Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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The Almighty Makes Him Understand

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

BIBLE READING: Job 32

“And Elihu … said: “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore, I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty that makes him understand.” (Job 32.6-8)

The conversations between Job and his friends can be frustrating to read. His friends are convinced he has some untold sin while Job vehemently maintains his innocence. Their discourses appear to get nowhere beyond the agony Job is experiencing and mere speculation regarding God’s purposes. 

At this point Elihu enters the story. He is angry at the way God has been insufficiently portrayed and justified (Job 32.2-3). As a younger man, he knew his place and kept silent while the older men spoke, but he could contain himself no longer. Ultimately, Elihu is the only human character in the book of Job whose testimony is unrefuted. He speaks boldly and directly, not personally attacking these men, but extolling the virtue of God’s sovereignty.

Here are some things we learn from the introduction of Elihu:

  1. It is wise for youth to defer to their elders (Job 32.4). Although lengthy and frustrating, Elihu gave them his attention in hopes of learning (Job 32.12). With age often comes valuable experience and insight. Up to this point he has respectfully considered all that has been said. Despite his scathing remarks, he demonstrates that patience and consideration should be practiced by those younger (32.6-7). 
  2. Having said this, age does not always equal wisdom (Job 32.9). I believe the contrast offered here is to help us recognize the true source of wisdom. It does not come simply from gaining knowledge and life experience. These things aid in the communication of wisdom, but in themselves do not produce true wisdom. 
  3. Wisdom originates from God who knows what is best. As we grow older, we gain greater understanding of the logistics of this life; but unless we submit to God and develop a greater sense of humility towards him, it is a practice self-righteousness. There is no amount of years one could live or energy one could exert that will change the truth from God’s word or the wisdom he teaches. 

Elihu gives no pretense that he knows what God is up to. What he knows is that God needs to be honored; That even in the worst of circumstances God is justified simply because he is the Creator. God is God and will do as he pleases. He has no need to justify himself to humanity, although he could and ultimately, he will. 

As with all the wisdom literature, we come to this point of realization: all efforts to make sense of life circumstances will suffer want. There is nothing sure except that God is sovereign over all. And so, as the wise man reminds us, to fear God and keep his commandments is the proper pursuit in life (Ecclesiastes 12.13). 

The Case For Integrity

Monday, September 07, 2020

BIBLE READING: Job 27

“As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit.” (Job 27.2-4)

It is not by Job’s power that he has gained or by his wrongdoing that he has lost (Job 1.21). Instead, it is the Almighty who gives life and breath (Job 27.3), grace and hope (Job 27.8).

Job made no claim to be the responsible party for the events of his life. By contrast, his friends constantly asserted that his circumstances resulted from improper choices and behavior. As the exchanges intensified, Job refused to concede to their allegations, affirming that no one knows the meaning of circumstances with certainty (Ecclesiastes 8.16-17). Only God does. Job adamantly refused to impose on this sovereign right of God. 

Instead, he emphatically maintains the case of his integrity. Job’s position on God’s sovereignty remained unchanged by circumstances or even his own perceived righteousness (see Job 9.15-21). 

A couple of observations from this reading:

  1. God does not expect us to make sense of our circumstances. There will be times he reveals why, but God is most concerned with our trust. God maintains perfect control in all circumstances – even when Satan is directly attacking God’s people. We should be cautious defining our relationship with God according to cause and effect. Certainly, God has promised to reward some things and punish others, but the timeline is in God’s hand (Ecclesiastes 3.11). And so, integrity is more important than knowing. 
  2. Integrity was the defining feature in Job’s life. His wife and friends knew he would not compromise (Job 2.9; 4.6). They saw this as a weakness, but God saw it as a strength. In fact, Job’s integrity was the basis for God’s brag to Satan (Job 2.3). There were many things Job could not control, but this he could. Our natural tendency is to adapt and conform for our benefit. In many ways our lives are about change (Romans 12.1-2). But sometimes we perceive our changes as more significant than God’s consistent nature. However, it is not my good deeds, my efforts or exertion that define a relationship with God. It is commitment in my inner being to let God be God and to adhere to what I know about him. It is only with integrity that we will find consistency in our walk of faith. 

Like Job, we must be adamant that God is sovereign, in every circumstance. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10.23, NIV). May God help us to be strengthened with this resolve. 

“…may he grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being… to know the love of Christ… that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3.14-19)

God's Way Includes Me

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 67

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations." (Psalm 67.1-2)

God’s nature is the primary reason for our praise. He is gracious and eager to bless humanity. He considers the affairs of all people and acts with justice and equity. Whatever he sets his face towards both benefits and flourishes (see also Psalm 1.3; 92.12). Even the most consistent [and taken-for-granted] earthly processes are a result of God’s goodness (Psalm 67.6; see Genesis 8.22). 

God’s sustaining grace is two-fold: That he may be known and that he may be trusted to save from the futility of this world (Psalm 67.2). In a world riven by human passions, we crave stability. We long for consistent leadership where justice prevails. We desire goodness and prosperity. While these things are outside our control, it is God who orchestrates them in his time. 

All this implies that without God’s blessing and grace, these things would not exist. How easily (and often) do we overlook the sustaining nature of God? We can carelessly get caught in the logistics of life and neglect the constant need for God. As the psalmist said, “If the LORD had not helped me, I would have died” (Psalm 94.17, paraphrased). Our lives of faith must include moments of reflection on God’s magnificent power. 

When we do this, we are reminded of something incredible: God’s power is for us. God’s way is towards us. In all the splendor of creation, God intentionally circles back to humanity. Ultimately, through Jesus, God stepped back down into this world to show us his way. Because of who he is, God’s way includes you and me. 

And yet, how often do we go our own way (Proverbs 14.12; Isaiah 53.6; 1 Peter 2.25)?

As the psalmist considers the goodness of God, he sets his attention to praise (Psalm 67.3, 5). He calls us to position ourselves in fear before God the Giver (Psalm 67.7). As trite as it may seem, to praise and affirm the sovereignty of God is the driver of our faith. His nature does not change (Psalm 102.25-27; Malachi 3.6). This fact sustains not only our lives but our hope, and matures us in humility. And so, in the good times, let us appreciate his grace; and in the bad, let us be steadfast in hope, always giving praise and thanks. 

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.” (2 Chronicles 29.11-13)

God's Steadfast Love

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 57

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” (Psalm 57.9-10)

Although David is remembered as a man after God’s own heart, his life was often troubled and tumultuous. Early on, his military success put him at odds with king Saul who saw David as a threat (1 Samuel 18.15, 28-29). At least twice Saul tried to pin David to the wall with a spear (1 Samuel 18.11). Ultimately, David was forced to live on the run as Saul pursued him with military force (1 Samuel 24.2). 

You can imagine the distress in David’s heart and mind. He was in such chaos he pretended to be a madman (1 Samuel 21.13-15). Emotionally he became desperate, trying to convince himself everything will be ok. “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast!” (Psalm 57.7)

These are the circumstances in which he penned Psalm 57. You would expect the fervid emotions, but this psalm is also surprisingly optimistic. Although hiding out in a cave with his enemy around the corner, David gave glory to God and affirmed what he believed God would do (Psalm 57.2-3). David’s prayer reminds us how critical it is to not only seek God but to praise him in difficult situations. 

“God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!... Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!” (Psalm 57.3, 5)

We can speak boldly about how much we trust God, but the rubber meets the road when situations are beyond our control. Do we trust that God is faithful to do what he said he will do? God had promised David the throne (1 Samuel 16.1, 13) and David trusted this would happen. When situations seem desperate, our natural inclination is to consider our options when, instead, we need to rehearse the promises of God. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13.5)… “Trust in the LORD with all your heart… he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3.5-6).

The hardest part of faith is waiting and trusting. We want suffering to end now. We want resolution from our situation so we can move on. We want to see the goodness of God at work in our current situation. This will almost never happen on our time schedule (Ecclesiastes 3.11). We must learn to wait on the Lord (Psalm 27.14). As with David, “God is a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46.1). When things seem helpless, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel for those who trust in God. We must resolve to affirm God’s faithfulness and power by remembering what he has done for believers like David. 

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” (Psalm 27.13)

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us…” (Psalm 46.10-11)

Choosing a Good Name

Monday, August 10, 2020

BIBLE READING: Proverbs 22

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22.1)

Enron was the largest oil and gas conglomerate in the late 1990’s. They were making money left and right, and their stock was through the roof. Everybody was investing in Enron back then. But then the bottom fell out. They were exposed committing corporate fraud, filed for bankruptcy, and the company collapsed. In the years that followed, the company tried to get itself back together and move on, but nobody wanted anything to do with “Enron”. In order to move past everything, the company was forced to change its name. 

In our world having money will allow you to do a lot of things. It allows us to have influence over people, which can do good and encourage change. But the father says having a good name is better than that… why? We learn from experience that our name means something, and it matters what people think about when they hear your name. You can be the wealthiest person in the world, but if people think you’re a scoundrel it doesn’t matter what you have. 

What this proverb teaches is the power of influence and integrity. A good name is valuable because it demonstrates that we are people who do what we say we’re going to do ... and that is worth more than any amount of money.

For Christians, this should matter to us. I know you can’t control everything people think about you, but you can control your decision to do what it right, regardless of the circumstances. “Live such good lives among [those of the world] that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2.12, NIV)

What do people think of when they hear your name? 

Christians should be people that are consistent, trustworthy, and prudent. But there is more at stake than just our reputation. We are stewards of Jesus’ name. Those who do not know him will judge him based on our lifestyle and actions. Sadly, we have seen this taken lightly, and why many slanderously call Christians “hypocrites”. As ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5.17), we have a serious responsibility to uphold the honor of Jesus. This means, we must “Look carefully how [we] walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time…” (Ephesians 5.15-16) and “As much as depends on you, live at peace with all men” (Romans 12.18).

We will not win people to Christ through our accomplishments, abilities or what we have to offer them, but by showing them the life of Christ. His name is above every other name (Philippians 2.9); his integrity and faithfulness beyond all others (Deuteronomy 7.9; 2 Timothy 2.13). We honor his name when we emulate his compassion, mercy and love to others (1 John 2.6). When others talk about you, does it help or hurt the name of Jesus? 

“Live in such a way that if someone spoke badly of you, no one would believe it.” -Anonymous 

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