Job 27:2-5 and The Value of Integrity

integrity_highlighted_in_dictionar_450According to the dictionary function of Google (which I didn’t even know existed until I searched for this word) integrity  means “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” This is exactly what Job has, and does not want to lose. Look at these verses:

As God lives, who rejected my legal claim, the Almighty, who made me bitter, as long as breath is in me and God’s breath is in my nostrils—my lips will utter no wickedness; my tongue will mumble no deceit. I will not agree that you are right. Until my dying day, I won’t give up my integrity.

Job speaks this in response to his friends’ arguments that he must be a sinner because of the suffering he has endured. He will not bring himself to agree that he did something wrong because he knows he did not sin. No matter how the entire world may view his situation, and even if everyone under the sun thinks opposite of Job, he will never give up his integrity and agree with them because he knows the truth–and he will do this because he honors the very God who seems to be punishing him! He still will not sin against God in agreeing with something that he knows is a lie.

The very same Google definition also had an interesting feature. It shows how popular the word is that was defined. There is a chart at the end of the definition that shows how often the word was used dating back to 1800 through today. (Integrity Usage)

According to the chart, the use of integrity dropped off significantly during the 20th century. The upswing in the latter decades most likely has more to do with the concept of the wholeness of a country or institution (the integrity of a sovereign country or financial integrity) or integrity as a computer term (the integrity of a file or data). Integrity is just not as popular a concept as it once was when speaking of moral character.

Much of this is due to our culture’s understanding that there are very few, if any, moral absolutes. We have perfected the idea that ethics and morals are situational, and if I am not hurt by someone else having a completely different understanding of something, I cannot object to their position.

Christianity, unfortunately, has succumbed to this situational morality in the West. There are many individual Christians, congregations, and denominations that no longer believe that there is an objective moral truth. This thinking goes under the guise of being faithful to God by proclaiming that love is the basis of all we do. The problem with this idea is that the life of Jesus was not one that permitted anything to go in people’s lives under the umbrella that “God loves you.” Jesus was actually quite pointed in his criticisms and judgments on sin.

The “all we need is love” crowd will quickly point out that Jesus’ harshest words were for the religious establishment and their self-righteous judgmentalism. This is true. And it is true because the flagrant sinners were coming to Jesus for healing and forgiveness. They were repenting of their sins! Jesus even tells them to sin no more. It is the ones who refused to repent, who thought their lives were acceptable to God just as they were–refusing to acknowledge the sin in their lives–that received the harshest words from Jesus.

Would that the entire Church had integrity once again! Would that we would hold fast to the objective moral truth of God no matter what the prevailing currents in society are! Would that we could be like Job and refuse to agree, even if the whole world were against us, because we know the Truth!

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Job 23:8-9 and Perception Is Everything

128aaf3fe4951ee638978fd66292234bHow we perceive the world determines what we believe about it. Conversely, what we believe about the world determines what we perceive in it. Take the case of the human hand, a bat’s wing, and a whale’s fin. X-rays of each of these will show and extremely similar structure of five “fingers” in a relatively same shape. Those who believe in God will see this as evidence that the same intellect designed all three of them. Those who do not believe in God, but rather in evolution, will see this as evidence of a common origin. Perception and belief work both ways.

Job gives a wonderful insight into perception when he says:

Look, I go east; he’s not there, west, and don’t discover him; north in his activity, and I don’t grasp him; he turns south, and I don’t see.

In the midst of suffering Job cannot see God at work anywhere. Many times people have such horrible events happen in their lives that they simply cannot see God anywhere in the world. Good is written off as an anomaly, blessings are seen as coincidences, and faith is viewed as form of escapism for those too weak to face life with all of its horrors.

For those who have faith in God and have never suffered, this is unimaginable. They see God in absolutely everything around them and cannot help but notice that even the heavens declare the glory of the Lord.

For those who have faith in God and have gone through suffering, their witness is the most powerful for people who cannot see God now. Someone who has been where another person is, who has had to deal with the evil of the world and yet still sees God at work, can truly help others see God as well.

Whatever your experiences in life have been, you may just be the key to helping someone else see God.

Job 9:33-35 and Seeking a Mediator

PrinceOfPeaceJob’s complaint throughout this book is that God inflicts evil on people whether they deserve it or not and there is no way to make a case before God that the punishment received is unjust. Here, in Chapter 9, Job cries out for help:

Oh, that there were a mediator between us; he would lay his hand on both of us, remove his rod from me, so his fury wouldn’t frighten me. Then I would speak—unafraid—for I’m not that way.

Job seeks someone who can bridge the gap between God and himself, someone who can remove the wrath of God from him, someone who can remove Job’s fear in the face of God. This someone would be able to speak with both Job and God and understand both of them.

This is a cry for Jesus, the God-man who does, in fact, know both of them and can truly speak to both of them–whose ministry removes the wrath of God from all of the world and allows humans to boldly “approach th’ eternal throne,” to quote Charles Wesley’s hymn And Can It Be.

People have longed for someone to bridge the gap between humanity and the divine all over the world and all across time. Jesus is that mediator. He intercedes for all who would ask him to do so. Thanks be to God that he is willing to listen and desires to be heard!

 

Here is a newer version of And Can It Be:

And here is the original:

Job 5:17-18 and What Not to Say to Someone Suffering

Satan cast out of heaven.

Satan cast out of heaven.

I know Job’s friends mean well; they would not have come to visit if they did not care. Nevertheless, what they say could be a case study in what not to say to someone who is suffering. Take these two verses for example:

Look, happy is the person whom God corrects; so don’t reject the Almighty’s instruction. He injures, but he binds up; he strikes, but his hands heal.

Job has lost all of his wealth. His children are all dead. He has open sores that fester and are infected with parasites. He is not happy! Not only does this statement not take into account what Job, the one suffering here, actually feels, it is not completely truthful, either.

Statements like this have a lot of truthiness to them–they sound like they are true but are not necessarily true. The major issue in Job that will be visited over and over again is the idea that God does everything in this world, good or bad. If someone is prosperous it is from God. If someone is destitute it is from God. This kind of thinking ultimately makes God the source of evil in the world since God is the only one who is acting in this situation.

What is worse is when people try to defend this position and say something ridiculous to defend it. One of Job’s friends, speaking specifically of Job’s children’s deaths, stated, “If your children sinned against him [God], then he delivered them into the power of their rebellion” (8:4). So taking this logic to its ultimate conclusion, six million Jews sinned against God and he destroyed them in the Holocaust during World War II. People in the Midwest sinned against God so he sent tornadoes to destroy them. The workers in the Twin Towers and the travelers on the airplanes sinned against God so he destroyed them. If we make the same critical assumption Job and his friends did–that God is the only one responsible for action in the world–then God becomes the author of evil.

We have an enemy, an adversary, who is a deceiver and a liar. God is not the only one at work in the world. The devil is also at work and many times the evil is from him. There will be no order or reason behind that evil because it is fueled by hate and rage, and neither of those make any logical sense. If Job and his friends knew this, the book would have been much shorter than it is because they would not have had to try and explain why God is either just or unjust in the situation in which Job finds himself.

Sometimes bad things happen and there is no identifiable reason for it. Sometimes horrendous evil occurs and no one can explain why. It is not because God did it. There is not always a one-to-one correspondence between the circumstances of our lives and our faithfulness before God. If we are faithful, sometimes we still suffer. If we are disobedient, sometimes we prosper. This is because the devil is also at work in this world.

Trying to ease the suffering of someone by saying God is teaching them a lesson is not only insensitive to the suffering happening, it may just be a lie, too.

 

Job 4:7-8 and Why Bad Things Happen

Book_of_Job_Chapter_2-4_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)I have a hard time reading Job. I am not a huge fan of poetry, and it always seems to me that the book says the same thing over and over again. The main essence of Job is to try and explain why bad things happen. The situation has been set in the first two chapters that Job is righteous and does not sin. Most of the rest of the book is Job’s friends trying to help him confess his sin and repent. A lot of this reasoning comes from one of the dominant views of the day, in these verses:

Think! What innocent person has ever perished?
    When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?
 As I’ve observed, those who plow sin
    and sow trouble will harvest it.

This is the idea that good people prosper in life and bad people suffer. The first chapters of the book show this is not true, yet this is the view lots of people believe. We tend to want to see a cause and effect relationship with our lives–we do good, put in hard work, sacrifice for something, and we ought to be rewarded. If we are Christians–we pray, go to church, serve on committees, tithe, and God ought to answer our prayers the way we want him to do.

The world does not work like this.

Sometimes bad people prosper. History is replete with examples of horrible people who achieved the pinnacle of power and wealth. Sometimes good people suffer. The quintessential example of this is Jesus, who should never have suffered evil if it is true that good people only prosper.

As we go through Job, we will continue to wrestle with this question of why bad things happen.

Esther 8:15-17 and God’s Grace Reverses Everything

Tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan, Iran.

Tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan, Iran.

In the Book of Esther we can see how God can reverse everything. Of course God is never mentioned in this book, so it actually reads a lot like how people live their lives today–faithful people doing what they can, acting and reacting according to their beliefs, while God is at work. No prophets to perform miracles. No messengers from God to declare, “Thus saith the Lord.” Just ordinary people who fast and pray.

Throughout this story there is the enemy of the People of God, Haman, who wants to destroy all of the Jewish people in the empire, a region spanning India to Ethiopia. It is a time of remorse and terror. The Jewish people huddle together to fast and pray while it seems that they will be wiped off the face of the earth.

Then, God acts through Mordecai and Esther to save the people and protect them. Haman is thrown down, Mordecai is raised up, and there is great rejoicing:

Mordecai went out from the king’s presence in a blue and white royal robe wearing a large gold crown and a white and red-purple coat. The city of Susa greeted him with shouts of joy.  For the Jews it was a day of light, happiness, joy, and honor.  In every province and in every town—wherever the king’s order and his law arrived—for the Jews it was a day of happiness and joy. For them it meant feasts and a holiday. Many people in the land became Jews themselves, out of fear of the Jews.

Everything is reversed, including one major point–more people become Jewish. People convert to Judaism. Haman wanted to destroy all the Jews and instead the population grew! Of course this is why the Lord acts in history–so that people will know that he is the only God and will become his people. Israel was created to be a kingdom of priests, bearing the Lord to the whole earth. This is fulfilled in the Church, which has an explicit mandate to share who God is with the whole world.

This was a dire situation for the Jewish people, and God’s grace completely reversed it to the point where people even converted to become part of the covenant people of God. Whatever problems or evils you may be experiencing in your life, God can reverse it as well. Pray, and get a group of people together to pray with you and for you. God’s grace can and will do mighty things.