Tuesday, April 30, 2013

the angry young counselor

Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.
Job 32:4-5

Elihu is different from all the other friends of Job. His "counsel" is not dialogue, but rather a long, drawn-out monologue. He is a young man who deferred to Job's old friends Zophar, Eliphaz, and Bildad out of respect. You can see in his opening description a literary set-up that prepares the reader for the "different" viewpoint of Elihu. Elihu is angry. Elihu is young. Elihu attempts to counsel where others have failed.

The text goes out of its way to speak of the anger of Elihu. Elihu "burned with anger", which makes me think that perhaps the entire set of exchanges between Job and his other friends were not setting well with him. In the background he grimaces and squirms, waiting it out in a growing frustration. And he just kept letting that anger build up while he clammed up. That's never a good combination. The text gives two reasons why he "burned with anger": 1) because Job justified himself rather than God, and 2) because none of the other friends had an answer for Job when they accused him. As his monologue plays out, the reasons for his anger factor into his "answer" for Job.

The fact that Elihu was a young man whom Job considered a friend is interesting. Our deepest friendships are usually with our own generational connections. But Elihu was a young man. What then was his connection to Job? Was he a friend of Job's now dead children come to pay his respects and comfort their grieving father? I tend to think that perhaps he was a young protégé of Job's who had a profitable learning relationship from his older friend. Job seems to be the kind of man who invested his life in helping people and it would make sense for him to invest wisdom into the next generation. It fits Job's godly character to have a relationship with a guy like Elihu.

Elihu's attempts at counsel are worth considering with that "mentoring" relationship with Job as the background. In some ways his words may mirror back to Job the kind of wisdom Job had once shared with Elihu. That would explain why Elihu comes closest to getting the theology of God's ways in alignment. He still accuses Job, but he gets a good handle on who God is, which is why God does not rebuke him like He does the other three friends at the end of the book. That does not mean that Elihu was 100% right about Job... obviously. He just cared more to speak of God's ways with more careful thought.

Monday, April 29, 2013

biblical human dignity

If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant, when they brought a complaint against me, what then shall I do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?
Job 31:13-15

Job had a spiritual basis for treating people with dignity and respect. Human beings were viewed as important and treated with equality not because each of us is somehow magnificent, but because one God had created everyone. People were considered worthy of Job's respect because God had fashioned each human, including Job, the same way. And respecting people with dignity and concern was a way of worshiping God.

This was the basis of Job's commitment to humanitarianism. He treated his own servants as unique creations of God because Job knew that both he and his servants were fashioned by God in the womb. Since God was the Maker of them both, there was a deeper bond to the relationship than mere social position. Job would respond to the complaint of any servant with dignity, humility, humanity, and equality out of love for a unique soul that God had made.

This strikes me as the best reason to seek the welfare of other people. It is a humble commitment to more than just mere social justice. It is an acknowledgement of "sameness"... that all of us (to borrow a certain Jeffersonian turn of phrase) "are created equal". This recognition humbly accepts that any societal differences are also the result of providence. Job used his wealth and influence to perpetuate this view of human dignity before God.

I feel like I have found a rare gem here. This is an unexpected surprise in reading this epic poem of the book of Job. Part of the reason that Job was so exceptional in God's eyes was that he "feared God and turned away from evil" (Job 1:8). And that blamelessness was shown in a real altruistic social commitment in Job that never wanted to take advantage of any person's lower or higher social standing. This was unheard of in the ancient Middle East where entire empires were built on the broken backs of slaves who were barely treated as human. Yet to Job, all people are carried in a womb and enter this world having been fashioned by God in the exact same way. Newborns are all equally helpless. And accepting and believing that common fact in humanity kept Job humble, worshipful, and truly a caring person.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


And now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me. The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest.
Job 30:16-17

Pain can be relentless
gnawing at dry bones
snarling up from a dark hole
it controls

Souls can be spilt
flowing across parched ground
seeping into the sand down
into a hole

Days... far too short
filled with the realization
that pain brings apprehension
to a heart

Nights... excruciatingly unending
the darkness fills heart's vision
with all the joys of life now missing
in the dark

Bones are aching
deep is the agony suffering brings
eternity's thoughts no hope can spring
from a tortured soul

Beds are not for sleeping
but for turning anxious fears
around to cries nobody hears
but God knows

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

the reputation of the righteous

I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.
Job 29:14-16

The testimony that Job shares of his reputation is not bragging. He is telling the truth. He was a consciously committed person. He was resolved to be righteous; to use his wealth, position, and wisdom to make his world a better place. He cared about all the people about whom God cared. And he backed up that concern with actions and giving to make a huge difference.

Job characterized his life of just a few months back as marked by serious relationship and friendship with God (Job 29:4). His family was strong (Job 29:5). He was a wise counselor whom society respected and people sought out for advice (Job 29:7-11; 21-25). He was involved as a civic leader and judge who settled disputes and corrected injustices (Job 29:12-17). And he envisioned a full life, ending in peace, contentment, and the respect of his peers (Job 29:17-20).

Of course, Job should not have had to remind his accusing "comforters" with these facts. But the reality was that they had conveniently forgotten all of this in their zeal to explain away Job's suffering. They could have helped him like he had helped so many. All this shows that even a righteous man's reputation will be twisted by his sinful, selfish contemporaries. The only person it really mattered with was God... and God was more impressed with Job's character than his position. It would be that character that would emerge from the fire unscathed despite the loss of family, future, friends, and fortune. And from that friendship with God a new life would be rebuilt on the reputation of a righteous man.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

the search for wisdom

But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?
Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living.
Job 28:12-13

The book of Job is given status as an Old Testament book of wisdom. It rests classified within two literary genres: wisdom literature and poetry. And really, it is Job's speech at this point that places Job into this wisdom category. It is this dialogue in which Job likens the search for wisdom as a more difficult and rewarding task than mining for gold or seeking the rarest of gemstones.

Job indicates that although people search long and hard for wisdom, its ultimate source is not with the human mind. Man cannot generate it. He can find it, but he cannot make it. It is not found anywhere naturally among the collection of human thought alone. Wisdom is thus scarcer than any precious metal and it is to be highly prized once obtained by the searcher.

Job's conclusion is that there is only one way to find wisdom. God alone knows where wisdom is. And only by the worship and fear of The Lord can true wisdom be found (Job 28:23, 28). It is anchored firmly in the knowledge of God. To find real wisdom, one must seek God.

Monday, April 22, 2013

the courage of a clean conscience

Far be it from me to say that you are right; till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.
Job 27:5-6

As a litany of accusation flies at him nonstop, Job sticks to his guns. In no uncertain terms, he lets his friends know that they will not shame him with false guilt. He will never admit that they are right about the diagnosis of his suffering. Their erroneous theology is abhorrent to him. Job will have absolutely none of it. He would die before he let them guilt him into a confession of a wrong he did not do.

This is not clinging to any sort of self-righteousness. Job has already appealed to God as his vindication. Instead, Job is convinced that he has obeyed God and that God has been pleased with him. If he had any remorse or conviction of sin, it would have been another matter. But Job has the courage of a clean conscience. And it leads him to the strength he has to stand against false accusations from men who were supposed to know him the best of all.

Job's heart is clear for two reasons: 1) He knows that God is not judging him for some evil he has hidden. 2) He trusts that God has a purpose even in this present unthinkable trial. That is the view toward difficulty that keeps him hanging on. He will weather this storm with unshakable conviction and firm faith in God. It is not so much that Job trusts his own integrity... rather, he trusts the God Who declares him right in heaven's eyes.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

the fringes

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?
Job 26:14

Everything I can know
about God
(what is written, what is spoken,
what I can see)
is just a small revelation
of God
for He is bigger than any
description can be.

I sometimes think a flood
of information
about deity abounds in my world
(preaching, singing, reading)
as I wade through huge volumes
in anticipation
of finding out from God exactly
what I'm needing.

Yet the deepest theologian's monograph
and the wonder of a child
are really the same when it comes
down to it:
God is hard to catch, like a rare
creature wild
and our attempts to capture Him result
in empty net.

A lifetime is really not enough
to hold a drop of Him
and one second or one century
will only just start...
because even the most dedicated life
can only start to begin
to comprehend an awesome God
with mind and heart!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

the right question | the wrong answer

How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes; how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!
Job 25:4-6

The reply that Bildad gives to Job begins promising but ends with no real hope offered. He begins with the right question but gives an incomplete answer to the question he raises. The question has bearing on Job's situation; the answer, however, does not. Bildad thus cautions us about trying to comfort the suffering with questions. They have loads of questions. What they need are answers, or at least identification as they wait for some answers.

The question is good because it gets to the root issue necessary to be in right relationship with God. It addresses the problem of endemic human sinfulness. It is an admission of total depravity and humanity's inability to fight sin. All of our attempts at self improvement will fall short because we are corrupted by sin at every level: body, mind, and soul.

But there is no hope in the answer that Bildad gives to Job. It is just a reiteration of the problem behind the question. His "answer" is that we are too wicked, too separated from God by our sinfulness to be right before God. And that is only half the answer. It happens to be the wrong half of the answer to emphasize to Job in his suffering and anguish.

The reality was that Job was seen by God as upright and blameless. By faith Job trusted God. He offered sacrifices. He cared for others. He sought to spread his faith to his own children. He prayed earnestly. He had a view of sanctification that accepted that substitutionary sacrifice was the only way to deal with sin. He was right with God. And in God's eyes, Job was blameless and upright. So the reality was that even though sin separates us vastly from God, even in Job's day, God had provided a means for relationship and imputed righteousness. And Job related with God on God's terms.

Job knew the complete answer to Bildad's question. He had lived it all his life. Job knew it, and most importantly, God knew it. And it was why Job was in his current situation. Satan would not have gone after him if he had not been upright and blameless before God. Trials may come by obedience. And that is the real answer to the question.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

nocturnal people

There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths.
Job 24:13

In an effort to show the absurdity of his friends' absolute theology, Job takes the logic of their arguments to its end and by pointing out exceptions to their neat "black and white" world, hopes to convince them of deeper truth. If indeed God always punishes the evildoer in this life, then it follows that there would not exist any injustice and evil in the world. It would be wiped out. Nobody could stand against God if He immediately wiped out evil as Job's friends insist.

Job shows the exception to their thinking. The very fact that these injustices rage on (Job centers his reasoning on the mistreatment of the impoverished in Job 24:1-12) means that God must delay His justice is some fashion. Job's point then is that the world DOES contain evil people who rebel actively against God's rule in their lives. They are like night-loving creatures of darkness. They prey on the poor. They rob and destroy. They murder and commit adultery. They lie and cheat.

From the viewpoint of his friends there is a problem. This means God must be powerless if this stuff persists. But Job points out that even though God sees their evil, He chooses to wait until death to deal with it (Job 24:23-24). The reality of evil in the world means that God somehow exercises some kind of restraint that lets sinful human wills resist Him until death. The logic of Job's argument is sound. It fits the evidence. If God immediately wiped out evil, absolutely none of us would have a chance to come to him. No human could stand upon the earth.

There are people obsessed with dark sin. They will hurt others in order to make themselves feel good. They will kill for the personal delight in it. They care not a breath for justice as long as they get what they want. That is the result of sin. Not all people are this way, but left unchecked, sin will do this to a culture and to enough individuals within that culture to wreck absolute havoc. People will not stop this until death. And only God's intervention and revelation can show us any way out of the darkness. It is God's light that shows us the darkness in which we live. We won't even see it without Him.

Monday, April 15, 2013

trusting a God Who is not always obvious

But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind.
Job 23:13-14

I really believe that Job's experience with God is much the same as what I experience today. His is an ancient understanding with contemporary concurrence. There are things that Job says here that resonate with me right now. There is an intense longing for a God that he believes, but cannot see (Job 23:3). There is an assurance and conviction that God cares for him individually (Job 23:6). There is an awareness and respect for God as ultimate judge of everyone (Job 23:7).

Interestingly, Job struggles with the hiddenness of God, a theological conundrum I often find myself puzzling through as well (Job 23:8-9). If God loves me, why does He seem to delight in hide and seek? The answer is bound up both in the character of God and in the nature of faith. I see within Job a trust in God's power and love. And then there is an unflinching confident faith. It is really all that Job has left, and despite the fact that his wife and closest friends have tried to argue him out of it, Job maintains his trust in a good God Who knows Him and will make even of his present pain something immeasurably precious (Job 23:10). He is confident this trial will bring out of him the best. He will come forth as gold.

Part of Job's capacity for staying true to his faith in God is his personal knowledge that to his very best, he has kept God's commands and treasures God's Word. And it is that experience that helps Job accept that God is hiding overt answers at the moment. He trusts in an unchanging, omniscient, sovereign God Who knows Job, appoints all Job's experiences, and desires to do things in Job that are His designs. Oh to have Job's unshakable trust in a sovereign God!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

God's pleasures

Can a man be profitable to God? Surely he who is wise is profitable to himself. Is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are in the right, or is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless?
Job 22:2-3

Eliphaz could be no more wrong about God. And this time the reader of Job can easily see where Eliphaz has an erroneous theology of the relationship God has with us. The dry legalism of Eliphaz has no room for delight. He cannot fathom that God can delight in His people. Yet from the opening scenes of Job we find that God is pleased with His servant Job. He considers Job to be exceptional. There is no one else like Job in God's sight. Job is blameless and upright (Job 1:8) and that is God's evaluation of Job, not Job's evaluation of himself.

God was pleased with Job's faithfulness. Yet Eliphaz has a theology so stern that there is no emotion in God's heart. He could not conceive of a God Who delights in His children. This zero sum kind of relationship with God may have made Eliphaz fear God. But it did not help him to walk before Him in truth. It should be noted that Eliphaz did not have his name come up before God's throne when the Almighty was sparring with Satan over the righteousness and uprightness of human beings.

God delights in us as we delight in Him. We gain pleasure in our walk with God and serve Him. And He enjoys our relationship as well. There is a mutual joy. God delights in us. What parent does not delight in their own child? In Christ, we are God's children! This is a wonderful thing in which is much joy... for us... and for God!

O God in Whom my soul rejoices!
Be my delight. And may my soul's joy always be that I am a sinner mercifully saved by Your grace. In Your Son are all the riches of life. And in You is all my hope. You delight in me as Your child, not by my righteous merits, but by the uprightness worked within my heart by Your Son. And in Him I am Yours. May I live to please You and bring to your Father's heart... great joy!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

prosperous rejection of God

They say to God, 'Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him?'
Job 21:14-15

This is prosperous rejection of God. No, this is not a heresy to write this down. The reality that Job's counselors have delusionally refused is that often wicked men without God prosper materially. They die with really big bank accounts. These people do not "appear" to prosper. They do not put on a show. The wicked materialist does prosper because he has put all of his efforts into gathering the stuff that is around him to him. And the fact is that unrighteous people can and often do accumulate wealth. It is one of the easiest ways to comfortably slide into a Godless eternity.

So the assertion of Job's friends that wicked people always have their possessions and life joys taken from them in judgment is fallacious. Did not even Jesus teach us the parable of the rich fool? The issue is not material wealth. The issue is the content of the desires of the heart and just what those desires bring a person to do and to order his live around.

Job's point is that those who are committed solely to materialistic pursuits do not desire God. They shoo Him away. They dismiss the giver of all good things, not even knowing that it is only by His hand that they can live and breathe and have their being. They see no material profit in the worship of The Lord. And the fact is... they are right.

There is not materialistic gain in the worship of The Lord. If it were so, all people would be given keys to a mansion upon becoming God-fearers. Worship of God is about personal life change. And if you just want to build your life around naturalistic assumptions and the rusty trinkets and treasures of life, you don't need God to do that. Of course, you are left with the unanswered questions of life and death gnawing at you. But if your bottom line is "profit", you'll get what you want. But you better hope you are right, because it is an "all in" wager with your life at stake.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

accusation is not comfort

The heavens will reveal his iniquity, and the earth will rise up against him. The possessions of his house will be carried away, dragged off in the day of God's wrath. This is the wicked man's portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God.
Job 20:27-29

Zophar's "comfort" of Job s really just solid accusation. His is the most rigid theology of punishment. Only a really, really wicked man would lose everything in punishment for his sins. And Job is left to draw his own conclusions. Zophar's speech is actually a very mean-spirited attack on Job.

The sad reality is that really no one could be helped by Zophar's accusations. Even if it were true in Job's case, he is offered no hope, just condemnation. Zophar is like the Law, condemning sin, but bringing no relief from it. And that is not what will help his friend, Job.

We need to be careful about accusation. Yes, I believe in the conviction of sin, but I firmly trust that is the work of the Holy Spirit with the Word of God. To accuse someone myself with my own words is itself a sin. And that is why judgmentalism has no place in the gospel.

Monday, April 8, 2013

hope... and a healthy fear

And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
Job 19:26-27

Job has both a healthy confidence and a respectful fear when confronting the possibility of seeing God when his body is no more. This is hope. It is also awareness that even in his hope, there is a fearful aspect of standing before God... a God that Job has confidently claimed as his only Redeemer (Job 19:25).

The reality of this is close to Job. He has lost all the relationships and the accoutrements of this life. He is suffering in a death-like mortality as his body wastes away. His friends offer no consolation... only judgment. His hope is only in what he knows about God and in his conviction that even after death he will see God. This is at least some thought of an afterlife, and even a mild statement of a resurrection (after my skin has been... destroyed; in my flesh I see God). Job's faith is spectacular. He is a patriarch. There is not even an Israel or a covenant to cling to. Job must have had a spectacular walk with God.

It goes without saying that Christian hope is even brighter. If Job could say these things, how much more can I, who have a factual, reliable body of New Testament witnesses and a resurrected Redeemer Who stands for me at the right hand of the Father? Of course, there is a healthy fear attending that thought for me as well.

Friday, April 5, 2013

ugly generalizations

Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous, such is the place of him who knows not God.
Job 18:21

Bildad's general theology of sin is relatively sound, but to use it to explain Job's pain is just ludicrous. It is the worst application of theology possible. And that is how we are shown by him the dangers of generalization. Job was a particular person suffering from unique, personal losses. To attempt to "console" him by preaching God's judgment upon sinners is ignorant and uncaring.

By profession I am a pastor and in my shepherding, I counsel people. Really, every pastor should do so! When I counsel people, they give me the privilege of entering into personal, private, often intimate pains. The worst thing I can do at that moment is preach a sermon to them. That only serves to compound guilt. They may need to know the scriptures, but I must enter into their lives and incarnate the truth with love. Yes, I may even have to admonish them at times, but only when I have also identified with them and earned the relationship to do so. That is what sets biblical counsel and care in the Body of Christ apart from secular therapy. Therapists are taught professional distance as a matter of requirement. Ministers enter into relationship, often deeply, in order to show the love of Christ and the peace of God to people.

Most Christians can learn to do this as well. The church is commanded in Galatians 6:1-2 to "bear one another's burdens". That means generalizing in the pains of others is NOT an acceptable practice. No more flippant quoting of Romans 8:28... PLEASE! No more walking away with the promise, "I'm praying for you". Most of the time when we say "I'm praying for you" we mean "I don't want to talk about this with you." Cliches abound in the church when people hurt. Let's stop being Bildad!

The thing sufferers need first is our care. We need to express our love and enter with them into their pain. We don't stop there, but we must start there. If we stop there, no real change can happen or perspective can be gained. If we don't start there, we are just theologizing. To speak the truth in love means we share in their sufferings. That's the love part.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

cry for hope

...where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?
Job 17:15

Life has pain
we never saw coming
and we squirm
uncomfortably knowing
hope seems lost

In suffering
there is a feeling
walls close in
purpose loses meaning
hope is a dream

Stifled by sorrow
a weight overbearing
oppresses the soul
diminishes the hearing
hope's distant light

Heartfelt tears fall
in our bitter crying
and we beg
just reaching... trying
to find some hope

Help those cries
that come from the hurting
by sharing hope
and simply empathizing
hope comes closer

Man of Sorrows
Who in His dying
made a way
for us to go on living
makes hope come alive

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

witness, lawyer, & judge

Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high. My friends scorn me; my eye pours out tears to God, that he would argue the case of a man with God, as a son of man does with his neighbor.
Job 16:19-21

Job's hope is drawn to trust in the reality that God knows the truth about him. God has been witness to all of Job's life and every action he has ever taken. Job is confident that God can clear him of the accusations brought by his friends. His friends were putting him on trial over his suffering. And their attempts at comfort felt like scorn to him.

It is an insight into Job's character at this point to see him direct his appeal to God. When his friends turned his pain into attacks against him, Job poured out his tears, frustrations, and disappointments to God. He directed his hope to the only person Who would possibly help him now. And the request Job has of God is unusual, but not out of place for an upright man to make.

He knows God is the only true witness to Job's integrity. He also knows that God is the only Judge of the human heart. And so he puts all of his "case" in God's hands: God is the witness to Job's upright actions and can testify on his behalf; God is the Judge Who can clear Job of the accusations his friends have leveled; God is Job's defense attorney, arguing the case so that all may be convinced.

Job has no way to explain his present circumstances except to appeal to God. Job has no way of shutting down the accusing slander of his friends except God's vindication of him. And nobody is left to plead Job's case except God. Job is leaning hard by faith into the the arms of God to withstand his suffering and the sinful judgments of his friends.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

good theology of suffering needs a robust eschatology

The wicked man writhes in pain all his days, through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless. Dreadful sounds are in his ears; in prosperity the destroyer will come upon him.
Job 15:2-21

Eliphaz is not talking to Job as a friend or a counselor. He is attacking him as an accuser. Right off the bat he swings at Job, accusing him of not fearing God (Job 15:4). From there he launches into a theology that builds a case for a God Whose primary relationship with humanity in this world is to punish sin.

When Eliphaz sees God as the Punisher, it follows that all suffering is thus God's way of getting back at sinful people. When people are sinful, yet prosper, it is because they abused others. And eventually when a prosperous man loses it all, it is because God is judging a great sinner. The logic of Eliphaz's theology thus points an accusing finger at Job, charging him with being an abusive sinner whose evil led to his loss of everything.

But there are some major problems with Eliphaz. He makes for a great fundamentalist hellfire and brimstone preacher. But he does not have a right understanding of God. His observations about humanity are conveniently skewed as well. I kind of see him as the Fred Phelps of Job's generation. "God Hates Job!" would be his placard. And conveniently, his punishing principles would allow him to subscribe to a theology that creates multiple protest signs. His is a "God Hates (fill-in-the-blank)" way of understanding humanity and our responsibility before God.

Of course Eliphaz has it all wrong. Nothing works as rigidly as he sees it. Sinners can appear to prosper until their end. People die in luxury all the time. Wise and righteous people may suffer affliction. If the world was as Eliphaz imagined it, utopia would be ours, for only the righteous would have money, power, and influence. But the opposite is the general norm. Eliphaz's theology proves itself to be a delusional pipedream.

The fatal flaw that I see in it is a lack of eschatology. Eliphaz can only see reward and punishment in this life. And that leads him to assume his absurd stance on sin, punishment, and suffering. However, if God can punish people or reward people beyond this life... the whole perspective changes. And that is why a good doctrine of future things informs our understanding of sin, life, our present circumstances, and our duty before God.

Monday, April 1, 2013

erosive effects of suffering

But the mountain falls and crumbles away, and the rock is removed from its place; the waters wear away the stones; the torrents wash away the soil of the earth; so you destroy the hope of man.
Job 14:18-19

Job spends some time talking about the long term effects of the sufferings of life on a person. Part of God's purpose in suffering is to erode away the false hope of humanity. It isn't that God wants to destroy all hope. It is that the props we humans devise must be taken out from under us so that we might find true hope and life perspective in God.

Suffering is erosive. The longer it goes on, the tougher it is to manage. Every human resource eventually diminishes in effectiveness or disappoints us altogether. That is why we need an eternal perspective. And no strictly human philosophy can achieve that kind of hope. The effects of suffering wear us down over time, like water cutting a channel through rock over slow decades of time. But the effect is permanent. The rock will forever by changed through the erosion. The soil that is washed away cannot be brought back.

After the erosion of all our human efforts at hope, there is still the reality of God's sovereign care over us. Suffering and difficulty do not erode away God. Notice that Job talks about the loss of "the hope of man", while attributing the control over suffering to God. It is God Who uses difficulties to get us to the end of ourselves so that we can focus on His control over all things.

You can bring perspective on both the massive catastrophe and the slow erosive trickle of pain and suffering that we experience. You are the God Who wears down mountains with Your rain. You control all things so that we might see and worship You. And in You we find grace, mercy, understanding, contentment, and joy. As You wear away my rocks of selfish trust, help me to trust You as I should.