Gaining Godly Perspective from Job 29-30

At the end of The Never Ending Story the Empress tells Atreyu that Bastien (the kid reading the book) has already chosen her name. He just has to say it. The Nothing, begins tearing down the ivory tower that she lives in and she pleads with Bastien to say the name he has chosen. Bastien puts down the book, runs to a window, opens it and shouts something unintelligible that turns out to be the name “Moonchild.” Remember all that?

The reason I remind you of something you might have rather forgotten about is that sometimes when I am reading the Bible I just want to shout things at the people I am reading about. The reader has many advantages over the people in the story. When men and women in the Bible were in the middle of the story, they didn’t have the advantage of seeing the big picture, knowing how it was all going to end, or getting let in on some significant pieces of information that the reader is often let in on. In the book of Job the reader is let in on the fact that God is the one who pointed out Job and that the reality of it all is that even though Job doesn’t understand it, God is still faithful to Job through it all. God is the one pushing forward the events of the story. God is the one who is still present, still faithful, and who knows how it will all turn out.

Having said all of that, I find Job 29-30 a very helpful read in gaining godly perspective. I say that because Job doesn’t know what is going on. He doesn’t know where God is. He didn’t hear the conversation between Satan and God. To be fair, if Job had heard that conversation it would have made Job as a test case pointless because he would have been tainted with knowing the very reason he was being put through the trials and come out on the other side not having his faith really tested because it wouldn’t have been faith. Anyway, he doesn’t know how the story ends or what blessings are in store. All he knows is that he has lost it all and has no idea if any of it will ever be restored or, more importantly, if he will ever be connected with God as he was in the past. The reality of it all is that Job has no idea that he is actually more connected with God, in God’s silence toward Job, than he had ever been in his life.

Let’s listen in,

1Job continued his discourse:

2 “How I long for the months gone by,
for the days when God watched over me,
3 when his lamp shone upon my head
and by his light I walked through darkness!
4 Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house,
5 when the Almighty was still with me
and my children were around me,
6 when my path was drenched with cream
and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.

7 “When I went to the gate of the city
and took my seat in the public square,
8 the young men saw me and stepped aside
and the old men rose to their feet;
9 the chief men refrained from speaking
and covered their mouths with their hands;
10 the voices of the nobles were hushed,
and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.
11 Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
and those who saw me commended me,
12 because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to assist him.
13 The man who was dying blessed me;
I made the widow’s heart sing.
14 I put on righteousness as my clothing;
justice was my robe and my turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy;
I took up the case of the stranger.
17 I broke the fangs of the wicked
and snatched the victims from their teeth.

18 “I thought, ‘I will die in my own house,
my days as numerous as the grains of sand.
19 My roots will reach to the water,
and the dew will lie all night on my branches.
20 My glory will remain fresh in me,
the bow ever new in my hand.’

21 “Men listened to me expectantly,
waiting in silence for my counsel.
22 After I had spoken, they spoke no more;
my words fell gently on their ears.
23 They waited for me as for showers
and drank in my words as the spring rain.
24 When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it;
the light of my face was precious to them.[a]
25 I chose the way for them and sat as their chief;
I dwelt as a king among his troops;
I was like one who comforts mourners.

Job 30

1 “But now they mock me,
men younger than I,
whose fathers I would have disdained
to put with my sheep dogs.
2 Of what use was the strength of their hands to me,
since their vigor had gone from them?
3 Haggard from want and hunger,
they roamed[a] the parched land
in desolate wastelands at night.
4 In the brush they gathered salt herbs,
and their food[b] was the root of the broom tree.
5 They were banished from their fellow men,
shouted at as if they were thieves.
6 They were forced to live in the dry stream beds,
among the rocks and in holes in the ground.
7 They brayed among the bushes
and huddled in the undergrowth.
8 A base and nameless brood,
they were driven out of the land.

9 “And now their sons mock me in song;
I have become a byword among them.
10 They detest me and keep their distance;
they do not hesitate to spit in my face.
11 Now that God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me,
they throw off restraint in my presence.
12 On my right the tribe[c] attacks;
they lay snares for my feet,
they build their siege ramps against me.
13 They break up my road;
they succeed in destroying me—
without anyone’s helping them.[d]
14 They advance as through a gaping breach;
amid the ruins they come rolling in.
15 Terrors overwhelm me;
my dignity is driven away as by the wind,
my safety vanishes like a cloud.

16 “And now my life ebbs away;
days of suffering grip me.
17 Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
18 In his great power God becomes like clothing to me[e];
he binds me like the neck of my garment.
19 He throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.

20 “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22 You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23 I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.

24 “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31 My harp is tuned to mourning,
and my flute to the sound of wailing.”

This is so helpful to my faith because there are times I don’t know how things are going to turn out and times when things seem very hopeless. In times like those it is easy to sound like Job in these verses. However, the same God watches over us in present silence who watched over Job. He is just as involved, just as faithful, just as powerful, and will provide everything we need for life and godliness. It is easier to see it in someone else’s story than it is in our own. So, while it may feel God is far off or that God is no longer watching over us, he still is. We, like Job, are not let in on the rest of the story but walk through the story by faith, knowing that God is present and powerful even while silent. Faith is not always easy but it is verses like this that help me understand the big picture. Maybe when we find ourselves in the Job 29-30 moments there is a great cloud of witnesses watching us run this race shouting things at us like, “Don’t give up…this is all going work out for the good!” or “Don’t lose heart…God is fighting for you!”


What Are We Willing to Go Through For God To Do What He Wants To Do?

Scripture is the story of the relentless pursuit of God to bring people back into relationship with himself. The Bible is very clear that God will go to great lengths to make this happen so that we can be made right with God. God is willing to sacrifice his own son, part seas, defeat mighty armies, forgive sins, flex his divine muscle and even conquer death to reconcile us to himself. The question for us is this – what are we willing to endure to accept God’s transforming work in our lives?

If God is relentless then we should expect His pursuit of our transformation to result in some things that are difficult, even impossible for us to do on our own. I am reminded of Job who said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” – Job 13:15. We should be willing to humbly submit and even surrender to God’s work in our lives so that God can accomplish His purposes. I suspect there are times I feel like Jonah the prophet…I am willing to do this but not that based on my own comfort zone or expectation for how I think things should be. Instead I really need to listen and let God change by my thinking and my journey.

P.S. I am not implying in this post that God needs our permission to do what He wants.

God’s 53 Questions

I am sure you remember the story well. Job was an upright man. Satan thought Job only worshipped God because he had it made. So God allowed all Job had to be taken away in order to find out if man would serve God only because of God’s blessing or because God is God. Job wanted answers. Why had all these bad things happened to him? He subpoened God to court. Witnesses were called, the time arranged, and God showed up! But it wasn’t Job who got to ask the questions. It was God who did the asking. Job took the stand and God rattled off his questions. Unlike a court of law, these questions were not intended to learn what Job knew but to teach Job something about God. God began his series of 53 questions with this (Job 38:2-5),

“2Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?

3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

And my personal favorite…

19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?

20 Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!

The focus of these questions is on who is sovereign. The obvious conclusion is God is and Job is not. The point God is making here with Job is that even though things get rough, trust is key. Satan likes for us to focus on ourselves when things get tough. We can get so self-focused and self-centered in bad times that we stop looking at the only one who really is sovereign and that is God. We aren’t like him. We can’t compete with him. We don’t know what he knows and can’t do what he can do. When it is all said and done we have to trust him in good times and bad. When things get tough one of the best things we can do is ask ourselves this question, “Who really understands what is going on here?” The answer is God. Or, “Who is able to fix this broken and miserable mess?” The answer is God. Instead of getting down and depressed that we can’t fix it, why not turn to the one who can? I think that is what God was trying to get Job to see and I think that is what God wants us to see as well.

In Job 38-39 God asks Job 53 questions that give Job perspective to remember who is really in charge.

Small Group Lessons from Charles Kiser

One of the things I have been a proponent of here at K.L. is to not reinvent the wheel. There are so many good people out there writing small group and Bible class curriculum that could be beneficial to so many people if we just had an avenue with which to disseminate the information. Charles Kiser has kindly allowed me to post three series of small group lessons here at Kingdom Living for people to download. These series will be available through links in this post as well as through the Small Group Lessons tab at the top of the blog.

I Am Jesus – A 6 week study on metaphors Christ used to describe himself.

Project Bless – A 6 week study in drawing close to God in order to bless the world.

Where is God? – A six week study on the book of Job.

Addiction, Blessings, and the Book of Job

One of the best definitions of addiction I have come across is someone who treats objects like people and people like objects. People become something to be used rather than someone to have a relationship with. Objects transform from something to be used to someone to have a relationship with. Funny thing is the way we have viewed blessings from God have undergone this same transformation. As I mentioned in a previous post about Christians misperceptions of what blessing is all about, blessings have been distorted by portions of the Christian community from a someone to a something. In scripture, a life that is blessed is a life that is centered on a relationship with a someone (God). Somehow we have strayed into believing blessings are about objects to be received rather than a relationship to be lived. In other words when we think about our blessings we often list objects rather than a relationship.

One place this understanding helps in interpreting scripture is in the book of Job. In Job the accuser, Satan, comes before God and God points Job out to him as a man who is centered on God (Job 1:8). Satan’s response is that Job only serves God because of all the things he has received from God (protection, possessions, etc). Let’s listen in,

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”- Job 1:9-11

Satan’s accusation is that Job serves God because of what he has received from God in material goods. Satan is saying that if God withdraws the possession that Job will withdraw from the relationship. The only way to find out if this is true is to do just that and see if Job’s relationship with God is based on Job’s possessions or on God’s possession of Job himself in relationship. If you have a distorted view of blessings being about stuff then it is hard to capture the relational aspect of the claims Satan is issuing about Job’s character and motivation for his relationship with God. Job is so committed to God that he is able to say things like “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” in 1:21 and “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;” in 13:15. Job understood that it was a blessing to be in relationship with the Almighty whether or not he was to receive any material benefit from it whatsoever.

How are we doing in this area? Have we so misidentified what blessings really are that we have fooled ourselves into thinking our country is the most blessed in the world because we are so materially prosperous? Does our prayer life reflect more praise for who God is and thankfullness for our relationship with him than it does requests for objects? Have we become so addicted to objects that we no longer understand the blessing of being in relationship with God even if we have to go lacking with material possessions? I think these are valid questions and I think it is important we address this in our churches so that we can face the coming weeks, months, and years of potential economic difficulty while remaining grounded in our relationship with God. What is even more important is that when things turn around that we don’t forget what is still most important.