Bible reading for February 3 -- 4
Feb 3 -- Job 2 and Romans 6
Feb 4 -- Job 3 and Romans 7
"After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth." (Job 3:1)
WISDOM IN SUFFERING. Though we don't know many of the details about where and when Job lived, we know that he was a real person in history (Ezek 14:14, 20; James 5:11). The book of Job may be the oldest of the books in Scripture, and is first in the lineup of the wisdom books. Wisdom literature is written, usually in poetic form, to address the big mysteries of life, as well as those practical matters in life that require discernment. Job deals with pain and suffering, specifically, the suffering of the righteous. The Song of Solomon deals with pleasure, specifically, the pleasures of courtship, sex, and marriage. In between, Proverbs gives wisdom for successfully navigating the problems of life, and Ecclesiastes teaches the limitations both of our lives and of what we can know. One thing we learn up front in Job is that there are matters and agents which we can't see, and they can affect life on earth. God is the sovereign Lord, and he is pleased with his servant Job. Satan, however, desires to destroy Job's faith in the Lord. So, God permits a severe testing of Job, and Satan is the agent of the pain and suffering. God is good, and evil is real, though restricted to the limits that God places. A truth we should hold tightly is this: God would not allow evil to come into his universe unless he could manage for a greater good.
THE PAIN IS REAL. Job suffers the loss of all of his possessions and most of his family (ch 1). Then, he suffers excruciating pain in his body (ch 2). And so he laments the day of his birth, wishing he had never been born (ch 3). In his commentary on Job, Christopher Ash makes a distinction between "armchair questions" and "wheelchair questions" about suffering in life. Both are important, but we must always remember we live in a wheelchair world. That is, the pain and loss that people suffer is very real and very present to the sufferers. We shouldn't try to give armchair answers, which may be technically correct but not really useful at the moment, to those in such suffering. Job's three friends did well at the beginning by being present with him in his suffering and keeping their mouths shut.
"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1-2)
THE LIFE OF GOD. "The righteous by faith will live" (1:17) Being united to Christ through faith means we now have a new life. The truths of chapters six and seven are crucial for us to grasp if we want to live by the Spirit's power, as Paul will teach in chapter eight. First, our life comes through the one man, the Righteous One, Jesus Christ (ch 5). It is our union with him ("in him") that is the source of all goodness and strength in the Christian life. The Apostle Paul will use the phrases, "in Christ", "in whom", or "in him" throughout his letters many, many times. Charles Hodge wrote, "The secret of holy living lies in this doctrine of the union of the believer with Christ". Sometimes this is called the "mystical union" with Christ, or could be thought of like the marriage covenant. In fairy tales (though this is not a fairy tale) a poor maiden might be wed to a rich prince, and immediately all the wealth of the prince becomes hers. It is like that for us when we stretch out our hand in faith to Christ.
DIED TO SIN (ch 6). Paul tells us further that we need to know and reckon -- that is, by faith count it to be true -- that we have died with Christ. Not only did he die for us, but we died with him. We are in him, and so we have in a very real sense died with him on the cross, and too, we have been raised with him. This is the foundation of the changed life. The new life of the Christian is not merely trying to do better, nor is it accomodating ourselves to some level of religious involvement. It means that we turn our back on our sinful and willful ways of living, and continue in childlike faith. We have a bride-like mindset, that our old life is over and done, and we are in a new relationship with God through his Son. In grace we are alive to God, and as Paul will later write, we are positionally seated in the heavenly places in Christ (see Eph 2 and Col 3). We must believe that we are in a new relationship with, and a new orientation toward, our God through Christ. We must reckon that the power of sin is no longer the dominant, reigning force in our lives. (For more details on this see Constable's notes on this chapter in the NETBible.)
DIED TO THE LAW (ch 7). Further, we must understand that we are not under the Mosaic covenant either. God's Law can no longer condemn us, nor are we called to attain (or preserve) our righteousness by keeping God's law. Jesus already did that, and we are in him. Legalism will ultimately lead to self-righteousness and pride on the one hand, or condemnation and despair, on the other. This does not mean we have nothing more to do with the law, but the law can no longer condemn us nor is it the basis of our acceptance before God. We do recognize and love God's moral law (his commands) as being "holy and righteous and good" (7:12; e.g., Psalm 119). Since we have a new life in grace and freedom, we desire to walk in God's ways because of the goodness of those ways. This raises the question about indwelling sin (or, "flesh", as Paul uses the term). We are new creatures (2 Cor 5:17), but not everything is completely new yet (Rev 21:5). We are raised with Christ, but we are not physically resurrected beings yet. There is still a principle, or law, of the indwelling power of sin. We are not under its dominion, but neither are we beyond its powerful influence. Chapter eight will show us how the Holy Spirit comes to our aid.
AN ONGOING TENSION. What this means is that we will experience the Christian life to be a kind of wrestling, a fight, a battle (Gal 5:17). There is no button we can push to turbo-boost us past the struggle of dealing with the evil still within us. Jerram Barrs, professor at Covenant seminary and a former student of Francis Schaeffer, wrote about this: "I look inside myself and find that whenever I try to do right, there is a principle, a deep-seated law of my soul, that wants to do wrong and to resist what is good and true and beautiful. However, I can know now that this insistent sinner is part of the 'old me,' not the 'new me' that belongs to God and longs to love God and walk in his ways. Of course, this 'new me' is never perfectly realized in this life. However, there is within each one of us who belongs to Christ the glimmerings of a newness that he has created within by the power of his Spirit, a new me who loves the law of God and who sees the law as holy, good, and perfect." (Jerram Barrs, Delighting in the Law of the Lord)
Image credit: photo by Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash. 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.