THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE GOD

THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE GOD

Romans 11:33

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”

While we know by faith that God exists, that He framed the universe by the word of His power and that He is the supreme judge to whom we are accountable – we also are deeply aware that His person is veiled in mystery.

This is because humanity and deity are poles apart.

We live in time whereas God is timeless.

Our days are numbered whereas God is eternal.

We are limited in every way but God is infinite being without limits.

We are sinful but He is holy, impeccably pure.

Weighing up these remarkable contrasts it is evident that we can never understand such an immense, awesome being.

It is the mysterious infinity of God, however, that gives us such strength, hope and courage when facing this life with all of its terrible struggles.

This great God is described in the Psalms as our God, being a guide unto death who will not fail (Psalm 48:14). Even though His people are sinful and wicked by nature, Paul described God as being one never ashamed to be called our God (Hebrews 11:16). Therefore to enjoy the blessing of God is the happiest and most secure position to be in – both for time and eternity. Such a God can never fail. His promises are steadfast. His assurances are dependable.

This God, in His person and His determinations, is truth. There is so little that we can depend upon in the world. Life is uncertain, economies are fragile, society can be so fractured, doctors at times differ, one scientific discovery circumvents the last discovery – and so we are reminded constantly that life is a thick mist of uncertainty. Left to our own devices man does not possess the truth, at least not within himself. We struggle to find truth.

This is the very reason why, as societies abandon God they abandon truth and then they seek their own truth and but their truth is a fleeting mirage in the desert of life. Human societies have sought truth through idolatry, meditation, karma, materialism, rationalism, secular humanism, post modernism and a host of other mindsets. The post modern mind has reached the place where man claims there is no truth, truth is what we decide it to be and a future generation will devise their own truth. And so man is left in the oceans of time without a rudder, a chart and a compass. Cast adrift with no certainty. Such is the futility of living without God. It is no wonder that Paul declared “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

But when we know God we possess truth, certainty in a world of uncertainty. The Christian enjoys what some of the greatest minds sought for and longed for in the history of the world but failed to grasp because they did not know God. Like Greek civilisation, modern society with all of its progress and and academia has failed to know God; “the world by wisdom knew not God” (1st Corinthians 1:21).

Therefore Christ described those who know God as possessing the truth, and being set free by that truth, delivered from bondage and darkness (John 8:32). The truth that is found is an immense eternal pure being will never shift, not like man with all his theories and speculations.

Therefore, we have no grounds to question the actions of God. From our mortal perspective we have no answer for the dark mysteries of life.

Why do good people suffer? Why do wars and famines occur? Yes – we know that these are symptoms of a broken world, broken not by God but by our sin BUT why does God not intervene! I cannot explain this, I would not dare try to explain this but neither can I explain the mysteries of deity. But I do know that God’s wisdom surpasses our wisdom. That we at heart are unwise, foolish and destructive creatures. We cannot begin to question the superior intelligence and wisdom of our Creator and Governor. So YES – we can be absolutely confident that our God makes no mistakes. And herein is peace – the precious peace of trusting faith.

Such a confidence in the infinity of God does not inspire fatalism, however. Fatalism is the idea that we make no choices, we have no responsibility – that all that will happen must happen and we are mere passive creatures. Fatalism is evil because is robs man of his responsibility to the holy infinite God.

The very reason why we have a Bible is to teach responsibility to God. That we must obey Him, keep His commandments and worship His person. That those who go to Hell are sentenced to this awful doom because they have not believed. They are held accountable for their actions. Accountability to an immortal being, who gave us life and being is in itself a fearful truth. But it is this truth to which all of humanity are being directed.

There is no paradox between the absolute determinations of a sovereign God and the responsibility of man. God’s elects a people unto everlasting life, yet we must trust in Christ by faith and the Church must take the Gospel to all men. God according to His decrees of providence is in absolute control, yet we are assured that He will not withhold the requests of those who offer requests that are according to His will.

Rather than making us feel helpless, this fills us with incredible confidence – He will save and keep those who come to Him, a people will be converted through the ministry of the Gospel and our God will move mountains in response to the prayer of faith.

The most amazing and incomprehensible truth about our God, however, is His love.

There are questions about His love that we can’t answer. Why in the vastness of the universe did He fashion such a beautiful little planet of blue, to be inhabited by a people who would rebel against Him? Why did He choose to be glorified through mankind, the crown of His creation, when mankind chose to go their own way and have suffered in so doing? And the most incomprehensible question of all – Why would God send His Son in the form of His wicked creatures, to die in their place to accomplish redemption by the shedding of His precious blood?

These are the most profound questions of all. God, who has infinite power, knowledge and purity has also an infinite capacity capacity to love. Love is unconditional, love gives generously and love makes the greatest of sacrifices. Even in human terms the power of love defies all natural logic. The power of God’s love, however, ushers us into the beautiful place on earth.

“Jesus , loves me this I know

For the Bible tells me so”.

It is the knowledge of God’s love alone, which can give us hope, strength and peace in this troubled world. As mankind struggles with the uncertainties of life and the hatred which proves so self destructive – he needs this infinite love of God to calm and heal his broken spirit.

This love of God can only be experienced at the cross where Christ surrendered His life, out of love for His rebellious creatures. It is the mysterious infinite nature of this love alone which draws out the believing heart in wonder and praise:

“Love so amazing, so divine

Demands life, my soul, my all.”

PEACE IN A WORLD OF FEAR

PEACE IN A WORLD OF FEAR

1st John 4:18

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

We live in a world of fear. The uncertainty of life, the alarming and rapid manner in which our circumstances can change, the frailty of the human body, the vast number of ways in which both we and our loved ones can be taken out of this world at any moment, are facts that feed our fears.

The ultimate fear relates to dying and to death itself. We do not know how or when we will die but we are painfully aware that his dark shadow stalks our life from day to day and that each moment is drawing closer to the hour when he will will envelope and consume our earthly life.

The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn this fear of death out of the population and has brought it to the surface. When the British Prime Minister, Mr Johnston, solemnly told us that some of our loved ones would die before their time he was invoking the ultimate tactic in the war against the virus. And the British people afraid for themselves and their loved ones stayed indoors and complied.

One hundred years ago people, while afraid of death lived with it. There were more diseases which proved fatal and there were more infectious diseases in society, as there were fewer vaccines and drugs. More people died at home with their loved ones gathered around. A much larger number of children died at birth and sadly too many women died during labour. There was an earthy realism with regard to death.

In the modern world life expectancy has risen dramatically with the advances in medicine. Drugs, surgical procedures and infection preventions have saved numerous lives. The outcomes for illnesses like cancer and heart disease have improved dramatically in the last twenty years. Health and Safety regulations have prevented many fatalities in the work place and on the roads. We have ,therefore, become very good at shutting away and ignoring our greatest enemy.

But still he comes, more silently, but still his shadow lurks at every corner. We appreciate the advances in health care but have we not become complacent where the reality if death is concerned? Some even choose to live as if they will never die!

Covid-19, this incurable virus without a vaccine, which has swept the world at alarming speed, has reawakened this slumbering fear of death, and has been quite a wake up call. In fact the wake up call has been more of a trumpet blast and has shook the confidence of society to the core. It will take many people a lot of time to adjust to social situations post Covid-19.

Yes – we should be afraid of this illness, its consequences can be catastrophic and due care ought to be exercised.

BUT looking into the future we don’t want to be controlled or manipulated by our fears. Controlled by fear can have all kinds of terrible consequences for men and women.

How can face fear in this world, especially the fear of death and know perfect peace? It is this fear of death which is all pervasive subject – this fear is with us with or without Covid-19. Most of us will not die from Covid-19 but we all will die sometime, somewhere and in some manner.

This is where the Gospel, the great message of Christianity, is so helpful. This is the only message which supplies us with true peace in a fear filled world because Saint John wrote “perfect love casteth out all fear”.

LOVE WITHOUT FEAR

According to the Holy Spirit inspired words of Saint John, the antidote for fear is perfect love. Therefore, where this perfect love exists, there is no fear. This is the message and the realisation that our society needs as we move out of lockdown. As we shop, go into the workplace, meet our relatives and attend church we must be filled with this perfect love which promises to conquer all of our fears, especially the fear of death.

John in this passage spends some time defining this perfect love.

The Greek word employed for love is ἀγαπάω (agapao), which is a uniquely Christian term. Throughout the New Testament this is the only used to describe the love which is of God and is set apart from all forms of human tenderness and emotion. Therefore ἀγαπάω is the most complete form of love, this is perfect love.

Therefore John wrote in verse 7 “love is of God” and in verse 8 “God is love”. When a person becomes a Christian, therefore, God plants His love in the human heart and only the Christian enjoys such an experience:

“every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (v7).

By faith the Christian grows in the grace and assurance of this love that has been born in the soul at the new birth. We do this by appreciating what this love of God actually is. As we learn the contents of this love we will learn to love others with the love of God.

This perfect love of God is unconditional and sacrificial:

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (V10).

Such is our sinfulness that the love between man and God is not mutual. By nature man dislikes God, resists and rebels against Him not wishing to be held accountable. But God chooses to love the unloveable for reasons found only within His nature of infinite love.

But this love of God also acts because true love must sacrifice and give. But no greater love sacrifice was ever made than this. God gave his Son to be our sin offering, to appease his justice through the shedding of precious blood.

Such love is deeply humbling because it is so undeserving.

It is also teaches us how we should live and act as those people who enjoy the love of God born in the soul. We too should forgive and sacrifice. Such perfect love has the capacity to heal broken homes, mend broken hearts and piece together the fractures in society.

But – within the context of this subject perfect love casts out every fear. The verb “to cast out” is particularly powerful. It literally means to put outside the house, to turn outdoors. In John 9:34-35 it is used of the man who was put out of the temple.

The fear of death is something which lives within the human heart. It is a powerful fear, an all consuming fear. But perfect love can and will drive it away. Only this perfect love can conquer our fears.

The power of perfect love to conquer our fears is found in the healing power of Christ’s blood. Knowing God’s forgiveness is experiencing His love presented and purchased on Calvary. This is peace for a fearful world. This is certainty for an uncertain world. And this is life for a dying world. This Saviour not only died but was resurrected. The resurrected life of Christ planted in the soul of mankind promises to drive away and banish every fear.

The perfect love teaches us to trust. That if God loves me so much that He gave His Son for me, then He will look after me, He will care for me – His way will always be perfect. This sweet reassurance inspires the Christian heart with confidence and courage – God loves me and His love is within me.

George Matheson was a Victorian Clergyman. As a young man he was diagnosed with permanent and incurable loss of sight. The cruellest blow of all took place when his Fiancee broke off their engagement on account of his disability. After this he grew very close to his sister who was a great help and comfort. Eventually she was married and he was left alone. On the night of her wedding he reflected on his condition, which in the eyes of the world was not at all promising. Alone in the world with no prospect of marriage and suffering from blindness. Words came to his mind and he recorded them quickly and they have been an inspiration to millions ever since:

“O Love that will not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,

I yield my flickering torch to thee;

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day

May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain,

That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee;

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.”

It is the realisation that God gives, that He keeps and satisfies, that His love pursues and keeps us through all the experiences of life that drives away every fear.

The Gospel alone can supply our needs and those of our society in these times.

Let us today pray for love without fear.

FEAR WITHOUT LOVE

Those who are without this perfect love, however, are left in a most difficult situation; fear without love:

“fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

The word torment relates a horribly painful experience. The word actually means punishment. Fear punishes, it whips, it afflicts – it is a most cruel master.

The fear of death is like this because death opens up the reality of eternity. Without the living vibrant experience of the love of God eternity holds nothing but banishment and pain in outer darkness forever. The word is not inappropriate because when our Lord spoke of Hell he described the weeping, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Mankind has eternity in his heart, being not confined to flesh and blood he will live long and consciously beyond the grave. To deny spirituality is to deny humanity. To admit to spirituality is to admit eternity. Fear of death is the reaction of a spiritual creature facing death and eternity without love and, therefore, without hope.

In every situation men and women require hope. Hope is the fuel that keeps the human spirit alive. The greatest problem is a hopeless situation. Hopelessness has led many a person to take desperate actions or quite simply to give up completely. In almost every circumstance there is always some ground for hope and the human spirit can be very resourceful in finding these crumbs of comfort.

But where death and eternity is concerned, however, there is no hope apart from the love of a God. To be without this love is to be in perpetual torment. Every day is one of tragedy and sadness – no hope.

Out of Christ, without a Saviour,

Oh! can it, can it be?

Like a ship without a rudder,

On a wild and stormy sea!

Out of Christ, without a Saviour,

Lonely and dark the way;

With no light, no hope in Jesus,

Making bright the cheerless day.

Out of Christ, without a Saviour,

No help nor refuge nigh;

How can you, my friend and brother,

Dare to life or dare to die?

Out of Christ, without a Saviour,

Dark will the voyage be;

Clouds will gather, storms surround you,

Oh, to Christ for refuge flee!

Out of Christ, without a Saviour,

Give to Him now your heart,

Ere the door of mercy closes,

And you hear His word, “depart.”

But there is hope as the last verse of this hymn by Frank Davis teaches – “Give to him now your heart”. The real difference between the Christian the person who is not a Christian is the attitude to death and dying. The Christian always faces death with hope because of this perfect love.

The opportunity to receive this perfect love is limited, however. Limited by time and by life itself. If you are reading these words and you are without the conscious happy experience of the love of God, seek the Lord for mercy and discover peace which conquers every fear.

THE EVERLASTING GOD

THE EVERLASTING GOD

Psalm 90:2

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”

The 90th Psalm is characterised simply as “A Prayer of Moses the Man of God”.

In many respects the theme of the Psalm is full of dark but earthy realism. There is no doubting the background to its composition; the years of wilderness wanderings.

Therefore as one who saw much hardship and death during these forty years Moses majors upon the brevity of life:

“For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:9-10)

The death that Moses witnessed in the wilderness was extreme; we must not forget that every person who left Egypt died during those forty years – all 2.5 million. The only survivors who entered the Promised Land were Caleb and Joshua.

This unusually high mortality rate was not down to the harshness of the wilderness but the judgement upon the people for disobedience and unbelief:

“Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:” (Numbers 14:22-23).

Therefore in addition to expressing the sorrows of life Moses also mourns over the sins, which brought a generation to an end:

“For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.” (Psalm 90:7-8).

It is this rather dark and gloomy background which makes the words of introduction so much more wonderful and remarkable.

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”

This is a grand theological statement; one of the finest texts expounding the eternal God that I can find anywhere in Scripture. But this statement is not set forth in order to teach Bible doctrine in an academic way. In fact doctrine is never taught anywhere in Scripture merely to stimulate the mind. The day we treat Biblical theology simply as something that is of philosophical interest is the day when we take the Lord’s name in vain.

Moses, here, was in the business of comforting God’s people, in a hard place by showing them their personal interest in the everlasting God.

Moses saw much change during the forty years in the wilderness, with the passing of that difficult and rebellious generation. Yet there was one constant through it all – THE EVERLASTING GOD.

People who supported Moses one day wanted him dead the next and were prepared to support rebels to his position as the divinely appointed leader. He learned through bitter experiences that confidence in man was always misplaced. This drove him increasingly to God, the one who never changed, who was more timeless than the hills and the mountains.

Moses learned also through these forty years of difficulty that this everlasting God was his refuge. Therefore the opening words, which precede our text, express the ultimate reason why he expounded the doctrine of the everlasting God:

“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Some see this as a reference to the tabernacle which was situated in the middle of the wilderness camp. Within the tent of witness, behind the drawn veil was the ark of the covenant, containing the law and overlaid by the mercy seat. There in that sacred place, which the High Priest entered annually on the Day of Atonement, the justice and mercy of God were combined, revealing the fullness and depth of His holy character. But this special place, behind the veil was not merely a symbol of God’s presence, it was the place of God’s presence:

“And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.” (Numbers 9:15-17).

Despite the sins of the people, their fickleness and rebellion, God never left the nation alone. He abode in the midst of the camp, in the form of a cloud, which became fire by night. He guided them and protected them and never left them alone.

Therefore the everlasting God dwelt among His people and they dwelt with Him.

In the 90th Psalm we observe the gritty and grim realism of life as we witness suffering and death. We are all on a journey that is winding ever downward into the valley towards the river of death. We can take nothing for granted, especially the precious gift of life. We live in decaying bodies in an uncertain world where death could catch us at any moment.

In the midst of all our struggles, however, the Christian has this calm assurance, that the everlasting God is with us constantly.

We have something better than the tabernacle, the ark, the tablets of stone, the mercy seat and the cloud. Or should I say – we have someone better – Christ Himself.

In Him we see the justice and mercy of God combined. He died as the perfect man with the law written upon His heart. He experienced the wrath of God for our sins as He made atonement through the shedding of His own blood. He is our dwelling place as the resurrected Christ having made the acceptable sacrifice for our redemption. He is our constant in a world of flux.

Paul writing to the Colossians thousands of years later would reflect on the security we derive from the presence of Christ:

“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4).

Henry Francis Lyte expressed this perfectly in his famous hymn written a short time before his death:

“Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;

Change and decay in all around I see:

O thou who chargers not, abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;

Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee:

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

OPEN CHURCH IN A LOCKDOWN SOCIETY

THE OPEN CHURCH IN A LOCKED DOWN SOCIETY

“…the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen” (2nd Corinthians 13:14)

During the lockdown imposed on us as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Christians have been deprived of the biblical (and regular) means of fellowshipping with one another. We can never place too high a premium upon praising God together, praying with one another and waiting with our fellow believers upon the ministry of God’s Word.

Although we are deprived of these practical and God-given means of uniting us with each other – our fellowship continues.

This period has reminded us that our fellowship is not based upon external forms of worship. It is not that our meetings are unimportant; they are vital because we are commanded not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

BUT – we can attend meetings with open hymn-books and bibles, conforming to all the structures of worship without true fellowship.

YET – at this time we can enjoy true fellowship without the appointed seasons for assembling that we sadly took too much for granted.

There is no better time, therefore, for exploring this question – ‘What is true fellowship?’

The final words of 2nd Corinthians teach that true communion must flow from the Holy Ghost. This is why we can maintain fellowship when the doors of the Meeting House are locked. The Church remains open, functioning and prospering even though the building that is traditionally called the Church is closed. The spirit of the Church is the Holy Spirit, alive and operating within the hearts of God’s people.

As long as the Holy Spirit is present in the hearts of Christians the Church will never be closed – God is at work uniting us together with Christ. Therefore, as far as Christians are concerned ministry and evangelism continues, albeit in a more remote way, because the Holy Spirit continues to empower the Church in the fulfillment of The Great Commission.

This not only explains what true fellowship is – but it also helps us understand the continuation and growth of the Christian Church throughout the centuries. Nothing that man nor Satan has attempted in order to overthrow the Church has succeeded because nothing can remove the bonds of fellowship generated by the Holy Ghost, which unite us together with Jesus Christ.

The Holy Ghost, keeps us united even though we are physically apart. This has always been a comforting truth, for a group in every congregation, unable to attend due to age, infirmity or sickness. Absent from the regular means of grace, shut out through circumstances but still at one with the Church body. The Holy Spirit continues to minister through instruction in the Word, assistance in prayer and in shedding the love of God abroad in every believing heart.

When our meetings resume let us not neglect this lesson – that without the ministry of the Holy Ghost as we praise and pray, whether we minister unto or be ministered to and as we engage at the Lord’s Table – true fellowship only exists through the communion of the Holy Ghost.

“The true communion of Christian men – ‘the communion of saints’ upon which churches are built – is not the common performance of external acts, but a communion of soul with soul and of the soul with Christ” (Philip Schaff).

Let us claim the promise and seek this communion “of soul with soul and of the soul with Christ”.

“…the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.”

GOD IN THE WHIRLWIND

THE GOD OF ALL GRACE IN THE LIFE OF JOB

PART 4 – God in the Whirlwind; Job’s Experience with God

Job 38:1

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind…”

This 4th key text in the life of Job is not so obvious as the previous three, yet it is crucial to our understanding of the Book of Job and the mysterious providences of God.

While the sight of Job sitting down in utter devastation and blessing the name of His God (Job 1:21), His remarkable faith in anticipating the coming Redeemer (Job 19:25) and the peace he experienced knowing that he would come out of the furnace of affliction pure as gold (Job 23:10) are well known in the life of Job – the contents of chapter 38 are less so.

Chapters 38-42 are vital, to our understanding of this book, however, because here the Lord enters the conversation.

The Book of Job, as well as being the story of one man’s multiple tragedies, is also a conversation.

Chapters 1 & 2 records the conversation between the Lord and Satan.

Also in Chapter 2 there is the briefest of conversations between Job and his wife.

At the close of the second chapter Job’s 3 friends arrive after hearing of his losses; Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.

Chapters 3 to 31 record the conversation between Job and his friends. While the proverb ‘Job’s Comforters’, is used of people who create pain rather than bring comfort, we often forget that the friends of Job were godly and spiritual men. A close study of their speeches will show that they had a firm grasp of theology and deep sense of the divine. Nevertheless, despite their knowledge they misjudged Job’s predicament. They were guilty of treating Job as a sinner, whom God had chastened sore with frightful visitations of wrath.

Eliphaz

“Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” (Job 5:17-18)

Bildad

“Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water? Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.” (Job 8:11-13)

Zophar

“But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee; And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.” (Job 11:5-6)

Being bombarded with such cruel words, from those who purported to be his friends, it is no wonder that Job retorted:

“I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.” (Job 16:2 )

This is salutary lesson to all of us, be careful before ever judging a situation!

Nevertheless, Job in his reaction to the accusations of his friends – over compensates by protesting his innocence in a way that was improper, even tainted with pride.

“Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps? If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit; Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity. If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands; Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out.” (Job 31:4-8)

Job, therefore, held onto the idea, perpetrated by his fiends that terrible events occurred because of sin – therefore he held himself up and declared that he hadn’t sinned. While it is wrong to be harsh on a man who was in such a dark place, yet there was something missing in his language. Job was in effect questioning God in protesting his innocence, therefore failing to recognise the wickedness of his own heart, a fact that is true of all of us.

Therefore, there a need for someone else to enter the conversation.

From Chapters 32 – 37 a younger man called Elihu, who had been sitting silently listening in, entered the discussion. He was frustrated by all 4 older men, and their failures to assess the situation aright.

“Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I also will shew mine opinion.” (Job 32:9).

Elihu’s purpose was to show these men the absolute sovereignty God. The tragedies of Job, rather than being linked to his sin, must be attributed solely to the hand of providence which no man can challenge.

“Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.” (Job 33:13)

In this, Elihu certainly was a greater help to Job, than any of his friends. The younger man was much wiser than his seniors in this regard.

The progress of this conversation, warns us not to declare with certainty why God acts in a certain way or why he permits particular events to unfold. Ultimately the mysteries of providence are veiled in secrecy.

“God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform”

After men have had their say, God must have the final word. Chapters 38 – 42 contain God’s conversation with Job as an individual. God must have the final say. Our thoughts and ideas must be subservient to the thinking of the Almighty. We need an ear for His voice. When God speaks our sins are uncovered and our wrongs are put to right.

God in the Whirlwind; Job’s Experience with God

Job 38:1

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind…”

1: His Presence in the Whirlwind

The whirlwind is a fearful natural phenomenon, that uproots, devastate and can kill. As Job and his companions, who now numbered 3, a watched the cloud of swirling dust moving in from the wilderness, they were to learn that the presence of God was in the whirlwind.

The whirlwind, was a fitting emblem of all Job’s calamities. The failure of his business, the loss of his children, the deterioration of his health, the abandonment of his wife, the accusations of his friends, the depression of mind, the confusion of his soul – was an awesome whirlwind of turmoil and upheaval.

Yet in a very visual way God was showing Job that He was in the whirlwind. Job was not abandoned.

When we face our whirlwinds sorrow and suffering let us remember that God’s presence is in the storm , even though we fail to recognise Him.

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a smiling providence

He hides a smiling face”.

2: His Voice in the Whirlwind

Ultimately God revealed His presence by speaking. This is how God continues to reveal Himself to us…by speaking. Without His voice we never could be aware of His presence. It is His voice in His Word that makes us so sure that we will never will be left alone ( Hebrews 13:5), that He is present to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20) and that all things work together for good for those that love the Lord (Romans 8:28).

But when the whirlwind comes, His voice is heard in a clearer way. He brings the whirlwind to teach us new lessons about Himself. The whirlwind has an awesome sound, of deafening wind. But God’s voice is heard above the storm.

In these days, of disease, of death and of confusion let us listen out for the voice of God above the storm. He has words for us that we would not hear, were it not for the experience of this pandemic.

The message God had for Job, echoed the sentiments of Elihu. This is the same message we need to hear and appreciate today; He has laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4) and as a result every aspect of the natural world is under His control. A close study of these chapters will reveal a God who is in absolute control.

As God spoke out of the whirlwind – this was the message Job heard.

Let us as God’s redeemed children, hear this same message today.

RAINBOW OF HOPE

THE RAINBOW OF HOPE

One of the most memorable features of the Covid-19 crisis in the UK has been the displays of the rainbow as a symbol of hope. Colourful rainbows have been drawn by children, displayed on windows and flown on flag poles. The symbol has been especially used as an expression of gratitutude to our gallant NHS workers and those involved in all the caring professions during these dark and difficult days. When others obeyed orders and stayed indoors they exposed themselves to danger to care for the sick. They were in the front line protecting society from the revages of this pandemic and we honour their sacrifice, skill and courage. The NHS gave our nation hope, and they still do, therefore the rainbows were and are unfurled.

In claiming the rainbow in these troubled times, society has been using a traditional Christian symbol of hope. The rainbow properly used is a symbol of grace and love given to us by our benevolent Creator. In days of trouble and fear we need HOPE. God has given us the rainbow which has been such a symbol of optimism in the most pessimistic of days.

The first appearance of the rainbow in the history of the world occurred after Noah stepped out of the ark. The population of the world had been decimated as a consequence of the rain, flooding and volcanic eruptions. When Noah and his family stepped back on dry land they entered a very different world than the one they had left behind. They were alone amid the vastness of a planet that had been re-shaped by the fearful cataclysm. They were tasked with re-popupulating the earth, saving the human race and re-etablishing society once again. Those were truly the worst of times.

At that moment God presented Noah with the bow in the cloud. As Noah’s eyes were drawn to the beautiful colours God affirmed His covenant that the world would never again be destroyed by a flood.

The shape of the rainbow was modelled after the archer’s weapon. The bow despatched arrows of injury and death. But this bow had no arrow. Rather than representing fear, its colours related vibrant beauty and its happy message was one of grace and hope.

The grim reaper has been busy during the Covid-19 pandemic. When arrows of sickness and death are being hurled at a helpless population we have been reminded of a bow that is empty of arrows and contains only a message of love and beauty. The rainbow teaches us that in a broken world true love, hope and peace can only be found in a gracious God, because He alone is love.

Some have speculated that Covid-19 is a consequence of God’s judgement upon us for our sins. I do not deny that we deserve judgement but the Bible depicts a God whose nature is balanced – holy and just on the one hand but long suffering and kind on the other. Therefore in the darkest place we are never without hope as long as God exists.

When Noah looked up and saw that first rainbow, it appeared in the cloud. The rain clouds had brought the world to disaster. But Noah was reminded that when the clouds which brought so much tragedy appeared, God would ensure that such a deluge never would never occur again. Humanity would survive.

There have been many dark clouds over these past months; clouds of fear, anxiety and uncertainty. But through the clouds we see the rainbow. God loves this world and He supplies us with hope amid the gloom.

And what is the hope that God has given? It is the hope of the Gospel. The Gospel simply means good news. The news has been so bad, that some have chosen not to listen, read or watch. But here is news that never was more relevant and which is always good. We must never switch this news off.

Have we not been taught that nothing, whether it be health, finances or life itself, can be taken from granted. Things that once seemed important now feel so trivial in the light of infinitely greater concerns. This world is a barren wilderness. Job in the Old Testament called it correctly when he described man as being born unto trouble.

But into this world with all its shadows came Jesus Christ as the perfect man – to die and defeat death through His resurrection that we might have hope. He is the ultimate rainbow in the cloud. True hope is found alone in Him.

Have you found true hope and peace in Christ alone?

Whatever society looks like after Covid-19 it will be a better place for you if you give your heart to Jesus Christ.

PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS

Merely reciting this prayer will make no difference but if the words come from a heart that is seeking after God, you will be saved and you will have peace because Jesus Christ said ‘Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

“O God, I confess my sin, I acknowledge that I deserve your judgement. I thank you that your dear Son Jesus Christ died for me and was raised again that I might have hope. Forgive me and wash my sin away in the blood of your Son. I give my heart, my soul, my life to Jesus Christ today. Help me to live for Him. Amen.”

I Shall Come Forth As Gold

THE GOD OF ALL GRACE IN THE LIFE OF JOB

Part 3 – I Shall Come Forth As Gold; Job’s Trust in a Sovereign God

“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10)

This third key text highlights another of Job’s famous, and comforting utterances. We must remember that all of these statements were made in a terrible time of personal calamity and as such they console and inspire us during these difficult times.

Text 1
Blessed Be the Name of the Lord; Job’s Confession of Faith
“ And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:2).

Text 2
My Redeemer Liveth; Job’s Hope in Christ


“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth”(Job 19:25)

Where the last study focused upon Job’s eternal ambitions for resurrection and glory, this text will examine Job’s optimism for the life that he was currently living.

It seemed that with a broken heart, a ruined business, a loveless marriage and surrounded by friends who misjudged and misrepresented him Job didn’t have much to live for.

There were times when Job emotionally and spiritually saw nothing but the darkness of the night, to the extent that he even wished he never had been born:

“Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived” (Job 3:3)

“Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?” (Job 3:11)

“For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” (Job 3:25)

As he medicated upon God and His providential dealings, Job became increasingly convinced that God was going to bring good out the tragedies and catastrophies that had befallen him.

Every Christian will identify with the roller coaster of emotion that Job was hurtling along, even though our experience may not be as severe. There are the lows and the highs. Naturally we look around and we cannot see good but yet we know our Father has planned all things and that they will work out for His glory and our good.

On this account Job’s words are such a blessing – we shall come out of the fire shining and glittering as gold.

I Shall Come Forth As Gold; Job’s Trust in a Sovereign Gold

1: Gold Exposed to the Fire

The substance that is exposed to the fire is the most precious of all metals. Indeed, the very reason why the refiner will spend time and effort exposing the gold to the flames, is because of its high worth.

Gold, therefore, is a picture of the Christian. This may not be the perception that society has of the church and we often fail to view ourselves in this way; BUT from from the standpoint of eternity God sees a His people as gold.

The breastplate of the Hebrew High Priest was dominated by 12 precious stones, each of which represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Each of these stones were set in gold (Exodus 28:20).

Gold represents wealth and royalty. The rich travellers from the east brought a gift of gold to the child Jesus, because he was a King. For God to view His people as gold, emphasises our unity with Jesus Christ, in His resurrection and righteousness. It also teaches us that as His people we will always be precious in His sight.

While the Church is in the world, however, we are the raw material. The refiner invests time exposing the gold to the furnace because it is not the finished product, impurities must be burnt off that the gold will be valued according to its full potential.

Therefore, God has a purpose in taking His people through the fire. We possess the impurities of sin which must be erased. God is the refiner, controlling the heat of the furnace, carefully watching over His precious people as he purifies us through affliction.

As his life spiralled out of control Job logically found it difficult to see the hand of God:

“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:” (Job 23:9-10).

While he didn’t feel that the Lord was there, spiritually he knew that the Lord was there. Therefore, in the darkness of sorrow and confusion he cried out:

“But he knoweth the way that I take, and when he hath tried me…”

The one who knew his path, had planned his path. Whatever had been happening as the bandits stole his livestock and murdered his servants, as nature collapsed his eldest son’s home and as his health deteriorated – Job knew that God had never lost control of the situation. Indeed – positively God was working out a spiritual purpose in his life through the trials.

While we may not always, understand our trials, we know that God is using them to bring rich blessings into our lives. However, we feel, we know that He is in control. This reminds me so much of a Christian song which was very popular a number of years ago:

“He’s still working on me To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be ‘
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
Don’t judge him yet, there’s an unfinished part
But I’ll be better just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master’s loving hands

He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

In the mirror of His word
Reflections that I see
Makes me wonder why
He never gave up on me
But He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray
Remember He’s the potter,
I’m the clay He’s still working on me

He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

2: Gold Purified through the Fire

The refiner does not expose the gold to the flames to destroy it. The gold cannot be destroyed by the flames. There is only one prospect for the gold in the furnace – IMPROVEMENT.

Afflictions, therefore, play a part in God’s sanctifying influences.

Writing to Jewish Christians, who had been ostricised by family members and were now facing persecution by Roman authorities, Paul comforted them with this very truth, that they grow spiritually in adversity.

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb 12:1).

Paul, himself, testified to receiving blessing from the rod of God. He even admitted that the thorn in the flesh, which caused him such misery, was used to burn off the dross of pride. Therefore the thorn, which must have been so debilitating, made him stronger spiritually and certainly gave him a remarkable experience of sustaining grace.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2nd Corinthians 12:7-9).

The prophet Malachi, is given a vision of the Lord as a refiner:
“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:3).

The refiner would sit with the molten silver or gold and carefully remove all the dross, until he could see his own reflection in the shimmering liquid. In a similar way, God was working on Israel, through many trials, purging them, so that they would bring their offerings to Him. Then His glory would be revealed through them.

In Romans 8, Paul defines the “good” that God works out through every situation in the lives of his people as being conformity to Christ:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:28-29).

In our selfish and materialistic way, we want to define good according to our terms. But God’s definition of good is different – He is in the business of strengthening the spirit, improving the inward man, in glorifying Christ through us. He wants us to see the reflection of His Son in our characters. This is the goal and what an incredible and majestic end this is!

In these days of isolation and uncertainty let us learn these lessons from providence.

That God is in control, not just as a Creator but as our gracious Heavenly Father.

That the trial will never be greater than the sustaining power of His grace.

That we are not passive instruments in His work of purifying.

Where there is grace, there is a response. Grace helps us to pray more fervently, study more intensely and above all to yield with greater meekness as we pursue the reflection of Christ in our characters.

Oh that we would come forth like gold!