Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Comfort and encourage one another ..."

Day #54:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - February 20th

Scripture Reading:  Job 15 - 16 …

Reading through this section of Job is almost like watching a ping-pong match as Job and his friends debate why Job is suffering and how he should respond.  We could say that Job's friends started it by coming to visit, but offering little comfort or hope.  You may remember that when they saw Job "they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was" (2:12-13).

What would you do?  What have you done, when a friend is going through a difficult trial … a time of severe suffering?  What do you say at times like that?  As we go through these chapters of Job over the coming weeks it is important to understand why at the end of all this God is angry at Job's three friends because they did not speak rightly of God (42:7).

Job is not without fault, for left to defend himself against the accusations of his friends that his sin was bringing all this upon him, he gives in to complaining and questioning God.  He maintains his innocence, while confessing that he is not perfect.  He falls into the trap of self-pity and comes close to losing hope.  Job and his three friends say some true things about God, about sin and its consequences, about the fear of the Lord and God's coming judgment … but there's something they keep missing, even though they themselves know it to be true:  Words of comfort and encouragement!

In Chapter 15 Eliphaz gives another impassioned rebuttal of Job's claims that man's life is filled with trouble and ends in death.  Job is tired, he is worn out and he is engaged in a philosophical debate with his friends.  This is not helping!!!  What would help?  Eliphaz says to Job, "Are God's consolations not enough for you, words spoken gently to you?"  YES!!  God's comfort WOULD HAVE BEEN enough for Job … but you and your friends did not offer Job God's comfort or remind him of God's grace and power and strength that is available to those who trust in the Lord.

You see, Job knew God … but he needed someone to remind him and to encourage him.  When Job's friends came and said nothing, Job began to enter into the depths of self-pity.  Then came the accusation that all this was a result of his sin and the rest is history.  Job needed comfort and encouragement from his friends.  He needed patience and mercy.  When you find a brother or sister in Christ in difficult circumstances, you need to be gentle and patient and kind and merciful.  Job's friends pointed out God's justice and discipline, but surrounding their words was the over-arching theme that Job was getting what he deserved.

Job's description of his friends in 16:2 says it all:  "Miserable comforters are you all!"  And then he explains that if the circumstances were reversed, "My mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief."  Then Job expresses again, even now, his hope:

"Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend" (16:19-21).  What a beautiful picture of Christ's work as Intercessor and Advocate for His brothers!

Romans 8:33-34:  "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."

I John 2:1:  "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."

We all have times when we need comfort and encouragement from our friends.  At times like that we need to do more than sit quietly and share their misery, and we need to do more than respond to their cries for help with our own ideas and opinions of what God is doing.  We need to lead them to the cross where a Savior suffered in their place … where the love of God dealt with sin once and for all and now offers mercy and forgiveness and hope and peace to those who draw near to Him.  We need to pray for them and we need to pray with them, reminding them of things they already know, holding them up before the throne of our Father in heaven.

In such times you may think you don't know what to say, but God will use you as you faithfully testify to His comfort and strength, and as you encourage those who are weak to lean on Him … For a while, they may need to lean on YOU, but don't substitute yourself for God.  Continue to speak rightly of God and pray that His Spirit takes your words and speaks to their hearts.  HE will lift them up and you will rejoice with them in His faithfulness and patience.  Learn from Job and his friends what NOT to do, and from the rest of Scripture how to encourage one another.  Our God is able!!

"Our Father in heaven, You are the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those who are facing trials with the same comfort that we ourselves have received (II Corinthians 1:3).  Give us sensitive hearts for those who are suffering and use us to remind them of what they know or to lead them to You for the first time, that at the cross of Jesus they may find rest, and in Your love and mercy they may find hope!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

No comments:

Post a Comment