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Friday, December 16, 2016

Who Shall Separate Us From God's Love?

Job's friends offer little comfort. They say, "If you lived a righteous life all would be well. As it is, you must acknowledge your sin and change. Then God will bless you."

But this advice seems foolish to Job, for he struggles with the God who remains hidden and far beyond him. He cannot contend with God,
"For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both."Job 9:32-35
So many questions. So much confusion. And amidst it all how helpless is Job. God does indeed demand a righteous life.
"Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times. - Job 9:2-3 
How puny and helpless is Job before God, the Creator of earth and sky.
He is wise in heart and mighty in strength --who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?-- he who removes mountains, and they know it not, when he overturns them in his anger, who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars; who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea; who made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south; who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number. Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him. Behold, he snatches away; who can turn him back? Who will say to him, 'What are you doing?' - Job 9:4-12 ESV 
Turning to his friends, Job continues, imagining himself in a court room with God. Before Him Job admits his own mouth would condemn him.
How then can I answer him, choosing my words with him? Though I am in the right, I cannot answer him; I must appeal for mercy to my accuser. If I summoned him and he answered me, I would not believe that he was listening to my voice. For he crushes me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause; he will not let me get my breath, but fills me with bitterness. If it is a contest of strength, behold, he is mighty! If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him? Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse. - Job 9:14-20 ESV 
He has no way to justify himself. Turning back to God, he says,
If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me. - Job 9:30-31 ESV 
What is left for this poor sinner? Back and forth, round and around go his thoughts. God is completely in charge. Job is His puppet, yet Job cries out that he is innocent.
Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked? Have you eyes of flesh? Do you see as man sees? Are your days as the days of man, or your years as a man's years, that you seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, although you know that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of your hand? 
Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose. 
If I sin, you watch me and do not acquit me of my iniquity. If I am guilty, woe to me! If I am in the right, I cannot lift up my head, for I am filled with disgrace and look on my affliction. And were my head lifted up, you would hunt me like a lion and again work wonders against me. You renew your witnesses against me and increase your vexation toward me; you bring fresh troops against me. - Job 10:3-17 ESV 
Finally this confused, suffering man cries out in despair. Death, doom, gloom and darkness is all that awaits him.
"Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave. Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer before I go--and I shall not return-- to the land of darkness and deep shadow, the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick darkness." - Job 10:18-22 ESV
 Are you familiar with Job's struggle? Can anyone understand God's ways? Why suffering, sickness, sadness, sorrow and finally death? Only by gazing upon the cross is there an answer. The apostle Paul
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urges us to consider Abraham, that great man of faith. Everything depends upon our believing in the undeserved mercy of God. So old man Abraham clung to the promise that he was to become the father of many nations and that through his seed all nations of the earth would be blessed.
He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. - Rom 4:18-21 ESV 
In the days ahead we will continue to walk with Job and hear his pitiless friends. Perhaps in all these words we will find our own answers, answers from the God who forces us to struggle that we may grow in our trust in His promise that in all things He is at work for our good, the promise that began to be worked out in the manger of Bethlehem. So the Apostle teaches,
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. - Rom 8:28 ESV 


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Grace Alone, Not By Living A Righteous Life

"What good are you as friends?" Job asks, as he listened to those who came to comfort him. "What good are you?"
"Have I any help in me, when resource is driven from me? "He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed, as torrential streams that pass away, which are dark with ice, and where the snow hides itself. When they melt, they disappear; when it is hot, they vanish from their place. The caravans turn aside from their course; they go up into the waste and perish. The caravans of Tema look, the travelers of Sheba hope. They are ashamed because they were confident; they come there and are disappointed. For you have now become nothing; you see my calamity and are afraid." - Job 6:13-21 ESV
His friends were nothing but melted snow and ice that disappears when it gets hot. He felt like men in the caravans of Tema (Gen. 25:12-16), the travelers of Sheba who found no water in the desert. They plodded along in the dry lands, hoping to find water, but found nothing but parched desert. They were but dried up streams. Job's friends accuse him of some wretched sins for which God is punishing and disciplining him.
But now, be pleased to look at me, for I will not lie to your face. Please turn; let no injustice be done. Turn now; my vindication is at stake. Is there any injustice on my tongue? Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity? - Job 6:28-30 ESV
Poor, wretched, miserable Job (Job 6:1-10). He loathes his life. He cannot sleep. His flesh is clothed with worms and dirt. His skin hardens, then breaks out with new sores. He complains to his "friends" and to his God. In the anguish of his spirit and the bitterness of his soul he cries out. Instead of being comforted he is terrified and scared with dreams and visions. When will it ever end?
What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment? How long will you not look away from me, nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit? - Job 7:17-19 ESV
OK! Enough already. If I am guilty of sin and deserving of this sick and troubling disease, show me.
If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind? Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be." - Job 7:20-21 ESV 
Cyperus Papyrus
Next it is the turn of Bildad the Shuhite. He says the same thing as Job's other friend. God does not pervert justice and the right way of life. If you are pure and upright God will restore you to your former life. You must not forget God. To emphasize this he uses a number pictures drawn from the natural world.
"Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water? While yet in flower and not cut down, they wither before any other plant. Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. His confidence is severed, and his trust is a spider's web. He leans against his house, but it does not stand; he lays hold of it, but it does not endure. He is a lush plant before the sun, and his shoots spread over his garden. His roots entwine the stone heap; he looks upon a house of stones. If he is destroyed from his place, then it will deny him, saying, 'I have never seen you.' Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the soil others will spring. - Job 8:11-19 ESV
So Job and his friends struggle with a type of religion that continually seeks to bargain with God. It is a religion that tells us that if we live a righteous life God will bless us. If we do not, He will punish and humble us until we repent and return to His ways. This is a religion of works. It does not look deep into the teaching of God's Word to discover what the Apostles of Christ taught. Listen to Paul as he despairs of ever being righteous. No one is. All have gone astray. This is the true teaching of Scripture.
As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips"; "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." - Rom 3:10-18 NKJV 
How then shall anyone be saved from eternal death and destruction? Paul's answer:
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, - Rom 3:20-25 NKJV 
It is all by God's grace, undeserved and unearned, yet given and available to all who put their faith and trust in the death and resurrection of the promised Messiah, the Christ whose birth we Christians celebrate at this time of the year.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Hiddenness of God

Job ended his soliloquy (Job 3:1-26) with this complaint: "I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, but trouble comes.”  Now it was time for the first of his friends to reply. Eliphaz the Temanite stepped up (Job 4:1-5:27). He began by reminding Job that Job's words have instructed many. Now that he is suffering as well, why is he so impatient? In his long discourse he makes two points and counsels Job to confess his sin so that he may return to his former blessed life
Bible study with Randy
  • You are only reaping what you've sown: 
"Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?
As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. - Job 4:7-9 ESV
  • You, Job, cannot claim to be innocent, can you? Bildad's questions imply no, never. 
'Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? Even in his servants he puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error; - Job 4:17-18 ESV
  • If I were you, I'd seek God and commit my cause to Him (Job 5:8). Here are some of Eliphaz's oft quoted words: 
The hungry eat his harvest, and he takes it even out of thorns, and the thirsty pant after his wealth. For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. - Job 5:5-7 ESV 
"Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal." - Job 5:17-18 ESV
Job responds that his friends, his brothers, "are treacherous as a torrent-bed, as torrential streams that pass away. He has asked nothing from them, certainly no wealth. Like melting ice and snow they give him nothing, they disappear and vanish. Job responds,
"But now, be pleased to look at me, for I will not lie to your face." - Job 6:28. 
He continues, pointing to his sickness:
When I lie down I say, 'When shall I arise?' But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh. - Job 7:4-5 ESV
You, my friends, my brothers, can't you see that I'm dying? If only I could die. Why do you keep accusing me?
If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind? Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be." - Job 7:4-5, 20-21 ESV
So for the moment we leave this despairing man. He stands for the millions who suffer and die every day of every year. He speaks for all of us who have suffered loss and cried out in our grief. Why, God, have You focused on me? Why have you made me your mark?

So we come to the issue of God's hiding Himself and His so-called alien work or the "theology of the cross." One pastor put it well with these words quoted from the Huffington Post:
I am glad that I am restricted in even seeing a mere glimpse of the Glory of God but find comfort in knowing that the height of God’s revelation was on the cross of Christ. To those who question the Hiddenness of God, I wonder how they deal with the notion of a God who comes down and loves the unlovely and the unrighteous before the objects of his love have any inclination to love him or do good? The cross shows that God identifies with those who suffer in the manifestation of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. This is a message of hope that human beings cannot determine who God is and how he acts, he requires no prior loveliness in the objects of his love, and rather prior love creates that loveliness without laying down preconditions. Such a God is revealed with amazing and unexpected tenderness and beauty in the ugly and violent drama of the cross.