Bible reading for weekend February 5 -- 7
Feb 5 -- Job 4 and Romans 8
Feb 6 -- Job 5 and Romans 9
Feb 7 -- Job 6 and Romans 10
"For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." (Job 5:6-7)
ELIPHAZ SPEAKS UP. Job's friend Eliphaz has kept silent for too long, or so he thinks. He accuses Job of impatience and pride, and claiming supernatural insight (4:12), he rebukes Job of sin. He's saying that what's happening to Job is happening in order to humble him so that he might confess his guilt. Many points of Eliphaz's counsel are seemingly biblical and true. It's true that God is just and that we are sinful. It's true that we should humble ourselves and confess sin. But here are a few of Eliphaz's unexamined assumptions about life: a) this world is the arena where all justice is settled; b) we can know the reasons why we suffer in this life; and c) if you walk uprightly with God then things will go well for you. Parts of Eliphaz's advice make sense, but given what we know from the first chapters, it doesn't really fit Job's situation. Nor does it fit what our Lord Jesus experienced.
WHEN THE INNOCENT PERISH. Christopher Ash writes, "There is a kind of Christianity that belongs to this family, that revels in the immediate. I expect the blessing of God now; I expect to see the triumph of God now; I expect to know the answers now. There is to be no waiting. We shall see in the next chapter how very different it is with Job himself. In the context of the whole Bible, perhaps the deepest error and omission of the friends is this: they have no place for innocent suffering. They think that if the righteous were ever to suffer or perish, it would be a blot on the moral landscape. As Eliphaz asks, 'Who that was innocent ever perished?' (4:7). The Bible places against that question a large eternal cross." (Job: The Wisdom of the Cross, p. 96)
PARTLY CORRECT, COMPLETELY WRONG. The advice Job's friend gives him is not only inapplicable and useless, it's painful to hear. In chapter six Job expresses his disappointment at Eliphaz's unkind words. There's a warning here for us, as well. A partly-correct answer can be as damaging to a suffering person as an incorrect one. We should beware of thinking we know why things happen to us or others, whether for good or ill. Such as, when we say that a person is "so blessed by God because he's such a godly person." Or, that person has "hidden sin and that's why God is judging him." Later in his commentary Ash will describe this as "what happens when partial and distorted 'truth' is applied with arrogant confidence by those who ought to know better—or ought to know that they do not know what they think they know." (Job: The Wisdom of the Cross, p. 158) We should beware of thinking we have the inside track on understanding why things happen in this world, or knowing "what God is up to." We may find ourselves partly correct but completely wrong, and bring harm on others in the process.
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32)
MOUNT EVEREST (ch 8). I've never climbed Mount Everest, but I have been at the top of some beautiful mountains in Virginia. From there, on a clear day, you can have a stunning view for miles and miles around. Romans eight surely is the top of Mount Everest on a clear day, with a vista that takes in creation, redemption, and the new creation to come. Take time to enjoy the view! Theologian Herman Bavinck once summarized the vista of God's plan in this way: "God the Father has reconciled His created but fallen world through the death of His Son, and renews it into a Kingdom of God by His Spirit." All of this is glimpsed in Romans eight.
PROMISES. There are so many wonderful promises here for the believer: in Christ we are no longer under condemnation (vv 1-4); we are given the presence of the Holy Spirit to empower and guide us through to the new creation (vv 5-27); we are part of an ironclad salvation from the beginning of time to eternity (vv 28-30); every blessing is given to us in Christ (vv 31-34); and nothing can ever separate us from God's love and plan for us (vv 35-38). Read more here about how the Holy Spirit helps us. God will bring all his children safely home to the new heavens and new earth! Why not take time to pray through this chapter and give thanks to God for all these blessings?
WHAT ABOUT ISRAEL? (ch 9) Now that Gentiles (non-Jews) could be saved through Christ, the question would come up, what about God's promises to Israel from the Old Testament? Is God done with Israel? Is there any kind of special future for ethnic Israel? In considering God's sovereign election, Paul begins in chapter nine by discussing three pairs of individuals from biblical history: Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Moses and Pharaoh. In each case God made a choice, even before birth, that was not based upon what the individual deserved. God's basis for salvation was never religious merit, nor upon family lineage (or ethnicity). Salvation comes through God's mercy and grace alone. And by this grace there has come to be a remnant of believers within Israel, of whom Paul is one.
ALL WHO CALL ON HIM. (ch 10) In chapter ten he makes clear that salvation is free and offered to all who come to Christ in faith. Salvation, both in the OT and NT, has always been by grace through faith: "For the Scripture says, 'Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (10:11-13). In chapter eleven, however, Paul will teach that there is yet a glorious future for the people of Israel. They have not been abandoned. The church of Christ, being engrafted to Israel, has not in fact replaced Israel. There is more to come in God's glorious plan!
Image credit: photo from the top of Half Dome (Yosemite Park) by Jonathon Reed 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.