Devotions for Job 3:1-10, 4:1-9, 7:11-21
July 4-10, 2016
Monday, July 4, 2016
“Let the day perish in which I was born” (Job 3:1).
Kyle sat on the edge of his bed with a bottle of pills in his hand. His life had become a living hell. Kyle was small of stature, a scholar rather than an athlete and gay. Every day he went to school he was reminded of these facts–especially that he was gay, queer, different, a pervert. He couldn’t change who he was and the kids at school didn’t want to change.
Lisa walked along the bridge. It was so tempting to climb over the rail and plunge into the river below. At least she would get away from her husband, his words that shredded her spirit and his blows that pulverized her body.
We may never have been suicidal but there have been those times when we have been close to giving up. The idea that life was a precious gift seemed a ridiculous notion, and we wouldn’t have minded if death would have overtaken us. Yet our hearts still beat and air goes in and out of our lungs.
We may be very critical of Job’s bumbling friends. Their words are examples of exactly what not to say to hurting people. Still they were there for their friend Job. They demonstrate our vital need for relationships. We need to have other people in our lives and we need to be involved in the lives of others. Together we can live. God moves mightily in our lives, but most often God uses people to do so.
Kyle’s parents came home and found him with the bottle of pills in his hand. Surrounding Kyle with their love they intervened and got Kyle the help that he needed. Eventually Kyle was able to accept himself and enjoy life. Lisa didn’t stop on the bridge. She crossed it and entered a shelter for abused women. It took a long time, but eventually she was able to start her life over again.
Loving Lord, forgive us when we are not able to celebrate and enjoy your gift of life. Thank you for the people in our lives who help us through difficult times and for the opportunities to help others. Amen.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
“If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended? But who can keep from speaking” (Job 4:2)?
The conversation was going nowhere. Lamar and Carlos held opposite views on the topic and they were intent on convincing the other that they were right. They had stopped listening to what the other person was saying, because they were busy formulating their next argument. It would have been beneficial to them if they would have paid heed to that old adage that we were born with one mouth and two ears for a reason; listening is more important than speaking.
We long for someone to listen to us–to really hear what we have to say. One reason for this is that we are surrounded by voices telling us what to do. Our parents, teachers, bosses, co-workers, neighbors, friends, the television, the radio and the Internet all direct us to do one thing or the other.
Jobs friends sat silently with Job for a while and listened to Job’s complaints. This was probably their greatest ministry to Job. They could not maintain that silence, however. They had to speak and offer their advice and solutions to Job’s problems. Their helpfulness to Job ended at that point.
The Lord has blessed us with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers (though admittedly sometimes they don’t seem to be blessings). We have the opportunity to be a part of their lives and to listen to them–to hear their pain, frustrations, joy and triumphs. While appreciating the gift that we have been given it is also important for us to realize our need to have a confidant, someone to listen to us, in our lives. To listen and to be heard are both wonderful gifts. They are gifts that show God’s steadfast love and presence in our lives.
Divine Friend, thank you for the relationships with which you have blessed us. Move in these relationships so that they may be sources of strength and encouragement. Amen.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
“But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed” (Job 4:5).
Hanh lived an easy life. She was raised in an upper middle class family. Hanh excelled in both athletics and academics. He won a scholarship to an Ivy League College, graduated and began a promising career. A few years after her graduation she met husband-to-be, married and eventually had two children. During this time Hanh was active in her congregation. She taught Sunday school, hosted an adult small group Bible study along with her husband and served two terms on the congregational council. Hanh was strong in her Christian beliefs and faithful in living out the teachings of Jesus.
It wasn’t until Hanh was forty-five that tragedy struck. On a routine self-examination Hanh felt a lump in her breast. After a number of tests it was confirmed that the lump was cancerous. A mastectomy was needed and because it was an aggressive cancer Hanh would need to endure both radiation and chemotherapy. Suddenly all her Christian beliefs were put to the test. Hanh discovered that it was easy to say that God is present and powerfully moving in a person’s life when you’re not the person going through the crisis. It is a different matter when you are the person. Hanh struggled, but supported by her family and friends and surrounded by the prayers of her congregation, Hanh survived and discovered that what she believed was true.
It is always difficult to practice what we preach. When we find ourselves in difficult times, though, we discover that the God whom we worship is faithful. God is a God of steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness.
God of Love and Grace, thank you that you are with us in both the good times and the bad. At all times enable us to give you thanks and praise. Amen.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
“Is not your fear of God your confidence” (Job 4:6).
Job lost everything. If he had been tempted to trust in his financial acumen, agricultural skills, devotion of his children, or even blind luck, Job could no longer do so. During his ordeal, Job discovered that the only thing in which he could place his trust was God’s loving relationship with him.
It is tempting for us to put our trust in things that we can see and touch. We trust that our health will enable us to achieve our dreams and our career will provide us with the good life. We have faith that our retirement plan and 401k’s will allow us to enjoy a comfortable retirement, and that our health insurance will enable us to seek whatever medical treatment we need. We place our faith in these items even though they repeatedly fail. We lose our health, we are laid of from our jobs and the market crashes.
In reality, it is only our fear of God, our trust in God’s love and grace that is our confidence. That is all we need.
Faithful Lord, forgive us when we place our faith and hope in other things besides you. Enable us to rest in the truth that you alone are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Friday, July 8, 2016
“As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8).
After God freed the Israelites from the slavery in Egypt, God gave them the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. These were not ten demands that had to be followed in order to please God and live in a relationship with God. God was already in a relationship with the Israelites and God remained true to that relationship even when the Israelites didn’t. Rather, the Ten Commandments were teachings that enabled the Israelites to worship God and live in peace with each other. The commandments enabled people to live the “good life.”
We know what happens when people rebel against God’s teachings. We read about it in the newspapers or see it on the evening news–violence, hate and brokenness. We experience it in our everyday lives–the petty squabbles, office politics, long-held grudges and ever-present envy. In the words of Job’s friend, “We plow iniquity, sow trouble and reap the same.”
We may be tempted to look at other people and shake our heads when we see how they have made a mess of things. It the truth be told, though, we have occasionally made a mess of our lives, too. Thankfully our words and actions are not the final, determining factor. God’s love is. We don’t need to live in the guilt of the past. Instead we can experience God’s love and forgiveness today and live in the freedom that they give us.
Forgiving God, it is easy for us to cast a critical eye on others, but in judging them we judge ourselves. We all need your love and forgiveness. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit” (Job 7:11).
Ken was angry at God. His life was falling apart and God wasn’t doing anything. God didn’t seem to be listening to Ken’s prayers. Ken was enveloped in fear, pain and despair. He came to a point where Ken could no longer contain his anger. Ken exploded–he yelled, screamed and cried. Ken’s wife was appalled. “How can you speak that way to God?” she questioned. Ken’s only excuse was that he could not help himself.
Ken was in good company. Job eventually came to the point where he was no longer patient and he expressed his anger to God. The Psalms are full of laments, which are litanies that express the anger, fear, frustration and despair of the writer and of the people of Israel.
There are times when we need to vent to God. It’s okay. God can withstand our anger and God won’t respond by casting a lightning bolt at us. These episodes allow us to remove the veil of religiosity from our faith and be truthful to God and to ourselves. They can be freeing and healing times. Later we may be ashamed of what we said and feel the need to ask for forgiveness. God never withholds that forgiveness, but embraces us with God’s love.
Forgiving Lord, there are times when our fear and despair cause us to be angry at you. We thank you that you do not turn your back to us but hear beyond our yelling. Amen.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
“Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? (Job 7:21).
Job’s words are words that we never need to speak. Job had not heard of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He had not seen God’s overwhelming love nor had he been told of the new relationship that we have with God because of what Jesus did. Job did not know that he no longer needed to live in guilt and shame, but rather he could live in the freedom of forgiveness.
Thank the Lord we know! We have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in the truth that we are forgiven and free and we experience the new life with God that has been given to us. Even in the middle of our trials and tribulations we can give thanks for the forgiveness we have received and for the new life that we have been given.
Generous God, thank you for making all things new through Jesus. Amen.