Job 3 – Job Laments

Job 3:1 starts “After this …”. The ‘this’ was 7 days and nights of just sitting. Sitting in his funk, in his sores, with his friends there, just sitting.
He waits a week to start his lament. I doubt it’d taken me that long.
Then, in Job 3:1-10, he doesn’t simply lament all that has happened to him in recent days, no, so great is his sorrow that he laments that he was even born. All the good, all the joy, all the blessings in his life added together, and any that may someday come, are not enough to offset the pain in his heart right now. He curses the day that brought him into being and that ultimately lead to where he is now.
In Job 3:11-20 he wonders why, why was I brought into existence for this? Wouldn’t it have been better to skip straight to death. In death evil is silenced and the weary and oppressed are at rest. There both the small and great have the same fate, a fate preferable to that which has now.
Why bother, he asks in Job 3:21-26, to give one in misery the light of day, when all he longs for is for his days to be done? Of what use is the day?
I can imagine that many in Colorado feel this today, as any victim of any tragedy would. The pain is so raw, so real, so great that there seems that there can be no escape. Daylight or night, it comes, no matter where they turn it is there, they want to run but know that it will still envelope them everywhere. While I can imagine such despair, I cannot imagine what it’s like to live under it.
You can feel the depth of Job’s pain here, and it makes me mindful to never trivialize or dismiss the pain of one who’s suffering.

Job 2 – More Attacks

I decided to try to put my summary comments in italics to distinguish it from my comments. Thoughts? Beuler? 😀
Job 2:1-10
Verse 1 says “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord.” (It says it in Chapter 1 too). The ‘son’s of God’ came ‘presenting themselves’, wow. but the implication here, and in verse 2, is that Satan is a party crasher here. He didn’t belong with the Son’s of God. Or is that just my assumption? Am I reading into this?
And God say, “Hey, have you checked out Job? You attacked Him without reason, yet he remains true.” You can almost hear the “I told you so.”
Satan challenges God that he wasn’t allowed to go far enough. Surely, he’ll curse God if his life was threatened. Fair enough, God allows Satan to attack Job himself, but no to death. God’s confidence in Job remains high, and Job, though crushed, refuses to curse God.

Blaming or cursing God was not an option for Job. I don’t think it was because he wasn’t hurting or even that he didn’t have questions, but that God was God, He is greater and his ways are greater. Whatever is happening, God knows and Job could trust him in it.
What is interesting here is that Job’s suffering came, not from his sin or even the sin of others around him, but from God settling a bet with Satan. I’m certain that God knew what was going to happen here, but He wanted to prove to Satan that there were men who were faithful to Him regardless of circumstances. Satan accused God of gaming the system to produce followers, and God used Job to prove him wrong.
On one had it seems a bit unfair or cold, like Job is a pawn in this chess match between God and Satan. But that gives Satan too much credit. Satan likes to see himself as a worthy opponent to God, but he is not. Job here isn’t simply a pawn, he is God’s chosen instrument to humble and silence Satan. Looked at in that light, what an honor.
God is accomplishing His glory in our pain. Will we chose to at least accept that true and even embrace it that it may be accomplished even more? Not easy, for sure, and it may even seem unfair, but to God be the glory, bot ourselves.
Job 2:11-13
His friends arrive an he is so stricken, they don’t recognize him and no one can bring them to say anything for 7 days. For a full week, they simply sit with job and mourn with him.
Sometimes, all we can do for one another is simply be there, and that alone is of great comfort in the face of great suffering. Sometimes, as Job’s friends will prove, words simply make things worse.

Job 1 – Satan Attacks

I’m going to try to make these QT posts a bit easier to follow without looking up each scipture reference. These always made sense to me as I wrote them, but looking back they are a bit like listening to one half of a phone call. I’d like these to be more readable, but I’m not sure I’ll succeed or not. Let me know how I’m doing, assuming I still have readers.
Job 1:1-5 – Job’s Character and Wealth
The Bible calls Job ‘blameless and upright’. Was originally going to say that might be what the world would say, but I remembered that later (verse 8) God describes Job in that way. Still, we know that no one is good, not even one as it says in Romans 3 (itself a reference to Psalm 14, Psalm 53 and Ecclesiastes 7), so we know that Job is not perfect. He was devoted to God to the point that God took notice.
Interesting to me that his sons, in these few sentences, are portrayed as partiers and not necessarily concerned with God. Hard to be dogmatic, but it says not that they followed God or sacrificed to HIm for their sins, but that Job himself would sacrifice on their behalf, sort of just in case they had sinned.
Job 1:6-22 – Satan’s attack
Satan and God meet and talk. The idea of Satan and God casually meeting and talking about the happenings on Earth is sobering and disturbing. I tend to think of God in a bit too much of a Deist way. He set the Earth in motion and is watching from afar, but not too active in it. I then apply the same to Satan, minimizing his work in the Earth to the point that it doesn’t matter.
The picture we see here is that both are intimately familiar with the details of what happens here. God pointed Job out as an example of one committed to him, a bit like a Father bragging on his son. Satan knows exactly who he is and you can almost hear how ticked off he is that he hasn’t been able to lay a hand on Job.
The interesting, and encouraging, thing here is that Satan is limited by what God allows him to do. Job was protected, and not until God gave Satan (limited) permission to attack him. God is in control, nothing happens that He is not aware of and approved of. God is pictured here as calm and secure while Satan is anxious and frustrated, eager to act but limited. Satan is frustrated because of the limits God as placed in front of him, but God isn’t frustrated or anxious at all. Even when God gives Satan permission to attack Job, you don’t see a bit of anxiety on God’s part. He knows Job’s faith and you get the impression here that this is to teach Satan a lesson more than Job.
But notice how swift and complete Satan’s actions are. Immediately, Job is confronted,one after another with calamity. his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his camels, nearly all his servants (Satan conveniently left one alive from each tragedy so Job would get the message) and even his children, all killed.
Job’s famous response – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – shows what God already knew – that Job had his priorities on straight. His stuff, even his family, was not the most important. God was.
Do I have such a priority? Am I easily flummoxed by the minor calamities in my life, or do I rest in God, mo matter what may come?

Farewell, George

I found out on yesterday that a dear friend, George Wolfe passed away of complications from a fall. The news rocked my world. I’ve known George for over 20 years.
My first memory of George was from college, the summer I lived in a rented 3 story house with 14-16 college and single guys (not recommended, BTW). He and I were watching TV and he turned to me and out of the blue he said “Brother, I have to confess that I have an attitude with you now. I’m sorry, I don’t know why, I have no reason, but I just do. I had to tell you to get it off of my chest, please forgive me.” I had only become a Christian a few months before and I didn’t quite know what to make of his surprising openness. I think I said something like “It’s OK.” or something equally profound. But that was George, a man with a heart bigger than his small frame could possibly hold.
Though I knew him well enough, we were never what folks might call close friends. He was just always around. I would see him regularly at various singles or campus events and at church services for 4-5 years until Maria and I were married and we moved to Detroit for my job.
That was over 19 years, 2 states and 5 residences and ago, yet George kept up with us and he’d send us 1-2 letters a year, hand written, 2-3 pages each. Peppered with scriptures and dripping with encouragement, it was always a highlight when a letter from George arrived. Along with news of his life, he’d remind me of how great our God was and exhort me to remember his blessings and not neglect my faith. He’d encourage me to be mindful of my duties as a husband and father to lead my family and raise my girls in the Lord, while at the same time praising me for how I was doing with them.
I was not nearly as good of a pen pal, but I did manage to write back a couple of times, telling him how encouraging it was to receive his letters. Encouragement was clearly his gift and I told him so. He wrote back right away, you’d think I had wrote him a check for a million dollars he was so thrilled that his letters were making such an impact.
If anyone in this world had the gift of encouragement, it was George. He was the kind of guy that was easy to overlook, but if you stopped and paid attention to him, you were the one blessed.
The world will be a decidedly dimmer place without George in it. Lord, give him a big hug for me, please, and George, save me a place at the table.

Till the Decisive Hour

I posted on Twitter & Facebook:

Today in church we sang songs from 3 centuries, 2 each from the 1700s & 1800s, 3 from the 1900s so we can stay relevant.

I love the diversity of our music ministry. I’m a big fan of the old hymns, but new music is good too. I guess new is relative since our songbook dates to 1999.
The oldest song today was the one that moved me. Isaac Watts penned “I’m Not Ashamed to Own My Lord” in 1707 (it wasn’t put to music for 130+ years!) and this verse helped tie together our works vs His for me:

Firm as His throne His promise stands,
And He can well secure
What I’ve committed to His hands
Till the decisive hour.

Yes, we work, we obey, we follow and act based on His command. Obedience is not trivial, yet the best we can do is commit it to his hands. But that is enough, as he can and will carry it through to that decisive hour.

Communion Lesson

This is the communion lesson I gave at church this morning.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:7-10

There at the beginning of verse 9 is a curious phrase – ‘once made perfect‘.
How is it that Jesus, the Son of God, was made perfect?
Jesus was perfect before he came to Earth and he arrived here perfect, just as all babies are perfect. The Jesus we just celebrated last month, that baby in a manger, started like all other babies – pure, sinless, holy.
But human babies (as opposed to God babies) don’t stay perfect. We quickly stray from that path. We sin, at first without knowing better, but eventually we know full well what we’re doing. We all become prodigals, and so do our kids. We live our lives our way, convinced that we know what we’re doing, though we do not. And we, and our children, prove this every day.
We are in a very real sense being made imperfect.
But Jesus lived the path we could not. When faced with choices to sin, he did not. Through ‘prayers and petitions’ and ‘fervent cries and tears’, he learned the obedience we refused to master.
In the process, he was made perfect.
The perfection he had before wasn’t chosen or earned, it simply was. He had no opportunity for imperfection. So he had to come, he had to be tempted because it wasn’t enough for Him to simply be perfect; in order to become our ‘source of eternal salvation’, he needed to be made perfect.
That’s the real price of our sin – that a sacrifice that was simply perfect wasn’t quite sufficient; it had to be made that way through suffering. In a very real sense, he had to earn it in order to offer it to us.

Continue reading “Communion Lesson”

Ruth 4 – Redeemed

In my last post I said I read Ruth 4, but I don’t think I did.
In Ruth 4:1-6 we see Boaz meet the unnamed redeemer in public. He asks him to sit and also brings in 10 elders of the city to be witnesses of the conversation. I don’t fully understand the conversation here, but I get the idea that Boaz knows the situation well and likely the individual. He knows that he will want to claim them, perhaps to increase his own wealth or prominence, but not out of concern for Ruth & Naomi. After all, if he had been concerned, wouldn’t he have stepped up before now.
His self focused motives are further indicated by how once the full extent of what he will be required to do is revealed and how it will impact his own inheritance, he backs away.
Boaz shows himself shrewd here. He knows the person he’s dealing with and he knows the situation well and he works it with the goal of protecting and providing for Ruth and Naomi.
Look then at the results. In Ruth 4:14 Naomi, who was self described up front as bitter, is now praised and called blessed by the women of the town. And Ruth becomes the Great grandmother of David, the most famous King of Israel and ultimately the ancestor of Jesus.
What did Ruth do to accomplish this? She stepped out in faith and remained true to Naomi. She stepped out in faith again when approaching Boaz. Boaz did all the heavy lifting here, he accomplished her redemption when she could not. Her redeemer wasn’t willing to redeem, but Boaz was and made sure that it happened.
And so it is with us, we humbly approach the Lord in faith in our time of need and he acts on our behalf. The law that we hoped could redeem us could not, but Jesus made sure that we were redeemed. He, like Boaz, did the heavy lifting, we did nothing.

Ruth 3 and 4 –

Ruth 3:4 – Can you imagine telling your daughter to go lie won at the feet of a man she has just met for the night?
I have to admit, I don’t understand the cultural goings on here in Ruth 3. She seems to demand of him that he care for her in Ruth 3:9, and he agrees, conditionally. She spends the night with Boaz, innocently at his feet, and sneaks off in the morning before first light. It would appear to the casual observer that sin is afoot, and even today we would assume that a woman who goes out to meet a man and doesn’t return until morning was up to no good. Yet both Boaz and Ruth praise her for her actions. Certainly they were noble, yet they have the appearance of impropriety.
I suppose she went out at some personal risk, but did so in faith that Boaz was the honorable man he seemed to be. He could have taken advantage of her or dismissed her as an unclean outsider, but he did not. instead, he praises her faith and promises to redeem her.
Isn’t this like how we approach Jesus? We come, unworthy, unclean and with nothing but the faith that he will redeem us. He has no obligation to do so, and we have nothing appealing to offer. We approach the perfect, holy God of all creation in our rags and sin, risking His rebuke in hope for that which we cannot get on our own – redemption. And we find in Jesus, like Ruth did in Boaz, our hope fulfilled.

Ruth 2 – Boaz

Some thoughts on Ruth 2:
Ruth sets out to glean, but not until she asks permission from Naomi. She gleans behind the reapers, so after they have harvested what they want, she gathers what’s left behind. She’s determined to provide, but respectful of both Naomi and the land owners.
She sets out at some personal risk. Boaz’s and Naomi’s comments indicate that some of the men in the fields would not be so kind to a lone woman working in their midst. yet she still goes out.
Boaz, even before he knows who she is, has heard of her and is impressed with her loyalty and work for Naomi. Once he knows who she is, he guarantees her protection and makes sure that she has grain to glean.
She is surprised that Boaz would take notice of her.
Naomi calls Boaz one of their ‘redeemers’.
I see a parallel between Ruth / Boaz and Jesus’ parallel of the sheep and the goats. Boaz recognizes Ruth’s work when Ruth doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, much like Jesus’ recognizing the sheep for their work for the poor that they didn’t think was a big deal. Neither Ruth or the sheep did what they did out of duty. They did it because it was who they had become. The sheep had been adopted by the shepherd and had become like them, Ruth now adopted in to Naomi’s family, belonged to her and identified herself with Naomi. As we saw in Ruth 1, it wasn’t a matter of duty or obligation but of identity, and her work to care for the two of them was done in the same way. It wasn’t any thing extraordinary, it was simply who she was.
Then, much like shepherd rewards the sheep, Boaz rewards her for her work by protecting her and providing for her. Not as a payment any more than the shepherd was paying the sheep in Jesus’ parable, but because that is who Boaz was as well. He owed her nothing, yet gave her much because of who he was, exactly like Jesus does for us because of who He is. All that the good that we might do, as impressive as it may be even to the Lord, does nothing to earn us any blessings. We receive because of who he is instead.

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