DAY TWENTY-SIX : Job 1 v. 1 – 3 v. 26; Matthew 18 v. 10 – 35; Psalm 16 v. 1 – 11
So, from Genesis, to Job for a couple of weeks, before journeying on with Exodus.
Job is a fascinating book. It’s about suffering. It’s about the relationship between God, the angels and Satan. It’s about God’s relationship with humanity. It’s about friendship. Job is a good man who suffers great losses, whose livelihood and almost his own life is destroyed. Will he turn away from God ? Will he remain faithful to God ?
A few stories from this week came to mind when reading today’s passages :
The terrible house fire in Derbyshire on Monday night, when a mother lost all four of her children, all under 10 years old. Whilst she is in hospital recovering, I found myself wondering whether she might not wish she’d perished along with them (cp Job chapter 3). Her grief will be immense, her suffering unimaginable to me. She will be in my prayers a lot.
Last night, before the open youth club at Leyland Methodist Church, a mother arrived in tears and full of anxiety as her son was missing. Her panic was justifiable and evident. Happily he was found within the next half-hour, and it was a story of lost and found, with a good ending.
Tomorrow is Holocaust Memorial day. The whole question of why God allows such evil and suffering to happen is a very deep one. At times, we simply need to stop and pray, reminding ourselves of the depths to which human nature can sink, and praying for God’s intervention, protection, and for His Kingdom to increasingly break in.
JOB – Okay, this is a tricky book. It is about suffering, and we all have our own experiences of suffering, and our own questions. Maybe we will find some comfort merely in the fact that we hear Job and his friends raising the same questions. We must deal with the fact that, in this book, God is presented as at the very least ‘allowing’ Job to be tested, handed over to Satan, who continues to ‘roam the earth, going to and fro in it.’
Job loses everything in a very short time – his oxen, his sheep, his camels, his servants, his sons and daughters. There are still those today, who lose everything very suddenly (earthquakes, floods, fire….). Unimaginable. Yet Job falls to the ground, clearly grief-stricken, and says,
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
When Satan presses on and inflicts great physical suffering on Job, his wife encourages him to curse God. Job replies,
“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”
In these first two chapters, Job is presented as entirely honourable, devout, righteous and having great integrity. God is presented as having complete confidence in Job.
Job’s friends arrive, and at first, there follow seven days of silence. Sometimes the most intimate of friendships allow great lengthy times of sitting in silence together, without any sense of needing to say anything. Simply being…..with, alongside.
Job then pours out his anguish in chapter 3, cursing the day he was born. Great outpouring with which many people will identify.
We will need to read the whole book, to experience the next thirty-nine chapters, to understand all that this book seeks to address. Clearly, to start, Job understands that devotion to God, a righteous life, does not always shelter us from evil (Jesus needed us to pray daily, “Deliver us from evil”), or protect us from human suffering (yesterday’s “Take up your own cross and follow”).
I am reminded of the great song penned by Matt and Beth Redman, “Blessed be Your name”:
Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name.
Every blessing You pour out, I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say,
“Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
MATTHEW – Lost Sheep, A Brother Who Sins Against You, Unmerciful Servant
God is presented in the first parable in Matthew 18 as seeking the lost (sheep) and rejoicing over each little one found. We, too, should have a heart and desire for for the lost.
God is presented in the second parable in Matthew 18 as being forgiving, merciful, and expecting that forgiveness and mercy to be passed on to others. Forgiveness is hard – it’s seventy times seven! It could be a seemingly endless battle of mercy over bitterness. The key is our own need for forgiveness and the freedom we experience within God’s mercy towards us, and the desire then to liberate others, enabling the lost to be found.
Sandwiched between is teaching about how we are to help one another in our discipleship by confronting people who are sinning. Life ‘in community’ can be a challenge, and Jesus outlines good practice, and restates His binding and loosing teaching – the God-given capacity to help liberate people from all that takes hold.
“If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there an I with them.”
How these verses encourage us to be praying together in unity, and the importance of recognising that when we gather in Jesus’s name, He is there with us. Powerful motivation to meet and pray.
PSALM – In contrast to what we’ve heard from Job today, the Psalmist praises God for His protection, safe refuge, the good he is experiencing.
“I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken…
You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures”
But then, the psalms aren’t always sweetness and light are they. They are real, honest. Today, the psalmist gives glory to God for the good things. Hallelujah !!
My re-created thoughts :
When I am weak, Lord, it’s then You are strong
You give me the courage I need to move on
The strength You supply and the power You prove
Help me build up my life on the Rock what won’t move.