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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