Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30

OT: Job 34:1-36:33

Man, apparently Elihu has a lot of pent up thoughts from being silent for so long! He just keeps on going...and he gets more and more tiresome as he goes. I thought that the real low point of the monologue was in 36:4, in which the youth declares,

"Be assured that my words are not false;
one perfect in knowledge is with you."


Hearing Elihu rehash all the old arguments (God is good; Job is bad; God rewards righteousness and punishes wickedness) kind of opened my eyes to the bigger picture here. Elihu and company are not completely wrong about God (He is good, after all). Rather, their view of Him is too narrow. For God to be "good" in their eyes, He must reward the righteous here on earth, and must punish the wicked here on earth. That is how God works. That is how God has to work, in their minds. And when Job claims that his experience doesn't fit that mold, well, in their mind (and in Job's, to be fair), either God is wrong or Job is wrong. And clearly, God cannot be wrong, so Job has to be wrong.

But...maybe neither God nor Job is wrong; maybe their perception of God is wrong. Apparently, that possibility doesn't occur to them. They are so used to viewing their own theology as the embodiment of absolute truth that, when presented evidence to the contrary, they are forced to deny the evidence, rather than give up their cherished beliefs.

The mistake of Job's friends is humbling to me. In our adult Sunday school class, we have discussed how every generation of Christians (and people in general, really) think that they have found "the truth." They have arrived; everyone before them was wrong; they are the ones who understand. And such arrogance can be so dangerous, not only to our own spiritual lives, but to the church as a whole. It takes humility to see that your pet view of God might not match up with the factual experiences of those around you (or even to the Bible itself), and then to reexamine your views accordingly. I know that I personally like the comfort of established beliefs. I want to figure God out and know Him. And yet, we can't ever figure God out. It's when we think that we have that we start sounding like Job's friends. In those situations, we are unable to respond to others whose experiences don't fit our preconceived notions of how God and His world work.

NT: 2 Cor. 4:1-12

Paul continues to semi-defend himself, or at least to take pains to declare his upright methods in spreading the gospel. Tucked into this defense are some real gems, though. I especially love verses 6-7:

"For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

These verses together highlight the paradox of Christianity. On the one hand, we Christians have God's Holy Spirit dwelling within us as we ourselves dwell in and serve God's powerful kingdom. On the other hand, we are still lowly humans, who mess up and struggle and fail and suffer just like everyone else. The juxtaposition of God's Spirit in a human "tent" is jarring, to say the least. But hopefully, it highlights to those around us that the good in us, the light in us, is from God.

You know how I love "dying to self" verses, and verse 11 is one: "For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, sot hat his life may be revealed in our mortal body." Now, full disclosure: I don't really know what that means. I sense that Paul is talking about specific situations that are way more harrowing than I personally ever experience. That said, I do think that the general principle of the verse is that when we die to ourselves, our wants, our needs for the sake of God, then we show him to others.

Psalm 44: 1-8

Thinking of all of God's past works helps David trust in God in his present struggles.

Proverbs 22:10-12

I was intrigued by the first part of verse 12:

"The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge..."

That's an interesting image.

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