Scripture Readings and my Bible Talk for October 28, 2018:
Job 42:1-6, 10-17
This month we’ve been reading about the trials Job experienced, and, like him, we’ve been trying to make some sense of all his tribulations – and maybe our trials too. To get a better understanding of what’s going on, the word “Trial” is key, because the book, which is one of the oldest in the Bible, begins with God’s holding a heavenly court that Satan attends.
The next thing we know, God and Satan are challenging one another in court by putting Job’s faith on trial. One devastation leads to another and another until Job has lost his herds, his children, his health, and his good standing among his friends and community. Even his wife tells him to give it up, curse God, and die!
Fortunately, Job doesn’t do that. He continues to say he’s done nothing wrong that he’s aware of and certainly nothing to deserve this terrible wreckage of everything he holds dear.
At first, his friends show empathy. They sit with him in silence for a whole week, saying nothing as Job mourns his life and losses. This seems totally right, for In such awful circumstances there’s really nothing to say. But being there matters.
Eventually, Job breaks the silence with a lengthy lament after which one of his friends asks if it’d be okay for him to say something. He does and a trial among friends begins. Job maintains his innocence, while his friends keep trying to get him to realize he must have done something wrong, and if he’d just remember and confess, everything would surely get better, and they could all go home.
In defense of Job’s friends, the truth is that much of what they say is good counsel, particularly for the times and understanding of God. The problem is, their advice just does not apply to Job’s situation. So, in a way, the friends themselves are on trial for lack of faith in Job and, maybe, for fear that strange and terrible things will also happen to them if they’re unable to solve the timeless mystery and perplexing question of why, God, why?
The debate continues with reasonable arguments on every side, but many chapters later, the mystery still has not been solved. Of course, none of the contestants knows there’s a trial going on in the heavenly court – a trial to test the sincerity of Job’s faith, but also a trial between good and evil, life and death.
Ironically, in this great debate, God Himself is on trial! In essence, Satan accuses God of buying faith and loyalty with bunches of blessings, such as He’s given Job. Another irony, perhaps, is that God has faith in Job’s faith!
Think of it! Job’s friends betrayed him by not believing in him, even though Job himself continued to believe in God. But amazingly, God allowed these trials because God had faith in Job! God believed in Job!
As Job faces the temporary nature of his life, health, wealth, and family versus the timelessness of God, He catches a glimpse of the court case that exists between time and eternity. How different those perspectives are! Confined by time and space, who can truly understand the infinite time and space of God?
At some point in the book – which challenges conventional thinking and the tendency to lock God into a box – Job realizes he needs a mediator, an advocate, a good lawyer – someone to stand between himself and God and plead his case with understanding and empathy.
Centuries later, God’s own Son Jesus became that Advocate for us – the Perfect Mediator between us and our Holy God. For Job though, there was no advocate but himself. And then, ironically again, God appointed Job to be the advocate for his friends. As our reading in Job 42:10 tells us, God restored Job’s family, flocks, and fortunes once he had forgiven and prayed for his friends. Job became the mediator between them and God as he interceded for them in prayer.
The mystery of God is never completely solved for Job or for us, nor can it be, but, like Job, we can see that God’s ways are not the same as ours – God’s ways are far higher, all-seeing, and infinite while our lives are boxed in by time and space. God is interested in results for eternity, not just solutions to present-day problems. And so, we might say, eternity is on trial with time!
The important thing, though, is that when Job sees God he no longer focuses on his own circumstances. The pain and loss no longer seem endless for matter doesn’t matter in infinity.
What remains? Faith. Hope. Love. And ongoing fellowship and communion with God.
Although Job didn’t have the opportunity to meet Christ, he believed – as did the psalmist who wrote today’s reading in Psalm 34, which says, “the Lord redeems the life of God’s people, and no one who takes refuge in God will be condemned.”
But neither should we, who take refuge in God, condemn anyone else. As Job discovered, God wanted him to forgive his friends and restore their relationship by praying an intercessory prayer for them. If Job had refused, there’s a good chance his misery would not have improved, but he obeyed God’s request and, in turn, prayed for his friends, who had wronged him.
We, too, have wronged God. Everyone has. And so, we need the intercessory prayers of One Whose faith in God has been proven to be pure and firm. We need One Whose flawless life, given totally to God, makes our sacrifices puny and unnecessary. We need Jesus Christ, the One in Whom we take refuge to pray for us. And amazingly, He does!
As our reading in Hebrews says, Jesus Christ “is able for all times to save those who approach God through Him.” Jesus Christ, the Perfect Son of God the Father, died for us and now lives to intercede for us – always!
He is our Mediator, the One Whom Job wanted to be his advocate in the heavenly court room. But, thanks be to Christ, that courtroom no longer exists! That ancient trial between faith and doubt, life and death, good and evil was won for all forever when Christ overcame death.
Before this, however, Jesus “practiced law” by taking case after case to court. He put illness on trial and won health for us. He put all kinds of oppression on trial and won our freedom. He even put nature on trial and calmed the winds and seas. Today’s reading in the Gospel of Mark also shows an example of Jesus’ interceding for us when He put the loss of sight on trial and won our ability to see into spiritual matters that the world cannot see. This, too, was a trial of faith.
Consider, for instance, the blind beggar Bartimaeus sitting beside the road as Jesus walked by. When he heard the footsteps and the name of “Jesus,” Bartimaeus began to shout out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Mercy. That’s what Job kept wanting too – the mercy of God, the mercy of his friends, the mercy of townsfolk, the mercy of his wife! And even the most law-abiding of us also wants that. Mercy!
Jesus gave that gift to the blind man – just as God gave wondrously lavish gifts of restoration to Job. But again, the trial of faith first had to be won.
Even in the darkest, loneliest, most skin-scratchingest miserable time, Job’s faith won out! And the faith of Bartimaeus won too. Look again at Mark 10 and see what happens: The blind man hollers at Jesus. Jesus stops in His tracks and calls the man – a blind man who cannot see anything – to come to Him! And Bartimaeus does!
That alone would show faith at work, but according to the Gospel account, the blind man tossed aside his cloak – the one article of clothing that kept him warm. Undoubtedly, that cloak also had some type of pocket or little bag used to hold the coins he received from begging. But Bartimaeus didn’t care! His faith in Jesus’ ability to heal – Jesus’ desire to heal – was so strong that his most necessary possession no longer meant anything to him. The blind man sprang to his feet, threw off his cloak, and came to Jesus, merely by following the sound of the Lord’s voice.
Notice, too, how Jesus ignored the crowd and spoke directly to Bartimaeus, asking him what seems quite obvious. Jesus asked a blind man, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
Didn’t Jesus already know what the man wanted? Of course, He knew! But Bartimaeus needed to put his deepest desire into words, into prayer — and put his faith into action — as he said, “Lord, I want to see.”
Faith comes by hearing.
Hearing comes by The Word of God.
Jesus is The Word of God made manifest on earth.
Today we can hear that word by reading and studying the Bible and listening for God’s response to our unique needs.
Faith also deepens and strengthens as we hear Jesus’ voice echoing throughout Holy Scripture but speaking most clearly in the Gospels. And when we’ve heard and, in faith, believed that Jesus Christ, indeed, is our Savior, our Lawyer, our Advocate, our Mediator, our Intercessor, our Way to spiritual life, we’re ready to toss aside everything else as we walk – faithfully, but sometimes blindly – toward the Lord.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for seeing us! Thank You for knowing our needs yet graciously asking us, “What would you like for Me to do for you?”
Help us to respond to You in faith, truth, and sincerity, and be ready to accept Your forgiveness, healing, and restoration of us and the many relationships in our lives. Draw us closer to You, Lord. Help us to trust You to take care of us. Help us to see You clearly, worship You, and follow Your way for us in Jesus’ name, amen.