August 17, 2018: Day 6 – Job 6

Job now begins his part of the “discussion”.  For me the meat of his statements are found in vs.14 where he states: “Those who withhold kindness from a friend, forsake the fear of the Almighty.”  Those are some pretty strong words, even fighting words.  He goes on to accuse his friends of being treacherous like a torrent-bed.  He says that in the time of heat they disappear, just like ice  When things get rough,  good friends don’t disappear.  

His friends didn’t disappear, but rather they were there accusing him of doing something terribly wrong and so as a result he was being punished for that wrong.  Job states basically that he hopes the Lord would just crush him because then that would show that maybe his friends were right, he was doing something wrong and at the core he was unrighteous.  But that is not happening.

As a result Job pleads with the Lord to teach him what he is to learn from this situation.  So often our prayers are that we would be taken from a situation that is calamitous.  We don’t pray for a sense of understanding and wisdom as  result of what we have experienced and suffered.  That is a huge difference when we pray to be liberated from pain as opposed to praying that we would understand what we are to learn from the pain in which we find ourselves.  That is a complete turn in prayer which Job sets the stage for us in which we are to be involved.

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August 16, 2018: Day 5 – Job 5

Job’s friend continues to give him advice and insight into how God works.  It is somewhat ironic that Job who is considered one of the most righteous people on the earth, at least according to God, is given a sermon on how God operates.  Here he is,  scraping himself with a pot shard, mourning the loss of all that he holds dear, and a friend is giving him direction and insight and speaking non-stop to try to teach him something.  Sometimes we just need a friend to sit in the dust with us as they did before.  You don’t need to teach me about God, just commiserate with me.

His friend’s message comes to life in vs.17 where we read that happy are those whom God reproves.  I guess there is a part of all of us that any attention is good attention.  The same can be said of politicians, any news is good news.  But that shouldn’t really be the case for us.  His friend is saying that when God punishes us it is a sign that he remembers us and cares for us.  I guess you could see it that way if you think that God directly punishes you.  I do not see it that way.  In the verses 17-20 we find a God who creates situations in which you will struggle for the sole purpose of giving himself the chance to liberate and free you.  We almost find a God who wants to put us in difficulty so that we can then turn to Him for relief.

The point is that we do a good enough job to put ourselves in difficulty without the aid of God to join in.  Yes, God is in control of all things, but no, he does not punish us to prove that He is in control of all things.  

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August 15, 2018: Day 4 – Job 4

Here is one of Job’s friends who tries to diplomatically tell him that he is suffering all of these calamities because he has offended God.  You can see that argument starting to form in vs.7 when he asks the question, has the innocent ever perished, or the upright cut off?  He goes on to state that in his experience those who sow trouble will reap trouble.  So, Job, you have sown trouble even if you don’t think so.

Jesus has a response to this in Matthew 5:45 when he states that the rain falls on the just and the unjust and the sun rises on the righteous and the evil.  This goes very much against what Job’s friends tell him, but does fit well into our theological framework that we serve a God who is righteous and just, but does not punish and does not reward.  He simply tries to ensure that His kingdom comes here on this earth.  

Now, he is correct in what he states in vs.17 that mortals, humans, cannot be righteous before God, nor can we be pure.  But this does not cause God to crush us like moths or to be destroyed from one moment to the next.  That is a fairly capricious and evil God in my sight.  You might enjoy, or not, reading a classic from 1741 where we have Jonathan Edwards preaching on “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.”  Enjoy!

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1053&context=etas

 

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August 14, 2018: Day 3 – Job 3

This is a classic chapter of lament.  Job curses the day that he was born…literally.  He asks that the day be blotted from history that no one would be able to mark it because the darkness and the light of that day would both be extinguished.  It is pretty strong wording.  It reminds me a bit of this painting…

starry night

But in reality Vincent Van Gogh’s painting is much less depictive of this Job chapter than this piece of art…

The_Scream

I’m sure that this is the way that Job feels, and we don’t see any relief in sight.  

All of this reminds me of Don McLean.

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August 13, 2018: Day 2 – Job 2

Once again we see that Satan is in the company of God…, that might be problematic to some at face value.  God kind of brags and says: Do you see how good Job is doing.  He hasn’t doubted me for a second.  Satan responds and says, well, that’s easy enough.  You didn’t let me touch his body.  If I were to afflict him physically he would turn on you in a second.  Okay, God responds, go ahead and try, see what happens, but just don’t kill him, okay, please?

I did take some artistic liberty with this, but that is the gist of what happens.  Satan afflicts Job terribly and his wife is the first to tell him to confess his sin so that life can return to normal.  His wife represents the common thinking that the only reason why bad things happen is because you have done something bad.  Bad things don’t happen to good people.  We know that this is simply not true.  I think his wife is a lot less helpful than his friends at this stage of the story.  At this stage they come and sit with him for seven days just to listen and because they know the gravity of the situation.  

We are introduced to his friends who will be with him for pretty much the entirety of the rest of the book of Job.  Their demeanor and their council will change from silent listeners, to those with advice that isn’t the soundest.  But until then…

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August 12, 2018: Day 1 – Job 1

Just so that we are all on the same page in regards to the way that you pronounce this book of the Bible.  It ought to rhyme with strobe and not with lob.  I would hate for you to say in public the wrong pronunciation.  Let’s set  the stage.

Job belongs in the poetical category for the books of the Bible.  I’m okay with people seeing it as a real story, but it is written primarily to serve the purpose of teaching perseverance in the midst of life’s most difficult times.  There is no person who can beat  Job when it comes to tragedy, and yet he is still able to love and serve God as a faithful witness, even while his wife and friends tell him to curse God and die.  He simply does not do it because he trusts that God has a plan even in the midst of the mess in which he finds himself.  Let’s look at the story.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  That phrase by Job should earmark our study.  But notice that even though this is vs.21, in vs. 22 we hear a repeated mantra which is that “in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.”  Often when bad things happen to us we assume that it is because we have done something wrong.  We assume that our guilt is catching up on us.  This is not the case either with Job nor with us in general.  God does not punish us for our sin.  

The way in which these events happen in Job’s life is shocking.  God asked Satan to check out Job and how upright and righteous he was.  Satan in Hebrew is literally the accuser.  But Satan responds, the only reason why Job is so righteous is because you have given him everything he could ever want.  You touch his possessions and he will turn his back on you.  God says, okay, try it.  Satan tries it, but is not allowed to touch his body to make it infirm.  Job remains faithful even after the death of his 10 children all at once.

The faithfulness of Job is spectacular.  Listen to this and think about it.

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COMING SOON – 90 DAY CHALLENGE V STARTING AUGUST 12

          After a fairly laborious trudge through Leviticus we are going to look at 90 chapters and 90 days of stories, advice, and more advice, and even more advice.  We will begin on August 12 and it will take us through November 9.  I already have the next 90 day Challenge set up and it will include Isaiah since we are going through Advent.  But this challenge is going to take us through Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations.  I heard a theologian once say that they felt like Proverbs was more like a cross-country trip with an in-law.  That is actually something I would enjoy because my in-laws are awesome (you hear that Dave and Randi?), but I’m pretty sure the theologian did not mean it in a positive way.

            We still have plenty more chapters to make our way through the entire Bible and this should be really good summer reading, especially since Job takes through the rest of the summer.  I can’t encourage you enough to hear about his life and how he describes it and how his faith does not waver.  What a contrast that is with King Solomon whom many more conservative commentaries say wrote Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  Here is a king who had everything and yet somehow is seen as this cynical ruler who really didn’t have much positive to say about anything.  He didn’t lose anything like Job did, and yet he is personified as the ruler who was grizzled and disgruntled. 

            Then we have Lamentations which is thought to be written by Jeremiah, the weeping prophet.  Again our life situations are such that you would think they inevitably color what our understanding of life is and to some extent what our understanding of God is.  I pray that we would be more like Job.  Not in the life situations that befall us, I would wish that on no one, but rather in how we approach life when we have seen the worst of times.  A quiet confidence in the providence of God which propels us into a life of optimism and hope is what ultimately God wants from us on this earth. 

            If we don’t believe that God is in control, then nothing else really matters.  If we believe that God has all control, then everything else serves the purpose of living for God’s kingdom and ensuring that our lives are a reflection for the gratitude of what God is able to do for us.

            I pray that you are enriched with these readings and find yourself filled with a hope that comes from outside of our life situations.  We need to give thanks and find hope in the work of Jesus Christ who is the God of all nations.  Again, don’t forget to follow along at http://www.straspres.org/90-day-challenge-v.

 

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Bob

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July 13, 2018: Day 90 – Nehemiah 13

When the cat is away, the mice will play.  Apparently that is what happened when Nehemiah went back to the king that he had served earlier for a period of time.  With him gone from Jerusalem it looks like the people decide to create a space within the Temple for one of their favorite priests.  It would be almost as if God had a rival because a room was established within the temple, which was God’s house by the way, for another priest to have his space.  Nehemiah was not amused and threw out the guy’s stuff and had to reconsecrate the area.  There can be no competition with God.

But we also see that with Nehemiah gone that the Levites were not receiving a portion of the offerings as they were supposed to receive.  As a result they left Jerusalem to strike out on their own in the suburbs, or the surrounding areas.  Nehemiah called them back in and demanded that the people continue to give as they were supposed to so that these Levites could be supported.  

Another battle that Nehemiah fights, when he gets back and sees the erosion of what he had initially instituted, was the obeying of the Sabbath.  He closed the gates of Jerusalem for the Sabbath and did not allow anyone to enter because if they did they would be engaged in commerce.  So, the business folks waited and camped outside the gate.  But Nehemiah didn’t allow that either and berated them and made them leave.  He was pretty intense.

The common theme that we find repeating itself is that inevitably over time we will disobey God when we are left to our own desires and our own devices.  We are created in the image of God, God loves us, but that image is so obscured by our sin that it is almost as if we are born sinful.  We are not born sinful, but we do have a propensity for sin.  It is that propensity, that almost inevitable decline and failure, which produces sin.  We find this to be the case in Nehemiah.  We find this to be the case in all of Scripture.  We find this to be the case in our own lives.  Nehemiah is a good book to end our 90 Day Challenge.   The temple is back in working order, God is being praised, and the people are back in line.  Now to get to work.  Looking forward to our next challenge.

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July 12, 2018: Day 89 – Nehemiah 12

This chapter seems to be rife with references to the singers, or the choir which had a very special place in the life of Israel.  I guess the closest thing that I can think of are the choirs in the Russian Orthodox Churches which play a primary role in the entire liturgy of Sunday morning for those services.  I love the choirs that have been a part of the churches where I have served and often I have participated in them.  They provide a ministry which is crucial to our worship.  The role of the choir in the Orthodox churches is very different from the role which is played in our contexts.  In our contexts the choir is an integral part of the worship.  In the Orthodox churches it actually leads the worship.  

The clip below is the “Our Father” which is sung every service and is known by all the people.  It is not a piece sung apart, but it is part of every service.  So much of the liturgy is sung.

So where does that take us in this  Scripture?  Did you notice that the choir had their own cities and lived among themselves.  Can you imagine?  They were instrumental in the worship, the temple was primary in worship, and the walls were created to allow the worship to continue as it should.  As a result the choir, the singers, are picked out and mentioned over and over again because they were so central.  

We find also in this chapter the dedication of the wall.  It looks  like things worked out the way that God wanted them to work out with Nehemiah in charge.

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