Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2013

Image

After Elihu introduces himself and makes known his concern and love for Job, he begins a defense which represents God and his justice.

“Hear my words, you wise men,
    and give ear to me, you who know;…

For Job has said, ‘I am in the right,
    and God has taken away my right;
6 in spite of my right I am counted a liar;
    my wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.’ ~Job 34:2, 5-6

Elihu again proves respectful.

 Firstly, before he even begins, he counts his listeners – those older men with whom he clearly disagrees on this matter – wise men.  He does not discount their understanding or insult their intelligence.  And it’s not patronizing.  This young guy knows that his elders may indeed be in the wrong here, but he recognizes that they deserve honor and respect for all the experience, know-how, and qualifications they bring to the table.

Secondly, he again quotes Job.  He does not put words in Job’s mouth or assume any unseen motives.  Elihu proves wise by focusing only on the facts as stated by Job himself.

He goes on to make his case, not in an effort to make Job look bad or satisfy himself with how right he is, but to restore Job’s spiritual thinking and reconcile him to the God they both loved.

His method?  Magnify God’s justice.  Assure men of God’s goodness.  Remind Job of the sure judgement of all.  Confront specific sins.  Urge repentance.

Job had spoken foolishly while bearing an exceptionally heavy load of grief.  Elihu knows the danger and temptation Job faces if he continues in self-pity.  He knows what will become of Job if he becomes self-righteous.  

Shall one who hates justice govern? Will you condemn him who is righteous and mighty  ~Job 34:17

Is God wrong, Job?  Or are you?

 Elihu shows Job what was wrong with what he’d said.  It’s not that God isn’t just, it’s that humans cannot understand his justice.

Men of understanding will say to me,
    and the wise man who hears me will say:
35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge;
    his words are without insight.’
36 Would that Job were tried to the end,
    because he answers like wicked men.
37 For he adds rebellion to his sin;
    he claps his hands among us
    and multiplies his words against God.” ~Job 34:34-37

Unbelieving people are going to think you are more foolish than they!  By disrespecting God you are disrespecting yourself!  You sound like someone you are not, Job.  Submit to the wisdom of God’s providence and trust him in your time of suffering.  

Elihu shows Job how damaging to his good reputation and witness his wrong words and thoughts were.  

Easy for Elihu to say, right?  I know.  So how did he keep from being taken for a know-it-all-I-have-all-the-answers jerk to a guy who didn’t need to hear it from some young punk who couldn’t begin to understand the difficulty of his listener’s circumstances?

He entered humbly.  He made sure Job knew beyond the shadow of a doubt beforehand that he was a friend; an advocate who was certainly on his side.  He exhibited patience and waited for the proper time and opportunity to speak.  He avoided hearsay and presumption and dealt only with facts directly stated by Job.  He was respectful even though he was righteously angry and in disagreement with Job.  He focuses on the truth of God rather than his own opinions or preferences.  He wasn’t wishy-washy or cowardly with his exhortations.  

If anyone was wise, it was Elihu.  I have much to learn from him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQQMJ2u6fGE

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Image

Elihu has come on the scene agreeing with Job about his friends’ wrongness and hurtful accusations.  He has come with humility and with patience by citing his youth and biding his time before speaking.  In Job chapter 33, Elihu seeks not to drop a couple truth bombs, prove his point, and exit stage left.  Instead, he plans, prepares, and presents his case with concern, clarity, and compassion.

Behold, I am toward God as you are;
    I too was pinched off from a piece of clay.
7 Behold, no fear of me need terrify you;
    my pressure will not be heavy upon you.

8 “Surely you have spoken in my ears,
    and I have heard the sound of your words.
9 You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression;
    I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me.
10 Behold, he finds occasions against me,
    he counts me as his enemy,
11 he puts my feet in the stocks
    and watches all my paths.’ ~Job 33:6-11

Elihu begins his exhortation by identifying with Job.  He reassures him that he is on his side, for his good, and looking to the God they both serve.  In this, Elihu recognizes Job as a godly man.  Unlike the other three friends with their charges of hypocrisy and falseness, Elihu honors Job’s efforts and counts them as right and just.  Elihu’s willingness to respect the good in Job disarms defenses and gives him a platform by which to admonish what Job did amiss.

Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you,
    for God is greater than man…

“Behold, God does all these things,
twice, three times, with a man,
30 to bring back his soul from the pit,
that he may be lighted with the light of life.
~Job 33:12, 29-30

Next, Elihu reminds Job 1. that he was carefully listening and 2. of what he’d said wrong.  Elihu does not assume or presume actions he has not seen.  There is no supposing of underlying deceit or sin.  Instead, Elihu goes only upon what he has heard straight from Job’s own mouth.  Elihu brings a fair and just argument against Job.  His approach proves his sincerity and care for Job.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend.

Elihu contends that God is greater than man.  He argues that God’s providence is always for our good regardless of whether we can understand how.  Therefore, fighting against him is self-destructive.  He assures Job that God brings pain and suffering not because he is our enemy, but for a very specific good purpose – to save and sanctify men.

Elihu exhibits infinitely more mercy and grace in just his opening statements than Job’s other three friends did in their entire conversations.

If we must exhort, comfort, or contend with our fellow men, let us learn Elihu’s wisdom.  Let us come in humility, clarity, concern, and compassion if we truly seek to help.  Let us come first agreeing about wrongness and injustice done to our peers before we examine the wrongness and injustice done by them.  Let us learn to identify with before we attempt to correct.  Let us learn to praise the noble and right deeds of others before we deal with the wrong.  Let us always deal in facts and in truth rather than assumptions and accusations.  Let us be fair, sincere, and loving when approaching to care for or correct.  Finally, let us always encourage with God’s ultimate good will towards men in all circumstances.  Doubtless our friends will be much more apt to believe God is for them in the midst of suffering if they first believe that we are.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtI1Zux49CY

Read Full Post »

Image

Each day we start school with a passage from Acts.  Maylee has started a new trend exclaiming, “I hate Acts!  I love Acts!” whenever it is time to read it.  I feel ya, May.

I begin by asking the girls, “What do you think will happen to Paul today?”

“He’ll probably get beat up again!”  “Stoned!”  “Put in jail!”

“Nope.  Not today.  Today, something even worse happens.  Today, Paul sets out to find a quiet place to pray and get some peaceful Sunday rest with his two best theological buddies and finds…women.  The horror.

 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. ~Acts 16:13-16

“Did Paul chase the women away and claim the prayer territories for him and the boys?”

“Noooo.”

“Did he avoid the women who were so obviously there waiting for instruction on the scriptures and go somewhere more suitable for him and his buddies?”

“NoooOooo.”

“Did he start praying and try to ignore the women who were right in front of him as best he could?”

“NO!”

“What did he do?”

“He talked to ’em.”

Yep.  The text says he spoke to the women.  He taught the gospel and led at least one of them to the Lord.  Then, she and her whole family got baptized.  Afterward, she invited he and his friends to her home and they went.  They stayed.

How sketchy that mighta looked, huh?

But these guys were more interested in doing right than in looking right.  Reluctantly, and after much persuasion, they agreed to go to Lydia’s home.

Paul honored the women he encountered.  He sacrificed his own agenda and well-deserved repose for them.  He respected them without avoiding or ignoring them.  He conversed with them, visited them, and even stayed in one of their homes with a pure heart and a clear conscience.

Interesting.

That’s quite different than a man saying he respects and honors women as he covers his eyes, walks five blocks out of their way, and hides in the basement with his bible and his buddies.  But that doesn’t happen, does it?  How silly of me.

I do wonder what would happen today if a group of women held their bible study in a place they knew all the leading men in the church frequented.  I wonder what its like to purposefully position yourself as closely as possible to the teachers hoping to retrieve the crumbs of their off-camera wisdom.  I wonder if the leading men of the church today would converse freely with the inquisitive women?  Would they be avoided?  Ignored?  Acquiesced when offering a persuasive invitation?  Would there be segregation in our so-called progressive world?  Would there be obvious, unspoken separation between folks stemming from things such as fear, pride, insecurity, and impurity?  I wonder.

I wonder what it’s like to be a successful, spiritual, assertive, intelligent woman like Lydia – asking to be friended and taught by successful, spiritual, assertive, intelligent men.

Well, I suppose I really couldn’t say for sure.  I really don’t know much about studying the Bible, religious hubs, or weird dynamics between men and women in the church today, but if I did, I’d venture to bet Paul, Luke, and Silas might just be standing alone on this one.

I hate Acts.  I love Acts.  At least no one got beat up today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kXMmfTyWxs

Read Full Post »

Image

I enter to find three men conversing.  Two customers and one mechanic grace the mostly done office in my new favorite garage.  I quietly lie down the boss’s lunch and turn to leave without interrupting more than I already have.  The busy man interrupts himself and says, “Thanks, honey.  I’m hoping to change your oil while the car is here if I have enough time.”

“I thought you changed it Saturday.”

“I just rotated the tires.  I didn’t have any money to buy the oil.”  

He points to customer #1 and goes on, “But this guy got an inspection so now I can get it.”

I pause for a moment and survey the main work floor.  I study each phenomenally handsome vehicle.  A wave of humility comes over me as I realize what my leader has just done in light of what he does each and every day.  I consider just who he is and how much he has changed.  Pride has taken a back seat and all I see in this moment is the image of Christ upon his face.

How humbling it must be to handle those material things you once would have beg, stolen, or borrowed for day in and day out knowing they do not belong to you.

I return to my children and I strive to imitate that great leader.

In the forefront of my mind I keep a detailed picture of that work floor.  I continually remind myself that I do not need to impress any person who walks into my life with false notions of my own success.  I consider how much more influential I can be if I learn to humbly admit when I’m spent.  I save a screenshot of the beautiful task-makers who wait not so patiently in my work space.  I hang it up alongside that garage floor in my mind and I pray for the grace to imitate the head of my house.

These children do not belong to me.  This mother is not my possession.  I will never have ownership over any of the people in my life.  God is the owner of them all.

As the mechanic cannot drift, race, or punish the possessions of the men who employ him and whom he greatly respects, I cannot overwhelm the property of the God I serve.  I can, however, do something far better.  I can do as he does.  I can know them like the performance mechanic knows those amazing machines.  Doubtless there is even greater reward in daily knowing intricately what I love most than in trying to simply use it, store it, and own it as it dusts alone in some detached garage somewhere.  Surely, in knowing them I can more readily humbly remember who really owns me, too.

Furthermore, I can help them become everything their real owner wants, intends, and has designed them to be.  I can test and tune them towards true greatness.  I can dismount myself from my former false throne, interrupt what seemed in my yesterdays to be the most important conversations and offer them a simple thank you for the opportunity to serve them as well as for their service to me.

Yes, I follow a great leader.  One who is not too proud to change the oil in a Ford Focus next to his next three supercharger installs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9Mii4o-ZTU

Read Full Post »

Image

Job has finished making his case.  His counselors have no further reply.  The reason they give for their silence is Job’s self-righteousness.  Unfortunately, they failed to see that he was righteous before God and not just in his own eyes.  Rather than owning their misjudgement and error concerning him and his situation, they self-preserved in silence to make themselves appear right when – even when they had no suitable arguments left.  Such is the method of many who value pride and ego over truth and love.

Fortunately, in Job chapter 32, a young moderator, Elihu, shows up with greater wisdom and impartiality than both Job or his counselors.

Elihu begins by offering the reason for his apparent lack of presence up until this point.  This has been quite a heated discourse, and long.  Where has this guy been the whole time?

 Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. 5 And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.

6 And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said:

I am young in years,
    and you are aged;
therefore I was timid and afraid
    to declare my opinion to you. ~Job 32:4-6

Elihu was young.  He was inexperienced.  He had respect.  He knew the danger of speaking in haste or out of turn.  He understood authority and submission.  Elihu was patient as well as wise.  But, now that his elders have proven fools, he can no longer hold his peace.

Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me;
    let me also declare my opinion.’

11 “Behold, I waited for your words,
    I listened for your wise sayings,
    while you searched out what to say.
12 I gave you my attention,
    and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job
    or who answered his words…For I am full of words;
    the spirit within me constrains me.
19 Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent;
    like new wineskins ready to burst.
20 I must speak, that I may find relief;
    I must open my lips and answer.
21 I will not show partiality to any man
    or use flattery toward any person.
22 For I do not know how to flatter,
    else my Maker would soon take me away. ~Job 32:10-12, 18-22

Elihu did not just bust in as the credits were rolling and blast Job with his two cents.  No.  He had been listening intently all along.  He had been watching and waiting for a proper opportunity.  He was not quiet for lack of knowledge.  He had much to say on the matter.  Elihu was trusting God’s timing more than he was trusting his take on the situation.  

Now, Elihu must speak.  His elders have retired.  His passion is burning.  His God’s glory as well as his friend’s well-being is at stake.  Elihu enters the scene righteously angry. (Job 32:2-3, 5)

Elihu honored Job not only by owning him the good man that he was, but also by exhorting the wrongness of his fault.  He was angry at Job for misrepresenting God’s righteousness for the sake of his own.  He was angry at Job’s friends for their lack of love and their misrepresentation of Job’s reputation for the sake of their own prideful need to be right.  Despite seeing that they could disprove neither Job’s good example nor his good argument, they yet held onto their own to save face.  They would not concede though they had no valid charge and no solid ground.  They would not yield though they had no reply.  “They could not make good the premises and yet they held fast the conclusion.” (Matthew Henry)

The unfair injustice of it all was like a fury in the heart of Elihu.  Only after much patient listening, the young man speaks.  For five chapters he leads on.  He makes way for God to enter.  This is how young men and women ought to approach hopeless, difficult, infuriating situations.  

Lead on, church.  Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRkIQ1Djlbs

Read Full Post »

Image

There is a lot of talk about thankfulness around this time of year.  If I stayed out of Walmart, I might even be tempted to believe everyone is thankful for everything all the time.  But then I remember what Black Friday looks like and I dispel my foolish daydreams.

 I do not want to give artificial, thankless thanksgiving like so many of us tend to do for tradition’s sake.  So, being the ashamedly thankless person I often am, I thought maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t the only one in need of a new question.  For me, asking, “What am I thankful for?” may produce much pretty plastic positivity, but when I look at my home, my hope, and my unholy attitude, I know I must ask myself another question; a more important question.  It is this: “What keeps you from being thankful?”

Because that is the question you and I must answer if we want our happy lists of gratitude to transcend our unhappy days full of stress, strain, and sure as shootin’ shortcomings.  It’s one thing to count my blessings. It is entirely another to understand why I so often do not. So, without further ado, here are a few of my unfavorite things:

1. Selfishness

2. Pride

3. Perfectionism

4. Unrealistic Expectations

5. Unforgiveness

6. Suspicion/Mistrust

7. Bitterness

8. Busyness

9.  Anger

10. Fear

As a human, I tend to fixate upon the one crooked picture hanging on the wall rather than the other nine hanging straight.  I see the weeds instead of the flowers.  I edit when I should be note-taking.  I am over zealous, under learned, and I only have one speed: Go!  Our strengths are our weaknesses.  What is meant to spur me on towards excellence can also foster great ingratitude, impatience, and unappreciativness.  Thankfully,  the Lord is continually showing me my weaknesses and helping me recognize my desperate need for him.  I call upon my Savior and find grace in his assessments.

You are altogether beautiful, my love;
    there is no flaw in you. ~Song of Solomon 4:7

What?!  I think you missed my confessions, Lord. But, no.  He knows.  He has always known.  And he loves me anyway.

I find that my Savior is not like me.  Or, more grievously, I am not like him.  He sees only the beauty in what he has been given by the Father (John 6:37.)

Is he naive? In denial? Blind?

No.  My Savior is loving.  He is love.  And love covers a multitude of sins.  My God sets his greatest affections upon me, not because of my loveliness, but because of his own goodness and mercy.  He, by his grace, makes me beautiful.  He finds no flaw.  He does not selfishly insist that I change on my own. Instead, he loves me so much that he is willing to carry me in the right direction.  He does not highlight my imperfections.  Instead, he makes me perfect by his own perfection.  He does not expect more than I can give. Instead, he gives more than I expect.  He always forgives, always trusts, and ever refrains from harboring bitterness over my apparent sin.  He always makes himself available to me and concerns himself with my well-being.  His anger does not consume me despite my warrant.  My God is never afraid to love me well – not because I cannot hurt him, but because he cares more for me than his own well being.  Jesus understands the reward of sacrificial love.  How could I not be thankful?!

Oh, to be like Him!  Father, make this wayward daughter like your Son!  Forgive my ingratitude and teach me how to love with true thanksgiving.  How I long to be like you!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrYhiK2nQBg

Read Full Post »

Image

In Job 31, Job makes his final appeal concerning his innocence.  Before looking at what he says, let us consider why he says it.

Job was an exceptionally good, moral, and blameless man as far as human beings go.  He was not perfect, but he was likely one of the closest men to it in life, in conduct, in piety, and in work.  And yet, Job, because of his suffering, had been falsely accused.  He had been pegged as deceitfully sinful and covertly unrighteous.  An exceptionally good man was being said to be exceptionally wicked.  Job, in all his misery, doubtless lost the most sleep over the character defamation he endured as opposed to his physical anguish and material losses combined.  Therefore, the reason for his lengthy, detailed defense is not the fruit of self-righteousness, but of passionate vindication.

Job finds it necessary to list each sin he considers worthy of a punishment like unto his own suffering and clear himself of each – one by one.  He mentions lust and adultery first.  Knowing the lack in Job’s wife, many may even be tempted to clear him of sinning in this way.  But Job never so much as thinks upon another woman.  Job clears himself of this suspicion once and for all.

He goes on to debunk charges of deceitfulness, injustice, oppression, neglect, idolatry, hatred, selfishness, and hypocrisy.  Job simply cannot see the fault of which he is continually accused.  So much so that he pleads with his accusers to write it down for him.  

Oh, that I had one to hear me!
    (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
    Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary! ~Job 31:35

Job wants his charges to be clear, not so he might deny them if they are valid, but so he might repent and be healed if they are truly the cause.  As Matthew Henry writes, “A good man is willing to know the worst of himself and will be thankful to those that will faithfully tell him of his faults.”  But Job’s friends have given no such explanation for their accusations.  They simply insist that he is generally evil and certainly deserving of his circumstances.  

Job had a valid point.  There’s little wonder why he felt so attacked and so urgently desired a hearing.  He had done right, yet his whole life and all those most closely involved in it said otherwise.  

The overarching problem I see in Job’s defense is the overarching problem I often see in my own defenses.  While his self-justification was not Pharisaic or false, it was largely unhelpful.  A clear conscience is good and necessary, but we cannot ever allow it to lead us to a place where our righteousness makes God unrighteous.  As Job stared at all he had done right, he began to doubt the righteousness of the God he so faithfully served.

 It was not wrongdoing that caused his suffering.  His right-doing had brought it on.  But his suffering revealed things his obedience never could have.  His suffering proved his unrealized need for grace, for mercy, and for God himself.  The wretched wrongness of Job’s situation served as a necessary aide in the further sanctification an already exceptionally good man.

Job rests his case upon his innocence.  He is finished arguing.  He has said enough and he has nothing more to prove.  He commits himself to the one who judges justly.  Job, now, will wait on the Lord’s response.

No matter how right I think I am, God, you are far more right.  No matter how unfair life is, God, you are just.  No matter how disappointing circumstances become, God, you are hope.  No matter how wrongly I am treated, God, you are merciful.  No matter how much I suffer, God, you are love.  No matter how many lies I am told, God, you are true.  God, help me look only at your righteousness and remember that I have none, I have none, I have none of my own.  Forgive me for placing my grievances higher than your sovereignty.  Give me your peace.  Amen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xPzTSpbYmk

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »