Lessons from the Book of Job

imageJames 5:11 KJV

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

 

There are many lessons that we can learn from the various Bible stories that have been given us, some of which we only review superficially. Today, I’d like us to look at a number of lessons that can be found in that epic encounter recorded in the book of Job.

Here are just five of the key lessons that we can take from Job.
 

The Perfection of Job

The Bible calls Job perfect. More than that, the Bible records God calling Job perfect.

Job 1:1 -- There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

Job 1:8 -- And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Perfection is not just a state that will be reached when Jesus comes again, but is a state that is achievable only in Christ – only as we allow Him to will and to do of His good pleasure as we go about our daily tasks.
 

Satan is Watching Us

Not only does God pay attention to all we do, the devil also marks our steps and seeks ways to overthrow and undermine us. And he recognizes God’s protective power.

Job 1:9-11 -- Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?  Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.  But put forth Thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to Thy face.
 

Difficulty and Trials Should Not Cause Us to Stumble

Despite the most pressing trials, the Bible records Job’s fidelity to God.  We have to be able to trust in God even when things are no longer going well from us from the perspective of human eyes.  If God is only our God in good times, then we will not be prepared to overcome in the final conflict.

Job 1:20-22 -- Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job 2:9-10 -- Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
 

Righteousness Is Not Our Own

Righteousness is ours to claim in Jesus, but if we claim it of ourselves, it is merely self-righteousness, and worth nothing.  We are always to be clothed with the covering of God.  Adam and Eve were first clothed with garments of light made by God, and when they fell, it was He who took away their feeble garments of fig leaves and gave them coats of skin.  Now, He offers us robes of righteousness washed in the blood of Jesus.  We know we have problems when we’re too big to let God dress us.

Job 9:20-21 -- If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.
 

Friends Should Be Comforters

We owe it to our friends to comfort them in their distress, and not to add unto their burdens and afflictions.  We need to always judge righteous judgment, and not judge by outward appearances.

Job 2:11-13 -- Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.  And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.  So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

Job 6:25-27 -- How forcible are right words! but what doth your arguing reprove?  Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind?  Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend.

Job 12:4 -- I am as one mocked of his neighbour, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him: the just upright man is laughed to scorn.

Job 16:2-5 -- I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.  Shall vain words have an end? or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest?  I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you.  But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should asswage your grief.
 

– CONCLUSION –

Ultimately, God will take away our reproach. He will vindicate us and save us for His name’s sake. We just have to wait patiently upon the Lord and bear the trials that He has for us. We know not the impact of the lessons which we will be taught through patience.

Job’s understanding of God was greatly improved by his experience, to say nothing of his material benefits.  We all need to exhibit the patience of Job, and pray that we get it by regular practice and not the same circumstances that came upon him.

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Making Time for Down Time in Ministry

Mark 6:7-32 KJV
(7)  And He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;
(8)  And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:
(9)  But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.
...
(12)  And they went out, and preached that men should repent.
(13)  And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
...
(30)  And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.
(31)  And He said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
(32)  And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.

 

rest and reflectionOftentimes, people in ministry fail to recognize that they need time to regroup and recharge.  Without scheduled periods of down time for restoration and recuperation, there will be unscheduled periods of “downtime,” borrowing a term from the technology realm.

Not only do those who minister to others need to take a break for physical and mental reasons, but they also need to take special time to recharge spiritually as well.  It is not a sin or an act of laziness to set aside time for recharging.  If anything, the opposite is true: a failure to set aside sufficient periods to be physically and spiritually regenerated will likely lead to breakdowns in health or serious spiritual challenges which could have been avoided.  There are also implications for those with families – being always on the go will eventually lead to problems with relationships.

God expects His people to be wise – after all, He is the source of their wisdom – and they exercise wisdom and prudence by scheduling necessary breaks which will enable them to be more effective when they return to action.  Keeping a grueling schedule might allow one to feel pious and zealous of the cause of God, but the damage that can occur without the necessary breaks could be very difficult to undo.

Let us endeavor to make time for rest and make time for work, and do both in the right season.  Otherwise, we might find ourselves out of commission for longer than desired, due to intemperance of scheduling.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

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Learning the Lessons of History

Esther 3:5-10 KJV
(5) And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.

(8) And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them.
(9) If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries.
(10) And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' enemy.

imageIt is said that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.  This is especially true when it comes to Bible Study and last day events.

The history recorded in the Bible holds the key to understanding the prophecy which so many are eager to understand.  Unfortunately for them, the prevailing view is that the Old Testament (OT) scriptures are no longer important, relevant or binding.  As a result of this sentiment, it is very difficult to get a right conception of many of the things presented in the New Testament (NT), for they very directly reference the Old Testament scriptures.

Consider the following:

  • The only “Bible” which the NT believers had for several decades was the Old Testament.  (The first written book of the NT occurred at least 20 years after Jesus had ascended back to Heaven)
  • Without the OT, it would have been quite impossible for anyone to prove that Jesus had been the Messiah, for all those prophecies addressing His first and second comings were provided by OT prophets.
  • Since the Bible is intended to be read and managed as a whole, anything you don’t find details about in the NT will have those details provided in the OT.  Some things were emphasized again in the NT on account of disputes or questions or conflicts that arose – the same reasons that some things were reiterated within the OT itself.
  • Without the use of the Old Testament Bible, the NT believers would have had very little basis for any of the actions they took, as the vast majority of those actions were defined in the OT.
  • The Bible makes heavy use of types (shadows) and antitypes (fulfillments of types) all the way from the Genesis through Revelation.  If you want to know how a certain thing will play out in prophecy, then look for any situation where types/antitypes are possible.  (Jesus used several, including “As it was in the days of Noah” and “As it was in the days of Lot”.)

The persecution and attempted destruction of the Jews by Haman the Agagite, should be of particular note to God’s people, as it outlines a path where an individual or group persuades the powers that be for the authority to wipe out God’s people for not cooperating with something the individual or group desire/demand.  A similar scenario can be found with Daniel in both chapters 3 and 6.  In chapter 3, a group brings another group of people to the attention of the king because of their own annoyance/discomfort with the group (Daniel 3:9-12), and in chapter 6, we see that a group manages to get a rule put into place that adversely impacts one individual (Daniel 6:11-14).

Looking at Revelation 13, we can see that a similar set of events will unfold, and laws will be contrived by some, and put into place to the detriment of God’s people.

As we close out another year, and as we move one step closer to eternity, we need to be more ardent Bible students, that we might understand where we are, what is coming, and what we should be doing.  And, it will help if we use the whole Bible in our studies, and recognize the patterns of the God who changes not.  Failing at history – Bible history – is just not a good option.

Have a blessed year, and endeavor to study more intently than ever before…

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Stop Getting Ready

Matthew 24:42-44 KJV
(42) Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (43) But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. (44) Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

Many preach the message of readiness, but they do so from a perspective that subtly differs from that of the scriptures: they talk about “getting ready.”   Getting ready might seem to be a noble state of being, but it is necessarily one of incompleteness.  One who is “getting ready” is, in fact, not quite ready as yet.

The reason that many have accepted this view of readiness, is that we have been taught that to claim to “be ready” would imply that we had attained perfection or were in need of doing nothing further.  Well, that’s really not how readiness works. A month ago, we were preparing for the lovely Super-Storm Sandy that came barreling up the eastern coast of the US.  We made sure we had food, fuel, water, and other supplies.  We made our list and checked it twice, but we didn’t just sit around once we thought everything had been checked off.  Instead, we looked around for things we might have missed.

In other words, while we *were ready* as opposed to merely *getting ready*, we continued to assess and evaluate to ensure that our readiness was not an illusion or somehow deficient.  Certainly, we were more relaxed and less tense that we would have been had we been unprepared.  We still didn’t know for sure how things were going to play out, but between preparation and prayer, we weren’t going to get stressed about it.

Spiritually, we need to take the same tack. God has outlined what readiness entails.  We have counsel in Matthew 28:18-20, Revelation 14:6-12 and Revelation 18 pertaining to our work and our attitude.  If the goodman of the house in Matthew 24 was “getting ready,” he still would have had his house broken into.  He needed to be completely ready.  Not complacent, but well prepared and actively watching/waiting.

Five of the virgins in Matthew 25 were ready, while the other five were getting ready.

1 Peter 4:7-8 KJV
(7) But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. (8) And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

Stop getting ready. Be Ready. Stay Ready.

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Getting Distracting with Debates

2 Timothy 2:23-26 KJV
(23) But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.  (24) And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, (25) In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;  (26) And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

ConflictsIt has recently become apparent to me that the primary source of conflict for God’s people is now from within the church, not outside the church.  Every day, yet another person rises up seeking new approaches, new methods, or new interpretations of the everlasting gospel.  In the past year alone, I have seen and heard more interesting theories that people claim are supported by the Bible, but somehow, the texts used to support the theory are always a subset of all of the passages that Bible contains on the subject at hand.  When this is pointed out, there is never an acknowledgement of the missing texts, or any attempt to account for what they teach, but just accusations about how people are not listening to truth.

Hint: That’s not how Jesus behaved when He wasn’t listened to, and He *is* truth!

As a result of all this error and supposition that is creeping – or sometimes strolling – into the church, concerned brethren are readily engaging in debate and rebuttals and confrontations. But what does this serve?  I cannot speak for everyone, but I myself have yet to see that as good, solid rebuttal or debate has caused anyone to say, “You know, I might have been wrong here.”  I have not seen any person bearing their “new light” back down in the face of abundant scriptural evidence that their position is not supported by the Word of God.  Meanwhile, lengthy debates generate collateral damage for bystanders in the form of doubt, and also in the deteriorating attitude of those who are engaged in the battle, leading to behavior and attitude that is most unChristlike.  In short, this does not make a good witness for the gospel.  It is no wonder that Paul counseled Timothy to avoid these types of conflicts and debates, for no good will come from them.

It seems that we frequently forget that we are engaged in a very serious conflict with a highly sophisticated and determined enemy.  All this chaos is intended to redirect efforts that should be focused on encouraging our brethren to deep, personal Bible study, and on the preaching/teaching of the 3 angels’ messages to the whole world.  There is no time to get caught up in needless conflict.  There is no time to be distracted from the mission.  There is no time to come down from the wall to meet and discuss with those who are looking to use a convenient subset of scripture to promote their theories.

Does that mean that we never challenge a false position, or gently seek to redirect an erring student of the Word? No, we should not casually leave any true seeker in error.  But, once a person has been provided the evidence that their position is unsupported by scripture, and they insist that you are deluded or supporting heresy or are in apostasy, then you need to evaluate your subsequent time in light of the lateness of the hour and your responsibility to be a faithful steward of time.  We cannot afford to get embroiled in needless debates, when there is so much of the Lord’s work which remains to be done.

Nehemiah 6:1-4 KJV
(1) Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)  (2) That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief.  (3) And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?  (4) Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

We have no time for needless conflict.  Let us be prudent and discerning, and use our time wisely.  We only need to correct an error once, and if the person insists on holding on to it, we need to move on.

”I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”

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