Genesis 35-36, Job 2, Psalm 34

Read Genesis 35-36, Job 2, and Psalm 34.

This devotional is about Job 2.

In Job 1 we were introduced to this famous man of the Old Testament. Although he is not tied through any genealogy to Israel, he was someone who worshipped the true God. As 1:1-2 told us, “he feared God and shunned evil.”

In chapter 1 we learned that Job loved God, had a large, loving family, and was financially prosperous. God pointed him out to Satan as an example of spiritual greatness. Satan responded by asking and receiving permission to test Job’s faith.

After taking everything Job had but his wife, here in chapter 2 Satan received permission to cover Job’s body with painful sores. He was now suffering immensely inside and outside. His wife, also a victim of everything Job suffered except for the sores, was unable to contain her anger at God. “Curse God and die!” she said to her husband in verse 9. In verse 10, Job responded with a condensed form of his understanding of discipleship: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” The longer version was spoken in Job 1:20-21: “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 both of these quotations, we are challenged to accept our place as the “creature” in the “Creator-creature” hierarchy. God is the Creator; he owns all things, including us, right down to the length and quality of our lives and the health (or not) of our bodies. Anything we have is on loan to us from God because we came out naked and leave naked (1:21a-b). If it was loaned to us by God, he has the right as the Creator to reclaim it anytime he wants: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Our mission in life is, whether happy or sad, prospering or suffering, to worship and praise God: “may the name of the Lord be praised.” When Job asked his wife, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” he was speaking reverently and in submission to God, his Lord and Creator.

But Job’s attitude is a tough one to replicate, isn’t it? God did not create us to suffer; he created us to worship and serve him in joy. It was the entrance of sin that brought suffering into the world. Since God could have stopped the entrance of sin or the causes of our suffering, it feels unjust to us when suffering comes into our lives.

This is why suffering–trials–is the test of our faith. When we curse God, we call him unjust. We appeal to our own sense of right and wrong, a sense that is permanently skewed in our direction. We want mercy when we do wrong but justice when we feel that wrong has been done to us. God allows us to suffer to expose our unbelief, the weaknesses in our faith, so that they can be purified from our hearts and we can trust him even more purely and fully.

Everyone reading this is suffering in some way, or emerging from suffering, or heading toward it, probably unknowingly. Let the presence of pain in your life strengthen your walk with God. Let it cause you to turn to him for hope and comfort not away from him in anger or bitterness. Let it teach you how to truly praise God from the heart and trust him. Remember that Job did not have the answer to “why” that we were given in chapters 1-2. All he had was his theology and his circumstances. When those two seemed irreconcilable, he went with his theology and staked his hope there.

May God grace us to do the same.

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(By the way: people refer to Job sometimes as “the oldest book in the Bible.” It might be, but we really don’t know. My Old Testament professor in seminary wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Job and he thought the author could be Solomon based on the Hebrew text. But Job the man probably lived prior to Abraham, so his story is quite old regardless of when God inspired someone to write it.)

Deuteronomy 23, Jeremiah 15, 2 Corinthians 1

Read Deuteronomy 23, Jeremiah 15, and 2 Corinthians 1.

Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth to continue to address problems in the church, just as he did in 1 Corinthians. One problem, which he addressed in verses 12-24, was criticism he received for changing his travel plans after he had told the Corinthians he was coming to visit them. Before he got to that issue, however, he took time to praise God for how God had comforted him during the troubles he and his ministry partners had experienced in Asia (v. 8).

Why does God allow problems into our lives? Why aren’t his servants exempt from problems as a reward for their ministry of the gospel? There are at least four answers and three of them are discussed in this chapter.

First, God allows problems into our lives because we live in a fallen world. Until the redemption of all things is complete, problems will be part of life for everyone–believers and non-believers alike. This we know from other texts, not this chapter.

Second, God allows problems into our lives so that he can comfort us and teach us to comfort others (v. 4). The best people to help you when you are persecuted are those who have endured persecution themselves. The best people to help you when you face a life-threatening illness are those who have been there. They are the “best people” to help because they can empathize with your struggles more deeply and more personally. They know what encouraged and helped them when they were struggling, so that makes them more equipped to help you.

Third, God allows problems into our lives to test and strengthen our faith. Verse 6 says that problems produce “in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” That “patient endurance” is not just giving up and taking it, like when you’re stuck in stopped traffic on the freeway and there is nothing you can do about it. “Patient endurance” is the ability to trust God throughout the duration of a trial rather than giving up faith in him. Trials reveal whether we are truly trusting in God or whether we are self-deceived about our faith. They also teach us to look to God for comfort, help, and deliverance which strengthens our faith when God delivers us. Verse 9 made the same point when it said, “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” For true Christians, trials drive us closer to God while problems in life drive unbelievers further from him. That doesn’t mean you’ll never question God; read the Psalms and you’ll see plenty of verses that question God. Instead, while your faith may waver and feel week, it will ultimately hold and eventually get stronger through trials.

Fourth, God allows problems into our lives to teach others how to pray. Verse 11 says, “…as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” As you go through problems in life and ask others to pray for you, your trial gives them the opportunity to learn intercessory prayer. When the trial ends, it gives other believers who prayed for you the opportunity to give thanks to God.

What problems and struggles are you facing right now? Which of these lessons do you feel God is teaching you most directly? If you’re not facing a trial in your life right now, give thanks for God’s favor but study the list above, too, to fortify yourself for when the problems arrive.

Genesis 46, Job 12, Hebrews 4

Read Genesis 46, Job 12, and Hebrews 4 today. This devotional is about Job 12.

Imagine experiencing the devastation Job experienced and then, when your friends came over to comfort you, they began to insist that this was your fault. That’s where Job found himself in these chapters. His friends took turns explaining that God is just and so Job must deserve what happened to him. Since they believed that as a given, they urged Job to repent.

When Job responded to his friends he insisted on his innocence, cried out to God for an explanation, and complained about his suffering.

In the previous chapter, Job 11, his friend Zophar rebuked Job for his words (11:1-12) and promised Job that if he just cut the nonsense and turned to God, his life would get better. “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand… Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning” (vv. 13-14a, 17). 

Here in Job 12, Job began his response and Job’s speech in this cycle goes through chapter 14.

The first four verses of this chapter are harsh. In them, Job struck back verbally at his friends for the things they have said to him. In verse 5 Job said, “Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune.” That statement was meant as a rebuke to his friends. They have a smug sense of security that causes them to look down on Job for what he suffered.

The problem with Job’s friends was not that their theology was completely wrong. The problem was that they made simplistic assumptions about Job and then applied their theology based on those assumptions.

Imagine that you were on a jury in a criminal case. As you enter the jury box, you look over at the person sitting at that defendant’s table. Just because they are sitting there, they look pretty guilty. It is easy to rationalize that the police would not have arrested them nor would the prosecutor have charged them if they didn’t have really good reasons to think that they are guilty. If you assume–as many of us do–that most criminal defendants are probably guilty, then it is tempting to pass judgment on the defendant without really weighing the evidence or applying the standard, “innocent until proven guilty” in a rigorous way. After all, you don’t commit crimes, so you’ll never be in that guy’s shoes.

But if you were wrongly accused of a crime, you would want the jury to think differently than the thinking I just described in the previous paragraph. You’d want the jury to listen carefully, weigh all the evidence and–most of all–empathize with what it would feel like to be charged and convicted of a crime you didn’t commit.

The point of all this for us is that, when our lives a going well and we feel secure, we should not “have contempt for [the] misfortune” of others.” We don’t know everything about anyone and we certainly don’t know the mind of God. So be careful about assuming that someone who is suffering deserves what they are suffering and that it is their own fault.

Being a good friend to someone who his hurting starts with empathizing with their pain. You shouldn’t ignore obvious sin but you also shouldn’t assume that someone who’s suffering has sinned and deserves it.