Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August 22: Job 4 – 7; Psalm 37:30-40; Proverbs 21:27; 1 Corinthians 14:18-40



Overview

            Job: Eliphaz responds to Job. He acknowledges that Job has instructed many but now that he is suffering he has become impatient. He reminds Job that his fear of God and integrity has been his hope. He says that innocent people are not punished by God.
            Eliphaz had a spiritual encounter in which a spirit came near him. He was terrorized. He couldn’t discern its shape. It asked him if a mortal man could be right before God. It said God doesn’t trust his angels and even less mortal men. It said men die without wisdom.
            He asks Job which of the angels will answer him and help him. Thinking this way is foolishness. Fools look like they start to prosper then suddenly they and their families are destitute. This doesn’t come from nowhere but man is born for trouble.
            Eliphaz says that if it were him, he would seek God who provides rain, takes care of the lowly but frustrates the crafty and haughty in their own eyes. So, the poor have hope but not those others. He says not to despise God’s discipline. The disciplined man is blessed. God may send trouble, but he also restores. He will deliver from destruction and you will not fear. You won’t have any troubles and will live a long time. Eliphaz has observed all this and know it is true. He tells Job he should apply it to his life.
            Job replies that because his vexation is so severe has spoken rashly. God’s terror is against him. It is natural to complain like animals without food. He can’t eat because of his illness.
            He asks that God would kill him and it would be done. He takes comfort in that he hasn’t denied God’s words but still he has no strength to endure to the end.
            He complains that his friends have withheld kindness and it shows they have stopped fearing God. They are treacherous like swollen streams from melted snow that vanish in the summer. They have seen Job’s torment and are afraid. Why? Job hasn’t asked anything from them or to intervene with God for him.
            Job asks them to tell him how he has gone wrong and he will listen. But their philosophy isn’t helping at all.
            He knows that man’s life is hard. He describes his condition of sleeplessness at night and misery during the day. He has no hope of change. So, he tells his friends that he will speak now because when he is dead they won’t see him anymore. He will tell them of his anguish of his spirit and bitterness of his soul.
            He asks God how scaring him with dreams will help. He asks to be left alone but God visits every morning for testing. How long will this keep up and why has God done this? Has he become a burden to God? Why won’t he take away his sin and forgive him?
            Psalm: The continuation of Psalm 37 keeps the same theme of the Lord watching over the righteous but destroying the wicked. We are again advised to wait for the Lord. He will bring about good for us but the end of the wicked will be cut off. Salvation belongs to the righteous because the Lord delivers them from evil men.
            Proverbs: When a wicked person brings a sacrifice, it is an abomination to the Lord. It is even worse when he does it trying to gain some evil outcome.
            1 Corinthians: Paul says he speaks in tongues more than any of the Corinthians. However, in church he would rather speak with his mind. He tells them to grow up in their thinking and look at the Old Testament and understand that tongues are a sign for unbelievers and prophecy is for believers. However, if unbelievers see everyone speaking in tongues they will think everyone is crazy. But, if someone prophecies they can understand what he says and will be convicted of sin and will submit to God knowing God is in the church.
            In worship, things should be done in order, whether it involves singing, teaching, revelation, or tongues. Only two or three should speak in tongues and not at the same time. If there is no one there who can interpret they should not speak at all. Two or Three prophet should be the most to speak letting each other go first and then evaluate what each other said. The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophet so they can control when to speak. God is a God of order so there should be peace and not confusion.
            Women are supposed to be silent in church because they are in submission to their husband. They should ask him when they get home.
            If anyone is a prophet or spiritual, they need to acknowledge that Paul is writing a command from the Lord. If they don’t then no one should listen to him. Everyone should want to the gift of prophecy and no one should stop others from speaking in tongues. Everything should be done in order.

What Stood Out

            Job: “Call now; is there anyone who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn?” (Job 5:1).    
            Psalm: “Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off” (Ps 37:34).
            Proverbs: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent” (Prov 21:27).
            1 Corinthians: “If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor 14:38-39).

Insight

            Job: Warning! Be very careful when you quote or ascribe to Job’s friend’s accuracy about God’s character. The Lord rebuked them saying to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7). Job’s three friends are people from the ancient Near East. All they have to say about God is based on their observations of nature, mankind, and apparently some spirit that scared Eliphaz. This is how people of that time gained their knowledge of the spiritual world. It is faulty at best and led most of them into idol worship. Job is an exception as is Abraham.
            When Job talked about having an advocate and a redeemer, Eliphaz ridicules that statement (Job 5:1). He claims that there is no one in heaven that he can call upon to listen to him. He spouts his philosophy that God will prosper the ones that trust in him when calamites strike. Fortunately, Job sees through his philosophy and that it is empty. Eliphaz is only offering words and not even words that bring comfort. Job didn’t ask for them to do anything but they just compound his grief.
            We see the same kind of preachers today. They get in the pulpit and we’re lucky if they even open a Bible. They speak from worldly experience and not the truth of God. The even reject Jesus as their advocate before the Father. Jesus is only a good teacher to them. We can’t be too hard on Job’s friends as the don’t have the Bible. Modern preachers and counselors have no excuse when they offer bad advice and steer people way from our Savior instead of to him.
            Psalm: I need to repeat what I said before when going through this Psalm in February. What I said then is probably more important because much of what Job and his friends say are the same as what is reflected in the latter part of this Psalm.
            The Psalms are often couched in terms of temporal salvation for the righteous and defeat and destruction for the wicked. Indeed, the whole Old Testament covenant was related to the people of Israel in terms of blessings and curses (Deut 28). When I read this Psalm, it reminds me that we are now looking at eternity and not just our own lifetime. When David says he can’t find the wicked man anymore, he has not just passed away from this life. He has passed away from all life. When we die and are with the Lord, we won’t see him. His place will be eternal torment and gnashing of teeth (Matt 13:42).
            Proverbs: When people come to the Lord knowing their sinfulness and looking for mercy and grace, the Lord welcomes them. In the Old Testament, they had to do that with a sacrifice. There were also other reasons for sacrifices such as freewill and thanks. When a person comes without any intent of repenting, he is coming with evil intent. He is only looking to escape punishment. It would be even worse if he came hoping God would help him in his evil deeds. Think – Catholic Mafia. They do all this evil stuff yet maintain they are good Catholics.
            We all can be like that. We ask God to forgive us but have no intent on changing our sinful habits. Anyone who is like that is nearsighted and blind and has forgotten that God has cleansed him from his past sins (2 Peter 1:9) or worse. That person may not even be saved in the first place (1 John 3:4-6). We need to really think about our relationship with the Lord when we read a proverb like this one.
            1 Corinthians: Paul puts the finishing touches on the subject of spiritual gifts. It is obvious from his writing that the Corinthians were a lot like some Pentecostal groups who announce that everyone should now pray in tongues. The whole assembly breaks out in strange utterances that sound like a foreign language. I’ve attended these and there is never a person who interprets these languages, and how could they, there are hundreds of people speaking at the same time.
            Paul cites Isaiah 28:11 to explain to them that tongues is a sign for unbelievers, but those unbelievers in Isaiah was the nation of Israel, not people outside the congregation. So, unbelievers in the church, and there are many, can hear tongues and realize it is meant to show them that God is with them, when done in order. However, when a person outside of the church comes in and hears tongues, especially when they are all doing it at the same time, they will think Christians are crazy.
            Based on this it is easy to see why we shouldn’t allow tongues to be exhibited haphazardly in the church. However, as Paul also explains, we shouldn’t go around demonizing people who speak in tongues. There is plenty of that going around as well. Those who do that and those who allow disorder in Christian assemblies are both outside of Scripture and Paul says we should ignore them (1 Cor 14:38).

Application

             Whether it is prosperity gospel or speaking in tongues, I want to make sure my theology and practice is based on good exegesis, not on my observance of nature or human frailties.

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21: Job 1 – 3; Psalm 37:12-29; Proverbs 21:25-26; 1 Corinthians 14:1-17



Overview

            Job: Job was a righteous man who feared God. He lived in Uz and was very rich. When his children had a party, he would make burnt offerings for them the next morning in case they had cursed God in their hearts.
            One day when all the sons of God came before the Lord, Satan came also. The Lord pointed out Job and asked if Satan had seen this blameless man. Satan said Job feared God only because of God’s protection and provision. The Lord gave Satan permission to take away his possessions.
            Satan wiped out his provisions and killed his children using raiders, fire, and a mighty wind. Job’s response was to worship God realizing that all he had came from the Lord and he could take it away when he wanted.
            Again, Satan came before God and God asked him about Job who was still blameless and feared God in spite of what Satan did to him. Satan then says that he will curse God if his health is afflicted. God allows Satan to take Job’s health but is not allowed to kill him.
            When Job’s health is taken, his wife urges him to stop holding on to his integrity, curse God and die. Job calls her foolish and says that we should accept both good and evil from God. Job did not sin.
            Job had three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They came to comfort him but when they saw him from a distance they didn’t recognize him. They tore their robes and mourned. They sat with him for seven days without saying anything.
            Job then spoke and wished he had never been born. He cursed he day he was born and asked that other do so also. He feels it would have been better to die at birth than live. He would have immediately joined princes and kings who were already dead. Even in the grave, wicked people stop causing problems and there is rest. Everyone ends up in the grave, great or small.
            He asks why life is given only to have bitterness and misery in it. He longs for death but it doesn’t come. What he fears comes upon him, he is not at ease, has no rest, but only troubles.
            Psalm: There is a contrast drawn between the righteous and the wicked. The wicked plot against and seek to harm the righteous, but the Lord laughs at their attempts. He thwarts their plans and they ultimately perish. On the other hand, the Lord takes care of the righteous, even when they have little. They will inherit the earth. The ways of the righteous and wicked are also contrasted. The advice is to turn from evil and do good because the Lord loves justice.
            Proverbs: A lazy person kills himself by not doing any work. He just wants things for himself but a righteous person gives to other freely.
            1 Corinthians: While pursuing love, we can desire spiritual gifts especially prophecy A prophet builds up the church. It is better than tongues because a person with tongues only helps himself unless there is an interpreter available to let the church know what is being said. Even if Paul came speaking only in tongues, no one would understand. Even musical instruments give distinct notes but unintelligible tongues mean nothing to others. If you want a manifestation of the Spirit then excel in what builds up the church. So, anyone who speaks in tongues should pray to interpret.
            Praying in tongues is unfruitful because your mind still doesn’t understand. If you pray in your spirit you should also pray with your mind. The same goes for singing, praising, and giving thanks. Otherwise people can’t say “amen” to what you are saying. They aren’t being built up.

What Stood Out

            Job: “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord” (Job 1:12).        
            Psalm: “The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times” (Ps 37:18-19).
            Proverbs: “All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back” (Prov 21:26).
            1 Corinthians: “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor 14:12).

Insight

            Job: Twice, God commended Job as an upright person who was blameless and turns away from evil. This is something to remember as we go through the book of Job. It establishes the fact that none of his trials were caused by his sins. The opening two chapters serve to establish this and let us know that behind the scenes of life on earth the spiritual realm overlaps and affects what happens.
            The first thing to note is that Satan has access to God even though he is a fallen angel. He has access to the earth and has some amount of control over people and nature. He instigated the Sabeans and Chaldeans to raid and kill. He caused fire to come down from heaven and a strong wind to destroy Job’s oldest son’s house. All this was done with God’s permission. God didn’t tell Satan what to do or how to do it but he did limit what Satan could do. Satan also caused disease to come upon Job. I point this out so that we know that these particular evils came from Satan. However, we need to look at the rest of the Bible to make sure we don’t attribute all disasters to Satan. If we only had the book of Job, we would probably think that.
            Satan still has access to God. He hasn’t been cast out completely as yet. Evil spirits had access to appear before the Lord as indicated in Judges9:23; 1 Samuel 16:15; and 1 Kings 22:22-23. Jesus said he saw Satan fall (Luke 10:18) but this was before the cross and resurrection so it was Jesus’ foresight, not Satan’s restriction to the earth. We won’t see Satan limited to the earth until Revelation 12:9, which is sometime in the future. Satan still accuses the saints just like he accused Job and will do so until he is cast down (Rev 12:10).
            We don’t want to become smug concerning Satan. Jesus has defeated him but he is still fighting (Eph 6:10-18; 1 Peter 5:8) but we don’t want to forget that God is sovereign. We never want to give up and follow the advice of Job’s wife, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). We have advantages that Job didn’t have. We have Christ’s righteousness and not our own. We have the Bible that reveals why things happened to him. If Job maintained his worship and trust in God during his trials, we should do so all the more.
            Psalm: Psalm 37:18-19 is very appropriate when starting the study of Job. As I said, God called Job blameless twice in the first two chapters. We see the disaster assail him by wicked people. In this Psalm, even more wicked desires are described against blameless people. We must remember that just as the Lord promises evil people will disappear, Satan will also have his final defeat. The Lord knows how to take care of us (Ps 37:23-24) whether the assaults come from sinful man or the author of sin, Satan. We will never be put to shame because of Jesus (Rom 10:11).
            Proverbs: Biblical Counseling 101 teaches us that our craving, lust, wants, or whatever you want to call it is our problem. When we focus on our wants instead of the needs of other, we do everything we can to fulfill those wants. We put ourselves first and that displaces God. We worship ourselves instead of the Lord who created us. The righteous person is doing the opposite. He is developing a servant attitude as Jesus wanted us to have. He is looking out for the needs of others. He is doing this because he is righteous, not to become righteous. God has changed his heart and he is no longer listening to all those wants and cravings.
            1 Corinthians: Paul continues to tell the Corinthians that speaking in tongues is not a big deal. In fact, it is of little use in the church unless someone who interpret is around. In one way, this demonstrates the selfishness of the Corinthians. They were pushing everyone to speak in tongues and Paul tells them that it only helps the person speaking or praying in tongues. A selfish person is one who wants to take care of himself before others. He isn’t looking out for the betterment of others by desiring gifts that build up the church. In essence, he is a baby Christian and in need of some solid teaching.
            Unfortunately, there are still churches that do the same. They have elevated the personal prayer language above teaching or edifying the church. Fortunately, many who have encountered this learn that building up the church is more important. They then pursue the way of love and move on to building others up instead of focusing on themselves.

Application

             Regardless of what is happening, I need to trust God and his sovereign plan. If that is in illness or health, prosperity or austerity, I will still praise him and worship him as did Job. I will do that with my mind so that I and others will be able to say amen to it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 20: Esther 8 – 10; Psalm 37:1-11; Proverbs 21:23-24; 1 Corinthians 12:27 – 13



Overview

            Esther: King Xerxes gave Haman’s house to Esther and she revealed to the king Mordecai’s relationship to her. The king gave Mordecai his signet ring. She asked the king to revoke Haman’s orders. He told her that they could write what they wanted in the king’s name but once written and sealed with his ring, it could not be revoked.
            They wrote another decree that on the day people could kill Jews, the Jews in every province could defend themselves and wipe out anyone who wanted them killed. Mordecai sent it to all 127 provinces. Mordecai was presented to the people in royal robes and a crown. The people of Susa rejoiced and everywhere the edict was sent. The Jews had a feast and people called themselves Jews because fear of the Jews came upon them.
            On the 13th of Adar, Jews defeated those who hated them. All the government officials in the provinces helped the Jews because they feared Mordecai as his fame spread. 500 men along with Haman’s ten sons were killed in Susa. Ester asked for one more day of vengeance and 300 more were killed in Susa the second day. The Jews did not take any plunder. Elsewhere, 75,000 were killed. Afterwards, Jews celebrated and gave gifts.
            Mordecai then commanded Jews to celebrate the 14th of Adar in the country and the 14th and 15th of Adar in cities to commemorate the events. Esther confirmed it by putting it in writing.
            King Xerxes taxed the land. He advanced Mordecai to high honor. He was second in rank to the king. Mordecai was great among Jews because he looked after their welfare.
            Psalm: David tells us that we don’t need to fret about evil people or get upset when we see them doing wrong. Their end will come soon enough. While they are doing evil, we must delight in the Lord and commit our ways to him. He will take care of us and our righteousness will be as bright as the noonday sun. So, we are not to get angry or envy them, they will be no more but the righteous will inherit the land.
            Proverbs: If you watch what you say, you can keep out of a lot of trouble. A person who is conceited, self-important, and acts on his pride is a scoffer.
            1 Corinthians: We are all individual members of Christ’s body and in the church God has appointed positions and related gifts. They are, “Apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues” (1 Cor 12:28). None of these positions and gifts are held by every single person in the church. Desire the higher gifts. But there is a better way.
            Tongues are noise without love. Prophecy and faith are no good without love. Generosity without love gains nothing. Paul explains all the attributes of love and love will never end though the other gifts will. We only know a little now but when we are perfected we’ll be completed and know fully when we see God face to face just as God knows us now. Faith, hope, and love will continue but love is the best.

What Stood Out

            Esther: “And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them” (Est 8:17).                                                   
            Psalm: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4).
            Proverbs: “‘Scoffer’ is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride” (Prov 21:24).
            1 Corinthians: “But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (1 Cor 13:10).

Insight

            Esther: When the government officials in all the provinces found out that there was a new person second in command to the king and that he was a Jew, they all decided to support the local Jews. Many of the people throughout the empire started calling themselves Jews. They did this for fear to the Jews. It doesn’t say that they actually converted to Judaism or that they even believed in God. Then again, the book of Esther doesn’t even mention God.
            It reminds me of an elder in a church I attended who explained his heritage. His Jewish parents escaped Nazi Germany and immigrated to Canada. When they arrived, they changed their names and joined a Christian church. They vowed they would never again be persecuted for being Jews. They had no commitment to Christ, they did this out of fear. However, their son grew up in church and became a real Christian.
            Fear of man is never a good reason to convert to Christ because there is no heart change. I wouldn’t be surprised that as soon as the battles were over in the Persian and Median empire, those who called themselves Jews continued to live the same lives they had before. That is what happens to many people who claim to have accepted Christ under stressful situations. These are foxhole conversions. When they get home or out of trouble, they go right back to their previous lifestyle and yet believe they are saved. They don’t have true repentance about their sins and their relationship with God has not really changed. Some do change but it is only when they learn what being a Christian really entails. Like my elder friend, it can lead to a person being saved for eternity and not just for this life.
            Psalm: What are the desires of your heart? Stop and think about that for a while. Stop! Don’t read anymore because you are skimming over that question. When you have answered the question, read on.
            David says that when we delight in the Lord, he will give us the desires of our hearts (Ps 37:4). If you answered that the desire of your heart was to delight in the Lord, then there is no question that God will give you that desire. If you answered that the desire of your heart was some physical object or experience, then you better stop and ask how that desire relates to delighting in the Lord. If you think God is a gift giving genie and that’s why you delight in the Lord, then you’ve got it backwards.
            Read on and David tells what delighting in the Lord is all about. We first have to commit our ways to the Lord (Ps 37:5). If there is no commitment then there will be no delight in him. All you are looking for is someone to protect you and keep you safe just like the people who called themselves Jews to be safe. Commitment means trusting in Jesus with all you heart, soul, and mind. That’s when he will act.
            Then look at what you will get in Psalm 37:6. You will get righteousness and justice. Now if you answered in the first place that the desire of your heart was for righteousness and justice, it is most likely that you are already delighting yourself in the Lord. Do you desire to be part of the new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13)?
            Proverbs: Why would a person who is arrogant, haughty, and acts out his pride be called a scoffer? It is usually because he thinks he know sit all. He has an answer or everything. Since he believes he is always right, he goes ahead and does whatever he thinks is best. With that kind of attitude, accountability to God is the last thing he wants to admit. The result is scoffing or mocking the Bible and all godly things because he already knows what is right in his own eyes but that ends in death (Prov 14:12).
            1 Corinthians: Some people are over enamored with different gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Corinthians were one of those churches. They apparently pushed tongues as the best gift and even that all Christians should speak in tongues. Paul clear says that isn’t so. The big reason is that placing such an emphasis on tongues or any other gift makes it all about the recipient of the gift and ignores the one who gives the gift. God gives by the Holy Spirit and he does as he wants to meet the needs of the church. Sure, you can desire a gift but why settle for the minor ones? Paul will address that more in the next chapter but he first has to make sure that the proper attitude about gifts is established.
            That attitude must be one of love. Until we reach heaven and are perfect, all these gifts are necessary for the church, but they must be used in love. Otherwise people start acting in the opposite manner that Paul outlined. When one gift is promoted above another patience and kindness fly out the window. Envy of the other person’s gift or position ensues. One becomes arrogant and another rude. Each wants his own way and want his gift the way he wants it, just like McDonalds. Love will put up with all of this and more but sometimes love has to point out just how childish some of this bickering over gifts can become. That’s why Paul sandwiched the “love chapter” in between two chapters on gifts. That is why we need to apply it to our lives as well.

Application

             I want my delight to be in the Lord. I want to put him first and practice the love toward others that Paul described. I’m a long way from both but thankfully, I can work on it.