Bible Readers

With Pastor Dave Roussel

Anguish and Pain

October 23 – Today’s Readings – Job 34-36 and Psalms 113

I thought Eilhu was doing fairly well in the last section, but in these three chapters he shows a serious lack of wisdom and understanding by insisting Job has sinned – – and that his sin is the cause of all his troubles. In Elihu’s defence, he is trying to protect God’s reputation and is taking offence with Job’s bitter attitude.Here too we must be reminded that people in anguish or pain can at times say things they will regret later. It is my hope that we are “big enough” to simply ignore some of the words spoken by people in great distress. I have heard for example that during childbirth, a wife (not my wife of course) may say things to her husband that she would never utter under normal circumstances. Would the husband, at that moment, tell his wife to repent of her foolish speech?? Only if he had a death wish!

I remember, as a young man, I lived with a few other guys in a rented house. Whenever they were grumpy or otherwise negative I would advise them to “go pray for a while”. This worked so well that us guys adopted “praying for a while” as a great way to keep our souls in check – I still use this same technique on my unruly soul. A few months later, I married Linda and – after the honeymoon – Linda woke up one Saturday morning “in a mood”. I tried to be a very patient husband, but after a bit I decided it was time to tell my young wife to “go pray for a while”. You can only imagine how that went over. The moral of this little story is that its not our job to be constantly correcting each other, thinking that The Holy spirit somehow needs our help. As my Belgian-born mother always told me “let your tongue roll around three times in your mouth before you speak – (that sounds better in French). When you are in a long and difficult trial period, it is very easy to get discouraged. Most of the great heroes in Scripture learned endurance through things they suffered. Imagine what Noah suffered as he was building God’s ark – think of the longsuffering of Abraham as he was a wandering stranger in a foreign land – consider Joseph and his many years of suffering – how about Daniel, living out his life as a captive and persecuted Jew in a foreign land. The Scripture says of Jesus, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:7-8)

All of these “greats” knew what it was to suffer, but Job suffered the added weight of the condemnation of his friends. This is what makes the account of Job so amazing to read. Though he couldn’t feel God and even though he suffered more than I can imagine, God saw him through and Job hung on to integrity.

Questions:

1. Tell of an occasion [no names] when someone with a great Christian heart and attitude made a “not-so-great” comment in time of suffering.
2. How did the Holy Spirit use the situation to make your friend grow in the faith?

Righteous, But Not Perfect

October 22 – Today’s Readings – Job 31-33 and Psalms 112

Job’s youngest “friend”, Elihu seemed to be onto something good when he suggested that there was no one without sin. This of course is the truth, for no one ever overcame sin except our Lord Jesus – he was The Lamb of God, without defect. Job’s understanding of sin may have been a little different from ours because he had not heard the teachings of Christ. Do you remember what the Lord said?- “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” – “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-30 & 48)

Job certainly understood sins of word or deed but Jesus spoke about sins of the heart. Strong-willed or single-minded people may be able to keep themselves free from certain sins but who can keep sinful thoughts or attitudes at bay? The thoughts of people are a randomly good or evil. Only faith in Christ can remove the stain of sin in our hearts – only accepting the forgiveness of the Lord keeps us in right standing with God. Our perfection or “justification” comes only from faith in Christ. Our “sanctification”, (the ongoing, purifying work of the Holy Spirit) continues in our lives, as we submit to the Holy Spirit and are eventually promoted to heaven.

Job was certainly a righteous man but not a perfect man. This is probably what Elihu was reacting to and why the friends kept hammering away at him to find a cause for his problems. Which is the more serious problem – not seeing your shortcomings – or condemning someone else when he’s down and out? Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

We will do well to keep ourselves in the love, mercy and forgiveness of God – leaving judgments about the hearts of people up to God alone.

Questions:

1. Comment on what makes us “perfect” in the eyes of the Lord.
2. Give an example [no names please] of a situation where Christians condemned one another instead of extending forgiveness and grace.

God Was Silent

October 21 – Today’s Readings – Job 28-30 and Psalms 111

Job 28-30 clearly outlines the torment of a suffering man’s soul. The biggest problem with Job’s pain was that God was silent. His Friend – his Counselor – his Shepherd was not speaking to him. In his desperation, Job saw God only as his enemy – there was no peace and no comfort. This is quite understandable considering that in Job’s time there was NO medical or health care per se. There was probably no painkiller or sedative to numb his agony or his turmoil other than alcohol or perhaps opium and there is no indication that Job used any of these to numb the pain and the sorrow. Never underestimate the confusion that can come to a person who is suffering extreme pain or mourning. All focus can be lost – all positive thought forgotten. The best weapon a suffering soul can have is to see God as his friend and comforter in the midst of the storm. This is what Jesus did for us – He came to dwell in our hearts permanently by His Holy Spirit.

In the middle of all of this negative thought, Job gives us a nugget of truth about wisdom. He asks, “But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?” He then suggests that it is almost impossible to “find” wisdom for it only dwells in the understanding and revelation that “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

Here is a thought that all of us can “take to the bank”. To know God’s awesome nature and to decide to live according to that understanding is an incredibly potent combination! It’s the revelation of who God is and having the mindset to say, “yes” to His paths. When someone changes his course in life because they have met the Lord, the Bible says that they have become “wise”. To continue to live in this manner means only one thing – that wisdom will remain in you.

You thought that you had to go to school to be wise? Nope! You thought you had to sit under some great leader to be wise? Nope! You thought you had to have the right upbringing to be wise? Nope! You thought that you needed more self-help books in order to be wise? Nope! All of these things will certainly be of great benefit but all you really need is to know God and live for Him and with Him. This is the only wisdom needed to send you to heaven and to give you all that is truly valuable in this earth. Wisdom will give you good relationships and the ability to influence your world for Christ. Sounds like a bargain to me!

Questions:

1. Give an example of a time when God gave you wisdom because you simply walked with God in the Holy Spirit.
2. Give an example of a “wise” person in the Bible who didn’t seem to have much going for him by earthy standards of wisdom.

Life Is Short

October 20 – Today’s Readings Job 25-27 and Psalms 110

Let me comment on a subject that both Job and his friends agreed on. LIFE IS SHORT, and after death we meet God. Some of the other themes of this book focus on coping with difficulty and tragedy but the theme, “brevity of life” is found in all the chapters of Job. How does reading a book like this affect the way we live?Well, as we have already discussed, it may change our response to those who are suffering loss or have had some other form of major setback in life. It should also make us appreciate the fact that earthly existence is short and rather uncertain. We do know that God is for us and that His plans for us are good. We also know that He has prepared a reward for us that is going to “blow our minds”. This is why John could only describe the beauty of heaven in the most extreme terms – streets paved with gold – gates made of pearl – a sea of crystal – etc.

There are two things that are uncertain for us –

– The future events of our life on earth.

– When our time on earth will be complete.

I have heard tell of many children of God who were personally informed by the Holy Spirit as to when their “passing” would be. Amongst these saints were the Apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus himself. There are many, however, who will be “surprised” by the shortness of their lives and their passing to eternity. Here are 3 verses that will help us understand this concept;

– “Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.” (Psalms 144:4)

– “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalms 103:13-16)

– “But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.” (James 1:10)

Do these symbolic Bible pictures ring a bell? They ought to. Throughout Scripture, life is referred to as brief. I don’t think many of us appreciate this truth. When we are young, we tend to think and act as though we are going to live forever on earth. The truth of course is that our earthly experience is only a dot in the vastness of eternity.

Francis A Schaeffer wrote a book entitled How Should We Then Live? This question is fundamental for all of us in the light of “the judgment” and the brevity of life. We need to make every day count. We are “sowing” for eternity. We are living for eternal purposes. We are praying; “Thy Kingdom Come – Thy Will be Done”. There is always supposed to be to be an eternal focus when it comes to building our lives. Nothing we do should make us lose touch with eternity.

Questions:

1. Make a short Christian “bucket list” – some things that you want to be doing or have done before you “kick the bucket.”
2. What did the Apostle Paul have to say about living his life in the light of eternity?

Where To Find HIM

October 19 – Today’s Readings – Job 22-24 and Psalms 109

Job 23:3-12 reads, “If only I knew where to find him if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say. ‘Would he oppose me with great power? No, he would not press charges against me. There an upright man could present his case before him, and I would be delivered forever from my judge.’ ‘But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”

Here is a man who stands confident in his righteousness (right standing with God and others) even though all of his outward circumstances speak of the opposite. His friends are trying to convince him that he is not right with God although Job knows in his heart that he is pleasing to the Lord.

This kind of faith takes a deep understanding of who God is and what makes us “righteous”. We can be at the bottom of the pile when it comes to the outward trappings of the Christian faith, yet have an assurance that we are saints of God. The devil may “sift us like wheat” (Luke 22:31) for a season, yet we will be confident of our forgiveness and salvation.

It is astounding to me that we can get so caught up with what righteousness looks like on the exterior that we forget “the kingdom of God is within you”. (Luke 17:21) This was Job’s situation. He knew in “his knower” that God had made him righteous – that he was a Son of God – that he was accepted. Remember Job 19:25 – “I know that my redeemer lives”? He hung on to his faith and to his confidence of salvation because ultimately he had nothing else to hang on to. If for a moment, he had followed his wife’s advice to “curse God”, (Job 2:9) then it would have been the end and he would have died. Not Job. He was certain of what he could not see (Hebrews 11:1) and he had evidence in his heart that his salvation was secure.

What an example for those who suffer – what a strengthening testimony. Job was facing one serious problem however – he couldn’t “find” God. He wasn’t filled with the Holy Spirit as a New Testament believer is and he didn’t have Holy Scripture to guide his thinking. He was on his own because God was not answering him and the enemy was pressing his attack on Job to the point of death. Somewhere inside he knew however that God is a Holy and Just God who does not do evil!

Questions:

1. What gives you confidence in God’s love, care and presence when you go through extremely negative situations?
2. Give another example of a New Testament saint who went through severe trial yet had confidence in his relationship with God.

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