The Changing Scenes – Job 29-30. RBT Notes, 23rd January

One of suffering’s worst torments is the memory of happier days. One of life’s biggest mistakes is the thought that the good things we’re currently enjoying will always be there. But life is uncertain. Nothing is guaranteed, apart from the constant presence of God’s grace. That grace, though, does not always manifest itself is a trouble-free life. Far from it. Now all Job has of the material and this-worldly blessings God showered upon him are the memories of them. That is so much anguish for Job.

These two chapters are a study in the contrast of Job’s life, past and present. First he remembers the good times, in ch.29, “when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (v.4). Job had plenty: the Presence of God, the respect of others, the opportunity of serving the needy in the community, and the comforts of feeling that none of it would never end. “I dwelt as a king among his troops” (v.25).

But now? Ch. 30 spells out his wretched life is: mockery, hatred, fear, illness, degradation, unanswered prayers, loneliness. “I have become a brother of jackals, a companion of owls” (v.29). He has nothing.

What worst of all in Job’s life, then? It’s his own feelings about all he has lost. His anguish about his privations gives the bitter sting to his miseries. Yes, he’s always known that life is short and uncertain: “naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart” (Jb. 1.20).  Now, he has time to see and feel all of suffering’s indignities. And it’s all wretched.

Man of sorrows? That is who Job is. Remember another Man of Sorrows. He never ever complained about how the Lord dealt with Him, but he underwent every imaginable suffering, womb to tomb, and heaven to hell. Because of Him, and His abandonment, we are never alone, not ever. We may know our share of anguish and loss; but His Presence, whether felt or not, is a treasure no believer will ever forfeit. Sometimes God uses the worst of suffering to bring this, the best of truths, home to us.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, I have to confess that I am scared of suffering. Lord, left to myself I would rather have the comforts of life wrapped tightly round me than the lonely road of fellowship with you in my losses. Father, give me a deepening confidence in Your goodness and care, and a more willing heart, should you remove my treasures, to seek with more confidence the treasure of Your love in Christ. Amen.

Loving Wisdom – Job 29. RBT Notes, 20th January

Where can wisdom be found? School? Life experience? A few University degrees? A few hard knocks? Wisdom, for Job as well as for the entire Bible, isn’t beard-stroking cleverness; it’s knowing how to live with faith in a Good God in a world which is full of injustice and suffering, where horrible things happen to us. “Wisdom”, which seems so unimportant us when life is easy, is the thing we crave most of all when everything goes wrong and all we have is the temptation to despair.

So how do we get it? That’s Job’s question. In fact, he says that that’s the question we all need the answer to.

People go to great lengths to get what’s valuable to them. They face up to all sorts of danger in mining precious metals, digging into dark and dangerous places (vv.1-11). Wisdom, however, is of far greater value than gold. How do we get it, then? We can’t buy it (vv.15-19), and we can’t even search it out (vv.12–14, 20-22). God alone knows where it is, and He alone explains to us how to get it: “the fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding” (v.28).

This is the open secret, the mined truth which deep-down we already know. Honour God above everything, and do what He tells you. Simple, then? Yes, and no. Apart from grace, we can’t, and we won’t. We are too proud, and too foolish. We are too in love with the so-called wisdom of self. Also, we are too afraid to trust ourselves to a God we cannot see, and who doesn’t bring easy remedies to our lives, when everything is hard and painful.

Pray. Pray that God would impress on your heart the need for wisdom. Pray that He would give you a sight of the One who was laid into the depths of the earth, His Cross-work completed, to make a foolish world wise. He is the source of all wisdom. Discover Him afresh. In Him really are the treasures of heaven’s loving wisdom.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Loving Father, thankyou that You gave Your Son as wisdom for a dark and foolish world. Thankyou that I never need to earn Him, or be clever enough to understand Him. I open my mind and heart again to all that You want to give me in Christ, and by faith I receive Him. Amen.

Hear This – Job 27. RBT Notes, 19th January

Hear this. Job is a man on the edge. Maybe you’ve not been close to faith’s precipice. Not yet, anyway. Listen carefully to Job’s turmoil, and be careful not to judge. His friends did, and they’re going to find out soon enough what the Almighty thinks of their words.

What does God think of Job’s words, and his tears? What do you think? It takes faith to cry to heaven, and it takes faith to look into your heart and to see that, sinner though you are, there is no one sin of yours for which heaven has collapsed in retribution upon you. In fact, for us as Christian believers, we know that we will never be judged for any of our sins, no matter how serious and hideous they are. Christ has paid for them all.

Job’s are strong words, aren’t they? “God has denied me justice”, and He “has made me taste bitterness of soul” (v.1). Job is bitter, all the more so because his friends are trying to force him into a confession which he doesn’t have – “I will never admit that you are in the right” (v.5). Self-righteous Job? I don’t think so. Here is a man who knows that God alone is righteous, and that there is no righteousness in confessing what you aren’t guilty of, just to win friends and influence them – and maybe try to influence God Himself, too.

Job knows all that his friends know about God and His justice, as well as about man and his wickedness. It is because he does that he sees their advice for what it is – “meaningless talk” (v.12). The wicked will die, the grave will swallow them, however comfortable and happy their lives are. Job knows that for sure (vv.13-23).

You really can have a great theology and also a terrible life. You can believe true things about God, and live by them, and never see the blessings this side of eternity which you want for yourself, your family, church or world. Job’s example teaches us to be very careful about drawing hard and straight lines between what we have in life and how we stand before the Almighty. God is God. He gives or He withholds, He answers prayer as we long for Him to, or He chooses not to. What we must do is to fix our hearts on the Gospel truth that He has not withheld His best, His Son. Because we are safe in Jesus, we are safe even when life is disappointing or even crushing. There is a happy land. There is a Master who will reward our faith, if we do not give up. Do you believe Him?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, my faith often sags. I look at what others have, and my heart snarls, not celebrates. I look at the much more that I want in life, and so often complain about what I do not have. Enough, Lord: teach me to treasure Your love in Your Son. Teach me to be content in Him. Do this, by Your Spirit’s power, to Your Glory, I pray. Amen.

 

The Last Word? Job 25-26. RBT Notes 18th, January

One more word from Bildad, and one more (lengthy) response from Job, and then the book will take a different turn. Unsurprisingly, much the same ground is gone over. Bildad savages this poor wounded sheep again. His words are true, and there is much in them which should lift our hearts to worship. God is full of dominion, and His greatness should fill us with awe (25.2). Noone can be righteous before Him (vv.4-6). Well said, preacher. But one of his servants is again being kicked when he’s already down. This “maggot” Job knows his maggotiness all too well: now Job needs balm, not bruises. Bildad’s not the man to give the medicine, though he should be.

Hear the scorn in Job’s voice. He looks for comforters, and there are none (26.1-4). And yes, Job has his worship, too, his exalted vision of a magnificent God. Job’s Lord rules death and the dead (vv.6-7), moves on the clouds and rules the sun, moon and seas (vv.5-11), strikes His enemies (vv.112-13), and possesses a majesty which even His own worshipers have barely, barely even started to comprehend. A word to make our praise flow. A word, too, to stifle the hasty arrogance with which we claim to speak knowledgeably about God. Bildad, take note. Other would-be Bildads, watch your tongues, too.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord of Glory! There is a time to be quiet, to consider my thoughts, and my words. Your holiness and Your might should be marshaled to strike me down, sinner as I am; and yet You have displayed Your holy might in working my salvation at the cost of Your precious Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. May my words be few, my speculations about You clothed with reverence, and my worship be marked by wonder and delight,. You are God, and all that You do, though so often misunderstood by me or kept from my sight, is good. Amen.

Foam on the Water – Job 23-24. RBT Notes, 17th January

Job’s thoughts are filled with God, but in ch. 23 he is tormented by the fear that God can neither be found, nor reasoned with. He is the Judge Job cannot escape (v.7). Thereagain, He is the God Job cannot find (vv.8-9), and yet, Who knows Him so well (v.10). “He does whatever He pleases” (v.13) should be the believer’s song of worship (cf Ps. 115.3); but for Job it is the anguished howl of despair before a God of such inscrutable ways.

Meanwhile, all is struggle, frustration, and despair. God looks at human wickedness, but does not intervene (24.1-17). Men do unspeakable things, God does nothing. This is life on earth. But once again, faith breaks through. Job does recognise that even the complacent wicked, whose ways are never brought to account, are only “foam on the surface of the water” (v.18), and “for a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone” (v.24).

Why these words? Faith and frustration often work together, in the same heart, and are on the same lips at the same time. Job defends himself from the accusations of his friends by insisting that judgment rarely falls in this life, but also complains that the vindication he longs for is so slow to come. He will wait, though. God hears him, and that is enough. It must be enough for us, too.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, I get so frustrated in life, often because I forget that life is a mist which will soon disappear. One day all will be justice, peace, glory and endless joy. Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit keep me trusting until that day. Keep me close to You, and for You. Amen.

Friends, or Enemies? Job 22. RBT Notes, 16th January

God is on Job’s case. He won’t ignore him, although Job sometimes prays for Him to; but neither will He condemn Job. This is, of course, where Job and his friends are in such bitter disagreement.  In fact, Job’s friends are so rigid in their views that they cannot conceive of God as doing anything other than spitting His judgment on Job, and so they are convinced that He deserves it. Bad things never happen to good people, they reason. And they will not be moved.

But bad things do happen to good people. They are, quite simply, wrong.

Eliphaz’s charges are absolutely searing: Job has been wicked, demanding pledges, stealing the clothes from people’s backs, denying them the basic necessities of life, abusing widows and orphans (vv.6-9). No wonder all this trouble has fallen on him, no wonder that his life is “so dark you cannot see” (v.11). For Eliphaz, Job in his sin joins the legions of men who have ignored God and wished God would disappear (vv.12-19).

The second half of the chapter is a beautifully-worded celebration of trust in God (vv.21-30). He is as gold and silver, and He alone brings peace and saving power. This is all true, gloriously so. It’s just that Job’s trust is already in Job, tough as it is for Him. Job’s trust should also be in kind and wise friends. When that trust is broken – for Job as well as for any of us – it’s a long, long way back.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, help me to be a better friend to others. So often my words are ill-chosen. So often my feelings and attitudes towards others are wrong. Put a guard on my mouth, Lord, and work through more careful thinking, that I might be slow to speak, quick to listen, quick to pray, and a genuine, trustworthy friend. May I minister Christ in His wisdom and tenderness to others. Amen.