Thursday, December 7, 2023

The God We Worship (Psalm 84)

"My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God" (Ps. 84:2).

Before we study further the discourses of God in the book of Job, we will consider what it means to worship the Lord. In a day when churches are trying to make worship services more relevant to the culture and more palatable to visitors, teaching on what it truly means to worship God is desperately needed.

First, we must understand that worship is essential to man’s nature. Because man is made in the image of God, he is religious by nature. Sin has not eradicated this aspect of humanity; man remains essentially religious. The problem is that he does not worship the one true God. Instead, he worships idols made in the image of created things. Even the most staunch atheist worships something, usually himself in one form or another.

True worship takes place only when the one true God is worshiped in His Spirit and by His revealed truth. When the true character of God and directives on how we can reflect that character in Christ are proclaimed, then worship is pleasing to God. If someone finds such worship boring, then they are looking, not for God, but for an idol to titillate their emotions and appease their consciences.

Churches today are bending over backwards to try to make worship interesting and captivating. The root of the problem is that people who find worship of God boring are not seeking after the living God in the first place. When people come before His presence truly seeking Him, they find themselves gripped by His holiness, grace, and majesty. In other words, only true believers will ever find worship “interesting.” Look at the enthusiasm the writer of Psalm 84 expresses for the worship of God: “How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

Every Christian should have such enthusiasm, such desire to approach God in worship. But notice, the reason the psalmist is so excited is because his heart and his flesh cry out for the living God. Worship to him is being in the presence of God. When that is central, the music, the choir, the preacher’s style, all fade into the background. If only more Christians would come into the presence of God and seek His face, worship will never be boring again.

What is your attitude in worship? Do you come to be entertained, to be swept away by fuzzy feelings, to learn some intellectual notions about God and Christianity, or do you come to seek God’s face, to know Him better, to adore Him and praise Him for who He is? Confess today any wrong attitudes you might have about worship.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The LORD Speaks (Job 38:1-30)

“I will question you, and you shall answer Me” (Job 38:3).

Elihu’s eloquent discourse might have silenced Job, but it did not convince him of his transgression against God. Because only God can convince man of his sin, the LORD Himself, Yahweh as He is designated in this passage, answers Job. He speaks with power and authority out of the whirlwind, asking the penetrating and conscience-biting question, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Job spoke without knowledge and, in his complaints, exalted himself as one who was worthy to accuse God of unjust providences. If man is to judge God, he must be superior to Him, more knowledgeable, more powerful. Of course, man is no such thing, as God so directly points out in the passage.

God, not Job, not the counselors, set the foundations of the earth in place, “shut in the sea with doors,” and “caused the dawn to know its place.” Did Job know, do any of us know, the “way to the dwelling of light”? Science can reveal many things. We have disentangled many of the mysteries of light and energy. In our technological arrogance we assume that we have found the keys to infinite knowledge, but, as ever is the case with science, the discovery of one thing opens a multitude of unanswered questions. We think we know so much when actually we know so very little. It would do our society well to dwell on the words of Job 38 as a reminder of our humble condition and of the almighty power and infinite knowledge of God.

Yet, man in his fallen condition seeks knowledge and tries to unravel the mysteries of science because he imagines that if he could gather the fullness of knowledge to himself, he would be accountable to no one. But this is mere folly. Even if we could know everything, which, of course, is not possible, we are still creatures. We have no power. As God reminded Job, we were not present when the world was created. We do not care for those parts of the earth where no human being exists. Only God sees the needs of every creature and meets them according to His inestimable wisdom.

Such high thoughts of God should humble us and silence our wagging tongues as we complain about God’s providences and as we blame Him for our lives not being the way we want them to be.

Look through a science magazine or the science/technology section of a news magazine or newspaper. Identify the various ways that man tries to exalt himself above God. Also look for ways that man arrogantly assumes he knows everything about a particular subject. How would you respond to such presumptions of science?

Monday, December 4, 2023

The Inadequacy of Words (Job 35-37)

“If a man were to speak, surely he would be swallowed up” (Job 37:20).

Elihu’s main objection to Job is that he failed to hold his tongue in his complaints against God. At the root of Job’s sin was something that all believers struggle with to one degree or another: our inability to comprehend God’s nature and purposes. We only see and understand things from our finite perspective, and we struggle with how inadequate that is in bringing us to a proper understanding of God. If we do not watch our tongues, we can easily bring dishonor to God without even realizing it.

With a gentle but firm admonishment, Elihu reminds Job that neither he nor any of the others is able to speak of the glory of God in any proportion to the merit of the divine subject. Elihu confesses that words fail to communicate the high and lofty nature of God. How, then, if we are so inadequate in understanding Him can we complain against Him? Job complained to God and accused Him of treating him harshly. But what right did lowly Job have to make such a complaint?

“The best men are much in the dark concerning the glorious perfections of the divine nature and the administrations of the divine government,” Henry wrote. “Those that through grace know much of God, yet know little, yea, nothing, in comparison with what is to be known, and what will be known, when that which is perfect shall come and the veil shall be rent. When we would speak of God we speak confusedly and with great uncertainty, and are soon at a loss and run aground, not for want of matter, but for want of words. As we must always begin with fear and trembling, lest we speak amiss, so we must conclude with shame and blushing, for having spoken no better.”

However, just because God is so much greater than us does not mean that we cannot understand something of His nature and purposes. God has revealed Himself through His Word, rationally and clearly, and He has enabled us through His Spirit to apprehend His truths. But we must remain humble and dependent on Him and His revelation to keep us fixed on the truth. This is something Job quickly learns as God Himself speaks to him in the final chapters of the book.

It is critical for you to watch what you say, especially when you are speaking about the nature and purposes of God. The Bible commands us not to speak without knowledge. To gain that knowledge so that you might speak more honorably and rightly of God, study His revelation. Let your words be subject to His Word.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Elihu’s Godly Counsel (Job 32-34)

“Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me, I also will declare my opinion’ ” (Job 32:10).

Chapters 32–37 present the discourses and moderation of the young man Elihu, who had been listening to the arguments of Job and his friends. As a young man should, Elihu hesitated to insert his opinion into the conversation because he had respect for his elders. But when he saw that the counselors could not convince Job of hypocrisy, Elihu decided to speak. He begins his discourse humbly, giving honor to Job as one who is a good man, worthy of respect. Unlike the three counselors, Elihu did not wish to accuse Job of hypocrisy and great wickedness. Instead, he wanted to speak from the burden of his heart because he believed he had heard Job make some serious blunders in his discourses. Elihu could remain silent no longer, but needed to express his disapproval of the wrong judgments of the three counselors as well as the unwise and rebellious words of Job when he accused God of being his enemy.

Carefully and reasonably, Elihu tells Job that his sin is not hypocrisy but failure to defend God in the midst of his suffering. When Job should have insisted upon God’s goodness, he took too much time defending his own righteousness. Elihu also admonishes Job for accusing God of dealing with him unjustly. This Job certainly did when he was passionate in his speeches and unbridled in his thoughts and words. Job imagined that God had deserted him and had no reason for afflicting him so harshly. But Elihu wisely reminds Job that, not only should he refrain from questioning God who is greater than all others and altogether wise, but God is with him and refining him through suffering.

Elihu brings to light a truth that was lost to the counselors and to Job himself: God brings suffering upon the just to cleanse them of remaining sin. While Job had not committed any grievous sin, he was still a sinner. God was just in afflicting him, but it was not punitive. It was designed to mold and shape him, to bring him to repentance, to cause him to trust God more fully. God had not deserted him, but continued to show Job grace and to speak on his behalf against those who would accuse him of hypocrisy. Job should have meditated on these things instead of accusing God of treating him cruelly.

Read back through chapters 32–34. Mark how Elihu’s attitude, choice of words, treatment of Job, and analysis of Job’s situation differed from that of the counselors in previous chapters. List some practical insights you gain from Elihu’s discourse on how to rebuke, exhort, and encourage someone who is struggling with God.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Bitter Complaints (Job 30)

“But You have become cruel to me …” (Job 30:21).

The root of Job’s spiritual and emotional anguish in chapter 30 is that he thinks God had become his enemy. While he always recognized that God is in control of everything, even his suffering, Job accuses God of using His sovereignty to be cruel to him. Such an accusation of a merciful and gracious God is unacceptable even for a man as sorely tried as Job. Despite Job’s many losses and his unparalleled trials, he had no right to harbor such hard thoughts of God.

Job complained that God did not appear in his defense. He expected the Lord to intercede on his behalf, to show him mercy and comfort in the midst of his affliction. When that comfort failed to come quickly, Job accused God of being cruel. He had suffered so greatly that there was only one more thing left for God to do and that was Job’s death. Surprisingly, in that consideration came his only comfort. He maintains the hope that God will “stretch forth His hand to the grave” and deliver him.

Despite Job’s former proclamations of God’s justice and right to afflict sinners such as himself, he now questions God’s justice. He wants God to defend him and bring him comfort, but what Job does not know is that God has already defended him. The Lord had already spoken on his behalf when Satan accused him of being a hypocrite. God’s purposes, therefore, in Job’s trials were not punitive but instructional not only for Job to learn more about humility and faith, but for those who would read this account of his suffering. God had not been cruel to him because even at Job’s lowest point, God sustained him by His grace. And unknown to Job, God would restore him to his former position of authority, give him back his wealth, and once again surround him with the love and warmth of a family.

God is merciful, and we must never think otherwise even when suffering pierces our hearts. Those who are the children of God have the comfort of knowing that He never abandons those He loves, He never forsakes His chosen ones. The only person ever to endure God’s wrath and abandonment was Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross, bearing the punishment of our sins. He took our place that we might know the mercy and compassion of God.

Do you harbor hard thoughts of God about something that happened to you in your past or is happening to you right now? If so, confess it to God and ask forgiveness of Him. Such bitterness can also be directed toward people who might have hurt you. Confess that bitterness today and forgive them that you might have peace.