to abandon our morals in order to have fun. We might be tempted to cut corners in our jobs to get ahead. We might be tempted to abandon our allegiance to Jesus Christ for any number of reasons. But what if we could see into the future, what if the curtain that separates us in time and space were peeled back enough for us to see a glimpse of God, of Jesus, of the future… how everything ends, and realize that God is victorious and those who oppose God will be defeated, and that the rewards to following God and being faithful to Jesus Christ are great. Would that help during times when we are tempted to turn away and abandon our faith? I think they would. And that’s the value of Revelation. It helps us to see beyond the here and now and base our decisions not on what’s happening today, but to see the BIG picture…. the grand and glorious victory of God over evil. Whose side do you want to be on?
(Photo Credit: https://www.versaday.com/Months/05/0516.aspx)