Posts Tagged ‘Job’

Job. Finale.

Job was.

People who look through keyholes, said Author Unknown, are apt to get the idea that most things are keyhole shaped. 

In the very first post of this series I made the point that, in regard to life’s tribulations, what we often lack is an accurate perspective. Here, in Chapter 42, at the end of this, shall I say, severe story, it remains true.

Okay, so I’ll concede that a fair amount of self-righteousness got in Job’s way. I can say this because I am without fault. Wait! Wait! That can’t be true, can it?!

We might quibble with the method of Job’s correction. Seemed sometimes like taking a sledgehammer to a pimple. But that’s God’s decision to make. And if there’s is one thing the Book of Job makes clear it is that God Has His Reasons. And He doesn’t always share them.

There is a key to this story in the last chapter. Job, thoroughly humbled, repents in dust and ashes. Then his friends repent. Quickly. (When God uses the term “wrath” in regard to your behavior, it is best to round up those bulls and start building an altar.)

So far, so good. But there is one more thing.

And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. (Vs. 10a)

Job did.

Are you as stunned by this as I am? God permits Satan to strip Job of family and possessions. And afflict him with a disfiguring disease. After which Job must endure repeated verbal assaults by men who should have been his comforters.

But, ultimately, Job is permitted no self-pity. None. Instead, he must reach deep into the inner recesses of his character. He must draw on reserves of compassion that tragedy and betrayal have not, miraculously, drained away.

“Perhaps,” writes T. Whitelaw, “his complete forgiveness by God was contingent on his own complete forgiveness of his friends.”

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And so, this book has puzzled, shocked, angered, and humbled me. I am grateful for its splendid revelations and unflinching honesty. Time now to work on that perspective. And living out verse 10.

Is unforgiveness crippling you in some way? What’s in the way – pride?

Job. Denouement.

denouement:  [French] the solution, unraveling, or clarification of a plot in a drama or story

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle,” Mother Teresa said. “I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”

In case you’ve forgotten, lets recap what Job has had to handle: Children dead and wealth destroyed. Sick and disfigured, sitting in an ash heap. Friends insisting his calamity is the result of sin. Vigorously defending himself, flirting at times with irreverence, and rashly accusing God of being unjust. 37 chapters.

God must trust him a lot.

One might think that, considering Job’s condition, this would be a good time for the still, small Voice. But no. A massive whirlwind spins up out of the southern desert.  And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said, “Why do you confuse the issue?  Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers. (38:1-3 Msg)

Pull yourself together! I’m going to give you a detailed verbal tour of the earth and its creatures with the megaphone of heaven! When I’m done, let Me know if you feel like arguing anymore, or accusing Me of lacking compassion.

Jehovah, wise and watchful, knows that Job’s terrible trial requires an awe-inspiring response. In four blazing chapters, He does not disappoint. And Job answers for all of us: I am a lightweight. What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.

Indeed. Tribulation has done its hard, exhausting work on the spirit of man. What is left is refined, purified, beautiful. The denouement of God’s purpose, after all.

How has God spoken to you during or after a severe trial?

Job. Sugar Up.

He is a young man. Bold, audacious, wise beyond his years.

At least he thinks he is. Wise beyond his years.

We’ve all met people like Elihu. It’s not that they don’t make good points (God will never do wickedly. Rather obvious. Hard to argue.) It’s that they get wound up, then start exaggerating, sabotaging their own positions: “I am telling you nothing but the truth, for I am a man of great knowledge!” (36:4)

Dude. Great knowledge is on the way and you are in the way.

Don’t get me wrong. Age is no guarantee of wisdom. Should be, but isn’t.                                       

Unfortunately, Elihu (and his friends) hadn’t heard about the University of Kentucky study that discovered this amazing fact: People who drank a glass of sugar-sweetened lemonade acted less aggressively than people who had the same drink with a sugar substitute. Because self-control (this is important) takes a lot of energy, the glucose just might give your brain the help it needs to hold back hostility and be more positive.

And there you have it. Drink sugar! Have more self-discipline and a brighter outlook! Of course, time dedicated to prayer, ditto the Word, a tender heart, and a balanced diet are also helpful.

We are provided six (count them: 32-37 ) chapters of Elihu. He scolds his friends for their inability to make Job acknowledge his sins – real or imagined. He scolds Job for having the audacity to contend with God. He anoints himself the standard-bearer of God’s greatness, then pokes Job in the eye with it.

In short, he is a spectacular example of zeal without wisdom. So, to be helpful, which is one of my passions, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve made a short list of suggestions for the Elihus of the world:

1) Have a glass of (real) sugar-sweetened lemonade.

2) Think before you speak. A majority of those fabulous thoughts bouncing around in your head should remain there.

3) Think while you are speaking. With love.

4) Think, when you are done speaking, about what you can do to help without words. Help clean up the devastation. Provide a meal. Run an errand.

God’s going to show up and He won’t appreciate the hostility. So have another glass of lemonade. And brighten up.

Do you tend to speak before thinking? What are the consequences?

Job. Defined.

I don’t have a warm personal enemy left. They’ve all died off. I miss them terribly because they helped define me. (Clare Boothe Luce, who was beautiful, witty, and fantastically accomplished. Sigh.)

For our purposes here, let’s define “enemy” this way: 1) anyone who is consistently vexatious, disagreeable, infuriating or 2) who seems to take adverse pleasure in staking out the opposing view. They’re like pepper up the nose.

My mother was born in Arkansas and her family moved to California, rather Grapes of Wrath style, in the 1940s. I was always fascinated by the language of her kinfolk. Being certain about something, (which my maternal grandmother ALWAYS was) meant being “sure as shootin.” If you should be ignored, they would “pay you no never mind.” Perhaps it was because you were “mean as all get out.”

This grandmother, by the way, if provoked by an annoying bluejay disturbing the peace of their doublewide up on the hill, would calmly go to the closet, take out the shotgun, walk out back, and blow the bird clean out of the scrub oak.

But I digress.

Perhaps Job’s friends were simply warm, personal enemies. Their goading helped him process his relationship with God. Their snarkiness provoked him to keep talking, thinking, resisting.

Perhaps they functioned something like personal trainers. I hear about them from women in our church. Hard taskmasters in resistance training who MAKE you do hundreds of lunges, lift unliftable weights, swing bags of sand around for . . . some reason, run in place for-ever!

But the girls keep returning to the gym for more pain. And muscle-building.

I love the way Job keeps gritting his teeth and hanging on.                                                              

I will never admit you are in the right. Till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it. 27:5-6

So there, all you warm, personal enemies. Be mean as all get out. In your irritating way, you are helping provide clarity. Making it more certain that God’s up to something.

Sure as shootin’.

How have “enemies” or “resistance” in your life helped define you?

Job. No Doubt.

“It is better,” said French writer, Anatole France, “to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.”  

This observation seems particularly appropriate midway through a book of the Bible that sometimes feels like trying to swim through a vat of molasses.

We’re clear on the friends by now. Evidently they were all born without the compassion gene.

Then, suddenly, in chapter 19, Job provides for us one of the most familiar and moving passages in his story:

O, that my words could be recorded, O, that they could be inscribed on a monument, carved with an iron chisel and filled with lead, engraved forever in the rock.

What words, Job?

I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God. I will see Him for myself. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. How my heart longs within me.

It has been called one of the greatest Old Testament prophecies of the coming Redeemer.

This is no pseudo “word”, no faux “proclamation” made while prancing around on a massive stage under enormous klieg lights in a stadium filled with tens of thousands and broadcasting around the world via state-of-the-art media systems.

Oh, no. It is spoken in the rasping voice of a diseased and broken man. A real man. One who certainly has serious doubts and desperate questions about God’s reasons for allowing his calamities.

But about one thing there is no doubt. There is a living Redeemer. And Job, one day restored, will see Him.

It is our promise, too, of course. And sometimes it is comforting to simply stop and remember that there will be a day. There will be a day when we will stand before a Savior who loves us, who never permitted one thing that did not some way, somehow, work for our good.

No doubt.

In what ways has personal calamity intensified your faith?

                                                                                                    

Job. Critical Eye.

If you were to describe your personal outlook on life, what would it be? Are you generally pleased with what you see? Do you view everything (and everyone) through the lens of, shall we say, making improvements? Hmmm? 

A recent article by Maurilio Amorim got me thinking about this. And I confess to suffering from The Critical Eye. Things may be good, but they could be better.  And I know just how to get ‘er done.

My husband will confirm this, if pressed. Or just casually asked.

Amorim writes: “Constantly scanning the world for the negative comes with a great cost. It undercuts our creativity, raises our stress levels, and lowers our ability to accomplish goals.”

I’m not thrilled with this information. Of course, we (people like me – you know how you are) would not describe ourselves as negative. Rather, we are constructive. Making things better. Mending. Reforming. Enhancing.

Right.

As I read through the Book of Job, I cringe at the constructiveness of his “comforters,” which is a ridiculous description of these men who Won’t Shut Up. A favorite commentary describes them variously as “accusing, mocking, reproachful, rude.” Criticizers on steroids.

Maybe we’re not that critical, but I suspect we’ve all been close.

Borrowing from Amorim, here are some questions for when we feel an Attack of Disapproval coming on:

Have I considered the positive?  Regardless of the circumstances, there is always something to commend. And not as backhanded compliments, either. Job’s friends do this repeatedly throughout the book. And it’s cruel.

Do I have a servant’s heart?  If changes need to be made, help find solutions.  Rather than simply dwelling on some real or perceived misstep, sometimes it would be more useful to send someone after the livestock thieves (1:45-15).

Am I kind?  For those times when corrections should be suggested (or must be made), our words are to be seasoned with grace.  Job’s friends heaped up words against him. (16:4) Pitilessness and harshness? Let’s not participate in the shame of such things.

So, switch lenses. Grace for criticism. Lovingkindness (what a great word!) for dissatisfaction. Hopefully, we will increase our creativity, lower our stress levels, and enlarge our ability to accomplish our goals.

Job would be proud.

How would you describe yourself as being a critical person? More importantly, would others describe you this way? Would asking the questions above help in tweaking your perspective?

Job. Mirage.

I’ve long been fascinated by the story of the Titanic.  April 15th,  2012, marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of that mighty ship. Television specials included one on recreating the final meals served that fateful evening. (Why would we want to know this?)

Actually, a lot of new information and fantastic graphics have resulted from 33 on-site dives by director James Cameron and his team with their nifty remote rovers and state-of-the-art cameras. All you folks who saw the movie, Titanic, the first time helped fund this high-tech research.  And, by the way, the April issue of National Geographic has a stunning foldout on the ship’s tragic 2½ mile plunge to the bottom.

Then there was the 2 hour program on the work of English writer and historian, Tim Maltin. He was never satisfied with the theories as to why the lookouts on Titanic (who were not, by the way, issued binoculars) did not see the iceberg until 37 seconds before the ship struck it. A  300-foot gash through 6 watertight compartments sank the 46,000 ton vessel in less than 3 hours.

1492 souls perished.

It was a remarkably clear night, moonless, and brilliant with stars. Captain Edward Smith had remarked that the sea was “flat calm.”  While life lessons to be learned from this disaster will never be exhausted, I will quickly point out that:

1) Captain Smith had been receiving a steady stream of messages throughout the day from ships moving through the North Atlantic warning of icebergs,

2) speed was actually increased, making it likely Titanic would arrive earlier than expected in New York, a big deal in that era, and,

3) (you’ve heard this) there were 16 lifeboats for more than 2,200 passengers.

But, again, why was the iceberg not visible sooner?

Maltin began piecing together meteorological data. Titanic was moving into an area of the North Atlantic where the freezing water of the Labrador Current was pushing into the warm water of the Gulf Stream. Perfect conditions were now being created for a cold-water mirage, or refraction. This mirage would have “lifted” the horizon, cloaking an iceberg that should have been visible at least 30 minutes before impact.  It was, the captain of one ship said, “a most deceiving night,” making it impossible to see where sky ended and sea began.

I think about this while reading Job’s searing words in chapter 10:

Why have you brought me out of the womb? O, that I had perished and no one had seen me! Stop! Leave me alone, that I may take a little comfort before I go . . . to the land of darkness and the shadow of death, without any order . . . where even the light is like the darkness.

Job gazes across a dark, silent expanse of pain and sees an indistinct horizon. Suffering distorts his vision. Even death seems just a vaporous refraction. He won’t sink. But he’s in a tough place.

Are you willing to take an honest look at current conditions? 

Are difficult circumstances distorting your view of your future – which, in reality, you know is in God’s hands?

 

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