Saturday, April 16, 2016

"Unanswered questions ..."

Day #108

Scripture Reading:  Job 7 - 8 …

Job needed to hear the Gospel!!  Job was reaching the low point of human tolerance for his struggles.  Having lost his children and his possessions and being struck with severe physical and emotional pain, Job was almost ready to take his wife's advice:  "Curse God and die!" (2:9).  Job had responded to her then, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (2:10).  But after seven days and nights of the silence of his friends and repeated accusations of wrongdoing and of God's punishment, Job was ready to throw in the towel.  Like so many who face a string of unexpected trials, Job had become distracted.  Worship became a distant memory and prayer an empty exercise.  It is sadly a pattern that continues to be repeated by many who find themselves in times of “testing,” refining.

As you read Chapter 7, Job's thoughts and feelings may sound familiar, if not to you, then to others you may know.  "When I lie down I think, 'How long before I get up?' The night drags on and I toss till dawn" (7:4).  "My eyes will never see happiness again" (7:7).  "I despise my life; I would not live forever … my days have no meaning" (7:16).  Discouragement is a temptation that when given into is often followed by despair.  But all of Job's agony rests in some serious unanswered questions:  "If I have sinned, what have I done to you? …  Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?" (7:20-21).  Yes, Job needed to hear the Gospel and to be reminded of the God he had formerly worshiped.

How many believers have had moments where their temporary trials cause severe questions to rise in their hearts and minds - questions that demand answers ... that need answers!  Job knew he was a sinner; he knew he was not perfect, yet he also knew that he had sought the Lord and that he had lived with a heart for God.  And GOD knew that, too!  Wasn't it that very thing that had caused God to say to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil" (1:8).  We not only need to know God, but we need to rest assured that HE knows US!!

What Job needed was to hear the Gospel!  He needed to be reminded of God's goodness and love and grace, and in Chapter 8, Bildad gives to Job a glimpse of God's good news … but first he starts out with another accusation.  In verse 4 he suggests that Job's children sinned and God punished them - that's why they all died.  Really??!!  Bildad goes beyond assuming that Job is suffering because of his own sin, but rubs salt in the wounds of his grief by assuming the same of his children.  These men seemed to have accepted a common error:  that suffering is always connected to punishment for sin.  One of the lessons we must take away from Job is that such is not always the case.  This man has lost everything and has no one to encourage him and this is the best you can do?  People who know God and who are going through difficult times need to hear some good news … not empty promises, but truth from God Himself.

Bildad at least offers a glimpse of what God can do, perhaps in an effort to pull Job out of his pity party.  "If you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now He will rouse Himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.  Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be" (8:5-7).  If you look at the end of Job you might think Bildad was a prophet, for this is precisely what happened. 

Bildad now attempts to help Job see a bigger picture than just the present moment.  He urges Job to learn from former generations and confirms that those who forget God have no hope and in the end they will perish. (8:13).  He concludes:  "Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers.  He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy" (8:20-21).  Not everything Job's friends said was wrong.  They just didn't understand what God was doing and so couldn't and didn't answer Job's deepest question … a question that he repeats at the beginning of Chapter 9:

"Indeed, I know that this is true.  But how can a mortal be righteous before God?" (9:2).  Isn't this the unanswered question of millions all over the world that demands an answer?  How can a sinner like you and me be righteous before God?  The answer, of course - the ONLY answer - is through the promised Savior, the Redeemer … and Job will eventually get there, but not without going through some difficult and unnecessary turmoil.  Even though Job was a righteous man living in this broken and sinful world, he was still a sinner.  And because he was a sinner, he was in need of redemption.  People sometimes accuse pastors of making them feel guilty, but the truth is, no one can MAKE you feel guilty ... unless you are!!

Even though Job was not being punished for any particular sin, he very easily FELT guilty because he knew he was not perfect before a holy God.  This is why Satan, the “accuser,” has such an easy time weighing down even believers with guilt.  It is, as the saying goes, “the oldest trick in the book.”  Satan wants you and me to believe that we’re not really forgiven, that God is ready to turn away from us, to punish us, to even stop loving us.  The Spirit of God does, indeed, convict God’s children when we sin, but guilt that drives you AWAY from God is not from the Spirit.  It has another source!

If you feel like Job, remember that God has dealt with sin once and for all in the cross of Jesus Christ for all who believe in Him.  By faith we know that God does not leave us in the midst of our struggles.  He is faithful - ALWAYS faithful.  No matter what you may feel or what others may say, keep your eyes on the One who promises to be with you always and never, never, never leave you.  Trust in Him and He WILL deliver you - in His time and in His way ... and for HIS glory!

"O LORD, our God, early in the morning, our songs shall rise to Thee!  You are worthy of our trust and our obedience.  When walking through the storms of life, remind us that the darkness is as light to You and help us to set our hearts on things above, for our God is with us.  Through Your Son we are righteous in Your sight by grace through faith.  Thank You, Father!!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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