Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reality... from God's point of view...

So in my "read through the Bible program" I finished Job this week. Reading all the stuff between chapter 2 & 38 reminds me of my college days after working graveyard as a policeman in McAllen Texas. Rolling into criminal justice classes and having to listing to 18 year old kids shift their mouths into gear and talk about the meaning of life and how to do police work without having a clue about reality used to nauseate me. I would sit there and think, "Come deal with some of the characters I had last night and then talk to me about your stupid opinion." Much of what Job's friends had to say and much of what Job himself said were somewhat like this. Beginning in Chapter 38, God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind and for old Job, it was like trying to drink water out of a firehose, all for the purpose of giving Job a dose of reality and helping him see things from God's point of view.

What's interesting to me as I read through this is the arguments God used from the created order of the universe, specifically pointing to the world God made, animals that He made and how they operate to demonstrate to Job God's wisdom for what He does. He blows Job out of the water with an overwhelming dose of reality. He questions Job as to where he was when the foundations of the earth where laid, does Job know the measurements, and how the earth is fastened into position? (38:4-6). He asked Job if he could explain why the ocean is not allowed to overwhelm the seashore (38:8-11). This continues all the way through to 40:2 and Job got in a brief word in 40:3-5 and basically said he could not respond. Job had the sense to realize the Creator was dressing him down and he needed to keep his mouth shut. God continues down to 41:34, referring to some vicious sea creature known as the "Leviathan" that sounds like a fire breathing dragon as God describes it. I love God's comment about this creature in 41:8 "Lay your hand on him, remember the battle, never do it again." Wow - the thought of tangling with that thing is scary enough Job, do want to tangle with the God who made that creature? Uh no.

What was Job's response? The only appropriate response to our Creator God: "I abhor myself and I repent in dust and ashes (42:6)." Job got it right. Then God turned his attention to Job's knuckle-head friends and just told them they better ask Job to pray for them so God wouldn't deal with them according to their stupidity. Then God doubled what He had taken away from Job - but never told Job what we know from Job 1 as to why all this happened.

Two thoughts to apply:
1) Creation and the order of it is a great tool to use when dealing with educated but stupid people who deny the existence of God. Before you throw stones at me, I didn't say it, God did: Ps.14:1 "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." Ps.19 and Romans 1 make it clear that God has revealed enough of Himself in the created order of the universe to tell us He exists. The watch on my arm is evidence that somewhere, there's a watchmaker, the creation shouts to humans, that there is a Creator. God uses Creation to argue for His existence and you should too. Don't be intimidated by people who cling to evolution - everything they claim is pure folly and full of holes. The world is falling apart around us, evidence of sin's curse, decay and death, not of stuff evolving into more complex and different beings.

2) Why would God "dress down" Job, a righteous man, with that blistering commentary to set him straight, and leave his three stupid and arrogant friends alone? Heb.12:6 provides the answer: "For whom the Lord loves, He corrects and he scourges (whips) every son whom He receives." If God doesn't correct your view of reality, its very likely you do not belong to Him. Hmm. Boy am I thankful God took old Job to the woodshed and I'm thankful He takes me there regularly, I need a dose of reality. Don't you? From my little corner of the world to yours....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

So you had a bad day....

We all have them, days that you wish you could forget, that seem like they never end and came straight out of the pits of Hell, at least to you anyway. You wonder if anyone understands how you feel and if there is anyone you could talk to about it who would see what happened your way. A lot of people handle bad days in different ways, some people explode in anger, some people turn to drugs or alcohol, some to sexual immorality, and some just have a generally sour disposition to where if they are miserable, they are bound and determined everyone else will be also. For all of those bad days in our lives, I don't believe anyone's "ultimate bad day" will compare to that of Job recorded in God's Word. Consider what Job lost in one horrifying afternoon:
  • All 10 of his children - 7 sons & 3 daughters
  • All but a handful of his many servants
  • 7000 sheep
  • 3000 camels
  • 1000 oxen - (500 yoke - a pair)
  • 500 donkeys

Job went from being the richest man in the world of his time to being penniless, he lost his place in the community, his family and he lost his health to where he was covered from head to toe in boils that he scraped with a broken piece of pottery. It was so bad that Job's wife told him to curse God and commit suicide because there was nothing left. His friends came to console him but it wasn't long before they began to accuse him of some horrible crime against God. How did Job respond to this calamity? In what has to be three of the most amazing verses in all the Bible, Job 1:20-22 says: "Then Job arose, tore his robe and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong."

I am stunned when I read that. Speechless is a good way to describe my feelings every time I read that. A knot tightens in the pit of my stomach when I place myself in Job's shoes (or sandles more likely). I don't have much in the realm of possessions, but I do have "stuff" we've accumulated in 24 years of marriage, I have my health, an incredible wife and 5 kids. I shudder to think how I'd respond if I lost all of my kids and stuff in one afternoon. Then I begin to think about all of my so-called "bad days" where I lost my cool because things didn't go as I planned and again I get sick. All of my bad days stacked up together don't even come close to this day in Job's life. It's all a matter of perspective and when you compare to Job's experience, I bet your bad days wouldn't come close either.

The amazing thing about Job also is that Job doesn't know why all this is happening, but we the readers know "the rest of the story" as old Paul Harvey used to say. See God was proving a point to Satan about the rock-solid faith of Job. God's commentary about Job in 1:8 is pretty amazing also: "Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?'" Are you kidding me? This was actually God's idea to hold Job up for Satan to look at and torment? That's right, it was God who instigated this examination of Job's faith in God and He permitted Satan to torment Job but restrained Satan from taking Job's life.

While I can't unpack all the lessons we learn from Job here, we have much to learn about faith from the life of this amazing saint of God. While Job didn't understand the whole picture, he did understand God was testing him and he demonstrates his faith that God was going to use this experience in his life to refine him and to make him more pure like the refining process with gold (see Job 23:10). The next time I have a bad day, I want to remember it pales in comparison to old Job. Maybe God is holding me up to some demonic being and saying "Have you considered my servant Ralph...?" Maybe you can insert your name there.

Contrary to much of the "prosperity gospel" many TV preachers advocate, where they basically claim trusting in Jesus means all your problems go away, Christians need to remember God wants to conform us to the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. God has a right to use whatever means needed to refine us and remove the dross and impurities from our lives to draw us closer to Himself. Pray that God will give you the grace of old Job who said in Job 13:15 "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him..." Start filtering your bad days through the pages of Scripture and get a healthy dose of reality about your "bad day" and watch how your attitude changes. Just a thought from my little corner to yours...