Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 9 April 2023:
Job 29:2-4 — Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me….
Job longed for the days when he walked confidently in his child-like (not childish) faith. Was there a time in your life when you worried less than you do now? Children often have more faith than adults. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Do you put all hope and trust in your ‘Abba’ (Daddy), and do you walk confidently in His love and protection?
Job 29:4, 5 – …when the friendship of God was upon my tent, when the Almighty was yet with me….
Job wrongly assumed his hard times meant God was no longer his friend, and Job erroneously equated God’s blessings with God’s presence. Do you ever judge God’s love for you based upon what you are going through? Do you misinterpret hard times as God abandoning you? Don’t all good parents allow their children to face challenges in order to develop them because they love them?
Job 29:11-17, 21-25 — When the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it approved, because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to help him. The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know. I broke the fangs of the unrighteous and made him drop his prey from his teeth…. Men listened to me and waited and kept silence for my counsel. After I spoke they did not speak again, and my word dropped upon them. They waited for me as for the rain, and they opened their mouths as for the spring rain. I smiled on them when they had no confidence, and the light of my face they did not cast down. I chose their way and sat as chief, and I lived like a king among his troops, like one who comforts mourners.
It is instructive to consider the quality and content of Job’s character and righteous life before he was incapacitated by Satan’s attacks. Job was admired and respected by all and was a successful, powerful, and influential man because he was a man of true wisdom who walked in integrity and genuine compassion. Job was obedient to God, spoke the truth, took care of people, and fought for what was right. Job had a genuine heart for others, and it showed in all he did and said. What seems to have been most noteworthy in the eyes of God was the countless early morning hours Job spent praying for his loved ones, a sacrifice for others done in secret. (Job 1:5)
One can contrast Job’s life with that of his “friends,” those “worthless physicians” and “miserable comforters” who had knowledge but lacked requisite compassion and humility; therefore, they lacked wisdom (knowledge rightly applied). As Paul said, “’all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:7) Job characterized his friends in much the same way Jesus spoke of the Pharisees – “whitewash.” (Job 13:4; Matthew 23:27) They looked good on the outside but were full of death on the inside. Job’s friends confidently lectured Job on spiritual matters, oblivious to the fact that their lack of compassion and careless words caused God’s anger to burn against them. (Job 42:7) “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” (Proverbs 16:2) We must pursue knowledge, the knowledge of God, which is Love –
- Hosea 6:6 — For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
- 1 Timothy 1:5 — The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
- 1 John 4:11, 12 — Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
Job showed his love for God and honored God by taking care of the needy and defending the weak – he had a reputation in the community for being that sort of person. His credibility came from how he treated people. Do you have a reputation in your community for taking care of the needy and defending the weak? When Job was strong, he took care of those who weren’t. Unfortunately, when Job was weak, the strong around him did not take care of him in return. God expects Christians to display the love and grace of Christ by taking care of each other. Christian ministry should start in the family, but it should also extend from the family to the church and then to those who still need to know and experience the love of Christ.
Psalm 41:1 – Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
Again, give freely! God gave you all, at the expense of His One and Only Son, when you deserved nothing at all, in fact, when you deserved death. How you give displays how you truly feel about what God has given you. It also reveals how much you really trust God to take care of you in the future – “If I give away what little food I have, God may use it to miraculously feed thousands, but what will I eat?”
Psalm 41:9 — Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
The similarities between Jesus’ betrayal described in the Gospels and David’s betrayal described in Psalm 41 are not missed: “One of you will betray me – one who is eating with me… one who dips bread into the bowl with me… you will all fall away.” (Mark 14:18, 20, 27) However, David highlights a significant difference between his situation and that of Jesus’: David was not innocent. Jesus displayed mercy and grace from a position of perfection and complete holiness. Jesus was the only soul who has ever walked on earth who could have demanded justice for Himself, yet he didn’t for our sake. Conversely, David, in his persecution, recognized that he could not stand simply on justice; he too relied upon forgiveness, mercy, and grace from God – “As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!” (Psalm 41:4)
Towards the end of Psalm 41 David says, “But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.” (Psalm 41:12) What integrity could the sinner David be talking about? I believe it is the integrity of his honest repentance displayed in Psalm 41:4 and the integrity of his humility before the Lord – David truly acknowledged that he was a sinner who relied totally upon God’s grace for salvation, and David honestly, though not perfectly, sought to please God in love and obedience. David’s integrity was his faith in God’s promises, and his willingness to live by them to the best of his ability –
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
- John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
While Jesus certainly had the right in His perfection to demand justice from others, we, total sinners relying totally on God’s grace, certainly do not have the right to demand justice for ourselves from others. Jesus points this out throughout his teachings. He taught us to pray to God, “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us (Luke 11:4);” and His famous parable about the “Unforgiving Servant” in Matthew 18 is a harsh warning to those who would receive God’s grace while refusing to give grace to others — “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:32-35)
To live in integrity is to acknowledge our total dependence on God’s grace and to treat others accordingly. The more we truly understand what God has done for us, the easier it is to treat others graciously.
Integrity Upheld: “Joseph was a righteous man who had cultivated a reputation for godliness in his community. Then word spread across the community that Mary, the woman to whom he was engaged, was expecting a child. There would be many who would assume the worst of this apparently scandalous situation. Joseph probably experienced gossip from some, ostracism from others. Yet he was a man of integrity, aware that God knew the truth of his relationship with Mary.
At times, God will be the only witness to your righteous behavior. Sometimes God is the only one who will understand your motives. Sometimes you will do all you know God has asked you to do, only to face ridicule from others. At such times all you can do is maintain your integrity, trusting that God always keeps His eyes on you. God looks favorably upon those who walk with integrity, doing what they know is right, regardless of how others perceive their actions.
The most important thing is not that people know the truth. The most important thing is that you are a person of integrity before God. When no one seems to understand why you have done something or when others question whether you have done all you should have done, your confidence should not be in the hope of vindication in the eyes of others. It should be in the knowledge that God keeps you in His sight. If you have this confidence, it will be enough to sustain you.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Psalm 42:2 – My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Do you thirst for God’s presence? He will not deny you.
Psalm42:4 – How I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise.
Are you leading many to God with shouts of praise?
Psalm 42:11 — Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Are you ever doubtful, fearful, or depressed when you know that, through faith, you shouldn’t be? It is comforting to know that the Bible records that all of God’s servants struggle with these feelings and that God understands them. Remember last week when we read in Mark 9 of the man who begged Jesus to heal his son? When Jesus questioned the father’s belief, “the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)!’” Perhaps you feel that way sometimes – you have faith but desperately want more complete faith. Be grateful that God knows your limitations and can provide all the strength you need in your weakness. Pray that God will build up your faith and help you in your unbelief.
Sometimes you have to remind yourself and coach yourself to trust in God and to praise Him.
Proverbs 9:6 – Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.
Jesus said that leaving the way of the world to follow Him would bring the fullness of joy in life. Are you still shortchanging your life in compromise with the world?
Proverbs 9:8, 9 — Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
Both the wise man and the scoffer make decisions based upon what they think is right and best, but the wise man does so humbly, remains continually introspective, continually judges his behavior from the plumb line of God’s word, and is always willing to listen to the advice of other wise, godly people and learn.
Proverbs 9:17, 18 — Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.
But he does not know that the dead are there that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
The fool is always looking for a short cut and is driven by self-centered desires and emotions, lacking self-control and discipline, but the wise person is self-disciplined, self-controlled, and willing to make daily sacrifices for a future greater good.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 April 2023: Today, trust in grace, rest in grace, walk in grace, display grace, proclaim grace, and give grace that the world may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.