Job 22-24; Eliphaz, Final Thoughts

Something Eliphaz said right off the bat here in his last effort to “fix” Job has me thinking. Here’s what he said in 22:2-3:

Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit Him? What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous? What would He gain if your ways were blameless?

Can I be of benefit to God? Can I cause Him to feel pleasure? Some people think because God is Sovereign that means He is self-sufficient and does not need anything whatsoever. I am one of those people because I know that at any time God has the ability to do anything and everything He wants. He is able.

But I also see in Scripture His self-imposed need of us. He created us with the ability to choose because He knows choosing to love someone is sweeter than being forced to love. (which, as I think about it, isn’t really love at all) God needs us to choose Him in order for Him to feel the joy that comes with that decision.

We tend to shy away from saying God “needs” anything because that implies imperfection. But if the “need” is self-imposed and can be overridden at any time, there is no weakness or imperfection. God chose to limit Himself when He chose to create people with the ability to choose Him or reject Him.

There’s a flip side to this coin. My choices can and do grieve Him when I choose to disobey, or when I participate in ungodly behavior. I cause God to feel pain when I turn my back on Him.

Our character, our choices, our love of God is important to Him. I think He cares about what we are wearing today. Every word that comes out of our mouths, every action, every step we take is important to God. Why? Because we are important to God. Because He cares about each of us, personally, intimately, lovingly.

God delights in fellowshipping with you when you choose Him. It’s a benefit to Him, and the reason you were created in the first place.

God delights in our obedience. When we choose to walk with the Lord, the benefit to God isn’t only personal. When we obey Him He can use us to reach out to lost people who come our way. We can be beneficial to God in the work of sharing the Gospel, and seeing souls won for eternity. That would give Him pleasure upon pleasure! What would He gain if we are blameless, Eliphaz asks? So much!

So much of what I have been taught centers around the benefits for me when I follow the Lord. And there are many! He gives me forgiveness, He directs my path, He loves me, He provides for all I need, and on and on and on…

Today I am considering what I bring Him, when I love Him like He deserves.

I am humbled to think that God might have need of me. Because it goes without say, I need Him more. I want to bring God pleasure today by the choices I make, by my thoughts and actions. I want to benefit Him in His work, and not be a hinderance. I want to bring Him joy, because He has filled my life with so much joy.

Dearest Heavenly Father, I am blown away at the thought that there is something you need me to do today. You need me to choose You, to represent You, to talk about You, to show unsaved people what being forgiven by You looks like. God, more than anything today I want to bring you pleasure, I want to benefit Your work in the lives of people around me. Thank you for the privilege. May my life be a pleasure to You.

 

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Job 20-21; Zophar, Part 2

Let’s get one thing straight. People die. Godly people die. Ungodly people die. There are godly people who live to a ripe old age, and there are godly people who die young. The same can be said for ungodly people.

Furthermore, no matter what Zophar would have you believe, there are wicked, evil people who are living long lives of luxurious, seemingly carefree lives, while there are godly people without homes or food. The opposite is true as well.

It’s tempting to equate God’s blessings with the things we can see. I will say God blessed me with a career for 37 years which has allowed me to live comfortably in my aging years. God has blessed me with good health, a loving family, a precious church fellowship. The sun is shining today. The sky is blue. And I have eyes that can see it all.

I could go on. But you get the picture. Some of the blessings I enjoy today come as a result of choices I made along the way. I don’t apologize for that or feel guilty because someone else made different choices. But I clearly know nothing I have, no blessing that I’ve been given is deserved. God doesn’t owe me a good life.

In fact, if I did get what I deserve, I would be one miserable lady.

I guess as I read the conversations between Job and his friends, I am reminded that it is useless to try to explain why things happen in this life. I mean, I can say the reason someone gets lung cancer is because he smoked for forty years. But then how do I explain the one who gets lung cancer and never smoked?

Here’s what struck me as I read Zophar’s second speech and Job’s reply: If I really thought only ungodly people receive devastating doctor’s reports, why am I not stopping everyone from undergoing chemo, and instead get them to accept Jesus? Why don’t I pray with all the homeless people I see so God will give them houses?

I should be talking to cancer patients and homeless people (and neighbors, co-workers, family members) about Jesus. Not for anything they can see. But because their eternity depends on it.

Zohar was right about one thing. “the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts for a moment.” In light of eternity, the “blessings” people enjoy on this earth are merely a blink of an eye.

Do you believe that? Regardless of bank accounts, health reports, popularity, or influence, we all will stand before a Holy God one day and give an account for the choices we made while we were enjoying, or struggling with, life on planet Earth. If you know Jesus as your Savior, that’s all God will need to know. Account paid. Good job, dear one. Let the party begin.

But if your choices haven’t included asking God to forgive you, and accepting what Jesus did for you when He died on the cross, you’re on your own. Good luck trying to defend yourself before a Holy God. Do you honestly think you’ll match up? Really?

Let’s not get bogged down by things we can see. Let’s not waste time trying to understand God’s ways. His ways are not like ours. But let’s look at the true, and eternal blessing that comes from knowing Him personally. And let’s makes sure others know how they can be blessed in the same way.

 

Job 18-19; Bildad, Part 2

I had a pastor one time who said that when he was younger he gave his heart to the Lord after reading the book of Revelation. He said it scared the faith right into him.

I think Bildad’s speech here in chapter 18 is every bit as terrifying, if not more so.

It’s nighttime. You are lying on your cot, almost asleep in your tent. A lantern flickers on the floor next to you, the embers of a campfire glow outside your door. Suddenly both fires go out, and you are in complete and utter darkness.

You stumble outside, only to trip and fall into a net that has been placed there to catch you. Immediately you feel a metal trap clamp down on your heel, holding you immobile. A noose slips over your head, then tightens around your neck.

Every sound terrifies you in the blackness of night. Something you can’t see begins to eat your flesh. It rips your arm from your body.

You are snatched away by soldiers, who take you to stand before the king, to give an account for offenses you do not know.

Your house is destroyed so that nothing remains. Your very life is ebbing away without hope. You’ve been driven from the light into unspeakable darkness, alone. Totally alone.

People are repulsed by the memory of you. The thought of you horrifies them.

(The only thing missing is a guy holding a chain saw, and wearing a mask)

Then Bildad implies… That’s what you deserve, Job.

Now that’s just mean.

Job knew first-hand what it meant to be crushed, unjustly accused, and absolutely alone. Why his friends thought they had to keep throwing salt into his wounds, I don’t know.

But Job, living in the horror Bildad described, demonstrates a faith that blows me away. Listen to what he says:

Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!

I  know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me(19:23-27, emphasis mine)

I’m so thankful Job’s words were recorded like he wished. Job believed he would see God in the flesh some day. And Job longed for that day! In the midst of devastating pain, Job was confident in the fact that he had a Redeemer, alive, and coming to earth. Job wanted to look into those eyes.

We know the name of Job’s Redeemer. His name is Jesus. And He’s your Redeemer, too. Do you know Him with the same confidence Job displayed here? No matter what your circumstances, you have an advocate, one who died so you can live, one who sits at the throne of God and prays for you, draws you to Himself, loves you beyond what you can even imagine.

My dear Redeemer, Jesus, Lord, thank You for the reality of You! Thank You for taking my sins upon Yourself, for suffering what I deserved, for forgiving me. And thank You for the knowledge that You are alive, and one day I’ll look into those eyes of Yours and know for the first time, just how much I am loved. I praise You. I adore You. I worship You.

Job 15-17; Eliphaz, Part 2

I usually try to avoid debating. I stink at it. The thoughts in my head never come out like I think they should, which ends up giving the other person the upper hand. Because what I find is that a good debater doesn’t necessarily listen to what is said, but rather how it is said. Then, if that isn’t enough, the debate turns into character assassination.

That’s what I think Eliphaz was doing here. Job had not jumped ever to his side after Eliphaz’s impressive discourse earlier, so Eliphaz attacks Job himself. He describes a “wicked” man, but we all know he was talking about Job.

Miserable comforter!

Job tells Eliphaz that if he was in Job’s shoes, he’d encourage Eliphaz, he’d speak words of comfort to Eliphaz. That’s what Job needed in his anguish. That’s what he hoped he’d be able to provide if the tables were turned.

That’s what spoke to me this morning. Trials and heartaches are part of life here on earth as a result of our sin nature. And I hope that during those troubling times in your own life, someone came along side of you. I hope God was able to comfort you through someone who looked past your words and saw your wounds.

And I hope you have been that someone to someone else in their time of need,too.

Warren Wiersbe quotes John Henry Jowett on page 65 of his study of Job entitled, “Be Patient.” Mr Jowett said:

“God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.”

Do you know someone who is hurting today? Ask God how you can use the comfort you have been given to be a comforter today for that person, in Jesus’ name.

 

Job 11-14; Zophar

“Things could be worse.”

Really, Zophar? That’s just mean to say to someone who has lost everything, including his entire family, and his health; someone who has reached rock bottom and feels helpless and hopeless.

I don’t think Zophar cared how his words would effect Job. He, like his cohorts, seemed to simply enjoy the sound of his own voice. None of them were interested in listening.

I want to listen, to put myself in the mind of Job. That’s not easy to do as someone who has not suffered a fraction of Job’s suffering. Job was ill, and lost, confused, depressed, betrayed, harassed, and misunderstood to the point where finding energy to form words was a struggle. But here is what Job says from that very dark place:

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. (13:15a)

Job teaches us that we are all the same; created beings inferior to God, living in a world over which He is Sovereign, accountable to Him alone.

Here’s what struck me about that. In spite of Job’s understanding of his low position before God, he still wanted to face Him. He still wanted to go to Him because Job trusted God in spite of what was happening in his life.

Job didn’t place his hope in coming up with the right words or attitude to sway God. He didn’t “think it to be it.” Job knew he had nothing to offer God. He was broken and empty. He had questions, sure. He wanted to defend himself. But in the end, even as his wife advised him to curse God and die, Job placed his hope in the Almighty.

Peter talks about the “living hope” we who live after the cross enjoy. (I Peter 1) His name is Jesus! Circumstances aside, the God of hope sees you, hears you, longs to comfort and strengthen you who are his children through the precious blood of His Son.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Job 8-10; Bildad

Now Job hears from another friend whose intent is to help Job through this difficult time. Eliphaz had talked to Job about sin. Bildad’s theme is more about God’s justice.

Bildad’s argument includes examples from nature about God’s order. Cause and effect. God, who created an orderly world, is right in his dealing with men. Sin=Punishment. Sinlessness=Blessing.

Job’s reply? You’re right, Bildad. “But how can a mortal man be righteous before God?” (9:2) The best, the smartest of us have no defense before a Holy God. None of us is innocent.

The Creator has no equal. His holiness renders us defenseless. And our finite minds will never understand Him.

Job, in his despair, is ready to give up trying.

Bildad tells Job to buck up, put on a smile, things will get better. Job tells him that putting a smile on his face would make him a hypocrite. His grief is real and unrelenting.

Some of you have been there, may be at that point now. I don’t want you to miss the precious truth found in 9:29-35. Job longs for a helper, someone who can bridge the gap between God and himself. He knows he can’t do it. He might not be the worst guy on the planet, but Job knew he could not approach Holy, Righteous, Creator God.

If only…

Friend, we have that One who touches God and touches us. One who can remove God’s “rod” from us. His Name is Jesus!

If we truly saw ourselves as Job saw himself, as helpless, hopeless sinners accountable to the God of Creation, we’d feel exactly like Job felt. You have no standing before God. I certainly don’t. You deserve hell. And so do I.

But Jesus.

Job longed for the One who is standing next to you, arms opened wide, ready to accept you as you surrender to Him.

Do it!

Job 3-7; Eliphaz

I have to believe Eliphaz meant well. But sometimes good intentions aren’t enough. Here are some things that spoke to me about the exchange between Eliphaz and his friend, Job:

First of all, if you want to encourage someone or support them during hard times, I wouldn’t start out by saying, “Practice what you preach.” Sometimes godly people, people who have encouraged others in the past, need encouragement for themselves. It’s not a sin. It’s life.

Secondly, telling a hurting person they must be guilty of SOMETHING or God wouldn’t be punishing them is a theology straight from hell. This whole, “God wants you to be healthy and successful” lie does as much harm as anything I can think of to keep Christians from a right relationship with God. Satan loves that.

I went to Dr. Wiersbe’s “With the Word” again today and he pointed out something I hadn’t seen before. Eliphaz proceeds to tell Job and anyone within hearing distance about his “encounter” with God. Red flag!

“Avoid those who make their experience the only test of truth.” (p. 285, WTW)

I know Eliphaz didn’t have a Bible on his bedside table. But most of us do. God is not going to speak to anyone any other way than through Scripture. His words are written there. Test everything you hear or read by what is written in the Bible. And I would say, be skeptical when you hear someone tell you God gave them a special message, if it doesn’t come from Scripture.

Lastly, there is something about the exchange between these two friends that makes me sad. Read 6:26-28. Job says, “look at me…”

Look at me. Hear me. Empathize with me. Love me. See me.

Too often we think the person who is hurting needs answers, or direction to fix things. We come up with great sounding words, maybe quote a Bible verse or two, because we want to say the right thing that will relieve their suffering. Good intentions. But…

Job reminds me to stop talking. To take a breath and just look at the person who is hurting. I hate it when someone says to a person who has lost a loved one, “God needed another angel,” or “It was his time,” or even “She’ll always be with you, looking down from heaven,” or with any hardship: “It was God’s will.”

If that’s the only encouragement you have, just be quiet. Sometimes there are no answers. Throwing out meaningless platitudes do nothing to let the hurting person know you are seeing them, really present with them in their agony.

And as I read these chapters today, I realize that is what Job really needed. He needed Eliphaz just to be present with him in his suffering. Sometimes there are no words that can take away someone’s hurt. Maybe it’s not even our place to try.

I’ll look at what Bildad has to teach me tomorrow. Looking forward to that.

Hey, Happy New Year! I pray that 2018 will find you walking with the Lord, being used by Him to lead others to the Savior, and growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus. Be in the Word every day. Pray every day. And expect to see God work mightily when you are obedient. It’s going to be a great year, my friend, as we move ahead as He leads.