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.

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.

Deep things out of Darkness – Job 11-12. RBT Notes, 9th January

Enter Zophar. He has the same zealous desire to extol God and to floor Job as the others, but he’s mercifully more restrained and careful than they are. Still, he has the same target in his sights, to get Job to repent of his insistence that there was no sin which led to this suffering (vv.4-6). Zophar’s confidence is in a majestic God, and in the reality of his restoring grace (vv.13-120). Who can argue with that?

Job wants to speak, not of his shame, but of the misery he feels at his friends’ words, as he feels abused and mocked (vv.4-5). The confession which follows is not of his sin, but of the grandeur of God, a majesty which even the birds and beasts intuitively know (vv.7-9). God is wise, powerful, and works His ways out with or without the efforts of men. None can stand against Him, and none has any power or wisdom apart from Him (vv.13-25). There is more than a subtle dig here from Job against his friends, with their confident “wisdom”. Job’s confession of praise is intended to bring them down from their arrogance. Will it? A better question to ask is this: will Job’s worship bring you and me down from our natural arrogance? God alone creates, destroys, upholds and imparts wisdom. Wouldn’t it be good to worship Him today for the God He is?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Thankyou, Lord, that in a dark world You reveal deep things from darkness. Thankyou that in a chaotic world, You bring order and rule. Teach me the praise of humility, as I look to You and walk humbly before my God. Amen.

In every trial – Job 1-2. RBT Notes, 2nd January

Welcome to your worst nightmare.

We all know the book of Job, or at least, we all think we do. Believers fear it (this God could do the same to us), while unbelievers loathe it (this monstrous, game-playing God, if He exists, is to be rejected). Job is a book of scant comfort, we feel. All of us would gladly avoid even a tenth of Job’s trials, regardless of the size of the rewards which might follow, earthly or eternal.

Job’s story is about faith, and about the agonies that come to people who believe – seemingly despite what they believe. The book is so important, though, because it takes us to the heart of reality. It probes our hopes and fears about what this world really is: is there any one or thing out there beyond us; is there justice; why do awful things happen, sometimes, to the best people; and is belief in God a childish impulse, or a fool’s wager? This book throws up many questions – and brings with it not a few answers, many of them quite unexpected.

So, welcome, brother Job, godly, wealthy, respected and enjoying a beautiful life (vv.1-5). His life is the envy of prosperity preachers. Everything is going his way. The trouble is, that Satan is coming his way, too. Satan enters the divine court, fixated by Job’s happy life, and convinced that Job is only a man of faith because his faith is paying rich returns, a faith he will quickly abandon if his life goes wrong (vv.6-11), And so begins this most dreadful misery, as God permits Satan to test Job to within an inch of his life (v.12).

Out of a seemingly blue sky disaster strikes, and it comes again and again – theft, devastation, death: all that is dearest to him, children included, is wiped out (vv.13-19). Think about it. All that you have worked for, worried over, enjoy and treasure, all ripped out of your hands and destroyed forever. Your heart’s deepest joy, your children – all gone, too. This is suffering. And it comes with no explanations, and no instructions.

Job somehow holds his faith, and confesses it – God, in all of this anguish, is in charge. Life is a gift, the grave is as empty as the womb, and none of us deserves anything (v.21). Job refuses to curse God (v.22), though heaven, it seems, is about to curse him again. Satan reasons that Job is only hanging onto his faith because he has his health: once that goes, faith will go with it (2.3-6). Job then loses his health, and sits down, a picture of wretchedness. Adding to his misery is his wife, who makes her only appearance at this point, urging Job to stand up, shake his fist at heaven, and curse God (v.9). Job snaps at her (v.10), but he will not speak up at God. God is in heaven, and though His ways cannot be understood, He is the All-wise giver of all that He sees fit – good as well as trouble.

So welcome to this book, and these uncomfortable chapters of tears, arguments, and their wise and foolish advice in the face of suffering. Sit with Job and his friends (vv.11-13), and weigh their words. Learn from Job. Keep in your sights the Man who took from God all of the trouble you deserve for your sin, in order to bring you all the good you could never deserve nor earn. The Lord Jesus is the Lord of suffering, and if we listen to and imitate Him as we learn from this book, we have make so find comfort in.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, I recoil and run from suffering. I am human. I treasure my comforts, and fear to lose even one of them. Teach me to consider Your servant Job, and to consider the One his suffering and faith point to. May I know more deeply the Man of Sorrows, and treasure Him as my lasting riches in an uncertain world. Amen.

A Frowning Providence – 2 Samuel 17. RBT Notes, 21st October

Absalom is goaded on by the seemingly expert advice of Ahithophel, David’s ex-adviser. Ahithophel is brave, decisive, and totally persuasive, even when he coolly counsels the death of the king. And Absalom falls for it all (vv.1-4). But he wants one other opinion, and Hushai is suddenly forced to think on his feet. He’s boxed into a corner, as speaking against the opinion of Absalom and his new right-hand man is highly dangerous. His advice is a masterstroke in seeking to avert bloodshed (vv.7-14). And the king buys it (v.14). Notice, too, that God’s hand is against Absalom, steering his choice of advice for his own eventual downfall. Both the king’s and the would-be king’s hearts are in the Lord’s hand (v.15, see Prov. 21.1).

Hushai quickly gets word to David’s men, since he doesn’t know if Absalom will take his advice or not. There are close calls recorded, but David and his men manage to escape Absalom (vv.17-22). Ahithophel realises that he’s never going to grab power with Absalom, now that his plan has been rejected, so with military efficiency he goes home and takes his life (v.23). David’s men are safe, for now, and grateful for every kindness they receive (vv.24-29).

This chapter is a slice of the affairs of men, their ambitions, risks, danger, decisions and outcomes. A slice of your life or mine might look far less exciting, but the main elements are all there. True in their lives and ours is the hand of God. He guides even corrupt advisers, works out His purposes, and protects His children. In a world like ours, we really need to be sure of this. Life is hard for us all, and our best hopes are often broken. Our good news is that God in Christ loves us, and knows the very number of hairs on our heads. More than that, He has promised to bring us safely to glory. Trust Him.

 

A Prayer to Pray  

Heavenly Father, as David knew and said, You are my shield and my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. May Your Spirit press these truths into my hearts on sad and difficult days. Be my peace, and my strength. Amen.

Through all generations – Psalm 90. RBT Notes, 11th May

  1. What is the most comforting – as well as the most unsettling – statement about God and His ways in vv.1-6? Why is it so important for us as time-bound creatures to reflect upon the Eternal God?
  1. 7-12 show us life outside Eden for us all. What are some of its features, and how should we pray for help on this life?
  1. Reflect on and then pray in the seven prayers of vv.13-17. Which means the most to you st this stage of discipleship? Why not write it out and pray it each day this week?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Father, what rich worship comes from knowing that from everlasting to everlasting You are God! Please forgive me for my shallow and foolish views of You. Teach my heart Your majesty afresh. Teach me how fleeting my life is, and so bring me close to Jesus. That will be my heart of wisdom. Amen.

 

 

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