Tag Archives: Job

Righteous Anger

Meditations on the Psalms

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah.(Psalm 4:4 ESV)

Why do any fight against God? Isn’t the knowledge of God inherent to people enough to tell them they will lose? How can those created in the image of God war against the One who created them and possibly prevail?

Angry does not mean angry, as we understand the word, in every instance used in Scripture. Angry may mean rage, agitation or being perturbed. But the word also means to quake, to fear, to tremble or be excited. The Authorized Version translates the word as stand in awe. We misinterpret the Psalm when we do not understand the meaning of the words. The Psalmist is still speaking to those people who have turned His Honor into shame and who love themselves and their own thinking more than they love God. He has told them He will make holy those who are His, those identified with His Son. They may have anger at this declaration, but they should feel awestruck with the power of God to do that which they could never do for themselves.

Do not sinis not a request. No one has permission from God to sin, which is to miss the mark of His righteousness, to go the wrong way, to bring upon themselves guilt, to forfeit their righteous standing before Him. Sin is any thinking of the heart translated into action that violates the moral law of God inherent in the image of God given to everyone. Sin is violating the essential nature given to all people, bending and breaking them, making them unable to do that for which they were created. Though we now have a sin nature, we are still told to not sin.

Acknowledging the truth and consequences of sin require all ponder, which means to say, answer, think, to speak to oneself the truth presented and then to command, to promise and intend to do that which rectifies the wrong. Every person must come to the conclusion sin exists and is true and take responsibility for their own sin. No one has an excuse.  Contemplating the truth of sin and its ultimate consequences brings one to the realization of the broken relationship between their Creator and themselves, His creation. Coming to this conclusion should drive everyone to their knees. Silent means to be still, struck dumb, to make oneself quiet.

When God answered Job, he clapped his hand over his mouth to silence himself. He saw God and then saw all his empty arguments, so he restrained himself from speaking further. “Then Job answered the LORD and said: ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further’” (Job 40:3-5 ESV).

Death is the undeniable evidence of the reality of sin. As Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus many suggest had Jesus been present the man would not have died. Martha was the first to speak. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22 ESV). When Mary arrived, she exclaimed the same thought. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32 ESV). Finally, some of those standing around watching said “could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37 ESV). They believed Jesus could do something when a person was alive. They did not believe He could do anything after a person died. No one believed the evidence of His words and works, that He had already raised people from death (see Luke 7:11-16; see Matthew 9:18-26, see Mark 5:22-43, see Luke 8:41-56). Jesus was a mere man with certain abilities fed by their superstitious beliefs. He could heal. He could not raise from death.

Martha protested when Jesus told them to take away the stone covering the tomb. She who had just declared “but even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:22 ESV) now said “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39 ESV). She did not believe Jesus with the thinking of her heart. Only after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and she and the other touched her brother and lived with him, did she begin to believe.

Jesus works, as God works, leaving behind the irrefutable evidence of His labor. In creation, we are surrounded by the evidence of God. We are filled with the evidence of God having His image. Yet, we are also assaulted by sin from the world and our own flesh. Ignoring the evidence of God and of sin is irrational and insane. Our anger toward the truth of sin needs replacing with the astonishment of intimately knowing God. Only by taking responsibility for our own sin and then seeking Him with our whole hearts will we receive His eternal blessing.

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Peter’s Denial of Christ

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 22:31-34, 54-62 (see also Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75; Mark 14:27-31, 66-72; John 13:37-38; 18:15-18, 25-27

It is the night before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Jesus knows what will happen in a few hours, having foreseen His coming trial, execution and resurrection. For this reason He came as a man. He and His disciples are eating the Passover meal. Passover is a physical representation of a spiritual reality. God instituted the Passover as an annual celebration, so the Jews would remember when He brought their nation out of Egypt. God instructed the Jews to eat the first Passover meal before the last plague to strike the nation of Egypt and before Pharaoh before released the Jewish people. When the Angel of death passed over the land, He struck down the first born of all who had not covered the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a sacrificed lamb.

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:12-13 ESV)

God knew what He was going to do from creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, and systematically told His people and the world the events that would accomplish His redemption of those who are His. Passover is an annual reminder that God has redeemed those who are His by the blood of His Son. Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples before He became the sacrificed Passover lamb whose blood covers those redeemed by God.

During the meal Jesus predicted Peter’s denial of his relationship with Him. Jesus used Peter’s given name twice. Then He tells us something we could never know had He not divulged the facts. Satan had demanded from God that it might tempt Peter. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat”  (Luke 22:31 ESV). Demanded means to be given over for torture or punishment. Satan is concentrating its strength on the leader of the disciples in an attempt to destroy the continuity Jesus had built into the group over the years of His ministry. Like Job, Satan wanted to tempt and try Peter to see if his faith was real or a fabrication. Like Job, God gave permission for Satan to do its work (see Job 1:6-22 and 2:1-10).

Jesus does not leave Peter to his own strengths. Faith is a conduit God uses, through which God delivers all the tools needed to live for God in a world that hates God and persecutes Christians. Jesus tells Peter that “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). Jesus’ prayer is eternally powerful. Though Peter must endure the assaults and attacks of the enemy, through the strength provided by God, he will endure. If Peter had to rely upon his own strength, his failure was assured. Peter received God’s strength in him under God’s control. He would fall because of his sin, but would rise again to work for God because of God’s strength. Knowing this, Jesus gave Peter his marching orders. His purpose was to strengthen your brothers, all those who follow Christ and must endure the assaults of the Deceiver.

In Peter’s mind and heart there was no possibility of him rejecting Jesus. Peter made a brash statement, boasting of something he would soon regret.  This is a characteristic of very person who tries to live for Christ using their own human strength and wisdom. “Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death’” (Luke 22:33 ESV). Peter declared he was ready to die for Christ. He heard Jesus tell them they must pick up their crosses and follow Him. Having followed Jesus this far, he was convinced of his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for Jesus.

Jesus, knowing the hearts of men, allows for temporary failure to build eternal success. Jesus knows what will actually happen because He is God and knows all things. “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34 ESV). Roosters do not just crow as day is breaking but while it is still dark in the early morning hours. Peter, adamantly convinced he would never forsake Jesus, denied he knew Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, while it was still dark.

This prediction must have devastated Peter’s sensibilities. He could easily have been angry and hurt by what Jesus told him. In his mind and heart, he would do what he said he would do. When Jesus was arrested, it was Peter who struck the servant of the High Priest with a sword. “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?’” (John 18:10-11 ESV). Peter was rebuked by Jesus, even after being told to bring a sword, because he used the sword. His discouragement and confusion must have been great.

But Peter had already heard Jesus’ words. He may not have remembered them until later. “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). God used his failings to prepare him for greater service.

Examples of Poverty of Spirit

God does not tell use His expectations without giving examples both positive and negative. He has given examples of what it means to be “poor inn spirit” from the earliest writings and stories. Here are six people in Scripture who, when encountered by God “face to face” showed they were “poor in spirit.” Upon recognizing they were in God’s presence they immediately realized they were sinful and unable to stand before Him because of His holiness.

Many stood before God and questioned Him, or argued with Him, or ran away from Him. After they sinned Adam and Eve ran from God presence when they heard Him walking in the Garden. There is no suggestion in Scripture they repented. Abraham listened to God, heard Him speak, even face-to-face with the Angel of the Lord before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and argued with Him. While Abraham is declared righteous because of his faith in God’s promises not because he understood the truth and extent of sin. Jacob wrestled with Him. Moses, before the burning bush, argued with God. Joshua challenged Him. Elijah ran to Him, then covered his face before complaining to Him.

Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible. God loves Job and they have an intimate relationship. However, it doesn’t appear God loves Job when He allows Satan to afflict the man and take away his belongings, his family and health. Throughout the ordeal Job does not sin in what he says to those who try to entice him to sin. Even his wife criticizes him.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”In all this Job did not sin with his lips. [Job 2:9-10 ESV]

Throughout the book of Job, during the discussions and arguments with his “friends” Job lays out his case, asking for God’s justice over and over. He wants to stand before God and plead his case knowing God would listen. He never admits he has done wrong though he readily admits many things are wrong and sinful before God. He never admits he has done any wrong. There are many things he knows are wrong and does not do them. He does not allow his eyes to wander and lust after other women. He has not lied or stolen but taken care of the needs of the poor, the orphan and widow. He has not put his trust in wealth nor is there anyone who has a charge against him. Throughout the book Job defends his righteousness, a righteousness given him by God. But Scripture tells us there are none righteous. None seek after God. All are sinful and under God’s wrath. Job doesn’t see this until he is confronted by very God.

Then Job answered the Lord and said: I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. “Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. [Job 42:1-6 ESV]

Perhaps one of the most worshipful gestures of all is the uncommon one Job here performs. He figuratively and poetically covers his mouth with his hand. He has been speaking eloquently, answering his friends arguments and accusations. He has defended himself before them suggesting he could also defend himself before God. But once he hears God, listens to His wonders, sees him with his own eyes, Job knows nothing he has said carries weight before his Creator. He “despises” himself. He “repents” of his rash words. He stops talking. This act is a demonstration of total submission. One can fall on one’s face and yet continue to blubber and babble. To yield the tongue is to yield everything. If you can’t change your thinking then at least stop talking.  Standing in God’s presence require silence.

If the goodness and right actions of a man like Job cannot justify themselves before God how much less the self-righteous and sinful actions and attitudes of a whole nation who claim to worship God but do not. In the first five chapters of Isaiah the prophet describe a people, a nation, who have turned their backs on their God, while calling their rebellion “worship.” God calls His nation, the nation of Israel, “Sodom and Gomorrah,” equating the sin of the people called His own to the sin of those destroyed cities. Isaiah is a prophet calling the people of God to turn away from their sin, to repent and return to God. He is sent to Judah, the Southern Kingdom, just before the fall of the Northern Kingdom. Perhaps the people will see what happens to their countrymen to the North and learn.

Yet, God states blatantly, they will not listen. If they would only turn away from their sin and turn toward God He would bless them and their land. They refuse to even acknowledge their sin.

They do not listen and refuse to learn. Over a century later Judah falls, Jerusalem is destroyed, the Temple, the center of false worship, is razed and the people are exiled replaced by pagans. God had been telling them from the moment they entered the “Promised Land” they must follow Him wholeheartedly. Ezekiel, a prophet among the exiles of Judah, 140 years after Isaiah, continues to tell them, God’s people in exile, to turn from their sin and return in obedience to God.

There are many viewpoints about what a prophet is supposed to do and be. Prophets are truth-tellers. They “forth-tell” not just “foretell.” Everything they say must be truth. If what they say is not truth then they are considered by God a false prophet. God metes out harsh punishment for those who tell lies and even harsher punishment for those who attribute those lies to Him. God makes those who are His prophets lovers of the truth and haters of lies. These people will bluntly confront the lie, sin, with truth, justice and righteousness, even when reviled or ignored, persecuted or killed. Prophets view themselves as wholly belonging to God. They recognize who God is and who they are before God.

Look at Isaiah and Ezekiel. How did they view themselves before God? Both had a vision of holy God. Isaiah’s vision was simple. “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” [Isaiah 6:1 ESV] Ezekiel’s vision was elaborate, filled with images and detail. All of the first chapter of Ezekiel describes holy God.

And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. [Ezekiel 1:26-28 ESV]

Job stopped talking. Isaiah recognized even his words, every thought and word and action and attitude was corrupted before the voice of God. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” [Isaiah 6:5 ESV] God cleansed his lips with a burning coal. When Ezekial saw God he “fell on his face.” [Ezekiel 1:28 ESV]. He did not just stop speaking, or just see his words as corrupted. He saw his whole being as unworthy. God sent those who were unworthy of Himself to turn a nation of those who are unworthy back to Himself, knowing only a few would actually return.

Do not the words of a person show what is in the person’s heart and head? Does not our speech define for God and the world who we are? Those who are “poor in spirit” recognize their utter unworthiness before the absolute holiness of God. Yet, God blesses those who are “poor in spirit.” His blessing comes through the sacrifice of His Son who took upon Himself the sin of those who refuse to recognize their sin and continue in their rebellion. Poverty of spirit is the first step toward God in obedience.