Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Job which describes the intense suffering of a man named Job from the land of Uz. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters five through seven of this Old Testament book. IF MISERY COULD BE WEIGHED, IF YOU COULD PILE THE WHOLE IBTTER LOAD ON THE SCALES, IT WOULD BE HEAVIER THAN ALL THE SAND OF THE SEA! THE ARROWS OF GOD ALMIGHTY ARE IN ME, POISON ARROWS—AND I[‘M POISONED ALL THROUGH! GOD HAS DUMPED THE WHOLE WORKS ON ME! DON’T EXPECT ME TO KEEP QUIET IN THIS! DO YOU SEE WHAT GOD HAS DISHED OUT FOR ME? IT’S ENOUGH TO TURN ANYONE’S STOMACH! EVERYTHING IN ME IS REPULSED BY IT—IT MAKES ME SICK! WHERE’S THE STRENGTH TO KEEP MY HOPES UP? WHAT FUTURE DO I HAVE TO KEEP ME GOING? DO YOU THINK I HAVE NERVES OF STEEL? DO YOU THINK I’M MADE OF IRON? DO YOU THINK I CAN PULL MYSELF UP BY MY BOOTSTRAPS? WHY, I DON’T EVEN HAVE ANY BOOTS! WHEN DESPERATE PEOPLE GIVE UP ON GOD ALMIGHTY, THEIR FRIENDS, AT LEAST, SHOULD STICK WITH THEM! BUT MY BROTHERS ARE FICKLE AS A GULCH IN THE DESERT—ONE DAY THEY’RE GUSHIN WITH WATER FROM MELTING ICE AND SNOW CASCADING OUT OF THE MOUNTAINS, BUT BY MIDSUMMER THEY’RE DRY, GULLIES BAKED DRY IN THE SUN! THEY ARRIVE SO CONFIDENCE—BUT WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT! THEY GET THERE, AND THEIR FACES FALL! AND YOU, MY SO-CALLED FRIENDS, ARE NO BETTER—THER’S NOTHING TO YOU! ONE LOOK AT A HARD SCENE AND YOU SHRINK IN FEAR! HONEST WORDS NEVER HURT ANYONE, BUT WHAT’S THE POINT OF ALL THIS PIOUS BLUSTER? YOU PRETEND TO TELL ME WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY LIFE, BUT TREAT MY WORDS OF ANGUISH AS SO MUCH HOT AIR! ARE PEOPLE MERE THINGS TO YOU? ARE FRIENDS JUST ITEMS OF PROFIT AND LOSS? HUMAN LIFE IS A STRUGGLE, ISN’T IT? IT’S A LIFE SENTENCE TO HARD LABOR! I GO TO BED AND THINK, “HOW LONG TILL I CAN GET UP? I TOSS AND TURN AS THE NIGHT DRAGS ON—AND I’M FED UP! AND SO I’M NOT KEEPING ONE BIT OF THIS QUET, I’M LAYING IT ALL OUT ON THE TABLE; MY COMPLAINING TO HIGH HEAVEN IS BITTER, BUT HONEST! ARE YOU GOING TO PUT A MUZZLE ON ME, THE WAY YOU QUIET THE SEA AND STILL THE STORM? LET UP ON ME, WILL YOU? CAN’T YOU EVEN LET ME SPIT IN PEACE? EVEN SUPPOSED I’D SINNED—HOW WOULD THAT HURT YOU? YOU’RE RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERY HUMAN BEING. DON’T YOU HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO THAN PICK ON ME? WHY MAKE A FEDERAL CASE OUT OF ME? WHY DON’T YOU JUST FORGIVE MY SINS AND START ME OFF WITH A CLEAN SLATE? THE WAY THINGS ARE GOING, I’LL SOON BE DEAD. YOU’LL LOOK HIGH AND LOW, BUT I WON’T BE AROUND! WHAT WE CAN’T DO IS COME IN THE MIDDLE OF SUFFERING WITH RELIGIOUS JARGON! WHAT WE CAN’T DO IS STEP INTO THE MIDST OF CONFLICT WITH RELIGIOUS BABBLE! WHAT ARE YOU BRINGING IN THE MIDDLE OF SUFFERING? WHAT ARE WE BRINGING IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING? CAN THE CHURCH BE THE CHURCH WITHOUT RELIGIOUS JARGON AND BABBLE?
When you continue to move further into the Old Testament book of Job you will find that a vast majority of the book is a dialogue and exchange that existed between Job and the three friends who had made the journey to see him upon hearing of the tremendous suffering he had endured. If you read the final three verses of the second chapter of this Old Testament book you will encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality of Job’s three friends making the journey from their own place and from their own land in order that they might come unto and be with Job. Scripture is unclear as to the reason for these three friends making their way to come unto Job, and we aren’t given any clue or indication as to their motive behind coming unto Job. In the final three verses of the second chapter you will find the names of Job’s three friends, and where they had come from, and yet there is absolutely no indication given as to the purpose for their visit. As Job’s three friends made their way to Job—did they come to offer encouragement and support during this incredibly difficult time? Did they come to see for themselves if the report is as bad as they had heard it was? Did Job’s three friends come to be casual observers of Job’s suffering as Scripture seems to indicate that Job had walked through much of his life without facing or experiencing any type of suffering. In fact, if you begin to read the words which Eliphaz the Temanite began speaking unto Job in the fourth chapter you will find him speaking to Job concerning his being a source of encouragement, strength and support to those who themselves were suffering and were experiencing tremendous affliction. Is it possible that these three friends had never in all the time they had known Job heard of him experiencing or facing any type of suffering, and now report had come unto them concerning all Job had lost—both in material wealth and possessions, as well as personally in the death of all ten of his children. I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason for the journey of these three friends of Job from their individual places was to see if the report which they had heard was indeed true, and if their friend was suffering as much and as bad as they had heard. Consider if you will the words which are found within the final three verses of the second chapter beginning to read with the eleventh verse:
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantel, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they say that his grief was very great” (Job 2:11-13).
Pay close attention to the words which are found within the final verses of the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Job, for the first thing we notice about these three men who had made their way unto Job was that they weren’t ordinary men who decided to come unto him. Scripture is very clear when introducing these men that they weren’t mere men from other lands or other places, but that these men were friends of Job. If we are to truly understand the entire narrative surrounding the dialogue between Job and these three men found within this book, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that these three men were indeed friends of Job. These men weren’t simply acquaintances of Job, nor were these men mere companions of Job, but these men were actually friends of Job. This is something that is worth mentioning and understanding, for in the midst of this intense suffering we find the voice of five different individuals speaking unto Job—the voice of his wife who encouraged him to curse God and die, the voices of his three friends, and finally the voices of his three friends. What I find to be so absolutely intriguing about the entire book of Job—something I realize that might be getting ahead of myself when writing and speaking concerning Job—is that the first voice he heard in the midst of his suffering was that of his wife, and the first sound he heard in the midst of his suffering was the weeping of his friends when they had come unto him and saw him from afar off. As you read the words which are written and found within this passage of Scripture you will find that after Job’s friends had lifted up their voice and wept, and after they had rent every one their mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven, they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights. Stop for a moment and consider this absolutely incredible reality that after Job’s three friends had lifted up their voice and wept for and on behalf of their friend, they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him because they saw that his grief was great. This is not something that should be casually treated, or casually glanced over, for what we learn and discover concerning these friends was that they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. Scripture reveals that when Job’s three friends made their way and their journey unto him, they did so in order that they might mourn with him and comfort him. Do not be too quick to move past this tremendous reality, for it reveals something about what is needed in the midst of suffering within our own lives, as well as within the lives of others who themselves are experiencing tremendous and intense suffering.
Perhaps one of the greatest things I initially love and appreciate when reading the words which are written and recorded in this passage of Scripture is that when Job’s three friends came unto him, they did so after making an appointment with each other to not only mourn with Job, but also to comfort him. Please pay close attention to this particular reality, for it has the strong and awesome power to reveal perhaps two of the greatest necessities in the midst of the suffering we experience within our own hearts and lives, as well as the suffering we witness and behold in the hearts and lives of those all around us. Job’s three friends initially came unto Job to mourn with him, and to comfort him—two distinct realities which actually speak of something entirely different from the other. It’s important for us to recognize and understand that mourning with someone who is walking through an intense period of suffering is not the same as trying to, or attempting to comfort someone in the midst of their suffering. Mourning with that one who is suffering, and comforting that one who is suffering accomplishes two distinct realities, and two distinct purposes within the heart and life of that particular individual. It’s quite interesting to read the words which are written and found within the final verses of the second chapter, for within these final verses we find and discover the awesome reality that Job’s three friends made an appointment with each other in order that they might mourn with Job. Stop and consider that reality for just a moment, for it begs the question concerning us ourselves, and how we respond when we read and hear about suffering within the heart and life of another. When and as we discover that there are others before and around us who are suffering, are we willing to come alongside that particular one that’s suffering and mourn with them? Are we willing to come alongside that one who is walking through intense suffering, intense anguish, intense affliction, and intense trial and trouble and simply mourn with them? Oh we know that they themselves are weeping, we know that they themselves are mourning and are in serious soul travail and agony, and the question becomes whether or not we are willing to come alongside them and mourn with them. We know they have lifted up, and we know they are lifting up their voices in weeping and mourning as a direct result of their suffering, but the question becomes whether or not we are willing to lift up our own voices in the midst of the suffering of others. I fully realize that in the sixty-first chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah we read of the oil of joy for mourning, as well as comforting all those that mourn, and yet there is something incredibly profound about not immediately rushing to comfort another in the midst of their suffering. There is something incredibly deep and profound about not merely seeking to come alongside another who is suffering and try to console them, or try to comfort them, or try to speak words of encouragement, peace and hope, but to instead actually join with them in their mourning. With that being said, I invite you to consider the words which are written and recorded within the sixty-first chapter of the Old Testament book of Isaiah beginning to read with and from the first verse:
“The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them” (Isaiah 61:1-7).
As you read the words which are written and recorded within this particular passage of Scripture you will find a direct reference to mourning three distinct and three separate times. In the second verse of this passage we read of the Spirit being upon the one speaking because the LORD anointed them to preach good tidings unto the meek, the Spirit of the LORD had sent them to bind up the broken-hearted, the Spirit of the LORD had sent them to proclaim liberty to the captives, the Spirit of the LORD had sent them to proclaim the opening of the prison to them that are found, to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God. Upon continuing to read, you will find that this anointing of the Spirit would also be that they might “comfort all that mourn.” What’s more, is that as you read the words written and found within this passage of Scripture you will not only find it written concerning “comforting all those that mourn,” but you will also find it mentioned concerning “appointment unto those that mourn in Zion.” Furthermore, you will find that unto those that mourn Zion, they were to given beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning. Three distinct times within two back to back verses in this passage of Scripture we find and read of the tremendous reality of mourning, and how for those who mourn there is “comfort,” there is “an appointment,” and there is “the oil of joy.” We fully recognize and understand when reading these words that there is indeed the promise of comfort in the midst of the mourning, and we recognize and understand that there is indeed the oil of joy that is available for and unto those that are in mourning, and yet in the midst of this tremendous and incredible reality, I can’t help but wonder and get the strong sense that there is something incredibly powerful—something truly unique and astounding—about a willingness to not immediately rush to comfort those who are mourning, but actually to come alongside them and mourn with them. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you came alongside that one who was in the throes of intense suffering, intense anguish, intense agony, and intense sorrow of heart and soul, and instead of immediately rushing to “comfort” them, you simply sought and desired to mourn with them? When was the last time instead of trying to comfort those who mourned you actually sought to identity with them by and through mourning with them? Instead of rushing to speak and bring words of “comfort” to and unto them, you actually came alongside them to mourn with them in a truly wonderful display of solidarity and unity with them.
I have to admit that I do not believe it is any coincidence that I start the Old Testament book of Job at this time of the year, and I truly do believe that this reading has come “for such a time as this.” If you read any news website, or listen to any news radio outlet, or watch either national or local news you will discover the tremendous suffering, the tremendous affliction, the tremendous hurt, the tremendous pain, the tremendous agony and anguish countless thousands of men, women, young adults and teenagers are facing within and throughout this country at this time. A week ago today there was a police officer in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota who had his knee on the neck of an African-American man who was in police custody for eight minutes. This man—while in police custody—cried out for his mother, and cried out for oxygen, and would ultimately die after the officer’s knee was removed from his neck. It is and it has been unclear as to the underlying cause of this man’s death, and to date I do not believe the coroners office has released any reason or “cause of death” concerning George Floyd. The image that is in the hearts, the minds, the souls, and the very psyches of men and women within and throughout this nation is the knee of that Caucasian officer on this man’s neck, and this man’s cry for mercy, this man’s cry for his mother, and this man’s cry for oxygen. For countless thousands—if not millions—of Americans, this latest incident was the last and final straw of a series of police atrocities that were and which had been committed against African-Americans over the years. It’s important to note that this isn’t and this wasn’t the first incident that has taken place since the turn of the century, and in all reality, I would dare say that it will not be the last. In all reality, I do fear that incidents like this will continue to take place, and will continue to plague our society, our generation, our nation, and our culture. I fully recognize and acknowledge that this is and this has been a problem for several years—and some would argue since the days of the Civil War when a war was fought over slavery. The question that I can’t help but wonder is whether or not we are experiencing—not merely civil unrest within and in the midst of our nation and country, but also the makings of a civil war that is breaking out within this nation. Are we witnessing, and have we witnessed all the makings for a civil war in the midst of this nation, as there have been races that are rising against races, and even political parties that have risen up against political parties.
There is one thing which is absolutely undeniable and unmistakable during this time, and that is that there are countless thousands—if not millions—of individuals who are suffering during this time. There are countless thousands—if not millions—of men and women who have been suffering for quite some time now, and this latest incident is the latest log that was cast into the proverbial fire. Whether or not this latest incident was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back is to be seen, but one thing we do know for sure is that it ignited a firestorm within and in the midst of this nation over atrocities that have been committed by members of law enforcement. In all reality, I would dare say that the previous four to five years have been the “years of the protest,” and “years of the riot,” as from the time President Donald Trump was elected to the office of the President of the United States of America, there have been countless protests which have taken place within and in the midst of this nation. There have been countless examples of civil unrest over the past five years, as not only has this nation witnessed deep political divides, but this nation has also witnessed deep racial divides. There is absolutely no denying, nor is there any mistaking the fact that over the past four years or more we have encountered and come face to face with just how deeply this nation is divided, and how serious the schisms are within this country of ours. We know the country was deeply divided before, and that division literally caused the country to go to war with itself, as the north would engage in warfare and battle against the south, and vice versa. This country has been divided before, and it might even be argued that this country has been divided for quite some time now. Whether or not this country has been divided since its inception is something I cannot speak to, nor prove, however, what I can indeed and can in fact say is that this country has been divided for quite some time now. As long as I’ve been alive—which has been almost forty years—this country and this nation has been divided within and among itself in matters of religion, in matters of politics, in matters of sexual orientation, as well as matters of race, gender, and the like. What we are witnessing during this time is a manifestation of a deep division that has been present within this nation and within this country for years now. This isn’t the first time division has taken center stage within this nation and within this country, and I would wholeheartedly and emphatically declare that it won’t be the last time either. Division has been one of the greatest troubles that has plagued this nation, and I would indeed declare that racism as we know it might very well be one of the original sins which this nation has struggled and wrestled with for years.
With all of this being said, I must bring this back to the place where we recognize and understand that during this incredibly tense and volatile time, men and women are indeed and are in fact suffering and hurting. There is absolutely no mistaking the fact that there are countless thousands—if not millions—of men and women who are suffering, and who have been suffering for quite some time. In all reality, I am convinced that one of the greatest needs that is facing this nation and facing this country right now isn’t necessarily trying to comfort those who are mourning, those who are hurting, those who are weeping, those who are broken, and even those who are angry and upset. If I am being honest with you who are reading these words right now I have to admit that what this nation does not need is more men and women who will try to rise up and immediately try and fix the situation. This nation does not need men and women who will seek to rise up in the midst of what is taking place and seek to comfort those who are mourning, those who are hurting, and those who are broken. This nation, this country, this culture and society doesn’t necessarily need to be comforted during this time—at least not before it knows men and women are willing to come alongside them and mourn with them. One of the most powerful pictures during this time has been religious clergy and ministers walking in solidarity with those who have marched in protest of what has taken place within this country and society. What’s more, is that there have even been instances where police officers and members of law enforcement have walked in solidarity and unity with those who have protested in a unified statement of solidarity with those who are suffering, and those who have been suffering. If I am being honest with you who are reading these words, I would emphatically declare unto you that what is so incredibly needed during this time is not necessarily men and women who seek to comfort those who are mourning right now, and to comfort those who are hurting right now, but to come alongside them and mourn with them. There is a great and powerful need during these days and during these times to come alongside those who are hurting and those who are suffering, and to mourn with them, to weep with them, to hurt with them, to cry with them, to lament with them, and to share in their pain, their anguish, their burden, and their struggle. In all reality, I am absolutely convinced that most of the Americans who are experiencing such deep suffering, such deep anguish, such deep agony within their hearts and souls aren’t looking for others to come alongside them and comfort them, but are looking for those who are willing to come alongside them and mourn with them—those who are willing to share in their pain, those who are willing to share in their grief.
WILL YOU SHARE IN MY GRIEF? WILL YOU SHARE IN MY SUFFERING? WILL YOU SHARE IN MY PAIN? WILL YOU SHARE IN MY HURT? I am absolutely convinced these questions and so many others are being asked during this time as men and women have been dealing with suffering, with anguish, with agony, within hurt, and with pain for quite some time now. I would dare say there are countless who feel as though they either don’t know how much more they can take, or feel as though they can’t take anymore. When I read the words which are written and recorded within the Old Testament book of Job—specifically, the second chapter of the book—I can’t help but look at Job’s three friends and consider the fact that perhaps their original intention was pure, and their original desire when coming unto Job was right and true. Scripture makes it very clear that these weren’t simply three men who decided to come unto Job, but they were three of Job’s friends who made an appointment with each other to not only come and mourn with Job, but also to comfort him. I have to admit that while we know and understand the interaction(s) between Job and his three friends would eventually become religious debates over suffering and righteousness, there is something truly powerful about the statement of friends coming to mourn with Job and to comfort Job. In all reality, I can’t help but wonder if first comes the mourning together and alongside with another who is suffering, and then comes the comforting. I fear that more often than not we are guilty of trying to comfort those who are hurting, comfort those who are suffering, comfort those who are in agony and anguish rather than walking with them in the midst of their suffering, and walking with them in the midst of the hurt and pain they are experiencing. There are countless men and women who feel as though the answer and the solution is comfort first, and either mourning with the individual after, or perhaps not at all. I can’t help but think within myself that should you attempt to bring comfort without first walking with the other individual through their suffering by mourning with them—the chances of you being able to mourn with them might be lost. There is an old adage and statement that declares how people don’t care how much you know until and unless they know how much you care. This is no more true in the case of Job’s three friends who made an appointment to come unto and come alongside Job, and to first mourn with him, and them comfort him. Far too often, and far too many times we put the cart before the horse and think that comfort should precede a willingness to mourn with those who are suffering, and yet I am absolutely and completely convinced that this simply is not the case. We cannot truly expect to be able to comfort those who mourn if we are not first willing to mourn with those who mourn.
I truly and wholeheartedly believe that there is a comfort for those who mourn, and there is an oil of joy for those who mourn, and yet I am also completely and utterly convinced that there is something about those who are willing to go beyond simply bringing comfort to those who mourn, and are willing to mourn with those who mourn. In Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount we find Him emphatically declaring unto those who would listen unto Him teach and speak that “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). It’s truly something to read and consider the fact that not only did Jesus describe those who mourn as being blessed, but Jesus also emphatically declared that they would indeed be comforted. I firmly believe there is something about mourning, as well as a willingness to mourn with others that allows room and makes space for comfort. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder and think to myself if our willingness to mourn with others who are mourning makes a safe space for which true comfort can flow. There would be those who would like to immediately rush into comforting those who are suffering, and comfort those who are hurting and in pain, and they give and allow no room for being willing and able to mourn with those who are mourning. As I sit here this morning I am absolutely and completely overwhelmed with the process that more often than not it is not our willingness to comfort those who are suffering that creates a safe space for the ability to comfort them in their suffering, but rather our willingness to mourn with them—to share in their grief, to share in their pain, to share in their hurt, to share in their distress, to share in their affliction, their agony and anguish. I do not believe it is any coincidence that the Holy Spirit chose to highlight Job’s three friends coming unto him to mourn with him “and to comfort him,” for there is something about our willingness to mourn with others that opens up the door for true and effective ministry. We would like to think that motive and intention is enough to bring comfort into the midst of the suffering of another individual who’s suffering, and yet the truth of the matter is that I would dare say that alone isn’t and has never been enough. Despite how well-placed and well-intentioned your motives and desires might be to “comfort” those who are in agony and anguish, there is something to be said about a willingness to come alongside those who are suffering and to mourn with them—to be touched with their afflictions, to be touched with their infirmities. It is this particular reality that brings me face to face with the words which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote in the final verses of the fourth chapter. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in this particular passage beginning to read with and from the fourteenth verse:
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which an not be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Make note of the words “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” which are written and recorded within this passage, for they speak something that is absolutely critical and necessary among us within this generation. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews emphatically wrote and declared that we do not have a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. What so amazes me about the words which the author of this epistle wrote was that the first half of the statement applies to the present, while the second half of the statement applies to the past. Within this statement the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews declared that we do not have a high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities—thus speaking and suggesting that we have a high priest who not only did experiencing the feeling of our infirmities, but also continues to, and still can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Please do not miss and lose sight of this absolutely astonishing reality, for through and with these words the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews declares that we do in fact have a high priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. TOUCHED! FEELING! INFIRMITIES! What I find so absolutely remarkable and astounding about the words that are written in this passage of Scripture is that the author writes how we have a priest who can indeed and can in fact be touched with those feelings of the infirmities we face on a continual and daily basis. I absolutely love how Scripture speaks of how we have a high priest who can be touched, which clearly indicates that He is not immune, nor is He somehow exempt from the feelings of our infirmities which we face within and throughout our lives. Even seated at the right hand of the Father in all glory we have a high priest who can indeed, and who has in fact been touched with the feeling of our infirmities. It’s worth noting that just because Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven—that does not mean that He is no longer touched with the feelings of our infirmities. What’s more, is that I am convinced that the prints in His hands, the prints in His feet, and the print in His side were scars He took with Him unto the right hand of the Father in heaven, and it is those scars which stand as a constant reminder of the suffering which He faithfully and willingly endured during His time of suffering here upon the earth.
THE SCARS ARE A REMINDER! The more I think about the words which are written within the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews, the more I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the strong reality that we have a high priest who can in fact, and who is in fact touched by the feeling of our infirmities. Even though He has transitioned from time and space into eternity, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, He can in fact still be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. In fact, I would dare say that this is what is so compelling and intriguing about the reality of the body of Christ, for if the body of Christ itself suffers and experiences hurt and pain, then it can and would naturally be experienced at the top and at the head. We know from Scripture that Jesus is the head of the Church, and that Jesus is indeed the head of the body, and there is not a doubt in my mind that when one member and one part of the body suffers—all the parts of the body suffer. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote concerning one member of the body suffering and all the members of the body suffering, as well as the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the fifth chapter of the first epistle he wrote unto the saints and Christians which were scattered. Consider if you will the words which the apostles Paul and Peter wrote when describing and speaking to the tremendous reality and concept of suffering within the body of Christ:
“Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11).
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of the truth hat obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burnt not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).
“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the LORD. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which is not lawful foul for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 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 butter 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. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the words which are found within these passages, for within these passages we encounter and come face to face with the fact that we do in fact have a high priest which can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Almost equally as important as that reality is the fact that we are all members of one body, and that one member of the body suffers—each member of the body suffers. This is what the apostle Paul wrote and mentioned when he asked how was weak, and he was not weak, and who was offended and he burn not. The apostle Paul recognized and understood the intrinsic link within the body and the many members which make it up, and how the suffering of one member of the body does in fact, and should in fact affect other members of the body. This is precisely what the apostle Peter wrote when he spoke of our brethren experiencing and enduring the same afflictions as us within and throughout the world. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—please do not miss and please do not lose sight of this absolutely wonderful and incredible reality, for we have great need to follow the example of our great high priest who is in fact touched with the infirmities of His people. There is a great need within us to be able to be touched with the feelings of the infirmities of others and to not be so disconnected and disjointed from the suffering of others. Is it possible that the body of Christ can in fact be disjointed and dismembered when members within it are unable to be touched with the feelings of the infirmities of those around them? Is it possible that one of the greatest tragedies of the body of Christ—even though we might very well be friends to others—is that we cannot be touched with the feelings of the infirmities which others face? It’s truly something worth wondering about when you read the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews speaking about the feeling of the infirmities and not merely the infirmities themselves, for more often than not—the feelings of the infirmities, and the feelings which the infirmities produce within the hearts and souls of men is what truly has the greatest impact and effect. We would like to think that it is the suffering that has the greatest impact on the heart and soul of an individual, and yet the truth of the matter is that more often than not it is the feelings and emotions that are directly linked and directly produced by the suffering that does in fact have the greatest impact and affect within and upon our hearts and our souls. I do not believe it is any coincidence that the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote concerning “the feelings of our infirmities” and the apostle Paul would go on to write concerning one member of the body suffering, and all the members of the body suffer.
Permit me to stop right here and ask you whether or not you can be touched with the feelings of the infirmities of others. Oh, I do not ask whether or not you can be touched, moved and impacted with and by the feelings of your own infirmities, your own sufferings, your own conflicts, your own struggles, your own anguish and agony, but rather whether or not you can in fact be touched with the feelings of the infirmities which others before and around you face. DO YOU SEE ME? DO YOU HEAR ME? These two questions are such as those which are being asked during this particular time, as at the very heart of all the unrest that is taking place within this nation centers around a certain level of being fed up with feeling ignored and overlooked. There is not a doubt in my mind that men and women are crying out—in all reality have been crying out all along—wondering if there are others who hear them, and if others truly do see them. The question I must ask you who are reading these words is whether or not you truly do hear the cries of those who are suffering before and all around you? Do you who are reading these words truly see the suffering that is present before and all around you? Have you become numb and indifferent toward the suffering, the anguish, the hurt, the pain, the agony, and the anguish that is so prevalent all around you? Have you attempted to turn a blind eye to the hurt and the pain before and all around you, and have you in fact allowed yourself to be sheltered and remain in a bubble of safety? Are you so ignorant and uninformed concerning those needs which truly do place our society, and plague our world during these times? Oh, we have spent nearly three months with the doors of our churches being shut, as well as the doors of businesses throughout the nation. The more I think about and consider this reality, the more I can’t help but wonder if the Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is not and has not been highlighting things, places and areas which have long been troubled, neglected and ignored. Countless Americans have been forced to “stay at home,” to “shelter in place,” and even “work from home,” and it’s almost as if in the process of being confined to our homes we have been forced to address the condition of our homes. Parents who have never home schooled their kids are now being forced to be involved in the education of their kids. Husbands and wives who perhaps had very little interaction with each other have been forced to spend more time with each other. I cannot help but get the strong sense that with church buildings being shut, with public amenities, places of recreation, businesses, and the like being shut down—as well as our being confined to our homes—we have been forced to confront and address the nature, the condition, and perhaps even the dysfunction and division within our homes.
FIRST CAME THE HOMES! SECOND CAME THE STREETS! FIRST CAME THE VIRUS! SECOND CAME THE UNREST! FIRST CAME THE PANDEMIC! SECOND CAME THE PROTESTS! PANDEMIC AND PROTESTS! HOMES AND STREETS! As I sit here today, I can’t help but be wonderfully and powerfully convicted and convinced that during this time we as Americans have been forced to address two of the greatest places of need within our culture and our society—our homes and our streets. During the economic collapse and crash nearly twelve years ago we pointed the finger at and blamed big banks within this nation, and yet during this time it would appear to me that the Spirit is not highlighting big banks and corporations, but is highlighting churches, is highlighting our homes, and is now highlighting the streets. It was the novel coronavirus that shut down the nation and forced us all into our homes, and now it is racism, civil unrest, riots and protests that are forcing countless men and women into the streets. I can’t help but get the strong impression that during this time the Spirit of the LORD began by highlighting our homes as places of conflict, struggle and warfare which needed to be handled, addressed and dealt with. Now here we are three months later, and I can’t help but get the strong and overwhelming sense that the Holy Spirit is drawing our attention to the streets of our cities and the streets of our neighborhoods as points of conflict, struggle, strife, contention, suffering, trials, trouble, hurt, pain, and the like. I do not believe it is any coincidence that the doors of church buildings were shut and closed down during this time, for it forced us into a place where we could live and be the church directly within our homes, and do it in a way that was similar, and yet altogether different than the way it was done during the days of the early church. The doors of our church buildings have been shut and closed in order that we might learn to be the church within our homes, and in order that we meet confront and deal with the needs of our homes. Just when Christian leaders were protesting and crying out for the doors of our church buildings to be opened again the civil unrest that is taking place within this nation broke out, and it seems the Holy Spirit is drawing our attention to the streets. In all reality, I can’t help but get the strong and powerful sense that the Spirit is desperately pleading and crying out to us to not seek the four walls and pews of our church buildings, but to be the church in the place where the need is the greatest—namely, in our homes and in our streets. Tell me dear reader—what good is returning to our church buildings if the cries within the streets go largely ignored and aren’t dealt with? What good is returning to our church buildings if we ignore and perhaps even attempt to run away and hide from those places where the needs truly are—namely, in the streets of our cities, in the streets of our neighborhoods.
CAN YOU HEAR THE CRIES FROM THE STREETS? CAN YOU HEAR THE CRIES FROM THE STREET CORNERS? CAN YOU HEAR THE CRY FROM OUR NEIGHBORHOODS? CAN YOU HEAR THE CRIES FROM OUR CITIES? I sit here today and I am completely and utterly overwhelmed with the amount of unrest that is taking place within the streets of our cities throughout the nation, and do not find it to be any coincidence that the streets seem to be on fire (literally) right now. There is not a doubt in my mind that during this time the streets of our city seem to be exploding with unrest, with turmoil, with violence, with riots, with protests, and the like, as looting and vandalism are taking place all across the country. It is true that judgment must needs begin in the house of the LORD, and I do firmly believe there is a work that is taking place in the midst of our church buildings and houses of worship, and yet I am also wonderfully and powerfully convinced that during this time the Spirit of the LORD is calling the saints of God—not into the pews of our church buildings, but into the streets of our cities. It is incredibly easy to get caught up in the pews of our churches while growing cold, numb and indifferent to the cries, the hurting, the pain, the suffering, and the anguish that is present within our streets. What’s more, is that it is absolutely and incredibly easy to seek a return to the church building, and almost seek it as a way to escape the horrors, the unrest, the violence, the virus, and the like that is raging all around us outside the four walls. THE VIRUS AND THE VIOLENCE! It’s interesting to think about and consider that first came the virus which shut down the nation and forced us all into a place of social distancing, quarantine and shelter in place, and now it’s violence that seems to be beckoning and calling us to address the very real needs that are present within and throughout our streets, and which have been present all along. It’s absolutely astonishing to think about and consider that for nearly three to four months the conversation and dialogue was all about COVID-19, and once the murder of an African-American man by a Caucasian officer made the news COVID-19 seemed to disappear, and the dialogue is now all about protests, riots, violence, vandalism, looting, and the like. I can’t help but wonder if while these might be powerful tools in the hands of the media—they aren’t also powerful tools in the hands of the living God to call and bring our attention to something that has been plaguing our nation for generations.
It began with the living and eternal God calling us out of church buildings and out of our comforts and into our homes in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus and keep everyone safe. For nearly three months we were all confined to our homes, and now it seems as though our homes are exploding into the streets as civil unrest, riots, and protests are taking place. We are living during incredibly dangerous and volatile times, and yet I have to ask myself and wonder what we as the people of God are doing during such a time as this. I recently read about Minneapolis having the spotlight, the public’s attention, the public’s eye and ear, and yet how they squandered the opportunity to enact and bring about lasting and sustainable change. The truth of the matter is that rather than looking at the city of Minneapolis and possibly condemning what they perhaps failed to do during this time, I have to look at what we as the body of Christ are doing and what we have been doing in the midst of the hurting, in the midst of the suffering that is taking place all around us. Are we as the body of Christ allowing ourselves to be touched with the infirmities of those around us who are facing very real and very deep emotional wounds, scars and bruises in the midst of this current time and generation in which we are living? There is a great and tremendous need for us as the people of God and as the body of Christ to not only identify with the suffering all around us, but also to minister as the hands and feed of Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that there is a great and tremendous need to not merely be men and women who are quick, rash and hasty with their words, but who actually take the time to mourn with those who mourn, and to bring comfort to those who mourn. There is absolutely no place for those men and women who are simply going to spew out their religious language and jargon in a feeble attempt to bring comfort, hope and encouragement in the midst of the suffering that is all around us. In all reality, I would dare say that one of the greatest needs facing the body of Christ during this generation is our ability and willingness to identity—not only with the suffering of people groups within our own culture and society, but to also identify and show a strong solidarity with our brethren throughout the world in third world countries, and various Middle-Eastern and Muslim countries where our brothers and sisters are being persecuted for their faith. I would dare say that for far too long the church within this nation has turned a deaf and blind ear to the suffering and persecution of our brethren throughout the world, and has grown numb and indifferent to the suffering that is here in our own backyard.
If there is one thing these days and times have proved, demonstrated and revealed, it’s that there is an overwhelming amount of suffering that has always been present right here in our own backyard, and in our own neighborhoods, streets and cities. In all reality, I would dare say that I thank God that the doors of our churches are and have been closed—despite the fact that some states are allowing them to reopen in a limited capacity—for it is forcing us to confront the issues within our homes, as well as within our streets and our neighborhoods. For far too long we have remained silent and on the side lines with the issues that matter—not only within our own nation, but also within the countries around the world. Oh we might very well give during missions drives and during pushes for missionary pledges, and I can’t help but wonder if these are nothing more than shallow ways to appease our own conscience as we think and believe we have actually done something. Please note that I am in no way declaring that we shouldn’t give to missions, nor to the work of the living God—either domestic, or abroad. I firmly believe there is a place for a willingness to give to the work of the LORD—not only on the soil of the United States, but also within the countries and nations around the world. What I am speaking of is a tremendous and powerful truth that I fear more often than not our giving to missions is nothing more than a shallow way to appease our conscience and to somehow attempt to please the LORD our God with our gifts and our offerings. Tell me—what good is sending money if you are unwilling to rise up and do your part in the midst of the need that is before and all around you? Oh, you might not be called to go overseas, and you might not be able to move overseas as a missionary, however, there is absolutely no excuse and no reason why you cannot be an ambassador for Christ in this generation. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t be ambassadors for Christ—even if being an ambassador of Christ means chains and prison for you. It is high time that we wake up and open our eyes to the persecution and suffering of our brethren across and throughout the world, as well as the suffering and persecution of our brethren in the midst of this country in which we are currently living. The time has come for us to move beyond the pews of our churches and from our pious and religious rambling and babbling and actually move to where the real hurt and need truly is. I can’t help but wonder if the living and eternal God has put up with our services and our programs for far too long now, and has called us to address the need(s) within our home(s), as well as the need(s) within our streets. We cannot turn a blind eye to it, and we cannot allow ourselves to be numb and indifferent to what is before us.
When you think about and consider the narrative of Job’s three friends you will find that they made an appointment to mourn with him and to comfort him, and even though they could not recognize him upon seeing him a long ways off, they sat with him in the midst of the dust, in the midst of the dirt, and in the midst of the ashes. What’s more, is they themselves rent their garments and poured dirt upon their own heads in an attempt to unite themselves with the suffering of Job through a profound sense of solidarity. The tragedy about Job’s three friends is that there ability to actually bring comfort to Job and their willingness to mourn with him came to an abrupt end when Job opened his mouth and began to cry out in the midst of his suffering. I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that what we are presently experiencing is a crying out moment—a moment when after sitting in silence for far too long, voices of those who have suffered, have felt ignored, have felt marginalized, have felt rejected, and who have felt oppressed begin rising up and emerging. The question we must ask ourselves is how we are going to respond when the cries begin to be heard? What’s more, is we have to ask ourselves what we are going to do, and how we are going to respond if the cries become shouts that are much too loud and far too great to ignore or cast aside. We are living in a moment right now when the cries and voices of countless Americans are being lifted and being raised up in the midst of this nation, and in the midst of this generation. There is a great responsibility for the church and body of Christ during this generation to not only identify with, but also to show a strong solidarity with the suffering and persecution that not only takes place on the shores of this nation and country, but also in the various countries round about the world where our brothers and sisters are under tremendous persecution simply for being a Christian. The narrative that we find in the Old Testament book of Job is one that began with a willingness to mourn with Job, and began with a willingness to bring comfort in the midst of Job’s suffering, and even to sit in silence in Job’s dust, dirt and ashes, and yet it would quickly turn into anything but that as Job’s three friends would move from comfort to condemnation, and from mourning to judgment.
If there is one thing we must realize and recognize during this time it’s that we need to be very careful with how we respond to the suffering, the hurting, the pain, the anguish, and the agony that is all around us. We cannot afford to be silent in the midst of the suffering and the hurting, but neither can we afford to speak rashly, ignorantly, harshly, and arrogantly. There is a tremendous danger when we attempt to insert ourselves in the midst of suffering, in the midst of hurting, and in the midst of anguish and agony, and we do so without any compassion, without any affection, and without any willingness to sit where others are sitting, walk where others are walking, and truly identify with those who are hurting and broken in this generation. In all reality, I can’t help but wonder what is the greater of two evils—sitting in silence or speaking in ignorance. I can’t help but be absolutely and completely convinced that sitting in silence and speaking in ignorance are so closely related, for both are incredibly dangerous in the eyes of the living God. Job’s three friends sat with him in silence without saying or speaking to a word to him, and they only responded after Job began voicing his cry and his anguish. Oh that we would be absolutely and incredibly careful with how we react and how we respond when the cries and anguish of others begin to emerge—perhaps even invade our quiet, comfortable and convenient lives. The problem many are having with what is taking place right now is that it is interrupting their quiet and comfortable lives, and is forcing them to address issues that wouldn’t otherwise have been dealt with. It is during this time where we must recognize and truly hear and listen to the cries of the generation in which we are living, and truly hear and listen to the cries of the oppressed within our culture and society. What do we do when we hear the cries of those who are oppressed and afflicted within our culture and society? What do we do when we hear the cries of those who are persecuted in countries and nations throughout the world where men and women are being and can be killed simply for being a Christian and follower of Jesus the Christ? We have a great need within our culture and society to not only hear the cries that are being voiced among us, but also to not sit in silence and speak in ignorance. Oh that the church would repent for sitting in silence, as well as speaking in ignorance, and would be willing to respond the way Jesus did when the woman who was caught in the act of adultery was brought unto Him in the Temple, for not only did He get down in the dirt with her—not only did He get down in her dirt—but He also removed all judgment and condemnation from before this woman, and He himself chose not to condemn her, and sent her on her way in peace. Oh that we would be men and women who would not sit in silence, nor speak in ignorance, but would be men and women who put on the character, the nature and image of Christ, and who are willing to insert—not themselves in the midst of the suffering before and all around us, but the very person and image of Jesus Christ.