Job 28-29

An “I” Exam

“But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding? Job 28:21 NLT

Chapters 28 and 29 are an interesting contrast. Both are the words of Job, but they reflect two extremely different views or outlooks. In chapter 28, Job asks and answers the question, “Do people know where to find wisdom?” We may be able to mine precious metals from the depths of the earth, but we don’t have the foggiest idea where to find wisdom. It eludes us and remains a mystery to us no matter how hard we search for it. But “God surely knows where it can be found, for he looks throughout the whole earth, under all the heavens. He made the winds blow and determined how much rain should fall. He made the laws of the rain and prepared a path for the lightning. Then, when he had done all this, he saw wisdom and measured it. He established it and examined it thoroughly. And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding'” (Job 28:23-28 NLT). God knows where wisdom can be found, because He is its source. And when we begin fear of Him is when we will find wisdom. Solomon put it this way: “Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1;& NLT). The problem that Job and his friends faced was a lack of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of the ways of God. None of them truly understood what was going on. They could only guess as to what was the cause of Jobs distress. Job’s friends blamed it on some hidden sin in his life. Job blamed it on God’s abandonment of him. But they lacked wisdom. Job seemed to know that, which is what is reflected in his speech in chapter 28. He seemed to know that the fear of God is where he would find wisdom.

But then there’s chapter 29. In this speech Job suddenly reflects a perspective that many of us have. He took his eyes off of God and focused on himself. Depending on the translation you are reading, there are upwards of 40 uses of the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” or “my” in the speech. Job develops a serious “I” problem. He can’t keep his eyes off of himself and his problem. He dwells on the past. He focuses on the way things were. He recalls how good he used to have it. He sort of brags about all his accomplishments. He longs for things to go back to the way they were. Now, I don’t particularly blame him, but he seems to lose his fear of the Lord. Like his friends, he starts to make some unwise conclusions. His speech wrongly infers that God is no longer watching over him. He seems to believe that God is no longer his friend and that God is no longer with him. All based on his circumstances. He still maintains his innocence, but he blames his condition on God because He had abandoned him.

Job wanted his honor back. He wanted to be respected once again. He wanted to be remembered for all the good he used to do. He missed the respect he used to garner for all his good deeds and acts of kindness. There’s no doubt that Job had lost a lot. And I don’t blame him for wanting things to be the way they used to be. But when he turned his attention to himself, he lost his focus on God. Reminiscing was not going to change anything and it was not going to provide him with any answers to his questions or comfort for his pain. That would only come as he turned his attention to God. He alone had he answers Job was looking for. He alone could provide the comfort Job was seeking. Whenever we get myopic and focus on ourselves, we lose sight of God. Turn to Him. Fear Him. Seek Him. “For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of good sense to the godly. He is their shield, protecting those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of justice and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will know how to find the right course of action every time. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy” (Proverbs 2:6-10 NLT).

Father, I want and need wisdom. But I tend to seek it in all the wrong places. I look to myself and I look to others. Instead I need to seek it in You. I need to fear You. Not in a timid, cowering way, but out of awe, reverence and respect for Your power, majesty, and holiness. Rather than question You, I need to learn to trust You. Rather than whine and moan at You, I need to learn to thank You for the fact that You are in control of my life and my future. Help me get my focus off of me and put it on You. Because You alone grant wisdom. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Job 26-27

Too vast to grasp

“See, these are only the outskirts of his ways; and how small is that which comes to our ears about him! But the thunder of his acts of power is outside all knowledge. Job 26:14 BBE

God knows things we don’t know. His knowledge is far beyond anything we can comprehend. Just take a look at some of the Hubble Telescope images of the universe and the scope and size of God’s knowledge starts to become clear. Job seemed to know that without having ever seen what we have seen.

By his hand the north is stretched out in space, and the earth is hanging on nothing. By him the waters are shut up in his thick clouds, and the cloud does not give way under them. By him the face of his high seat is veiled, and his cloud stretched out over it. By him a circle is marked out on the face of the waters, to the limits of the light and the dark. – Job 26:7-10 BBE

Job tells his friends that while they seem to be speaking for God, they have no clue what God knows. They are presumptuous to think that they have figured out the ways of God. They make assumptions about Job’s guilt as if they know for sure what has taken place. But they don’t know. Only God does. We can’t understand the ways of God. Our understanding is limited. We can’t fully comprehend or explain what God does or why He does it. And He does not explain Himself to us. For Job, all he could rest on was his integrity. He stood firm on his innocence. “Let it be far from me! I will certainly not say that you are right! I will come to death before I give up my righteousness. I will keep it safe, and will not let it go: my heart has nothing to say against any part of my life” (Job 27:5-6 BBE). Job didn’t understand why he was suffering. He couldn’t explain it. All he knew was that he had done nothing wrong to deserve it. At the end of the day, all we can know about God is what He chooses to reveal about Himself to us. We see His aspects of His power and creativity in nature and within the world around us, but we can’t fully comprehend how it all works. We can look into the design of the human cell and appreciate its intricacy and complexity, but we can’t explain how God made it. There is so much about God that we don’t understand. But we do know that He is powerful. We do know that He is loving. We do know that He is sovereign, and righteous, and just, and always watching. Job knew these things and he rested in them. Knowing these things did not stop his pain or eliminate his suffering, but it gave him some sense of hope in the midst of it all. Job’s approach to his situation is similar to that of the Psalmist.

I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me.” But as I stood there in silence — not even speaking of good things — the turmoil within me grew worse. The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words: “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” – Psalms 39:1-7 NLT

My only hope is in You. Is God where you put your hope? Is He the first place you turn to in times of trouble? There is much about life we will never understand, but we can know that God is faithful, just, righteous, merciful, powerful, and completely in control of any and all circumstances. We can trust Him.

Father, I want to trust You, but I struggle so often with wanting to understand first. I want to have everything explained to me, THEN I’ll trust You. But You don’t explain Yourself to me. You don’t justify Your actions to me. Part of trusting You is learning to rely on You even thought I don’t understand You. You’ve never proven Yourself untrustworthy Lord. So I’m not sure why I struggle so much with trust. But thank You for your patience. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for Your faithfulness. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Job 24-25

Life is not fair

“From the city the dying groan, and the wounded cry out for help, but God charges no one with wrongdoing. Job 24:9-12 NET

The world we live in is anything but fair. Every day, people suffer injustices of all kinds. Children are born into families where they are unloved and abused. The powerful take advantage of the weak and defenseless. Corrupt governments deny the rights of their citizens. Individuals harm one another. People who have worked all their lives and saved to provide themselves with a decent retirement income, lose it all as the result of unethical corporate executives and greedy lenders. The same was true in Job’s day. In spite of his friends’ assertions that the wicked always face justice at the hand of God, Job argues that this isn’t necessarily so. Plenty of people in Job’s day seemed to walk away without a scratch in spite of their unethical and immoral behavior. “There are people out there getting by with murder–stealing and lying and cheating. They rip off the poor and exploit the unfortunate, push the helpless into the ditch, bully the weak so that they fear for their lives. The poor, like stray dogs and cats, scavenge for food in back alleys. They sort through the garbage of the rich, eke out survival on handouts. Homeless, they shiver through cold nights on the street; they’ve no place to lay their heads” (Job 24:2-7 MSG). This is reality. This is life in a fallen world.

It was true in Job’s day and it is true in ours. Job asks the obvious question: “Why doesn’t the Almighty open the court and bring judgment? Why must the godly wait for him in vain?” (Job 24:1 NLT). There are times we ask the same question. Why doesn’t God step in and do something. When we read news stories of abuse, neglect, corruption, murder, hatred and bigotry, we want to know where God is and why He isn’t doing something about it all. The truth is that the wicked don’t always suffer. Sometimes they actually get away with their actions and profit from their behavior. The innocent suffer while the wicked prosper. It happens all the time. We don’t like it. And we can’t explain it. And the fact is, God doesn’t seem to feel obligated to provide us with an explanation. But Job finds comfort in knowing that in the end, God will deal with all those who practice ungodliness. “But God drags away the mighty by his power; though they become established, they have no assurance of life. He may let them rest in a feeling of security, but his eyes are on their ways. For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone; they are brought low and gathered up like all others; they are cut off like ears of corn” (Job 24:22-24 NIV). His eyes are on their ways. He is watching them. He is not asleep or indifferent. God has His eye on them. And He will act – in His own good time. In the meantime, the righteous will suffer and the wicked will prosper. Christians will face persecution and even death at the hands of malicious governments. Innocent women and children will be sold into slavery or used to feed the insatiable desires of the world’s burgeoning sex trade. It’s unfair. It’s immoral. It’s offensive and reprehensible. But it does not mean God is out of control or lacking in interest. He is fully aware of what is going on. And one day, He will act. We can rest assured.

“But GOD hasn’t moved to the mountains; his holy address hasn’t changed. He’s in charge, as always, his eyes taking everything in, his eyelids unblinking, examining Adam’s unruly brood inside and out, not missing a thing. He tests the good and the bad alike; if anyone cheats, God’s outraged. Fail the test and you’re out, out in a hail of firestones, drinking from a canteen filled with hot desert wind. GOD’s business is putting things right; he loves getting the lines straight, setting us straight. Once we’re standing tall, we can look him straight in the eye” (Psalm 11:4-7 MSG).

Father, You see all. And You are just. One day You will make all things right. Give us patience to wait for Your perfect timing. In the meantime help us to be salt and light in the midst of a dark world. May we bring refreshment and hope to the thirsty and the hopeless. Life is not fair, but our God is just, righteous, and He will act. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Job 22-23

He sees me

“I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I turn to the south, but I cannot find him. But he knows where I am going. And when he has tested me like gold in a fire, he will pronounce me innocent. For I have stayed in God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. Job 23:9-11 NLT

Let’s face it. We can’t always understand what God is doing. His ways are sometimes mysterious and even frustrating. Like Job, we look for Him, but can’t seem to find Him anywhere. It is as if He is hidden from our sight. But Job makes a profound statement that should bring us assurance and comfort: “He knows where I am going.” One commentator says that this phrase could be translated, “He knows where to look for me.” Either way, it reveals the idea that God knows exactly what is going on in my life. He hasn’t lost sight of me for one moment. He doesn’t get distracted and turn His back on me, only to turn around and find Himself shocked at some unexpected change in my circumstances. No, God knows right where I am. In fact, He knows right where I’m going. He has a plan for my life and that plan includes what I am going through at the moment – even if it is something I don’t particularly enjoy or understand.

Job continues to claim his innocence. He declares that he has remained faithful to God and has treasured His words. But then Job states, “Nevertheless, his mind concerning me remains unchanged, and who can turn him from his purposes? Whatever he wants to do, he does. So he will do for me all he has planned. He controls my destiny” (Job 23:13-14 NLT). Job seems to understand that this is not all about his guilt or innocence. It is about the sovereign will of God for his life. God controls his destiny. What He has set out to do, He will do. Nothing Job does will change that. You can detect a little frustration in Job’s statement, and I don’t blame him. I have been there more often than I would care to admit. I have found myself frustrated by God’s plan for my life. Like Job, I know God is in control, and so I get frustrated that He can’t come up with a better scenario for my life than the one He has chosen. Sure, I know I contribute to my own problems by bad decisions and outright sin, but sometimes it just seems like things get all screwed up and I didn’t particularly do anything to “deserve” it. But that’s when I have to remind myself that God’s ways are perfect. And His love for me is perfect. He has my best in store for me. I am His child. He is my Father. And I can trust Him.

There are going to be days of darkness. Difficulties will come. Job knew that. In fact, he was in the middle of it. “Darkness is all around me; thick, impenetrable darkness is everywhere” (Job 23:17 NLT). He couldn’t see his hand in front of his face. He couldn’t see his God either. But he knew that God was in control. That was his hope in the midst of his hopelessness. And it should be ours as well. Our God is both powerful and merciful. And He sees us. Not only that, He loves us, and we are safely in His plan for us – no matter how the circumstances may appear.

Father, Your plan for me is perfect, but sometimes it is so hard to see, let alone understand. I feel like you are not there sometimes. I feel like I can’t find you. But You remind me that You can always see me. You never take Your eyes off of me. You hold me in the palm of Your hand. You love me and are looking out for me. Help me see You in the midst of my trials. Help me trust You in the middle of my scariest moments. I know you don’t have to explain Your ways to me, but help me to trust them. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Job 20-21

I beg to differ!

“The truth is that the wicked live to a good old age. They grow old and wealthy. They live to see their children grow to maturity, and they enjoy their grandchildren. Their homes are safe from every fear, and God does not punish them. Job 21:7-9 NLT

Job’s friends have a theology of consequences. Their arguments are based on their belief that Job’s circumstances are the obvious result of his sinful behavior. He is suffering the consequences of a life lived in sin. They take a look at his life and conclude that God must be punishing him. All of their speeches are based on this assumption. And the truth is, we can easily find ourselves doing the same thing. When we see someone suffering, we can easily jump to the conclusion that they have done something wrong and are being punished by God in some way. Many of us have the same you-reap-what-you-sow mentality. It creeps into our thinking and influences our views on life. For instance, if something negative happens in our day, we can quickly find ourselves asking the question, “What did I do wrong?” We can easily assume that we are suffering the consequences for some past action or thought. God must be punishing us for something we’ve done. And, if we’re not careful, we can just as easily view the sufferings or trials of others in the same way.

But Job points a very logical argument against this sin-has-consequences theology. He asks his accusers to take a look at the world around them and explain why it is that most wicked people don’t ever suffer the way Job has. In fact, they seem to thrive. Job points out that they tend to grow old and rich, and their kids grow up to enjoy the wealth they leave behind. From all appearances, there doesn’t seem to be any punishment from God on their lives. In spite of the fact that they tell God, “Go away. We want no part of you and your ways. Who is the Almighty, and why should we obey him? What good will it do us if we pray?” (Job 21:14-15 (NLT). These people don’t fear and respect God, but they don’t seem to suffer for it. Job knows his accusers well. He answers their objection before they have a chance. He knows they will say that while the wicked may not suffer in this life, their children will. God will punish their children for their sinful lives. But Job responds, “‘Well,’ you say, ‘at least God will punish their children!’ But I say that God should punish the ones who sin, not their children! Let them feel their own penalty” (Job 21:19-20 NLT).

You see, Job understood that life is not always easily explainable. We don’t know why some suffer and others do not. We don’t know why a massive earthquake strikes the island of Haiti and nowhere else. Sure, we can explain it geologically, but not theologically. We don’t know why one person suffers from cancer while another doesn’t. We don’t know why one couple loses their child in a car accident while another’s grows up and lives a long life. There are things we do not know. There are mysteries to life that we can’t explain. That is where faith comes in. That is where trust in a holy, mighty, all-knowing God comes in. Rather than turning to our conclusions, we must turn to Him. Even God Himself reminds us, “My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT). Job even asks his friends the question, “But who can teach a lesson to God, the supreme Judge?” (Job 21:22 NLT). Can we tell God how to run the world? Can we make assumptions about how God works? Can we judge based on circumstances and build an entire theology about God? We can, but we probably shouldn’t. Because we don’t know. And neither did Job’s friends. So rather than jump to conclusions about Job’s guilt, they should have stood by his side offering words of support, encouraging him to trust God, whether he ever understood what was going on or not. Because God’s ways are far beyond anything any of us could ever understand. But He can always be trusted.

Father, forgive me for reaching conclusion about You that are based solely on conjecture and poor conclusions based on consequences and nothing more. You are inexplicable and Your ways are always unquestionably right and good. Help me to look for You in any and all circumstances of life. Help me to see the good You are bringing about in my life and the lives of others – in spite of what I may see initially. Your ways are not my ways. Your plans are beyond me knowing and understanding, but they are always right and true. Thank You for that reminder and assurance. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Job 18-19

My Redeemer lives!

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. Job 18:25 NLT

What an incredible statement in the middle of incredibly difficult circumstances. Job is suffering inexplicably and unexpectedly. He is being relentlessly attacked and accused by his friends for his apparent wickedness. But in the midst of it all, he cries out, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” What is he saying? At the least, he is expressing belief in a God who will one day vindicate him and prove him as being innocent. It will be proved that his sufferings are not the result of sin and are not some form of divine punishment for wrongs done. Job knows that he will be redeemed in the end. He may die, but he will stand before the Lord with a new body and innocent of any wrong-doing. The word Job uses for “Redeemer” is  גָּאַל (gaal, “to redeem, protect, vindicate”). Listen to what the Net Bible study notes have to say about this rich word: “The word is well-known in the OT because of its identification as the kinsman-redeemer (see the Book of Ruth). This is the near kinsman who will pay off one’s debts, defend the family, avenge a killing, marry the widow of the deceased. The word ‘redeemer’ evokes the wrong connotation for people familiar with the NT alone; a translation of ‘Vindicator’ would capture the idea more. The concept might include the description of the mediator already introduced in Job 16:19, but surely here Job is thinking of God as his vindicator. The interesting point to be stressed here is that Job has said clearly that he sees no vindication in this life, that he is going to die. But he knows he will be vindicated, and even though he will die, his vindicator lives. The dilemma remains though: his distress lay in God’s hiding his face from him, and his vindication lay only in beholding God in peace.”

In the face of the unrelenting onslaught of his friends’ accusations, Job is anxious for someone to vindicate him (to clear, as from an accusation, imputation, suspicion, or the like: to vindicate someone’s honor). He is longing to have someone stand up for him and he knows that the only one who will do so is God Himself. Job pleads with his friends to show him mercy. “Have mercy on me, my friends, have mercy, for the hand of God has struck me” (Job 19:21 NLT). But they are not willing to show him mercy. So Job is left with God alone as his future source of hope and restoration. Job knows that he may very well die. But he believes that he will stand before God one day with a new body and a clean record. “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. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (Job 19:26-27 NLT). Job could face death because he believed in an eternity. He also believed in a God who would redeem him and restore him. As bad as his life was, Job could face it only because of his belief in God and his hope in an eternal destiny.

So what about us? How do we face the trials and tests of life? Where do we focus our attention? Yes, Job was fully aware of his suffering. He was not living some Pollyanna dream where he refused to face reality. He was in pain. He was suffering. But he kept going back to the only thing he could trust – God. There was a lot he didn’t understand about God and his own circumstances, but he did know that God was just, righteous, and merciful. He also knew that there was more to life than the here and now. There was a future life ahead of him and he was counting on it. It was there that his vindication would be completed. His honor would be restored. Even his body would be renewed. It was that belief that kept Job going in the face of extreme difficulty. And we have the same hope. We have a Redeemer who will one day vindicate us. He will welcome us into His presence as righteous, spotless, and completely sinless. We will have restored bodies and hearts that are free from sin. And in the last part of Job’s statement, I think we get a glimpse of the future reality of Christ’s triumphant return to earth as the conquering Messiah. “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last” (Job 19:25 NLT). There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return to earth, not to suffer and die, but to rule, restore, and reign. That is our hope. That is our future. That is why we can cry out along with Job, “I know my Redeemer lives!” He will set all things right. He will vindicate and avenge His own. We will be revealed to be what we have always claimed to be: God’s children.

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?
And who told the ocean you can only come this far?
And who showed the moon where to hide till evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
All of creation testifies
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives

The very same God
That spins things in orbit
Runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands that hold me when I’m broken
They conquered death to bring me victory

Now I know, my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know
My Redeemer

He lives
To take away my shame
And He lives
Forever I’ll proclaim
That the payment for my sins
Was the precious life He gave
And now He’s alive and
There’s an empty

And I know
My Redeemer lives
He lives
I know
My Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my Redeemer

I know
My Redeemer lives

©2009 Nicole Mullins

Father, thank You for the reminder that my Redeemer lives. And while I may not understand all that happens in this life, and I may not enjoy all that I encounter as I live my life, I can rest in the truth that my Redeemer really does live. And He is going to return for me some day. There is a day coming when I will stand before Your throne and my righteousness will be vindicated and my sinlessness will be validated. Help me keep my focus on that reality. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Job 16-17

We have an Advocate

“Even now my witness is in heaven. My advocate is there on high. My friends scorn me, but I pour out my tears to God. Oh, that someone would mediate between God and me, as a person mediates between friends. Job 16:19-21 NLT

There was a lot that Job didn’t know in the middle of all that was going on in his life. He didn’t know why he was suffering. He didn’t know why his friends were attacking him and accusing him of sins he had not committed. He didn’t know why all of his children had had to die. He didnt know what was going to happen to him. But he DID know one thing for sure: The answers to all of his questions and the solution to all of his problems was in heaven. He knew that his cries needed to be directed to God, not man. While men can and should provide comfort and support, that can’t ultimately solve life’s problems. Only God can.

Job cries out that God is his witness. Job may not understand why he is suffering, but he knows he is innocent and in the end, can count on God to testify to that fact. He is counting on it. In fact, he pleads that God would act as his mediator as well as his judge. He is asking God to perform both roles, because there is no one else he can count on. His friends think he is guilty. They wouldn’t even be good witnesses, let alone mediators. So Job is left with God as his sole source of comfort and support. Which is right where God wants us. He wants us to lean on Him and no one else. He wants us to come to Him and no one else.

The interesting thing is that, in spite of all Job’s uncertainty, he describes a relationship with God that each of us as believers enjoys because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, He is able to stand before God the Father as the One who met the requirements of the Law perfectly, lived a sinless life, could then act as the sinless sacrifice in our place, and pay the penalty that sin required: death. The result is that we have eternal life and Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father acting as our advocate and mediator. “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5 NLT). We have exactly what Job was asking and longing for – an advocate, a representative who stands before God and speaks on our behalf and defends our righteousness. Because when God looks at us, He does not see our sin, but He sees us covered with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are righteous in His eyes. And even when we do sin, Jesus acts as our advocate, reminding God the Father that the price for that sin has already been paid. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1 NASB).

Job inherently knew that God was the one to turn to in a time of need. He knew that God could be trusted to judge impartially and fairly. He knew that God was the only one who could be a reliable witness. Yes, Job was struggling with doubt and despair. He was questioning everything, but he knew that he could count on God in the end. How much more so should we? We have Jesus Christ as our advocate. He is our faithful representative, standing before God the Father and acting on our behalf, pleading our case before the throne of God. That is where we need to turn. That is who we need to trust. “For Christ has entered into heaven itself to appear now before God as our Advocate” (Hebrews 9:24 NLT).

Father, I can’t thank You enough for this reminder that I can come right into Your throne room with confidence that I am well represented by Jesus. He is my advocate, but He is also my sin substitute. I stand before You as sinless and holy, because of what He has done. When things take a turn for the worse in my life, I do not have to stand before You in fear, wondering if You are punishing me for some sin I have committed. My sins have all been paid for. The punishment has already been meted out and Your judgment has already been satisfied. Keep reminding me that I can turn to You and I can trust You to act favorably or propitiously on my behalf. You love me. I am Your child. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Job 14-15

The destructive power of words

“Those who live by their own rules, not God’s, can expect nothing but trouble, and the longer they live, the worse it gets. Job 15:20 MSG

Over in Proverbs 15:4, we find the words of Solomon that seem to have been written with Eliphaz and his friends in mind. “Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim” (The Message). In Psalm 140:3 he says, “They practice the sharp rhetoric of hate and hurt, speak venomous words that maim and kill” (The Message). As the dialogue continues between Job and his three “friends,” the rhetoric gets dialed up and the attacks on Job’s integrity get more intense. Eliphaz is now attacking Job with a vengeance. He seems frustrated at Job’s continued claims of innocence.

These guys are now on a mission to convince Job of his guilt and they will stop at nothing to accomplish their objective. Any concern they may have had for Job’s feelings are long gone. This has gotten personal. They know they are right and that Job is wrong. He just refuses to admit it. But they are not going to give up easily. They tell Job he is wicked, deceived, defiant, stubborn, and doomed if he doesn’t confess his guilt. They even go so far as to blame the destruction of Job’s children on his sinfulness. They attempt to soften it by using farming metaphors (shriveled weeds, a vine whose grapes are harvested before they are ripe, an olive tree that sheds its blossoms so the fruit cannot form, etc.), but the pain hurts just as bad. Now Job not only has to mourn the loss of all his children, he must listen to accusations that he is the one responsible for their deaths.

What can we learn from this? What lessons are there in this passage for us? The simple one seems to be the destructive power of our tongues. We can use them to encourage and heal or to discourage and do lasting harm. Sometimes we may not mean to hurt others with our words, but when we fail to think before we speak, we can end up doing lasting damage. Job’s friends could have used the advice of James: “My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19 NASB). They weren’t listening to Job and they didn’t seem to be interested in what God might have to say about the situation. They had already reached their conclusion. And when Job refused to agree with their assessment, they became angry. And their anger led to even harsher words for their suffering friend.

These exchanges between Job and his friends remind me of the remarkable power contained in my words. With them I can bring about blessing or cursing. I can use them to build up or tear down. I can speak words of kindness and compassion, or I can speak words of criticism and accusation. Job needed true friends who cared more for his heart than for their need to be right. He needed compassion, not correction. I am reminded of that famous passage from the pen of Solomon: “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth: A right time for birth and another for death, A right time to plant and another to reap, A right time to kill and another to heal, A right time to destroy and another to construct, A right time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer, A right time to make love and another to abstain, A right time to embrace and another to part, A right time to search and another to count your losses, A right time to hold on and another to let go, A right time to rip out and another to mend, A right time to shut up and another to speak up, A right time to love and another to hate, A right time to wage war and another to make peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9 MSG). There’s a right time for everything. And the time was right for Job’s friends to shut up, listen up, and lift up. May I learn to know the difference.

Father, give me the wisdom to know when the timing is right. And then give me the discernment to know what to say so that may words will be uplifting and edifying to those You bring across my path. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Job 12-13

Honest to God

“Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree that GOD is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand – Every living soul, yes, every breathing creature? Isn’t this all just common sense, as common as the sense of taste? Job 12:9-11 MSG

For Job, the idea that God was somehow responsible for his condition was a no-brainer. Whether or not God had caused it was not the issue. God was in control and so, ultimately, God was responsible. He could have prevented the disasters and disease that had impacted the life of Job, but He hadn’t. Job fully understood the power and might of God. He knew that God was providentially in control over the affairs of all men – rich and poor, strong and weak, righteous and unrighteous. Job goes on to say, “True wisdom and real power belong to God; from him we learn how to live, and also what to live for. If he tears something down, it’s down for good; if he locks people up, they’re locked up for good. If he holds back the rain, there’s a drought; if he lets it loose, there’s a flood. Strength and success belong to God; both deceived and deceiver must answer to him” (Job 12:13-15 MSG). Job knew that God alone had the answer to why he was suffering. He was convinced that it had nothing to do with his sin. Job’s friends kept blaming his condition on his sinfulness, but couldn’t tell him what he had done to deserve it. Job knew he was innocent, and he knew God knew he was innocent. So there had to be another reason for his suffering. And all he wanted was the chance to ask God face to face, so he tells his friends, “I’m taking my case straight to God Almighty; I’ve had it with you – I’m going directly to God” (Job 13:3 MSG). He was done listening to them and he tells them so, “You graffiti my life with lies. You’re a bunch of pompous quacks! I wish you’d shut your mouths–silence is your only claim to wisdom” (Job 13:4-5 MSG).

Job wants to go directly to the source of his hope and help – God Himself. His friends have proven to have poor bedside manners. They have been more hurtful than helpful. Job knows they can’t answer his questions or solve his problem. So he turns to God and asks, “Please, God, I have two requests; grant them so I’ll know I count with you: First, lay off the afflictions; the terror is too much for me. Second, address me directly so I can answer you, or let me speak and then you answer me” (Job 13:20-21 MSG). I love Job’s brutal honesty. He doesn’t hide his request with fancy “thees” and “thous.” He doesn’t mask his frustration with flowery prose or pious-sounding prayer-speak. He just tells God exactly what is on his heart. He asks for relief and answers.

What a reminder that we have a God who is big enough to handle our toughest questions. He can handle our frustration and the honest expression of them. In fact, I think God would rather have us honest with Him than to cover up our fears and frustrations with religious-sounding platitudes that we don’t believe or understand. In the middle of a trial when things are going severely wrong and your frustration is mounting, I don’t think God wants to hear you say, “Oh, Mighty God, maker of all things and ruler over all mankind, thank you for putting me through all this pain and suffering. Thank you for all the hurt and the heartache! You are a good God!” God knows our hearts. He knows what we are thinking. He wants us to confess what is on our heart to Him. He can handle our honesty, but He can’t stand our poor attempts at fake faithfulness. If we can give God a heart-felt “I trust You!,” so be it. But too often we express words to God that we don’t feel or believe. Job was telling God exactly what he was feeling. And tough times tend to make us more honest. During trials, it is harder to keep up the fake veneer of faithfulness. Job’s faith was being tested and he was looking for answers, for proof. So he turned to God.

Psalm 119 could have been written by Job. It is full of honest expressions of fear and frustration, doubt and disenchantment. But the writer of Psalms 119 knew he could turn to God and openly express his feelings. “I choose the true road to Somewhere, I post your road signs at every curve and corner. I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me; GOD, don’t let me down! I’ll run the course you lay out for me if you’ll just show me how. GOD, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course” (Psalms 119:30-33 MSG). Where do you turn in the tough times? Do you turn to God? Do you tell Him what you’re feeling or do you try and cover it up with pious-sounding words and false expressions of praise? Be honest with Him. Tell Him what’s on your heart. Share your hurts. Open up about your doubts. He can handle it.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Job 10-11

Good advice, gone bad

“If only he would tell you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom is not a simple matter. Listen! God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve! Job 11:6 NLT

Wow! What an encourager Zophar is. He steps into Job’s miserable life and offers up carefully chosen one-liners designed to shake Job out of his self-righteous self-denial and forice him to confess his obvious guilt. Zophar, like his friends before him, has taken a look at Job’s circumstances and concluded that Job has done something terribly wrong. He is being punished by God for his sins and all Job has to do is confess and turn back to God. God will forgive him and God will restore him.

Sounds great, but there’s only one problem. Job is innocent. He has done nothing wrong to deserve all that has happened to him. He has nothing to repent of. He is confused, hurt, alone, and suffering from unimaginable grief. And all he gets from his friends is accusations of his guilt. Zophar takes the rhetoric to a whole new level, accusing Job of being deceitful, evil, and witless. “Surely he [God] recognizes deceitful men; and when he sees evil, does he not take note? But a witless man can no more become wise than a wild donkey’s colt can be born a man” (Job 11:11-12 NIV). In Zophar’s mind, Job is nothing more than a dimwitted, stubborn sinner who refused to admit his guilt. In Zophar’s world, all pain and suffering was tied to sin. Righteous men don’t suffer. Good men don’t lose all their worldly wealth. Sinless men don’t have all their kids killed in a single freak accident. Therefore, Job was NOT a righteous man. Case closed.

But once again, Zophar didn’t have all the facts. He was operating off of conjecture and faulty conclusions. The one thing he should have known and somewhat assumed is that God is in control. But the issue was not whether God had caused what had happened to Job, it was that God was aware and that He cared. Zophar would have been much more help to Job if he had simply reminded Job that only God knew the real reason behind his suffering. So he needed to take his situation to God. Only God could help. If Job had sinned, God would reveal it to him. If Job was innocent, God would ultimately disclose the reason behind his suffering. Bottom line? There was a purpose behind it all. And God was behind the purpose.

In the midst of all his pain, Job knew that God was there. He called out to Him. He appealed to Him. He acknowledged that God had made him (Job 10:8-9). But Job was confused. He hung on to his innocence, but was having a hard time understanding why he was having to go through all this pain. He was going through a terrible time of questioning and doubt. He needed comfort and all he got was some pretty callous counseling. He needed empathy but all he got was impatient friends demanding that he confess. Job’s suffering was so intense that he longed for death. At this point in his life, he needed friends who would point him to the mercy, grace, and sovereign power of God. He needed guides to God, not the grand inquisition. He needed to be reminded that God loves him, not loathes him. The only remedy for anyone’s pain and heartache is God. We need to point them to Him.

When darkness falls
Temptations call
And all around me seems undone
You hear my pleas
Supply my needs
And tell me of Your wondrous love

You are the joy in my morning
You’re my song of praise
Just like the new day dawning
Flooding my world with grace

Though trials come
And every one
Can take me further from Your truth
You calm my fears
Dry all my tears
And draw me closer, Lord, to You

In You there’s no shadow of turning
Constant in all Your ways
You’re growing my faith
And I’m learning to lean
On You all of my days

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Ministries

Father, help me a friend that points others to you, instead of always trying to point out their faults or their sins. You alone know their hearts. You alone can heal their hurts. I am simply a guide who can show them the way back to You. In the midst of the pain that enters my life, may I always turn to You first. And when I find it hard to do, please bring friends into my life who will remind me of Your love, grace, and mercy. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men