Rev. L. Althouse
April 9, 2006
Background Scripture: Job 14; 32:6, 8; 34:12; 37:14, 22.
Devotional Reading: Job 36:24-33.
When I read the Book of Job and encounter his so-called ‘friends’ - Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu - I think of that old saying, “With ‘friends’ like these, who needs enemies.” Each assumed that Job’s plight was the result of something he had done or was doing. That was the popular belief in those days - and it is in ours, too.
Job contemplates the terrible price of being human: “Man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and withers … and thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” (14:1,2,5b)
The “bounds” are the fact of human mortality, the brief walk-on part that all of us play on the world’s stage. Try as he might, Job fails to see where he could have gone wrong.
“Then Elihu … became angry. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He was angry also at Job’s three friends, because they had found no answer, although they declared Job to be in the wrong.” (32:2,3)
Of all Job’s ‘friends,’ Elihu makes some worthwhile points. First, even though he is young, they need to listen to him. In those days it was assumed that wisdom was the natural consequence of age.
“But,” said Elihu, “it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand” (32:8) - neither age nor youth have exclusive access to God’s spirit.
Author of evil?
Elihu also counsels Job to understand that God is not evil, “…far be it that he should do wickedness …” (34:10)
Whatever befalls me, I cannot, will not believe that God is the author of this evil. My sins, the sins of others, or the freedom to be at the wrong place at the wrong time may cause it, but not the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Elihu tells Job that, in the midst of his misery, he needs to concentrate on God’s wondrous works, “Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.” (37:14)
In the book that I use for my morning prayers there is a scripture that I have grown to cherish, particularly on those days when life does not seem to be going well: “For thou, O Lord, hast made me glad by thy work; at the works of thy hands I sing for joy.” (Psalms 92:4)
It is particularly reassuring to me on those days when the work of my hands has not been productive.
Nothing I have done has brought me joy, but I can take satisfaction and heart in what God has done, is doing and will do.
In The Kingdom of God, John Bright said, “So it was that Jeremiah could never believe that the national ruin was the end. True, he could see no cause to hope; but he never lost hope, because he never lost God.”
This also was true of Job: no matter what happened to him, no matter that his ‘friends’ sought to blame him, no matter that he understood and accepted the human condition, he never lost hope because he never lost God.
No matter what happens to you, you have hope so long as you cling to God.
A vital difference
Wishing is not hope. Wishing is simply to want or desire. Hope means to believe and trust in something or someone. Wishing is focused on what I want; hope is dependant upon what I believe God wants for me.
Harold Russell lost both his hands in World War II.
He thought his life was over, but he went on to live a rewarding life as a happy husband and father, a man who drove his own car, played the piano, lived a remarkable life as an actor who won two Academy Awards and wrote a best-selling autobiography. What changed his life? “It’s not what you have lost,” he said, “but what you have left that counts.”
When we have lost all or nearly everything, we still can live on hope if we still have God.
This farm news was published in the April 5, 2006 issue of Farm World.