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.

You don’t always get… Job 20-21. RBT Notes, 13th January

The middle of the book of Job feels like a tennis match: back and forth, back and forth, heavy bass-line slugging, much grunting, and it’s very, very long. Ok, there are three on one side (soon to be four), and one on the other, but the scoring’s pretty even. Each side knows that God’s honour is at stake, and each knows that the truth will out. We spectators don’t quite know what to make of it.

For Zophar it’s simple: Job is a sinner who, like every other sinner, will get his comeuppance. He is angry that Job is refusing to concede that their assessment of him is true (vv.2-3), and adamant that he is guilty and under God’s judgement. His speech is another word picture of a man who is meeting his Maker and will not escape. Is that you, Job?

No!, insists Job. He is as disturbed as they are about the apparent prosperity of the wicked (21.7-15). They have everything – except problems. Job knows that they will be judged. But his challenge to his friends is this: the wicked are often very comfortable in their lives (vv.29-33). They don’t get what they deserve. Precisely! Why, then, should Job’s friends be so sure that each man gets what he deserves in this life, when all can see that this is patently untrue? And if all can see that this is untrue, why are the friends hammering Job, telling him that his circumstances prove that he is a sinner under God’s wrath? They are wrong (v.34).

Bad theology wounds, and it kills. Simplistic theology discourages true believers. What the world and the church needs is theology straight from God’s Word, which is more than able to deal with mystery, uncertainty and tragedy in this world, ministered with care and respect. If you’re not comfortable with mystery, and if you’re too impatient to share your convictions gently and carefully, then who is it you worship? A God of black and white, easy answers? A God of slot machine cause and effect dealings? Be careful.


A Prayer to Pray  

Father in heaven, give me a faith which is able to cope with what I don’t understand, knowing that You understand it. Give me a faith to trust in You in the sadness of life, sure that You have the answers. Give me the patience to wait for those answers, and, if You don’t give them, to wait for You in heaven. Amen.

Hell-Fire – Revelation 9. RBT Notes, 12th February



“If we are faithless, He will remain faithful” (2 Tim. 2.13). Is the Apostle’s promise comfort or warning? Well, God’s faithfulness in Revelation 9 is terrifying: He told His people in the days of Moses that their covenant-breaking would rouse Him to judgment. Now that His ancient people have finally rejected His Son, King Jesus, they must face His retribution. Didn’t Jesus Himself warn that the horrors of God’s faithful and holy judgments against the sins of His own generation would fall upon them (Matt. 12.41-45)? They had been warned, and now they must meet a faithful, promise-keeping King.

Hell’s creatures crawl out of their abyss to do their appointed work of tormenting God’s enemies (vv.1-6). We know that there were five months of terror for those in Jerusalem before the Roman siege was put into place. Just as terrifying, it’s recorded that, as the Romans were encircled around the city, groups of Jewish men dressed as women, and carried out indiscriminate murder amongst the panic-struck inhabitants (vv.7-12). As if this weren’t horror enough, hell on earth will come to all as the Roman army, with its legions from across its Empire, amass at the city walls (vv.13-19). Didn’t Moses say that God would destroy covenant-breakers (Deut. 28)?

And human nature being what it is, people want to defy judgment and resist grace It’s just who we are (vv.20-21). People will go to hell clutching their idols to their hearts. We were on just that course, until God’s grace came to us. Then we discovered God’s patience, and learned that His kindness shown to us in Christ was given in order to lead us to repentance (Ro. 2.4). Embrace Him afresh: your eternal life depends on it. He saves us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1.10).


A Prayer to Pray

Sovereign Lord, Your Word shows me just what I have been saved from. Break my heart open with grief at my sin, and pain for those who are outside Christ. Compel me to live for and to preach Christ Crucified, that others might know Him, too. Amen.