Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Pride can sneak up on you …"

Day #103:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 10th

Scripture Reading:  Job 29 - 30 …

Job started out so well, but by the time we get to these chapters he was so intent on defending himself that pride began to sneak up on him.  His friends had come to "comfort" him in the loss of his children and his possessions.  Instead, they accused Job of wrongdoing, and maintained that God was punishing Job.  In his attempt to defend himself, Job went too far and did what so many today seem to want to do: put GOD on trial.

As Chapter 29 begins Job reminisces about his past relationship with God.  He says, "How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when His lamp shone upon my head and by His light I walked through the darkness!  Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God's intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me …" (29:2-5).  Indeed, Job was a blessed man.

If you remember how this book begins, this was Satan's contention:  that Job worshiped God only because he was blessed.  Yet, in the beginning, Job had responded with faith and trust in God, declaring that God gave and God took away, blessed be the name of the LORD!  In this, Job did not sin.  Now, however, as he thinks about the past, Job not only remembers his relationship with God (which he thinks has now disappeared), but he also remembers his status in the community.  People looked up to him, they hung on his every word and he was respected by all.  In spite of his friends' accusations to the contrary, Job recalls helping the poor and the fatherless and widows.  Anyone who had need could count on Job.

Job thinks, "Men listened to me expectantly, waiting in silence for my counsel …  they waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rains.  When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them.  I … sat as their chief …" (29:21,23-25).  This hardly sounds like the man who maintained his integrity at the beginning.  It is one thing to long for the sense of God's presence and to long to feel Him near, but to think about how people looked up to you and listened to you seems to cross the line from humility to pride.  Job wanted to be "on top" again!

He complains (whines) in Chapter 30 that men now mock him … and as I read that I came to verse 10: "They detest me and keep their distance; they do not hesitate to spit in my face."  Does that remind you of anyone else?  Job was a mere man.  He was facing unjust ridicule and those around him were "kicking him when he was down."  But there was another who received such unjust treatment, and worse, yet opened not his mouth.

"Then they spit in His face and struck Him with their fists.  Others slapped Him and said, 'Prophesy to us, Christ.  Who hit you?'" (Matthew 26:67).  "They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on His head.  They put a staff in His right hand and knelt in front of Him and mocked Him.  'Hail, king of the Jews!' they said.  They spit on Him and took the staff and struck Him on the head again and again.  After they had mocked Him, they took off the robe and put His own clothes on Him.  Then they led Him away to crucify Him" (Matthew 27:28-31).

Job says, "I cry out to You, O God, but You do not answer; I stand up but You merely look at me" (30:20).  God says that pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18), and Job was getting close.  He was suffering, he was in agony, physically, mentally, emotionally … He was tired and weary, and we can perhaps understand where he is coming from.  He has not lost his faith entirely, for he still declares, "I know You will bring me down to death, to the place appointed for all the living," (30:23), but is he speaking of the place for God's children or for all men?

Job needs a word from God, and he will soon receive more than one!  WE can learn some important lessons from Job.  The weakness of our flesh and the tendency of our old nature of sin is to grow bitter and to complain during times of extreme trials.  Questions, doubts, fears, complaints all lead us to a dark, lonely place where we are vulnerable to the emotions produced by focusing on ourselves and our problems.  There is but one cure:  looking to the God who saves.  When this is all finished, Job would know God much, much better.  We can know Him today.

The knowledge of God often comes in the crucible of suffering.  Our example is Jesus, our Savior, as Isaiah describes His suffering in Isaiah 53:  "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering … surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows … He was pierced for OUR transgressions, He was crushed for OUR iniquities; the punishment that brought US peace was upon HIM, and by His wounds WE are healed!"  (Isaiah 53:3-5).

The writer of Hebrews says that we have a great High Priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, for He "has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin … Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16).   Job needed to remember that God never leaves His children and that in the midst of suffering and trials He IS with us and promises to give us all we need to stand up under the stress and strain of life in this world.

Jesus was the only One who was ever truly innocent, yet He bore our shame and ridicule and suffering, so that we would have hope in the midst of our trials. Jesus didn't defend Himself, though He could have done so.  Trying to defend yourself may lead to boasting and pride, as it did for Job.  Put your faith in Jesus and look to the cross, where He suffered in your place.  Then KNOW that He IS with you.  When suffering comes, set your minds on things above, where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for you.  He will not fail you.  Our trials and suffering are temporary.  They will disappear in God's time.  Trust in the Lord and don't let pride sneak up on you.  Humbly seek the Lord and He WILL lift you up!

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name!  Whether in good times or in times of suffering, give me strength to praise You in the midst of the storm, giving You thanks for Jesus and trusting You to lead me through the deep waters to Your very throne.  Do not let pride overtake me, but let humility mark my life, that I may point people to You, my Strength, my Shield, my Hope!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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