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Category: Job

Better questions to ask in place of “why?”

Questions

God thunders wondrously with his voice;
he does great things that we cannot comprehend.
Job 37:5

Whether for correction or for his land
or for love, he causes it to happen.
Job 37:13

When going through times of difficulty, conflict or strife, it is natural for people to wonder “why?”. Why me, why this, why now? This is the common, default response. Which is why it can be helpful to have someone like Elihu in our life to encourage us to not respond naturally but rather supernaturally.

In a sense, Elihu’s encouragement can best be summed up as, “God is God and you are not. He does things that is beyond our comprehension and regardless of His reasons, He is the one that causes it to happen to fulfill His purposes.”

Perhaps Steven Curtis Chapman was inspired by Elihu when he wrote the song, God is God. If you read through the lyrics, you’ll see a lot of similarities with what is being communicated by Elihu in Job 37.

Sometimes the best questions to ask when we find ourselves in the midst of life’s tempest is not “why?” but rather “who?”, “what?”, and “how?”.

The “who?” question is the easiest to answer. It is the Lord, the creator and sustainer of Heaven and earth who causes and allows things to happen.

Here are a couple other, more challenging, profound and helpful questions to ask:

What?

  • What does the Lord want to reveal to me about Himself?
  • What does the Lord want to reveal about myself?
  • What does the Lord want to accomplish through this?
  • What is the Lord’s will in this?

How?

  • How can I bring glory to God through this?
  • How can I respond to this in a way that is pleasing and brings honor to God?

I guess I have one last thought on this. My experience says that it is much easier to be an Elihu than it is to receive counsel from an Elihu. My prayer is that I would both offer and receive counsel with grace and humility. For the glory of God and the testimony of His church.

Detecting Wisdom

metal detectorThe technological advances made by man over the years is pretty astounding. There is the obvious recent advancements in personal computing, mobile application and mobile communication development but there are also others. Some of these developments are targeted at helping us find things. We have apps to help us find friends, someone to date, the best restaurants, the nearest gas station, etc… We have navigation and mapping apps that help us find our way to our destination or aid us in our geocaching endeavors. We can make lots of things, learn about lots of things and find lots of things. But what about wisdom?

Reading in Job 28 this morning it is acknowledged that despite all that man can do, there is one thing that eludes his grasp and understanding. Specifically, the author asks,

“But where shall wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?”
Job 28:12

He then goes on to acknowledge that wisdom is not found in the land of the living nor can it be purchased because it is invaluable. There is nothing that compares to it. In fact, Proverbs 8 tells us that wisdom is better than jewels and all that you desire cannot compare with it.

If, by the grace of God, we become aware of the fact that wisdom is this valuable and incomparable and we have a desire to attain it, we are still left with this problem:

“It is hidden from the eyes of all living
and concealed from the birds of the air.”
Job 28:21

This is not good. In fact, this seems to be very bad news. We’re still left with questions and no answers. Where shall wisdom be found? Where is the place of understanding?

But, if you spend any time reading God’s word you know that there is always good news coming.

“God understands the way to it,
and he knows its place.
For he looks to the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
When he gave to the wind its weight
and apportioned the waters by measure,
when he made a decree for the rain
and a way for the lightning of the thunder,
then he saw it and declared it;
he established it, and searched it out.
And he said to man,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
and to turn away from evil is understanding.”
Job 28:23-28

God, the Sovereign Creator of the universe is the source of wisdom. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He knows the way. He is the way. We are to follow Him. We are to evaluate all things in light of His understanding of things as revealed through His word. We are to fear Him and to turn away from evil. We are to submit to His standard of what is wise. We are to be transformed through the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus.

We are not called to understand or agree. We are called to obedience. We are called to subject ourselves (including our ideals) to Him. We are called to be holy because He is holy.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
Psalm 111:10

Fear the Lord. Spend time with the Lord. Desire wisdom. He is faithful.

For His glory.

What to do when friends suffer

Silouhette of a man with his head hung down lowI’m already anticipating that after reading a few more chapters my opinion will start to shift a little bit but right now, as I read Job 2, I find myself admiring Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They really do exhibit some wonderful characteristics of true friends and provide some good practical encouragement for how to come alongside someone that is struggling and going through a tough time.

After Satan once again presents himself to the Lord and receives permission to afflict Job with loathsome sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet, we see the following.

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
Job 2:11-13

It’s very possible that many people heard about all the evil that had come upon Job but what sets Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar apart is what they did in response to hearing that news.

They could have just sat at home and prayed for Job and that would have been a fine thing to do. But rather than just pray that the Lord would comfort Job, they decided they would make themselves available that the Lord might comfort Job through them. It didn’t just happen. It was no accident. They were purposeful in their actions.

It says they “made an appointment together”. They heard about Job’s misfortune, they discussed what an appropriate response might be, and they agreed to go see Job. Their purpose? To “show him sympathy”. They didn’t just tell Job they were sorry for all that had happened to him. They showed him they were sorry.

One way they showed him was by their presence. The fact that they made the effort to seek him out. They took time away from their families and busy schedules. They showed up. Another way they showed him sympathy was by their reaction when they saw him. When the saw Job and all the anguish he was experiencing (and the physical evidence of it) they raised their voices and they wept. They entered into his suffering and they were physically and emotionally moved. And they weren’t afraid to show it.

And then, they do a very simple but very profound thing for Job. Something that I know from personal experience goes a long way with the person who is suffering. It says “they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

Sometimes the best response to someone who is suffering is not to try and offer solutions, offer words of encouragement, or tell someone how they should feel. Sometimes it’s best just to be with them. Just to let them know they are not alone. To just be there for them.

Now again, I know the story of Job and so I am well aware that Job’s three friends are really not that great of a model to follow. In fact, it won’t be long before Job is wishing that they would just shut up and sit silently again. But when I look at this small snippet of chapter 2 in isolation, I am encouraged to:

  • Be aware of the fact that there are people around me who might be suffering
  • Be purposeful about interceding on behalf of those who are suffering
  • Demonstrate (in practical ways) sympathy and love to those who are suffering
  • Be present in the midst of other people’s suffering

Why was this written?

I gather with a group of men on Wednesday nights to study the Bible. Right now we are working our way through the Old Testament and last night found us in the book of Job. One of the things that came up in our discussion last night was this idea of wondering why the story of Job was written, why God would want us to know about this story and what we are supposed to learn from it. Really, when it comes down to it, I think that the book of Job was written and preserved for us with the same intent and motivation with which the rest of the scriptures were written.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Romans 15:4

The book of Job (like the rest of the scriptures) was written to instruct us, encourage us, and give us hope. It was written that God might further reveal Himself to us.

“…from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:15-17

The book of Job (like the rest of the scriptures) was written to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, to teach us, to reprove us, to correct us, to train us in righteousness, and to equip us for every good work.

For those of you with a background or familiarity with AWANA, you might be familiar with their response to the question, “why did God give us the Bible”. Here’s their more comprehensive list (source: http://awana.org/awana-clubs/tt-ua-outline,default,pg.html) of reasons below:

God gave us the Bible so we can know who He is.
Memory verse: Psalm 100:3
Review verse: Romans 3:23

God gave us the Bible so we can know that He is the one and only true God.
Memory verse: Jeremiah 10:10a
Review verse: Acts 16:31

God gave us the Bible so we can know His words are always true.
Memory verses: John 17:17b, Psalm 119:42b
Review verse: 2 Corinthians 9:15

God gave us the Bible so we can learn about people from the past.
Memory verse: Romans 15:4a
Review verse: Psalm 25:4

God gave us the Bible so we can understand we are sinners.
Memory verse: Ecclesiastes 7:20
Review verse: Romans 3:23

God gave us the Bible so we can know that Jesus is God, and that Jesus is the Son of God.
Memory verse: John 1:1
Review verse: Jeremiah 17:9

God gave us the Bible to show us we need a Savior.
Memory verse: Acts 4:12
Review verse: Psalm 119:42b

God gave us the Bible so we can know how to live.
Memory verse: Psalm 86:11
Review verse: Psalm 100:3

I’m thankful that God gave us the Bible.

Sovereign over the “good” and the “bad”

As I’ve been reading through Job, Isaiah, and Revelation lately there is one common theme that has been continually reinforced throughout the three books. That is, God is sovereign. Over all things, at all times. Whether they are things that we perceive to be “good” or whether they are things that we perceive to be “bad”. They are all useful to accomplish God’s purposes for His glory. Whether it is the trials that Job was allowed (and given the strength) to experience, or the Israelites being taken captive into Babylon, or the beast being allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months – all of those things were allowed by God.

Everything happens because God allows it to happen and He is able to work all things together for good despite the fact that I so often do not understand. His ways are surely more perfect than my ways and His thoughts higher than my thoughts.

God told His children who were taken captive into Babylon,

For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD, your Redeemer.
(Isaiah 54:7-8 ESV)

And again He said,

For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
(Isaiah 54:10 ESV)

When we find ourselves in one of those “desert places” where everything seems to be going wrong, the world is against us, and God seems far away, time seems to stand still and there appears to be no end to our misery. But, we must remember that relative to the surpassing greatness of God’s everlasting love, it is really just a brief moment. And hopefully, it causes us to desire Him even more than we already do.

Remember the good ol’ days when God liked me?

Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me,
(Job 29:2 ESV)

Job spends all of chapter 29 remembering the good old days. You know, the good old days was when God’s friendship was actually upon Job’s house and when God actually cared about Job. The days when it was very clear that God was present with, and protective of Job. The reasons it was so clear that these things were true is because the good ol’ days included the following:

  • Job still had his family
  • His land and flocks and herds were fertile and productive, making Job a man of many means
  • He was greatly respected, admired, and honored by everyone
  • He was a blessing to those in need and generous with all that God had provided him
  • He was an agent for justice and was eyes for the blind and a voice for the oppressed
  • Job sensed, felt, and knew God’s presence, provision, and protection over him.

After reading through the details of all of the righteous acts that Job performed when things were going well for him, it becomes clear that he is the unfortunate victim of one of those scenarios when bad things happen to good people. Because of everything that has happened to Job, his idea of who God is and how He operates is shaken to the core. Not only that, but now he’s struggling with everyone around him speculating that all of this trouble has come upon him because of some hidden sin. I guess he must not have been as righteous as some of us believed, they say. He’s suffering the righteous wrath of God for being a secret sinner, they whisper.

The best thing to do at this point is to empathize with Job. It’s too easy to armchair quarterback the situation and exhort him to continue hoping and trusting in God. To remind him that God works all things together for good. To tell him that God’s mercies are new every morning. All of those things may be true but sometimes you just need to let people like Job mourn, grieve, and process the situation in which they find themselves. It’s natural for people to associate God’s blessings with His presence and to feel as though He is absent when things have gone south.

But I know from the perspective of my comfy chair in my warm house with my family tucked safely in their beds, I remind myself that should my life ever get to the point where Job is in chapter 29, I want to be able to reflect on all of God’s past blessings not as a reason to lament but as a reason to rejoice. That is really one of the amazing things about being knocked off the mountaintop and down into the valley. From the valley floor, as you gaze back up at the heights from which you’ve fallen and things come into perspective, you can give thanks that you ever had the opportunity to take in the panoramic views and breathe the thin air that may only be found in the highest places. You can realize that the only reason you know the pain associated to loss is because you have enjoyed the blessings of plenty in the first place.

I wonder if I was in Job’s shoes, thinking about the past – the family, the possessions, the reputation – what would I want restored more? Those things? Or the feeling and knowledge and confidence that God was with me, and watching over me, and providing for me. Would I desire the house more than desiring God’s friendship that was upon the house?

Has anyone seen wisdom?

Job asks an important question in Job 28. Quite frankly, it’s a question that is more often than not, taken for granted and not considered enough. Job wonders,

But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? ~ Job 28:12

Job spent the first eleven verses acknowledging the fact that man has been able, through human ingenuity, skill, effort and sheer desire, to search out and mine the earth to extract many things of value. Things like silver, gold, iron, copper, and many other rare and valuable things. Even in our day and age it does not take much effort to realize how much humankind has been able to accomplish, especially in the areas of medical and technological advancements. But despite all of that, Job wonders about wisdom. Where can it be found?

Before getting to the answer, I think it’s important to just acknowledge that just to ask that question is profound. Where can wisdom be found? How few of us today fail to even inquire about wisdom. Is it because we don’t value it enough? Is it because we feel as though we can get by without it? I like that Job takes the time to consider this question because it reminds me that I also need to consider it. And, even more importantly, that I need to pursue the answer. That as a father, I want to help my children foster a desire for wisdom and point them to the source of all wisdom.

Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding. ~ Job 28:28

I have a feeling after reading verse 28, there are a lot of people that wish they could just buy wisdom. It would probably be much easier. But Job tells us that there is nothing on this earth that is comparable to the value of wisdom. All of the silver and gold that man can extract from the earth would not be an equal trade for wisdom. Wisdom’s value is incomprehensible. It is not for sale. Only God knows the way to it and He knows it’s place.

Although Job may have been sharing this information in a passive-aggressive manner as a way to point out to his friends that they lack wisdom in their counsel to him, the reality remains and is reinforced elsewhere in scripture that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We are told to not be wise in our own eyes but to fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

Solomon had a chance to ask of the Lord anything that he desired. He chose wisdom and the Lord granted his request. I pray that I also would learn to value wisdom above all else. Not a worldly wisdom that can be attained through human “intelligence”, learning, skill, or ingenuity. But a Godly wisdom that is continually revealed through the working of the Holy Spirit as I (continually) fear the Lord and (continually) turn away from evil.

Treasuring the words of His mouth

My time in God’s word today had me catching up with Job in chapter 23. Job has reached a point where he is tired of interacting with his friends and is ready to come to where God is and present his case before the Lord. Job says this about why he feels confident to do so.

But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my portion of food. (Job 23:10-12)

It’s the last part of verse 12 that I found myself drawn to today. “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my portion of food”. I don’t want to just repeat that sentence and quote Job. I want to be able to say that and have it ring true and accurate in my own life. I want to honor, desire, value, treasure and be satisfied by God’s word more than any other thing in this world. I want to live not by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Then, as I moved on to Isaiah 45, I see an example of the types of words that come from the mouth of God.

I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right. (Isaiah 45:19c)

He speaks the truth and He declares what is right. So, what is the truth and what is right? More words from the mouth of the Lord in verses 22-24:

Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength;

It is right that the created should turn to the creator and be saved by the only name that brings salvation. It is true that every knee shall bow. It is right that every tongue shall swear allegiance to the Lord and it is true that only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.

What a great day to turn to the Lord and be saved. What a great way to say thank you in response to His gift – Immanuel, God with us. What a wonderful opportunity to bow your knee with reverence and awe in response to the Father’s loving-kindess as opposed to doing so in fear and trembling in response to an enemy’s wrath and fury. What a great day to begin treasuring the words of His mouth knowing that none of them return to Him void but rather, accomplish His purposes. For His glory and our joy.

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