Friday, August 27, 2010

August 27

OT: Job 23: 1-27:3

Strangely, the stubborn berating of Job's friends seems to have had the effect of pointing him back toward God and even toward traditional understandings of the fate of the wicked. First, he expresses optimism toward the idea of bringing his case before God:

"Would he oppose me with great power?
Now, he would not press charges against me.
There an upright man could present his case before him,
and I would be delivered forever from my judge" (6-7).

These sentiments definitely represent an evolution from his earlier feelings of hopelessness and helplessness before God. And then, though he repeats his earlier assertions of the success of the wicked and the suffering of the innocent (24:2-17), he also speaks of their inevitable doom at the hand of God (18-24). Perhaps biblical scholars think that these reversals have been edited in later (I have no idea whether they do, but I have heard similar arguments regarding other passages). To me, however, Job's evolving thinking is typical. I often go around and around in my head, breaking out of preconceived notions, and then running back to them, then challenging them again, and then ultimately affirming them. People don't always think linearly, especially when they are strained by emotions.

Bildad cuts in with a bit more on the sinfulness of man, and then Job takes the floor again. When I was a teenager, my preacher used Job's words in 26: 7-14 to demonstrate the power and might of God. In the context of the discussion, his positive use of the passage was probably a bit awkward, but I do think it contains a beautiful description of God's might. In fact, I had it memorized for awhile, and thought about it when I looked at nature. Though much of it has since slipped out of my mind, I don't think I'll ever forget the last verse:

"And these are but the outer fringe of his works;
how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?"

I think of those words often when I witness a particularly breathtaking view of God's creation.

Lastly, Job again maintains his innocence, while continuing to acknowledge that in general, God does punish the wicked.

NT: 2 Cor. 1:12-2:11

This passage has always been a little weird to me. Paul seems a little defensive, first declaring his "holiness and sincerity," and then giving excuses for not visiting them (12, 15-17). I also don't really get the part about "yes and no," though my interpretation is that Paul is engaging in a little wordplay. The gospel is not wishy-washy or changing, and God always keeps his promises. That is the basic message I get from the "yes and no" discussion in 17-20.

I have always understood and loved verses 21-22: "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." I am not a Calvinist, but I have been known to have some of that classic Puritan angst in me. Beginning in Jr. High, I have periodically grappled with doubt regarding my salvation. It took finding verses like these to help me move past my doubts and to begin to come before God with confidence. Though I still sometimes waver in insecurity when I compare my life to the high standards set by Jesus, I am learning more and more to fully rely on the guarantee of the Spirit within me.

Paul's words in 1:23-2:11 are just kind of weird and confusing to me. He seems to acknowledge that he wrote harshly to the Corinthians in his first letter, and seems to admit that he has been avoiding them out of a fear that he will be too harsh in person. Then, he appears to advocate mercy toward fellow Christians who have "caused grief" (5). Now, I don't know what he's talking about, but my mind jumped back to 1 Cor. 5, where Paul instructs the church to expel the sexually immoral believer and to not associate with any sexually immoral believers. Perhaps the Corinthians have taken his advice too far? Regardless, he now seems to be advocating mercy and forgiveness to the wayward brother, just as he himself has forgiven him. Specifically, Paul writes, "If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake" (10). Compare that to 1 Cor. 5:3, which says, "Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present." Doesn't this passage in 2 Corinthians seem like a follow-up to the implementation of his earlier instructions? I don't know....they just seem related to me.

Psalm 41:1-13

I like the first verse:

"Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers him in times of trouble."

In the rest of the psalm, David pleads for mercy for his sins and resulting troubles.

Prov. 22:5-6

Verse 6 is extremely popular, and rightly so, for it seems to provides a promise to which many parents cling:

"Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it."

Like all proverbs, of course, this is a general truth, not a cast iron promise. However, it still gives hope to parents who seek to raise their children to love and serve God.

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