After All – Job 42. RBT Notes, 31st January

If Leviathan can look down on God’s creation in his effortless power (41.34), how much more the Lord Himself? He looks, He sees, He remembers. And yet He does all of it, not in superior haughtiness, but in the deepest love and compassion. This is our God. And this is the message of Go. Job is always in control. He never needs to explain Himself to His creation, but He is working out good and wise plans for it, and at the heart of them is the good of His people.

Job now opens his mouth. He has to speak. But what can he say? The God whose justice he’s clung onto in desperate hope, he now meets, in all of His overwhelming grandeur. What would you say? Surely even the best of our worship, and our strongest moments of faith, are the flimsiest responses to a God whose glory we have seen in Christ, but have barely begun to understand? The God we know, after all, inhabits ways which are “too wonderful for us to know” (v.3).

One day we will open our mouths to God. Will we argue, complain, rage, or question? No. We will confess that He is the Lord, and we will bow down in worship. Our eyes will see Him (v.5). We will be satisfied, and delighted, as we lay ourselves before Him, and hear His voice.

Heaven is the home of all of our lasting happiness. Job received his reward for his faith in this life. Almost fairytale-like, he receives his prosperity again, lands, livestock, wife and children, old age and grandchildren (vv.10-16). And there’s a thought here: remember those friends, with their angle-grinding theology of sin and judgement which they attacked Job with, and for which God blames them (vv.7-9)? Well, after God Himself showed them that they were wrong, He gives them a ringside seat to His own sort of retribution.This is not the punishment of Job’s so-called sin, but the overflowing generosity of His reward for Job’s faithfulness in all of his trials. Satan is conquered, bad theology is slaughtered, Job is vindicated, God reigns, and declares His rule of love to the world. One day all of creation will see the rule of love in Christ, and all will sing Hallelujah.

 

A Prayer to Pray 

Lord God Almighty, Your ways of grace are too wonderful for me. And yet, they are all mine in Your Son. Teach me to treasure and hold all that You have given me in Him. Teach me also to let go of those things which are gifts for a season, however precious. And keep my heart strong, that I might look ahead with increasing excitement to the gift above all else, Your waiting Son. Amen.

 

The Serpent-Crusher – Job 40-41. RBT Notes, 30th January

Does God need to justify His ways to humanity? Does the Lord of all creation need to explain Himself to the atoms of dust which make up His creation? Does He need to defend what He’s doing to you and me? God appears to Job, and any desire Job has to know the ways of God disappears as suddenly as Job’s suffering came to him. God is God. That is enough (vv.1-5).

God is fierce. There is love, here, be sure of that; God is not peeved, He’s not nursing a bruised ego that His ways have been questioned. He is revealing more of His Lordship to Job for the very purpose of deepening Job’s confidence in Him (vv.8-14). When God works in our lives, He shows us all that we cannot do – and do not deserve. This makes His grace all the sweeter, and our desire to trust Him all the more intense.

Who is like our God? Who can defeat our God? For the remainder of ch. 40 and for all of ch. 41 we have this exciting and dramatic description of the creatures no man of Job’s day could tame, first the behemoth (the hippo or elephant), and then the leviathan. The terrors of these beasts are nothing to God, who effortlessly controls them. And the leviathan? This lengthy description of the scaly, snorting beast makes us wonder just what animal it is. In fact, is it actually an animal? The best reflection on this chapter over the centuries has offered a very credible theory, that this is no animal: it is the ultimate Beast. It is Satan.

Satan reared his head in chapters 1 and 2, only then (apparently) to sink beneath the surface of the book. We know, however, that Satan may disappear from our sight and awareness, but he never actually goes away. Not yet, at least. If this is the great Deceiver in our chapter, then this brings the events of Job’s life full circle: the Satan who was given permission to torment him is the Satan who, though powerful, is shown to be under God’s effortless control. That is true for Job, as it is true for us. Though defeated by Christ at the cross, our Enemy is wounded, but still very dangerous. Dangerous for now, of course; our promise is that “in a little while the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet” (Ro. 16.20). He will – and because of this we have hope.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, one day, and only because of the Coming of Christ,  all my troubles will be over. He will come, and He will crush all wickedness and all opposition to God. And He will bring all His children safely home. Give me a great and joyful confidence in what You have declared. Until that day, keep me humbly trusting Your promises, and never demanding Your answers. Amen.

Out of the Storm – Job 38-39. RBT Notes, 27th January

I actually think that Elihu had more to say. Most of us do, when suffering comes. Whether it’s debates, arguments, complaints, discussion or anything else, suffering rarely silences us. But Elihu has spoken his last because, now, God speaks.
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God speaks. Can you actually believe that? Those two easy words – if they’re true – speak of a chasm of mystery and power which we can never cross. We cannot understand God, and we certainly cannot make Him speak. The Scriptures teach us that our minds, mouths and ears only work because God has created them and has decided that they should work. If God does speak, and Christians believe that every page of Scripture is the voice of God, then we need to use our ears and our minds. We can rest our tongues. In fact, we must.
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Who is He speaking to? Who is the man “that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge”? (38.1). Elihu? The three friends? Job? All of them? It could as well be you or me. Apart from God’s revelation we are blind, and suffering can make us blindest of all.
These two chapters are full of drama, as God reminds us, and Job in particular, of His untameable power and matchless wisdom. He is the creator, controller, planner and sovereign over all things. Stars, planets, seas, seasons, rain, thunder and lightning, they all have their existence and order at His bidding (vv.4-38). Effortless power.
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Effortless power, and complete care. God takes Job on a Planet Earth-like tour of His created world (38.39-39.30). Lions, goats, ostriches, donkeys, cattle, horses and hawks. Powerful, majestic and even funny creatures all glory in the strength God has given them, and God Himself glories in them. He loves all that He has created, and He cares for all. Who are we to doubt His goodness to us then, even when life is full of pain for us?
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A Prayer to Pray
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Lord, teach me that what I need most of all is to hear Your voice. I need to listen to You, when I don’t understand my life, and even when I don’t understand You. You speak the truth, and You always speak it out of a heart of love. Father, teach my often mistrusting heart to trust You, to seek You, and to glory in Your power and Your love. Amen.

Crushing Convictions – Job 35-37. RBT Notes, 26th January

No one likes a smug believer. Elihu thinks that Job, broken though he is, is actually smug in his conviction that God will vindicate him (35.1).

Here are the main planks of his objections to Job. Each is wrong, but subtly so. Have a think as you listen to Elihu:

God is too big to bother with you (ch.35): whether sinners or saints, Elihu is convinced that God won’t trouble Himself with them. “He does not answer when men cry out” (v.12). He is holy, set apart, and sovereign. We may cry out to Him, but to expect God to answer, according to Elihu, is foolish presumption.

God has thunderbolts stored up for sinners (ch. 36): Elihu is right, God has. Thunderbolts are His speciality (v.29-30). Smiting sinners is His business (vv.8-11), and in His mercy He warns them of the judgment to come (v.12).

The trouble is, Elihu is unwittingly tripped up by his own convictions. Take the statement in v.36, “how great is God, beyond our understanding” (v.26). It’s true. But it’s more true than Job has yet realised. Elihu hasn’t yet seen the mysteries of God’s workings, which include undeniable grace and mercy. You might say, neither has Job, yet. Maybe we haven’t really grasped this, either. But it is the undeniable truth in Christ: God has thunderbolts of saving grace prepared for sinners through His Son.

God is beyond our reach (ch.37): “God comes in awesome majesty. The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power” (vv.22-23). He is. We can’t get ourselves to heaven. We cannot understand God. We cannot even work out how to live this side of death. We cannot find God.

But He can find us. He can teach us how to live, He understands us, and He can get us to heaven. We are not beyond His reach. In fact, He is reaching out to us.

Every church has its Elihus. They have zeal, and they have theology. They often lack, though, a theology suffused with grace. Elihu should have known that the God of heaven, and the God of His covenant people, is a God of great covenant grace. Believe Him. And then share the God of might and mercy with the broken. And at the centre, remember Jesus. “No one has ever see God; but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known” (Jn.1.18).

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord God Almighty, Lord of heaven and Lord of the manger, thankyou for all that You are. Thankyou that all of Your grace and glory is found in Jesus. Fix my heart on Him, especially when my heart is broken with suffering. And may the comforts You give me be exactly those comforts I gladly share with others. Amen.

Zeal; and Knowledge – Job 32-34. RBT Notes, 25th January

Did Job justify himself rather than God (32.2)? Enter Elihu, who certainly thinks so. He also thinks that the friends have done a pretty poor job. If we’ve had the slow burn of insinuation and then accusation from these three friends, then now prepare for the fireworks from this new face.

This young man is in a hurry, a hurry to show the oldies that he is wise, that God is glorious, and that Job and the friends are wrong (vv.6-22). Elihu, this zealous young preacher, is going to give it his best shot, and with God on his side, how can he fail (33.1-7)?

In essence, Elihu can’t stomach the fact that Job is maintaining his innocence before God and complaining of experiencing a punishment which no sin he can discover deserves (vv.8-11). God is holy, and sovereign; He never needs to explain Himself to us. When and how He does speak and act is up to Him, and when He does, it is always for our good (vv.12-21). God is powerful and merciful, and will do anything to reach out to needy sinners (vv.22-33).

Good theology, yes? Now read ch.34 carefully. What’s wrong here? It’s this: Elihu believes in a God of beautiful sovereignty and searing holiness, but he cannot see how that God can have anything to do with sinful Job other than signal His divine displeasure. So Job must be wrong. Totally. Job can make himself hoarse insisting he is free from any sin God is chastising him for, but Elihu refuses to believe him (vv.34-37). And he will not believe that God can do other than judge Job.

What do you think? Does God launch His missiles at every sin and every sinner? Not in this life, surely? That’s right. Elihu is zealous, a worshipper of God, but has much to learn of God’s ways. God is far greater, and more mysterious than He has yet realised. And far, far more merciful, too. Look the Cross. Doesn’t the Cross teach all this to us?
A Prayer to Pray

Who is like You, O Lord? Majestic holiness, majestic mercy, and glorious purposes are all Yours. Teach me to adore, trust, and to be patient before You. You will have Your good and gracious way. Amen.

Heart-felt – Job 31. RBT Notes, 24th January

Sin pays. Job knows that, whether in this life or the next, our subtle, sly, hidden sins, as well as the broad-daylight, seen by all ones, will all meet the judgement of God. The wages of sin is disaster (vv.1-4). If you know this, you care deeply about how you live. You know that you always live in the Presence of God.

This chapter is Job’s attempt to search his heart for any false way.  Has he cheated others (vv.5-8)? Has he been lustful, and unfaithful (vv.9-12)? Has he cheated his employees, trampled on the poor, abused the disadvantaged (vv.13-23)? Has he put his trust in his riches (vv.24-8)? Has he closed his heart to the needs of others (vv.29-24)?

There a hundred ways to hide from God, and to pursue sin (many thousands, in fact). Job wants to know that his heart is true to God. These words aren’t the workings of a neurotic, sick heart. They aren’t the anxious psychological gnawings of a desperate man, who’s hounding his own mind and soul. This, according to Scripture, is a good thing. We are to examine ourselves, look for sin, identify it and confess it. Confession isn’t just good for the soul, it is essential. If there’s no confession, there’s no faith in the first place. No confession, and no faith – and there’s no salvation.

Believers are broken people. They are not endlessly self-recriminating, perpetually guilty people; but healthy, joyful, believing people. We have big sins. And we have a far, far bigger Saviour.

“The words of Job are ended” (v.40). Of course, Job has nothing more to say. In that, strangely, he can take heart: God loves to come to the broken-hearted. And to them He always has much to say.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, teach me my sins, and draw from me a whole-hearted repentance. I deceive myself, and then I try to deceive You. All-seeing Master, show me what I cannot see, or what I will not see. Show me til I see my sins, and help me so that I see the Cross. This will be enough, for me and for You. Amen.