Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24

OT: Job 16:1-19:29

Well. Job is hacked by the patent answers that his friends keep spitting back at him. He says,

"I have a mind as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know all these things."

In other words, I was in Sunday school, too, guys.

Then he turns their allusions to nature back on them. You wanna talk nature, Job asks. Yeah, why don't you take a look at nature? Nature will tell you all about the power of God and the havoc He wreaks (12:7-10, 14-15). And for that matter, God wreaks havoc on people, too! (17-25).

Job next turns to personally attack his friends and their advice. He tells them,

"If you would be altogether silent!
For you, that would be wisdom" (13:5).

Ouch! Job thinks their silence would be preferable because

"Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay" (12).

In other words, your advice sucks, and your arguments don't hold up. In fact, with friends like these, Job decides that he is better off in God's hands after all. At least God is not an idiot like his friends are. He says,

"Keep silent and let me speak;
then let come what may...
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
I will surely defend my ways to his face" (13, 15).

Job would rather face an all-powerful God, who at least knows the truth, rather than listen to the babbling of his foolish friends.

And again, as a Christian, I see several concepts in Job's speech that have deeper meaning to me, knowing the gospels. At one point, Job asks,

"If a man dies, will he live again?
All the days of my hard service
I will wait for my renewal to come.
You will call and I will answer you;
you will long for the creature your hands have made.
Surely then you will count my steps
but not keep track of my sin.
My offenses will be sealed up in a bag;
you will cover my sin" (14:14-17)

The ideas of resurrection, renewal, reconciliation, and forgiveness, of course, all feature prominently in the NT, as they were all accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Meanwhile, Eliphaz is peeved at Job's outburst, and the dialogue continues to degenerate. Like Job, he does not hold back the ad hominem attacks, claiming that

"You even undermine piety
and hinder devotion to God.
Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty" (4-5).

The bottom line is, even faced with the conundrum of Job, Eliphaz chooses to cling to the beliefs of his ancestors.

NT: I Cor. 15:29-58

Paul elaborates on why he believes the Christian life is pitiable apart from heaven. If there is no resurrection, why does he put himself in danger each day (30)? Why does he die to his own wants and needs every day (31)? If there is no hope of heaven, then why not be a hedonist (32)? Why sacrifice? Why serve?

And on one level, I really can see that. However, I truly do believe that the truth that sets us free is that Christ came to save us from ourselves. When we respond to the invitation to die to ourselves, and to live for Him, we are free. In sacrifice and service, we find freedom. At least, that's what I've found in my life.

And what was up with the whole baptizing for the dead thing (29)? What on earth?

Next, Paul elaborates on the transformation that will happen when we die. According to him, "The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (42-44).

And of course, our very resurrection will defeat death, which allows us to say,

"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?" (55).

I love that phrase.

I also love verse 58: "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." Just last week, I had gotten overwhelmed by the darkness of the world, the pain and brokenness and suffering. And my own tiny light seemed incredibly inadequate, to the point where I wondered if I was doing any good at all. I wondered to myself, "Am I running like a man running aimlessly? Am I fighting like a man beating the air? Am I building a house out of gold and precious stones? Or am I building out of wood and straw?" This verse gives me my answer. When I give myself to the work of the Lord, I can have the faith and assurance that my labor is not in vain.

Psalm 39:1-13

I love all the "life is but a breath" imagery (4-6).

Proverbs 21:30-31

These proverbs articulate the very truth that Job has been ranting: God is in charge, He does what He wants, and it is not up to man's wisdom or might.

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