Monday, November 28, 2016

Job 42:7 (ESV)
After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

I find it fascinating that God did not say to Eliphaz, “you have not spoken of Job what is right.” He said, “You have not spoken of me (God) what is right, as my servant Job has.” God is here affirming Job’s innocence. Throughout the book, Job asserted his innocence. In this last chapter one might question whether Job’s estimation of himself was correct. His response to God was, “I despise myself and repent” (Job 42:6). Yet here God says Job was innocent. Job spoke what was right concerning God. Given Job’s innocence, it would have made sense for God to say to Eliphaz, “You have not spoken of Job what is right.” Reading back through Job, their theology seems fairly accurate. It was the application concerning Job where Eliphaz and his friends were off. Yet God says that they have not spoken what is right about God. Why does he say that?

Jesus said that in the final judgment “the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:40). Have we considered that what we say to others and about others, we are saying to God and about God? Could that really be true? What we do to the least in society we do to God? Really!? How often, then, have we ignored God? How often have we spoken disparagingly about God? How often have we been rude to God? How often have we dismissed God out of hand? What Job’s friends said about him, they were saying about God. How we treat others cannot be divorced from how we treat God.

Too often we love God; we worship God; we would never speak disparagingly about God, yet we turn around and mistreat, or ignore others, and speak disapprovingly and unsympathetically toward them or about them. How is that possible that our lives can be so compartmentalized that we can love God and hate others at the same time? Yes, I know; hate is a strong word and we would never hate another person. So, we must be okay, right? But the Apostle John wrote these words,
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:20 (ESV).

God doesn’t just require that we not hate our brothers. He requires that we love them. We cannot separate loving God from loving others. Life just doesn’t work that way. Job’s friends found out that if you disparage and disrespect others, you disparage and disrespect God himself.

Father, today may I see Jesus in every person. May my words, thoughts, and actions reflect love for you that overflows into love for them. Lord, I can’t do that by myself. I’m not resolving to live in such a manner, I am pleading. Only by your grace can that happen. Fill my vision and let me see only you.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Job 42:10-11 (ESV)
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.

Job 42 is a short chapter, but it raises so many questions. Why did God mention Job’s three friends, but not Elihu? Why did Job’s family not come to him with gifts and help earlier when things first fell apart, instead of waiting until after the fact? Are Job’s children supposed to be replacements for those he lost? That seems to be a harsh thought. No child can replace a child who has died. I don’t believe they are replacements. Rather, they are further blessings. Verse 10 says that God restored Job’s fortunes, but then verse twelve says that God blessed Job’s latter days more than his beginning. He children are not replacements. They are simply blessings.

This chapter raises a number of questions, but gives few answers. But, there is one interesting statement that takes further consideration. Verse 10 says that “the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.” Job’s fortunes weren’t restored first, and then he prayed for his friends. He prayed for his friends, and then his fortunes were restored. Three thoughts occur to me as I consider this verse. First, this was an act of faith on Job’s part. It would have been much easier for Job if his fortunes had been restored first, and then he was asked to pray for his friends. We often think that we need to have everything together in our lives before we can minister to others. But ministry is ultimately an act of faith. It is trusting that God can use a broken pot to deliver water to a thirsty soul. It is trusting that ultimately the ministry is about God, not about us. It is trusting that I don’t have to have it all together in order to minister to others.

I think that sometimes we expect or assume that pastors are able to minister to others because they have all the answers, and they have their life all together. Things could not be further from the truth. Pastors are just people. They have their struggles. They get weary and frustrated. They are far from perfect. We must not expect that pastors and those in ministry somehow live on a different level of spirituality that is unattainable for the ordinary person. Neither must we fall for the lie that until we attain that level, we are not really worthy or able to ministry. God uses broken vessels. Ministry is always an act of faith.

The second thought that occurs to me as I consider verse 10 is that this was an act of humility and repentance on his friends’ part. In verses 7-9 God spoke to Job’s friends and told them to take an offering to Job and ask him to pray for them. Job didn’t initiate this prayer. Eliphaz and company initiated. They had to come to Job with gifts in hand. They had to come to the one they had just been trying to convince of sin in his life. They had to lay aside their own ego, and their own need to be right in order to humbly ask this “sinner” to pray for them. That is not easy to do, but they did it. How often has our own pride kept us from restoring relationships, admitting wrong, and finding God’s blessing. What an incredible experience to have Job’s self-righteous friends come, gift in hand, and ask him to pray for them. How much healing could occur in relationships if we would lay aside our pride and ask those we have offended to pray for us.

That brings me to the third thought, which is that this was an act of love and forgiveness on Job’s part. Job could have been easily offended. He could have decided that he never wanted anything to do with his friends after how they had treated him. They had assumed the worst of him without evidence. They had pushed, prodded, and insisted that there was sin in his life. Who wants to hang out with friends like that? Yet Job was quick to pray for them, even before his own fortunes had been restored. In our own brokenness, we can often see the brokenness of others better. Job was willing to offer to his friends the grace and acceptance that they had failed to offer him. But that is where restoration begins; not with responding in kind, but with responding in grace.

We can’t always expect the story of our life to end like Job’s. Not all of us will become wealthy. Not all of us will live a long and full life after tragedy. That may be the experience of some, but that is hardly the point of Job. At its heart, Job is about God, and it is about humility. Eliza Hewitt’s words come to mind in her 1887 hymn, More About Jesus. It must be more about him, and less about me. That is the lesson Job and his friends had to learn. It is a lesson that is essential for each of us to learn. May the first two verses of this hymn become our prayer:
More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Job 40:1-2 (ESV)
And the LORD said to Job:
“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

The word translated “faultfinder” means to complain or argue with another. The word translated “argues” means to judge or argue a case in court. The NIV reads, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Job’s friends, including Elihu, insisted that some hidden sin was at the root of Job’s troubles. God never accuses Job of sin. He does accuse him of complaining against God and accusing God of wrongdoing.
Job 40:6-8 (NIV)
Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm:
“Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
“Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

There was no sin in Job’s life at the root of his troubles, but his response to his pain was less than stellar. What Job and his friends failed to consider was that the whole issue really had nothing to do with Job. It was really about God. The rest of Job 40-41 describes God’s power. God asks, “Who has a claim against me that I must pay?” He then goes on to say, “Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11 NIV). In these chapters God uses the weather, and a description of two creatures, Behemoth and Leviathan, to demonstrate his power.
Job 41:10 (ESV)
No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up.
Who then is he who can stand before me?

Here are two creatures, a land animal and a sea creature, that are apparently impervious to man’s weapons and powerful enough to never be tamed. They are just creatures. Their power is greater than man, yet God created them. They yield to his will. Even the weather, something man has never been able to tame, yields to the will of God. In all creation, only man stands and argues with his creator.

The more I read Job, the more convinced I am that Job is not about Job. Job is about God. Is God sovereign, or is he not? Is God Lord, or is he not? Can we trust him, or not? We live as though life is about us. We challenge God as though life is about us. We even present the gospel as though life is about us. Maybe what we really need is to see behind the veil and realize that we are not the center of the universe. Life and death, pain and ease, wealth and poverty…it’s just life in a broken world. Despite how our parents treated us, life does not revolve around us or around them. It revolves around Almighty God.

When he is the center of our universe, our perspective changes. That is what Job was learning. It is what Elihu needed to learn. It is what Job’s friends desperately needed to understand. So much pain has been caused, and so much damage has been done because we have the wrong person at the center of our little world. We are like the wheel on a clown bicycle where the axle is off-center. Our world is filled with ups and downs that make riding the bike difficult at best. The ride smooths out when our lives are centered on Christ.
I don’t mean that everything becomes good. I don’t mean that nothing bad happens. I don’t mean that pain disappears. Just look at Job. But when life is not about us, those things take on a different look and a different experience. In the midst of our pain, we find the comforting peace of God. In the storms of life, we find his calming presence. When bad things happen, we look to a God who can be trusted even when things don’t go our way. When God is at the center, our perspective of everything changes. After all, it is no longer about us. Life is about something much higher and grander than we can imagine, and He is at the center of it all. Life is about Him. In all creation, only man stands and argues with his creator. Perhaps it is time to stop arguing, and trust him.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Job 38:1-4 (ESV)
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.”

It occurs to me that when we read Job we make the same error that Job and his friends made. They speak as though the issue was about Job. Job cries out for justice and an explanation. Job’s friends insist that the explanation is that there is unconfessed sin in his life. When God speaks, he doesn’t reference either Job’s physical condition or his spiritual condition. The truth is, it is not about Job. And that is what bothers us the most.

We want life to be about us. It isn’t. We want Job to find relief, but what he really needs to find is God. Like Job, we think and act as though we are the center of the universe. If there is pain in our lives, it must be the consequence of some great sin. If there is pleasure in our lives, it must be that God is pleased with us. “Why me?” is one of the most common prayers uttered around the world. Perhaps God’s answer is, “Why not you?” After all, life is not really about us; we just think it is.

God never answers Job’s question of why. That leaves us feeling unsatisfied. We want to know why. We want to know that Job’s suffering had some higher purpose. We read Job as though it were about suffering, but I am beginning to think that it is not about suffering at all. It is about theology. It is about who we believe God is, and what we believe about him. If we believe that he is the Celestial Servant of mankind, then that question of why Job suffered is the ultimate question of life. If he is the Sovereign Creator, then the question of Job’s suffering is hardly the point. The real question is, who is God?

There is the bottom line. When we insist on answers and explanations, then we have put ourselves in the place of God. When we insist on a gospel that is primarily about feeling good about ourselves, then we have placed ourselves at the center of the universe. Granted, we are the only part of creation that was said to be made in the image of God. Granted, God placed people over the rest of his creation. Granted, we were designed to rule and oversee creation. But, we were not designed to oversee creation as gods. We were designed to oversee creation under God. Ultimately it is all about him.

Does that make him a megalomaniac? Hardly! It makes him creator, designer, sustainer, and upholder of all that exists. Without him we would not be here. Without him this universe would not hold together. The Apostle Paul quotes two Greek poets in Acts 17:28 to make this point. “For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” Colossians 1:16 says it like this,

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Bottom line? Life is not about us. Maybe that is the real message of Job. Maybe we would be better off if we could just learn that simple lesson. I am not the center of the universe; nor will I ever be. Bishop Noel Jones wrote a simple chorus around these words, “It's not about us, But it's about Jesus.” His response to this truth follows:

I present my body
A living sacrifice
Holy, acceptable
Unto You now
Everything I am
And everything I'll be
I lay it all at Your feet

May that be my prayer today!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Job 36:4 (NIV)
Be assured that my words are not false;
one perfect in knowledge is with you.

This phrase, “perfect in knowledge,” is used to describe God in the next chapter.

Job 37:16 (NIV)
Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?

Job 36-37 contain picturesque and powerful descriptions of the supremacy of God. Yet something feels just a little off about these chapters. This is Elihu’s final speech in Job, and I’m just not sure what to think of Elihu. He is a young man driven by passion and frustrated by Job’s friends’ inability to convince Job of his sin. Elihu speaks much truth about the greatness of God, yet it is built on a foundation of arrogance that colors everything he says. Ultimately his conclusion is no different than that of Job’s friends.
Job 36:11-12 (NIV)
If they obey and serve him,
they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity
and their years in contentment.
But if they do not listen,
they will perish by the sword
and die without knowledge.

Elihu falls right back into the argument that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. He then goes on to challenge Job’s appeal to God.

Job 37:14, 19-20 (NIV)
“Listen to this, Job;
stop and consider God's wonders.

“Tell us what we should say to him;
we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness.
Should he be told that I want to speak?
Would any man ask to be swallowed up?

He is telling Job that he should not be so bold as to ask to speak with a God who is powerful and unapproachable. Yet in the very next chapter God will respond directly to Job. Elihu understands that to approach God is to invite death. God is unapproachable. Yet here is Elihu claiming to have the same kind of perfect knowledge that God has. It makes me wonder how many times I have had my theology slightly tilted and yet was arrogant enough to think I had it all right. Probably more than I care to know.

There must be a humility to our faith that we too often fail to embrace. Truth is important. Correct theology is vital. What we believe about God matters. Yet we can have our theology almost perfect, and still have it tainted by arrogance. In chapter 38, the unapproachable God draws near to the very one Elihu and company claim is undeserving of God’s attention. Elihu’s theology was pretty accurate, although I wouldn’t call it “perfect knowledge.” Any time we think we have it all figured out, we are standing in dangerous waters. Humility is preferred above theology in God’s economy. That is what separates Elihu from Job. Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Nowhere has God said that he exalts those with perfect theology. Humility is preferred above theology. I think we often have that backward. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Job 35:9-10 (ESV)
Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out;
they call for help because of the arm of the mighty.
But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
who gives songs in the night,

Elihu’s observations here are correct. I believe that his assessment of Job is still faulty, but his assessment of mankind in general is right on. People cry out for help when they are oppressed, but few actually seek God. I’ve watched this in the political debates regarding elections and the good of the country. I heard little discussion about what is good for the country as a whole. Most discussion was about what is good for me, for those I love, or for those like me. What about those who are different from you? Most people seem to be oblivious to the hurts, needs, or realities of anyone other than those in their own little circles.

Similarly, our focus in evangelical Christianity has been more about me, those I love, and sometimes those like me. Evangelism and discipleship have been about a personal relationship with God, but it is about much more. We seek peace. We seek relief. We seek a better life. We seek comfort. But do we seek God? Being a believer is Jesus Christ is about a personal relationship with God, but it is also about a corporate relationship with his people. It is about being the presence of Christ in a broken world. It is about dying for the good of others. It is not about us.

That is the issue that both Job and his friends seem to have lost sight of. Life is not about us. In the early days of the United States of America the founders of this country put their lives, their fortunes, and their reputations on the line for the sake of others. Many of them lost everything for the sake of others. Today, my impression is that most politicians are about power and position. The idea of sacrifice for the good of others is foreign in our political world. But it’s not just politicians. It is rare to read or hear anything these days about personal sacrifice for the good of others. We are quick to take offense for ourselves and our friends, but we are unwilling to serve those who are different. Yet that is exactly what God has called us to.

Discussions of Biblical principles of marriage, for example, almost always focus on what we “have” to do. Do wives really have to submit? Isn’t that demeaning? How can we hold to such an old fashioned, outdated perspective of gender roles? What if our discussions around these passages asked a different question? What if they focused on what we are being asked to sacrifice for the good of another? What if we didn’t ask about what we must give up? What if we asked how to better serve others? What if a husband quit worrying about whether his wife was submitting, and concerned himself about how to best die to his own will in order to serve his wife’s best interest? What if a wife quit worrying about whether she was loved, and concerned herself more with how to die to her own needs in order to serve and show respect to her husband? Isn’t that what those marriage passages are really about?

As believers who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, it is time we stopped worrying about whether we will be safe. It is time we stopped worrying about whether we will be comfortable. It is time we stopped worrying about whether we are finding joy. C. S. Lewis reminded us that when we search joy we never find it. Maybe that is why we have churches full of grouchy people. Because we’re all trying to find happiness. What a different world it would be if we sought to serve others instead of seeking to be served!

Elihu is right. Everyone seeks relief from pain, but nobody really seeks God. In the name of following Jesus we have become incredibly self-centered people. My challenge for today is to seek the good of others and stop worrying about me. Try it. It might just change your world. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

So, we have a new President Elect. Like it or hate it, love it or fear it, it doesn’t change the reality that God is on the throne. I haven’t read a single Facebook post yet this morning, but I did check the election results. We are a fractured nation. I am sure that I have friends who are relieved and friends who are filled with fear and dread. If God is not a sovereign God, then there is much to fear not matter who takes the White House. If God is God, then there is nothing to fear whether God chooses to bless our nation or judge it. Who sits in the White House is a big deal from an earthly perspective. But let’s face it, who sits in the White House is irrelevant. The real issue is bigger than the future of the United States.

The real issue is bigger than the world. The real issue is an eternal issue. Can we trust God or not? Do we believe that he is sovereign and in control or not? Is our hope resting in him or not? My greatest concern is not who won the election. My greater concern is that many in our country are putting their hope in a man, and many others are losing hope because of a man. I’m here to tell you that both are wrong. Personally, I don’t want to see any celebration, nor do I want to hear an anxious “Woe is me!” What I prefer to see and hear on this day after the election are humble hearts recognizing our dependence on the God of all Creation. This post-election day, whether our candidate won or lost, may the words of Chris Tomlin’s worship song ring in our ears. After all, He is Lord.

Lord of all creation
Of water, earth, and sky
The heavens are Your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on High

God of wonders, beyond out galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy

Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth
Early in the morning
I will celebrate the light

And as I stumble through the darkness
I will call Your name by night
God of wonders, beyond out galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy

Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth
Hallelujahs to the Lord of heaven and earth
Hallelujahs to the Lord of heaven and earth

Monday, November 7, 2016

Job 34:10 (ESV)
“Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding:
far be it from God that he should do wickedness,
and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.

Job 34:34-37 (ESV)
Men of understanding will say to me,
and the wise man who hears me will say:
‘Job speaks without knowledge;
his words are without insight.’
Would that Job were tried to the end,
because he answers like wicked men.
For he adds rebellion to his sin;
he claps his hands among us
and multiplies his words against God.”

A little bit of theology can be a dangerous thing. It is amazing that Elihu can understand everything correct about the character of God, yet totally misapply it to Job. Everything Elihu says about God is correct. There are some powerful words in this chapter. Speaking of God, Elihu observes, “If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust” (Job 34:14). What an amazing picture of the power of God and the absolute dependence of every living thing on that power.

Elihu takes his understanding of God and misapplies it to Job. He accuses Job of speaking without knowledge and rebelling against God. Elihu applies eternal principles in a temporal way that brings him to faulty conclusions. Just yesterday I read another article attacking Christianity. The proof offered that Christianity is ignorant and evil were several verses taken out of context and misapplied. Yes, there are some difficult verses in the Bible, but everything must be understood in context. Similarly, Elihu takes his theology and misapplies it.

We get upset when people put words in our mouths that are not accurate. Yet, we do the same thing. We turn around and draw conclusions about our brothers and sisters in Christ based on our understanding of Scripture and theology. But do we truly know their heart? Aren’t we doing the same thing we accuse our attackers of doing? Perhaps the problem lies in the reality that we have turned Christianity into a series of truth statements that we all agree on. If you agree with me, then we can fellowship. If you disagree, then we cannot worship together. But Christianity is more than that.

The real problem occurs when we agree on all our theology, but disagree on its application. Or, perhaps more correctly, when we agree, but realize that none of us have arrived at maturity yet. So, when the areas in which I have matured are different than the areas in which you have matured, that is evidence that you are not as mature as I am. We neglect to understand that common faith is not about agreeing on every point of theology. It is about coming together around the essential theology of the gospel. Maturity is not about looking like me. It is about believers working together to become more like Christ. When we start with our understanding of theology, it often involves arrogance, pride, and a judgmental spirit. Theology is important, but true faith starts with humility and grace.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Job 33:12-15 (ESV)
Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you,
for God is greater than man.
Why do you contend against him,
saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’?
For God speaks in one way,
and in two, though man does not perceive it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
while they slumber on their beds,

Young Elihu is speaking to set Job straight in this chapter. Job's friends insisted that he was sinful because bad things happen to bad people. Elihu has a slightly different take. Job had been crying out a desire to present his case before God, and to hear from God. Elihu calls Job to present his case before Elihu, and claims that God has already spoken. Job just isn’t listening.

Two thoughts catch my attention as I think on Job 32. First is the arrogance of Elihu to think that he can hear Job’s case on behalf of God. I have to wonder how many times I have displayed that same arrogance. How many times have I treated others as though I were the ear and voice of God? I can be an ear for a brother. I can give counsel based on my understanding of God’s Word, and the indwelling Spirit of God. But, I am not the voice of God.

As believers, we must be careful not to step across that line and put ourselves in the place of God. That is what cult leaders do. That is what abusive church leaders do. That is what abusive family leaders do. That is not what humble servants of God are called to do. Peter says of false teachers that, “In their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2 Peter 2:3). Elders, on the other hand, are to, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2). I need to regularly reassess before God how I am leading.

The second thought that came to me relates to Elihu’s insistence that God has spoken to Job; Job just isn’t listening. Rather than recognizing that sometimes God allows his people to walk through a dry and barren spiritual and emotional wasteland, we insist that any bad experience must be the fault of the individual. We cast blame. We try to find quick fixes. “If only you would confess your sin, then things would be okay again. If only you would be honest about your sin, then God would lift the emotional fog and you would experience his glorious presence.” But the truth is, sometimes dark times in the life of the believer have nothing to do with sin in our lives. Sometimes it does. We need to honestly ask God to search our hearts and reveal any sin that may be lurking there. But, sometimes dark times are just the path God has called us to walk.

Times of great rain cause trees to grow big, but times of drought make trees strong. We like to quote verses like Isaiah 45:8, “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it.” We love verses like, Deuteronomy 32:2, “May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.” We rejoice in verses like, Hosea 10:12, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” What we don’t like are passages like Job that reveal the darker side of the spiritual life. God sometimes allows dark times for no apparent purpose. The good news is that God uses those dry seasons of life to work his holiness and character in us in ways that seasons of blessing could never do. Perhaps we would do well to reflect more on passages like 1 Peter 1:3-9:
 [3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, [5] who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. [6] In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, [7] so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. [8] Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, [9] obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The truth that Elihu cannot understand, the reality that Job’s friends cannot imagine, is that sometimes God does not speak. What they cannot grasp is that even when God does not speak, he is still present. In the darkest times, in the driest seasons of life. God is there. We may not see him; we may not hear him; we may not sense his presence, but he is there. We can still trust him. In those times, we need to worry less about blame, and focus more on the faithfulness of the God we cannot see. He is there and we can trust him. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Job 32:7-10; 19-20 (ESV)
I said, ‘Let days speak,
and many years teach wisdom.’
But it is the spirit in man,
the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.
It is not the old who are wise,
nor the aged who understand what is right.
Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me;
let me also declare my opinion.’

Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent;
like new wineskins ready to burst.
I must speak, that I may find relief;
I must open my lips and answer.

This is an excellent example of the arrogance of youth. There is a pretense of respect for the aged, even a genuine desire to learn from them, yet there is a compelling need to speak. There is a belief in Elihu that somehow, even in his youth, he has discovered great truth that Job’s friends failed to find or express. I know this arrogance because I see it and have experienced it from young men who have a bit of training, and are convinced that they know what few who went before them understand. They feel they are bursting with wisdom and cannot hold back any longer. They feel they must speak or they will burst. That is the wisdom of youth. I know this arrogance because it was me 40 years ago.

To be fair, I have talked with a great many wise young people. They are humbly learning. They are reasoning, thinking, and wrestling with truth. They recognize that for all they have learned, there is much they do not know. They recognize their own fallibility, and their need to grow. They are doing incredible ministry, and carry a wealth of wisdom already, largely because they are not impressed with themselves.

Solomon said, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Prov 11:2). “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom” (Prov 13:10). James challenged believers to be, “quick to hear, slow to speak” (Jas 1:19). He went on to write, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue…this person’s religion is worthless” (Jas 1:26). I have observed that youth often feel compelled to speak. Like Elihu in Job 32, they are “bursting” with wisdom that must be expressed. When wisdom and age combine they usually result in a reluctance to speak. There is a slowness and a deliberation to their speech. There is a realization that not everyone wants to hear their wisdom, and that most of their wisdom is probably not as wise as they once thought. There is a realization that they still have much to learn. There is a humility that comes with wisdom combined with age.

My advice to youth? Hold your tongue and listen well. Job was speaking a depth of experience and wisdom that Elihu only thought he understood. Be “quick to hear (and) slow to speak” (Jas 1:19). My advice to the aged? Hold your tongue and listen well. Job’s friends were so locked into their perspective of life that they had forgotten that they still had much to learn. Be “quick to hear (and) slow to speak” (Jas 1:19). These days, when I am bursting with wisdom that I feel compelled to spill all over everyone, I try to remind myself to listen a little longer. I still have much to learn, and much that I do not understand. True wisdom “is patient and kind; (it) does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). True wisdom acts a lot like love. 

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...