Sometimes it can be hard to see what God has planned in our lives. When we choose to live a God-honoring lifestyle, it is easy to see all of the pain and suffering in the world and sit back and ask, “Why?” Why are some extremely wealthy and prosperous, yet, evil people allowed to do what they do untouched? The first thing we say is that it just isn’t fair. But really, to the people of God, good is coming and all we need to do is trust in God’s timing.
To be the smallest book in the Old Testament, the book of the prophet Obadiah is probably one of my favorites. Its message, once determined, is quite comforting and tells a message that is familiar to those of the Christian faith, albeit, from a different angle.
The whole book is composed of a powerful twenty-one verses that is to reveal the outcome of Edom, descendants of the family of Esau and long term enemy of the Israelites. And it doesn’t hold back. Condemning them for their pride, and for Esau’s violence against his brother Jacob, God says that though they build themselves up high like eagles, from that place He will bring them down.
“Then the house of Jacob will be a fire And the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau will be as stubble.” (Obadiah 1:18)
The main lesson to be taken from this book is that God is a God that will vanquish our enemies. Yahweh is a living God that if we can trust, does hold the ultimate reward and in verse 21 “The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion To judge the mountain of Esau, And the kingdom will be the Lord’s.” The kingdom of those who can put their peace in the future day of the LORD.
What are your feelings when you hear the Day of the Lord is coming?
What does it mean to you that, “Your dealings will return on your own head”? Are there any exceptions?
Do you feel prepared for the Day of the Lord? Is there anything you need to take care of in your relationship to God and to others before that day comes?
Lamentation is defined as a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. In this time Israel has been through pain and destruction. Lament is a human response to suffering before God who can stop the suffering. Lamenting pushes us to be helpless before God who can rescue us and bring us out of our situation.
Have you ever been in deep sorrow? The kind where all you want to do is disappear or break into a thousand pieces. Those times are hard to say the least. I know the same feeling more than I would like to admit.
But I have realized that in those moments, the best thing we can do is go to God. Bring him our lamentations, our sorrows.
This is what Lamentations is. In this book Israel is bringing their sorrows to God and finding peace in him. They have nothing left after the destruction and pain brought by the Babylonians, yet in Lamentations 3 it says this.
“Remember my affliction and my homelessness, the wormwood, and the poison. I continually remember them and have become depressed. Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say the Lord is my portion therefore I will put my trust in him.”
There is joy in the mourning! These people had nothing, had suffered, and yet they have all this love and trust in God and his faithfulness. Because God is good, and he knows our sorrows. He wants us to go to him with every little heartache just as the Israelites did!
There is hope in our lamentations and love for our suffering because God will use it for good.
It is encouraging to know the good God we serve, who brings joy in the mourning. Who leads us through battle and into victory.
This is the best part.
“For the Lord will not reject us forever. Even if he causes suffering, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love. For he does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind.”
I love this part, but it is a little bit of a tough pill to swallow. God is compassion, love, and peace, but he also brings along testing and affliction when he knows we need it. Those are the hard times. But we are strong through those hard times, knowing that God is there to guide.
We won’t know how long pain may last. But what is important is not letting our grief stop us from serving God. Our pain is what we can use to reach others with God’s love.
Chapter 4 ends with verse 19: Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (ESV).
The suffering in the New Testament is related to living a life set apart from worldliness, which is opposed to God’s will. It is not God’s will that we should suffer, but when we follow in the ways that he has prescribed for us we will undoubtedly face opposition and ultimately suffer for the sake of the Gospel. We need to trust that our creator will ultimately use that suffering for good. There’s a popular song that we sing at my church that has the line “you take what the enemy meant for evil, and you turn it for good” (drawing on Genesis 50 for inspiration).
Chapter 5 then begins with Peter addressing the leaders of the church, specifically calling to mind the sufferings of Christ. Pastors/elders are to function in the role of shepherds for the congregations that have been entrusted to them in leadership. The verb that is translated as “shepherd” also can be translated as “feed” – does this directive remind you of any instructions that Peter himself received from Jesus?
In John 21 three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him (notice a correlation between Peter’s three denials of Jesus and the three affirmations that Jesus receives from him?) and three times tells him to feed his sheep (this is a different Greek word in John, but it means essentially the same thing). As the primary leader of the church Peter was to feed Jesus’ sheep, meaning Christians. The impetus for this spiritual leadership is not to be out of self-importance or in Peter’s case even that Jesus chose him to lead, but out of love for his master and savior (and friend!). When we see Peter lead, he is following in obedience to the one who called him out of the boat and invested in him and entrusted him to feed his sheep. Peter certainly was not doing this for gain or for an easy life, I imagine his life would have been much easier had he simply decided to go back to fishing full time, but he faced many trials and much opposition in his preaching the word and leading the church.
In the same way, those of us who are called to be pastors and elders (who are specifically addressed here, but anyone who holds an office in the church should take heed of this) should be using their love of Jesus as their motivation for leading. Presumably most church leaders start off this way, but it can easily go to one’s head. There are many public instances of pastors who have become controlling, power hungry, and abusive (quite often we see this in large churches with lucrative opportunities for pastors) – but even in small churches the desire to control can infiltrate the hearts of those who are called to lead or “run” the church. Elders (I’ll include pastors in this title from here on out) are to be willing and eager to carry out the work that they have been called to. With a calling to leadership comes responsibility – a significant thing to note is that we who are in authority (and who teach) are held to a higher level of accountability (James 3:1). Those who are in authority are to be an example to those who they oversee spiritually, and humility is one way in which we should be an example. Jesus stated that he was gentle and humble (Matthew 11:29), and we see in Philippians 2 that humility was essential in Jesus salvific work as God’s anointed one.
As Jesus was humble and as we who are elders (overseers) are to be humble (following Christ’s example), so then are the members of the body to exercise humility and submit to those who are in authority over them. If leaders are humble and operating as Jesus would expect them to, then humble Christians submitting to the godly authority that has been placed over them will thrive in their submission. We’re never going to agree on everything and that is why the decisions of local congregations are to be subject to the elders and not left up to the democratic will of a large collective. Elders absolutely can delegate responsibilities and set up clear roles for the body (Acts 6), but the authority over the church should lie with them.
We just added two new elders at my church yesterday. The process was not a short one… Myself and our other elders had many discussions on who we thought would be a good fit to assume these offices and eventually recommended that these two individuals be confirmed as elders. We don’t accept nominations for elders, but rather we look for men who meet the requirements of elders as listed in Titus 1, and then we have a confirmation vote. Other churches do things differently and may have boards structured in different ways or may be more egalitarian in the way that they define elders, I don’t condemn that, but we need to take seriously the guidelines that are listed in scripture and not be too quick to structure things in a way that is more reflective of the nation/society we live in than how the early church did things. Regardless of our views on church leadership one thing we need to be able to do is disagree with grace and love.
We need to make sure that whatever disagreements we have are dealt with in love and we need to not let them distract from what God would have us do and we need to make sure that we keep our minds clear (5:8, reaffirming 4:7), be on the lookout, and refrain from being anxious (cast those anxieties on God, see also Matthew 6), because the enemy prowls like a lion looking for someone to devour. When we allow conflict to take root or we allow anxiety to be prevalent in our churches, bad things will happen. We may often think about the enemy being on the prowl for individuals, but he’d also love to devour a local church and render it ineffective at making disciples or worse, cause it to die out (is that really worse?). I bet we could all think of examples of things we can (or do) divide over, one such argument could be what Peter means by “our enemy the devil”, but we need to take seriously the words of the author of Hebrews when he/she says: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” (Hebrews 12:14–15 ESV).
1. For those of you in authority: do you do it willingly? Eagerly? Without being domineering? Sometimes we do have to be forceful and make unpopular decisions, but that can still be done in a graceful and kind way. Do you need to be humbler, or do you think you have that well under control? Do you have an individual in mind that has authority problems with whom you can practice extra grace?
2. For those of you under authority: Do you respect those who have been placed in authority over you? Do you easily submit to that authority? Do you gossip about the leaders of your church and cause problems that way? Do you stop attending church when changes occur, or decisions are made that you disagree with? Do you go church hopping and just stick around till someone ticks you off and move on to the next place (which might just be going back to a former church until the vicious cycle starts over again?
Podcast Recommendation: The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill (from Christianity Today). It can be difficult to listen at times, but it has lots of examples on how to do leadership wrong, which we can benefit from.
Take a moment to think about your life? Is there a particularly bad day you can remember having? A day where everything that could possibly go wrong does? Maybe that day is today or maybe it was 10 years ago. Regardless of when, though, those kinds of days are challenging.
I have had quite a few days like this. From having a high fever during final exams and then having my laptop shut down in the middle of the final exam or learning that my older sister had passed, life can be very challenging. There are ups and there are downs. And usually it is on the way down when we begin to ask where we are going. Most often we don’t know, or at least not in the moment.
The book of Job is quite interesting. Some Bible scholars have even argued about it being included in the biblical canon. However, the book of Job has nonetheless become a favorite book for many who are in the midst of hardship. It is a book that a struggling Christian in the fallen world can relate to. It also offers insight into the struggles we face in life.
In this very first chapter we find Job living a prosperous life. He is beyond wealthy and has everything anyone at that time, and probably today, could ever want. Yet in one singular day it all comes crashing down. No matter how bad of a day I have had in my life, I don’t think any could quite top Job’s. One servant after another comes to tell him that they are the lone survivor of terrible tragedies. From his sheep being burned in the fields to a building falling in on and killing his children, the heartbreak and nausea he must have suffered in that moment is unthinkable.
The introspective we have into the calamities that have befallen Job is not a luxury that Job had. He, like us in our own hardships, did not know why this was happening. He didn’t know that Satan himself was attacking him and baiting him to curse the name of his God. He was not able to witness the conversation between God and Satan and say, “Oh, ok that’s why this is happening.” He was genuinely shocked and grieved by this unexpected course of events that rattled his life.
In the midst of all this suffering, though, Job did not lose his faith. In fact, we are told that he worshipped God despite this. However, this does not mean he was not grieved and filled with a deep sorrow. For we are also told that he tore his robes, shaved his head, and fell to the ground. He was broken, but he worshipped God in his brokenness. Sometimes it is that moment of being broken that the light of the love of God warms our cold and tired hearts through the newly formed cracks. So, like Job, lets worship God in our brokenness.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Describe Job. What impresses you the most about him?
Why do you think God allowed Satan to test Job?
What can it look like to worship God in our brokenness? Have you been there before – or are there now?
Growing up, I loved to run in races. I never had the fastest time, but I loved the sense of community that came from everyone pursuing the same goal: finish the run. Even though I don’t run as much as I used to, I still see the power of pursuing a unified goal in my family, my job, my church, and my community. We encourage one another to set our eyes on the more important things even when we may not feel like doing so on our own.
In today’s reading, Paul continues to give a defense of his ministry. He tells the Corinthian church, “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2). Paul speaks plainly about the gospel and does not try to manipulate or somehow warp the message of the cross to be more pleasing to others. Even so, this message is so winsome that it wins people over anyway.
This being said, just because the message itself is convincing and life-changing, it doesn’t mean that Paul became rich and famous, living a life of ease. His life was difficult and the only thing that kept him going was the reminder of his purpose and his commitment to reaching his goals. During Paul’s ministry which started with him being blind for three days, he was almost stoned to death, bitten by a snake, shipwrecked, and kept under house arrest. He left for Rome towards the end of his life knowing that he was going to be killed there. A martyr, he was beheaded by the Roman emperor Nero. Despite the difficulties of his life, he recognized that the message that he was speaking was too important to keep hidden. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, he says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” The troubles that he faced did not destroy him. Instead, they renewed him day by day because Paul recognized that through his troubles the gospel was being spread even more effectively!
So, how can we grow to have the same mentality as Paul? In verse 18, he says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Just like a runner in the race, we have to keep our eyes set on the finish line. We need to keep our mind set on the eternal. If we do that, the distractions of the present day start to fade away. What are your eyes fixed on? Live life in light of eternity.
~ Cayce Fletcher
Questions for Application:
What do you say the goal, mission, or purpose of your life is?
Are you facing difficulties that keep you from reaching this goal?
How might these difficulties be renewing you day by day? What could be some of the lessons or benefits from these difficulties?
We’re going to take a little break from discussing Joshua today to look at Psalm 69. This is one of the Psalms which is most often quoted or referenced in the New Testament (probably coming in 3rd after Psalm 110 and Psalm 22). Similar to Psalm 22, it is a portrait of a suffering servant. In the New Testament these verses will be used to describe Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant. But most likely, there have been a time or two when you thought theses verses could have been describing you, too.
Have you ever felt like you were sinking? Your troubles choking out your breath? The saddest picture I find is from verse 3 “I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched, my eyes fail, looking for my God.” You can tell someone needs a hug! They are feeling so desperate. Their suffering is so great!
But this is not the cry of someone who has just had a couple bad days in a row – flat tire, sickness, general stress mounting. No, this is David, Jesus, or you surrounded by enemies. You know you aren’t perfect, certainly God knows that (verse 5) but these enemies don’t want to destroy you for something evil you have done, but for the very God you serve. They don’t understand you or your God so they hate you without reason and seek to bring you down for who and what you stand for. “For I endure scorn for your sake…zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me…people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate (the town elders, ie – politicians, city councils, professors and principals) mock me” (Psalm 69:7a, 9, 11b, 12a).
Just this week I heard of the 3rd grader in trouble for wearing her favorite mask to school. It said Jesus Loves Me and the principal didn’t like that. Or the college student who was told he had to reserve a small “free speech zone” on campus from which to speak to others about his Christian beliefs and excitement. And when he complied with their rules he was once again told by campus police that he had to stop because some of the students were still complaining. Luckily the Supreme Court had something to say about that one recently.
Surrounded by enemies. We, in America, are watching our nation slip (or free-fall nosedive) from being a nation of “In God we Trust” where the large majority claimed Christianity to a foreign feeling country where our rights are being restricted at every turn. Suddenly “Dare to be a Daniel” means something to us. As new laws and policies develop, we have a new-found appreciation for what our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and other Christian hostile nations have endured for generations. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith? It feels so strange to us – but we are not the first to feel this way. Remember Paul, repeatedly thrown in jail for the crime of speaking the name of Jesus? David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and the disciples, the list goes on and on and includes many modern and Biblical role models and even martyrs. Hopefully you didn’t sign up to be a follower of Christ because you thought it was always going to be easy and pleasant. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith! Christians unite, and take up our armor of God (but that takes us into another devotion for another day).
Back to Psalm 69 – After saying his eyes fail looking for God, and all he does see is enemies who insult God surrounding him, he says, “But I pray to you, O LORD”. He is NOT throwing in the towel. Even though it is sometimes hard to see God in the suffering, we keep on praying to Him, knowing He is the Creator, the Sustainer, our Loving and Powerful Rock. Even when it looks bleak, we know the war is far from over. And, we know who does indeed win the war. And, that is why we don’t give up and don’t give in. We are not swayed by the town elders or those who mock us or try to destroy us because of our God. Our God is bigger.
There is one verse towards the end of the psalm that says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30). Doesn’t that sound like he is having a good, sunny, easy day! It’s almost like this verse landed smack dab in the wrong Psalm. Singing, praising, glorifying, thanking. What happened to the enemy surrounds and I am scared and suffering? Oh, it’s still there. In fact, the verse IMMEDIATELY proceeding the praising, singing, glorifying, thanking says, “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29). The trouble isn’t over, but David is still praising. It reminds me of Julie Andrews/ Maria (yes, The Sound of Music was my favorite growing up). Anytime she needed a confidence boost, when she was scared in a thunderstorm, or when the dog bit or the bee stung – she burst into song. We have something much better to sing about than girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. We have a God who saves, even though we suffer. When we are caught in the storm we have a God who saves. And even while the winds blow and our enemies surround we can pray and lift our voice in song. Jesus did, too. After the Last Supper, before going to the Mount of Olives knowing that is where he would be physically surrounded by his enemies, he sang a hymn.
More than any year in recent history, people are looking forward to the closing of 2020. There is no magical spell that will make our worries disappear as the zero turns to a one, yet for many there will be a great sigh; a new year brings a new promise. There are some prognosticators who say the worst is yet to come, yet for some reason, I have a renewed sense of hope. I have longed for an eventual reprieve, rest, and relief from restrictions. The whole world is longing to move forward, and see 2020 left on the side of the road in the rearview mirror, “Good riddance. Goodbye.” as we blow it a sardonic kiss. Mwwahh.
As we have seen in our time with Revelation this week, any break we have is temporary because the worst is yet to come <balloon pops>. The pandemic we have seen up to this point will pale in comparison to the plagues preceding the Kingdom of God. Although there has been some pretty intense weather and natural disasters this year, this isn’t even close to what is being forecasted for future calamities. While many wars have waned in the wake of coronavirus, war will be truly inescapable, pressing in on all sides before the coming of Christ. It is so true that grief, sorrow, exhaustion, frustration, and anxiety have been intensely felt in 2020, and I would never make light of that, but when compared to the longing of the earth that is to come, it will easily eclipse all we have felt this year. The people, and the earth itself, will be longing more than ever for refreshing.
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns! Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. – Revelation 19:6,7
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3,4
The best news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is this ultimate reprieve will come alongside our Lord and Savior. This will be the greatest of all welcomes and simultaneously, the best of all riddances. While we can retain some small hope that our life will return to the way it was a year ago, was it not still filled with tears, death, mourning, crying, pain, the entirety of the whole old order? To long for a return to 2019, or even a better version of the past, is similar to the cry of the children of Israel in the desert to return to Egypt because at least their bellies were full there (Ex 16:2,3). Life as we know it (or even knew it) is marginally mediocre when we compare it to what is in store for us. If we are to cry out, to groan, to bemoan, let us do so as people who are ready to be rid of our sin and the captivity it has placed upon us and the earth once and for all (Ex 2:23). Our present suffering, no matter how great, is nothing compared to the glory that awaits.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Rom 8:18-22
If you have been reading along all year, congratulations! Today we read the final chapters of God’s Inspired Word – Revelation 19-22.
Tomorrow we begin a New Year and a New 2021 Bible reading plan! Every day we will read 2 passages – an Old Testament passage (usually just 2 chapters) and a New Testament or Psalms/Proverbs passage (often just one chapter or a few short Psalms). Our writers may write about one of the day’s passages, or some will choose to write all week on a chosen theme, giving us the opportunity to dive a little deeper into some relevant subject matter and what Scripture teaches on that topic.
Print your copy of our Bible reading plan below – and let’s see what God has to tell us in 2021! Seek Him! Grow Your Faith! Love!
Yesterday we read the short short story (2 verses) of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9, 10). He prayed. God granted his request. Remember, we don’t know the timeline for the life of Jabez. Since he had requested from God the expansion of his territory (amongst other things) I feel it is most likely that this answer didn’t come with a snap of the fingers -though God can certainly work that way when He wants to. I wonder if this answer was achieved over a period of time, with some persistence and wisdom and work required from Jabez. But still – it sounds so simple and sweet. A fairy-tale ending in just two verses. Jabez prayed. God granted his request.
But, what about the times when the answer isn’t coming. We may be praying hard – with a good measure of persistence, wisdom and work, too. But, it’s just not coming together like we thought a good God would do.
I think of Job and the 41 long, difficult, trying chapters of his story – before the final 42nd chapter when we see God finally shower Job once again with double the blessings. It would be great to read the book of Job today to remember Job’s anguish – and God’s answer. Or, you can read Psalm 73 – it is like a mini book of Job boiled down into one powerful psalm.
The author of this psalm begins by acknowledging that he knows God is good. And, yet, he personally had nearly lost his way and his faith because of his own serious struggles while simultaneously watching the wicked prosper. He saw boastful, callous, violent, evil men succeeding and growing in popularity and wealth, all while denying and even mocking God. Are we sure this wasn’t written in 2020, perhaps during a Covid-19 epidemic? Haven’t we seen and heard the same thing this week and shook our heads and asked, “Where is God? This isn’t right or just or fair? The world is too messed up!” And we sink down deeper in our despair. As the psalmist said, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me…” (Psalm 73:16)
Yes – keep reading! The good stuff is coming – just like it came for Jabez and Job and the psalmist, it is coming for you and for me. Though it does require a little bit of action on our part. The psalmist reveals the secret. He wrote, he was oppressed UNTIL he, “entered the sanctuary of God; thenI understood their final destiny.” (Psalm 73:17). Look to God. Put yourself smack dab in His presence. Intentionally seek Him out. Change your focus. Consider the whole timeline, the big picture. Look into the future. Consider the consequences and coming judgement. Rest in knowing God has got this. And He has got me. And if you let Him, He has got you.
The rest of this psalm has beautiful passages of God’s strength, guidance, comfort, plan, wisdom, & protection in any and every situation. Don’t miss the chance to read it for yourself and soak it in. Which verse is your favorite in Psalm 73?
Also, don’t miss out on the powerful truths in Psalm 77 & 78. Psalm 77 begins much the same way Psalm 73 did – in agony and despair. And maybe you have been there yourself sometime? Perhaps you have asked yourself, “Has his unfailing love vanished forever?..Has God forgotten to be merciful?” (Psalm 77:8, 9).
And yet – here again we will see a great turn-around. In a few short verses he will be writing, “Your ways, O God, are holy, What god is so great as our God?” (Psalm 77:13). What makes the difference? What happened in-between verse 9 and 13? Did he win the lottery? Did he get all his wishes granted in the sudden snap of his fingers? It had looked so hopeless. What changed?
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
His situation did NOT change. His thinking did.
What he was focusing on changed. He rewired his brain, his thought processes, his attitude, his words, his outlook. He remembered the good God had done. He meditated on God’s work.
The anguish and oppressive depression doesn’t have to win, even in a situation that appears so bleak. You may find yourself in the dark, questioning God. You are not alone. But, don’t allow yourself to remain in the dark. Keep stepping towards the light. You don’t have to wait until your circumstances change. Instead, change your view. Enter His Sanctuary. Search for the good things He has done – in the past and today. Seek Him. Read His Word. Remind yourself of His power, faithfulness and love.
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
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.