Monthly Archives: October 2008

TIME OUT—AMAZING BLAZE


          Blogging ‘experts’ say one of the “requisites” of successful ‘blogging’ is to keep something current.  “You need to have a post at least a couple times a week,” they* say. I also have been told that sometimes my “sermons” seemed long. Yawn. Stretch and ho hum.

          Last time I was invited to “sermonize,” my wife was out in the audience. It was only the second time she had heard me speak publicly in the years we’ve been together.  After a while she stretched her arms widely, yawned, and looked conspicuously at her watch. Later, I told her that wouldn’t ever bother me, unless she shook it to see if it’s still running. 

          Not that I’m the only one who’s long- winded: I was told once that Billy Graham’s platform team joked with him about the length of his sermons. Thinking he hadn’t gotten the point, one night they handed him a calendar as he approached the podium! 

          I don’t think you should be made to “pay attention.”  It is MY RESPONSIBILITY to provide material which is thought-provoking and deserving of your time and interest. I’m working as diligently as I know how to make this worth the time you spend on this site. 

          Admittedly, thinking gets tiring sometimes and you need a break. Sometimes I need time to ‘think things through.’  Very carefully.   Some of the material, especially in Job, is as problematic as it is profound.  Before we proceed further, I sort of thought it would be worth while simply to take a break before we proceed with this venture.

          Wouldn’t it be wise somewhere along our journey together to stop and think about your own devotion to Christ?  Your commitment to follow Him? Remember the glow of joy that seemed so real when first you and He met?  Think of the times when He seemed as close as your own heartbeat. Know that He loves you now as much as He loved you then. And He always will.  May my love and yours for Him continue steadfast, growing daily as discover and do His will.

          Although the flame of my faith has sometimes flickered because of some circumstances in my life, it has never been extinguished. Once, when in a contemplative mood, I sought to put some of my own feelings into the words printed below.

 

AMAZING BLAZE

The fire that, years ago, You ignited

Since then has warmed and lighted

Each dark, distant corner of my life.

 

Over rough, and sometimes winding days

In often unexpected ways

We’ve come together to this place.

 

And, my Lord, as I stand here backward gazing,

I find this thought still amazing:

THE FIRE YOU SET IS STILL BLAZING!

 

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          This is still a Bible Study blog. My purpose remains to find how others in Scripture faced and handled trials.  We have already seen that much of what they faced was so similar to our own “trials and tribulations,” that we could imagine someone had been reading our own diaries.  The ‘study’ presently is about God’s “Comeback Kids,” and we’re currently considering Job.  I’m also convinced that the means by which God delivered others in days gone by is the same way He will deliver those today who wish to do His will. 

          I’ve been engrossed pretty deeply in thought about how job stood, fell, wept, felt life was ended and all was lost, listened to  ignorant but well-intentioned friends who added to his grief.  Then got up, dealt with his problems, and emerged . . . not ‘somehow,’ or ‘by the skin of your teeth,’ . . . but  victoriously. Triumphantly!   Joyously, with voices raised in praise! With tragedy fast becoming a distant, fading memory! 

          Admittedly, my primary reason for such an endeavour as this study is selfish.  Purely selfish.  I’ve needed this knowledge before, and will probably need it again. Unless I miss my guess entirely, someone, somewhere, someday who reads this will discover Truth that makes us free. And if and when that happens, my reward for this effort will then indeed have been doubled!

          It is with that hope and confidence that I commit these words to the internet. 

~God’s servant ~ your friend, brother, and fellow student                                        ~ donkimrey

Post Script: Thanks to good friend and constant source of encouragement, “Ebby” for the sign of the fish.  It was one of the ‘secret symbols’ used by early Christians and had special significance then.  If you don’t know the meaning of the symbol, let me know and I’ll attempt to explain it.  

* Does anyone have the slightest idea who ‘they’ is. . . or are?

JOB’S ‘COMEBACK’

                                   How did he make a ‘comeback?’  

          As you perhaps know, toward the end of the story Job recovered his wealth, doubled it in fact.  And in the years that followed the incidents recorded for us, he fathered seven more sons and three daughters.  Not a lot was said about the sons, but the daughters were apparently prize-winning beauties. So stunning, in fact, that their names are given and the sons’ names aren’t (Job 42:13-14).  That was quite unusual in those places in those days.  Job even made the daughters heiresses to his fortune, along with his sons. Highly unusual as you would imagine, especially when you see how women are regarded even today in some regions of the Middle East.

          As far as the recovery of wealth is concerned, some people seem to have an innate ability to build wealth.  Midas was apparently blessed with such a touch, although he was the stuff of myth.  Donald Trump is a more current example and he’s very much alive and effective today.  Even if he’s forgotten how to comb his hair, you gotta hand it to him.  He knows how to make money.  If he loses a fortune, he just dusts off the seat of his pants, goes right back out and makes another.  He probably considers that as an achievement.  I view it as a gift. . . the instincts as well as the accomplishments and his acquisitions.

          But so is every breath I draw.  So is every heartbeat.  In fact, every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above.”   It is also true that “rain falls on the just and the unjust.”*   Despite gaudy claims to the contrary, the fact that someone drives the finest automobile and has a large beach house is not  “proof” that God blessed you and forgot someone else.  

          Personally, I’ve never been able to identify a direct connection between spirituality and wealth.  Or poverty, for that matter.  And I don’t believe anyone can prove categorically that if you’re a good person you won’t ever suffer or be poor.  You won’t ever get sick.  And all your problems will be miraculously solved.  Jesus didn’t make such a connection, either.  Remember the time some real religious guys asked Him a question, knowing either answer He gave would trip Him up or trap  Him:  “Who sinned?  This man, or his parents?” that landed this poor man in such a sad condition?  Jesus ignored the fact that they left Him with only two options, both of which He swept aside.  The question was loaded, like so many designed by His enemies simply to trick and trap Him. He brought up a third possibility the superficial religious professionals hadn’t even considered:  Maybe, just maybe neither this man nor his parents sinned.  Neither of them!  This suffering was so that God might be glorified.  That possibility had not even occurred to their narrow minds.

          Job’s “comeback” financially could perhaps be explained if you take into account the talent for success Job had already displayed and allow enough time. He had proven he knew how to do it, so now all he had to do was use steps which had already been used correctly and successfully.

          My focus now, though, is on how Job managed to survive and escape unscathed, and return perhaps even more solid in his faith, and stand as a splendid example of “God’s Comeback Kids.”  Stunned by the turn of events, shaken to his foundation, you can tell Job had no quick, easy, pat answers.  If you’re serious about how he got through this ordeal, his trial by fire, you need to read and ponder the entire document. 

          That’s what I’ve done.  Several times, in fact.  Slowly.  Deliberately.  Prayerfully searching for the answer to my question, knowing it would be worth gold, 

          HOW DID HE COME BACK? 

          Most of the time you can gain valuable, usually accurate insight into such matters by simply listening to what someone says.  Look at the  record.  There are keys to the man’s mind. That’s what makes him tick.  That’s a clue. . . a key to his thought processes. . . and an example for us to imitate.

          My purpose in this study is to try to figure how Job figured a way back after others would probably collapsed into a pile of quivering, complaining, defeated protoplasm.  He passed this incredible “test.”  Heavy hypothetical theological and metaphysical issues are raised throughout the early part of his ordeal.  Unanswerable questions are asked and, of course, no answers are given.  Even to this day, with all our scientific discoveries, advances, and instruments, we still cannot answer all of them.  Much less can we give an adequate answer or explanation to why Job suffered.  But, we can arrive at some objective  conclusions about how he came back.

          What I believe we can determine with a good degree of certainty is this: HE HAD MADE UP HIS MIND BEFORE DISASTER STRUCK.  You do not see that in exact words, but the evidence clearly indicates it.  Somewhere, before Satan launched his outright assault on the man, Job had confronted spiritual reality and made a commitment. . . One from which he never backed down.  About which he NEVER CHANGED HIS MIND.  It was a milestone.  Forever afterward, that would be a reminder of a life changing commitment.  Something Billy Graham would later call an “Hour of Decision.”

          Somewhere, ‘back yonder,’ he’d driven down a stake.  Before the storm struck, he had entered a relationship with God.  I don’t know where or when it happened, but it is within that framework that was able to “stand, having his loins girded about him and, having done all. to stand. Steadfast and unmoveable!”

          Listen to what he says and then see if you agree:  “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”   “He doesn’t have to explain His every move to me,”  Job seems to say. . .  “Perhaps I’d be unable to understand, even if He attempted to explain.” 

          Think about what he said after his entire world collapsed around him and left him with no explanation for his loss, no hope of recovery, and no path ahead to recovery:  “The Lord gave me everything I had, and  they were His to take away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  (Job 1:21)

          Does that sound like a man who hasn’t yet made up his mind?  If you consider his reaction and compare it with how you face cruel loss, does it give you an idea of how we can approach adversity?  I mean the overwhelming things which seem to threaten our existence, as well as the dirty little nitty gritty details of live that just slowly and surely grind us down.

          If I read things like this, and don’t ask my self the appropriate questions, I miss the point.  In this case, a very important point.

          Or consider this: “Who am I that I should argue with God, or even reason with Him?  Even if I were sinless, I wouldn’t even say a word.  I would only plead for mercy.” Job 10:14

          Thoughts like that may pulverize our pride.  They are true, nevertheless.

          It is obvious to me that Job had made up his mind. 

          So should I.  

          So may you.        

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student                         ~donkimrey

                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 *  I’m not getting lazy on you, honest!  Sometimes a can recall the verses, but don’t know immediately exactly where it’s located.  Besides, if you look it up for yourself (use your concordance), you’re getting more involved.  And you’ll probably find something else that makes the effort even more worth your time.                                

Post script: I believe there are other factors which figured in Job’s remarkable return.  I’ll share what I think next time.  Meanwhile, I’m also interested in knowing what you think.

HOW DID JOB SURVIVE?

 

     For your information, and before I continue my study of  “Job, God’s comeback Kid,” let me refer you to a study which someone was kind enough to call to my attention.  As I’ve said before, my purpose here is to focus on the Scripture as prayerfully and as thoughtfully as I know how. I try not to approach it governed by my own conclusions or influenced by someone else’s opinions.  I’m not looking for “proof texts.”  I am also in quest of lessons I need to learn and apply to a guy named donkimrey!  After I’ve done that, my intention is to visit desiringGod by John and Abraham Piper and learn from him.  You don’t have to wait for me.

 “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him, but I will maintain mine own ways before Him.”  Job 13:15

The main thrust in the book of Job seems, obviously the problem of suffering.  While Job is trying just to keep his head above water, his wife added to his misery with her suggestion: “Why don’t you just curse God and die?!  From my standpoint, that sounds like a clear suggestion that Job commit suicide. 

          Next, he has four “friends” who drop in and help him grieve.  That was nice.  After a period of time, though, Job begins to emerge from his grief, still stunned by his loss.  He tries to verbalize his grief.  And it is at that point one of the friends, Eliphaz  tells Job he’s the reason for his own suffering.   Now, try that one on for size!  After lecturing Job on his view of suffering, he tells Job “My advice to you is this: Go to God and confess your sins” (Job 5:8).  Then he says self-righteously, ”for your own good, listen to my counsel” (Job 5:27). 

          If you read his speech, you’ll have to say some of it is true.  But the sweeping conclusions he draws, and the harsh judgment he levels at Job, not only doesn’t help ease Job’s pain.  It probably hurts worse than the boils.  Ever had boils?  They hurt, and they’re ugly.  Ever had one on your nose?  A pimple on your chin before a date was not only painful. It was embarrassing!  Ever had one where you sit?!   Job had them all over, head to toe and they kept hurting constantly and were humiliating.  You must be aware that in such a case you have to deal with the constant pain, PLUS they would erupt with ugly ooze (how can I say that politely?l!) at the most inopportune times.

          In grade school I had a classmate who had ‘carbuncles,’ all over him.  I mean everywhere!  His mother was unmarried, and sort of the ‘butt’ of a lot of small town trash talk. Out of self~defense, he became mean and scared daylights out of me.  He’d just try to pick fights. The other kids avoided him.  He once tore into a male teacher in class!  That was only one of the many times he got expelled.  When he was in tenth grade(the second time,) he became a Christian and made a confession of faith during the same revival meeting that brought me to Christ.  After that, he became and remains one of my best friends and to this day. 

          It seems to me I drifted a bit off the point at this point, but the memory of that young friend helps me better understand the predicament in which Job found himself.  Bad enough it was to have the painful, ugly sores oozing pus continuously.  But bad matters were made much worse when well intentioned, but ignorant friend made sweeping judgments and tried to pour hot guilt upon him to add to the physical pain.

          As I read the narrative, it seems to me these guys were just waiting for a chance to unload on Job.  Every time Job says something, one of them comes back with another ‘cheap shot.’         

          There are many matters in the book of Job which can be considered for my profit.   The mystery of suffering, obviously, is one of them.  I’ll probably touch on them briefly and share some conclusions I’ve drawn from my own experience, reading, and observaton.

          What I’m looking for in this study, though, specifically, is to find out how in the world Job kept or recovered his equilibrium and emerged with his sanity intact and went on to a new, great, fulfilled life.  He could have given up, you know, and we would have had little reason to blame him.  If he’d done that, of course we would not have his example of tough, patient, courageous and unwavering faith.  His wife suggested that he probably should cut loose and curse God and die. Right then and there!  By his own hand!  If that isn’t a suggestion that he commit suicide, I don’t know what would be. Could YOU have passed such a test? 

           How could ANYONE be knocked down, smashed flat, and still recover?  Some of the means by which he survived are fairly obvious.  Others are not quite so easily visible.  We have to look.  And listen, and think.

          One of the reasons for his recovery is clearly the Faith by which he lived.  We can tell that by some of the things he said, but we can also tell by how he acted.  He made and kept his commitment to God.  That was a tough determination on his part.  His was not a ‘creampuff’ belief.  Under the scalding, derisive scrutiny of those four friends who came calling, he braced up as they leveled self-righteous criticism in a barrage of words which seemed to stream continuously from their mouths.

          Can you go a bit further with that conclusion and apply it to your own life?   I can ask that, because it’s what I try to do when it seems as if I’m  “running against the wind” and uphill at that!  

 

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student

HOW DID JOB SURVIVE?

     For your information, and before I continue my study of  “Job, God’s comeback Kid,” let me refer you to a study which someone was kind enough to call to my attention.  As I’ve said before, my purpose here is to focus on the Scripture as prayerfully and as thoughtfully as I know how. I try not to approach it governed by my own conclusions or influenced by someone else’s opinions.  I’m not looking for “proof texts.”  I am also in quest of lessons I need to learn and apply to a guy named donkimrey!  After I’ve done that, my intention is to visit desiringGod by John and Abraham Piper and learn from him.  You don’t have to wait for me.For your information, and before I continue my study of  “Job, God’s comeback Kid,” let me refer you to a study which someone was kind enough to call to my attention.  As I’ve said before, my purpose here is to focus on the Scripture prayerfully and as thoughtfully as I know how. I try not to approach it governed by my own conclusions or influenced by someone else’s ‘commentary.’  I’m not looking for “proof texts.”  I am also in quest of lessons I need to learn and apply to a guy named donkimrey!  After I’ve done that, my intention is to visit desiringGod by John and Abraham Piper and learn from him.  You don’t have to wait for me.

 “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him, but I will maintain mine own ways before Him.”  Job 13:15

The main thrust in the book of Job seems, obviously the problem of suffering.  While Job is trying just to keep his head above water, his wife added to his misery with her suggestion: “Why don’t you just curse God and die?!  From my standpoint, that sounds like a clear suggestion that Job commit suicide. 

          Next, he has four “friends” who drop in and help him grieve.  That was nice.  After a period of time, though, Job begins to emerge from his grief, still stunned by his loss.  He tries to verbalize his grief.  And it is at that point one of the friends, Eliphaz  tells Job he’s the reason for his own suffering.   Now, try that one on for size!  After lecturing Job on his view of suffering, he tells Job “My advice to you is this: Go to God and confess your sins” (Job 5:8).  Then he says self-righteously, ”for your own good, listen to my counsel” (Job 5:27). 

          If you read his speech, you’ll have to say some of it is true.  But the sweeping conclusions he draws, and the harsh judgment he levels at Job, not only doesn’t help ease Job’s pain.  It probably hurts worse than the boils.  Ever had boils?  They hurt, and they’re ugly.  Ever had one on your nose?  A pimple on your chin before a date was not only painful. It was embarrassing!  Ever had one where you sit?!   Job had them all over, head to toe and they kept hurting constantly and were humiliating.  You must be aware that in such a case you have to deal with the constant pain, PLUS they would erupt with ugly ooze (how can I say that politely?l!) at the most inopportune times.

          In grade school I had a classmate who had ‘carbuncles,’ all over him.  I mean everywhere!  His mother was unmarried, and sort of the ‘butt’ of a lot of small town trash talk. Out of self~defense, he became mean and scared daylights out of me.  He’d just try to pick fights. The other kids avoided him.  He once tore into a male teacher in class!  That was only one of the many times he got expelled.  When he was in tenth grade(the second time,) he became a Christian and made a confession of faith during the same revival meeting that brought me to Christ.  After that, he became and remains one of my best friends and to this day. 

          It seems to me I drifted a bit off the point at this point, but the memory of that young friend helps me better understand the predicament in which Job found himself.  Bad enough it was to have the painful, ugly sores oozing pus continuously.  But bad matters were made much worse when well intentioned, but ignorant friend made sweeping judgments and tried to pour hot guilt upon him to add to the physical pain.

          As I read the narrative, it seems to me these guys were just waiting for a chance to unload on Job.  Every time Job says something, one of them comes back with another ‘cheap shot.’         

          There are many matters in the book of Job which can be considered for my profit.   The mystery of suffering, obviously, is one of them.  I’ll probably touch on them briefly and share some conclusions I’ve drawn from my own experience, reading, and observaton.

          What I’m looking for in this study, though, specifically, is to find out how in the world Job kept or recovered his equilibrium and emerged with his sanity intact and went on to a new, great, fulfilled life.  He could have given up, you know, and we would have had little reason to blame him.  If he’d done that, of course we would not have his example of tough, patient, courageous and unwavering faith.  His wife suggested that he probably should cut loose and curse God and die. Right then and there!  By his own hand!  If that isn’t a suggestion that he commit suicide, I don’t know what would be. Could YOU have passed such a test? 

           How could ANYONE be knocked down, smashed flat, and still recover?  Some of the means by which he survived are fairly obvious.  Others are not quite so easily visible.  We have to look.  And listen, and think.

          One of the reasons for his recovery is clearly the Faith by which he lived.  We can tell that by some of the things he said, but we can also tell by how he acted.  He made and kept his commitment to God.  That was a tough determination on his part.  His was not a ‘creampuff’ belief.  Under the scalding, derisive scrutiny of those four friends who came calling, he braced up as they leveled self-righteous criticism in a barrage of words which seemed to stream continuously from their mouths.

          Can you go a bit further with that conclusion and apply it to your own life?   I can ask that, because it’s what I try to do when it seems as if I’m  “running against the wind” and uphill at that!  

 

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student

“HOW COME IT HURTS SO BAD?”

THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT FOR THIS STUDY IS THE FIRST COUPLE OF CHAPTERS OF JOB. This is not an attempt at a ‘verse-by-verse’ expository study.  It is an effort to look at the events as they are reported and attempt to reach some sensible conclusions.  i invite and will always welcome your own insights.

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       We’ve become aware of Job’s suffering.  But we do not know or understand the reason.  And I KNOW Job didn’t know at the time.  Nor can we gage the impact and depth of his pain.  It is usually that way with the problem of suffering. This is a story of how a man fell from riches to rags because of a sudden, unexpected, chain of events.  He didn’t just fall.  He plummeted.  In less time than it takes for us to recount the series of tragedies which struck him down, he ‘lost it all.’  And he had done nothing to earn such treatment!  Nothing at all!

       I realize I’ve never had (and never expect to have)  vast wealth.  But on a smaller scale, I’ve suffered losses;  the pain and grief of the death of someone whom I’ve loved better than my own life.  I know a bit about how it hurts when someone you love betrays you.  Or disappoints you badly.  I’ve had to deal with financial stress, loss of a career, loss of a business, the frustration of finding my way “home” spiritually.  After a life almost completely free of physical illness I’ve lately had to deal with some health issues that don’t frighten me.  But I don’t enjoy feeling bad, and the “experts” not being able to find and fix the problem.  Nothing I’ve had to face has even close to what Job experienced, you know. . . but those things hurt.  Sometimes very bad.

     To be  completely honest, I have to say much~~ no, probably MOST of what I’ve suffered~~ has been self-inflicted.   Bad decisions.  Stupid mistakes.  Rebellious, selfish acts that sometimes still haunt me.   I’m not even beginning to compare myself with such a noble gentleman as Job, but am just saying on a much smaller, less significant scale: I know a little about suffering.   Even if I cannot find any reason for it, I want learn from Job about how to deal with suffering.  It is not likely that I’ll conclusively open the door to solving the mystery of WHY people suffer.  But I CAN see some ideas which will show me HOW to deal with it.

       Before we feel sorry for ourselves, let’s look at the tsunami of tragedy which swept over Job.  All his children died in one afternoon in a swift succession of calamities.

       In Job 1:13-19, one right after another, crushing blows are laid upon this man: (1.) A messenger comes to Job while all his children were enjoying one of the brother’s birthday party: a swarm of Sabbeans* swept in and stole all his livestock and killed all his employees (slaves, servants) who were at work there.  (2.) With no time to really absorb this blow or evaluate his loss, here comes another servant running, breathing hard and blurting out that there had just been a huge fire which killed all his sheep (might want to add how many) and all his shepherds.  Except the messenger.  (3.) With his mind reeling, trying to assess the extent of that loss and before the slave could finish his gory story, here comes another guy with another horror story:  “Three groups of Chaldeans** just stole all your camels and killed off all the rest of your workforce.  Except one.”  Just that quickly and completely, Job’s massive fortune was wiped out.  His workforce annihilated! Gone! There were no secret offshore accounts. No soft minded politicians on Capitol Hill to bail him out.  And in those days debtor’s prison was a harsh reality.  His wealth was gone with the wind.  But, if Job thought it couldn’t get worse, it did!   Much, much worse.

       Just as unexpectedly, and unwelcome as the first two , another messenger stumbled, gasping for breath and delivering the worst word.  This time with a message no parent ever is prepared to hear. “Your children have been killed!  Every one of them.  Yes.  Every one.”  Every parent KNOWS our children        aren’t supposed to die before we do.  To say this is brutal is to make an incredible understatement of fact!

You don’t have to imagine hard to understand some of the agony Job felt. . . even though that understanding is limited.  The suffering!  A sudden storm had rushed in and crashed the building which fell        and killed all of them. The cruel ferocity of the storm and its consequences were nothing compared with the volcanic emotional eruption which blasted Job’s world apart.  Asking a question, “why does this hurt so bad?” seems irrelevant.  That is probably an easier question than to answer “why” it happened in the first place.  The answer to the first question is is self-evident. The answer to the latter has baffled the best minds who have pondered it.   

I’m still considering Job’s plight.  What has just taken place defies understanding or explanation, but I want to try to bring some light upon the problem of suffering.  Before doing that, though, I want to share something of value that we can apply to our own situations.  This may not be the logical or chronological place to share a discovery and a conclusion.  It isn’t easy.   But it IS OBVIOUS. 

 

Something inside me wants to share something I think is worthwhile at the time it becomes obvious.  If I have something worth while happen to me, I don’t usually wait for a “convenient” time to share it with those who need, or deserve, to know.  I’ll pick up the telephone and let my wife (e.g.) know . . . even before I get home.  We can discuss details, and perhaps make plans, later.  But, if there’s something she needs to know I don’t want her to have to wait till we can have time to discuss and think about it and try to find out more.  

In the case of Job, there is so much, much more for him to face and resolve.  But, before he ‘went to war,’  he had the necessary equipment to face and deal effectively with any challenge. 

Shouldn’t that be a lesson to us?  You AND me?  Life is difficult enough and trials will come.  That is a “given.”  Doesn’t it make immense sense to be prepared?  Does it make any sense at all to wait until you’re in a battle (with bullets whistling over your head and bombs blasting craters driving you closer and closer to panic or despair!)?  If we pepare for everything else, shouldn’t we also make preparation for the crises which are bound to come sooner or later to everyone?

       Can you take a few minutes and think about the statement Job made, even before he could calculate his losses or begin to try to make some sense of what happened?  Stunned, not even yet able to contemplate the possibility of a recovery, here is what he said:***  “I came naked from my mother’s womb.  And I shall have nothing when I die.  The Lord gave me everything I have, and they were His to take away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 

       There.  There it is!  In attempting to understand how this man could withstand such an avalanche of sorrow and not go insane, here is a major clue.   Others, with far less reason.  collapsed in understandable defeated despair, or  frustrated rage.  They simply fell, or got knocked down, and stayed there.  The pain was more than could be borne.

     Before he got buried in horrible circumstances, clearly Job had made a life-altering decision and he wasn’t going to change his mind at this time. It’s apparent to me that he did not wait until he was drowning in a raging river to try to get prepared for any of life’s challenges.

     Nor should we. 

Closing thoughts:  I’m looking at the entire context of Job, and for that reason I probably won’t always be putting up ‘chapter & verse.’  I’m hoping, also, that some of what I write will prompt you to do your own thinking.  Go to the Bible directly and read it for yourself and make it your own.  That’s when you’ll really have your own understanding and not spend your life dependent upon anyone else’s interpretation.  There will be plenty of time to consult commentaries and other secondary sources.  Personally, I’ve identified a site which features another brother’s approach.  I’ll go there soon, but I don’t want any other influences at this point.  I’ll give you the location of that site, shortly.

     God’s servant, your friend and fellow student, ~donkimrey

*   I don’t know exactly who these people are.  The research I did pointed to a small country apparently close by Job’s home.  I’ll look further into it, but will not digress at the present.  Anyhow, someone took all of Job’s livestock and killed all his workers (probably slaves), except one.

** The Chaldeans were another group of people who lived nearby and who seem to have been identified with the Babylonians.  Borders shifted with the sands, it appears, and it’s hard to draw clear distinctions about who was who.  And where was where.  And then, as now, they seemed always to be fighting each other. 

***  Job 1:21-22 The Living Bible  

“RICH MAN, POOR MAN” Part two

“SHALL NOT THE JUDGE OF THE EARTH DO RIGHT?”  

      That question is first raised in Genesis 18:25.  I raised it when I first began to look more closely at the life of Job, one of the leading figures in the Bible.  Everything which could go wrong in his life, did.  Suddenly.  Unexpectedly.  Catastrophically.   As he sat in the ashes amid the rubble, grief-stricken and mute, he must have wondered:  “Why?”  From our vantage point, the same question is in our minds, even if we never utter it and surely can never answer it satisfactorily.   Job’s wife and four of his neighbors came in to “comfort and Counsel” him and made a tragically bad situation even worse.

     “Shall not the Judge of the Earth do right?”*  I believe you deserve an explanation for my quoting that sentence at the outset of my study of Job.  To state it as candidly as I can, there are lots of questions to which I don’t have an answer.  And don’t think anyone on the planet at present does.  But I’m also not too proud to scratch my head and say the truth:  “I really don’t know.”   So, when unanswerable questions are asked I think the best way to answer that question is to ask another: “Shall not the Judge of the Earth do right?”*

     Yes.  Yes He can, and YES He will.  The way the question was posed presupposes the best answer. . . perhaps the ONLY answer to some questions, such as the mystery of suffering, which has strained the brains of the brightest, best and  most thoughtful to plant their feet on earth.

     Earlier in my life I had the opportunity to work with what was then called the North Carolina Society for Autistic Children.  In looking back on the brave, but beleaguered parents and professionals, I felt I was in the company of pioneers.   I consider that effort to be one of the most worth-while things I’ve ever done.  In those days, the parents’ struggle was made even more painful because many in the medical community embraced the theory of a German scientist (Rudolph Betleheim) who said autism was attributable to “refrigerator mothers.”  So, in addition to trying to cope with a mysterious condition (which even to this moment hasn’t a known cause or a cure.), they had the additional burden of others thinking “It’s your fault.”  That kind of cruel counsel is not kind!  To say the very least, Job’s comforters not only did not help him lighten the burden, they increased it.

     Somehow, in my mind I hear the words of a song that, when you don’t know what to say, it’s “best to say nothing at all.”  Someone else put it another way:  “It’s better to remain silent and let folks THINK you’re ignorant, than to speak and remove all doubt!”  In the years I spent in ministry, I felt it was really unwise to try to answer unanswerable questions.  In the absence of perfect understanding, I felt the best thing and the wisest thing I could do was just try by my presence to reassure a breaking heart that I cared.  And, even though I didn’t pretend to answer “why” bad things happen to good people, I could assure them God does, too.

     So, it is with an attempt at honest humility and with limited intelligence that I seek to understand some of the problems raised in the book of Job.  Why do good people suffer? **   What is the connection between material success and spirituality?  Or “being blessed.” Or “cursed.”  Is there any connection at all?  Since the question “Why?” seems almost never to be answered, a legitimate question for me becomes “HOW?”  How can I bear what seems at times to be unbearable burdens? Do I get ‘on top’ of them or allow them to overflow and overwhelm me?  What use can I make of the hard lessons that have lain here for centuries?

 

      If the narrative is true (I do believe it is), there was no apparent reason for the calamities that befell this man.  He was good, honest, law-abiding, upstanding citizen and a good family man. Job was rich.  Big time Rich.  I’m not sure how he acquired his wealth, but he had a lot of “stuff.” He also had a bunch of children.  Since I’ve never been rich, it’s hard for me to identify with him. Wealth has a different effect on different people.  Some view it as the sine qua non.  They think it’s an impressive accomplishment or an achievement.   In such a case, instead of being a blessing, it sometimes causes someone to become selfish or greedy, or proud, or self-sufficient.  When that happens, instead of wealth being a blessing, it actually becomes a curse.  

 

 

     We place a lot of emphasis on wealth. . .Accumulations and achievements.  But if all this is taken from us, what’s left?  Elsewhere someone asked “If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?” ***  It seems to me the answer to that hypothetical question is simply:  “They KEEP ON BEING RIGHTEOUS.”  

      That’s what Job did.  He was put to the test, and passed it!  With no assistance and no encouragement from anyone.  One conclusion I’ve drawn from the study of his life and example is:  “He made it.  And he did so without wimping out.  I can do it, too!”  The story is not placed here just for us to admire a strong, patient, wise, faithful man.  The point of it is that I CAN LEARN LESSONS FROM HIM.  AND SO CAN YOU.

 

      Job stood firm in His faith, and integrity.  There’s a lot of heavy thinking in the book.  In the course of events, the mystery as well as the misery of suffering is explored.  I won’t solve the mystery, but perhaps we can together shed some light on some issues.

 

     The questions I’m raising, as with Joseph and Moses, are:  How did Job get knocked out of commission? (I use that word for lack of a better one.) What relationship exists between material prosperity and whether someone is “spiritual” or “blessed,” or not?   What’s your reaction about what we in grim jest call:  “Job’s Comforters?”  (Include his wife in that group.)  Do you see or hear anything in the book which is key to his “comeback?”

 

 His servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student

                     ~donkimrey~

 

 

*   This question was raised very early in Biblical history.  No one really knows who the author was (Job, Moses perhaps?  I take the Scripture as a unit.  There are many writers, but really only one AUTHOR, in my opinion.  He doesn’t change his position on a subject simply because the time, or the place, or the personalities change.  The question asked so early is certainly a legitimate one to ask here. . . and in similar vexing situations.  If that question is answered correctly, other things make sense eventually and the “pieces fall into place.”  If it is not answered, then perhaps Shakespeare was right when he wrote life is “a tale told by an idiot; full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.” 

 

**      There are some excellent studies on the problem of good and evil, the mystery of suffering, etc.  One of the most helpful things I ever read along this line was in a book entitled THE STRONG NAME by James Stewart of Edinburgh.  It is now out of print, but for an honest examination of the subject you’ll be hard pressed to find one better.

 

*** Psalm 11:3

TBC   ~to be continued

A REFLECTION

           Some who take part in our study also take time to reflect.  And they contact me at my personal email address which always appears in each post.  I’ll never disclose any personal information or violate your trust, but sometimes the questions seem to be worth thinking about when the questions and answers seem so important to each of us. After one of my earlier posts, I received a letter raising a serious, sincere question and I felt compelled to try to answer it.  Then I felt other readers may have a similar question and would find the answer could help in their situations.  Here was the question:
            

            “I have read the scripture and wonder one thing….. how understanding is God when we as Christians keep screwing up over and over again.  How many times does He forgive us?” 

           Without disclosing the writer’s identity, here is my answer:

          I suggest that you read I John 1:9…READ IT THOUGHTFULLY.  In English, it sounds Limited:  If we confess (once. twice? three times?). . . He is (remains) faithful and just to forgive (once. twice? three times? You get my drift? and cleanse (once, twice, etc.? and after that am I pressing my luck or straining His faithfulness & justice?  Am I on the verge of exhausting His grace then?  Not on your life!

            The Greek language had a way with tense that expresses a specific notion of time.  They wrote words one way if they meant an action occurred only once at a specific point.  Another way suggested continuous (this is IMPORTANT.)  action.  For example, if you translate the sentence the way it was written originally, I would read something like this:  “If we KEEP ON CONFESSING our sin, He KEEPS ON BEING faithful and just, and KEEPS ON FORGIVING  us our sins and KEEPS ON CLEANSING us from unrighteousness.  In another place, one of the disciples asked Jesus how many times he should forgive?  Seven?  And Jesus replied “No, that’s not enough.  Try seventy times seven (which, if my memory of multiplication serves me correctly equals exactly 490!  But, before you take that figure literally, keep in mind that sometimes “figures of speech” are used.  And sometimes words and numbers are use symbolically.  Seven, for example is often used to signify perfection, or completeness.  

           What I think the Bible is driving at is that you cannot build a fence around the Amazing Grace of God.  The inference I believe we can draw is simply:  As often as I sin (and that is often, in spite of my good intentions), just that often I confess it sinerely.  And just that often He forgives and cleanses us.  Look at it another way:  How often do you wash your hands?  Or take a bath?  I suspect you do that as often as you need to do that!  

          The writer had more to say. . .  ‘”I have another question for you.” and I’ll get to that later.  It seems to me that if we can digest this information it can provide real help with some of our concerns.

          Let’s continue to pray for each other as we seek a better understanding of Scripture and apply that to our own lives.  

                                            God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student,

                                                                       ~donkimrey