Day 180

Prayer for the day

O God, you are my God, and I will earnestly seek you.

Scripture for the day

Job 17-19, Acts 10:1-23

Job and Peter are about to have the same kind of problem. Job is still in the midst of his turmoil and his friends continue to be no help. They accuse him of wrongdoing, of being less intelligent and full of pride and sin.

Job knows that this is not the case, that he is innocent of wrongdoing, and continues to protest this innocence.

Yet at the core of his response to his friends this time is not his innocence, but God’s action. He compares what his friends are doing, torturing him, with what God is doing, but he’s convinced that God must have God’s own reasons, whereas he can’t see any good reason why his friends would torture him instead of bringing him comfort.

His argument rests then on worrying about what God is doing, not what his friends are doing. He believes that he will eventually see God, eventually understand what is going on, eventually understand why God has done what God is doing. And that hope is something his friends won’t offer him. He must focus on God, and not on man.

Peter has a similar problem, or will. He is informed by God, as a gentile comes to meet with him, that he is now allowed to break the Mosaic food laws. All of the things God once declared unclean are now clean. He may kill what was forbidden and eat what was forbidden. This is going to be a serious difficulty when Peter tries to explain his rationale to the other apostles. He will encounter significant opposition. Yet Peter, like Job, recognizes his need to follow the word of God rather than the word of man. He remains faithful to his God and seeks to obey.

May we be faithful to our God and not simply to the men and women we believe we are beholden to.

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The Power

Day 179

Prayer for the day

Your way, O God, is holy; who is as great as our God?

Scripture for the day

Job 14-16, Acts 9:22-43

During Job’s ordeal, again and again he returns to the theme of the power of God. He certainly doesn’t understand WHY God is doing what he’s doing, but he regularly appeals to God’s ability and justification regardless of what God does.

The power of God is something that it’s easy to forget, particularly when we focus our eyes on what’s going on in the world without an eye to acknowledging that what happens here is under God’s direct control. Whether people believe that God DOES everything, allows everything, or oversees everything, Job recognizes that the power of God is what holds all things together.

This power of God does not ease Job’s pain. In fact, this power of God terrifies Job, because he’s experiencing the painful effects of the powerful God who is both able to sustain AND destroy life.

Saul who became Paul also has an experience of the power of God. He has experienced a bit of the painful power of God when he was blinded on the road to Damascus. He experienced the healing power of God when his sight was restored. And now he experiences the power of God flowing through him as he heals Aeneas and Tabitha/Dorcas. This experience changes the minds and hearts of people around the city, and must impress itself on the mind of Paul as well.

The power of God does not simply oppress, but gives life. Aeneas is given new life, his paralysis healed and his body entirely made whole. Dorcas is literally given new life, a resurrection and re-animation. The power of God is life. The power God wields is life and death. God is able both to give and take away, and he does so through his mercy and his grace.

May you experience the life-giving power of God.

Worthiness

Day 178

Prayer for the day

Love the LORD, all you who worship him; the LORD protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily.

Scripture for the day

Job 11-13, Acts 9:1-21

It’s easy to believe that if you do good things, good things will happen to you. Much of our lives are built on this karmic understanding of positive and negative reinforcement. We teach it to our children. We enforce it in our students. Yet most of us know that this is not the way reality actually works out most of the time.

Job’s friends seem obsessed with convincing him of this kind of theology, however. They believe they are speaking the truth to job. They believe they are speaking and acting in Job’s best interest. But Job calls them on their faulty understanding of God’s character and action. Job says that they have misrepresented the God he follows, that God is not a God who seeks solely to reward the innocent and punish the guilty. Job speaks instead of the mercy of a God who recognizes the guilt in everyone, while seeing the relative innocence in those who seek to follow his laws.

Saul was one such man. He sought to follow the law of God by persecuting those he thought were dessecrating the law of God through their actions. He sought to punish evildoers, yet is confronted with a God who says that he is the evildoer. And this God of justice and mercy does not punish Saul beyond what he can bear, but shows him the way in mercy and in truth.

Neither Job nor Saul deserve God’s mercy, because mercy is undeserved. Neither, though they seek to be righteous, is 100% pure. And regardless of their status, God grants grace and mercy to each in his own way.

May the grace and mercy of God be ours despite our unworthiness!

Justice

Day 177

Prayer for the day

O LORD, I call to you; my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry; lest, if you do not hear me, I become like those who go down to the Pit.

Scripture for the day

Job 8-10, Acts 8:26-40

“Justice” is the buzzword of my generation. Everyone is seeking for justice. And a lot of things get subsumed under the umbrella of justice. Equality, racial reconciliation, sexual freedom, and all sorts of other aspects of life.

In both of the scriptures for today, justice makes an appearance. In the story of Job, Job is talking about the justice of God. Job’s theology of God’s justice may be a little difficult for modern people to swallow, but if we look at Job’s statements as the cries of a man in distress rather than as a perfect description of all the attributes of God, it may help us understand his response.

Job, in essence, says that God is just, but that the justice of God is beyond human understanding, and that even if we did complain of the justice of God, we would automatically be in the wrong. Job’s is quite a fatalistic view of the justice of God, but when we recognize his true heart cry, that God is almighty, we understand why he says what he says. He feels that regardless of what he’s done, God will do what God will do, and to question that, though it is his desire, is to question the justice of God, which is foolishness.

The Ethiopian eunuch who encounters Philip also reads a passage about justice. He reads the prophet Isaiah, who says that the one he his prophesying about “was deprived of justice.” Philip used this to connect to the good news of Jesus, who, though he was crucified unjustly, was the sacrifice for sin. Though the justice of God was not upheld, good came.

For Job and for Jesus, the justice of God is a good thing, but it is not always clear how it is a good thing. The difficult answer is that what God does is just, and trust is necessary to see it with the eyes of faith.

Desires

Day 176

Prayer for the day

I hate those who have a divided heart, but your law do I love.

Scripture for the day

Job 5-7, Acts 8:1-25

What is the true desire of your heart? Many quote the line from scripture that God will give you the desires of your heart. But how many of us actually understand what the desires of our heart ARE? We are so distracted by our societal surroundings that most of the time, even if we know what we desire, we don’t know WHY we desire it!

In the Second Testament story today, we read of a man named Simon. Simon’s official title in the text is “sorcerer.” He was a trickster, a magician, someone who made his living amazing people. Simon did well, we’re told. Until he ran into the apostles. He saw them doing things that he, as a lowly sorcerer, must have only dreamed of. In his amazement, he approached the apostles to ask if they might confer this power upon him, that he might have the abilities they have, what they called the “Holy Spirit.”

Simon had a desire that from the outside looks laudable. He wants the Holy Spirit. How can we fault someone for wanting more of God? Yet the motive behind his desire, in fact, the sire itself is idolatrous. He desires the Holy spirit in order to impress. He desires the power without the sacrifice.

Job, on the other hand, believes that he desires death. He desires relief from pain and suffering, but in the midst of it all, recognizes that his desires need to line up with the desires of God. In the midst of his suffering he refuses to cast God as the villain, asking instead for rationale. Though this could be construed as questioning God, it is certainly allowed by God at the time. The action may have been a tad improper, but the desire was not.

May God grant us the proper desires of our hearts.

To Suffer

Day 175

Prayer for the day

Our help is in the Name of the Lord; the maker of heaven and earth.

Scripture for the day

Job 3-4, Acts 7:44-60

The book of Job is a book of suffering and response. It has to be one of the most difficult books in the Bible, because of the intense anguish that Job experiences and his harsh condemnation of his situation. In the passage for today, Job is in such terrible turmoil that he curses the day of his birth, longing for the comfort of death to take him so that he might be free from the pain and anguish he is experiencing. He is a man who has lost everything but his life, and he longs to give even that up.

In his turmoil, his friends come to visit him. One of his friends, Eliphaz, decides to speak with Job and let him know that he must have been involved in some unrighteous activity, because, as Eliphaz says, “those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.” Eliphaz believes he is giving good counsel. He believes what he is saying, but we will see that Eliphaz’s words are not the words of wisdom. As the Psalmist so regularly reminds us, rain falls on the good AND the bad.

Stephen is not a man who has plowed evil or sown trouble, yet evil and trouble are certainly his lot at the end. Stephen is a man who has spoken righteous words to the religious leaders, words of life and words of hope. They are condemning words as well, but in all this Stephen does not sin. The trouble for Stephen comes from the fury of those who are condemning him.

Both Stephen and Job are men who suffer. Stephen suffers the pain of stoning, and Job suffers the pain of loss and sickness. What is important about these men is not the kind of suffering they endure, but the response they proffer. Stephen praises God. Job, though he curses his birth, does not sin in response. He seeks to remain pure in his suffering.

May we suffer likewise.

Groaning

Day 174

Prayer for the day

O LORD, my God, my Savior, by day and night I cry to you. Let my prayer enter into your presence . . .

Scripture for the day

Job 1-2, Acts 7:22-43

It’s easy to believe God gives us good times. It’s easy to believe in the easy blessings, the comfortable ones. It’s harder to believe that sometimes adversity is a gift of God. It’s hard to believe that punishment and discipline can be gifts as well. Especially when they’re particularly painful.

The story of Job is one of the most difficult in the First Testament. Job is a righteous, upstanding man who is (for no good reason we can determine) chosen to be persecuted by an agent of God to test his faith. Instead of arguing about the identity of the Satan figure in Job, or teasing out the theological ramifications of his being in the presence of God, we need to look at what the story is really trying to get at, and that is the groaning. It is the testing of Job’s faith in a fairly difficult situation. Job’s family is killed, his wealth is destroyed, and his body is wracked by disease. All of this is allowed by God in order to prove Job’s faithfulness to his God. It is not only allowed, it is given to Job. It is clear that this doing is supernatural in origin.

Instead of doing what most of us would do, instead of blaming God for being awful, Job sits in pain and sorrow, and he worships. He recognizes that all of his life is a gift, not just the easy parts.

Stephen does the same thing as he continues the story of God’s interaction with the Israelites. Not only are the easy parts of the story the gift of God, but the difficult parts as well. The exile was perpetrated by God, but done for the purpose of discipline so that the people would return.

We would be wise to stop asking whether God DID this or that, and to start asking what we should do in response.