Sunday, 27 November 2016

My Grace Is Sufficient For You ...

What are we to say about Bildad’s short speech in Job 25: “If you don’t have anything to say, don’t take a long time, saying nothing.” Bildad keeps it short. He lives up to his name - Bildad, the Shuhite (shoe height!!)! In general terms, what he says is true. He speaks about the universality of sinfulness. Lack of purity applies to all of us. It does not, however, provide us with an adequate explanation of Job’s suffering. To understand what was happening to Job, we must reckon with the activity of Satan and the permission of God. We should not blame God, saying, “It’s all God’s fault.” Satan attacks God’s people. He brings suffering upon them. We should not say, “Just pray, and everything will be okay.” This is not always true. There are times when God permits Satan to bring suffering upon His people. Why does God not answer the prayers of His people? The answer is not, “God doesn’t love us.” It’s “God loves us, but He is permitting Satan to attack us.” God does this because, in His time, He intends to bring us through our time of suffering, bringing us closer to Himself - “My grace is sufficient for you; my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Whatever our circumstance here on earth, we take our ultimate comfort from this: “Your faith is more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise, glory and honour to God. This will happen when Jesus Christ appears again” (1 Peter 1:7).
In Job 26 - 27, Job protests his innocence - “It’s unthinkable for me to admit that you are right. Until I breathe my last breath, I will never give up my claim to integrity. I cling to my righteousness and won’t let go. My conscience won’t accuse me as long as I live” (Job 27:5-6). If these words weren’t true, they would be the height of arrogant pride. It is, however, clear, from the opening verse of the book of Job, that “Job was a man of integrity ... He feared God, and he stayed away from evil” (Job1:1). When Job protested his innocence, he was speaking words of truth. His words were not words of false pride. They were words of true godliness.
In Job 28 - 29, Job emphasizes the importance of pleasing God - “The fear of the Lord is wisdom. To stay away from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). He describes the earlier part of his life - before his suffering: “God was in my tent ... The Almighty was still with me” (Job 29:4-5). He longs for the sense of God’s blessing to return to him: “If only my life could be like it used to be, in the days when God watched over me, when He made His lamp shine on my head, when I walked through the dark in His light” (Job 29:2). The meaning of past blessings and the hope of future blessings brings strength to Job, as he faces his present suffering.
“When I waited for good, evil came. When I looked for light, darkness came” (Job 30:26). There is great sadness in Job’s words. He could not see any way out of this situation - “Days of misery are ahead of me” (Job 30:27). Job wonders what he has done to deserve all this suffering. There is no suggestion that the more a person has sinned, the more he will suffer. We are not to make a direct link between personal sin and personal suffering. Following on from this long speech, covering Job 28 - 31, we don’t hear any more from Job until Job 40:3-5 and Job 42:1-6.

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