Bible reading for February 17 -- 18
Feb 17 -- Job 16-17 and 1 Corinthians 4
Feb 18 -- Job 18 and 1 Corinthians 5
"Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high. My friends scorn me; my eye pours out tears to God, that he would argue the case of a man with God, as a son of man does with his neighbor." (Job 16:19-21)
CAN I GET A WITNESS? (ch 16-17) Job's friends are insisting on a simple and straightforward explanation for his suffering. Job does not buy it. But he is perplexed by what seems to him to be a serious contradiction. His life circumstances testify (give witness) to Job's being under severe judgment from God (16:8). But he is also confident that God is his witness and the only one who can testify to Job's upright walk (16:19). At heart, Job believes that God is just. But he wonders who could mediate between a man and God in a human, neighborly way? Hint: only God will be able to do that (1 Tim 2:5).
BILDAD PART TWO (ch 18). "Who do you think you are?" is Bildad's opening word of encouragement (my paraphrase). He then picks up the theme of light and darkness from Job's last statement (18:5-6; cf 17:12-13), and adds metaphors to describe the miseries of being wicked, as surely Job must be. He piles up images of suffering, one after the other. Sometimes we multiply words for emphasis, or for effect. This may help when the point we are making is actually true. But Job's friends are like adolescents, raising their voices to repeat what they've already said. They are insistent, though eloquent, in restating what they've been wrong about all along. Do you know people like that? Have you yourself ever been like that?
THE MYSTERIES HE HOLDS. The book of Job should cause us to give thanks for the clearer light of the gospel. We get to see behind the scenes of God's eternal plan, as it were, at least more clearly than Job did. But the book of Job also teaches us to walk by faith, just as he did. We still face perplexing situations and apparent contradictions between who God is and how life plays out. Or between what God has said in his word and what we see in the world around us. William Cowper, a hymn-writer who suffered from life-long depression, wrote,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face."
("God Moves In a Mysterious Way")
And here is a newer song, by Keith and Kristyn Getty, reflecting on the truths of Job:
Or walked the recess of the deep?
Oh, the mysteries He holds are His to keep!
The Lord is in His holy temple.
Let all the earth keep silence."
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me." (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)
PEER REVIEW? (ch 4) Here in our NT reading we see that some of the Corinthian believers, in common with Job's friends, have a problem of judging by appearance. There are partisan followers among the various Christian leaders (1:12-13). Just as Job's friends misjudged his situation, so some Corinthians looked down on Paul, especially his speaking style, since he was not rhetorically polished (2:4; 4:20). (There's more on this in 2 Corinthians.) Paul gives a defense of his ministry, but ultimately, like Job he trusts the Lord's judgment rather than people's opinions. He's not chasing after "likes" on his social media. Judging by appearance is a symptom of worldliness and pride. Jesus said, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." (John 7:24) We must ask ourselves, do we make snap judgments? Do we make judgments based on insufficient information? Do we look at things outwardly? Do we use the Lord's criteria, rather than the world's, when we have to make evaluations?
CHURCH DISCIPLINE (ch 5). Next, Paul addresses a serious sin that was being tolerated in the church. Jude, our Lord's brother, wrote about "...ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (Jude 1:4) The Christian life has two precipices on either side of the narrow way. One is legalism, and the other is licentiousness (or antinomianism), as in the case here. That is, the Corinthians felt that God's grace allowed them to be above certain distinctions of right and wrong, especially in the area of sexual morality. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his work, Life Together, that one of the chronic problems we Protestants face is that we "turn the justification of the sinner into the justification of sin." That is, just because we as sinners are restored to God's favor, so now sin is somehow less serious. We must be asking ourselves, just because we are accepted by God -- through the grace of our Lord Jesus -- should we take a light view of sin? Do we?
Image credit: cover of Evensong - Hymns And Lullabies At The Close Of Day ℗ 2020 Getty Music Label, LLC. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Another resource I recommend is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.