Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday - Psalm 4 - When God Smiles

n this Psalm David speaks of the gracious goodness and kindness of God upon His children.  In verse 1 he speaks of how God helped him to find some room to breathe when he was in distress.  In verse 3 David speaks of how comforting it is to know that one belongs to God.  Then he adds more about the things that only God can permanently provide for the hungry human heart: gladness, peace, rest and safety.  These are things which we all crave.  But, we aren't supposed to seek after those things; we are supposed to seek after God... those good things are secondary byproducts and blessings of the great find, which is God Himself (Genesis 15:1 & Matthew 6:33).

When David reflected upon the goodness and marvelous generosity of God, he had to ask: "When will men see the light?  When will men turn from empty things and lies to the God of heaven?"  (Psalm 4:2 & 4).  Truly, good things come ONLY from the Lord (James 1:17).

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday - Psalm 3 - Peace in the Midst of a Storm

rom the Psalms on through Malachi, we have to place everything in the context of one of the books which we have already read.  It is important to try to maintain a basic timeline in your mind running from creation to the flood to the tower of Babel to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, the judges, David, Solomon, the divided kingdom of Israel, the invasions of the Assyrians and Babylonians, the years of exile and the return of a remnant of the Jews to Palestine.

For Psalm 3 we have to travel back to the middle of II Samuel to the days when David's adult son Absalom stole his father's throne.  Most of the nation of Israel followed Absalom.  Many of David's advisors and followers turned against him and helped to push him out of Jerusalem.  How lowly and defeated David must have felt!  Psalm 3:1 shows us that David was deeply frustrated at both the success and the quantity of his enemies.  Men who should have been loyal to him; who should have encouraged him, supported him and lifted him up were instead convinced that he was washed up and done (Psalm 3:2).

Notice that 3 times in 8 short verses David inserts the word "Selah" denoting a necessary pause in the music. His sadness was so heavy that he added this time to meditate and to take in the solemnity of his dilemma.  And why not?  Verse 6 indicates that he had tens of thousands (plural) of people who were out to get him. 

To David's credit, he devotes only 2 verses to his problem and the other 6 verses he spends describing the faithfulness of God.  His faith was in God.  God was his protector, sustainer, helper, defender and savior. Because of God’s grace, David could sleep peacefully despite his great troubles (Psalm 3:5 & 127:2).

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday - Psalm 2 - The King of Kings

lthough there are many similarities in all of these old Hebrew songs, in many ways each one can stand alone as well.  There can be major swings and shifts in theme, focus and attitude from one Psalm to the next.  But Psalm 1 does lead naturally into Psalm 2.  Psalm 1 was about the blessedness of the saints and the inevitably dismal demise of the wicked.  So, with that reminder fresh in our memory, we read the Psalmist's question, "Why do the heathen rage?"  They think they can stand up against God and succeed? Not gonna' happen!

There are distinct prophetic, messianic and soteriological intonations in this Psalm.  Verses 1-3 could apply generally to the world's philosophy throughout the ages, or there are several specific and significant occasions where it applies precisely.  At either the first or the second (especially the second) advent of Christ, it can be seen that the powers of Babel's domain connive, collaborate and conspire against God and against His Son.

When will the anointed one (the Son of God) break the heathen with a rod of iron? He will do it on the great and final day when He comes to set all things in order.  We will rule and reign with Him on that day and for 1000 years thereafter.  The same God who now gladly hears and answers cries for mercy will then only shake His head and laugh in mocking disregard at the calamity of the condemned (Psalm 2:4).  He will receive glory, but no pleasure, in the destruction of His enemies... but most significantly, He will act in anger with justice; no longer in love with mercy (Psalm 2:5 & 12).  So, wise up!  Heed instruction!  Serve God!  Fear God!  Kiss the Son!  Trust in Him (Psalm 2:10-12)!  He is the King of kings, worthy of both worship and fear.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday - Psalm 1 - Are You Delighted?

eremiah 17:5-10 is in many ways a sister to this passage.  But, while David's focus was on "delighting in the law of God" Jeremiah's focus will be on trusting God.  Of course, the 2 things go inseparably together (Romans 10:17), but they are not synonyms. God's Word can and should cultivate faith in us.  And, as our faith increases, so too will the hunger which we have for God's truth. 

But for now, the purpose of Psalm 1 is obviously to point out the distinct difference between the destiny of the righteous and the fate of the ungodly.  All of God's children are righteous children... not because we do right all of the time, but because we have been regenerated.  We have been adopted into God's righteous family.  His righteousness has become our surname.  And yes, naturally, we should strive to live in agreement with our tag (II Timothy 2:19).  So anyway, this 6 verse Hebrew poem describes in part how a child of God is supposed to behave, as well as the common experience of those of us who submit to God.

It can't be accidental that we find this Psalm right on the heels of Job's biography in the canon of Scripture.  Imagine if Job had written Psalm 1 on his deathbed... affirming the blessedness of the saints, despite his exceptional experience.  It wouldn't have been out of place at all.  So, after riding the choppy waves of the book of Job, it's refreshing to stand again on the solid ground of Psalm chapter one.  Whether sooner or later: God's faithful children will become solidly fruitful trees; while those who remain as the devil's offspring will be taken out of the way like dead leaves in the wind.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday - Job 42 - Restoration

ho exactly was God rebuking in Job 38:2. Was it Elihu who spoke words without knowledge? Was it Job's friends, or Job?  Really it was all of them, but who was God rebuking directly? Obviously, according to Job 42:3, Job considered himself to be the culprit. What wonderful humility the majesty of God produced in this man of God (Job 42:2, 5-6).  And so, the thing that God had set out to accomplish had been accomplished. Satan had been proved wrong about Job. Job had been proved sincere in his love for God. And, the wisdom and worthiness of God had once again been reiterated.

Now, although the pressure of the religious drama had ended, the actions and results of the drama continued on. God soundly rebuked Job's 3 old friends for their errors in judgment and speech. They were to make sacrifices before the Lord and to ask Job to pray for them. This same man whom they had accused of unmentionable secret sins was to be their intercessor and priest.

Notice Job's end though. First, God commended Job's words (Job 42:7). He helped Job get his eyes off of himself and onto God and others (Job 42:8). As he prayed for his friends, God accepted Job (don't lose sight of the significance of that - see Job 42:9-10). And God restored to Job as much as he had possessed before... and then added that much again. In every category, Job's success and prosperity was multiplied. Job 42:15-17 closes Job's biography with him smiling from ear to ear, blessed and extravagantly loved by God.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday - Job 41 - A Great Dragon

fter reading Job 41, all of us who are Bible believers must conclude that dragons were not just mythological creatures. This chapter gives many descriptive details about a creature that was known in Job's time; perhaps it is extinct today. It was some kind of amphibious sea dragon that had impregnable might in its habitat. Some speculate that this was a plesiosaurus, a crocodile or an ancient snake of some kind... but there is much about its description that those simple guesses just will not satisfy.

Consider this beast, Leviathan. He couldn't be caught with bait and a hook. He couldn't be tamed. He couldn't be eaten and there was no market for his parts. His hide was impenetrable. Just his presence was fearsome. He had powerful jaws, ferocious teeth, scaly armor, bioluminescent eyes and chemically combustive breath... wow! He had powerful muscles and fearless instincts. If Behemoth was king of the land (see Job 40) then Leviathan was certainly king of the sea.

But, tucked neatly away in this closing argument from God is a comparison between the creature (Leviathan) and the Creator... that is, the God who made him. After being very complementary about the animal, He ends this section by challenging Job to consider what his human limitations would be in a confrontation with Leviathan... much more in a confrontation with God (Job 41:10-11).

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday - Job 40 - A Little Anthropology... and Paleontology

evisit Job 35:2 where Elihu asked Job, "Do you think this is right, that you said, 'My righteousness is more than God's?"'  Maybe that question sounded like overkill and overzealous judgment coming from the mouth of Elihu, but Job 40:2 & 8 both give us good reason to believe that although Elihu was young (and although he didn't have everything figured out just right), his concern for Job was directionally well aimed. Here it is recorded that God said, "Shall he that contends with the Almighty instruct Him? "  And, " Will you condemn me, that you may be righteous?"  Yikes!  Sounds like Elihu may have been a forerunner for God after all.

Even Job's first response to God seems to me to generally be what Elihu hoped to elicit. In Job 34:31-32 we can find what Elihu seemed to be trying to pull forth from the heart of Job, "Surely it is meet to be said unto God, 'I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more: that which I see not teach Thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more." God is perfect, and we are not. Our responses to Him always properly include humility and contrition. And, no matter how certain we may be about our relative innocence, we never have a right to accuse God or to excuse ourselves... or to defend ourselves against God. So, what did Job squeak out while God paused for a moment? "I am vile. I will say nothing else" (see also Ecclesiastes 5:2).

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thursday - Job 39 - Theological Zoology

bviously, God expects us to learn about His power and ways by looking at creation. Nature is one of the slates upon which God continually etches revelations about Himself. In this chapter we read that God took Job through a zoo (so to speak) and gave him a pop quiz on the animal kingdom. He showed Job wild goats, deer, wild donkeys, unicorns (rhinoceros perhaps?), peacocks, an ostrich, a horse, a hawk, an eagle... and He even pointed out a grasshopper, for contrast. But this hike wasn't for entertainment or distraction. God questioned Job specifically about His knowledge of Zoology and about what power he (Job) might have to make or care for all of these animals and more. But, don't focus on the animals so much; focus on the God who made them.

Notice the questions God was asking Job: Do you know? Can you predict? Can you count things before they exist? Who did this? Can you tame? Can you control? Could you guide? Did you give? Could you teach? Do you have power over? In every case Job had to bow lower and lower admitting that all of these things were beyond him... beyond his power to understand; to examine; to do. And again, just as with the weather and such in part one of God's speech, here Job had to be humbled as he had his perspective adjusted in a major way.

So, while we all justly admire Job and his patience and piety, let us reserve our deepest admiration for the One who made Job, tried Job and protected Job. The great one is God. Perhaps the book could have been called "God" ... instead of "Job" ... in a way such a title would have been much more accurate.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday - Job 38 - There is so Much that You Don't Know

n response to all that Job and his companions had postulated, God finally steps forth onto the scene and provides Job with some much-needed perspective. Using science and nature, God proceeded to make one great point to Job. He was (and his friends were) not wise enough, old enough nor strong enough to try to play God. The list of things that they did not know was infinitely longer than the list of things that they did know. And, the list of things that they could not do, the places they had not been and the days they had not seen was gargantuan beside their meager experiences. Essentially, God was asking, "Who in the world do you guys think you are?" As if they could analyze and advise the Almighty? Of course, His point was perfect in both timing and in substance. Everything God says and does is perfect.

So, using a wide variety of observable phenomena, God begins to adjust Job's mindset. He takes Job on an imaginary journey to many very real places: the day when He created the universe, the day when He caused dry land to appear, the day when He started the earth to spinning and the day when He made the sun to shine on this planet for the first time. God described in interrogative form the bottom of the oceans, the experience of death, the circumference of the globe, the nature of light, the intricacies of precipitation, the pattern of lightning, the life cycle in untamed wildernesses, the mysteries of astronomy, the incredible power of the human mind and the fragility of the food chain.

But, of all of the questions God posed to Job in this chapter, my favorite one is found in Job 38:37 where God asks Job if he could even count the clouds. That question swells to an insurmountable and ridiculous proposition... for us. But, not for God.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday - Job 37 - Elihu Concludes

ummary: God is mighty and just (fair; or better than fair... generous). Elihu may have gotten many things right, but perhaps he crossed a line into a hypothetical land of sugar and spice in Job 37:23 when he stated that God "will not afflict" ...that is: abase, hurt or do violence to His children. Really? I'll admit that He doesn't enjoy it, but affliction is far too prevalent and useful for anyone to claim that God doesn't use it. Lamentations 3:33 says, "He does not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men" (see also Ezekiel 18:32 & 33:11). But reticence and reluctance to unleash damaging pressure is very far from refusing to use it altogether. Nobody could read our Bible with objective simplicity and imagine that the God of the Bible stops short in allowing and using affliction to teach and even to destroy.

For 2 dozen verses (in this chapter) Elihu speaks about how God uses the weather to accomplish His purposes... sometimes as a blessing; at other times, a curse (Job 37:13). Much of what he says seems to have merit, but his line about affliction misses the mark. God had originally initiated the conversation with Lucifer about Job... knowing all along what would become of that exchange. And, there was not even one thing done by Lucifer that wasn't allowed by God. So, whatever you take the beginning of the next chapter to mean in relation to Elihu, it seems easy enough to figure out that in this one place at the end of his speech, he missed the mark.