God Can’t Always Be Understood, But He Can Always Be Trusted

1 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you observe the calving of the does?
Can you number the months that they fulfill,
    and do you know the time when they give birth,
when they crouch, bring forth their offspring,
    and are delivered of their young?
Their young ones become strong; they grow up in the open;
    they go out and do not return to them.

“Who has let the wild donkey go free?
    Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey,
to whom I have given the arid plain for his home
    and the salt land for his dwelling place?
He scorns the tumult of the city;
    he hears not the shouts of the driver.
He ranges the mountains as his pasture,
    and he searches after every green thing.

“Is the wild ox willing to serve you?
    Will he spend the night at your manger?
10 Can you bind him in the furrow with ropes,
    or will he harrow the valleys after you?
11 Will you depend on him because his strength is great,
    and will you leave to him your labor?
12 Do you have faith in him that he will return your grain
    and gather it to your threshing floor?

13 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly,
    but are they the pinions and plumage of love?
14 For she leaves her eggs to the earth
    and lets them be warmed on the ground,
15 forgetting that a foot may crush them
    and that the wild beast may trample them.
16 She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers;
    though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear,
17 because God has made her forget wisdom
    and given her no share in understanding.
18 When she rouses herself to flee,
    she laughs at the horse and his rider.

19 “Do you give the horse his might?
    Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
20 Do you make him leap like the locust?
    His majestic snorting is terrifying.
21 He paws in the valley and exults in his strength;
    he goes out to meet the weapons.
22 He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
    he does not turn back from the sword.
23 Upon him rattle the quiver,
    the flashing spear, and the javelin.
24 With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
    he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
25 When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’
    He smells the battle from afar,
    the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

26 “Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars
    and spreads his wings toward the south?
27 Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
    and makes his nest on high?
28 On the rock he dwells and makes his home,
    on the rocky crag and stronghold.
29 From there he spies out the prey;
    his eyes behold it from far away.
30 His young ones suck up blood,
    and where the slain are, there is he.” – Job 39:1-30 ESV

In His continuing lecture of Job, God points out that there are things that take place in nature of which humanity is totally oblivious and ignorant. These everyday occurrences escape man’s notice and happen without his knowledge or consent. For instance, the beasts of the field give birth to their young at prescribed times and in places hidden from Job’s view. But God observes and even oversees it all. The point seems to be that there are many things in life of which Job is uninformed and, frankly, disinterested. Job doesn’t have questions about those kinds of things because he doesn’t consider them pertinent or important.

God points out the “freedom” of the wild donkey. These free-range undomesticated animals roamed the wilderness with no need of supervision or sustenance provided by humans. How were they able to survive? How did they manage to eke out an existence far from civilization and without the aid and control of a master? The obvious answer is that God manages their affairs and sees to their daily needs.

He gives food to the wild animals
    and feeds the young ravens when they cry. – Psalm 147:9 NLT

God wants Job to understand that nothing escapes His notice. God doesn’t share Job’s lack of vision or understanding. The Almighty knows all things and controls all things, so Job has no need to worry about the affairs of his own life. As the psalmist states, “How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!” (Psalm 147:5 NLT).

Next, God asks Job to consider the wild ox. Does Job have the ability to domesticate such a powerful beast and bring it under submission to his will? Just because Job desires something doesn’t mean he will get his way. The message here seems simple enough. Job is guilty of trying to force his will on God. In a sense, he has been trying to tame God and force Him to “plow his field.” But if Job can’t control a wild beast of the field, how does he expect to get the all-powerful God to do his bidding?

God asks a pair of probing question designed to expose the absurdity of Job’s demands of Him.

“Given its strength, can you trust it?
    Can you leave and trust the ox to do your work?” – Job 39:11 NLT

Does Job really think God can be domesticated and coerced to serve the needs of mere men? Is the Creator-God able to be controlled by His own creation? The answer is a resounding, “No!” And yet Job has unwittingly tried to force his will on the Almighty.

With the next animal, God points out that not all things in life make sense. He asks Job to consider the ostrich. This strange-looking, oversized bird with the long neck and equally long legs appears to be the byproduct of a committee. It’s bizarre amalgam of seemingly disparate traits make it a walking contradiction. It is a bird with large wings and yet is incapable of flight. It makes no nest but, instead, lays its eggs on the ground where they can be warmed by the sun and exposed to vulnerable to predators. And those young who manage to survive, the ostrich mistreats.

“She is harsh toward her young,
    as if they were not her own.
    She doesn’t care if they die.” – Job 39:16 NLT

According to God, this was all part of His design for the ostrich. None of these character traits are flaws or mistakes. In fact, God indicates that the odd behavior of the ostrich is due to a lack of wisdom, which He factored into its design.

For God has deprived her of wisdom.
    He has given her no understanding. – Job 39:17 NLT

And yet, this gangly and ungainly animal is equipped with a built-in survival skill that allows it to outrun “the swiftest horse with its rider” (Job 39:18 NLT). The ostrich makes no sense but it is a byproduct of God’s creative imagination. And there are things about Job’s life that seem nonsensical and inexplicable but they are all part of God’s sovereign plan for his life. At this point, it’s as if Job has noticed that he has large flightless wings and he expresses his frustration with God’s design. But he fails to recognize that he has also been given powerful legs that provide him with a capacity to escape danger. Like the ostrich, Job lacks wisdom, but he hasn’t been left defenseless. If God can care for the seemingly hapless ostrich, He can handle the needs of the seemingly hopeless Job.

Now God turns Job’s attention to the horse. First, he sarcastically asks whether Job is responsible for the creation of this magnificent animal.

Have you given the horse its strength
    or clothed its neck with a flowing mane? – Job 39:19 NLT

Job can admire the horse but he can’t take credit for it. This majestic animal is powerful, bold, and fearless. It has been divinely equipped with great strength that produces both speed and agility, a perfect combination for use in battle. It is as if God designed the horse for warfare. Unlike the ostrich, the horse uses its speed to run into danger, not away from it.

“It paws the earth and rejoices in its strength
    when it charges out to battle.
It laughs at fear and is unafraid.
    It does not run from the sword.” – Job 39:21-22 NLT

The same God who made the ostrich also made the horse. Each is equipped with different physical and mental characteristics that reflect the wisdom of God. There are no mistakes. There is nothing about either animal that lies outside God’s sovereign will and intended purpose for them. And the same is true of Job. Nothing about his life is a mistake. There is a divine purpose behind every detail. In a way, God is letting Job know that he has been wonderfully made and designed with a purpose in mind. King David understood the remarkable nature of his own design and expressed his awe for God’s gracious gift of life.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed. – Psalm 139:13-16 NLT

Finally, God directs Job’s eyes to the sky, where he can view the ways of the eagle and the hawk. Unlike the ostrich, these two birds of prey are designed for flight. Their wings enable them to soar among the clouds and make their nests in hidden places far from the threat of predators. These majestic birds are the hunters not the hunted. God has designed them for flight but there is far more to their aerial capabilities than meets the eye. It is this unique capacity that allows them to protect and provide for their young. Their powerful wings and keen sight are divine design features that set them apart from all the other birds of the air.

God wants Job to take notice of His attention to detail. There is nothing that God has left to chance and there are no mistakes or anomalies in His design. And as much as Job would like to debate that fact, God is conceding no ground and accepting no blame. There is so much Job does not know or understand. He and his four friends had been quick to spout their opinions and expose their ignorance. They thought they knew and understood God but they had a lot to learn. The God who made the beasts of the field and the birds of the air had also made them. His ways are not always understandable but His divine plan is flawless. While things may not always make sense, God can always be trusted.

No human wisdom or understanding or plan
    can stand against the Lord.

The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
    but the victory belongs to the Lord. – Proverbs 21:30-31 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Instability of Bad Theology

6 “For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’
    likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.
He seals up the hand of every man,
    that all men whom he made may know it.
Then the beasts go into their lairs,
    and remain in their dens.
From its chamber comes the whirlwind,
    and cold from the scattering winds.
10 By the breath of God ice is given,
    and the broad waters are frozen fast.
11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
    the clouds scatter his lightning.
12 They turn around and around by his guidance,
    to accomplish all that he commands them
    on the face of the habitable world.
13 Whether for correction or for his land
    or for love, he causes it to happen.

14 “Hear this, O Job;
    stop and consider the wondrous works of God.
15 Do you know how God lays his command upon them
    and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
16 Do you know the balancings of the clouds,
    the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge,
17 you whose garments are hot
    when the earth is still because of the south wind?
18 Can you, like him, spread out the skies,
    hard as a cast metal mirror?
19 Teach us what we shall say to him;
    we cannot draw up our case because of darkness.
20 Shall it be told him that I would speak?
    Did a man ever wish that he would be swallowed up?

21 “And now no one looks on the light
    when it is bright in the skies,
    when the wind has passed and cleared them.
22 Out of the north comes golden splendor;
    God is clothed with awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty—we cannot find him;
    he is great in power;
    justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.
24 Therefore men fear him;
    he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.” – Job 37:6-24 ESV

Elihu continues his impassioned defense of God by emphasizing His sovereignty over creation. This God of whom Job has taken issue is the same God who controls the weather and, by extension, all created life. God is behind every storm and every drop of rain. He produces thunder, lightning, ice, wind, heat, and cold from His throne room in heaven, controlling the fates of all living creatures. Their habitats are directly impacted by His sovereign will and their well-being is under His providential control.

“He directs the snow to fall on the earth
    and tells the rain to pour down.
Then everyone stops working
    so they can watch his power.
The wild animals take cover
    and stay inside their dens. – Job 37:6-8 NLT

It’s not difficult to discern the point behind Elihu’s lofty rhetoric. This young man has not gotten distracted or forgotten about Job. This entire speech is intended to drive home his disdain for Job’s continued demand for an audience with God. Elihu finds Job’s personalized approach to God to be offensive. In his estimation, Job has gotten too comfortable with his relationship with the Almighty and has lost sight of His glory and splendor. Job is too demanding and has become far too casual in his conversations with Yahweh. He treats God like a peer when he should be cowering in fear and begging for mercy.

But Job and Elihu have strikingly different understandings of God. For Job, God is all-powerful, but also intimate and personal. He cares about the plight of His children and hears them when they call to Him. This is what has Job so perplexed and confused. He has suffered greatly and call out repeatedly, but God has not responded. His caring and compassionate God is acting in a way that is contrary to his nature.

Job is not demanding anything from God. He is simply asking for clarity on his circumstances. He wants to know why he is suffering and when he might expect to find relief. Job’s cries to God are not meant to be disrespectful; they are simply the impassioned pleas of a desperate man who longs to find relief and restoration. A quick review of Job’s comments provides insight into his thinking and the motivation behind his heartfelt cries to God.

“What I always feared has happened to me.
    What I dreaded has come true.
I have no peace, no quietness.
    I have no rest; only trouble comes.” – Job 3:25-26 NLT

At least I can take comfort in this:
    Despite the pain,
    I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
But I don’t have the strength to endure.
    I have nothing to live for. – Job 6:10-11 NLT

“My days fly faster than a weaver’s shuttle.
    They end without hope.
O God, remember that my life is but a breath,
    and I will never again feel happiness. – Job 7:6-7 NLT

If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
    O watcher of all humanity?
Why make me your target?
    Am I a burden to you?
Why not just forgive my sin
    and take away my guilt?
For soon I will lie down in the dust and die.
    When you look for me, I will be gone.” – Job 7:20-21 NLT

Job was not being disrespectful; he was being brutally honest. The unbearable nature of his pain and loss had left him in dire need of expiation or an explanation. He wanted to know the why behind his suffering. Why had he lost his entire fortune? Why had all ten of his adult children died in a freak accident? Why had his reputation been dragged through the mud and his integrity been destroyed by the unjust comments of former friends? Why had God not intervened or simply destroyed him? If Job had done something worthy of all this devastation, why had God not left him alive? If he was innocent, why would God not come to his defense and acquit him of all the false charges against him?

But Job wasn’t stupid. He knew God was holy, righteous, and transcendent. The Almighty was not a man whom Job could order to appear in court and answer for His actions.

“…how can a person be declared innocent in God’s sight?
If someone wanted to take God to court,
    would it be possible to answer him even once in a thousand times?
For God is so wise and so mighty.
    Who has ever challenged him successfully?” – Job 9:2-3 NLT

Since God is the righteous Judge of the universe, Job knew he stood no chance of successfully arguing his case or achieving an acquittal.

“God is not a mortal like me,
    so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial.
If only there were a mediator between us,
    someone who could bring us together. – Job 9:32-33 NLT

These statements reveal that Job had a deep respect for God but they also display the depth of his despair. He knew God was his only hope but he felt as if he had no access to the only One who could justify or judge him. Among his friends, Job’s guilt was a foregone conclusion. It was an open-and-shut case that left no room for denial or debate. Yet, Job kept reaching out to God for a second and more vital opinion on the matter.

Then there was Elihu. His view of God was admirable and, for the most part, accurate. He saw God as a powerful and unparalleled in glory. He was the transcendent God who ruled over all creation and reigned in mighty and majesty. He was without equal and worthy of honor and obedience. Elihu’s God was completely righteous and always right. He was free to do as He pleased and whatever He did was just and fair. No one should dare to question His ways or doubt the efficacy of his actions. That’s why Elihu took exception with Job’s constant complaints aimed at the Almighty. As far as Elihu was concerned, Job was out of bounds and way over his head.

And Elihu kept trying to remind Job that his circumstances were the result of God’s divine judgment. He was in this predicament because he had failed to show God proper respect.

“The clouds churn about at his direction.
    They do whatever he commands throughout the earth.
He makes these things happen either to punish people
    or to show his unfailing love.” – Job 37:12-13 NLT

From everything else Elihu has said, it’s doubtful that he believed Job was the recipient of God’s unfailing love. All the evidence was stacked in the favor of God’s judgment. It was obvious to Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that Job was guilty and deserving of everything that had happened. These four men had no idea what Job had done to merit such a harsh punishment from God but they were convinced that he had done something.

As Elihu begins to wrap up his lengthy and meandering speech, he devolves into the use of sarcasm, attempting to humiliate and belittle Job.

“So teach the rest of us what to say to God.
    We are too ignorant to make our own arguments.
Should God be notified that I want to speak?
    Can people even speak when they are confused? – Job 37:19-20 NLT

He mocks Job for his incessant demands for an audience with God. In Elihu’s estimation, Job is a fool at best and a blasphemer at worst. He views Job as an ignorant sinner who has no respect for the God of the universe and is destined to suffer the consequences for his impiety and immorality.

In a false display of compassion, Elihu encourages Job to change his ways and show God the respect and honor he deserves.

“We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty;
    but even though he is just and righteous,
    he does not destroy us.
No wonder people everywhere fear him.
    All who are wise show him reverence.” – Job 37:23-24 NLT

But this will prove to be the last words that Elihu or his companions will speak. Their time to pontificate and postulate is over. Now they will hear from the One for whom they claimed to be speaking. The very God whom they thought they knew was about to expose the ignorance of their ways. And much to their shock, God would begin His speech by addressing Job directly. Their friend would get his wish. The transcendent, all-powerful God of the universe had heard Job’s cries and was ready to speak.

But what comes next will prove to be a surprise to all the parties involved. Everyone, including Job, is about to get a lecture from God that will leave them at a loss for words and in need of an overhaul of their theology.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Need for Trust in the Midst of Trials

1 And Elihu answered and said:

“Do you think this to be just?
    Do you say, ‘It is my right before God,’
that you ask, ‘What advantage have I?
    How am I better off than if I had sinned?’
I will answer you
    and your friends with you.
Look at the heavens, and see;
    and behold the clouds, which are higher than you.
If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him?
    And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him?
If you are righteous, what do you give to him?
    Or what does he receive from your hand?
Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself,
    and your righteousness a son of man.

“Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out;
    they call for help because of the arm of the mighty.
10 But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
    who gives songs in the night,
11 who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth
    and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’
12 There they cry out, but he does not answer,
    because of the pride of evil men.
13 Surely God does not hear an empty cry,
    nor does the Almighty regard it.
14 How much less when you say that you do not see him,
    that the case is before him, and you are waiting for him!
15 And now, because his anger does not punish,
    and he does not take much note of transgression,
16 Job opens his mouth in empty talk;
    he multiplies words without knowledge.” – Job 35:1-16 ESV

Once again, the overly verbose Elihu starts off the latest section of his speech by lifting the statements of Job out of their context and using them as a launching pad for his latest diatribe. He addresses Job’s persistent demand to get a hearing before God so that He might prove himself innocent. Elihu describes that demand as nothing more than a display of boastful pride. As far as Elihu is concerned, Job has no rights before God.

This led him to pick up on another statement made by Job but he does so with a fair amount of paraphrasing. He accuses Job of claiming that living a righteous life is of no advantage if the righteous suffer along with the wicked.

But what Job actually said was quite different. He simply asked, “For what hope do the godless have when God cuts them off and takes away their life? Will God listen to their cry when trouble comes upon them?” (Job 27:8-9 NLT). All he was trying to say was that the only hope the righteous have is if their God hears their cries and releases them from their pain and suffering. If He were to refuse to do so, they would be no better off than the wicked.

Yet Elihu wants to paint Job as a prideful, self-proclaimed Puritan who claims to have lived a perfect and sin-free life. Elihu isn’t buying Job’s innocent-victim act but he plays along with the idea. For Elihu, it didn’t really matter whether Job was righteous or wicked because God was not affected by either.

If you sin, how does that affect God?
    Even if you sin again and again,
    what effect will it have on him?
If you are good, is this some great gift to him?
    What could you possibly give him? – Job 35:6-7 NLT

Elihu’s concept of God was that of a distant and disengaged deity who was far removed from the daily actions of mere humans. His argument seems to be that even if Job was fully righteous, God owed him nothing. All of Job’s supposed good deeds were nothing more than filthy rags in the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6). From Elihu’s vantage point, sin had no influence on God; it only affected the sinner and all those around him. In the same way, the righteous deeds of men were only of value to other men. They were the sole beneficiaries. In Elihu’s theology, God remained unaffected by human sin or righteousness.

“There is no place in Elihu’s theology for doing God’s will out of love for him. Man affects only his fellow man by being good or bad (v.9). And though God may punish or reward man as Judge, there is no place for him in the role of a Father who can be hurt or pleased by man.” – Elmer B. Smick, “Job,” in 1 Kings-Job, vol. 4 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

Elihu seems to concede that Job had done a few righteous things in his lifetime, but Elihu didn’t believe those “good deeds” had earned Job any credit with God. It seems obvious that these two men had two diametrically distinct views of God. For Elihu, God was aloof and disinterested in man’s earthly activities. But Job believed that God was intimately involved in the lives of mankind, and the Scriptures support his conclusion.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
    and whoever captures souls is wise.
If the righteous is repaid on earth,
    how much more the wicked and the sinner!  Proverbs 30:30-31 ESV

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
    but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Disaster pursues sinners,
    but the righteous are rewarded with good. – Proverbs 13:20-21 ESV

Say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
    He is coming to save you.” – Isaiah 35:4 NLT

It was David who said of God, “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness” (1 Samuel 26:23 ESV). He spoke these words to King Saul, after having rejected the opportunity to take Saul’s life. David had spent years running from the king, who had placed a bounty on David’s head. On one occasion, after a long day of pursuing David, Saul and 3,000 of his men set up camp in the wilderness of Ziph. In the middle of the night, David and a companion snuck into camp and found Saul fast asleep. Abishai, who had volunteered to join David on his clandestine mission, saw this as a God-ordained opportunity to take care of the Saul problem once and for all.

“God has surely handed your enemy over to you this time!” Abishai whispered to David. “Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t need to strike twice!” – 1 Samuel 26:8 NLT

But David rejected Abishai’s advice, refusing to take matters into his own hands.

“Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the Lord’s anointed one? Surely the Lord will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle. The Lord forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed! But take his spear and that jug of water beside his head, and then let’s get out of here!” – 1 Samuel 26:9-11 NLT

With Saul’s spear and water jug in his hands, David stealthily exited the camp and climbed to the top of a nearby hill, where he called out to Saul and revealed just how close the king had come to death at his hands. David informed Saul that the only reason he was still alive was because David was willing to let God reward and repay according to His own will.

“The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord’s anointed one. Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles.” – 1 Samuel 26:23-24 NLT

This perspective stands in direct opposition to that of Elihu. He asserts that when the oppressed “cry out, God does not answer because of their pride” (Job 35:12 NLT). The reason they get no answer from God is because they are sinful. According to Elihu’s theology, their oppression is their own fault.

But in the very next breath, Elihu seems to contradict himself. He states, “…it is wrong to say God doesn’t listen, to say the Almighty isn’t concerned” (Job 35:13 NLT). He actually accuses Job of denying God’s presence. But that is not what Job has been saying. He has only expressed his view that God didn’t seem to be listening or intervening in his situation. He has repeatedly called out to God, asking for an audience before His Creator and Judge so that he might state his case. But from Job’s perspective, it felt like God was not listening or was nowhere to be found.

Job was simply stating things as he saw them. He was describing the way he viewed his life from his limited earth-bound perspective. He knew God was there, but his circumstances painted a very different picture. Elihu views Job’s honesty as the words of a fool because he doesn’t understand the depths of Job’s pain. Elihu can’t get past Job’s words long enough to see what going on in his heart. This leads him to say, “…you are talking nonsense, Job. You have spoken like a fool” (Job 35:16 NLT)

But in reality, Job was speaking like a suffering saint. He was expressing his pain and confusion just as David did. The David who was confident that God rewards the righteous is the same David who wrote the following gut-wrenching words:

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand? – Psalm 13:1-2 NLT

And he was the same David that followed up these words of anxiety and anguish with the following statement of faith and hope:

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.  – Psalm 13:5-6 NLT

Both David and Job were venting their frustration. The only difference is that Job had not yet reached the point of expressing his hope in the faithfulness of God. He was not yet ready to rejoice in the midst of his trials. At this point in his life, there was no song on his lips or unwavering confidence in his heart that God was going to make things right. He had hopes but they were weak and wavering. He was desperate for deliverance but was not quite convinced of its imminence.

But Job could have used a little help from his friends. Instead, all he got was a heavy dose of condemnation and correction. In Elihu’s attempt to defend God, he was destroying Job’s faith in God. His truncated theology had produced a diminished view of God that was actually diminishing Job’s faith in God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

When Saying Nothing Is Sound Advice

17 “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
    therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.
18 For he wounds, but he binds up;
    he shatters, but his hands heal.
19 He will deliver you from six troubles;
    in seven no evil shall touch you.
20 In famine he will redeem you from death,
    and in war from the power of the sword.
21 You shall be hidden from the lash of the tongue,
    and shall not fear destruction when it comes.
22 At destruction and famine you shall laugh,
    and shall not fear the beasts of the earth.
23 For you shall be in league with the stones of the field,
    and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.
24 You shall know that your tent is at peace,
    and you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing.
25 You shall know also that your offspring shall be many,
    and your descendants as the grass of the earth.
26 You shall come to your grave in ripe old age,
    like a sheaf gathered up in its season.
27 Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.
    Hear, and know it for your good.” – Job 5:17-27 ESV

Much of what Eliphaz has to say is true but he is approaching Job’s situation from a point of ignorance. He is speaking about matters that are outside his realm of understanding. And while there is a hint of truth in his words and his efforts appear to come from a good place, his well-intended rhetoric paints God in a poor light and portrays faithful service to God as a means to an end. In other words, if you do good things for God, He will reward you.

His message to Job is less a call to repentance from sins committed as it is a call for Job to change his ways. In essence, he is advising Job to replace his bad behavior with good behavior. According to Eliphaz, that little formula is the key to reversing Job’s fate and restoring his fortunes.

At first glance, Eliphaz’s advice seems biblical and sound. He recommends that Job readily accept what can only be explained as the discipline of the Lord. In saying this, Eliphaz has drawn the conclusion that Job is guilty of something and his suffering is nothing more than a sign of God’s loving discipline. And this statement seems to resonate with the words of the author of Hebrews.

…have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,

“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” – Hebrews 12:5-6 NLT

This passage is an almost verbatim quote from the Old Testament book of Proverbs, and when you see it in its immediate context, it appears to have been written with Job in mind.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
    and strength for your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the best part of everything you produce.
Then he will fill your barns with grain,
    and your vats will overflow with good wine.

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:5-12 NLT

But having read the opening chapters of the book of Job, we know that Job is not being punished by God. His suffering has come at the hands of Satan. Yes, God is the one who gave the enemy permission to test Job’s integrity and loyalty, but none of the attacks were a form of discipline or judgment.

“Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” – Job 1:12 ESV

And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” – Job 2:6 ESV

It is true that God lovingly disciplines His children but we cannot automatically assume that all suffering in this life is evidence of this truth. We live in a fallen world in which evil exists and sinful people commit heinous crimes against one another. Disease and sickness are a constant threat. Natural disasters are commonplace. And, as the Scriptures remind us, there is an ongoing spiritual taking place all around us, but invisible to our human eyes. The apostle Paul warns us about this in his letter to the church in Ephesus.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:11-12 ESV

And this is exactly the kind of counsel Eliphaz should have given Job. Rather than automatically assume that Job was guilty of sin and undergoing the discipline of God, Eliphaz should have encouraged his beleaguered friend to recognize the reality of spiritual warfare. Perhaps Eliphaz lacked a well-developed doctrine of the supernatural and was not well-versed in the ways of Satan. It seems apparent that his concept of God was not fully developed because he has a rather one-dimensional view of the Almighty. Eliphaz’s theology seems to portray God as either a rewarder or a punisher. If men do well, they get blessed by God. If they do poorly, they experience His judgment.

Once again, Eliphaz seems to be partially right. The author of Hebrews seems to corroborate Eliphaz’s view of God.

…without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. – Hebrews 11:6 ESV

But one must take this verse in its context, where the author is unpacking the definition of faith and illustrating it through the lives of the Old Testament saints. Nowhere in the chapter does the author describe God’s rewards as physical health or financial windfalls. In fact, he describes these people as having exhibited faith, but “all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Hebrews 11:39 ESV). In other words, their faith and faithfulness did not produce health, wealth, or prosperity. In fact, their lot in life was anything but easy or rewarding.

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. – Hebrews 11:35-38 ESV

Eliphaz’s entire premise is built on a faulty foundation. His reasoning is simplistic and based solely on a cause-and-effect model. Job had done something bad, therefore he was being punished by God. If Job would start doing good, he would be blessed by God.

To Eliphaz, the circumstances surrounding Job’s life were clear. He had sinned and was reaping the just rewards of his folly. But if Job would simply alter his behavior, the nightmare would be over and God would put a hedge of protection around him.

“He will save you from death in time of famine,
    from the power of the sword in time of war.
You will be safe from slander
    and have no fear when destruction comes.
You will laugh at destruction and famine;
    wild animals will not terrify you. – Job 5:20-22 NLT

But again, this is a simplistic view of God and a less-than-helpful way to understand the nature of life in a fallen world. God does not promise His children a trouble-free existence. He does not exist to make our earthly life a walk in the park and even our best behavior cannot immunize us from suffering and pain.

Not long before His own death, Jesus warned His disciples:

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:32-33 ESV

Not long after having been stoned and left for dead, Paul entered the cities of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 ESV). It is likely that as Paul spoke these words, his body bore the visible signs of his stoning. He was like a walking illustration of his very words. The walk of faith is not easy and the children of God are not immune to suffering, sickness, persecution, or distress. It is as Jesus promised, a time marked by many trials and sorrows.

Eliphaz was promising Job a return to normalcy and a trouble-free life.

“You will know that your home is safe.
    When you survey your possessions, nothing will be missing.
You will have many children;
    your descendants will be as plentiful as grass!” – Job 5:24-25 NLT

Eliphaz believed that if Job changed his ways, God would restore everything back to the way it was. But this pollyanna outlook flies in the face of Job’s own words.

Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” – Job 2:10 ESV

Job was not blaming God for his circumstances; he was simply acknowledging God’s sovereignty over all things. He knew that God was in control and he was willing to rest on the goodness of God. That is why he could say, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 ESV).

Eliphaz would have done well to speak less and listen more. He could have learned a lot from Job but he was too busy giving out unsolicited and highly unhelpful advice

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

The Man of Lawlessness.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed – the one who brings destruction. – 2 Thessalonians 2:3 NLT

Sometimes we can be fooled into thinking that simpler is better. Especially when it comes to teaching new believers the doctrines of the faith. As a result, we can end up dumbing down our theology to the point that it is virtually useless. Yes, the Gospel message is beautiful in its simplicity, but it is essential that we take new believers from the threshold of their faith and help them “grow up in their salvation,” to use a phrase of Paul’s. In fact, Paul had a passion for teaching new believers deeper truths in order to deepen and strengthen their faith. But he wasn’t the only one. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews, who many believe was Paul himself, wrote, “So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God” (Hebrews 6:1 NLT).

Here in his letter to the Thessalonians believers, who were still relative babies in Christ, Paul is not afraid to deal with the difficult and deeper truths. His audience has had questions regarding the coming of Christ. They have received some erroneous teaching that has left them confused. So Paul takes the time to give them the kind of teaching they will need to not only survive in this world, but to better understand the overall plan of their God. Otherwise, they would continue to misinterpret the events taking place around them. The absence of good theology can lead to all kinds of confusion and faulty views of God. The people to whom Paul was writing were thoroughly confused about the second coming of Christ. They had been led to believe that it was going to happen any day. They had begun their faith with the belief that Jesus had died, but had rose again and was some day going to come again. And in the simplicity of their faith, they just assumed that was going to happen immediately. Essentially, their view of the end times or future events concerning Christ’s return were totally skewed. So Paul taught them the truth. And his letter was not the first time he had talked about these things. He wrote, “Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you?” (2 Thessalonians 3:5 NLT). When Paul had been with them, he had taken the time to teach these people what some of us would consider to be pretty deep doctrine. But to Paul, it was simply the truth of God. It was all part of God’s redemptive plan, just as much as the birth and death of Christ was. For us to understand God, we must understand His plan for mankind. Knowing that God had sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins must be understood alongside the fact that God is some day going to send His Son back to earth. The first time He came as a baby in a manger. The second time He will come as a conquering King. But it was important that the people understand that there were some key events that had to take place before Christ returned. One of those was the coming of the “man of lawlessness” – a reference to the Antichrist. Paul refers to “a great rebellion against God” that must take place. This whole passage is a reference to the Great Tribulation – a seven year period of time that will take place after Christ removes all the believers from the earth – an event Paul referred to in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). One of the things that will happen as a result of the removal of the Church is that the Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers, will be removed as well. Paul refers to that fact in verse 7: “For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it backs steps out of the way.” The Holy Spirit, who acts as a restraining force against evil in the world, will be removed, leaving a spiritual vacuum and the perfect environment in which the Antichrist might thrive. The presence of the Holy Spirit and the influence of the Church are all that holds back evil. When they are both removed, chaos will reign. This is what sets up the Great Tribulation.

Paul wants the Thessalonians to know about all of this – even though they will not live to experience it. He wants them to know how things are going to end, because it speaks volumes about their God. He tells them that this man of lawlessness will come, but that he will also ultimately destroyed by Christ Himself. The Antichrist will be under the power and control of Satan, performing miracles and signs and exhibiting Christ-like powers. He will deceive and manipulate, with a plan to destroy those who are living at that time. And they will believe his lies and enjoy evil rather than the truth, leading to their destruction. And Paul wants the Thessalonians to know all this. He wants them informed and educated regarding these future events. Why? Because it is all part of God’s overall redemptive plan for mankind. It is as important as the virgin birth of Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ second coming is as important as His first. With His return, the plan of God would be incomplete. Satan must be defeated. Christ must come as the conquering King, fulfilling all the Old Testament Scriptures that predicted it. He must set up His Kingdom on earth, ruling from Jerusalem, fulfilling God’s promise to David that a descendant of his would sit on a throne, ruling from the city of Jerusalem forever. Every story has an ending. And if we don’t understand it, we will always be confused about what we see taking place around us. God’s redemptive story has an ending and it is essential that every believer understand not only what God has done, but what He is going to do.

Father, You have a plan and You are working it to perfection, but for so many of us don’t have a clue what You are doing Some of us don’t even seem to care. We don’t think it’s important. And it leaves us with an incomplete understanding of what it is You are doing and an unclear view of who You really are. May we never be afraid to teach the deeper, more difficult truths of Your Word. Help us to understand that the end is just as important as the beginning. Help us to teach the entirety of Scripture, revealing Your complete plan so that we might know and understand You better. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 5e

God Sees.

“For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes.” – Proverbs 5:21 NLT

Have you ever stopped to think just how silly it is to attempt to try and and hide anything from God? After all, He is all-knowing and is not limited by space and time. He is everywhere at once and does not have to deal with the limitations of past, present and future as we do. He sees everything equally well, regardless of whether it has already happened or has yet to take place. David put it this way in Psalm 139:

1O Lord, you have examined my heart

and know everything about me.

2You know when I sit down or stand up.

You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

3You see me when I travel

and when I rest at home.

You know everything I do.

4You know what I am going to say

even before I say it, Lord.

5You go before me and follow me.

You place your hand of blessing on my head.

6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too great for me to understand!

He knows it all, including what I am going to say before I even say it. God sees everything I do. He examines every path I take. He literally weighs out our actions, putting them in a scale and determining their value or worth. And He measures them against His own righteous standard, not the flawed and fickle standards of this world. The context for this verse is a serious warning from a father to his son regarding the dangers of sexual immorality and promiscuity. He is trying to get his son to realize the deadly ramifications of being unfaithful to his wife and allowing himself to fall for the temptations of adultery. He gives him all the dire outcomes, but then wraps it up by reminding his son that God sees ALL our actions, and He measures and examines them against His own righteous requirements. We can’t hide what we do from God. We may fool our spouses and our friends, but God sees all and knows all. And He knows exactly what is going on in our hearts even if we choose not to act out our adulterous desires. He knows every time we lust and every time an immoral thought goes through our brain. That realization should sober us and cause us to seriously consider our ways.

The fact that God sees all and knows all should only scare us if we are guilty of doing things of which He might disapprove. The existence of traffic cameras should not strike fear into the hearts of those who are obeying the traffic signs. The presence of a policeman on the side of the road should not make our palms sweat and our hearts race unless we happen to be breaking the speed limit. If we are living in obedience to God’s Word and in reliance upon His Spirit, His all-seeing eye should bring us comfort, not fear. We should rejoice in the fact that God is always looking out for us and never takes His eyes off us. And if He does happen to see us do something contrary to His will, He makes it known to us so that we can confess it and receive His forgiveness. We live under His watchful eyes at all times. There is no time when He is unaware of us or cannot see us. That realization should bring us peace and cause us to consider our ways more seriously. “For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes.”

Father, thank You for never taking your eyes off of me. What a comfort to know You are always there and you are always fully aware. Never let me forget that I am living under your loving, watchful eye at all times. May that realization influence my behavior and my thoughts. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 6d

No Shame.

“But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroy himself. He will be wounded and disgraced. His shame will never be erased.” – Proverbs 6:32-33 NLT

We live in a society that is constantly trying to buck the system. And by system, I mean the one that God has put in place. God has standards. He has rules for living that apply to all men, not just those who consider themselves God-followers. But ever since the fall, man has been trying to get around God’s standards and establish his own set of guidelines for living. If God says something is wrong or sinful, we go out of our way to justify it and convince ourselves that it is actually perfectly acceptable. To get there we either have to reject what God has said altogether or twist it in such a way that it no longer carries the meaning it once did. That is exactly what we have done with the subject of adultery. Once taboo, even among non-believers, it is not only acceptable, but a regular part of daily life in America. In an effort to satisfy our own selfish desires and justify our sinful actions, we have played fast and loose with God’s laws and created an environment where we get to decide what is sin and what is not. It has all become highly subjective. The mantra, “If it feels good, do it” reigns supreme.

Yet Solomon reminds and warns us, “but sleeping with another man’s wife will cost you your life” (Proverbs 6:26b NLT). Far too many in our society, including Christian men and women, don’t believe that statement. They have convinced themselves that God wants them happy and therefore, if they find another person who fulfills them better than their current mate, then there is nothing wrong with “falling in love” with another person. They justify their actions by claiming that they were never really in love to begin with. They made a mistake. Surely, God would not want them to spend the rest of their lives miserable and unhappy just because they married the wrong person. Yet Solomon clearly states, “So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife. He who embraces her will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 6:29 NLT).

One of the things that has happened is that, as a society, we have removed the disgrace and shame that used to accompany adultery. It has become so common place and acceptable that there is no longer any stigma associated with it. Oh, we may be shocked for a time, but we have learned to go with the flow and accept adultery as the inevitable outcome of living in a fallen world. And while it is true that adultery, like all sins, is inevitable because of the fall, it is never to be acceptable. It should still shock and concern us. We should still view it as a sin against a holy God and a horrible sin against our fellow man. We are taking something that does not belong to us. We are destroying another marriage, which is sacred and holy before God. We are destroying our own marriage and breaking a covenant made before God – even if we made that covenant when we were not following Christ. God views ALL marriages as sacred and holy. He does not apply His rules to only the marriages of believers. God’s standards apply to all men and women. None are excluded or exempt. Yet, it is within the body of Christ that willful obedience to His commands should be displayed most clearly. It is within our marriages that faithfulness and fidelity should be most readily visible. He has given us the power to live lives in keeping with His standards. He has placed His Spirit within us and equipped us with the capacity to live godly lives in the midst of an ungodly culture. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT). Because we share in the divine nature, we can escape the influence of this world and its constant encouragement to live according to our own standards, without shame and unrepentant.

Father, don’t let us live like this world. Don’t allow us to remove the shame and disgrace that comes from a life lived in open rebellion and disobedience to You. May we be appalled at the sin in our own midst. May we never turn a blind eye and justify our sins in an effort to keep peace with men. Keep our standards high and our commitment to keep Your commands above all other desires. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men