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With Friends Like These . . . Job’s Friends and Religious Foolishness (The Prologue: Chs. 1-3, Part 8)

Job now speaks. Perhaps he sees that his friends’ silence is coming to an end. Or perhaps he doesn’t even notice them in his pain. But he now gives voice to his agony. We want to notice what Job is feeling . . . and thinking.

VIII. Job’s Lament (ch. 3)

Job opens his mouth and curses — not the Lord — but his own birth! He can no longer focus on the birthdays of his ten children. They are dead. And he wishes he were. He despises the fact that he was ever born!

He asks that God Himself not care about his birth (v. 4). He wishes that he had been stillborn, that there had been no shout of joy at his coming into the world (v. 7).

If he had been stillborn, or died in delivery, he says he would now be asleep and at rest with the kings and rulers of the earth (v. 13). Such a fate would have brought him rest, ease, freedom. He asks, “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave?” (vv. 20-22). At a later stage of his struggle, Job tells us that he treasured not death, but “the words of God’s mouth more than [his] daily food” (Job 23:12).

Job describes himself as one whom God has “hedged in” (v. 23). One is reminded of Satan’s words to God in chapter one when he says, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?” (v. 10). Satan’s reference to God’s hedge is to make the point that Job serves God because God pays him well. Job’s reference to God’s hedging him in has to do with Job’s ignorance of God’s ways and his lack of relief from his awful pains.

In some ways Job may have anticipated life crashing in on him, for he says in verse 25, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.”

As he takes an inventory of his present state of existence, Job says, “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (v. 26). Little does he suspect that his three friends, sitting silently with him on his ash-heap of agony, will further his troubles and bring profound additional turmoil to his circumstances.

 

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2022 in the book of Job

 

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With Friends Like These . . . Job’s Friends and Religious Foolishness (The Prologue: Chs. 1-3, Part 7)

And now, the friends. When one takes a bird’s-eye view of the entire book of Job, most of the chapters record the lectures of Job’s friends and his responses to their accusations. We will examine each of their challenges, but first we need to notice what they did right.

VII. What Job’s Friends Did Right (2:11-13)

We are introduced to Job’s three friends in this second chapter after Satan’s successful assault on Job’s body and after his wife’s words of death. He is not at home. He is sitting on a soft ash-heap scraping his boils. Perhaps his wife is there with him, pleading with him to curse God and die. Can one imagine a more desperate and pathetic scene?

Acts of Friendship: News travels fast when calamity invades a well-respected leader of a community. And Job’s three friends “heard about all the troubles that had come upon him” (v. 11). They decide to physically travel from their homes to Job’s ash-heap to be with him. We don’t know how far away their homes were, but the purpose of their journey was clear: they agree together “to go and sympathize with him and comfort him” (v. 11).

The first step of comforting another who is suffering involves deciding to get involved. For Job’s friends this began with physically traveling to him. But before they got to Job’s side, they saw him from a distance and we read that “they could hardly recognize him.” Being covered with boils tends to alter one’s appearance! One can only imagine his appearance: sores oozing, bits of pottery being scraped over his body, perhaps his only clothing a loin cloth for privacy. No one wants to have cloth — even expensive cloth — rubbing against open sores.

A second act of friendship is sympathy. As the friends approach Job they could be heard from far away, for they are weeping aloud for the devastated condition of their friend. To show their sharing of his grief, they tear their robes and even sprinkle dust on their heads (v. 12). They are identifying with Job and his suffering. There is a kind of closeness in calamity. But such second-hand suffering can be quite temporary, for the friends will soon give voice to their theological understanding of the ways of God.

The third act of friendship is the ministry of presence. They sit on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. That’s true friendship, the being with the one who is suffering. In our world of mass communication, in our time of instant texts and emails and facetime, we can easily think that electronic communication is sufficient. No. Physical presence occurs in space and time with real bodies and concerned souls.

The fourth act of friendship shown by these three friends is that of silence. They do not lecture Job. They do not pepper him with questions. They do not theorize as to the why of his situation. They are just there. Silent. We read, “No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” (v. 13). Our noise-addicted world misses the value of simple silence.

But the friends’ ministry of silence does not last beyond the 168 hours of sitting quietly with their sore-covered friend. And what they hear their friend Job say in his brokenness is more than they can bear.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2022 in the book of Job

 

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With Friends Like These . . . Job’s Friends and Religious Foolishness (The Prologue: Chs. 1-3, Part 6)

But what about Mrs. Job? She has endured these catastrophes along with her husband. She, too, has had no peak behind God’s curtain to see that these tragedies are the result of God’s challenging Satan about his faithful servant Job. All she has seen are dead servants, deceased children, lost livestock, and grieving friends.

VI. A Word from the Wife (2:9-10)

As Job sits on the ash heap and tries to find some relief from the boils covering him from head to toe, his wife speaks. She does not come with comforting words. She does not sit with him silent. She does not join him on the ash heap and help him scrap his sores. She speaks words to him — words of death.

Mrs. Job’s question (v. 9): She asks her husband a question: “Are you still maintaining your integrity?” We do not know her heart, a heart repeatedly broken by Job’s losses and completely crushed by the deaths of her ten children. Sometimes those who observe the sufferer suffer terribly themselves. She has had no power over their overlapping tragedies. She, like Job, could only listen to the woeful reports of the surviving servants who stumbled over each other as they brought the news of the various events. And now her husband’s own body is in rebellion against him. And he sits. And scraps.

Mrs. Job’s challenge (v. 9): But Mrs. Job doesn’t just have a question. She has a direct challenge for her husband. Her challenge is exactly what Satan was looking for. Her challenge to her husband is simple and straightforward: “Curse God and die!” We can’t pretend to know her motives. We have no idea of her own walk with the Lord. But her advice is from the pit. Her challenge to her husband is precisely what the Evil One hopes will take place.

We can only speculate as to the purpose of her challenge. The finality of her words (“Curse God . . . and die!”) suggest that she thought the tragedies would end with her husband’s death. If further catastrophes were to come, at least they would not come through him! Her “solution” is for Job to end it all by ending his own life. And then, perhaps, having his ashes join those he was sitting on.

Job’s Response (v. 10): What response does Job make to this woman who has borne him ten children, enjoyed his public respect for many years, and has stood by him in thick and thin? Job minces no words. He confronts her by saying, “You are talking like a foolish woman.” The Hebrew word rendered foolish denotes moral deficiency. Mrs. Job is morally deficient in her advice to her husband — and he tells her so! She has chosen the path of submission, but not to her husband. To the devil!

Job then asks his wife a question. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Hers was an only good God, a God who provides possessions, children, public standing. Her doctrine of God allowed no room for personal and family brokenness. As we will see, in some ways both Job and his four friends suffer from the same kind of poor theology of God.

We are then clearly told: “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” To what does the “all this” refer? May I suggest it refers to all that Job (and his wife) have experienced, including her words of blasphemy.

 

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2022 in the book of Job

 

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With Friends Like These . . . Job’s Friends and Religious Foolishness (The Prologue: Chs. 1-3, Part 5)

Job has lost virtually everything. His livestock are gone. Most of his servants have been killed. His children have died tragically.  But the Lord is not finished with His loyal servant. Yet. The second chapter of Job describes the second major assault by the Evil One on Job.

V. “Skin for Skin!” (2:1-8)

We are told of another day when the angels present themselves to the Lord, to dutifully report their activities on earth. Satan is with them and has a second confrontation with God.

The Lord asks Satan two questions — the same two questions He asked him in Job 1. Those questions are: (1) “Where have you come from?” (2:2 and 1:7) and (2) “Have you considered my servant Job?” (2:3 and 1:8).

Satan’s response to the two questions is initially exactly the same in both chapters. To the first question (“Where have you come from?”), Satan answers, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it” (1:7 and 2:2). As He asks Satan His second question (“Have you considered my servant Job?”), the Lord again testifies to Job’s character. In Job 1 the Lord declared, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (v. 8). In Job 2 the Lord uses the exact same words — with the addition of the following: “And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” (v. 3). Job successfully endured Satan’s first attack — and has not turned against the Lord.

To the second question in Job 1 (“Have you considered my servant Job?”), Satan responds with a question: “Does Job fear God for nothing?” (v. 9). To this second question in Job 2, Satan responds not with a question, but with an in-your-face proverb: “Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life.” (v. 4). What’s interesting is that Job has nothing left to give. Oh, there’s his wife, but we’ll look at her story a bit later.

Satan then issues a challenge to the Lord: “But now stretch our your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (2:5). These are virtually the same words the devil used in chapter one when he said: “But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (1:11).

The Lord’s response to Satan’s challenge in chapter one was ““Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (1:12). The Lord’s response to this second challenge from the Evil One is: “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” (2:6). The Almighty has the power to limit the evil that Satan does.

Satan’s Hasty Attack (2:7): The Evil One wastes no time in carrying out his vicious attack on Job’s person. Somehow he had the power of disease and he covers Job from head to foot with painful sores. It is as if Job’s own body has become his enemy.

I’ve had a boil — one boil — and it was miserable! What is Job’s response to this second attack? We read in verse 8- “Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.” We are not merely spiritual creatures. We are physical beings with physical needs. And Job tries to alleviate his suffering, sitting among the ashes.

How much worse can Job’s life become? Well, we haven’t yet heard from his life-partner, his wife.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2022 in the book of Job

 

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Bless-ed! 52 Blessings You Have As a Believer! (Blessing #19)

BLESSING #19: The Blessing of a Proper View of Health

“Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.” (Albert Schweitzer)

In his book God Is the Gospel Pastor John Piper makes the basic point that “When you trusted Christ, you got God!” Absolutely. But what else did we “get” when we believed the gospel?

My friend Mike is as lost as lost can be (as I was before Jesus saved me). And he has got me to thinking about all that I have as a believer. So I’m making a list . . .
Our culture, it seems, is health-obsessed. Vitamins, exercise machines, weight loss programs, skinny photo-shopped models, plastic surgery, diets and diet pills, and multiple over-the-counter and prescription drugs all scream at us: “HEALTH! You must be healthy! Here’s a pill for this problem! Join this weight-loss plan right now! You don’t have to suffer with the heartbreak of psoriasis!”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m grateful for advances in medicine, programs that help me live longer, and practical steps I can take to be healthier. I just wonder if we’re too addicted to better health than we ought to be. Has it become for some an idol? For that reason, I believe that we Christians —

19. WE HAVE A PROPER VIEW OF HEALTH!

THE BLESSING Of course we should make healthy choices in what we eat, how much we exercise, how we treat the one body God has given us for this life. But, for some, perfect health has become their god.
THE BIBLE What, then, would be a biblical view of health? Several principles occur to me: (1) We should acknowledge that our bodies are given to us by God (Gen. 2:7, 18-25); (2)  we should agree that our bodies are not our own (I Cor. 3 and 6); (3) we should take care of the physical part of who we are (Eph. 5:28-29); (4) we should honor God even in our “disabilities” (“Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Ex. 4:11); (5) we should seek healing if such is God’s will (James 5:14); and (6) we should honor the Lord even in our infirmities (2 Cor. 12).

ACTION STEPS 1. We believers need to model a balanced view of health, avoiding either the extreme of neglect or the worship of our bodies. We believe that matter matters, that God made our bodies, and we should be good stewards of our physical beings. List one practical step that you can take each day this week to live a healthier life.
2. Read Romans 12:1-2 in a different version of the Bible each day this week and write out several implications for your health and fitness.
3. I have been greatly helped on this issue of matter mattering to God by reading Michael Witmer’s book Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life? Consider reading that book along with a friend and discussing it.
PRAYER 4. Sometimes unbelievers think we Christians care only about the spiritual. Share with your friend some of your concern about your physical health and how our bodies matter to the Lord. (554 words)

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2022 in blessings

 

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Bless-ed! 52 Blessings Your Lost Friend Doesn’t Have . . . And What You Can Do About It! (Part 19)

If your lost friend were to ask you, “What’s the best part about being a follower of Jesus?”, what would you say? Of course, salvation would be the first answer most of us would give. But what might be the second or third matter you would state? What are some of the other blessings you enjoy which your unsaved friend doesn’t have? Yet.

We’ve already seen a number of benefits of being a Christian, but one that perhaps doesn’t occur to a lot of us is that of being able to take risks for the kingdom of God. For that reason, I don’t believe my unsaved friends —

19. THEY DON’T HAVE A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON RISK!

Life is risky, isn’t it? We’re not to live foolishly, but the very idea of living a totally risk-free life is impossible. At any moment in our lives we might become the victim of a crime, be overcome by an unexpected disease or disability, or be treated unkindly by our godless culture. These outside forces often pose great and unavoidable risks to us.

But can we put ourselves at risk? Should we? In his book Risk Is Right, Pastor John Piper makes the very critical point that it is better to lose your life than to waste it! What are the risks that a believer is free to make? Here are a few that occur to me: Sharing the gospel with the possibility of being rejected by one’s friends. Serving the Lord in far-flung places in the world where people eat what people were never intended to eat! Standing for truth when such a stance will lose one a promotion or even get one sued! Being faithful in one’s marriage even when one’s spouse has bailed out of their marriage vows. These are worthwhile risks that the unbeliever knows nothing about.

People in the Bible were constantly at risk. The Psalmist David frequently cries out to the Lord to save him from those who want him dead. The early Christians laid down their lives for the gospel — and thought such was a privilege! In Scripture we read of “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(Acts15:26). The Apostle Paul refers to Priscilla and Aquila, “my co-workers in Christ Jesus [who] risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.” (Rom. 16:3-4). In Philippians 2 Paul speaks about his fellow laborer Epaphroditus who “longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill . . . and almost died. But God had mercy on him . . . 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.”

We may pray like the Psalmist in Psalm 16, “Keep me safe, my God,
 for in you I take refuge” (v. 1). It’s not wrong to ask God to keep us safe, but not risk-free! We believers are blessed with knowing that this life is not the only one that is, that we might well lose our lives for the gospel, and that such a sacrifice will be well worth it. The unbeliever does not have this “blessing.”

So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? Well, where might you or I be a bit risky in our witness for Christ? I need to show by my choices that my highest priority in life is not the preservation of my physical existence, but the honoring and serving of my Savior. So praying for oneself for courage might be a good start. (to be continued)

 

 

 
 

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Bless-ed! 52 Blessings Your Lost Friend Doesn’t Have . . . And What You Can Do About It! (Part 18)

In his book God Is the Gospel Pastor John Piper makes the basic point that “When you trusted Christ, you got God!” Absolutely. But what else did we “get” when we believed the gospel?

My friend Mike is as lost as lost can be (as I was before Jesus saved me). And he has got me to thinking about all that I have as a believer. So I’m making a list . . .

Our culture, it seems, is health-obsessed. Vitamins, exercise machines, weight loss programs, skinny photo-shopped models, plastic surgery, diets and diet pills, and multiple over-the-counter and prescription drugs all scream at us: “HEALTH! You must be healthy! Here’s a pill for this problem! Join this weight-loss plan right now! You don’t have to suffer with the heartbreak of psoriasis!”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m grateful for advances in medicine, programs that help me live longer, and practical steps I can take to be healthier. I just wonder if we’re too addicted to better health than we right now experience. For that reason, I think my lost friends —

18. THEY DON’T HAVE A PROPER VIEW OF HEALTH!

Of course we should make healthy choices in what we eat, how much we exercise, how we treat the one body God has given us for this life. But, for some, perfect health has become their god.

What, then, would be a biblical view of health? Several principles occur to me: (1) We should acknowledge our bodies as given to us by God (Gen. 3); (2)  we should agree that our bodies are not our own (I Cor. 3 and 6); (3) we should take care of the physical part of who we are (Eph. 5:28-29); (4) we should honor God even in our “disabilities” (“Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Ex. 4:11); (5) we should seek healing if such is God’s will (James 5:14); (6) we should honor the Lord even in our infirmities (2 Cor. 12).

For my unsaved friends, we need to praise God before them whether we are healthy or sick, acknowledging our total dependence on Him for “life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25).

So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? I show by my response to both good health and sickness that the Lord is in charge of my life. And I pray for my friend that he would trust Christ with his body and soul. (to be continued)

 

 

 
 

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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (Spiritual Health)

Okay. I get it. Calvin’s got his work cut out for him — finding that balance between vague and worrisome symptoms. Spiritually, do we take our own temperature? What are our symptoms of where we are in our spiritual health? What signs do you look for to judge your present condition?

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2020 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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Church as a Rusted-Out Bus? A Metaphor . . .


We are not picking on the church, but when I took this picture of this old bus, I thought that some aspects of this picture suggest areas of the church that can improve.  I’ll re-post this picture in a couple of days with my thoughts.  (You might consider printing out this picture and having your Bible study or small group think about the needs and challenges of the local church).

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2018 in the church

 

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“You Owe Me Nothing, Lord!”

So I have this condition, uh, gynecomastia, which I blogged about on February 17.  My family doctor wanted to make sure the condition is not caused by a tumor on my pituitary gland.  He ordered an MRI on my brain!

I went in for that MRI the other day.  I did not remember from high school Screenshot 2016-03-17 06.05.07biology where one’s pituitary gland even was, but I learned very quickly that it is in the middle of one’s brain!  (that little orange dot in the picture to the right).  An MRI is an amazing medical device that is a kind of cave you are slid into and for an hour you hear someone banging on pipes while the medical attendant is outside the room talking to you over an intercom.

After an hour in which I probably fell asleep 30 times, the medical attendant paroled me and sent me on my way.  The next 24 hours were really hard on my wife and myself.  Waiting for the MRI expert (who was probably the one banging on the pipes) to “read” the results and communicate them to my family doctor.

The next day I waited in Examination Room #8 for my family doctor to tell me the results.  He walked in and said “. . . no tumor.”  I was thankful he wasted no time in asking me about my morning, or my grandkids, or my tennis.  He cut right to the chase and said those beautiful words, “. . . no tumor.”

I thanked him and then immediately called my wife Linda.  I asked her about her morning, about her plans for that day —  NOT!  I didn’t even say “hello” — I simply said, “NO TUMOR!”  We rejoiced together and she reminded me of the various medical issues I’ve put her through in our almost 45 years of marital bliss.

I then sat in my car and said over and over again to the Lord,Screenshot 2016-03-17 06.31.54 “Lord, you owe me nothing!”  He does not owe His children good health or prosperity or freedom from worry.  “Lord, you owe me nothing!”

We pick on the younger generation for their “entitlement mentality,” and we are probably right to do so.  But us older ones — Do we believe that because we are followers of Jesus, He somehow owes anything?!  I’m reminded of a great quote by J.B. Philips (who did the Philips translation of the New Testament):

“Frankly, I do not know who started the idea that if men serve God and live their lives to please him then he will protect them by special intervention from pain, suffering, misfortune, and the persecution of evil men. We need look no further than the recorded life of Jesus Christ himself to see that even the most perfect human life does not secure such divine protection. It seems to me that a great deal of misunderstanding and mental suffering could be avoided if this erroneous idea were exposed and abandoned. . . . The idea that if a man pleases God then God will especially shield him, belongs to the dim twilight of religion and not to Christianity at all.” (J.B. Phillips, God Our Contemporary)

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2016 in christian life

 

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