The Gospel According to Job

Today, I want to bring out this book, out into the spotlight.  It is a tremendous devotional that makes its way through the book of Job.  I have leaned on it, and it has held me nicely.  I challlenge you to get a copy of this, and to let it work in the confines of your spirit and mind. ––Bryan

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Excerpt from “The Gospel According to Job,” by Mike Mason

 

“An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One who Lost Everything”

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A“Once I met a man who, like Abraham, had moved his entire household halfway around the world on the strength of a vision from God. When I asked him to tell me the story, he answered that there were three versions of that story, and which one did I want to hear? First, there was the version of the story that he told to Christians. Then there was the version he told to non-Christians. Finally, there was the truth. Job is a book that tells things from the third point of view. Probably, along with Ecclesiastes, it does this better than any other book in the Bible.

Not that the other Scriptures do not tell the truth. But Job tells the truth in a way that makes it almost impossible to pervert the truth into pious pabulum. A few years ago I went through a difficult time. Never mind what the problem was. It was nothing compared to the trials of Job. In fact, it was nothing at all compared to the sufferings of many of my neighbors right there on the quiet street where I lived.

But pain is pain, and suffice it to say that my pain was enough to drive me to my knees, totally defeated, half-crazy at times, and crying out for relief. Month after month the battles raged on, thick, dark, agonizing. I prayed, but somehow prayer did not ‘work.’ Usually nothing at all worked, except lying low and gritting my teeth until, for reasons entirely obscure to me, the straightjacket of oppression began to loosen a little––at least enough for me to get on with my life for another day or so before the screws tightened again. What else could I do? How was I to fight this?

In retrospect I can see that a large part of my anguish was rooted in the fact that there really was nothing I could do to control what was happening to me. I was absolutely helpless, and it is this, perhaps, that is the soul of suffering, this terrifying impotence. It is a little taste of the final and most terrifying impotence of all, which is death.

We Christians do not like to think about being absolutely helpless in the hands of our God. With all of our faith, and with all of His grace, we still prefer to maintain some semblance of control over our lives. When difficulties arise, we like to think that there are certain steps we can take, or attitudes we can adopt, to alleviate our anguish and be happy. Sometimes there are. But anyone who has truly suffered will know that when it comes to the real thing there is no help for it, no human help whatsoever.

Simply put, when we are in a deep dark hole we cannot think our way out; neither can we hope, sing, pray, or even love our way out. In fact there is absolutely nothing either we or anyone else can do to better our situation. We can have faith, yes; but in itself faith will not change anything. Neither faith, nor any other good thing that a person might have or do, can actually lift the cloud, move the mountain, or bring about an end to the problem.

Only the Lord Himself can do that, and when He does, as Exodus 6:6 puts it, “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke.” How will we know? Simply because nothing and no one else could possibly have done it. In this kind of crucible, therefore, we come to a new understanding of what it means to be saved, what it means to be snatched away from the brink of destruction.

Here we get down to the bedrock of the gospel. During my night of anguish, I turned to the book of Job, and there I began to make contact with the gospel in a way that somehow I never had in studying the New Testament. Reading Job, I found myself experiencing in new and astonishing depth the reality of Jesus’ promise in John 8:32,

 “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

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Valley of Tears

As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

Psalm 84:6 (NIV).

The word “baka” means tears. In Psalm 84, the sons of Korah write their praises of God and note that those whose strength is in the Lord will travel through the Valley of Baka and find His peace there. For some of us that Valley of Tears seems never-ending, but we must remember we are not alone in it. I wrote this poem to remind myself of that truth. I hope it blesses you as you pass through the valley of tears, too.

Valley of Tears

My Savior will dry all my tears
The Lord God knows all my fears
As I trudge onward many years
I pass through the Valley of Baka

Great pain and agony oppress
I feel heavy weights of duress
Praying for dear Jesus to bless
I pass through the Valley of Baka

I see that this valley is long
I need You to make my faith strong
That Lord I might sing a praise song
As I pass through the Valley of Baka

 

The Curious Case of Being Job

XIR84999 Job (oil on canvas) by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922) oil on canvas Musee Bonnat, Bayonne, France Lauros / Giraudon French, out of copyright
Image by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922) Musee Bonnat, Bayonne, France French, out of copyright

One of the most intriguing characters in the Bible is Job. Tempted and accused, ignored and maligned– he maintained a faith in God’s goodness when hell wanted to destroy him.

His goodness should not be questioned oe diminished.

“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”

Job 1:1

Job becomes an oblivious participant in a cosmic exchange. God and Satan lock horns over Job’s faithfulness. God is sure of his love, while the Adversary thinks Job will fold when repeatedly tempted. But keep in mind, Job hasn’t a clue of who or why. He has to deal with life that is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Job will soon become intimate with pain and suffering.

“Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who God, and shuns evil.”

Job 1:8

Satan is like a pit bull. And God has pointed out the character of Job, and what an enticing “meal” he would make. It’s a bit like slathering bacon grease on him and turning him over to the nearest pack of wolves. Satan now pursues his prey.

Again, Job is completely unaware of this contest. No one has bothered to consult him directly about this. Job knows nothing about this ”wager.” And it’s hard to be kept in the dark. I contend that had Job  known what was going on, this all would’ve been far easier. However, everything would be “unscripted” and  Job would suffer in complete ignorance. And that is doubly hard.

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “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.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

Job 1:20-22

But there was no sin! Job will not travel down that road. Yet he loses everything– all of it. And things are going to get even worse for him. He will be visited by three “friends.” However, they won’t help him. They will only make things worse.

The life of Job, and the “total war” on his soul must be our consideration and our precedent to order our lives.

The pain of Job should become the blackboard where we practice our figures. In the New Testament book of James, (5:11) we are told to think about Job. And in our deliberations, to consider the compassion and mercy of God. Ironic, in some wild cosmic way, our trials of faith are significant.

We should realize that if you or I are going to come out clean in this, we will need to emulate the faith of Job. I think that this what James meant in 5:10-11. We understand that Jesus absorbed all our sin and pain, completely. When we see that, we can come through just about any nastiness. It won’t make the trials any easier, but it will frame the full goodness of God.

bry-signat (1)

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Helping Those Who Hurt Intensely, [Compassion]


Job needs God’s wisdom
By John Piper, originally published September 12, 2008  
The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

Can we learn something from Job’s friends about how to help the hurting?

Absolutely. Those first seven days were their golden hour. If they had stopped there they would have been heroes, I think, because they would have shown compassion and patience. And that’s what we should learn.

When you walk into a horrific calamity you should be really slow to speak and quick to listen. You should be quick to cry, quick to hold, and quick to meet needs, bring meals, and wait upon the Lord. The theological wrestling comes later, probably. It’s different with different people.

But I think the lesson we learn from the progress of the book of Job is that while those three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—were sitting in dust and ashes, aching with their friend Job, he was helped by them. And many people are helped just by the loving presence of another.

I don’t think this nullifies the importance of truth. Let me give you an example.

I’m a colleague here with Tom Steller, who has been with me for 24 years. And Tom and I have sometimes said to each other, “It would be great to stay together long enough to die together, Tom.” And depending upon which one of us comes to visit the other in the hospital at our dying moment, we know, because of 24 or (perhaps by then) 54 years together, we don’t have to say a word. It’s all been said.

We have a common theology. Neither of us will have to preach to the other in order to fix their ideas. We will all know that God reigns, God is good, God is loving, and God is wise. We’re perplexed, but you don’t need to preach. Let’s just take each other’s hands and pray and fight this fight of faith together.

 

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Not for Sale!

not for sale

What is the most valuable thing that you possess? A gold locket, a grandfather clock, or a ring? With that clearly defined, would you then trade that item? How much– offered $50,000 or a $500,000, would you sell it? Consider Genesis 25:27-34.

27 As the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter. He was an outdoorsman, but Jacob had a quiet temperament, preferring to stay at home. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating the wild game Esau brought home, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. 30 Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!” (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means “red.”)

31 “All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.”

32 “Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”

33 But Jacob said, “First you must swear that your birthright is mine.” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.

Inserted into this conversation is a transaction of sorts– I give you this, for that. I’ve always read this straight, and had more questions than answers. I’m confused with how Esau could do such a stupid thing. Stew– for a “birthright”? What the ______? He’s a moron!

Then instead of straight I read this above passage and read into it a sense of humor. All of a sudden the situation came alive and the questions lifted. If Esau is joking, but Jacob is not it changes nothing. Esau is still a “dope.” But it explains how he trades the intangible and eternal for the edible and the temporary. “But I was just joking!”

Esau is left broken and sort of betrayed by Jacob. What he had was ripped off, and he had nothing to show for it. What he didn’t take seriously was by someone else. How often am I guilty of the same thing?

My own heirloom is precious. It is eternal. It is a relationship with God– intimacy with the Creator of my soul and of the universe. But I sell it off for something as trivial as a bowl of lentil stew. WHAT???!!! The enemy values what he does not possess. My salvation is real, and a precious gift. But Satan (my adversary) continually chips away at it, and I more or else could care less.

Esau scares me a bit. I am too much like him. I wear his sandals quite well. I ease up and dismiss what is real; I trade it for the world of illusory pleasure of the moment. I then must live with the consequences of my foolish choice. It is a bitter blow.

God forgives. When I do confess and repent a measure is retrieved for me. I choose to avoid the savory stew of the present and hold tight to my faith. It is the most precious thing I have.

“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.”

Revelation 3:11, NLT

Psalm for My Savior

Psalm 116:7 – painted canvas.
From melodyjoy1983, http://www.etsy.com

This poem is written in the pantoum form and is based on Psalm 116, which is my favorite Psalm. I find that the repetition of lines in this form lends itself well to Christian poetry of lament and praise. I hope you are blessed by this offering.

 

Psalm for My Savior

For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death
The anguish of death and darkness entangled me
I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!”
Praise my God, my Savior who came to my rescue

The anguish of death and darkness entangled me
My eyes filled with tears, my feet stumbled under me
Praise my God, my Savior who came to my rescue
Rescued me from my trouble, sorrow, and darkness deep

My eyes filled with tears, my feet stumbled under me
The Lord, my God, heard my cry for love and mercy
Rescued me from my trouble, sorrow, and darkness deep
Now I know His grace and mercy are mine to keep

The Lord, my God, heard my cry for love and mercy
He saw the anguished turmoil of my broken soul
Now I know His grace and mercy are mine to keep
I will forever praise His glorious name, Jesus

He saw the anguished turmoil of my broken soul
I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!”
I will forever praise His glorious name, Jesus
For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death

Please check Linda’s site. It’s always a blessing!

http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/