Tuesday, April 16 2013
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth” (Job 19:25 NKJV).
When tragedy strikes close to home, or in your home, God can seem silent and far away. We ask: “Where is He now… when we need Him the most?” “Why would He allow this to happen?” “Why won’t He answer us?” We don’t understand, we want answers, and we question God. We want to understand why, and we know that He has the answer. We are searching for wisdom in all of the tragedy and we can’t find it. What if God is answering us, and we cannot hear Him?
Job is a man who is certainly no stranger to this kind of tragedy and pain. After losing everything he owned to thieves and fire, all of his servants to the sword, all of his 10 children to a “freak” windstorm, and finally his health, he cried out from the ashes (some translations say “dung hill”): “May the day perish on which I was born, and the night in which it was said, ‘A male child is conceived’” (Job 3:3 NKJV). Have you ever been to the place of wishing you were never born, or wishing that God would just let you die? If so, you are in great company.
Job could not understand why these things had happened to him, but through it all he never cursed God from his lips. He kept his integrity (faithfulness toward God) throughout all of his suffering, and even when his ‘friends’ tell him that he has lost his integrity because of the calamity he had suffered, he exclaims: “As God lives, who has taken away my justice, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter; as long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. Far be it from me that I should say you are right; till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me as long as I live.” (Job 27:2-6 NKJV)
Job never lost his integrity, but what he had lost was his understanding – or maybe he never had it. He could not comprehend why these things would happen to him. He lacked the wisdom he needed to gain that understanding. In his discourse in Chapter 28, Job talks about all of the precious metals – gold, silver, copper and the like, and how man finds those metals deep in the earth in places well hidden. Man is able to find those metals and do great things with them. But then Job gets to ‘wisdom’ and ‘understanding’ and says these words in verses 12 to 15 of Chapter 28: “But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ It cannot be purchased for gold, nor can silver be weighed for its price.” And Job continues on in verses 16 through 19 until he asks a very important question in verse 20: “From where then does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding?”
As all of us do, Job desperately wants to know where wisdom comes from, and the place of understanding – that place of understanding where we find peace in the midst of great chaos and brokenness caused by the horrible tragedies we suffer. We want so desperately to understand it. Yet, we cannot… or can we? After all of his discourse in Chapter 28, Job comes to the point, and ultimately the answer to his question of where he can find wisdom: “It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air. Destruction and Death say, ‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’ God understands its way, and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heavens, to establish a weight for the wind, and apportion the waters by measure. When He made a law for the rain, and a path for the thunderbolt, then He saw wisdom and declared it; He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out. And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.’”
There it is, right in front of our Christian eyes, yet we flail about as a people without understanding when underserved suffering comes upon us. We act as though God somehow has lost control, and now everything is out of place in the world. This is the lesson of Job that God has given us: We can find wisdom and come to the place of understanding that leads to the peace of God in the severest of trials – even if those trials are ‘undeserved’ as they were in Job’s case. And just in case we miss it in the example of Job, here are a few more:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.” (Psalm 111:10 NKJV).
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7 NKJV)
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NKJV)
“How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” (Proverbs 16:16 NKJV).
In the first few verses of the Book of Proverbs, God tells us through Solomon that this Book was written for the purpose of gaining wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. That would be a good Book to spend some time in if you are looking to find wisdom and the place of understanding.
Back to Job: In his agony, Job discovers the place where wisdom and understanding are hidden. They are hidden in God. To fear (know, reverence, and be faithful toward) God is where you will begin to find wisdom, and to obey his commandments (His Word) is where you will find the place of understanding. Another great truth that Job states in Job 28:24-25 is that God’s wisdom can be found in the creation that He has made. If you are having trouble coming to the knowledge of God and His wisdom, just look at creation. “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens” (Proverbs 3:19 NKJV); and again: “He has made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, and stretched out the heaven(s) by His understanding. (Jeremiah 51:15 NKJV). This is confirmed to us in the New Testament: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20 NKJV). God’s wisdom is in the creation that He has made. The creation will teach you about God and His eternal power, which in turn will lead you to the place of understanding. When we speak of the Godhead, (Romans 1:20), we are speaking of Jesus Christ, because “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 1:19 and 2:9), and furthermore, in Christ is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). And, since it is clear now that one of the ways we can find wisdom is in the creation of God, remember that “all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3 NKJV), and “by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16 NKJV). In summary, if we want to find wisdom that leads to knowledge that in turn will take us to the place of understanding, we get it from: 1) creation, 2) the Word of God, and 3) Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of the Godhead. Jesus is the Creator and Jesus is the Word. Jesus is all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28; Ephesians 1:23).
Another thing we can learn from the story of Job, is that we can discover the great truths of God as he did in the midst of severe pain and anguish. Job exclaims these truths out of his agony, and at one point he says this: “Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth” (Job 19:23-25). Well, God granted that request. Not only will Job’s words live forever, so will his story. By the way, so will our stories as God’s children. Our testimonies will live forever, and glorify God in that process because “God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name” (Hebrews 6:10); and we have overcome the accuser of our souls “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony” (Revelation 12:11). Not only we will live forever as children of our Father in Heaven, so will our testimonies.
And so, not only will Job’s words and story live forever, so does our Redeemer, and that is where we will get the peace we want so badly. It’s in Jesus Christ that we in find wisdom and the place of understanding in our darkest hours – and that leads to the peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Job knew his Redeemer was alive and would stand on earth one day, and He has. He came the first time as our Redeemer to save us, and the next time He comes, He will come as King and Lord, and we will reign with Him forever and ever, because He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14 and 19:16).
Job’s story doesn’t end with suffering, and neither will ours. At the time it happened, Job had no idea that the hedge of protection from God was removed and that God had given Satan permission to cause him pain. He didn’t know that Satan had “incited God against him, to destroy him without cause” (Job 2:3). Nor did Job know that all of this was allowed in an effort of Satan to cause Job to curse God with his lips – which Job never did. As always, God has a plan, as He had for Job. In the end, Job exclaims this: “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:2-6 NKJV). In the end, Job found what he was searching for with all his heart. He found God’s wisdom and His place of understanding and these both showed him that, 1) God can do anything; 2) God had a plan in all of the suffering, and that no plan of His can be stopped, 3) he spoke the truth of God without knowledge and understanding, and that only God can reveal His truth, and 4) he not only proclaimed that his Redeemer lives, he got to see Him with his own eyes. God answered all of Job’s desires, except for one: God never told Job specifically what had happened between Him and Satan that caused all of his troubles. Job would find out about that in eternity. After Job gains all of this wisdom and understanding of God he says this: “Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” That is how God works in our lives. Every time we find the wisdom of God, and come to the place of His understanding, we repent in dust and ashes.
Perhaps God pulls back His hedge of protection in our lives from time to time, and allows suffering so that we will come to the same place of repentance that Job did. Perhaps God is doing that to America right now. God always calls us back to Himself, and he often times uses suffering and tragedy to do it. All we need is to find a little Godly wisdom, and come to the place of His understanding, and we will repent (turn to Him). Perhaps America will return to God, and perhaps not. But as for the Christian there is great news, just as there was for Job. We will get a “double portion” of blessings and then some. Yes, we will suffer for Christ here on earth, but God has a reward waiting for us that we cannot even fathom in our finite minds.
And remember this: We only have this life to suffer for Christ. There is no suffering in the place we are going on to – that Heavenly country (Hebrews 11:12-16). We will be with Him forever someday, seeing Him face to face, “and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 NKJV). He makes “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
So let me remind you, as I remind myself: In the midst our pain, agony, suffering, and tragedies, our “Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth” (Job 19:25 NKJV).
Amen, and the Peace of the Lord be with you.
Thursday, April 11 2013
What to do - when the plan of God for our lives seems to be thwarted; when tribulation comes and it seems as though it will never end?