Monday, April 25, 2016

"Helping the powerless …"

Day #117

Scripture Reading:  Job 25 - 26 …

Today's reading is perhaps the shortest reading we will have all year.  Yet, Job's testimony concerning God's power holds within it an important truth:  God's power CAN be and SHOULD be a comfort to those who trust in Him.  While some people seem to think that doctrine, sound teaching, is optional, it is in knowing that God is the Creator and that there is nothing He cannot do that hope comes to those who are in distress.  But then why is it so often that the trials of life and the suffering that comes to those who claim to believe raise so many questions ... as in the case of Job and his friends?  Perhaps it is precisely because most people do not know the truth or apply it to their present situation.

The fact is that the problem rests not in God or in His power, but in US!  Bildad raises the question again, "How then can a man be righteous before God?" (25:4).  In a theme repeated often by his friends, those who sin deserve God's judgment.  But what they didn't understand is that not all suffering is the direct result of a person's own sin.  We live in a fallen world and all mankind exists in a state of guilt before a holy God. Sin, suffering and death are a result of mankind's rebellion against God.  BUT, suffering comes to those who trust in the Lord and to those who don't ... and who can tell why? This seems to be the quandary that Job and his friends find themselves debating.

Suffering around the world comes in many forms:  hunger, disease, poverty and a host of other social ills plague humanity across the globe.  In one sense, all suffering is the result of sin; but not all suffering is judgment from God on an individual because of their own sin.  God disciplines those He loves in order to call people back to Him who may have wandered, but not all suffering is discipline either.  God may allow His people to suffer in order to testify to their faith in the One who is with us and who never leaves us or forsakes us.  This was true in Job's case and it is true in the lives of many of God's children.

So, Job's statements in Chapter 26, verse 2:  "How you have helped the powerless!  How you have saved the arm that is feeble!"  That's sarcasm - in case you couldn't tell.  Job's friends have offered NO help to the powerless and no salvation to the feeble.  They have piled on accusation after accusation, while Job has tried only to defend himself because he, too, fails to understand why God has allowed this horrible set of calamities to come upon him.

It makes me want to back up to Job 1-2, where Job was dealing with his suffering as a believer should ... trusting in God and not asking a thousand questions.  Remember Job's words after the deaths of his children and the loss of his possessions:  "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I will depart.  The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away, may the name of the LORD be praised" (1:21).  And verse 22:  "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."

And after he had been struck with more suffering through painful sores over his body, Job's reply to his wife was, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"  And again, "In all this, Job did not sin in what he said" (2:10).  Job started out so well, but when his friends opened their mouths and questioned Job's integrity and righteousness before the LORD, Job began to question his circumstances and the God whom he knew ruled over them.

In the end, God would do what God does for His children:  He would turn all of this to Job's good.  But what about Job's statement:  "How you have helped the powerless!"?  What do the powerless need?  What do those facing suffering require to persevere, to endure?  HOPE!  They need to know that God is with them, that He has not forgotten them, that He will strengthen them and raise them up.  I think of a couple who has just lost their child to cancer.  So many prayers were offered ... prayers for healing, for strength ... prayers for a miracle ... but none came ... ... ... ... ... or did it?

For those who believe in the God Job talks about in Chapter 26, death is not the end!  Suffering never "wins" in the life of those who believe and who come to God in the way He has provided:  through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin on the cross, all who believe now stand truly righteous before our holy God.  The good news of the Gospel declares that we are righteous by faith ... that in God's sight we actually receive the righteousness of Christ!!

THIS is what the powerless need to hear!  They need to hear that the God who holds all power in His hands ... the One who could remove all the suffering from their lives and from this world ... will do exactly that when Jesus returns.  Until then He calls us to live by faith, trusting Him and serving Him.  And what of those whose lives end in death before their suffering ends?  The words of Isaiah bring comfort:  "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.  Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death" (Isaiah 57:1-2).

Not all suffering is judgment or discipline.  Suffering is part of life in this world and our Father in heaven is able to strengthen us in the midst of it and to use it for His glory.  That is enough for us to know.  This is the way to help the powerless ... offer them the hope YOU have by trusting in the LORD, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  And when you are tempted to question, to doubt or to fear, remember these words from the Apostle Paul:

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it!" (I Corinthians 10:13).

"O Lord, You ARE faithful to those who know You and who call on Your name.  Help me to trust You when trials and suffering come, knowing that nothing happens by chance and that You are at work in everything.  Fill me with Your Spirit that I may be joyful always, pray without ceasing and in every circumstance give thanks ... for this is Your will for those who know Your Son as Savior and Lord.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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