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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Job's Friends and the Gospel

Everyone loves a good ending to a story and Job’s story ends well. The Gospel is preached and God’s graces shines brightly.  

The Gospel is preached.
God deals with Job’s friends and their misrepresentations of His character by placing Job in the role of priest. He commands them to present themselves and their sacrifice to Job, “So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.” They did as God told them and God accepted Job’s prayer. 
Job’s story begins with an altar scene and concludes with an altar scene. Job recognizes the seriousness of sin and comes to God His way, through the shedding of the blood of the clean and innocent on behalf of the unclean and guilty. Job acted in faith and now, at the conclusion of his story, his friends come to God by faith in the substitutionary death of another. 
Job’s suffering is the vehicle through which the Gospel is proclaimed. 
God floods Job’s life with grace. 
It was after Job interceded on behalf of his friends that God restored and doubled his wealth, blessed him with more children, and allowed him to live for many more years. 
Job’s story teaches a number of truths about God, suffering, and human nature:
  • More takes place in the midst of our suffering than we can see and understand. God is all-knowing and good. We can trust Him.  
  • God uses suffering to reveal the heart of pride in man, to strip him of his pride, and to uncover inadequate and erroneous views entertained about God. 
  • Suffering offers evangelistic opportunities. 
Paul states the value of these stories of old, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). James also values Job’s story, “You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). 
Job’s story still speaks today. Through suffering. A sacred trust from God for His glory. He is good. He does good. 

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True Repentance

"Then Job answered the LORD: "I am unworthy--how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer--twice, but I will say no more" (Job 42:3-5).

Job's final chapter records the brokenness of Job; this brokenness, however, is not his ending, but rather his beginning. Whereas contemporary America begins and ends with the self (self-awareness, self-expression, and all the other "selfs-"), Job’s new beginning arises from a profound and experiential meeting with God, one that shatters his self-righteousness. Job no longer protests his integrity (27:5); now, he says, “I despise myself.” No longer does he seek to prove his righteousness; now, he confesses, “I repent in dust and ashes.”

Like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar, this experience redefines Job. He may be broken, but he is no longer bound by his suffering and his sin. He may despise himself, but he has now seen God (“Now my eyes have seen You”). This sight changes everything, for Job is a new man. He accepts a new calling as a priest for God to whom others sacrifice (42:8); he becomes the intercessor whose prayers avail for those who spoke ill of him (42:9).

Further, his selfless prayer for those who had wronged him turns a corner on his fortunes; after he prays for his friends, the LORD grants him prosperity: "And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends” (KJV). His captivity was broken, his prosperity and his health were restored, his family and friends were renewed, and the latter portion of his life experienced greater blessing than the former—even to the seeing of great-grandchildren!

What is true repentance? Job testifies that it is the profound turning to God from everything else, the complete shattering of confidence in self (self-righteousness, self-confidence, self-promotion). Every pretense at moral superiority is demolished. This true repentance only takes place when we encounter the living God, because only in the presence of the Almighty can we see ourselves as we are. This is why Peter says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,” when he saw Jesus’ works. This is why Paul says on the Damascus road, “Who are you, Lord? . . . What do you want me to do, Lord?” Seeing God changes everything.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Job 40:1-42:17
  • How does Job's first response to the Lord differ from his second response (40:3-5; 42:1-6)?
  • What does God say in His second response to Job that finally brings Job to such brokenness?
  • From where does God speak to Job (38:1; 40:6)?
  • What does the behemoth (think hippopotamus) teach Job about his limitations and God's omnipotence?
  • What does the leviathan (think large crocodile) teach Job about his limitations and God's omnipotence?
  • What has suffering taught Job about himself in the course of this story?
  • What has suffering taught Job about God in the course of this story?
  • What have you learned about yourself, God, and suffering through Job's story?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to bring people to your mind who've caused you pain during suffering by their lack of compassion and understanding. Forgive them and release them to the Lord. Ask the Lord to expose thoughts about God that you entertain that are unworthy of Him. As He brings them to mind simply turn to God in repentance.