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.

 

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.

Confession is Good – Nehemiah 9. RBT Notes, 9th December

Don’t skip over this chapter. It looks grim, of course: “on the twenty fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads” (v.1). Sackcloth has rather gone out of fashion these days. So has confession. In fact, corporate prayer and gatherings of all sorts are also out of favour in the Christian world. But read this chapter closely. Its values may be counter to the Christian culture we live in at the moment. We might discover that our values are wrong. There is much to learn here.

They start with confession. Confession is not good for the soul. Confession is, literally, life-bringing. Confession doesn’t save us from our sins – only Jesus does that – but without confession there can be no salvation. So they listen to God’s Word, and confess their sins in the light of it (vv.2-3). How can they (and how can we) expect God to be serious in blessing us if we are so casual with the sins which offend us?

And then the priests lead the community in praise (vv.5-37). This whole lengthy prayer is a confession of who God is – majestic, worthy of honour (vv.5-6), the covenant-making Lord of His people (vv.7-8), the God who redeemed their forefathers from Egypt and led them through the wilderness (vv.9-15). But focus on God for any time, and we find ourselves facing up to who we are: Israel continually resisted God. The priests’ prayer alternates between great declarations of God’s goodness, generous love and patience with His people, and confessions of the hard-hearted arrogance of His people. Did they deserve His love? Absolutely not. “But in Your great mercy You did not put an end to them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and merciful God” (v.31).

The climax of the prayer is the admission that nothing has changed. God is the same, and His people are. Importantly, the priests recognise that life is very, very tough for this returning community. Even though they have returned from exile, it doesn’t feel like it to them. They are still being exploited, and missing out on the peace and plenty they long for. “We are in great distress” (v.37) – and they know that it is down to their sins.

Can you speak of God’s unfailing goodness to you? Can you speak of you unfailing ability to forget, resist and avoid the Lord? It’s painful, isn’t it, but it’s probably near the truth. God’s children, filled with His spirit as we are, are still disobedient and foolish. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (Jam. 5.14). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1.9). He will.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Merciful Father, nothing escapes Your eyes. I am a sinner. But I barely know it, and even when I do, I am so slow to grieve, to confess, and to delight in Your grace. Make me sensitive by Your Spirit to the things I want and do which displease You. Teach me a ready confession, and give me an eager grasp on Your grace. Amen

Just Care – Nehemiah 1. RBT Notes, 29th November

Grace makes you care. Gone are the days when you would have shrugged off other peoples’ struggles as their own problems, and nothing for you to worry about. Grace is the involvement of a compassionate God in your life. That grace forges compassion in you for others. Their needs are your concern.

Nehemiah knew that judgment fell on his people through the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. He knew that they had received what they deserved from a holy God. He finds himself far away, in the comforts of the Persian palace, the new superpower who had conquered Babylon. When news comes from his homeland – and it’s bad news – Nehemiah doesn’t sigh and settle back into his cozy life: he sits down and weeps (vv.1-4).

There is a place for tears in the Christian life. Sometimes the Lord wants to see them far more than He wants to hear our words. If we don’t care, what value do our prayers have? And what meaning, anyway?

Nehemiah is broken by the news that his countrymen are in distress.  These are people he has never met, hundreds of miles away, but he loves them deeply. He fasts, prays and pleads with God for them. He feels their sins and his own, and begs for God’s mercy (vv.5-7). As he reflects on their wickedness, for Nehemiah it’s as if these sins have just been committed.

He knows that God has been just. He knows, too, that God has plans. In fact, he knows that God has plans for His city of Jerusalem. He knows that its welfare is crucial for the very Kingdom of God (v.9). Without Jerusalem there can be no future for the Kingdom.

And so, Nehemiah prays. What does he pray for? Success (v.11). What sort? We don’t yet know. We do know, though, that his plan is shaped by his compassion. Compassion cares. Compassion weeps, prays, steps forwards, wants to get involved, embraces risk.

So, the challenge of this chapter? Care. Care about God’s people, His purposes. Care about your sins. Do not harden your heart against tears, confession or service. Care. And do it.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, You have my heart. But so often I want to snatch it back, to hide it, and harden it. Lord, teach me to care, make me care. Teach me how in Your Son You are so compassionate towards me. And lead me in ways which astonish me, to be a caring, broken-hearted and loving disciple. Amen.