Who Are You Blaming?

Job 29-31

Job 31 2 NIV

I love the orderly layout for Job’s final 3 chapters of his defense before God and man.

 

In chapter 29 Job longs for his earlier days, “When the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me” (Job 29:5).  He isn’t dwelling on all the wonderful material  goods he once enjoyed, though we know they were many.  Rather, he is fondly recalling the interactions he had with others – the respect he felt, the ability he once had to help others: serving as the father to the needy, rescuing the fatherless, and comforting the mourners.  And, then he became the mourner.

 

In chapter 30 Job details his current despair.  Now he is detested by men.  He has lost all former dignity and safety and feels terror instead.  He is physically suffering with gnawing pain; blackened, peeling skin; and fever.  And perhaps worst of all, he feels like God is ignoring his cries for help.

 

In chapter 31 Job affirms his righteousness, denying his friends’ claims that he must now be suffering because of great past sins.  He describes many sins: lust, dishonest business transactions, marital infidelity, injustice, not caring for the poor and fatherless, abusing power, greed, idolatry, rejoicing over one’s enemy’s misfortune, and hiding guilt.  For each sin he says, I didn’t do it.  And for each sin he names a punishment a just God could give to him or anyone else who did that evil.

 

The problem is Job – and his friends we have heard from in the past many chapters – don’t understand that there are multiple reasons why we may be enduring trials.  His friends say trials are a result of God’s punishment.  And they were right – but only partially right.  They were erroneously blaming Job for his current trials because he must have deserved it.  Job says he was righteous (not sinless, but righteous) and thus shouldn’t be experiencing trials if God was just.  But, just who is God?  And why does He allow suffering?  These are still the questions that need answers today.

 

Last month I was delighted to watch the youth of our church develop and share a Youth Sunday based on several “apologetic” questions people ask about God.  Does God exist?  Did He create the world?  Is the Bible accurate and reliable?  Are science and the Bible enemies?  AND the biggie – why does God allow suffering?  Too many times a faithful person can believe all the right things and live the right life (just like Job) – until trouble comes.  And then the blaming and questioning tears them away from what they knew was true and the God that loves them.  It was powerful seeing these young people studying truth (guided by godly mentors) and gaining this understanding which will prepare them for trials to come.

 

I want to share with you a brief outline which youth group members, Kaitlyn and Addie, presented on “Why Does God Allow Suffering?”

  • The Fall (Genesis 3:14-19, Romans 5:12)
  • The Devil Causes Evil (2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 Peter 5:8,9)
  • God’s Judgments (Romans 6:23, Genesis 19:13) – this was the one Job’s friends knew about
  • God Uses Suffering for Good (Romans 8:28, James 1:2-4)
  • Sometimes People Don’t Get Healing Because of a Lack of Faith (Matthew 9:22-24, Mark 9:29)
  • Time & Chance (Luke 13:1-5, Ecclesiastes 9:11)

 

Many sermons could be written about any of these but I want to say just a few words about the devil, Satan, the accuser, the serpent, or the god of this age…the list goes on.  He goes by many names – perhaps a part of his deception and secret identities.  I find it very interesting that he plays a KEY role in Job 1 & 2 – and yet is not mentioned again by either Job or his friends.  He is the one bringing about these trials (which God is allowing) but everyone is pointing the finger at God rather than at Satan.  It is true that the Old Testament has a very limited number of references to Satan.  They did not yet have a very thorough understanding of many things God would reveal to His people through time – the Messiah, the resurrection, and Satan.

 

When Jesus enters the scene, he works to bring a clearer understanding of all these things.  All 4 gospel writers record Jesus speaking about (and sometimes directly to) the devil/Satan and the power he wields to tempt, deceive and inflict.  Every New Testament writer references the devil or Satan.  I believe we still point the finger at God often times when we ought to be recognizing, and fleeing from, the power of the god of this age.  Perhaps there is something you need to stop blaming God for and give the “credit” to Satan instead.

 

And, that is just ONE of the other Biblical reasons for our trials.  So much to think about in the book of Job!

 

I enjoyed looking into Job with you this week and I greatly look forward to the coming week when we get to hear from Cayce (Ballard) Fletcher as we get into the BEST parts of the book of Job!

 

Keep Reading and Seeking, Growing and Loving
Marcia Railton

 

To read or listen to today’s Bible passage check out – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+29-31&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 32-34 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Not Seeing Eye to Eye?

Job 24-28

Job 28 28 NIV

This section of Job is beginning to wind down.  Today we hear the final (and brief) closing arguments from Bildad, the last of Job’s 3 friends to speak.  And then Job begins a 6 chapter speech which will be all we will hear from him until the final chapter 42.  But, don’t worry there will be a new character introduced soon, as well as a thrilling climax ahead.  The best is yet to come.

 

Today Job is not quite as bitter as we have seen him earlier this week.  He has lost a bit of his accusatory sting toward God.  I think we are seeing some progress through his stages of grief and he is getting closer and closer to acceptance and after that will come hope.  He speaks eloquently of God’s greatness, while also still asking about God’s timeline in dealing with the wicked.  He is showing his awe of God and trust in God, even while not understanding all God is and does.  It is a great example for us.  It is wise to remember that we don’t need to understand God, but we can still trust in Him.  I know I sometimes have a difficult time understanding other created beings – some of whom I have spent a lot of time with and study regularly.  If I don’t understand people who are “like me” – isn’t it a bit arrogant of myself to think that I ought to be able to understand the Almighty who is on a completely different playing field than even the most wise and competent human.  If God and I don’t always see eye to eye – whose eyesight do you imagine needs some adjusting?

 

Speaking of wisdom, all of chapter 28 details the search for wisdom.  It is more valuable, and sometimes harder to find, than the most costly material treasures.  Can you think of any places you have searched for wisdom, and been disappointed when it came up lacking?  At the end of the chapter we find the answers to the search for wisdom…


20 
Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?…
23 God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
24 for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
26 when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
27 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
28 And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”

Job 28:20, 23-28 (NIV)

 

It can sound so simple – but still be so challenging to live out in our daily lives, especially if we are in a season of suffering or loss. If you want wisdom – seek out God and give Him the honor and respect that is due Him, even when you are hurting.  And if you want understanding – follow Him, do what is right and flee evil, even when it is hard.

 

It can help our eyesight immensely when we can say, “I am not God.  You are.  I will follow You.”

 

Marcia Railton

 
To read or listen to today’s passage check out https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+24-28&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s passage, as we continue the  2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan will be Job 29-31.  The best of Job is yet to come.  Jump in and read with us!

 

 

 

Starving for God

Job 21-23

Job 23 12b NIV

Poor Job.  I do pity him.  But not just for the extreme losses and suffering he endured.  Not just for the additional pain of unsympathetic, accusing friends.  But for being born when he was.

Previously we have mentioned Job’s yearning for a mediator – someone to stand before God on his behalf.  Someone in the middle who would reach out his hands to touch both God and man and draw them together.  Wise Job.  Can you imagine how thrilled he would have been to have the opportunity to meet, listen to, accept and follow the Messiah, God’s Son Jesus?  But, it wasn’t time yet.

It also wasn’t time yet for him to hold God’s precious living, giving words of life in his lap.  Job knew the power and gift of God’s words.  He stated, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12).  But, at this time in history God would speak when He chose, where He chose, to whom He chose, and the record of his words would be passed down, mostly orally, to any who would listen. It was a good start – but Job longed for more.  He said:

“If only I knew where to find him;
if only I could go to his dwelling!
 I would state my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
 I would find out what he would answer me,
and consider what he would say to me.”

(Job 23:3-5, NIV)

We know that Job will get the amazing opportunity to have the Almighty speak directly to him (that is coming in next week’s reading).  But that didn’t help him yet at the time of today’s passage.  He is searching for God.  He is starving for God’s word.  He needs to hear from God.  And he does not yet have the gift of God-breathed scriptures on his lap or in the palm of his hand.  God’s Word is powerful and a great treasure.  What a blessing we have in the gift of the Bible – where we find God, His wisdom, love, majesty, truth, encouragement, correction, as well as His Son, forgiveness, and a hope and a plan for eternal life.  It is an incredible gift to hear God.  It is an incredible gift to read the words of God.  It is a gift we too often ignore.

God warns that His Word will not always be readily available.  “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land– not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.” (Amos 8:11). Perhaps He was first referring to the 400 years of silence that would take place between the inspired Old Testament and New Testament.  But, I fear that it also refers to a time in the end days.  Perhaps we are seeing the beginnings of it even now.  Prepare by stockpiling God’s Word in your heart now.  It will help you both today and tomorrow.

If you ever feel God is distant – check to see how far away your closest Bible is.

If you ever feel you can’t hear God – turn off the distractions and open His Word.

If you ever feel you are starving for God – feast on His Word.

 

Seeking God in His Word,

Marcia Railton

 

To read or listen to today’s passage – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+21-23&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 24-28 in our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

 

 

Who Are the Wicked?

Job 17-20

Job 19 25 27 NIV (1)

 

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,

Marcia Railton

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Bitter or Better?

Job 10-13Job 10 1 NIV

 

After church yesterday I had the opportunity to accompany my pastor father-in-law as we visited a beautiful godly woman in the emergency room who was experiencing painful complications of a 4 year battle with cancer.  Then from there we went to a funeral visitation and hugged a brave new widow with three dear girls.  Just a year ago she had stood in that same spot for the visitations of her all too young son.  Tragedies, pain and suffering surround us daily.  No doubt your prayer list, social media feed and newspaper headlines also speak of many in deep trials.  And perhaps you are there in the midst of one yourself.  Whether we are the family suffering – or just the ones feeling a small fraction of their pain – the book of Job offers some excellent examples of grief and from these we can glean some wise advice for those suffering trials and those who try to offer comfort.

Chapter 10 opens with our suffering servant of God, Job, having some words with his Maker.  He begins:

“I loathe my very life;
therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.
I say to God: Do not declare me guilty,
but tell me what charges you have against me.
Does it please you to oppress me,
to spurn the work of your hands,
while you smile on the plans of the wicked?

Job 10:1-3 (NIV)

Hating his life, complaining, bitterness, questioning, it’s not a pretty picture.  But it is a very real picture.  Job is working his way through some of the stages of grief:  denial, guilt, anger, bargaining, depression, the upward turn, reconstruction, acceptance and hope.  He is not yet to the upward turn.  I can easily think, get over it Job, that’s no fun to read, enough with your bitter pity party.  But then I remember how I sometimes lose it over very minor losses or mere inconveniences.  I have been known to get ornery when my cake flops or I hit a snag in my quilting project.    I can feel a bad attitude brewing if the sink is overflowing with dirty dishes or I feel slighted by a loved one.  And here’s a man who has lost 10 children, his wealth, his livelihood and his health, and his wife and friends are adding to his grief.  It’s time I give him some grace.  He needs a hug right now, not a sermon.  It takes time and often some ugliness to get to the upward turn and the beauty of restoration and hope.  (Spoiler alert: keep reading Job – he gets there – and he repents for his previous attitude and misunderstanding of God. If you just can’t help peaking ahead read Job 42.)

The danger lies in not continuing the process.  I remember a sermon years ago from my pastor father-in-law.  It’s important to listen to the sermons BEFORE the crisis hits since we sometimes aren’t ready to listen too well in the middle of the crisis.  One simple phrase he said has stuck with me, “Better, not Bitter”.  We get to choose what we take away from pain and suffering.  We can use any experience, even the most painful, to grow in our relationship to God and others and to become a better version of ourselves.  Or, we can feed the bitterness and distance ourselves further and further from God and those who are trying to help.

It is natural and normal to feel real bitterness in the midst of grief.  It is a stage, but don’t let it become your life. If you ever find yourself feeling the bitterness of Job – do what he did.  Keep talking to God about it.  God can handle it and it will help you walk through that stage of grief.  There is beauty and hope waiting on the other side.

If you are standing beside someone in pain (and God encourages us to put ourselves in that position), allow them time and space to grieve, even if it gets a little ugly.

Whatever you face today – cancer or the death of a loved one, or just an overflowing sink –  how can you practice working towards “Better, not Bitter”?

Marcia Railton

 

Read or listen to today’s passage at – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+10-13&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 14-16.  We are following 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