Story or real?
Job 1: God replied, “We’ll see. Go ahead.”
I’ve heard some say that the fact that God gives permission for Job to be tested brings comfort to them. They tie it in to Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” I see what they see in this. In the midst of the pain and suffering there’s some consolation in remembering that God is allowing this and he wouldn’t allow it if he didn’t know I can take it. However, this also troubles me. To think that the Lord grants permission for a life to be devastated (not to mention the very lives of Job’s children) is hard to take. I think this is why some people have decided that this is a parable-like story rather than a historical one. If this is fiction based on fact I can relax and focus on learning the lessons I can learn here. If, though, this is the real deal then I find myself struggling. If you think I am about to come up with some profound answer I fear you’re going to be disappointed. Beyond that, if you decide to skip ahead of me and read how the story of Job ends to find an answer there, well, you won’t find it there either.
Take Away: Sometimes we just have to trust the Lord, especially when we have more questions than answers.
My “A” game
Esther 7: So Haman was hanged on the very gallows that he had built for Mordecai.
Esther uses every tool she has in her efforts to save her people. She relies on her intelligence, her beauty, and the support of all those who are fasting before the Lord over the outcome. She issues not one, but two invitations to the King to attend lavish dinners. Xerxes is fascinated and filled with curiosity about all this. Then there’s Haman who’s also invited. His ego is so great that he never sees the trap Esther has laid for him. When the time is right Esther speaks and the end result is that Haman is hanged on the gallows he built for her uncle and Xerxes grants her permission to act in his name to save her people. A few devotional observations can be made here. Esther uses her natural gifts in her service of the Lord. People fast over this and God hears. The result is that the people of God are protected and saved. I’m to bring my “A” game to my service of the Lord, giving it my best while at the same time knowing that it’s all for nothing without the intervention of the Lord. I also need to remember that I’m part of a larger family of believers who will join me in petitioning the Lord for his help. As I give my best and as my family of faith joins me God moves to make all the difference in the world.
Take Away: The Lord loves working in partnership with us.
What are the chances?
2Kings 8: This is the woman! And this is her son whom Elisha brought back to life!
Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, is chatting with the king about Elisha. When the king asks to hear some of the stories of this spiritual giant’s life Gehazi begins recounting some of the high points of Elisha’s ministry. One of the stories he tells is that of a woman whose son died. When Elisha arrived, he prayed and the son came back to life. Even as the king considers such an amazing thing a woman and her son are brought in for an audience with the king. Her concern is property rights and such matters are a big deal for these descendants of Abraham. Gehazi can hardly believe his eyes. It’s the very woman and son that he’s just been talking about! Because of that, the king is quick to give the woman justice and maybe even a bit more. Is it happenstance that the servant of Elisha just happens to be visiting the king that day? Is it mere chance that when the king asked for some “Elisha stories” that Gehazi decides to talk about the resurrection of a certain woman’s son? Is it just coincidence that she shows up just as Gehazi finishes his story? I don’t think so. This has “God at work” written all over it. I don’t live out on the mystic edge of life about stuff like this. I do think that simple coincidences do happen. However, as I’ve heard somewhere, I’ve noticed that when I pray coincidences seem to happen more often. As I read this story today it’s nice to be reminded of that.
Take Away: The Lord has a way of creating happy coincidences for his people.
Back from the brink
1 Samuel 30: A gift from the plunder of God’s enemies!
The story of David’s rescue of the women and children of Ziklag is a companion to the events of the previous chapter in which David isn’t allowed to join the battle against Saul and the army of Israel. It takes him and his men three days to return to their base camp of Ziklag. When they arrive there all that’s left is smoldering ruins. Amalekite raiders have taken advantage of the fact that all warriors throughout the territory are massed at Aphek in preparation for a major battle. Ziklag and other area towns have been attacked and ransacked. The women and children have been carried away to be used as slaves or worse. David pursues them, driving his men to exhaustion. By the time he catches up to the Amalekites his forces are severely depleted with only 200 of the original 600 warriors still at his side. With God’s help, his band of 200 routs the much larger Amalekite force. They recover all the captives and a large bounty of goods taken, not only from Ziklag, but from the other towns as well. David insists that the spoils be equally shared with all, including those who were unable to fight. He also sends portions of the plunder to the towns of Judah, “A gift from the plunder of God’s enemies.” The coupled events of David being turned back from the battle at Aphek and his success against the Amalekites rescue David from the brink of personal destruction. In one case, he is stopped from becoming an enemy of Israel. In the other, he turns his trust back to God, and then acts in an honorable way in handling the plunder. Here we see God putting David back on track to lead Israel. Oh, the mighty hand of God, working through our stubbornness and human weakness. God works through a million and one circumstances to bring about his good purpose. It’s that way with David and it’s that way for us too.
Take Away: We don’t always recognize it, but quite often the Lord works through the circumstances of our lives to bring about good.
More on “God did it”
Genesis 50: Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good….
For over 20 years Joseph’s brothers carried the secret guilt of what they did to him. Now, even though Joseph has forgiven them we see that they haven’t yet forgiven themselves. The reason for this is that, if their roles were reversed, they’d still be holding a grudge. When their father dies they’re afraid that it was for the sake of Jacob that Joseph never took revenge on them. When Joseph realizes what’s happening he assures his brothers that he has no intention of striking out at them. Through the years Joseph has had lots of time to think about the flow of events in his life and he’s developed an insightful theology about it all. On one hand, he knows that it wasn’t God who planned evil things against him. Clearly, it was his brothers who did this and Joseph makes no attempt to say the Lord was behind their evil deed. On the other hand, Joseph sees that when his brothers did their worst that they couldn’t derail God’s ultimate plan. God moved in and redeemed their evil act, turning it into good for Joseph and even for those evil-deed-doing bothers. Earlier, Joseph told his brothers, concerning his being sold into slavery, that “God did it.” Now we see that, while this statement isn’t wrong, it’s incomplete. When people act in their own free will to do the wrong thing God has a knack of stepping in and transforming it into something good. My friend, considering that this conversation takes place over a century before the Ten Commandments are given that’s a pretty mature theology.
Take away: God doesn’t do bad things to accomplish his will, but he’s capable of working through bad things to bring his purposes to pass.