Challenging wrong ideas…..about God, marriage, little children

27 01 2011

DAY TWENTY-SEVEN : Job 4 v. 1 – 7 v. 21; Matthew 19 v. 1 – 15; Psalm 17 v. 1 – 5

After Job’s first lament (yesterday) each of his friends speaks in turn, at length!

The gist of Eliphaz’s response is an understanding of a God of reward and punishment. To Eliphaz, it’s simply that the righteous will prosper (materially and with a long life), and that the wicked will suffer and die sooner. Any experience of suffering must therefore be a punishment for wrongdoing, and we shouldn’t really complain.
However, Eliphaz extols Job’s virtues, giving examples of his selflessness and kindness, and we have seen God single Job out as righteous and faithful.
This book is about subtleties, though, for Eliphaz has a good grasp of the need to turn to God in our suffering (5 v. 8 – 16) to experience healing (5 v.18). I just find myself troubled at the notion that God, Himself “wounds” or “injures”, as a form of discipline.
Maybe, part of the purpose of this book is to really grasp the nettle of this notion that only good things should happen to good people, and bad things to bad people. Life isn’t like that, is it?

JOB’S RESPONSE – fightback round one !
Job tells his ‘friends’ that he is justified in complaining to God.
Job suggests his ‘friends’ are making it feel worse (by putting any of the blame on his wrongdoing and God’s discipline).
Job lets rip at God again,
“I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”

I find myself wondering how many times these sort of questions are repeated even today.
“What have I done to deserve this ?”
“Why to bad things happen to good people – and good things happen to bad people ?”

Although those are justifiable questions to ask, maybe the deeper question (unanswerable) is
“Why does God allow suffering ?” (which can happen to both good and bad people)
and maybe, just maybe, clues to the answer lie right back in the story of the fall in Genesis, and the consequences of having been given free will.

In these verses today, Jesus is having to combat the view-of-the-day on divorce and on the place of young children.
Divorce – the Pharisees, again, are trying to trap him (they’d love to have on record that he’d denied the authority of scripture). There were differences in opinion amongst the rabbis about the letter of the law regarding divorce, and maybe they wanted to see where Jesus fell in the debate. Some wanted to allow a husband to divorce his wife for anything that displeased him. Others only because of infidelity.
Jesus simply restates the sanctity of marriage, “What God has put together, let no-one separate” (it’s always one of the high points in a marriage service for me, when I am able to proclaim these words over a couple).
Moses had permitted divorce papers to be written up, but Jesus challenges the suggestion that this is a ‘command’ of Moses, rather a concession because of human ‘hard-heartedness’. Jesus restates the life-long intention of the marriage-bond, broken only by infidelity.
This was a tricky issues in Jesus’s day, and it still is.
My prayer remains for all marriages to be strong, happy and fruitful life-long covenants.
But then God is also the one who binds up broken hearts and heals broken lives.

Children – maybe the culture of the day was that ‘children shouldn’t even be seen, never mind heard!’ Certainly the disciples thought that little children shouldn’t pester and be around their rabbi-teacher. Jesus not only welcomes the children, but elevates them as an example to all adults. “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid / hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
The example of a child’s humility, dependence and simple faith is an indication of characteristics of kingdom-inheritors.
We must not forbid, or hinder, the faith of young children. Indeed there are times when we should allow them to lead us, and show us the way.

“My steps have held to Your paths; my feet have not slipped.”

My re-created thoughts :

Grant me, Lord,
a true picture of You
Your grace and truth
Your mercy and justice
Your love and discipline

Grant me, Lord,
a child-like faith
trusting, dependent, true

Grant me, Lord,
honesty and integrity
in all my relationships;
that at home, at work, in church, in community
I might walk in Your way.