WEEK 32, Day 7, Sunday, 9 August 2020

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 9 August 20:

Job 13:4 – “As for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all.”

What sort of physician are you? Do your words bring healing or only make things worse? Job’s friends, were terrible physicians, though they didn’t intend to be. In fact, they exemplified proper basic first aid in their initial actions – “Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place…. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him….. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” (Job 2:11-13) These friends dropped everything and came together to support Job, traveled great distances to care for him, had great compassion for him, prayed earnestly for him, and silently comforted him for a long time. They were doing great until they attempted to diagnose Job’s problem and give Job the ‘medicine’ he needed, until they opened their mouths and said hurtful, judgmental things.

Yes, sometimes the truth hurts, much like the taste of medicine can be unpleasant and surgeries are usually painful, but no one needs a careless doctor who applies the wrong treatment or who performs his or her procedures in a reckless way – malpractice is a very serious and deadly thing. Likewise, we must be careful about how we use God’s word to address issues of concern in the lives of others.

– Proverbs 12:18 — There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

– Psalm 147:3 — He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Our words should bring healing, not that they will always be pleasant. As Proverbs teaches, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” and “Better is open rebuke than hidden love…. Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue…. It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. (Proverbs 27:5,6; Proverbs 30:6; Ecclesiastes 7:5) Sometimes, love demands that we address difficult issues with others. However, the physician handles the scalpel very delicately, not carelessly, and always cuts to heal, leaving as little scarring as possible.

Consider Job’s friends as physicians thus far in our readings:

Eliphaz Speaks: “Behold, you have instructed many…. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the breath of God they perish…. As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause…. Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves…. Behold, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good.”

Bildad Speaks: “How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind? Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish…. If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation. Behold, God will not reject a blameless man, nor take the hand of evildoers.”

Zophar Speaks: “Should your babble silence men…? Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.”

So at Job’s darkest moment of pain and misery, his closest friends accused him of being a hypocritical sinner who was being punished by God for failing to repent of some hidden iniquity. Their diagnosis was that Job deserved worse and should put away his iniquity (which they have not identified) and plead to God for mercy. Helpful? Loving? Even if Job were a hypocritical sinner suffering in denial, these ‘friends’ lacked compassion and empathy, and they spoke to their suffering friend in a very condescending and judgmental way – ‘Stop babbling on, and listen to me for your own good…. If I were you, I’d….”

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4) The fruit of the spirit include gentleness, and the Bible tells us that “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) We must remember that all our words must be grounded in love and applied carefully and gently with the “aim for restoration.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

While Job’s friends were shockingly insensitive, their biggest mistake was presuming to know what was going on in Job’s life and subsequently judging Job and his behavior from their false perceptions. In fact, Job’s friends had no idea what God was doing in Job’s life, and why; but pridefully, they assumed they did. Don’t we do this all the time? With very shallow perceptions of situations, issues, and people, we form opinions steeped in implicit bias and then judge others. We misinterpret other people’s behavior and assume to know their motives, and too often we assume the worst in them. We then insensitively armchair quarterback – “If it were me, I would….” We never know the whole story or the whole person, and we don’t know exactly what God is doing in the lives of others. We do know we are called to love others, display God’s grace, and bring healing into the lives of others.

– Psalm 147:3 — He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

– Isaiah 58:9, 10 — If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 August 20: Today, ensure all your words our healing rather than hurting, encouraging rather than discouraging, and ensure your motive is always to draw people closer to Jesus.

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